Year Started: 1987
Ships in Fleet: 12
Summary: A pan-European mainstream cruise line that competes with Costa. New, massive ships with decent food and entertainment, Look for bargains in Caribbean.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. Families. Value for Money.
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Foodies.
Good for: Foodies. Families. Group.
Regions:Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Southern Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Value for Money. Foodies. Group.
Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
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 lapdrawer 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 fee).
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
Our cruise on the MSC Opera from 1/28/06 to 2/4/06 was a truly wonderful experience. We researched MSC prior to our trip due to the unfamiliarity of the ship line. We read both positive and negative reviews. Yet, as we reviewed the negative reviews meticulously, we began to ask ourselves if the writer's comments were likely to affect our enjoyment of the cruise. We determined they would not. Also, from the tone of the reviews, we suspected the writer was overly particular or critical. We booked the cruise and we are so glad we did.
In every aspect we found the crew to be attentive to detail, customer-service oriented, friendly, and devoted to excellence. Our inside cabin was spacious with an exorbitant amount of storage/closet space. Our bed was quite comfortable. It was fixed as a queen; we thought it would feel like two twins with the slice in the middle but somehow it felt like a queen bed. Dining was in six course meals at lunch and dinner. Salmon, steak, and other American dishes were always available as alternatives; although we always made selections from the daily menu. The cold soupswere delicious-a must-try. Our waiter, Desi, was by our side to remove one course after the other immediately upon completion. We established a bond with him and it was sad to say good-bye at the end of the week. The entire crew works so hard to please. The high level of attention to cleanliness is readily apparent. We saw the common walls and stairwells being steam-cleaned on a daily basis. Signs were posted at the public restrooms to use hand towels to open the doors upon exit. Activities such as pool games, bridge tournaments, dance and language lessons, and crafts were available throughout the day. The evening shows were exceptional-Las Vegas quality. Don't miss them. Each show is unique and creative with superb choreography offering a variety of talent throughout the week. Every passenger we spoke to echoed the same thoughts.
The ports of call were also a reason for our selection of MSC. Although arriving in the evening in San Juan, it still allowed us to enjoy the flavor of Old San Juan, which is where the Opera docks. The cobblestone streets, the Spanish colonial architecture and historical city walls immersed you in the local culture. Even though El Morro, a massive fortress, is closed, the nighttime view from outside is still worthwhile.
St. Martin is beautiful. We rented a car and toured the 37 square mile island. We reserved a car from Best Deal Car Rental in advance for $60 but realized upon arrival we didn't need to. The car rental company booths are to the right, just behind the bus parking lot, off the dock. It is just a few minutes walk from the pier dock. Anyways, the car rental companies are very negotiable and fight for your business. You can easily negotiate $40 for the day. Make sure you drop your car off at the rental office rather than the separate car lot. We were told to drop the car off at the separate car lot; there is no office there. Bring your car back to the rental office, get your final papers and head back to the ship. We went to Dawn Beach, beside Oyster Pond, among other places. It was an attractive small beach. All of the beaches were small with the exception of Orient Beach. If we had to do it again, we definitely would have skipped Dawn Beach. Orient Beach was gorgeous. Plenty of water sports with gentle waters on the longest beach we saw in St. Martin- 2 miles long- and especially white sand. The colorful buildings there were also a sight to see-very picturesque. One note is that Orient Beach is recognized as a swimsuit optional beach. I thought we would be able to walk along the French Cul-de-Sac, as I had read prior to our trip, but discovered it required a short motor boat ride over, so we skipped it. We circled the western edge of the island without stops due to our concern about time. Traffic was congested in some of the towns. Mullet Bay looked beautiful. The terrain on the eastern side of the island is low lying hills where the western side is low land surrounding a lagoon. St. Martin is truly a charming island.
The place to go in La Romana is Altos de Chavon. It is a must-see, regardless of your age. It is a re-creation of a 16th century Mediterranean village on the grounds of Casa de Campo resort. There are art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and souvenir shops surrounding a cobbled square. There are cobblestone streets lined with lanterns, wrought-iron balconies, wooden shutters, courtyards, and gardens. It is on a bluff overlooking the Rio Chavon. You can go to Altos de Chavon and Casa de Campo's luxurious yacht marina for a round trip cost of $6 pp from a shuttle at the ship's dock. The Kandela show is shown at the amphitheater at Altos de Chavon. It is colorful and entertaining in a beautiful setting.
Taxis are available at the ship's dock. The local transportation service at the dock pairs people up in the taxi according to your destination making it very easy to get a reduced rate per person. The taxi driver waits for you an hour or two or however long you wish and drives you back. We went to Bayahibe Beach for 2 hours. It took Â½ hr by car. Six passengers-total cost is $52($8.66 pp plus tip) The beach was quite small; yet we still enjoyed the time there. A resident was in a motor boat offering Â½ hr snorkeling in an area just offshore. We would have gone except our time at the beach was almost up. Others we met did go and negotiated $6 pp; they said the fish were colorful and that they had a great time. We were going to go to Dominicus Beach but discovered it is a private beach.
Cayo Levantado is the Caribbean at its finest. Be sure to pick up your ticket for the tender early in the morning of your arrival there because you'll want to be in one of the first tenders over to enjoy every single second. It is gorgeous. The bluest, clearest water of any we've ever seen with the most pure white sand on the palm-tree-lined beach. Although we did not go on any excursions there, we learned from talking to other passengers who had gone on the whale watching excursion and jeep safari that they thoroughly enjoyed it. Marco, the cruise director, said MSC has had a high satisfaction rate on all of their excursions on Cayo Levantado.
I hope this information is helpful. We are sure to cruise on MSC again due to their commitment to excellence, high customer service level, exceptional entertainment, and focus on maintaining a clean ship.
I just finished reading two reviews about the same cruise but taken one week later. I had to reread them twice I wasn't sure it was the same cruise until I recognized the ports. My experience with this cruise line was quite different and I think readers need to have some balance in making a decision to take this cruise.
Three negative areas were : the food, the staff and the rooms. Three positive areas were: the ship and the entertainment and the ports.
The food was terrible - tasteless, unimaginitive and poorly presented. It was the first cruise I have ever been on that I didn't look forward to dinner. I wandered the menu trying to find something enjoyable and nothing was appetizing. I wasn't the only person on the ship to voice this concern. One lady said she had lost weight.
The staff was uneven. We had late seating. My room steward would phone the room to see if we were in the room even though we had a do not disturb sign on the door and then hang up if we answered. One night he knocked even though wehad a do not disturb sign and asked if it was alright not to make the room as it was almost 8 pm. The casino tables were closed form 6:30 to 8:30 pm so that the whole staff could have dinner. This was a first for me on a cruise ship. Our waiter was very good and helpful and kind.
The room Category six was so small that on one side you had to climb over the bed to go to the bathroom. There were no drawers in the room. The bathroom was hall closet size and I smiled thinking that some people on the ship would be squeezed.
The ship was very nice - modern sleek, lots of cozy places. The deck chairs were amazing. The ports were some of the best I have been too. The entertainment was clever -sort of Cirque du Soleil.
One clue for people thinking of taking this cruise is to ask why it is so heavily discounted.
MSC Cruises MSC Lirica by J ALVAREZ Western Caribbean December 27, 2005 Run, don't walk from this cruise line! While the looks of the ship are very nice, they offer little else. The food quality was poor and tasteless. Our wait staff was excellent and always offered to replace something we did not like. There is nothing to do on the ship as far as activities and we found most of the staff not interested in our questions. The entertainment was average at best and never once was the theater filled. The officers were not friendly or helpful.
Children on the ship were allowed to roam free and often unattended. My brother in law had to complain several times about them running through the halls in the early hours of the morning. The reception did not seem to care nor responded to any complaints. We saw children using the slot machines. The shops were boring and overpriced. The embarkation and debarkation were both excellent. Housekeeping was the best on any ship I have been on.
Summary: On first glances, this is a typical cruise ship - but scratch the surface and you'll find poor service, terrible food and a lack of attention to detail. Not recommended for first time or seasoned cruisers!
Ship exterior: An attractive ship, with sleek lines and a nice profile. My only question remains over the basketball/football court which appears to have been tagged on to the stern of the ship as an afterthought. Looks like a jail cell which could fall overboard in heavy seas and not a pretty sight when returning from day trips. Equally unpleasant when seated in the lounge directly beneath the courts.
Beware that the ships rolls every which way in high seas - however Reception hand out complementary seasick tablets to passengers (but this isn't publicly announced).
Ship interior: The public spaces are simple, clean and uncluttered. The 'less is more' approach has worked well and does not make the passenger feel overwhelmed (or hysterical) from facing excessive, often ridiculous, artworks and mirrors on a daily basis such as on other cruise ships. Christmas decorations were understated, but New Year decorations were childish paper cut outs.
A 114.8 ft-long mid-section wasadded to increase the ships length before it came into service for MSC - this was noticeable. Some lifts only went as high as Deck 9, leaving you to either walk the additional two decks to the upper decks or to walk the length of the ship to find a lift that would take you up the remaining two decks. Corridors would unexpectedly come to a dead-end, meaning you'd need to walk up the stairs and along, then back down the other side. This was a problem frequently incurred while attempting to get to the restaurants on decks 5 and 6. Very frustrating.
The balcony cabins (referred to as 'suites'), are spacious and well laid out. There was plenty of cupboard space, a good wardrobe, and room under beds for stowing luggage. Balcony cabins benefited from a bathtub with overhead shower. Basic toiletries were provided, but bring your own facecloths. All cabins have hairdryers and safes - although we only found this on the last day as they are so well hidden!
The beds, in typical Italian style, are rock hard. We used every blanket possible to line our mattress, along with the extra bedding off the sofa bed, and yet we still suffered from aching backs each morning. We were also woken by the pool attendants at 6.30am each day as they noisily arranged the deck chairs above our heads (a problem for those with a cabin on Sibelius Deck).
Facilities: The ship provides all the usual facilities - the San Carlo Theatre for shows (beware the seats at the back right/left - you won't see a thing), and the vast but incredibly empty Casino San Remo. Unsurprisingly there's a Cigar Room for the heavy European smokers and numerous bars, one of which is made out to be an Irish Pub, but I couldn't spot the Irish quirks that make a pub 'Irish'. The Library holds a few battered hand-me-down books, a limited number of which were in English. There is also an ice cream parlour but don't get too excited as it wasn't open once on our cruise (although perhaps we missed the one and only opening time?!).
The pool area is pretty standard, with deck chairs all around and a few spa pools in the middle of the pool complex. The deck games you'd expect to find here were a huge disappointment. There was one rusty old table tennis table for which you had to collect ping pong balls from the Capri Bar - or was that Cafe del Mare - or was that Reception? The crew always treated me as if I'd demanded the earth whenever I attempted to track down the elusive ping pong ball. In the end, we gave up. Obtaining mini golf clubs/balls was no easier but we finally managed to secure them after leaving a eu10 deposit at Reception. Shame we couldn't have a scorecard and pencil - perhaps that costs another eu10?
All in all, be prepared to entertain yourselves as the ship is certainly unwilling to do it.
Embarkation: Our MSC arranged flight was delayed, meaning we arrived at about the time the ship was meant to be departing. Hence, we experienced absolutely no queues (and next to no crew). The ship eventually left port a good three to four hours late.
Passengers: Fellow passengers on our cruise were mainly families (quite often with young children) from the European nations. There were also a smattering of older passengers from Britain and the US. Inevitably, the ship is tailored towards the Europeans, so an open mind is absolutely necessary. Announcements are made in numerous languages - but only when deemed necessary, the entertainment is bland, and smoking really is permitted everywhere (the token 'no smoking' sections were laughable). Also beware that your fellow European passengers on a whole will not waste time queuing or holding open doors.
Crew/Service staff: To put it simply, the service experienced was absolutely disgusting and it started the second we got on board. We were escorted to our cabin by a disgruntled crew member, who proceeded to moan about the passengers to another crew member while in the lift with us. She then took off at a rate of knots in what appeared to be a vain attempt to lose us in the corridors. While this 'escort' service is a lovely touch, I would have preferred to have found my own way to our cabin.
Service staff in the bars were stressed and incredibly slow. Expect to wait at least 20 minutes before attracting the attention of a waiter to take your order. A word of warning - check your receipt to ensure you're getting what you paid for. My husband ordered a large ginger beer only to be given a small bottle at the higher price. Their excuse? They ran out of large bottles. Upon pointing out the overcharge they grudgingly agreed to give us another small bottle for free.
The captain made typical appearances at the cocktail parties, and seemed fairly jovial. However, he let himself down by not informing passengers as to why, on a sea day, the ship had changed course and was anchored off shore of some unknown island in the Mediterranean while a helicopter took over ten attempts to land on the pool deck (all outside areas being out of bounds in the meantime).
Cabin attendant: Our cabin attendant briefly made an appearance and mumbled her name, never to be seen again. We'd heard rumours that other passengers were receiving ice in their rooms but our bucket remained empty for the entire cruise. Soap was also a rare commodity and we were only given a new bar once our current one had become a see-through scrap of nothingness. Fresh fruit was also placed in our cabin on arrival, but closer inspection showed it had seen better days. Despite the mould growing on the fruit, our attendant would not remove it until I threw the entire lot in the bin. It seems she took offence to this action, and refused to provide new fruit until half way through our cruise - despite being told that fruit would be provided daily in cabins.
Restaurant staff & cuisine: We thought we'd seen the worst of it, but then we went to dinner in the Il Covo restaurant. Our waiter was surly and rude, and only seemed to speak/understand English when the mood took him. I was frequently handed a shabby menu in German (no fancy menus for this ship - only a horrible thing printed on cardboard) and was served the wrong dish on numerous occasions. Meals were cold, over cooked, tasteless and uninspired. The pasta dish, from which I expected great things, was doused in salt to make up for lack of flavour, and the steak offered every night was tough and never served with vegetables or sauce. Desserts were no better, being insipid and dull. In fact, the only creative aspect of the cuisine was the fancy name given to an ordinary sponge cake each evening. Coffee was never once offered, and it was a struggle to get water at the best of times. Needless to say, the Maitre d' only made one appearance and on the last evening only schmoozed with the Europeans who had racked up extensive alcohol bills.
Unfortunately the buffet grill is not open for dinner; hence you are forced to eat every evening meal in the main restaurant. The Christmas menu was the same as every other night, and by New Years Eve we were so disheartened that we bought our own food ashore and ate it in our cabin. We knew we hadn't missed anything special though, as the same meals turn up in the grill the next day for lunch.
One good aspect of MSC is that you are allowed to bring onboard your own food and alcohol. I recommend you make the most of this lenient policy otherwise you'll be facing weight loss by the end of your cruise - an absolute sin on any cruise ship!
Excursions: After spending a day at sea before our first port of call, we decided not to partake in any optional excursion offered by MSC. It was the best decision we ever made and actually ended up saving eu400 by finding our own way round the main sights. We never experienced any queues disembarking.
Disembarkation: Appeared to be organised but in reality was a complete shambles. It was the only time we arrived in port early, with the first group of passengers being disembarked before the arrival time advertised in the brochure. From what we could tell, announcements were made in multiple languages for all groups being disembarked except for our own. Ours was conveniently read out in Italian, which I do not speak, but in no other language. We subsequently missed our transfer to the airport, and subsequently faced a barrage of verbal abuse from the five reception members who insisted they had made the announcement in English. Numerous other English speaking passengers also missed this mystery announcement. We were hustled off the ship at a rate of knots and then told, once in the arrivals hall at the port, that the next shuttle would be here in an hour. Staring at the excited faces of the embarking passengers, I only felt joy at being off the ship and had an overwhelming desire to tell them all to run for the hills.Other points: The lifeboat drill was incredibly laid back. Many passengers stayed in their cabins and no roll call was taken. Keep an eye on your valuables. This is the first ship I have come across where multiple thefts have occurred (digital cameras, leather jackets etc) - and the crew just aren't interested. If you want a questionnaire, then you may have to request one at Reception. None were provided in our cabin despite being told they would be. TV channels cater for all nationalities, so there is only one English Channel (BBC World) and the odd, incredibly old, movie (which may or may not be in English). If you are travelling with or are disabled, it may pay to check your transfers to/from the ship are for all your party. We heard of one instance where a taxi was arranged for one disabled person plus four adults, but when it eventually arrived it could only take one disabled person and three adults. The remaining party member had to pay for his own taxi to take himself and their luggage to the airport. Flights arranged through MSC are not at the best of times (early mornings and late evenings) and are often indirect. No tours are offered to those with late evening flights - but you are transported to the airport 6-8 hours before your flight just in case!
The MSC Lirica was a most pleasant surprise. We booked what is called a "suite", which is really a larger, veranda cabin with a sitting area.(category 11) The cabin is approx. 301 sq. ft. and is very well designed with excellent closet space, a wonderful bathroom with a full tub, a nice but smallish sitting area, a very comfortable queen sized bed, and a decent verandah. The original art works in each suite are quite outstanding, and the service by our stewards was simply the best!
The ship itself is stylishly decorated, with an abundance of excellent public space, a great pool deck, and friendly staff (with the exception of the front desk gals, who seemed too cool and aloof.
There are several dining options including two main dining rooms, a very well designed, and pleasant buffet restaurant, two outside grills, and many interesting bars and lounges. The food was also a very nice surprise. In the two formal dining rooms, all meals were excellent, and the waiter service by a main waiter with an assistant waiter too, was top drawer. In fact, after many, many cruises, this was almost the best servicewe've experienced including Crystal and Silverseas. The wine list was quite decent and very fairly priced. The buffet restaurant food was a shade above OK, but with lots of variety. The pizza grill had an excellent variety, and seemed to be almost always available. The hamburger, frank, chicken grill with all the fixings was also quite good, as was the ice cream bar in the afternoons.
Lounges were all great with nice design, excellent art work and friendly service. Drink prices were also quite reasonable, and unlike many other cruise lines, the staff was not constantly pushing drink specials, etc. Service was laid-back, professional and very friendly.
The ship has a wonderful show room, but we found the shows universally not too great. The different bands, groups, soloists in the various lounges, however, were all really good, and the music on board was a definite highlight.
There were very few of those annoying PA announcements, which is a blessing, though the day time entertainment by the pool was usually much to loud, with a lot of screaming into the mike by the staff. The ship is large enough, however, to get a way from that. We also felt that the photographers were a bit too pushy, but that has now become the case on most ships.
Deck space was great, with many, many excellent places to read, sun, sip, etc. with very few other folks to disturb your privacy. There was never a shortage of comfortable lounge chairs, with built-in sun shades as well.
Considering the price, which is extremely reasonable, the MSC Lirica is a great ship, and a wonderful cruise experience.
Although this is our own personal thoughts and opinions based on our experience from time to time there may be comment upon opinions and thoughts of some of the people with whom we spent time during our 17 wonderful days.
This was not our first cruise with MSC and what really concerned us was that changes may have been made during the 2005 Caribbean Season that might reduce our personal enjoyment. On board there were a couple who have taken 38 cruises with MSC, a lady on her 32nd cruise with MSC, a lady who had sailed with MSC westbound in November and loved it so much that she had stayed on board throughout the 2005 Caribbean season and a couple who had sailed westbound and enjoyed it so much that they immediately booked the return to cruise eastbound. It can be seen therefore that we are not alone in our appreciation of the MSC product.
There were some very minor changes which we thought were not for the good. For instance previously there was a jug of water in the cabins and this was refreshed twice daily. Now there wasbottled water to be purchased. In the dining room a jug of iced water was delivered to the table and remained there throughout the meal - now you had to wait for the wine steward to refill the glasses. There had been orange juice and pineapple juice available all day along with tea, coffee and iced tea but now the juices had disappeared. Previously we had been able to purchase ashore local spirits and take back on board or purchase in the shop on board and take to the cabin and open. This was no longer permissible. The pool towels were delivered to and collected from the cabin on a daily basis. None of these minor changes spoiled our over all good impression and other things remained as we remembered.
There was one change with which we disagreed strongly and this was splitting the "welcome" cocktail party to 2 venues and at one venue there was not one person present to extend a welcome. It seems that certain passengers complained during the 2005 Caribbean season that "they" did not wish to queue to enter the rooms!!
We found Opera to be every bit as elegant and stylish as her sister ship Lirica. Whilst the Opera colours may have been more vibrant there were always tasteful and attractive. There were again some lovely lighting features as you would expect on an Italian ship. The very highest standards of cleanliness were again visible everywhere. Night and Day the staff were hard at work keeping Opera spotless. We love the size, the design, the space, the intimate atmoshpere and the facilities on Opera and Lirica not for us are the massive ships including the MSC new builds.
We prefered the soft furnishings colour schemes (and especially the art work) in our cabin 12005 to that on Lirica but in all other ways the design was identical. The same excellent storage - it was impossible to utilise it all - the same clever use of mirrors and an identical bathroom with bath and shower. The same fluffy bathrobes. Fresh fruit in the cabin every day and the ice bucket filled twice a day.
When cruising we are not interested in the casino or the onboard shopping so whilst there are cruise liners with supposed superior facilities these would not be of concern to us. We love the " old fashioned" quality and charm of MSC. Dining at a fixed time at a fixed table in a fixed restaurant with the same waiter who comes to understand our likes and dislikes is very high on our list of "wants" on a cruise.
Towards the very end of the cruise we did encounter extreme rudeness from one particular area but overall the staff were impeccable in their behaviour and service. Wherever we went we were treated politely and greeted with huge smiles and this continued every day. The staff were so willing to do anything they could to please and assist. Nothing was a bother or trouble. Even late at night in the lounges the stewards willingly and smilngly would bring a glass of water when requested. At the lunch time buffet they were only too happy to serve tea, coffee, ice tea, water. Plates were removed from the tables swiftly together wih an enquiry if there was anything else that you might wish.
Nothing was forced or pushed upon us. There was no harassment or pushing of drinks, photographs or any other item. Good natured cajoling by the entertainment team to take part in their activities could easily be rejected and was accepted gracefully.
Let me now deal with the negative aspects although I would stress that not one was a major problem and certainly did not spoil our enjoyment nor create the feeling that we would not sail with MSC again. 1) MSC are not an easy company to deal with. Requests for brochures are ignored, Faxes and letters are ignored. You are advised requests regarding dining etc are just that "requests" and nothing is guaranteed. There should be a far greater urgency to fulfill customer wishes in this highly competitive field. Information provided by the company varies from country to country and most certainly is not always accurate. Two very good examples of this lack of liason were A) USA passengers were given a total incorrect arrival time in Genoa which caused great problems for some and worry whilst on the cruise in trying to make new arrangements for their onward travel. In fairness to MSC the staff on Opera did endeavour to help and provided free internet access to facilitate these revised plans B) The confusion regarding buses from Genoa to Milan. Even during the cruise the staff were trying to get information from their Italian Head Office
MSC have a complicated sales programme in different countries with huge fare differences. (I do have to say that for our dining requests (L'Approdo Restaurant, second sitting, table for 2) finally I did receive a "guarantee" after a long distance telephone call and this was honoured)
These administrative people were not actually on the cruise wth us - so what was really most important was our actual cruise experience and this is what we judged - and on this our review is based.
2) The manner in which our complaint for rudeness via the telephone was not well handled. There was a closing of ranks to protect the guilty party. The Hotel Director was contradictory in his response. First he needed the identity of the person responsible but when we tried to discover this we were blocked because "if one person was rude then it is the fault of everyone and we cannot give one name". Answer this question. Would you give 2 rude people the power to ruin your cruise? I expect that like me you would reply "NO WAY!" So these 2 persons at the end of a fabulous experience were not important.
3) The Virtual Reality Games Room was totally empty of games. This was upsetting for some and especially those with pre-teen and teen agers.
4) The DJ in the disco had no interest in catering to the tastes of the passengers. The DJ would frequently disappear for up to an hour leaving the most terrible "noise" blasting out!!
5) I have the highest respect for the very hard working entertainment team and joined in some of their activities!! However we could not disagree with those who voiced the view that some of the games were overlong, a little repetitive and a touch too "loud". This was especially true of the area of the pool - the main "relaxing area" for many. Possibly changes of venues would have been an advantage! However this was minor as overall they do a superb job especially with solo passengers and must be exhausted with very few hours sleep per night
6) I felt that the staff lost a wonderful chance for a huge deck "Goodbye Caribbean" Party the day we departed Barbados. Similarly the arrival in the first European port was very low key.
7) The grilled frazzled bacon at breakfast is terrible!! I did read via "Boston Globe" that a chef had been employed especially to cook the bacon as "european chefs" were no good at that!! Well it seems the employee does not understand that not everyone wants there bacon prepared the same way and served cremated!!
8) The "Welcome Cocktail Party" was in 2 venues Caruso Lounge and Sotto Vento Lounge. We opted for Sotto Vento and there was not one officer or higher ranked person or member of the entertainment staff present to indicate "Welcome". That said it was unanimous that MSC were THE MOST generous hosts with unlimited complimentary cocktails and canapes.This was true of the "Welcome", Repeaters and "Farewell" cocktail parties . 9) The wine glasses at the dining table are small and unsuitable. We did manage to finally get long stemmed large bowled "Barolo" glasses to fully enjoy our red wine each evening
10) Some of the late night buffets were moved indoors to La Vele. This really was not large enough. This was especially true of the Farewell Buffet Magnifique. We did not want to eat just to view but it was a terrible battle to get in and many gave up. Some other late night buffets were billed as in "the lounges" frequently this did not seem to include the Caruso Lounge. Since we did not wish to consume food at that time it was not a problem for us but some were unhappy.
11) The shore excursions were limited, not very extensive and pricey, compared to what could be done on ones own. MSC do not organise the excursions they have different agents in each port. Consequently they do not accept liability. We heard a number of complaints at the language groups being mixed and some people having virtually no information in their mother tongue. One of our group had a poor experience in this regard.
12) Unlike our previous cruises with MSC the Disembarkation system whilst good in theory worked poorly in practise. There was misinformation and misunderstanding. There was ignorance as to the nationalities and the immigration requirements for all nationalities.
Now for the many many positives and there were so many.
EMBARKATION. This was so easy. We arrived about 10.45 and although there were people waiting we were included in Group 1. Within 30 minutes they were on to Groups 4 and 5. Group 1 was called and it was an easy less than 10 minutes to do the procedure take the picture and issue the identity/charge/key card. At 11.45 we were already on board. We understand that about 15 minutes later there were some problems with the gangplank and the wind in Fort Lauderdale and there was a delay of about 20 minutes to rectify We were welcomed on board and escorted to our cabin by a white gloved young steward - who insisted on taking both items of hand luggage.
SERVICE I have already indicated that the service was of an exceptionally high standard. Some staff were not fluent in english but spoken to slowly and courteously with understanding did correctly interpret requests. The staff could not do enough to help passengers. Each and every day wherever we went we were greeted warmly with huge smiles and a friendly "how are you". Staff who came from islands like Antigua and Barbados were only to eager to give information as to how to get the best out of their islands. These people really cared. Our Balinese dining steward Budha and his assistant Budi were excellent and gave us great service. Our likes and dislikes were learned very quickly and there was every attrempt to provide good service. Budha has now returned home to get married and will forsake life at sea in the future. He is a great loss.
FOOD The food generally was very varied and exceptionally good. The special buffets that featured several days during lunch were excellent. The pizzas were delicious and even the New Yorkers agreed on that scrore! Each day the menu featured a different Italian Regional Speciality. This could be an appetizer, a soup, an entree, a dessert. In view of the huge regional variations in Italian cuisine this was interesting. There were one or two items on the menu I did not enjoy. The Tournedo Rossini was especially poor and not the correct cut and this day the mange tout (snow peas) were yellow and way overcooked. The Prime Rib on the other hand was a Ambrosia! The lamb too was outstanding!! The lobster and seafood/fish in general were perfect!
Our waiter (and others too) was happy to serve as a meal 2 appetizers or two entrees, to bring a small portion of risotto and a small portion of the pasta both of which were excellent. Requests for off menu items were received well and met with pleasure.
I heard comments about individual menus. For instance one evening "Cheese" there was one cheese dish in the appetizers. Cheese included in one soup. Cheese included in the salad. Cheese in the Risotto. Melted cheese with one of the entrees. Quiche was the vegetarian dish that day. There was a selection of cheeses and then a cheesecake. I hasten to add all the cheeses were of different types!. My meal that day was a white fish and orange mousse, the risotto - a small portion only, a grilled steak with salad, and then fresh fruit. Delicious and certainly not "cheesed off". We specifically ¨requested L' Approdo and were not disapponted. We like the " feel" of this restaurant far more than the larger La Caravella. First sitting was at 6 p.m. Second Sitting was 8.30 p.m. We had selected second sitting always enjoyed a leisurely meal and left the restaurant every evening by 10.30 at the very latest. The "show" for second sitting diners was 10.45p.m. so this worked out well. ENTERTAINMENT. Generally were good although there was one disaster. The Tenor left us at San Juan and we picked up various other entertainers at other ports who did "one off" shows. The predatory female singer who joined us at Tenerife was certainly not in the same class as Romancia - a wonderful young lady from Barbados and a great singer with a varied repertoire with the PopCorn band in Caruso Lounge. We believe that they and she should have been used far more throughout the cruise. We rolled with laughter when she received a complaint that she did not sing all her numbers in English!! The magician was a great entertainer and he and his wife were genuine delightful and very approachable people happy to mix with the passengers and give special " off stage and close up" shows. The dancers were outstanding. The Can Can and RiverDance routines left the audience breathless. There were numerous standing ovations.
THE BANDS. The various musicians were brilliant. Very varied from classic to Dance to Pop to Latin. There was something for all tastes. There was music at the buffet lunch, music at high tea and then from 5 p.m. music in at least one of the lounges. People managed to enjoy dancing of all styles and we certainly did our bit to wear the floors out in the various venues.We danced in the morning at Le Piscine, we sometimes danced at lunch at Il Patio, we danced in the afternoon, we danced in the evening and we danced at 3 (sometimes 4) in the morning!
THE BARS AND LOUNGES All attractive rooms with a feeling of space even though the ceilings were low. There was a scence of intimacy through clever design. There was always a feeling of being "at sea" with views over the ocean and you did not feel hemmed in. The Byblos Disco had superb views to stern with floor to ceiling windows. It was used during the day quite often by passengers seeking peace. The colour schemes were tasteful and in some rooms there was a strong art deco influence with some very attractive occasional furniture.
The drinks were of a very reasonable price - and this included the wines in the restaurants and even the mini bar. In the Piano La Cabala Bar there was a Martini Bar with a large range of Martinis!! We enjoyed several excellent Margaruitas in this bar which had lovely large windows.
THE ITINERARY. We enjoyed all our ports of call very much. San Juan/St. Thomas/Antigua/ Martinique/Barbados/Tenerife/Cadiz/Mallorca. They were interesting and we always felt safe. We were a little diappointed at some of our port times but we knew these well in advance and were prepared. We were fortunate in that we arrived 2 hours early at 18.00 hours in San Juan. We departed Martinique one hour later and Barbados 2 hours later. This extra time in the ports was very much appreciated by the passengers A lot of advance research had been done and this was pooled between our group who had all met through the internet and we were able to maximise the time in each port. At St. Thomas we were berthed at Charlotte Amalie adjacent to QM2. This was a busy day in port with 4 of the largest liners afloat all in harbour that day. We had arranged our own tour - as we did at Martinique - and had a wonderful time.
Very international mainly senior citizens but with the hearts and minds of twenty somethings. Through the wonder of internet we were part of a group of varied, interesting, educated people of several nationalities. It is amazing how well we gelled and bonded. The wonderful atmosphere generated only added to the overall enjoyment. I would like to say a heartfelt and sincere thank you to all my ship mates who might read this. May we all sail again together in the near future.
Would I sail with MSC again? Without a doubt! In fact I am already booked on the transatlantic crossing (all different ports) of Opera departing Fort Lauderdale 8th April, 2006 and counting the days
All in all a true 5 star experience.
It was an experience that will never happen again. The ship is very nice, the cabin in cat. 11 was very nice. Unfortunately thst is where the niceness ends. The Italian theme did not exist. The pasta was never served hot. The waiter, not Italian who came from Croatia could not explain anything about the menu. The food was of the cheapest quality amd very limited in selection. Even the so called lobster , was not the lobster as we know it. It was a Cray Fish split in half.
The library consisted of well worn paper backs. Cards for the card room had to be signed out at the Reception Desk and if not returned a chare of nine dollars would be put on your account.
The room service menue listed one sandwich and a cheese and cracker selection.
The casino had NO SOUNDS of the slots. When questioned the Cruise Director indicated that the MSC wanted a "Silent Ship". Activities weree never announced . In the buffet passengers were allowed to touch and take food on their own. Very unsanitary to say the least.
This cruise was an experience I wouldnever want to try again.