Story by Babbie De Derian
Photography courtesy of MSC Cruises
Poetry and Harmony at Sea
Cruise Your Way to a Healthier You Aboard MSC’s Poesia
I am all for the royal treatment wherever and whenever I can get it. One can never overdose on too many massages, facials or body rituals, especially when they are available at sea, in a 13,000 square foot traditional Balinese Spa with an aromatherapy room.
When I read about MSC’s portfolio of 12 cruise ships, (including the new Preziosa) and discovered they were each outfitted with an exquisite Balinese Spa, staffed with female and male therapists from Bali who were trained to ask “what may we do to please you?”, I was hooked on booking what I planned would be a “Spa Vacation at Sea”… where the order of my days would be Relax, Recharge and Rejuvenate. The Mayan calendar was ending in a week, and what better place to prepare for “a new me”.
The luxury of having three days at sea during a 10 night Caribbean Cruise with Puerto Rico, Martinique, Antigua, Dominica, St. Martin and the Bahamas as ports of call, was a compelling incentive. Additionally, I was attracted to the affordability of the cabins and spa treatments, available as a package, which I booked in advance. Mine included: a free Medical evaluation, two facials, two massages, and two sessions with a personal trainer, a pedicure and a haircut… and of course unlimited use of the Jacuzzi, steam and gym.
Embarkation in Port Everglades, ten minutes from the Ft Lauderdale airport, was stress-free. My superior balcony room was quite comfortable: two beds, a small couch, a desk… and ample closet and drawer space for two females who brought changes of clothes for ten nights and ten days. Once on board, I was elated to take further advantage of the Spa’s extensive menu of 21 different massages, 13 body treatments and 8 facials… offered as daily discounted specials.
From the moment I entered the Aurea Spa, I was immersed in a world of magical rituals, floral massage oil fragrances, and exquisite Balinese artwork. Everyday I booked a different massage: hot lava stones, sea shells and oil, herbal, candle and my favorite… the Bali Sunrise Lulur. An abundance of natural flowers, coffee, coconut and sea salts were used on my face and body in this invigorating treatment which included an hour body massage. Needless to say, my body was grateful for the loving hands that left my skin baby soft and my mind adrift. I was intrigued by the Himalaya’s fossil salts used in the Himalayan Dream massage. The draining and exfoliating effects of the salts ionized my body, and at the same time, the warm oils relieved me of any tensions I had carried onboard. Other wellness services included: body slimming, reshaping, and antic-cellulite treatments, lymphatic drainage, face and neck lifting and acupuncture.
The challenge was “how not to gain weight” and the solution was to be discriminating in my food choices. When eating in the cafeteria, where newly redesigned buffet stations kept the flow of hungry passengers moving without the usual feeding frenzy, there was no need to pile a large oval plate with more than I eat at home, regardless of the overabundance of tantalizing food selections. I loved watching fresh pastas, pizzas, breads and desserts prepared in full view, but my favorite station was the salad bar with 24 toppings, and the Ethnic Corner that changed everyday, featuring the cuisine of a different country; all under the professional eye of Executive Sous Chef Ajay Bhatt and his team of 120 cooks.
There were several dining options; including two specialty restaurants: L’Obelisco and the Kaito Sushi Bar with an authentic Zen garden. I booked the second seating in Il Palladio, one of two dining rooms, and was impressed with the wide choice of appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts on the menu. In addition, there was an extensive selection of affordable wines from around the world that Sommelier Luigi di Fiore personally helped me pick. The level of attention maitre d’ Mario, Fausto and Antonio gave to every table went way beyond the call of duty. If a dish didn’t live up to expectations, it was replaced, or if you had a desire for a favorite dish, they made sure the kitchen accommodated your request, and always with a smile and a great sense of humor.
Of course not every dish I ordered titillated my taste buds and fine tuned palate, but I learned early on to order my meats and fish grilled with sauces on the side, and personally, I enjoyed many pleasing meals in all the dining venues. The salmon with fennel sauce was delicious as was the surf and turf, cooked to medium rare expectations, and as previously reported, the wide array of delicious homemade pastas we devoured each night were worthy of praise, especially the scrumptious triico di mare pasta and risotto dish Maître d’ hotel Gelu Bilea had the chef prepare as a special treat, over which he personally drizzled raw olive oil, telling us “that’s a must with any pasta, regardless of the sauce”..
Most of the passengers were Americans; and I regret to report, many were not easy to please, expecting more personal attention than can be delivered on an affordable cruise. On the other hand, there are differences in eating habits and food preparations which need to be addressed. MSC, an Italian Cruise Line, relatively new to the American market is working hard to meet these challenges, and considering the extensive array of salads, pastas, pizzas, meats, fish, chicken, veggies, breads and desserts served in the dining rooms, restaurants and Cafeteria during this 10 night cruise, I am confident they will succeed with flying flavors.
Between lectures, yoga, Pilates, meditation, and spa treatments, I zoned out on a quiet deck (on a lounge with a sun visor) mesmerized by the poetry in motion, clouds drifting by, and birds diving into the sea for their fresh catch of the day. My appreciation for fine wines was honed by attending Sommelier Luigi Di Fiore’s Wine Tasting Seminar. Luigi ran the Sorrento delegation for 20 years (the largest Association in the world) and has trained 50,000 sommeliers in Italy.
The Poesia is an elegantly appointed luxury ship with so many enticing venues, including the Zebra Bar and the outdoor cinema, that I was tempted to stay onboard, but the ports of call offered the opportunity to swim in the sea, sample local island cuisines and shop.
On the last day at sea, the Starboard Performers: thirty brilliantly talented singers, dancers, acrobats and aerialists from the Ukraine, Hungary, Africa, Canada, Italy, Spain, Russia, Ethiopia, Mongolia and Moldavia assembled in the empty Carla Felice theatre, at my request. I had watched their flawless shows in awe of the precision they had mastered, and their graceful execution of daring and dangerous feats. It was a very emotional and humbling experience to stand before them as they shared their passions and joys in working together.
For me, the Poesia delivered many memorable moments. It was a blessing to immerse my body and my mind in a Pampering Vacation at Sea: where my cabin was cleaned and refreshed morning and night; the sheets changed daily, towels twice a day; and my meals were prepared and served by a team of professionals who had trained around the world.
When it was time to say our final farewells, many hugs were exchanged and promises to meet again on another MSC Cruise. My compliments and thanks to the entire crew: Captain Francesco Veniero, for 10 days of smooth cruising, Hotel Manager Neven Zounic for running a tight ship and the pleasure of your company, Mario, Fausto and Luigi for your humor, Guest Relations manager Myra Petri, for your patience, Food & Beverage Manager Alessandro Menegazzii for sharing, Sous Chef Ajay Bhatt for your dedication, and to darling Gelu Bilea who taught me to always drizzle a little raw olive oil on pasta before eating, regardless of the sauce.
I highly recommend my first (but hopefully not last) MSC Cruise. Come prepared to learn something you didn’t know, or a better appreciation of something you do, whether its line dancing, tennis or your knowledge and appreciation of wine pairing. Come happy, hungry and open to meeting new friends; enjoy fabulous shows that are a cross between Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil and Broadway. Have fun, discover the cultures and cuisines of the ports of call, shop, swim and be yourself. Come back to a clean cabin, without a worry in the world. Live La Dolce Vita, Italian Style, and the only baggage I recommend you bring are the ones your clothes are packed in.
I came onboard happy … and disembarked even happier.
Now that I realize I can live a pampered life on the Poesia for less than it costs to live in New York City (where I have to pay rent, clean my apartment, shop, and cook, not to mention the cost of dining out, a massage or a Broadway show), I am ready to sublet my apartment and repack my bags.
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