by Roger Holstein
March 18, 2006
With a name such as Opera, Italian MSC cruise line seems to promise a lot of impressive entertainment; and in fact - it actually delivers completely and then some. We had the privilege to travel on that ship from February 18th to the 25th, 2006
The excellence of entertainment is true of the magnificent and unusual stage shows we saw and the ongoing on board dynamic activities, animated (brought to life if you will) by an especially dedicated clownish crew called the "Animatores".
Contrary to other cruise companies - that only offer two major stage productions - MSC Opera offers nearly every night an exceptional production and most of them feature the dancing cast made up of 6 gorgeously shaped and physically matched young ladies and 3 very handsome young men.
One of their most impressive productions was called "Le Cirque Imaginaire"; it has great similarity with the productions of "Le Cirque Du Soleil" without the ridiculous high associated price tag. Indeed "Le Cirque Du Soleil" does not own the exclusivity to this style of shows no more than it does not owns le denomination of cirque, or circus in English. I am only surprised to see that no one else thought of doing this before.
In addition the dance team presented a couple of shows outside the theater, on the top bridge – by "le piscine" area - dancing an exquisite tango, presenting an extract of the play Cabaret and offering a delightful fashion show. In the theatre a 26-year-old tenor from Romania called Adrian Mocanu deeply moved us with his wonderful operatic renditions of very famous Italian songs.
The "Animatores" drafted with genteel insistence the participation of all hesitant guests to their numerous games and rewarded them with a multitude of various gifts. Unfortunately the Animatores are so continuously working that they barely sleep 5 hours a night and they are actually exhausted, several of them confided this to me. We got very close to these individuals because we love people in general and are always willing contestants. By the end of the trip they all knew our names.
I was NOT particularly impressed with the selection nor the quality of the food served on board; in fact, even though I can eat nearly anything, I usually found very little interesting food choices.
However the way I see it, we - as a society - eat way too much! So I did not regard the lack of food choices as necessarily a negative in this particular instance; one must eat to live not to live to eat. Still we were served lobster on the second formal night, a selection that we did not get on the Costa Allegra cruise last month.
One of the most serious weaknesses of the cabins was the shower compartment! Imagine a square of 2 ½ feet on two sides cut in two diagonally by the shower curtain and this is your shower area – I AM NOT KIDDING!
Needless to say that if you drop anything onto the floor, with the shower curtain closed, you are facing a serious dilemma. Ad to that fact that the shower controls are round and you don’t have much of a grip on them, after you soap up, it is extremely difficult to open or turn off those valves.
A rather large man explained to me that he was taking his showers with the curtain opened and afterwards was wiping the excess water that fell outside the shower area. However, he also pointed out that because of his size, not that much water passed by him outside the shower compartment.
We found the personnel courteous and seemingly anxious to resolve a couple of negative issues we experienced.
The selected ports of calls were most interesting, especially in the new stops of the Dominican Republic - that other cruise companies seem to constantly bypass.
There, we stopped in La Romana where we visited Altos De Chavon – A gorgeous 16th century, Mediterranean artist village replica created by Italian cinematographer Roberto Copa who spent 6 years of his life building this little town, which is perched high on a cliff above the Chavon River.
This faithfully executed historically styled architecture village, is decorated with mosaics of River Black pebbles and built with coral and terracotta bricks. We also stopped on a paradisiacal private island called Cayo Levantado; nearby, we actually got to see for the first time in all our cruising years, several large whales.
As usual and probably more so with each new cruise we take, we received lots of compliments from others - on board guests, and Animatores - regarding my wife and my own innovative dancing techniques.
Should you experience the MSC Opera? Without the shadow of a doubt I answer a resounding YES! I am now anxious to try the other ships of this wonderful Italian Company.
I think that it would be marvelous to have other theme-type vessels presenting an ambiance of other foreign countries, like France, Greece Russian, Polish, Spanish, possibly even Canadians Eh? It would be a pleasant change to have the MAIN onboard language in something other than English and only use it as a means of secondary communication. This way I could learn and constantly improve on my knowledge of other tongues.
Copyrights Roger Holstein 2006.