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.
The ship was beautiful, the rooms and the balconies are the smallest I have ever sailed on. The announcements are in about 5 languages before English. There were lots of noisy kids on our cruise (kids sail free) and out of 3000 pasgeners, only 50 of us spoke English. The food was horrible. We finally found out that the pastas come in frozen (which would explain why they were not any good) THe ports were great, the entertainment was good. I would not take another cruise on MSC cruise line. THere was no food after 10:00, the coffee machine was shut down after that also. You could not get iced tea all day.
We just came back of our first cruise expirence on msc musica. It was crowdy but allright for younger people. Food was plenty and allright. (At dinner you can ask free drinking water at the table.) Waiters and housekeeping were very good but they had to work up to 18 hours a day. This was not acceptable to me.
This was the first cruise that I went on, and I couldn't have asked for anything more.
The service was impeccable, the cleanliness excellent and the food was, being Italian Canadian, sometimes as good as our home cooking. Never better though:) One reviewer was complaining that they had to buy ice cream. We found that if we went to the sit down restaurant for lunch, ice cream came with the meal, and therefore was free. We also found the prices at the stores on the ship to be exceptionally reasonable, sometimes much less than the price at a duty free store on land.
There were a few complaints that we had which we also mentioned to the cruise company and which hopefully, if other readers notice, will also tell the cruise ship company.
The tours organized by the ship tended to be very expensive and we found that many times, it was easier and cheaper to hire a taxi or walk in the various ports of call. The price of alcohol on the ship was also prohibitive, although many guests appeared to have somehow procured their own drinks (nudge nudge, wink wink).This may only be with our table, but we found the snobbishness of the Maitre'D and the table manager to be quite offensive, although the rest of the restaurant staff went out of their way to make our meals enjoyable.
In addition, if you are a younger traveller (under 30), you may find that, atleast on our cruise, there are not a lot of young people, although a lot of the staff are young and fun to talk with.
Finally, if you are like us and like to enjoy peace and quiet, head to the back of the ship to the Blue Lounge and the deck behind there. Although there are activities going on constantly near the pool, the back of the ship is quiet and you can enjoy the beautiful view and take in the rays of the sun. The fact that the rooms were a little small was actually nice, as we were forced to leave the rooms and meet many of our fellow passengers.
We did hear some of the other passengers complaining, but they, as the stereotype goes, appeared to be consistently cut of a certain stripe, and I am sure they would probably never be fully satisfied with anything.
I would definitelty recommend this cruise to anyone especially if you enjoy a more meditteranean atmosphere.
I recently was able to join a friend, last minute, on an 11 day cruise aboard the MSC CROCIERE Italian cruise ship. After reading some pretty negative reviews (after booking) I was a bit concerned. I am not sure if those folks were aboard the same ship but my experience overall was 5 star. The crew, from the director (Andreas) to our cabin attendant (Thierry) to the wonderful hostess in the Lord Nelson (Maria)were all exceptional.
The dining room was fabulous with decent food, lots of choices, including a great selection of healthy items and the servers were awesome. Each evening there was really good entertainment The ports were all gorgeous and the time allotted was just perfect. The only complaint I would offer is the price of the ship tours, of which we took none. We just hired privately and it was about 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost. I would highly recommend this cruise line.
Background/Itinerary: The itinerary was intriguing and very rewarding. We sailed from Genoa, Italy, visiting many ruins of the ancient world from Egypt to Greek to Roman ruins. Malta was a wonderful stop but way too short to even sample what this island country has to offer. Other ports of call included Naples (for Pompeii); Syracuse (Sicily) with a charming old town and ancient Greek ruins; Alexandria, Egypt (for pyramids at Giza & Sakkara plus Memphis); Tobruk (for the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse which was fantastic); Tripoli, Libya, where we visited the fabulous Roman ruins at Leptis Magna; Valetta, Malta; Salerno for the well-preserved Doric temples of the ancient Greek/Roman city of Poseidiana/Paestum; and back to Genoa. Weather was cool in Genoa becoming more pleasant and warm as we ventured southward.
Travel to point of departure and hotel: We booked our air ourselves, flying Air France from San Francisco non-stop to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport (what a nightmare to negotiate). Then we flew to Genoa on an Air France small plane operated by regional carrier Brit Air. Unfortunately, one of our bags did not arrive for 2 days but was finally delivered toour stateroom the second evening of our cruise. Fortunately, my husband and I had divided our clothing so we had something to wear; some passengers were not so lucky. Up to 30 passengers experienced luggage delays from a variety of airlines and airports.
Stateroom: The cabin was well appointed with more than enough space for all we brought, including formal attire and a small telescope, tripod and camera gear for the eclipse, which was the reason we booked this cruise. Our cabin had two single beds which could be made into a king plus two bunks folded up on the walls. There was a minibar, television, make-up dresser and safe. A fruit bowl was filled on our arrival.
Ship: The ship was immaculate, if not a particularly attractive ship in the classic sense. Because a mid-section had been added to this ship, getting around was confusing. One could not reach all venues from each deck.
Dining: Dining itself was also a disappointment. Being on an Italian ship for the first time, we were looking forward to the cuisine which turned out to mediocre at best. Meat was tough, fish was "fishy," soups were bland and most dishes were uninspired. For dinner there were no options except the main dining room at one's assigned table. The breakfast buffet was run-of-the-mill but there was an ample amount of food. The best lunches were had at the Caffee del Mare grill where we ate delicious hamburgers and french fries (pizza was edible but nothing special). We actually ate one of the best pizzas ever while ashore in Valetta, Malta.
Services: For first timers or less experienced cruisers, this ship may have been adequate or better but for experienced cruisers this ship was a big disappointment. It seemed that they were unprepared for the number of English-speaking passengers. Previous reviews by such individuals seemed to indicate that there were only a very few English speakers cruising with MSC. The majority of crew did not speak much English making it difficult to communicate our desires or even have an amiable conversation. For example, our cabin steward was from Madacasgar and seemed more fluent in French.
The crew member who escorted us to our cabin simply left us there, showing us nothing in the cabin including the location of our life jackets. Most announcements could not be heard inside the cabins–one had to open the door to listen. And the one and only (mandatory) life boat drill was a joke. Not all passengers even attended and no roll was taken. Instead it was used as an photo opportunity by the ever-present paparazzi who intruded on us during dinner, followed us on shore excursions and frightened young children with their clown and pirate costumes. The ship's photographers were truly shameless in their pursuit of money.
It seemed that we had to pay for everything. On the Marco Polo (Orient Lines), ice cream was served daily for free. On the MSC Sinfonia the Gelateria was never open but occasionally ice cream out of a cart was served on the pool deck–at a cost. On arrival there were two bottles of water in the cabin but again, they were not gratis. As we left the ship for our excursions, water at a cost was offered. Most cruises we have taken provided water bottles for free.
In the dining room we had requested a table for two and were located was in a back corner with servers who hailed from Bali. When we ordered off the menu printed in English our waiter often could not understand what we said unless we pointed to the menu.
Service was probably the worst we have experienced for dining but perhaps we were assigned servers with less experience or training. We had to repeatedly ask for water, or even get it ourselves and our primary waiter never seemed to learn that my husband wanted coffee after his meal (The bus boy actually learned that by the end of our cruise and brought it himself.). Other passengers were satisfied with the service they received in the dining room so our experience may not be representative of the entire dining staff. However, no maitre'd ever spoke with us. Often the servers would shout and argue among themselves which was very annoying.
The crew had not anticipated dealing with such a large contingent of English speakers, most of whom were American. The Travel Quest/Sky and Telescope group for the eclipse accounted for more than 70% of the passengers who numbered between 1500 and 2000. In the past we have cruised on large vessels with much better organization than this one run by Italians.
Entertainment & Activities: These were very limited for individuals with our interests. Fortunately, there were regular astronomy-related lectures which were informative, interesting, and quite entertaining. The lecturers had a good sense of humor which the crew seemed to lack.
My husband and I particularly enjoy ballroom dancing and we were looking forward to an opportunity to dance on the MSC Sinfonia. However, the quality of music was lacking and one of the best bands on the ship refused to play if only one or two couples were in the Sinfonia lounge. The program would list the times they were to play in the daily program, we would appear, and the group would sit in their corner chatting for 45 minutes or more of that scheduled time. The best dancing music was available in the Buddha Bar provided by one Gianni Dale and his piano. Unfortunately, there was no dance floor in this bar but we danced on the carpet anyway, often joined by one or two other couples.
Children's Club: There were a number of planned activities and events for children, however, and this ship may be more enjoyed by families.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Embarkation was long and tedious, taking about 2 hours to actually arrive at our cabin. There was much disorganization aboard the MSC Sinfonia from embarkation, shore excursions, collecting passports, and disembarkation. Rarely did anything begin on time (except for meals) and we had to wait for everything.
Summary: Bottom-line: Fabulous itinerary with a chance to visit Libya and see our 5th Total Solar Eclipse. However, we will never cruise with MSC again and would not recommend their ships to any experienced or English-speaking passengers.
This was a cruise in the central Mediterranean, Naples, Salerno, Sicily, Malta, Alexandria, and Libya, for 12 days.
Get used to everything being late - and don't expect to be warned so you can do something with your wait time.
Of 30 plus cruises, this was near the bottom.
1. Service was uniformly poor - in the cabin, in the dining areas, on the excursions, in the show rooms.
2. Food was minimally adequate to awful.
3. Excursions were cancelled in Libya - the reason we booked the cruise.
4. Americans are not really welcome here.
5. The bed was hard as a rock - reactivated an old shoulder injury.Service
In the cabin, we never figured out the names of the people handling our room. One never spoke, and the other was unintelligible. Immediately we noticed no ice in the cabin, and virtually always had to either ask or get it ourselves. Early in the cruise, we found our evening turn down service had occurred prior to 5 pm, though we had late seating. We informed the crew we did not want turndown before we left for dinner. To their credit, this never happenedagain. Crew would enter either without knocking or after a very brief interval. (Our neighbor was highly offended that a male crew member walked in on his teen age daughters without knocking). Do not disturb signs disappeared or were ignored.
In the dining room, our waiter meant well, but could not get orders right and had no help from the assistant. We got a new assistant after complaining, but this did not improve order taking, pace of the dinner or quality. Our table mates seemed happy with the service, but we attributed this somewhat to the waiter's penchant for bringing extra deserts.
We rarely found anyone informed or helpful at the excursion desk or the reception desk.
When meeting any crew member, be sure to step aside and make way as they surely do not ever give way to a passenger.
3. As to food, we looked forward to having 12 days of Italian experience, but were sorely disappointed. The pastas were good, as were the bread sticks. Also, salads were always fresh and tasty. Even here, however, the waiter was never sure whether she had the dressing described on the menu, and usually just offered 1000 islands. Deserts were tasty, but not a great selection. The safest bet was the good ice creams, though some nights chocolate sauce was inexplicably unavailable.
At dinner, choices were limited, fish was usually full of bones, and ordering beef was a crap shoot whether you would get it cooked right - and the dice were loaded against you.
Soups were unusual, often served (unintentionally) cold. Of the two intentionally cold ones, gazpacho was excellent, but the vichysoisse was really just some cold potato soup that had never seen a drop of cream.
Lunch was okay, both in the dining room and the buffet.
NOTE: No evening buffet for those who like casual dining. This was strickly for the kids.
Breakfast was okay at best. The selections were limited. However, you could get an omelette cooked to order - but only after the chef had prepared as many sunny side up eggs as he thought necessary to fill the buffet tray - though in 12 days I saw one person eating them prepared this way.
In the dining room there were no pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedicts, or other goodies on the menu. There was a chef special, never volunteered by the waiter. When I asked, two days the special was chicken meatballs, another it was scrambled eggs and toast! What is special about that?
Condiments were often served from jars - with signs of great age from less popular ones.
Excursions in general on any cruise are a disappointment attendant to large groups. However, when there is a place you don't want to miss, the excursion booked on ship can be the safest alternative.
Not on this ship. Our Libya excursion to Leptis Magna was cancelled - the buses did not show up. Some were put in mini-vans (for a 1 1/2 hour ride over, and similar one back) and never got their box lunches or a guide. After the cancellation, an announcement was made that there would be more buses, a full 3 hours after the planned departure, leaving inadequate time for the entire itinerary. My basis for booking this cruise was because of the Libya stop. We salvaged the day by going into Tripoli on our own. The ship did offer a free shuttle into town. There, we found the Libyans to be friendly, willing to help, and so the day turned out okay.
We still do not have a refund for the prepaid excursions!
Americans were told we complain too much. There is apparently something wrong with expecting to get what you paid for.
Many announcements were in Italian, but not in English. Every afternoon there was something done only in Italian. Still not sure what that was. One evening after the show, the cruise director came on stage and spoke in Italian for nearly 15 minutes - we never did learn what he said.
On the day of the Libya excursion fiasco, the cruise director came out and yelled at the passengers who refused to accept that the cruise ship had a responsibility for the problem (though excursion staff indicated they knew there would be as there always is in that port). He ended up telling the Americans it was because they had a problem with Libya - he of course did not, as he is Portuguese!
Other issues were a lack of activities. Bridge was offered only once; there was no wine tasting; no special dinners (French night or Greek night). There was no pre-dinner dancing. Dance class was often during our dinner hour. Shops' merchandise was limited and expensive.
There were no port talks, no port maps offered.
Disembarkation was awful. EVERYONE was told at 8 am to line up in the lounge. An hour later, still in line, we learned that the passports had not even been returned from port authorities.
At the same time the passports were released to the crew, they began announcing the colors to disembark. The people with the first colors were not the people first to get passports.
I suggested to a crew member that it would have been a better plan if they had told everyone to stay put until passports had been released by the authorities. Then when they were released, they could have told the first color group to proceed to get their passports and disembark the ship. Then the next color group could be called.
It was like a light bulb went off in her head! Unfortunately, her response was for me to find someone important to make such a rational suggestion. When I suggested that she could make the suggestion to someone important, her answer was that "No one listens to me."
Why was I not surprised?
This is the only cruise we have ever been on where all dishes were clean, all of the time. This and a very pretty ship are not enough to redeem the experience.
With a name such as Opera, Italian MSC cruise line seems to promise a lot of impressive entertainment; and in fact - it actually delivers completely and then some. We had the privilege to travel on that ship from February 18th to the 25th, 2006
The excellence of entertainment is true of the magnificent and unusual stage shows we saw and the ongoing on board dynamic activities, animated (brought to life if you will) by an especially dedicated clownish crew called the "Animatores".
Contrary to other cruise companies - that only offer two major stage productions - MSC Opera offers nearly every night an exceptional production and most of them feature the dancing cast made up of 6 gorgeously shaped and physically matched young ladies and 3 very handsome young men.
One of their most impressive productions was called "Le Cirque Imaginaire"; it has great similarity with the productions of "Le Cirque Du Soleil" without the ridiculous high associated price tag. Indeed "Le Cirque Du Soleil" does not own the exclusivity to this style of shows no more than it does not owns le denomination of cirque, or circus in English. I amonly surprised to see that no one else thought of doing this before.
In addition the dance team presented a couple of shows outside the theater, on the top bridge – by "le piscine" area - dancing an exquisite tango, presenting an extract of the play Cabaret and offering a delightful fashion show. In the theatre a 26-year-old tenor from Romania called Adrian Mocanu deeply moved us with his wonderful operatic renditions of very famous Italian songs.
The "Animatores" drafted with genteel insistence the participation of all hesitant guests to their numerous games and rewarded them with a multitude of various gifts. Unfortunately the Animatores are so continuously working that they barely sleep 5 hours a night and they are actually exhausted, several of them confided this to me. We got very close to these individuals because we love people in general and are always willing contestants. By the end of the trip they all knew our names.
I was NOT particularly impressed with the selection nor the quality of the food served on board; in fact, even though I can eat nearly anything, I usually found very little interesting food choices.
However the way I see it, we - as a society - eat way too much! So I did not regard the lack of food choices as necessarily a negative in this particular instance; one must eat to live not to live to eat. Still we were served lobster on the second formal night, a selection that we did not get on the Costa Allegra cruise last month.
One of the most serious weaknesses of the cabins was the shower compartment! Imagine a square of 2 ½ feet on two sides cut in two diagonally by the shower curtain and this is your shower area – I AM NOT KIDDING!
Needless to say that if you drop anything onto the floor, with the shower curtain closed, you are facing a serious dilemma. Ad to that fact that the shower controls are round and you don’t have much of a grip on them, after you soap up, it is extremely difficult to open or turn off those valves.
A rather large man explained to me that he was taking his showers with the curtain opened and afterwards was wiping the excess water that fell outside the shower area. However, he also pointed out that because of his size, not that much water passed by him outside the shower compartment.
We found the personnel courteous and seemingly anxious to resolve a couple of negative issues we experienced.
The selected ports of calls were most interesting, especially in the new stops of the Dominican Republic - that other cruise companies seem to constantly bypass.
There, we stopped in La Romana where we visited Altos De Chavon – A gorgeous 16th century, Mediterranean artist village replica created by Italian cinematographer Roberto Copa who spent 6 years of his life building this little town, which is perched high on a cliff above the Chavon River.
This faithfully executed historically styled architecture village, is decorated with mosaics of River Black pebbles and built with coral and terracotta bricks. We also stopped on a paradisiacal private island called Cayo Levantado; nearby, we actually got to see for the first time in all our cruising years, several large whales.
As usual and probably more so with each new cruise we take, we received lots of compliments from others - on board guests, and Animatores - regarding my wife and my own innovative dancing techniques.
Should you experience the MSC Opera? Without the shadow of a doubt I answer a resounding YES! I am now anxious to try the other ships of this wonderful Italian Company.
I think that it would be marvelous to have other theme-type vessels presenting an ambiance of other foreign countries, like France, Greece Russian, Polish, Spanish, possibly even Canadians Eh? It would be a pleasant change to have the MAIN onboard language in something other than English and only use it as a means of secondary communication. This way I could learn and constantly improve on my knowledge of other tongues.
Copyrights Roger Holstein 2006.
What a great time we had on this beautiful two-year-old ship! MSC was a different experience for us and we loved it. Everything I had read prior to sailing on the Lirica was mixed, so I want to give you a good feel for our experience -- albeit from our perspective.
We started cruising in the mid-1980s and are veterans of 27 cruises on most major lines. We have cruised with Commodore, Premier, RCCL, Costa, Carnival, NCL, HAL, Celebrity and Princess -- some many times -- and we truly enjoy cruising. We lived in Naples, Florida for 10 years and cruised several times a year since the ports were so easy to access. We love good food, and we were especially looking for something different from the normal mass-market cruise this time. Since we now live in Chicago and have to fly to the port, we wanted to book a longer cruise and one we thought we would really enjoy, since we aren't cruising so many times in a year now.
The Cabin After researching MSC we decided that the international flavor of the line, the size of the ship and itsage would all be pluses. We booked about two months out, an inside guaranteed cabin. Our documents arrived about two weeks prior to departure and our cabin wasn't assigned at the time. A day before we were to leave, I called the travel agency and was given our cabin assignment -- it turned out to be an inside cabin, but an upgrade from what we booked and a handicapped-accessible cabin. This turned out to be a real plus because the cabin was about twice the size of a normal one, and the bathroom had no ledges and a huge shower. The cabin was on Deck 9 forward, perfect for going up or down.
Cabin 9052's beds were on each side of the room with tons of closet and storage space as well as a vanity and mini-bar (which we didn't use). Towels were huge and replenished as needed. Shampoo, body gel and bubble bath were in the bath, and so was a hair dryer that was good for short hair. There were not many electrical outlets, so bring a strip if you need to plug in battery chargers, etc. This was a very quiet cabin, and we got fresh fruit daily.
The Ship MSC Lirica is a two-year-old ship and the maximum passenger capacity using all berths is 2,065. Double-occupancy capacity is 1,560 passengers. The line is the second largest shipping company in the world; since it branched out into the passenger cruise business it now has seven cruise ships, with two more to come. The Lirica was designed for international sailing and I believe this is her second season in the Caribbean, along with her sister ship, the Opera. Reviews from passengers have been mixed but all agree that the ship is beautiful and clean, with a true mix of passengers from many countries.
The officers are all Italian; so are the upper echelon staff in the dining room, and the style and flavor of the ship is Italian. The captain on this voyage was Mattia Manzi and the cruise director was Andrea Olivieri. The entertainment team that he oversees was excellent. All the staffers are multilingual. The few announcements are in five languages, and so is the entertainment. The passengers on this cruise were from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, USA, Great Britain, and other countries. Menus in the dining room are in different languages to accommodate passengers who do not speak English.
Embarkation After we arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport, we took our time, got some coffee, and then took a cab to the port once we retrieved our luggage. Since this was an 11-night cruise, we were sailing on a Thursday and returning on a Monday, so the airport was not crowded with cruise passengers. Just two other ships were leaving from Port Everglades that day and we would be the last to depart. We got to the port about 11:45 a.m., left our bags with the porters and got a number for boarding. The check-in lines opened at noon and we were among the first to be processed. The person checking us in was doing it for the first time, but it went very smoothly and we were on board in about 15 minutes. We were greeted by a staff member to lead us to our cabin and were settling in quickly. A welcome-aboard lunch was being served, but it was delayed by a surprise inspection. (A footnote: The Lirica has scored 100 on all inspections; it is probably the cleanest ship we have ever sailed.)
The Layout We decided to acquaint ourselves with the layout. We had a great map of the ship and started at the top. There are 13 decks, so we worked our way down. Deck 13 is for sunning forward, and aft is a miniature golf course. Deck 12 is an additional sunning deck and also is the walking/running track -- with eight times around to a mile (by my calculations). Deck 11 has the buffet restaurant all the way aft, with a grill on the port side and a pizzeria on the starboard side. Directly in front of that is a bar and shaded seating area, and forward of that are two beautiful salt water pools with space for sitting all around. The lounge chairs had shades on them. Forward was a place to get ice cream (extra charge) and then the gym, saunas, massage, etc., were all the way forward. Decks 10, 9, 8 and part of 7 were passenger decks. Decks 6 and 5 are public decks with lounges, restaurants and shops as well as reception etc. With the exception of Caya Levantado, we disembarked in each port from Deck 5 forward.
Itinerary The itinerary for this cruise was: two days at sea, San Juan, St. Maarten, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, Tortola, Caya Levantado (private island), day at sea and back to Port Everglades. We spent a good amount of time in each port; the only one we could have done without was Grenada. Caya Levantado is absolutely beautiful -- a small island off the coast of the Dominican Republic -- and the seas were gently rolling. The day was beautiful -- a great beach day. Since we have been to all these islands, we were familiar with them. In the past we explored each of them and found places we like to return to. We like to shop and enjoyed each port thoroughly. We always walk into the town; it's great exercise and usually an easy walk. Our weather was exceptional each day except the day we were in Grenada, where it rained and we didn't care; we were only off the ship for about 15 minutes anyway. A number of excursions were offered in each port but we haven't done those for many years so I can't comment on them.
There were three formal nights; the others were a combination of informal and casual. The captain had a welcome aboard party for the first formal night and another party on the last formal night. Not everyone adhered to the dress code, but the majority of passengers did. There were very few children on this cruise; I can't comment on the facilities for them.
Dining We checked in at the dining room immediately after settling into our cabin. We had requested late seating, which we got, and we wanted to request a table for two. The maitre d' was very gracious in granting our request. We were later told that early seating was full but late seating was not. Our waiter was Windia and his assistant was Agus, both from Indonesia. Our table supervisor was Salvatore. The supervisors and the maitre d' and his assistants were very visible all the time, and service in the dining room was excellent. It was also leisurely since it was late seating, and that suited us very well.
There were certain menu items you could order each night; there was always a choice of appetizers, soups, a pasta of the day, choices of main courses and desserts. The portions were very nice -- not huge -- but if you wanted more than one thing or something not on the menu, all you had to do was ask. We rated the food overall as good. My husband had one meal that he had to send back (a pot roast -- the meat was not acceptable) but other than that, we had no problems. We tried things we had never had, and we enjoyed MSC's version of dishes we were familiar with.
We ate only two meals in the buffet (the welcome aboard lunch and one breakfast); all other meals we ate in the dining rooms. We were assigned LaBussola dining room for dinner, so we ate breakfast and lunch in the Ippocampo dining room. Both rooms are beautiful, and the service was excellent in both. The wait staff was comprised of Indonesians, Italians, Romanians, and some other nationalities. The maitre d' and his assistants and most of the table supervisors were Italian. First seating for dinner was at 5:45 p.m. and second seating was at 8 p.m. Breakfast in the dining room was served from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch from noon to 2 p.m. On deck the hours were a little longer, and there was afternoon tea from 4 to 5 p.m. each day.
Continental breakfast was offered via cabin service, and there was a small room service menu available 24 hours a day. Our overall assessment is that the food is good: Breakfast was great, lunch very good, and dinner was very good. We found the pasta dishes to be somewhat bland, but the beef was always prepared to our order and very tender; the lobster was excellent, as were the soups. Desserts were good (some great); the baked alaska was some of the best I ever had.
The Staff We found the crew and officers to be exceptionally friendly. They always had a smile in greeting you. The entertainment team was exceptional too. We didn't attend all the shows so we can't comment on most of them. The entertainment team had something going on each night on Deck 6, and they were lots of fun. They were out by the pool during the day. There were food demonstrations, Italian language classes, dance music for every taste, some Bingo, an art auction (not well attended), a small display of Inch of Gold (very unobtrusively). The shops on Deck 5 were nice, very low key. Drinks were not "hawked" on deck or in the lounges. If you wanted something, all you had to do was ask, but you were not approached time and again.
Announcements were kept to a minimum -- you were expected to read your daily program to find out what was going on, and when. It was very relaxing.
Miscellaneous Some additional items -- there was a $12 per person tip amount added to your bill each day. You could remove it if you chose to and tip each person yourself. We did the automatic tipping and it seemed most people did this. I did see a number of people giving extra money to their cabin stewardess or steward and some to the waiters. Tips are automatically figured into drinks on deck and in the bars. Wine packages can be purchased and glasses of wine were reasonably priced. On board Internet costs $6 for the first 10 minutes and 60 cents a minute after that. If you travel with a laptop, you can buy prepaid packages, and the ship also has three laptops equipped with Wi-Fi that you can rent. The library was on the honor system -- you could walk in, take a book and return it when finished -- and there were books in multiple languages.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional questions. We would sail MSC again in a heartbeat. The feel of the ship, the ambience -- all of it was just great. And taking a cruise longer than seven days was so nice. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze. I tried to learn some basic Italian prior to cruising, and that was always received well. All in all, it was a perfect vacation for us.
As seasoned cruisers, 25 plus cruises on 8 or 9 lines, we decided to try an out of the ordinary,nonpredictible,adventure with a cruise line touted as a different approach than previously sailed with lines. What an experience! I can best sum up this 11 day port hoping in the carribean as "The Cruise from Hell"!
The food was terrible, surpassed only by the snobish service staff at all levels. Obvious distain for American guests was evident everywhere. I declined the auto-gratuity encouraged by the ship & tipped well only my cabin stewardness who provided the TLC that we were accustomed to on previous voyages. I would certainly never consider ever cruising with this line again even with a full "comp" If bargain cruising is a factor in choosing a water filled vacation buy or rent a truck tube & float down the Rio Grande for 11 days. You`ll have more fun & the soggy ham sandwiches will be gormet delights in comparison to the slop served by rude waiters on the "Lirica".
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.