CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

MSC Cruises MSC Opera Western Caribbean March 19, 2005

I'm a veteran of 7 cruises(each on different lines, ships,and destinations)and for the money this is just about the most fun I've had. This was a last minute spring break trip for myself and my two teen-age daugters. My husband and teen-age son took an eastern Caribbean cruise on another line one week earlier, so we were able to compare experiences. While I found the crew to be efficient, cordial and pleasant this was not a cruise on which we were coddled and pampered. This didn't bother us in the least but other passengers were really annoyed. If you don't like having to get up from your deck chair to get a drink you may be annoyed too.

Embarkation: Extraordinarily quick and easy. We were on the ship and in our cabin in less than 20 minutes after the taxi dropped us off at the port. No waiting in lines. Lots of porters and staff to assist. Our onboard greeting was relatively low key. We were not greeted by the staff as we has been previously by other lines; no "over" enthusiastic crew, violins, champagne, etc, but we were immediately directed to our cabin where we were greeted by our steward and were asked if we needed assistance.

Ship: Immaculately clean. Some ships not yet one year old are already "worn". This one sparkled! My disappointment was in the size of the cabin. We were in category 12 (the most expensive on the ship). Identified as a suite with balcony it was not nearly as large as deluxe outside veranda cabins that I've had on other ships in lower categories. It did however have more than enough storage (remember we were 3 women, 2 of them teenagers with lots of stuff) including a walk in closet! The bathroom didn't have a double sink which is what is usually provided in this category and we were supplied with the minimum toiletries (shampoo only). Our steward was helpful and pleasant when he was around which was rarely. We must have seen him 3 times during the entire cruise. He must have had a sixth sense because if we left the cabin for only 15 minutes, it was straightened up when we returned. When we had a request for extra towels, bottled water, etc. we had to call the main desk who then paged him. Even though we didn't request it, he placed a third chair on our balcony within minutes of our arrival on board and lots of extra bath towels. Very low key but very efficient.

Food: The food was plentiful and varied. If you don't like a pasta or risotto course with dinner and like the standard American fare this might not be for you. No mac and cheese here. The dinner menu varied each evening but always had the standard, steak, chicken and salmon, etc. available. Our dinner waiter encouraged the girls to try everything and brought different courses for them to sample even if they didn't order them (like frogs legs). On the first evening we asked for fresh fruit with Nutella (not on the menu) and for each night thereafter, without requesting it, were brought assorted fruit along with the dessert they requested. The freshly made pizza was great and available each afternoon. The ice cream was just O.K. We were looking forward to some great gelato being on an Italian line but it was just soft-serve from a machine. The dining room was pleasant and not noisy or crowded. Service was good but again not over-enthusiastic. Pleasant and efficient.

Entertainment: By far the best. Each lounge had different and continuous entertainment each evening. You had many choices. The teenagers had places to "hang out" and activities if they wished. The "animation" staff during the day kept going like energizer bunnies and there was always some off-beat game going on if you cared to participate. We just lounged on the deck and enjoyed watching everyone else participate. There were always available deck chairs, no matter what time you got out on deck and plenty of towels. We were not pressed to buy drinks and many times you had to go to the bar to get one. This annoyed a lot of older people. I kinda liked not being pushed to "purchase" every 15 minutes.

Passengers: Most of the passengers were American with only a few Italians. There were many families with young children and teens and lots of young 20s but this may be because we traveled over spring break. My biggest disappointment was with the dress code for dinner. There were 2 formal nights. Most people don't go formal anymore but at least they wear business or cocktail attire. Men and women both were permitted in the dining room for dinner in shorts on these nights and in fact every night, and these were not the young people, these were middle aged adults! The young people were the ones appropriately dressed. At the table next to us one middle-aged man wore the same flannel work shirt to dinner every night. It took away some of the "glamour" of dining on a cruise when so many people really dressed like slobs. I have to say the Americans were the violators since the Italian passengers were always decked out for dinner. The dress code probably should have been somewhat leniently enforced.

Ports of Call: We went on beach excursions in all ports except Honduras. They were terribly overpriced. While the cruise line claimed to be independent and not responsible for shore excursions those of us who were unhappy were given refunds or adjustments without question. In Cozumel, the beach excursion was $80 each person. When we got to the beach there were no beach chairs (part of the package)during the morning. When we returned and complained we were given a substantial adjustment on the bill. The same with Grand Cayman where the beach chairs were rusted and broken. Again an adjustment.

In sum: A very relaxing and reasonably priced cruise. A "no tipping" policy was welcome (no envelopes, suggested guidelines, etc.) and because of it I was probably more generous. If you want to be coddled, pampered and fawned over and constantly badgered to purchase drinks this cruise is not for you. If you don't want an enforced dining dress code, this is for you too. I'd go on this ship again in a hearbeat if larger cabins were available. I'd even be willing to pay more but we had the largest and it was small.

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