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.
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.
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 directedto 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.
MSC Opera was hands down one of the best cruises my family and I have ever taken. Not to mention the great value.
We booked the cruise in a guaranteed cabin (level 1) and were bumped to a level 4 room (inside state rooms). Our travel agent, while trying to keep the family cabins together, inadvertently split the family onto different sides of the ship (who would have known that 9207 and 9208 weren't close to each other???). We spoke with housekeeping about the situation and they quickly remedied the problem by moving my parents to an empty cabin on the same side of the ship I was on. :)
Our cruise started in Fort Lauderdale, went to Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and the Roatan Islands. I purchased 2 shore excursions. The one in Grand Cayman was called the Cheeseburger Snorkel. It was an awesome trip that explored a local ship wreck site and a coral reef that was in front of the Burger King. The snorkel ships captain was a riot and very knowledgeable. My father and I had a blast. The second excursion we purchased was for the RoatanIslands. This was our first stop in Honduras, and we explored the butterfly and botanical gardens. My daughter liked the little shops we found...especially when one of the locals gave her a little Honduran doll to take home!
The rooms are smaller than those on Carnival, but there is ample storage space (including beds that sit higher off the floor so that your luggage can be stored beneath the bed). The bathrooms are small (as they are on most ships), but I found the shower best suited for someone my 3 year old daughter's size. Each night I had what I affectionately dubbed the shower curtain wrestle. My mother solved the shower space problem by not turning the water on full force and leaving the shower curtain opened. I wish I had thought of that one!
On our first morning aboard, we met Bappoo, one of the wait staff in the Patio Restaurant. Bappoo found us a table and then told us if we came to his side of the ship for breakfast and lunch, he would take care of us....and take care of us he did. It soon became a joke that if we got up to fill our iced tea or coffee glasses you had to watch out for Bappoo. He would rush to meet your every need. In fact, on our last day at sea, my daughter dropped her spoon. Before I had even noticed her picking it up, Bappoo had replaced the dirty spoon with a new one. Now that is service!
The food aboard was excellent. There were plenty of choices that ranged from Hamburgers and hotdogs to Ethnic cuisine. The deserts were good, but not the overly sweet ones we Americans are often used to. The risotto served in the restaurant each night was to die for!
The entertainment was top notch...not the ordinary bad lounge singers you normally see on board a cruise ship. The magician was very good as were the gymnasts. The animation staff was AWESOME! Each night before the shows, the animation staff would come up with a new way to entertain the audience. One night, they followed passengers looking for seats in the theater around, and quietly slipped into the seat they were about to sit down in. Needless to say, it really surprised everyone...including my father who they played the trick on!
Like I said before, this was an outstanding cruise and I will definitely look to MSC to book further cruises!