Length: 763 ft
One of the first MSC cruise ships - small and quiet with a diverse population of EuropeansBest For People Who Want
A true bargain on a classy new ship with family activities and children's menus.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
All American cuisine for every meal; a smoke-free environment.Onboard Experience
While MSC Cruises has tried to accommodate American tastes during the Caribbean season, the onboard vibe remains charmingly Latin, with Italian officers and a mix of Italian, Balinese and International crew, stellar entertainment by European performers, and genuine Italian food and wine. As in the Mediterranean, announcements are in five languages, but in the Caribbean English is the first.Decor
Each of Opera's public room has its own distinctive color scheme, all more subdued than Opera's, and each room blends well with the next, giving a sense of unity. Cabin decks are similarly color-coordinated, each in its own hue. Abundant polished brass, mirrors, glass, and marble make the insides of these immaculate ships resplendent.Public Rooms
Opera offers eight different bars/lounges, each of them unique, and most of them situated on Decks 5 and 6 connected by a grand marble staircase. Lord Nelson Pub, in the traditional English style, is a favorite for pre-dinner meetings, or just for those who like beer. With no live music it is a great place for conversation.
There is another large bar room on deck 7, and a huge disco surrounded by glass walls on deck 12. The Beverly Hills Bar and Rodeo Drive shops near the dining room entrance to the on deck 5 are a group of duty-free shops, offering everything from jewelry to souvenirs.
There is also an Internet cafe with 10 stations. The cost is something close to $2.00/minute for the first ten minutes, and just under one dollar minute after that, to be purchased in one-hour blocks.
Deck 12 is the home to the Disco.Cuisine
Delicious pasta and risotto dishes are never far from the menu. The menu lists appetizers, soup, salads, pasta, main courses and garnishes, as well as vegetarian and alternative dishes. The dessert menu includes cakes, pastries, ice cream and sorbet, along with after-dinner drinks.
Meals served in the Lido buffet are likely to contain some "what is that?" entrees more recognizable to Europeans than Americans. For the less adventurous, hotdogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken breasts and pizza are available in the expansive poolside grill areas from noon until 9:30 p.m. Afternoon tea and cookies are available from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the buffet.
A coffee and tea station is available at the casual dining area after hours, but the best coffee onboard is at The Coffee Bar. Authentic Italian Espresso ($1.50) and cappuccino are available at most of the bars onboard.
Made to order snacks are available 24 hours a day from room service, allow 30 minutes for preparation and delivery. Continental breakfast can be ordered at bedtime for morning delivery. Expect coffee and rolls, only.Restaurants
There are two seatings in each of the two dining rooms (5:45 and 8:00 p.m. respectively), and casual alternatives in the Lido buffet (6:00-8:00 p.m.) and poolside grills. The grill area on Deck 11 opens for alternative dining until 9:30 p.m. It is well protected from wind and there's plenty of shade.
La Bussola (618-seat) and L'lppocampo (380-seat) dining rooms are situated on Decks 5 and 6 respectively. Those prone to seasickness may prefer the mid-ship location of The Caravella. Breakfast and lunch are both open seating, while dinner is assigned.Service
Most of the service personnel onboard are Balinese. Dining room service is not yet as polished for Americans as it could be.Tipping
In the Caribbean, a daily gratuity for cabin attendants, bellboys and wait staff of $12 per person is automatically added to the onboard account, unless you're under 18 and sharing with two adults, in which case it's only $6.00 per day. The amount can be adjusted at the front desk.
A gratuity for bar staff is already included in the price of drinks. Spa and casino staff may be tipped in cash at the discretion of the passenger. In the Caribbean, they have come to expect a tip from the North American clientele. In Europe, tradition dictates that tips be presented to service personnel on the last night of the cruise. The cruise line suggests $3.50 to $5.00 per person per day for the Waiter and Stateroom attendant and $1.00 - $2.00 per day for the Maitre D'. Children under 12 pay half those amounts. Again, the gratuity for bar service personnel is included in the price of the drink.Entertainment
The cruise staff, called Animators or Pagliacci, double as entertainers who foment a lot of lighthearted fun and mischief. Every evening, musicians perform in the various lounges, and there's jollity in profusion in the Opera Lounge.
A large deck area behind the swimming pools is used for games and dance classes. Bingo is offered on board, but pay attention or you might miss it.
Baseball and music-themed Caribbean cruises allow passengers to meet up to half a dozen baseball legends and musical greats. Hitting, pitching and batting clinics, interview, Q&A, storytelling, and autograph sessions are all popular.Cabins
At 140 sq. ft., inside staterooms are petite, but well appointed, with a mini-bar, safe, and enough closet and drawer space for a one-week cruise. Suites, the only category with a balcony, offer an ocean view, with sitting area and balcony included measuring 279.7 sq.ft. There are two two-room family suites measuring 236.8 ft. The showers are small and the beds hard, but MSC promises new mattresses any day now.Fitness/Spa
The Opera Health Center, deck 11, offers aerobic equipment in a light-filled room with floor-to-ceiling windows. The spa is operated by Italians, but the offerings are the usual cruise ship fare of facials and massages. There are two swimming pools and two whirlpools (deck 11). And although the pool area is surrounded deck chairs, more can be found on deck 13, nicely shielded from the wind. Topless sunbathing is allowed in specified locations.
Aerobics classes are free, with personal training sessions available for $35. Step, Pilates and Stretching classes are a steep $12 per lesson, five for $55. There is a jogging track is on Deck 12 above the pool.Attire
The dress code is resort casual with two formal nights on ten-night, three on 11-night, and four on 17- and 18-night cruises. In the Caribbean, dress on formal nights is varied, with women wearing dressy pantsuits, cocktail dresses, or even gowns, and men in either dark suits or tuxedo.Fellow Passengers
The whole time you are on this ship you can't wait to get to land. A British man I talked to compared it to being in the army and he hit the nail on the head. If you go on this ship drink HEAVY to cope with no service and no entertainment…BTW you will pay through the nose for it!
Food The food was for the most part is inedible. One morning the eggs were cooked is a dirty pan that fish (with bones in it) was cooked in the night before and I threw up. You can only eat when they tell you it is time and if you are late by 15 minutes…YOU DO NOT EAT! Room Service you need to pay for and the menu consists of bad pizza, boiled hamburgers, and soup. The "juice" is Tang unless you pay for it. All of the food is the cheapest crap they could buy. Every meal you need to fight for a glass of water and most times you loose. There is no service and if so none of the people understand English. Avoid the buffet unless youlike hospital food!
Customer Service There are only three answers at MSC if you can find a slave from a third world country that speaks English. NO, I don’t kNOw, or that is closed! I bought a cigar in the shop and the guy told me to go cut it with scissors or poke a hole in it and he had a cutter right behind him. I bought a 200 euro amber bracelet and had to fight to get a box. Checkout they made you stay on the ship in the lounge for 5 hours with your carry on bags.
Entertainment The entertainment was the worst! Unless you like country western music in sang in Dutch or comedy in Italian, or dancing the Achey Breaky Heart and the Macarena...I am not kidding! I have seen better stuff at the High school level. They have one good singer in one of their 70's style lounges other than that it was awful. I forgot if you want some real entertainment go to the smoking bar and watch the bartender yell at the staff and customers…that is funny!
Casino They only have Roulette, 21, and poker for table games. The machines are from the 1980’s from Vegas and some you need to put the Tokens in each pull and they do not pay.
Laundry "Misplaces" your clothes and then calls you a liar when you ask for it all back.
TV There is only one channel in English (BBC) and two movies that loop the whole time but if it has subtitles you can’ read them because the TV is two small and the volume does not go high enough to hear most of the time. Also it goes out all the time! BBC went out while in South Hampton.
"Beds" - Cots They are not beds!!! They have COTS that are less comfortable then the ones I have for camping!
Safety They do not go over the safety plan for the life boats! You watch it on TV and in England the port authority would not let us leave because there were not enough people that spoke English to properly execute the safety plan.
If you are an American you will not enjoy this cruise! It is geared for large, loud herds of Italians. The help is rude, the passengers are rude, the food is sparse and not good, the rooms are tiny and stained, you can't have ANYTHING to drink at dinner without paying extra, and the time in ports was too short. The public areas onboard have poor traffic flow, so with 3,000 passengers you feel like cattle. The only thing good was the entertainment! Don't waste your money. THis was my 7th cruise, and the worst cruise line by far.
We just completed a 12-day Baltic Sea cruise on the MSC Opera. In a word: GRAND.
Check-In (in Copenhagen) was a breeze. MSC was very well prepared and remarkably efficient. We heard there had been a line-up when embarkation began at noon, but we arrived about 1:30 pm and had no line-up whatsoever. Note, however, that many passengers had embarked the previous day in Kiel -- the Opera lets you embark at either Kiel or Copenhagen. We had no problem bringing on board a few bottles of our favorite wine.
Cabin We were very pleased with our cabin. We had a 12th deck "suite." The Opera has no real suites -- ours was a slightly larger room, with a bathtub. We had ample storage space and a reasonably large closet with plenty of room for 10 dresses, 4 suits, 10 or so shirts, -- we did not pack lightly. The regular rooms have less closet space, and no tub, only a shower. NOTE -- the two forward facing suites face into the wind, and on a Baltic cruise you will be typically cool if not freezing. The port and starboard suites aremuch better protected from the wind. In fact, we hardly ever sat on the balcony -- it was too cold (~9-14 C / 48-57° F) most of our trip.
Food The food was excellent. Not everything was sublimely superb -- but could your favorite restaurant give you 36 consecutive sublimely superb meals? When cooking for 1,000 diners twice a night? Let's be reasonable. The pasta was consistently sublimely superb. I recommend a pasta course with every meal; you can diet later. Some main course meat dishes were very good, some were ok. Based on our traveling companions' reviews, I never ordered beef. Instead I had chicken cacciatore, guinea fowl, duck, fish, etc. Remember that this is an Italian cruise line, and the menu reflects this. I was pleased; I'll order steak some other time.
LUNCH we usually ate ashore. For the few lunches we had on board, we always had pizza (& beer). The pizza was superb. But remember that it's ITALIAN style pizza -- not Domino's or Little Caesar's.
BREAKFASTS were great -- either in the self-serve cafeteria or in the table service sit-down dining room. Lots of choices, and excellent waffles.
We found only two disappointing things about food: we ate far too much and we had to leave after only 2 1/2 hours (we had the first sitting). We could have quite happily lingered longer over our dessert and cheese. Overall, I enjoyed the food far too much -- it's not good for your waist line.
Service The service was excellent throughout the ship. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and eager to please. We travel a LOT, and we have never come across a more friendly, accommodating, eager-to-please staff. Language was not an issue. Some staff have better English than others, but (a) it's better than my Italian or Indonesian; and (b) if foreign accents annoy you then why travel?
Activities I can't really comment because we do not gamble, did not partake in any organized activities, and only rarely watched the entertainment. We went with 2 other couples so we amused ourselves with conversation when not ashore sightseeing. The bars & lounges, etc. were all very nice, in a Holiday Inn lounge sort of way; but I reckon that this is par for the course on any cruise ship. We spent most of our lounge time in the 12th deck disco at the stern. Its ceiling-to-floor windows (on 3 sides) gave a panoramic view, and it was quiet, since the disco music doesn't start til 11 or 12. Some entertainment struck us as a bit hokey (again reminiscent of a Holiday Inn lounge) but others (such as the "special guest" Swiss Dixieland jazz band) were entertaining. But we spent almost no time in show bars. We preferred to visit & chat in quieter bars, catching up with old friends.
Facilities It was too cold to swim, so no one used the pools. Early June in the Baltic is too cold for pools unless you're very, very hearty. I tried the "hot" tub once, but at its advertised 22° C / 72° F, it was a tad too tepid for my liking.
Drinks We bought the buy-ahead beer package (14 bottles for US $38 or so), and it's worth it. Otherwise bottled beer is 4 or 5 Euros, depending upon the brand. We bought a wine package at embarkation -- saves you 20 Euro, but I didn't find it to be any big deal. The house wine at 8 Euro per 1/2 litre was cheaper than the package and quite drinkable. We also pre-purchased an embarrassingly large number of bottles of wine for our cabin, at about US $19 each -- this I recommend if you enjoy a glass of wine on your balcony. But you CAN take unfinished wine from the restaurant to your cabin or a lounge.
Ports of Call Great! The ports were the primary reason for us taking this cruise, and we were not disappointed. I like medieval old-town centers, and we saw a few of them.
Gdansk: Dluga Targ (pretty much the medieval main street) was gorgeous. But my camera broke so I was able to take only a few pictures on my PDA. A great place for lunch in Gdansk is "Salonik" on Deluga. It's a wonderfully decorated room, featuring traditional Polish food. At about 4pm it started to pour and got quite cool, so being creatures of comfort we took a taxi back to the ship, thus cutting a bit short our sightseeing. Note that it's about a 45 minute taxi ride from the cruise port (in Gdynia) to the Gdansk Stare Misto. Six of us shared a min-van taxi, and he charged us 200 zloty. We suspect this is about half the meter rate, but Poland's hurting, and split 6 ways it's not a bad fare. Anything to help a suffering economy, I say.
Riga: Riga was very nice, but has not yet completed its post-Soviet makeover. Once their EEC economy kicks in and they complete their medieval old-town center renovation, Riga will be as strikingly beautiful as Prague or Tallinn. Depending upon your ship's berth and your walking pace, it's a 20-40 minute walk to the medieval old-town center. It is NOT a scenic walk (from ship to old town), but we welcomed the exercise so we enjoyed it. It poured (again), so we spent more time than we would have planned having a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. Our friends reported a superb lunch at a different restaurant. I'll try to track down restaurant names if anyone is interested. The Latvian Museum of Occupation (soviet & nazi) is an educational MUST-SEE. Missus bought a very nice amber bracelet in Riga for what seemed to us to be a better price-to-quality ratio than other Baltic ports. But we are in no way gemological experts, so buyer beware. Riga also featured the cheapest beer -- CAD $2 / pint at an otherwise expensive, trendy, fashionable & good-food restaurant. The primary reason we chose MSC was the inclusion of Riga (and Visby) and we were NOT disappointed. If you're only going to take one Baltic cruise -- capitalize on the opportunity and sample as much as possible. GO to Riga.
Tallinn: Tallinn was the gem of the trip -- an absolutely gorgeous medieval old-town center. There is too much to see and enjoy during a 1-day port call. Tallinn is the only port-of-call to which I would gladly make a special trip to re-visit.
St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg is ... St. Petersburg. You've already read all about it. Glorious churches, near-decadent architecture, Romanov legacy, and the Hermitage. But it's also bureaucratically tourist-unfriendly, and most of the city is 200-year old run-down and seedy following years of neglect. Call me a Philistine (I shan't protest it), but a 2-day cruise call is sufficient.
Helsinki: Helsinki. Sigh. More rain, more chill. This is the only cruise ship excursion we took -- to Porvoo -- and I cannot recommend it. On the other hand, Missus highly recommends the fresh-fried smelt (?) at the dockside market. At the risk of once again revealing my Philistinity, I declined the opportunity to eat entire fishes -- heads, tails, bones, GI tracts and anuses.
Stockholm: Stockholm was fun, architecturally interesting, wet, cold, rainy, and expensive. A gorgeous (big) city, with lovely looking cafés galore, but with $20 soups and $15 beer (or glass of table wine), it's not high on my list of must-go-back-to places.
Visby: Visby was picturesque. Unique in its small-town densely packed old-town "cottages" combined with long-lost Hanseatic glory. MSC may be the only cruise line stopping in Visby, and it's well worth it.
Kiel: Good shopping, just past the block or so of sex-trade merchants. But (at the risk of being racist), with typical German gemütlichkeit, it's a tasteful, well-scrubbed, tidy and not in the slightest bit seedy sex-trade block.
Copenhagen: Copenhagen -- the start & finish. We spent 2 nights prior and one night after the cruise. One of the most vibrant cities we have visited. Cafes everywhere, generally busy with people enjoying themselves, evidently immensely. The old-town core is full of people enjoying themselves. It's catching.