Getting used to being on board

Having made their way to Copenhagen to board their Baltic cruise, Max and Jenny share their first impressions of being on board and the things you need to know.

It was with a feeling of excitement that we eventually embarked from Copenhagen on our first cruise – on the Baltic Sea to St Petersburg. We opted for a short eight-day cruise. The shi, Poesia, launched in 2008, is one of 12 from the Italian MSC cruise line.

Poesia has all the trappings that one would expect from the Italians – lots of brass, colourful decor and glitz. Because we had nothing to compare it with, we’re guided only by our experiences on board, and considered this as a four-five star floating hotel. It definitely didn’t have a carnival type atmosphere and seemed to be fairly low key and very relaxed – more casual than we expected.  At the formal Gala nights on the two at-sea days, I saw a couple of tuxes only, with most guys opting for jackets and open-neck shirts. Some were even wearing denim. On this cruise we met just one other Aussie couple –maybe only a handful of others were on board. At rare times, we heard some Aussie twang cut through the mellow European soundwaves, like a knife through butter.

There was an abundance of food on board. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet meant you would choose what you wanted, however, a more refined sit down service was also offered. For dinner, we were allocated the first sitting at 6.30pm and chose the Allegrissimo drinks package (about $33/day each). This gave us unlimited drinks with cappuccino-style coffees and ice creams included. The problem with this was that there was a tendency to try to get your money’s worth – by having that extra cocktail or three! Our livers responded with rapturous applause when we disembarked. Generally meals were small in size but there were lots of different courses and being an Italian shipping line, plenty of filling pasta. The brewed coffee was awful, so it was lucky we had access to the decent stuff.

Because the passengers were so language diverse, the idea of a comedian for the nightly shows was out of the question. The theatre, which holds over 1000 people, was a great venue for our entertainment. It included lots of can-can dancing by the show girls and boys, cabaret-style singing, acrobatics and feats of strength, illusionists, mono wheel riders and operatic singing. According to our dinner buddies, who had been on a number of cruises, the entertainment was lacking in variety and wow factor. In our jetlagged state, it was easy to drift off during the 30-minute shows. On our final night, however, the show was an extravaganza with all Poesia entertainers doing their stuff. It was certainly the best for the week. There doesn’t seem to be much to do during the days at sea. But, if you consider bingo, cards, cooking, learning the cha cha or Russian as entertainment, then you will have been well catered for. There is a casino on board, which we attended on one occasion and broke even. However, smoking was permitted in the casino, which is rather off-putting.

At the first sign of any sunshine, the pool areas buzzed with life. The lounges were crammed and sunny spaces at a premium. We didn’t even contemplate joining the Vitamin D-deprived groups (the warmest daily temperature during the cruise was about 18 degrees) and opted instead, for a nice quiet spot with a good book and one of those yummy cocktails.

Next week, read about where Max and Jenny visit on their Baltic cruise.

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