One of the first MSC cruise ships - small and quiet with a diverse population of Europeans
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Europe these ships appeal to the part of the European market that still does not speak English - so in Europe expect to hear a lot of Italian, French, Spanish, German and everything else.
Best 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.
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.
Most of the service personnel onboard are Balinese. Dining room service is not yet as polished for Americans as it could be.
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.
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.