MSC Opera - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
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MSC Cruises

MSC Opera
by Marsha L
Eastern Caribbean
January 28, 2006

Meeting Opera
We got a pleasant surprise when we arrived at the Port Everglades pier: We were allowed to check in immediately and then sit in a large, comfortable waiting area. Juice and water were available to drink, and this was our first chance to see the excursions information. The cruise staffers were also trying to sell wine packages. Most of the group met up here and the wait to board seemed very short.

On the ship, a white-gloved cabin attendant took my carry-on and escorted us to the elevator where we were told how to find our cabin.

We had an inside cabin. Worthy of note is the fact that there's a large mirror above the bed instead of the usual curtain (in an attempt to simulate a window). There was another mirror over the desk, and a full length one on another wall. The cabin had two closets, and to make our clothing fit, all I had to do was remove a few of the large hangers. There were six drawers and some shelves behind another door, as well as shelves in the bedside tables.

The desk had a lap drawer with enclosed shelf space on either side. Outlets were both 110 and 220, no adapter necessary (I had needed one on Melody). There were two shelves over the bathroom sink and storage below it, plus two shelves in the shower. The lighting was much better than I experienced on Melody -- enough to read in bed. The bathroom had a wall mounted hair dryer and a shower with a moveable, removable hand-held head and a temperature control. The shower drained well and even though we had rough seas at times, the water never sloshed over into the rest of the bathroom. Most of the content on the TV was news. There were several movies running continuously, one in each language. I couldn't find a way to get subtitles on the non-English ones.

Nadia, our cabin attendant, stopped by to introduce herself and to see if we had any special needs. She seemed to be a nice young woman, but that was the only conversation I had with her all week.

By then I was getting hungry and we went in search of lunch.

'Opera Time'
Our first clue about "Opera time" came with our cruise documents. Initially we had been told that dinner seatings were 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., but the documents said 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. I think 7 p.m. is ideal, and on most cruises I'd settled for late seating rather than dining too early. When we saw the times in the documents, several of us changed from late to early seating.

However, after boarding we found out that the times were indeed 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The next evidence of "Opera time" was on boarding day. The daily program stated when the buffet would open, and lots of passengers were there, but it didn't open until a half hour later. We kept being told it would open "soon," or many of us would have gone away and come back. (To be fair, there were inspectors doing their thing and that may have been the cause of the delay.)

The last annoyance along those lines had to do with luggage.

Two of us shared a cab, so our luggage was handed over at the same time to the same person. My cabin mate's single bag arrived promptly, but my two were very delayed. As long as I see active signs of luggage being delivered I don't concern myself too much. I was actually well prepared, with enough clothing, etc., for a full day in my carry-on.

When I no longer saw any new bags in the hall, and the door to the crew access was closed, I called the desk. A nice lady asked how many bags and the size and color. She assured me that they were still distributing luggage. She called back later to make sure I had them (and I did).

These were the only examples of such things and were quite minor and were I not trying to be thorough I probably would have forgotten them by now.

Opera Nights
The dining experience is a large part of why I cruise, and a small table doesn't afford me the level of conversation and exchange as a larger one. Most of my meals at home are eaten in front of the computer, so I relish listening to live people and interacting with them. A large table distributes the conversational burden.

Portions for some dinner courses were larger than necessary. Pasta servings were enough for three or four people unless one intended them as an entree. Risottos likewise were in portions much too large for most people. Even the night I intended my ravioli to be an entree I didn't finish it.

The menu required a careful eye since there was an "International Menu" on the left with some items that weren't listed elsewhere. One changes I liked was that MSC now had cold soups a few times. I tried and liked a couple of them.

Cappuccino and espresso are bar drinks and not available at all in the dining room.

The wine list looked pretty extensive, ranging from inexpensive wine by the carafe to others at $100 per bottle. There is no sommelier. I didn't see any bar service in the dining room.

Entertainment
A variety of music is available in six venues starting just before dinner and ending in the disco "whenever." (Speaking of the disco, it's the largest one I've seen on a ship. It's located on Deck 12, aft, with lots of windows. It's a beautiful place to be during the day and there's even some deck space outside.)

Teatro Dell'Opera is a real theater; the shows were well attended and very much worth seeing. I would categorize most as "variety" shows, with dance, music, magic and acrobatic acts. All were a delight. The Animation team did pre-show "things" some nights, and they were very funny, but I'm not going to give anything away. They also entertained in a couple of the lounges, putting on shows and dancing with the passengers.

Buon Giorno Opera
Several early risers greeted the dawn each day. You could tell it was early -- there wasn't any hot milk next to the coffee and we had to help ourselves to what was there, but there was a selection of teas available. I was a bit surprised that cocoa was not among the offerings.

Breakfast began at 6:30 a.m. in the cafeteria and grills, 7 a.m. in the dining room. I looked at the dining room menu and decided that I would stick with the buffet.

My personal choice was fresh fruit, a piece of whatever frittata they offered, cheese, smoked whatever and (usually) a chocolate croissant. The idea for me is to eat something other than what I would have at home.

The buffet included scrambled and hard cooked eggs; sausage; bacon; hot and cold cereals (including muesli), various breads; fresh, dried and canned fruit; juices; yogurt and other less easily identifiable foods. Outside they had an omelet station and pancakes. I never got close enough to be sure of the exact offerings, but what I saw people eating looked pretty good.

(The food in the buffet was labeled only in English. The dining room menu was in whatever language seemed to fit.)

The Animation team did games and crafts in the mornings, along with some group exercises, and there were fitness classes held in the gym (for a fe

e).

The cabin attendants put out Do Not Disturb signs on the cabin doors, flipping them up in such a way that they would drop into a normal position when the cabin was vacated. I guess this was nicer than putting a piece of paper in the door, but the signs did sometimes fall onto the floor. If someone put a Do Not Disturb sign out themselves, they ran the risk that it would be taken when the room was made up.

Baseball Greats on an Italian Ship?

It does sound just a bit odd, but the cruise did originate in the U.S.

Stan Bahnsen has been organizing and facilitating these baseball groups. He was joined on Opera by Greg Luzinski, Pete Mackanin, Graig Nettles, Frank Howard and Gary Peters. They each had their wives and other family members with them. I had a chance to speak with each and invariably they were quite charming. There were several activities aboard that involved them such as clinics, video presentations, Q&A sessions, trivia and of course autographs. I am not particularly a baseball fan, but I'm the mother of one, so I made sure I got everyone's signature and some photos with the players. I would suggest that anyone who goes on one of these bring along a couple of baseballs as they were $25 in the gift shop.

Where Does this Cruise Start?
Apparently that depends on where one lives. For us it originated in Port Everglades, but for others it started in San Juan.

Shopping Opera
The ship had more shops with more choices than I had seen on Melody. They now have some MSC Crociere goods in the boutique, although nothing with any specific ship's name. They don't have magnets and they don't have made-in-China items with the names of the various ports on it. They do have expensive Italian clothing that didn't seem to be selling, and some reasonably priced items like polo shirts for $13 and baseball caps for $4.80.

There is a Duty Free shop that seemed to do a brisk business in liquor and cigarettes. The prices seemed good, and alcohol could be purchased and taken back to one's cabin (although everything in writing said otherwise).

There is also a pretty upscale jewelry store which sold 18K gold and diamond jewelry along with some less expensive items.

Finally they had a perfume and cosmetics shop that was usually pretty quiet.

You Call This Art?
I don't usually go to art auctions, but I did on this cruise because the subject comes up so often. They said frames were included, with upgrades (for a fee of course) available. Shipping was $35. Most things were available in large numbers, but some were supposedly originals. There was a viewing, and only those pieces that someone had expressed an interest in were presented. There was almost no real bidding; prints were sold at the price that was presented. The only bidding was on the originals. I enjoyed my glass of champagne and didn't buy anything nor did I go to any other of their presentations.

Oops
As I've mentioned, I cruised with MSC before and knew that there was going to be a repeat cruisers' party. Since I had passed the info on my status along when I booked, I had expected an invitation -- which never came. When I asked about it, I found that I wasn't the only one who didn't automatically get invited; several people had only been invited because they spoke up in time. I guess I missed out on a glass of champagne.

Singles
There was a meeting for Singles at 11 a.m. on the second day. This was attended mostly by women. Champagne was served and it was just an opportunity to meet and chat. I'm not sure why men don't seem to go to these things, as I know that there were several single men aboard who didn't attend.

Formal Nights
As is typical on a seven-night cruise, there were two of these.

The first was the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party, which took place in two venues. The Captain and Staff were in the Caruso Lounge. If one didn't like that party, they could go to the Sotto Vento Pub.

Photos
This is one of the things I wish they hadn't changed. Opera is handling photos the way other lines do: They print them and try to sell them. Of course since most are thrown away, the ones that are sold command inflated prices. (On Melody, only a few were printed and passengers selected what they wanted from a computer. Because that kept their costs down, prices were lower.) But the photographers seemed to be less intrusive. For example, they didn't stop people on the gangway to take pictures; they were taken on the pier and it was very easy to avoid them.

Library
The ship's library was good, but with limited hours -- one or two hours in the morning, two in the afternoon.

Towels and Chairs
Opera has the same type of chairs that impressed me on Melody. There were more than enough for the number of passengers aboard. Beach towels were available on deck. One was supposed to give the pool attendant their cabin number and sign for them.

Arrivederci Opera

Disembarkation was handled very well.

Colored luggage tags were distributed the night before we left, and we were assigned a place to wait between vacating our cabins and leaving the ship. Because they had some control, there wasn't the crowding I'd experienced other times and everyone was assured a comfortable seat.

When my color was called, I walked off the ship, quickly found my luggage exactly where it was supposed to be and headed out. Every 15 or 20 feet a smiling person was stationed to keep us headed in the right direction. I got onto a 12-passenger van almost immediately and was at the airport in a matter of minutes -- a full 10 hours before my flight was scheduled.

My Final Thoughts

I'm a fan of MSC Crociere. That's what got me to book the first time and I have no regrets. It was good to see ships are still being built that I find esthetically pleasing. Good to see people again that I hadn't seen in a long time, good to see others that I hadn't met before.

Another thing they seemed to do well was handle large groups. While we certainly knew that a polka group was aboard, and there were 400 of them, their activities were kept separate from the rest of the passengers.

I went ashore at Cayo Levantado. Since I haven't been to any other lines' private islands, I don't have anything to compare it with... but I can tell you that it was beautiful, with soft, clean sand and a long, curving beach. There was ample shade, plenty of chairs, live music and a bar.

An ice cream bar is open in the afternoon, with fancy ice cream-based drinks for $6.50 and sundaes topped with cookies for $3.50. But there was ice cream and sherbet in the dining room at lunch and dinner every day.

We saw several versions of the tipping policy prior to sailing. They applied $12 per person per day to our accounts. I noticed that several in our group had it taken off and tipped directly.

If/when I decide to cruise again, MSC would be a likely line for me. It supplies a combination of things that fit me reasonably well.

see photos here