Get Away With Fran

January 28, 2010

Warm in the Caribbea on MSC Poesia

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , — admin @ 4:16 pm

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Today is a lazy day at sea for passengers on the MSC Poesia on this Caribbean cruise. But yesterday’s port of call was Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, with most passengers hitting the beach. Mom and I took advantage of the $6 p.p. shared taxis to Cane Bay, up and over a mountain on narrow roads (I was glad I wasn’t driving) to one of those gorgeous beaches that really make a visit to the Caribbean – soft white sand, clear water, verdant mountain views.

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I’ve been reading a book about the Irish mob in Boston, but took time out for a dip in the water and a nice walk along the beach. Then my book and a beach chair ($5) and I was one happy gal.

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Back on the ship, I continued my dance education – this week’s cruise is themed Latin Dance – with an afternoon bolero class and evening salsa (me with guest instructor Minas, in photo). I borrowed a new pal’s husband for a few dances, but when the moves got sexy – instruction for the women to do a particularly provocative leg move – I gave the husband back and practiced with a female member of the ship’s entertainment team instead (I know, kind of a waste of a good move, but…).

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In fact, a note about the classes, they are best if you bring a partner. Mom has joined me for some – we got cooking in the bolero class for instance – and a Swedish woman was my partner another day (with me in the lead!). One day a man with strong arms made a beeline across the room to practice a few steps with me and there have occasionally been staffers on hand. But if you are serious about learning some steps, bringing a regular partner is a good idea.

January 25, 2010

Aboard the MSC Poesia

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , — admin @ 8:22 pm

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This week I am onboard the MSC Poesia (Italian for poetry) cruising the Caribbean, accompanied by my mom. This ship is part of the Italian line MSC Cruises, known more to Europeans than Americans. And this is actually the first time I have cruised on one of the MSC ships (though I’ve done nearly 100 cruises).

Sophia Loren is the godmother of this vessel, which is wintering in the Caribbean with prices that have attracted a very international crowd, some sailings going for under $500 a week for inside cabins. Several Americans I talked to came onboard driven by price (there’s even a program where families can bring kids for free).

The cruise line has been criticized before in the area of service. And though I came on with an open attitude, it’s hard to hide stuff from a journalist, and service in general has been uneven.

One example of many: At lunch yesterday my mother spilled her ice tea. We were at the Lido buffet and there were several crew members nearby. One came over and placed a sign on the floor to warn people it was wet. It was a good five minutes, however, before someone brought a rag to sop up the mess on the table. Still, our dining room team (at dinner) and cabin stewards have been great.

Food I would categorize as just OK, again good at times and not great at others, though I do agree with the president of the line, Rick Sasso (formerly of Celebrity Cruises) who has bragged the pizza is the best at sea (it’s delish!).

Entertainment is an area where MSC shines. There’s an excellent singer who does everything from Barbara Streisand to opera. There’s a juggler who whirls things so fast you can hardly keep track. And the acrobats are top notch (including a pair of women contortionists). A can can number by the dancers in the first night’s show had Mom complaining, “Enough with the bottoms already.” But really it was all well (and tastefully) done to please the international crowd.

January 24, 2010

Dance Fever on MSC Poesia

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:05 pm

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One two, cha cha cha. On the 90,000-ton MSC Poeisa people are dancing up a storm. The Italian cruise line MSC is fond of theme cruises and on this ship, this week, the theme is Latin Dance. Hence, in addition to classes onboard taught by the activities crew there are also nighttime classes taught by pros, and sexy pros at that – the kind of dancers who seem to put meaning in every wiggle.

“The dance floor is our place where guys can feel strong,” proclaimed last night’s instructor as he worked guys and gals alike through a little salsa and a little cha cha cha, teaching us the steps and moves. I did my best to follow directions which included “make the guy go ‘Oh my god, that’s exciting, what’s happening.”

Except my partner last night was my mom. So moving my hips provocatively proved a little awkward. Still, I did learn a decent butt out, wiggle move.

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About 60 people crowded the dance floor in the ship’s Zebra Bar last night, which is a very cool lounge all done up in black and white stripes. It’s one of several wonderful spaces on this surprisingly fancy ship, where the designers are not afraid of color – several of the rooms are red or burgundy, the theater a lovely shade of purple (don’t read sarcasm here, it’s really quite pretty).

The 2,550-passenger ship gets its name from the Italian word for poetry – it’s pronounced Po-ee-zee-a. But today people onboard seemed to be thinking more about sun and dancing (well, also bingo and art auctions and eating and the usual shipboard activities).

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The pool deck was full of sun worshippers, but at 11 a.m., many got up to learn the bachata, a four-step dance with origins in the Dominican Republic. A crew member on stage offered instruction in English, Italian and Spanish – the crowd onboard is diverse in age and nationality, with many Europeans onboard as well as Americans, South Americans, etc. Mom had as a bridge partner an archeologist from Sweden, and I spotted one fellow pushing his walker wearing a “Life’s too short not to be Italian” t-shirt.

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At the afternoon tango class, more languages were added, the crew instructor going back and forth between languages with ease, but occasionally going overboard in English, like when he told the men and women to separate to learn more steps, advising the ladies, “Say goodbye, honey, sweetheart, baby, later.”

But he also kept bringing us back to reality with what may become a catch phrase for those of us hoping to bring home a few steps, “Concentration on vacation.” I tried to concentrate, only stepping on someone’s foot once.

Again, the afternoon class had about 60 participants and it was clear if these classes/theme cruises catch on MSC will need to get a larger dance floor.

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