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MSC Cruises: MSC Opera

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By Ema_CR

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Jul 18, 2015

Venice

Before MSC Opera I was on MSC Fantasia which is a bigger (and better) ship. Overall impresion is great! Itineraries are great, time spent on shore excellent and everyone are so nice and kind. If this had been my first cruise I would probably be thrilled, but since this is my third cruise I couldn't help myself but to compare it with previous one. We were the first passengers since the ship was renovated last year, and one could say that this was a

test cruise. There were a lot oversights: mugs and cups in buffet restaurant were often dirty - every second cup was clean so it became tiresome to check every cup. Juices in the self serving restaurant were available only in the morning not in the evening and hot chocolate wasn't available at all although it was included in the price. Later we found out that staff don't bring out bags of hot chocolate or they rarely do and sometimes they make a hot chocolate in the thermos which is not warm and which has very little cocoa (color was dirty white, not brown!). Air Conditioner made being inside the ship very uncomfortable because it was very cold in bars and lobbies. Inside temperature was around 20 C, which is low considering outside temperature is much higher. I regret not bringing more long sleeve blouses, jackets etc. Most people have spoken english perfectly, but it happened that woman on reception (from Kyrgyzstan) didn't speak it very well (or almost at all) and we couldn't understand each other which was very frustrating. Except that situation (and situation on the deck by the pool) all stuff was very polite, friendly, helpful... I'm not complaining on staff, I am disappointed with the ship and a lot of oversights which now I can't remember all. Food for breakfast was the same every day; muesli was already prepared on the milk-it looked disgusting to me and I would prefer to prepare it by myself in yogurt. I drink a lot of tea (which was available all day) but I could find honey only in the morning and lemon is even harder to find. The food was often greasy (even fish!) and dinner in the restaurant was taking too long, every single day (from 9pm till 11pm!). Although maître d'hôtel came to us one evening asking us how is everything, are we satisfied and promised us faster service, nothing has actually changed. The midnight buffet was very poor: mostly vegetarian sandwiches and dessert from previous days. Great activities during the day on the 11th deck. Expensive excursions. Even transportation from the port is better to do by yourself. I had situation by the pool when pool attendant told me I can't eat fruits by the pool (which is OK, because it said on the warning board that it is forbidden). But I was disappointed he didn't say anything to other people eating around or even worse children diving and jumping in the pool (it is clearly stated that it is forbidden to dive and jump in the pool and to run around the pool) ! When I asked him about that his answer was that they are children. I don't care if they are children or not, but because of that children I couldn't swim, or sit by the pool because they splashed water a lot and got me and my expensive camera wet even on the sunbed. Not to mention that children were diving and jumping in the whirlpools! So I didn't use those either. Deck No.11 has 2 pools deep 1.8m and one big part of the deck for children (that is new). But 30% children were in their area, and the rest of them around other 2 pools. It was very noisy on 11th deck. The best part to rest is the back of the ship.

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By Judy_CR

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Sep 23, 2013

Northern Europe

We visited 5 countries in 10 days, Amsterdam, Vigo, Spain, Lisbon, Portugal, Bilboa, Spain, and La Harve, France - great experience. The only problem is that we didn't get to stay longer at each of the ports, except for La Harve, France. We set up our excursion through MSC without an issue. Cons - I had ordered the beverage soda package and beer/water package online prior to our departure, but they didn't show it on our account when we

boarded. They did issue us vouchers that we used throughout the cruise. I would recommend doing this prior, since they will add the 15% gratuity to each drink you order a la carte! The ship is dated and you can see this in the rooms and lounges. We had a room with a balcony, which was a bit too small. The bathroom is real small with only a shower that you can barely fit if you are a bit oversized. I'm not and hated the fact they use a shower curtain. Pretty dated. The room was "surface" clean, however there was a stench smell in the bathroom. Especially, when you are at sea for more than a day. I don't remember this being problem with the other cruise line I traveled with before. This being our 3rd cruise, we were expecting the same quality of service that we got with Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises. NOT! We didn't like the fact that the cruise wasn't English friendly. I guess since it is an Italian ship, it was catered more to that theme. The food was mediocre. Nothing special and repeats. You are assigned sitting, first or second sitting. The menu was limited and the service was okay. One of our guest was served her mean cold. As stated, it's pretty dated. Hardly saw our cabin attendant. Our sliding door to our balcony was never cleaned until the very last night. Go figure. I guess he was hoping for a tip, which I left him one, in addition to our daily tipping charge that the cruise line charged us. We didn't participate in any. But noticed they had bingo and some dance lessons. We did excursions in Amsterdam, Vigo, Lisbon, and Bilboa. In Vigo we visited Santiago Campostelas. This was well worth the 1.5 hour trip to Santiago. I would recommend this to all Christians and non Christians. We also did an excursion to Fatima. Again, a delightful place. Bilboa is awesome. Would highly recommend the Guenhiem and Historical City tour. In La Harve, we wanted to visit the Normandy American Cemetery. The cruise ship did NOT have excursions to this place. You'd think they would set up an excursion given the significance, but I guess it's not in their purview. If you are traveling with a group of 6-8 persons, they are some private tours you can engaged outside the cruise ship, however since it was me and my husband we had reserved a vehicle and drove there. Quiet a experience. Because we were traveling with multiple persons of different languages, French, Italian, Germans, and of other origins, our excursion were translated in English. However, the rudeness when we traveled with the French or Italians of overly speaking when the tour guide was translating in English, was left to be desired. Very loud. And, they talk about the Americans! Unfortunately, MSC did not live up to our expectations. We are not hard to please, but the service overall was mediocre. The food wasn't too pleasing and limited in selection. They should have open sitting even if you are assigned either the 1st or 2nd.

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Jan 18, 2013

South Africa

CABIN 10199 The staff on boarding could speak very little English and we were sent from pillar to post regarding the on board recharging of accounts and eventually just went up to our cabin. The cabin at first glance seemed well appropriated except for the shower which was minuet (I have cruised several times before and have never seen such a small shower) what does a large person do? The hand soap dispenser was empty and remained

so throughout the cruise. The cupboards were unclaimed, the beside tables were filthy, the lamp stands, windowsill, dresser, TV and TV stand were caked in dust. The night frills, bedspreads and scatters were filthy and stank. The drinking glasses in the cabin were never washed throughout the cruise. The cabin was situated under the buffet tables and chairs, the scraping of the furniture from 06:00 to midnight was like receiving Chinese torture and we were unable sleep. We complained several times a day and were given the option to change cabins, the first was situated on deck 9 right at the end and stank of cigarettes and the door to the outside deck slammed continuously as passenger went outside to smoke. The second cabin also on deck 9 was uncleaned from the previous passengers and had pubic hairs in the bed so we had no choice but to stay in cabin 10199. With the 54 carpenters the Opera boasts are you telling me that not one could come up with a solution to the problem with sticking felt pads around the legs, or even cut up towels. Laura also told us that there had been complaints on the previous cruise about the noise and all the cabins on our floor said the same. The guest relations staff were both rude, incompetent and to be honest should be fired. POOL AREA The pool area was an absolute joke!!! How on earth does MSC expect 1700 plus pax to fit around and or in those two tiny excuses for swimming pools??? There was no adult supervision, children and adults diving in running around like hooligans. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was a joke, how on earth could you subject the passengers to local entertainers especially in the bars that should have had their vocal cords removed it was intolerable. The DSTV did not work from day two so we were subject to the replaying of the movies over, and over, and over, and over again. BUFFET The buffet area does accommodate all passengers and one generally had stand around waiting for a table for hours. The crockery and cutlery after the second day were filthy and had to be put under boiling water ourselves in order to get rid of old food. GENERAL CLEANLINESS By day two the hand sanitizers were empty and never refilled throughout the duration of the cruise. The crockery and cutlery was disgusting, cups filthy old lipstick marks, dried remains of drinks, food on bottom of plates, we had to rinse everything under boiling water. The public toilets were a disgrace with the calibre of passenger it was no surprise I am sure many had never seen a working toilet before. GENERAL There was a shortage of certain cold drinks. The ship ran out of grapefruit. The apples sent to the room which we paid for were rotten. I would like to know what the cheapest price was that this cruise was sold for, the calibre of passengers was a disgrace, the children on the boat were intolerable, there were drugs being sold on ship and we were told that several passengers were arrested and taken off the ship in Madagascar. The majority of the staff were unable to understand or speak English. Passengers were not well informed of how, where or anything in fact regarding the island stops. We had to generally figure it out ourselves. Children were wild, drunk, noisy and uncontrolled. The staff in the all the shops excepting the Duty Free Shop were unhelpful and to be honest just down right miserable. There was not one adult area throughout the ship. I have never experienced a more disgusting, horrific, filthy cruise. I am flabbergasted that MSC has the audacity to have the amount of passengers on board they do when they are unable facilitate them in any way or means. The general cleanliness of the ship leaves one gobsmacked to say the least!!! MSC Cruises claims to be an international liner but is by no means in line with international standards.

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Jun 7, 2011

Northern Europe

Mediterranean Shipping Crooks 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 you like hospital food! TV There is only one channel in English (BBC) and two movies that loop the whole time but if it has subtitles you cant 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. Cots They are not beds!!! They have COTS that are less comfortable then the ones I have for camping! 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. 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.

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Jan 28, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

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 soups were 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 ½ 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 ½ 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.  

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Dec 27, 2005

Transatlantic

I can honestly say that this cruise was the biggest mistake we have ever made! A beautiful ship granted and the cleanliness was exceptional but the whole experience was ruined by the attitude of the staff and the quality (or lack of) of the food. My husband gave up eating in the restaurant at the evening dinner sitting because the food was inedible and the surly attitude of that managers was unbearable. We would not recommend MSC and

would not chance wasting £3,500 on a cruise with them again. Despite writing to them with our comments they haven't event had the curtesy to reply!! MSC - Must Steer Clear!!!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Europe

What an enjoyable cruise! Embarkation very well organized. We arrived at Venice airport at 11.30am and after clearing customs arrived at the port at approximately 1.00pm and following the registration formalities which took about 20 mins, we were on the ship about 1.45. We were given refreshments by MSC staff while we were waiting and could not have been treated better. We took up the wine/water option at 99 euros for 7 bottles of

wine and 7 bottles of water (choice of different red or white wnes) which you could choose from each night, which I thought was excellent value for money particularly when you are expected to pay $25-$45 average per bottle on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean - Well done MSC. The ship was beautiful. I have sailed previously on Galaxy, Constellation, Legend Of The Seas, P&O and Festival Ships and the understated luxury on this ship compares favorably. You don't get the silly art auctions etc of the American ships and the food was overall better than that served on other cruises. The soups, pasta, risotto, pizzas, bread (even hamburgers) and ice cream were the best I have ever tasted. Overall this was easily the best food we have experienced. The house coffee was quite drinkable, but if you wanted a cappuccino or latte then this would cost 1.3 euros (90p)in the bars and was excellent. Iced water, coffee and tea were available most of the day free of charge. Drink prices were very reasonable with daily specials available. On the 1 week cruise we had 2 formal nights and one semi formal night and the staff in the dining room were superb. The ship itself was spotlessly clean and the cabins likewise. Sheets and towels were changed every day sometimes twice a day. Ports of call were fantastic - Venice (say no more), Bari (simply beautiful), Katakolon (picturesque), Kusadasi/Ephesus (superb),Istanbul (terrific) and my personal favorite Dubrovnik (must go back) The minus points - only a few really. The ship is definitely aimed at the Italian market and the entertainment reflects it. The shows are not up to the standard of Celebrity etc but nevertheless they are quite good. The bands in the lounges are very latin oriented - fine if you like that sort of thing. The best live act was Los Paraguay os who sang in different venues throughout the day and were superb. All announcements were in 5 languages and took forever. These really are small points and most people would not worry about them. Service on the ship is the best I have experienced. The staff couldn't do enough for you and the American lines need to take note of this. After my experience on the Opera you can keep Celebrity/RCI and the others I will be using MSC in future - much better value and food that is far in front of other cruise lines. One final plea to MSC slightly improve the entertainment and it will be perfect.

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Nov 30, -0001

Transatlantic - Fort Lauderdale to Genoa

MSC Opera. Transatlantic Crossing Fort Lauderdale to Genoa 2nd to 19th April, 2005. 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 was bottled 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.Now they had to be collected from a box in the pool area and on the odd occasion there were none available. None of these minor changes spoiled our overall good impression and many 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!! Maybe the fault is that the Caruso Lounge is the wrong venue with its isolated position on Deck 7 and very little space outside the entrance doors. 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 atmosphere and the facilities on Opera and Lirica. Not for us are the massive ships including the MSC new builds. We preferred 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. It is a bonus that Opera like Lirica is a "quiet" ship and there are no daily announcements, broadcasts and advertising . 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 smilingly would bring a glass of water when requested. At the lunch time buffet they were only too happy to serve at your table 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.Would they be provided? What was the cost? Different information in different countries. 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 very important in overall terms although it was regretable. . 3) The Virtual Reality Games Room was totally empty of games. This was upsetting for some and especially those with pre-teen and teenagers. It is wrong to advertise facilities which you do not provide. 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!! Hardly surprising that the attendance was very sparse. 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 their 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"a and "Farewell" cocktail parties

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

The MSC Opera is a very different kind of cruise ship. That said, that is not a bad thing, though some might find it such. Embarkation was very easy. About 30 minutes after arrival, we were on board the ship. This being my fifth cruise (Disney Magic, Norwegian Norway, Carnival Paradise, Holland America Zuiderdam), it was as easy as any other line. Disney's was much longer, but much more entertaining. I was traveling with a very large party.

We had three staterooms. One was a balcony stateroom. Very sizable, well situated and easy access to the balcony. It was one of the nicest staterooms I've ever seen. The bed was parallel to the wall with a giant sliding glass door leading out to the balcony. Two of our other staterooms were on the eighth deck. Very small but plenty of storage. We had four people in our room (me, my wife, a 15-year-old family friend and my 20 month old daughter). The bed for the extra person came from the wall and hanged over the bed, leaving about three feet of clearance from the lower to upper berths. I hit the upper birth a couple of times in the night with my arm, but it was OK. Inside the room, there are two night stands which hold a lot of clothing. Under the bed, a lot of storage exists for the luggage. There is also a desk, which has significant, if not odd, storage. Above the desk, a large mirror can be opened up leading to the safe and even more storage. The chair doesn't fit well under the desk, but our cabin steward let us put the chair in the hall, which several people did. That created plenty of walking room. Also, there was mini-bar fridge that we emptied to keep bottles of soda. At $2.40 a can, it was a good idea to bring as much soft drink product as we did. The bathroom is quite small. The shower is very cramped and is tough for even the smallest people to manage. It does work, however, but I showered with the curtain open most of the time. The ship is as clean as can be. I saw more constant cleaning on this ship than any of the previous lines I've been on. The public rooms are very well done and have plenty of room. By the pool, there was never any trouble finding available deck chairs. Deck by deck, it is a very stately ship. It is outfitted with an understated beauty. The lowest of the public decks is deck 5, Aida. It contains the lobby, a public lounge, shopping arcade and one of the restaurants. Deck 6, Othello, has Teatro Dell'Opera, a very solid theater. Sight lines are great, except in the way back. A coffee bar is near by, very smoky. The casino is very small and has a couple of black jack tables, a couple of roulette tables and a shoved in, tiny craps table. All the slot machines have a maximum of 25 cents. Behind the casino, is the photography area (they have some of the nicest, most personable photographers on the sea) and the second restaurant. It is cramped and tiny and it gets very loud at times. Deck 7, Rigolletto, has another lounge that is extremely spacious, amongst the largest I've seen on board five ships. Decks 7-10 are all staterooms. Deck 11, Tosca, has the spa and gym. The gym staff is not very push and that is nice. The gym was used very rarely. It consists of four treadmills, a couple of stair steppers, and a couple of cycling machines. There are also some dumbells and a few sets of weight machines. There is also a children's room, but it was never open when convenient, so my child didn't see it. The pools are on this deck. They mirror each other. The shallow end is 6-inches increasing to 10-inches. Then it drops instantly to 5-feet-10-inches and goes to 8-feet. There is a fence separating the two ends. The pool was always very cold. The two hot tubs were warm, but not hot. Also, Il Patio served pizza and burgers and the indoor buffet, Le Vele, served a variety. Deck 12, La Boehme contains some state rooms and a disco. Deck 13 is for sunning and some tremendous views. The staff is cordial but not very talkative, like on board other ships. They let you have your vacation and aren't trying to be part of it. That is very welcoming at times, troublesome at others. On other ships, the first night at dinner, you order a drink and they have it waiting for you the subsequent nights. Not on this ship. But at the same time, there is no one bugging you to buy drinks at the pool. The staff is friendly, but doesn't go out of its way to invade your space. However, having a terribly gorgeous daughter leads to several of the staff to stop and play. Also, as mentioned, the photography staff is very good and very personable. Photos are expensive at $20 a pop for a 5x7, but we heard several people commenting behind us as we walked, "Is that the little girl we saw in the yellow dress in the pictures?" Needless to say, they did a great job and we had to buy some of her fabulous pictures. Prices are expensive for goods. Make sure you have everything you need before boarding. Clothing is exquisite, but terribly overpriced. Sodas are pricey. We never saw a spa menu, however. Drinks seemed to be reasonably priced, although we don't drink. My daughter wanted to spend almost all of our time at the pool. "I-go-seeming," she said almost non-stop in her toddler speak. She had a blast. When we weren't at the pool or on land, we were napping in the room, watching movies. There were three movie channels, two in English, one in French, Italian, Spanish and German, rotating. The other channels included USA, A&E, DIsney and TNT. No ESPN Deportes for the sports lovers out there and no networks. Very little news got to and around the ship. Spending so much time at the pool, there were very few annoying games played by the "Animation Activities Team." There are so many languages spoken on the ship, it was hard to organize people, so they just offered dance lessons and a couple of games. Very refreshing to not have to listen to all of that. There was no Caribbean music however, which is so familiar on a Caribbean cruise. They did play some older 90s pop and the same three or four songs in Italian, which did get old. We also went to a couple of shows. One was a magic show. It took a while to get into the show because they had to lead into it with five languages of explanation. The show was fine. My daughter also dragged us to one of the shows which involved the two singers in opera style. She liked it. It thought it was OK. My daughter just danced the whole time. The passenger make up was very multi cultural, with about half from the US. There were, as usual, several annoying passengers. We like the late seating so we can hang out at the pool and go to the hot tub. One night, there was a group of people hogging the hot tub for at least an hour and a half. It was annoying at first and then got down right rude. They wouldn't leave, despite the queue of people forming. This group also filled two tables near our table at dinner and most of the time, they came dressed very inappropriately. Jeans, shorts, never formal, sandals usually were their norm. We had a weird itinerary. We were in San Juan from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. We ended up getting off the ship at about 6 p.m. We docked halfway between Condado and Old San Juan, but the provided busses to take us to Old San Juan. I love Old San Juan, but nothing was open, so we just walked around, but couldn't see much. The next day, we were in St. Thomas, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. We docked away from Havensight mall. They look like they are trying to re-do the dock there, but it was nice to be somewhere different, although it is a little more run down on that side of town. But it left us free to explore different places. We went to the University of the Virgin Islands, the greatest view of any school in the United States, shopped a little and hit a beach near the airport. This beach was better than any in Fort Lauderdale. It was un-crowded and very clean. The next day, we were in St. Croix from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. We took a taxi tour that we arranged for on our own and had an hour in Christiansted. Fredericksted is average, but Christiansted is amazing. We would love to go back and were unhappy that we didn't have enough time. After another day at sea, we were in Nassau from 2 p.m-7 p.m. We were able to get off just after noon. I am not a big fan of Nassau, so we went to Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase and shopped a little. My daughter kept asking to go "seeming," so I figured we'd have more fun with her at the pool than walking around the annoying straw market, so we played on the empty ship. One thing, only four excursions were offered per port. All were expensive and none were much more than a city tour. Plan accordingly. As mentioned, the staff was very hands off and there were very few announcements. That caused small issues with getting off at stops. We were usually allowed to get off early, but it was never mentioned. We just had to figure it out. The biggest thing that makes or breaks a cruise is the food. The food was very well done. I enjoyed it very much the first couple of days, but it seemed to suffer after that. The food was completely well done, but it was very European (not even all that Italian) and I didn't enjoy it as much. Our teenage traveling companion is a vegetarian and had trouble with its limits. We did enjoy the pizza that was made from 2-6 p.m. Deserts, my favorite part of a cruise, left plenty to be desired. I am a chocolate person and there was zero chocolate. It was all fruit tarts and the like. Breakfasts were kind of American, lunches were a mix and dinner was all over the place. Portion size was larger than on any other ship. The appetizer course (always the best) was followed by a salad and then soup. The pasta/rizzoto course was easily the size of a typical dinner meal. Then the entree was huge and dessert followed. All in all, the MSC was very enjoyable. It was a great departure from typical American cruises in the Caribbean. There were several items that we missed, but there were several things that were different that we enjoyed. Feel free to take an MSC cruise, but go in with an open mind that things will be different from the usual expectations.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My husband and I recently returned from a cruise on the MSC Opera. We had never heard of this particular cruise line and therefore, didn't know what to expect. MY GOSH!!!! It was so nice - brand new ship, great food (no matter where we ate), our cabin was an inside cabin but very roomy and comfortable. Our waiter and other people working in the dining room were very conscientious and eager to please. We had a wonderful time and would certainly

recommend this trip and ship to anyone.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

This is a review of the 11 night holiday cruise on the MSC Opera. It started on December 28 and ended on January 8, 2005. The review is going to be a long stream of consciousness review. My background includes the fact that I’ve been on about 60 cruises in the last dozen years, none at the premium level that MSC aspires to. (That means I have not sailed on Radisson, Crystal, Seabourne, or Silver Sea.) My personal experience has been

on Princess, Holland America, NCL, Celebrity. Royal Caribbean, Viking, and Disney. It has been many years since I wrote a review, but I am doing this one because of the failure to live up to normal expectations and a belief that there should be a close relationship between what a company says it is and what it really is. I’m going to try my best to make this a balanced review. I don’t think this cruise line is trying hard enough to fix its problems. I’ve read other reviews on the MSC line and it seems that problems have been identified and promises made that Mr. Sasso will turn this line into a premium experience. This is not happening any time soon, as the expression goes. The physical facility of the MSC Opera simply is not premium. It is a ship that starts with rooms that are too small when measured against the norm for ships catering to the mass market. That’s a problem that can’t be fixed. They avoid the subject of room size but it appears that the rooms are about 139 sq. ft. There is a chair that’s too big for the space under the desk. Some people have been told that they are replacing the chairs soon. The outside cabins come with a little table. A lot of people decided they would prefer not to have the table in the room because it was in the way. So, there were a lot of tables in the hall one day. The space ratio is not wonderful on this ship which is mid size tonnage and has a high capacity. You walk through lounges to go from the dining room to the theater, often getting stuck behind people who are walking through narrow aisles and doing it slowly. Bathroom fixtures all worked well. The shower temperature was consistent so you didn’t have to get out of the way if it decided to suddenly get hot. The shower was one of those that are too small to pick up the soap that falls. And the shower curtain clings to those who weigh too much. Smells backed up into the bathroom just about every day that seemed to have something to do with the wind. Not pleasant smells. Ah, but the room is tastefully decorated with huge throw pillows on the bed. The TV system is incredibly poor for a brand new ship. Of course if you like old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movies, this is the TV for you. Did not see any signs that they have a DVD collection to use with their TV system. The telephones are the cheapest possible with no specialized buttons and no message system. The inside rooms are too dark with no reading light over the bed. The bed, itself, which should have been a good experience because this is basically a new ship, turned out to be a bad experience. My bed had springs that were so close to the surface that they pushed up and made the bed uncomfortable. The only excuse I could think of was that the cruise line had purchased inferior beds but since I didn’t hear complaints from everybody, perhaps it was that some little child had been using the bed as a trampoline and ruined it. But this was a bed that was classifiable as unusable. About a week into the cruise I called in the room Stewardess to show her the problem and ask that they replace it. She said they were all new mattresses and simply offered to place another blanket on top of the pad that was already over the mattress. It helped a little but I never really got used to that lumpy feeling. All rooms got a fruit bowl that was replenished automatically and those passengers who expressed a preference for certain things received what they wanted. There was a mini refrigerator which was stocked but you could take out some of their stuff to put some of yours in. There were helpers for room stewards and stewardesses and the rooms were done quickly when you left, the rooms were clean and the vacuum cleaners were in evidence. The whole ship should be run as well as housekeeping ..... they would do very well. It appeared to me that the cruise line was trying to differentiate itself with not being pushy about drinks in lounges and not even asking if you want a drink in the Theater. They even had a reasonably priced wine package for only $91 for 7 bottles of wine and 7 bottles of water. Also day time activities were notable and abundant with bingo played as an activity rather than a way for the cruise line to make money. So if you are looking for a cruise line that doesn’t scream art auction and jackpot bingo and horse racing at you every day, this is a place to start. The lounge shows were better than expected as were the shows in the theater. However, I’d note two or three things here. First, this was a holiday cruise with extra entertainment on the ship. Second, there were a couple of hundred travel agents aboard who were judging the ship and MSC should have been putting its best foot forward. I would also note that no live music is provided in the theater other than solo instruments when the pianist or violinist played. So the music in the theater is not just enhanced with recordings. Of course that means you don’t have to offer applause to the MSC orchestra, because there is no MSC orchestra. The mix of passengers was clearly many fewer Americans than expected. It seemed like half of the people on board were Italians and as time went by the Americans, primarily the travel agents mentioned previously, noted that the waiters seemed to be giving preferential treatment to their countrymen. There was a certain amount of “shmoozing” with the Italians while Americans could wait forever for a refill of their water glass. Service from many waiters was cool, impersonal and in some cases appeared to be almost hostile. If you were particularly unlucky, as we were, you had a waiter for 11 nights who was either grossly incompetent or didn’t speak enough English to answer questions about the menu items. There were a few waiters who seem to think that the Italian signature meant showing a rather chilly attitude. Our first breakfast in the dining room I found that waiters did not mind serving food at room temperature that should have been served hot. I ordered a waffle and sausage and was shocked that it had been taken out of the kitchen cold. Coffee on the ship was generally dreadful. Most of the time you thought you must be drinking bad decaf. If you asked for tea at my table at night, the waiter and assistant waiter didn’t seem to realize that the menu provided a choice of teas. You got a pot of Lipton. We asked the waiter for Earl Grey one evening and he didn’t have a clue what we were asking for. His English language skills were almost nonexistent. If you ordered ham with your egg, you got spam. If you ordered bacon, some of the time you got bacon scraps that were extremely greasy rather than bacon strips. Couldn’t help looking around the dining room when some things were served to see what the people from Italy were being served. Some people noted preferential treatment. Fresh fruit compote on the morning menu was actually just canned fruit. There were too many instances of asking for things that never came. That included asking for Ketchup when you got a hamburger at lunch and getting it or not depending on whether the stars were aligned right. Some translations were strange. For instance, we kept seeing jelly on the afternoon menu under deserts. What they meant was jello. Close, but no cigar. At the end of the cruise we found the last few days things had run out like diet coke, lox, cranberry juice, and even their blend of tropical juice. Officers and crew have not been coached on this ship about the importance of saying hello to people they pass in the hall. It does not make the Americans feel comfortable when they pass staff members who “don’t see them.” I’d say that we didn’t go through one meal at night where the waiter seemed to be other than confused. Sometimes you didn’t get the salad ordered, sometimes it was something else he just forgot or he served to someone else. The assistant waiter, was usually missing in action during the meal but he was probably busy in the kitchen. Our table was very close to the kitchen entrance so it was not a matter of distance. We did not encounter any waiter at breakfast or lunch who was as ill prepared for the job as the one that we had at night. Some waiters were absolutely fine while others seemed not to take their jobs seriously. Water glasses would remain empty for a half hour if you had the wrong waiter. There was an interesting way that some waiters served breakfast. They would bring everything you ordered out at once. That was not exactly elegant service when your fruit salad comes at the same time as your french toast and perhaps even a third dish. The idea was to serve your breakfast and be gone. Oh, you wanted a second cup of our wonderful coffee? If you were lucky in the morning and got a half way decent cup of coffee, they managed to make the second cup something that was less than desirable. Under the heading of things they didn’t do right came lobster night. I don’t know how the first seating lobster came out but our second seating lobster was extraordinarily dry, as if it had been standing under heat for entirely too long. There was a safe in the room but they didn’t tell you where it was hidden. When we couldn’t find ours, I finally called the desk to ask them if there was a safe in the room. Yes, it was behind the mirror. We didn’t know there was anything behind the mirror but there was the safe and more shelves. Perhaps we would not have had this problem if we had actually been shown to our room as MSC claims they do. If you come on when others are coming on they decide that showing you to the elevator downstairs is good enough. The other people at our dining room table had the same problem with the safe but they didn’t call. They just assumed there was no safe. So we told them where to look. There was no notification to passengers that they had decided to alter the itinerary. Perhaps some people found out when they went to the shore excursion desk. But many people don’t seem to know where they are supposed to be from day to day. The middle of the itinerary was shuffled so Grenada, St, Marten, and Antigua and St. Lucia were out of turn and times in port were shifted. The shuffle was not a bad thing but I object to having to find out only by reading that the ship was leaving San Juan to go to St. Marten when I knew that it was supposed to go to Antigua that day. I had to ask for a copy of the new itinerary at the front desk where I first got a blank stare and then she pulled a little piece of paper out of a drawer. They didn’t pipe in announcement to the rooms except for the emergency drill. All announcements, and there were very few, were made in five languages. That included the cruise director who introduced the shows with approximately a one minute introduction in each language. Her language skills were great but there were things about communicating with the people that were lacking. At the end of the evening shows there was never any mention of the next day’s port or arrival time, only the next day’s show. Never even mentioned time changes effective that night. The time change notice was printed in the daily activity paper left in the room the evening before the day it was used. Down at the bottom of the page for the Wednesday paper which you received Tuesday night, it would contain a few words about resetting the clocks on Wednesday evening. A lot of people missed this cue. There was no note left on pillows to remind you that night. It was also noted that presentations to passengers regarding intro to the ship and disembarkation were not taped and shown on the cabin TV. All announcements until the last day started with English, then worked through Italian, German, French, and Spanish. I doubt if all of that was really necessary. But it was interesting that on the morning that we were departing the ship, the pattern was broken with Italians receiving the announcement first that their color was now debarking. That gave them a head start to avoid what turned out to be an incredibly long line waiting to exit the ship. Only six colors were used for disembarkation and the ship was full. That meant about too many people in each group given the fact that there must have been a lot of quads in use. The ship used no tag system to stop people from getting off out of turn so you saw people in the terminal at all color areas even when you were in the first group. Kid, kids, and more kids. This was a great time for families to bring the kids who apparently got a special giving them third and fourth spaces free. We have never seen kids running wild on a ship like we saw on this ship. They were always in the front row of the theater for the late show and although they were not disruptive, on more than one occasion they picked up and left after realizing they didn’t want to see that particular show. They almost never walked. Running was not discouraged by parents or staff, although parents sere almost never visible. We saw several instances of near accidents as they ran in front of people. They really showed their stuff on the morning of departure when they used the stage as their playground and ran up and down the aisles. They kicked the stage lights, used the microphone that was turned on and went backstage. Here was a holding place for hundreds of passengers and not one person from the crew to make sure things were in order. MSC has introduced a new tipping policy to the cruise line, perhaps to deal with the dining room problem where cruisers feel service is not up to par for the industry. At a time when we finally see Holland America giving up on its “tipping not required” which proved to be nothing but confusing an unfair to employees, MSC gives us the same words. But it is a bit worse here. The meeting in the theater for the English speakers prior to debarkation told them that tipping was not required but if they wanted to reward excellent service they could. The guideline given was a total of $4 to $7 per person for the service personnel. There was a meeting of the travel agents later that day where the agents were told that MSC’s policy was that tipping was not required and “not expected.” Those were the words uttered by the person who was the liaison with the travel agents. Then the girl got up to talk to the agents about the same stuff she told the cruisers in the morning. She got to the tipping part and I noticed a significant difference in her presentation. She didn’t say that tipping was not expected and she changed the guideline to $4 to $6. So, the agents who may have listened closely can go back and tell their customers that tipping is not expected even though it is expected. I must say that when there are headwaiters on other ships who expect some tips, they make themselves known. These didn’t bother. Part of not bothering is that when you walk into the dining room in the morning and in the afternoon you are not seated. To the MSC dining room staff, open seating means you find a table for yourself and if you pick a table that they don’t want to serve because it has already been used, they ask you to change tables. They caught hell from one woman who told them where to get off when they told her she would have to change her table. The tipping discussion was the first time I knew that there were actually headwaiters used on the ship. Part of their recommendation was that you could give the headwaiter for your section the envelope with the tips for the dining room staff. Can you imagine? I’m just not such a trusting soul. The ship’s towel system for use of towels ashore is that they set up a tent outside the ship and you sign for the towels you want. You can get more than one each with no problem and despite my expectation that you’d have a long line, that does not happen. The system worked well and it was nice not to have just one towel when two were better for the beach. Returns were also quick and you didn’t have to take your sandy towel back to your room. Returning to the ship was not overly difficult because they were not overly concerned if you brought a bottle of something onboard. (They did make it clear that the ship’s policy was that you check your booze at the door. But that seemed to be more a voluntary thing than mandatory in practice.) Four treadmills for a ship of about 1600 passengers is not really adequate for the American market. They had other equipment, of course, but treadmills are the real test. All the messages on the equipment readouts were in Italian and the machines were not the usual ones that people know how to turn on. So it made for some difficulty that was not necessary. There were sign-up sheets for the treadmills on a wall nearby but they were not labeled as sign up sheets. There was no sign at the machines telling people they had to sign up. In fact, only two of the four machines had numbers on them. As you might expect, there were some problems caused by people using machines that they had not signed up for when the person came who had signed up for that period. The last morning experience was a topper that just made us more sure that this cruise line is not really aiming at the premium market. Passengers were told that they must get out of their rooms by 7:30 and can’t leave anything in the rooms. That means dragging your bags to the dining room where you are greeted with an abbreviated menu. The only hot item is scrambled eggs and you can have bagel and cream cheese but don’t ask for smoked salmon on your last morning because it is not being served. Then when you finish you can wait in the Theater if you are in the first group to be called and wait till 9:30 or so before they call your group. Some people were placed in the 12th floor disco to wait. Always nice to have to wait for elevators to take you down to disembark. The things that went wrong that are attributable to management failure were clear enough. The failure to match matching English speaking waiters with the Americans at night or the failure to train or hire qualified waiters is a management problem. Failure to communicate changes of itineraries and remind people about time changes is a failure of management. Failure to understand that Americans are not used to small rooms in hotels that Europeans have become accustomed to is a management failure. The introductory bargain pricing for the new MSC ships may last until they give up the American market and they will wonder why they didn’t make it. Under things they did right, they provided a Catholic mass every day making provision for a priest on board the ship. On the flip side, however, is the fact that they failed to provide a Sunday service that was interdenominational. All in all, I found myself wishing that those who are in managerial positions on the ship could be sent on a cruise on a ship where they know what is expected and do it. If the benefits derived from hiring a big name exec who used to work for Celebrity are primarily public relations benefits, MSC will not survive in the American market. The competition in the Caribbean is strong and travel agents will get the word that selling MSC is ok only if you don’t depend on repeat customers. Most travel agencies see short term though rather than long term, knowing that the internet has brought a decline in customer loyalty.

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Nov 30, -0001

Arial

Tom Ogg CruiseReviews at aol.com Getting to the Ship: I was attending a travel industry conference in Ft. Lauderdale and simply took a taxi from the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Hotel to the MSC Opera's dock in the harbor. Boarding started at 2 pm and I was in my cabin ready to explore the ship by 2:30 pm. It was totally painless. The Ship: The Opera is the second ship to be delivered of several new ships on order for Mediterranean Shipping

Cruises. With a rich history as one of the largest cargo lines in the world and also a seasoned European passenger line operating in the Mediterranean, MSC is looking to penetrate the lucrative U.S. cruise market. The Opera reflects MSC’s rich Italian heritage and offers a unique cruising experience. In fact, the Opera's Godmother, Ms. Sophia Loren was traveling with the ship and was to address the passengers in the evening. First Impressions MSC has enjoyed a place among budget cruise lines in Europe and I was keen to experience the new Opera. Having cruised on the Lirica (the Opera's sister ship) earlier this year, I wanted to see what improvements had been made. When I first boarded the Opera, I was taken with how much it resembled the Lirica. In fact, I would have thought I was on the same ship with the exception of the names of the various decks and public rooms. Cabin 10215 Cabin 10215 I was located on deck 10 in an oceanview cabin. Many of the cabins on the Opera offer triple and quad accommodations that are configured with two additional pull down beds. There was ample space for me to store my clothes in the closet and the drawers in the cabinets offered more than enough room for additional storage. My computer and printer were accommodated on the desk without effort and there were ample 110 volt outlets. The beds and bedding was quite comfortable. I could have elected to have had the queen size bed turned into two twin beds had I been sharing with another person. The bathroom was consistent with those you would expect to find on a mass-market ship. I especially enjoyed the wrap around glass enclosures in the shower, rather than the usual shower curtains. There is ample storage in the bathroom for toiletries and such, however I always recommend bringing a hanging toiletry bag, as it makes it so much easier to keep everything orderly during the cruise. The television offered a wealth of channels and ongoing movies to enjoy (many in Italian). All in all, the cabin was quite adequate. A Tour of the Ship The Opera is quite easy to navigate with the exception of the center elevator bank that only serves a limited number of decks. However, getting around is quite easy and she retains many features that folks remember from the classic liner days such as aft fantail decks on almost every deck. Join me as I take a tour of the ship. First I will go all the way aft and take the elevator to the very top. Miniature Golf Course Deck 13, The Minigolf Deck This deck is really extra space on the ship. All the way aft, there is a small miniature golf course that is fun to play. The Minigolf Sun Deck All the way forward some lounge chairs are found. While none were set up for the inaugural cruise, one could easily see that the area would accommodate a good number of passengers. The Byblos Disco Deck 12, La Boheme Deck Again, all the way aft is the wonderful Byblos Disco. The Byblos Disco is the ship’s disco and also serves as a meeting venue when other rooms are occupied with groups. The disco is quite large and will accommodate hundreds of people, but the way it is laid out, it never seems crowded. The Byblos Disco Dance Floor One of the best features of the Byblos Disco is its many small cubbies that are set up for intimate conversations for small groups, On the port entrance to the Byblos Disco is the video game room that offers a good number of video games for the younger set. The jogging/walking track lies just forward of the entrance to the Byblos Disco and is heavily used in the morning and late afternoon. There is a good amount of lounge chairs around the perimeter of the jogging track for sunning. Passenger cabins make up the forward section of the deck. Le Vele Cafeteria Deck 11, Tosca Deck Ah, the Tosca Deck. First of all, the Le Vele Cafeteria is located all the way aft on this deck. This is where breakfast and lunch is served (also in the main dining room). The buffet offers a good assortment of fare that everyone enjoyed. II Patio Open Restaurant Besides the two main buffet lines in Le Vele Cafeteria, there are also two other dining venues, one committed to pizza and associated foods and the other to omelets and specialty egg dishes in the morning and hamburgers, fries and the like for lunch. Known as II Patio Open Restaurant, they are a great place to eat on a crowded day at sea. II Patio Open Restaurant Outdoor Dining Area There are a good number of tables available for outdoor dining should one choose to dine alfresco. The Opera's Le Piscine Pool Area Forward of the dining area is the main pool area of the Opera. There are actually two separate swimming pools, as well as, 2 Jacuzzis that are heavily used. There is a good amount of deck lounges to use, as well. The Opera issues deck towels in your cabin, so when folks leave the pool area, they always take their towels with them making finding a deck chair easy and fast. The Lo Spinnaker Bar The Lo Spinnaker Bar serves the pool area and was a very popular place to hang out. The waiters were always present if you wanted a drink, but never invasive. Moving forward on the port side of the ship, one finds the Buffalo Bill Children's Room. This is a very colorful spot that children seemed to really enjoy. The Opera Health Center Forward of the children’s club is the Opera Health Center featuring a full aerobics room, gymnasium, steam room, sauna and relaxation areas. Some of the Machines in the Gymnasium While I didn’t take advantage of this part of the ship, those that did were sold on the relaxation room. They worked out, took a sauna and then relaxed in the relaxation room to soothing music and simply loved it. Fitness Club Free Weights The fitness club resided on the starboard side of the ship most forward and offered enough equipment for a moderate workout. The Opera Health Center's Cardiovascular Equipment Behind the fitness club working aft is where the Opera Health Center and beauty salon called home. Deck 10, Turandot Deck Deck 10 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 9, Norma Deck Deck 9 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 8, La Traviata Deck Deck 8 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 7, Rigoletto Deck The Caruso Lounge All the way forward on deck 7 resides the Caruso Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues, but not the main show lounge. It is a beautiful lounge and offers entertainment nightly. The Library Directly aft of the Caruso Lounge is the Opera's library. It offers a good selection of books in a comfortable setting. The Opera's Card Room Adjacent to the Library is the Opera's card room. Aft of the Card Room and Library is all passenger cabins. The Teatro dell'Opera Deck 6, Otello Deck This deck is totally committed to public rooms. Again all the way forward on deck 6 is the upper deck of the Teato dell'Opera. This is the main showroom on the ship and is beautifully appointed. It offers great sightlines in an intimate environment. The Aroma Coffee Bar Just aft of the Teato dell'Opera is the Aroma Coffee Bar. This is the ship’s specialty coffee bar and one can get a latte, espresso or cappuccino any time day or night. The prices are very reasonable and it is a very popular place most of the day, The Cotton Club Moving aft still, next comes the The Cotton Club. This is one of the main dance venues and there is music here every night. This is also the venue for the art auction and other “at sea” events. It is a very pleasant room indeed. The Cotton Club Bar The Cotton Club Bar serves the Cotton Club and is a great place to drink as a single. It faces one of the major walk ways through the ship and is quite active on its own behalf. The Monte Carlo Casino Gaming Tables The Monte Carlo Casino takes up as good amount of space on this deck and was very busy when it was open. There seems to be a good number of gaming tables for this sized ship. The Monte Carlo Casino Slots There were ample slot machines that many people loved. The Casino bar always seemed to be busy, as well. La Carbala Piano Bar Just aft of the casino is the La Carbala Piano Bar. If you like soft and romantic dance music in an intimate environment, this is the spot for you. The Cyber Cafe Just aft of La Carbala Piano Bar on the port side is the ship’s Internet Café, the Cyber Cafe. There are several terminals and I never found the café so busy that I couldn’t sit down and take care of business without waiting. While the charges seem somewhat high, access is fast and the system works quite well. The Opera Photo Shop On the Starboard side of the ship is the Photo Shop and Gallery. While it was not open during this short cruise, the photo gallery is quite large enough to accommodate the number of passengers on the Opera. L'ippocampo Restaurant All the way aft is the location of the L’ippocampo Restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful and the tables inviting. There are few “bad” tables and with configurations of 2, 4. 6 and 8, you are sure to find the right table for your desires. Deck 5, Aida Deck Moving down the stairwell in front of the L’ippocampo Restaurant takes us to the dining venue known as the La Caravella Restaurant. Both restaurants serve the same menu and you are assigned to one or the other when your table is assigned while checking in. If you prefer changing restaurants or tables, the Maitre d’ is most accommodating. There are two seatings for both restaurants (main at 6 pm and late at 8 pm) however, our cruise only had one main seating at 8 pm. The Piazza Di Spagna Directly in front of the restaurant is the Piazza Di Spagna. This is a great lounge, but is rarely crowded. The Piazza Di Spagna Bar This is a perfect bar for relaxing and watching the whole ship drift by. I was a single on this cruise and really enjoyed the opportunity to relax in an environment where people were so prevalent. The Via Condotti Shopping The Via Condotti Shops surround the bar on the starboard side offering a sundries shop, jewelry store, clothing store, and other shops. There are quite a few quality items to shop for while on the cruise. The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk lie just forward of the Via Condotti Shopping area. Along with the Registration Desk is the Tour Desk for booking optional tours and the ship’s bank. The bank is available for currency exchange and is only open limited hours. HINT: Make sure you know when the bank is open so as to have the proper currency in port. The Main Foyer Sitting Area The area around the main foyer offers a substantial amount of sofas and chairs to relax in. It was a very inviting area to relax. The Sotto Vento Pub All the way forward on Deck 5 is Sotto Vento Pub. This great pub is authentic and is a great place for pre-dinner cocktails. There is a wonderful bar (hardwood floors and all) and several nooks and crannies to meet in. Overall, this was my favorite bar on the ship and I think everyone enjoyed it. Dining We enjoyed a fabulous dinner with many courses. I am not sure if this was typical for an Opera cruise or simply a special dinner for those in attendance. The difference between the dinning experience I had on the Lirica and the dinner I had on the Opera was like night and day. I am sure that future reviewers will make a point to define their dining experiences. Over All Impression The cruise industry needs another viable competitor. Mediterranean Shipping Cruises is well capitalized and interested in evolving a major presence in the U.S. cruise market. The ships are beautiful and they have attracted seasoned cruise executives that have been successful in the market. It will be quite interesting to see how MSC progresses.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We had a great time on the Opera. Three of us had an inside room, which was perfect for us, since we were never there anyway. It was big enough for us three and had everything we needed. Well, an iron would have been cool for the formal nights, but we managed. We spent most of the time on the pool deck, enjoying the sun and the many random activities the Entertainment Crew (Animation Activities Staff) had in store for us. Those guys were

awesome. Food was incredible and very very good. We loved the fact that they have a pizzeria onboard that serves pizza all afternoon. The ports were all very nice. We booked excursions at Cozumel and Roatan, explored Grand Cayman and Key West ourselves. I can recommend the Catamaran/Snorkeling/Beach excursion at Cozumel -it was great fun but one thing: The snorkeling site wasn't too impressive although that didn't take away from the experience. The ship itself is very quiet and hardly moved at all in cruise. In our room, we heard nothing that would prevent a peaceful sleep. We were on spring break and we were a little disappointed that 98% of the guests were 30+ but again that wasn't anything that took away from the fun of the cruise. I'm sure next year when more people know about MSC it'll change.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

My love affair with cruising started with my first cruise in the mid-80’s and continues to this day. Our experience, prior to the cruise on the MSC Opera, was limited to the Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Princess Lines. We have never cruised for less than seven days with our longest being a 13-day trans-Atlantic cruise 9 years ago. We are always on the alert for outstanding fares, so when we read about

this opportunity for a 7-day cruise in the Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine through eLeisureLink.com for only $465 we had to check it out. As it turned out our cruise price was $525 each, and that included all taxes and port charges. Obviously it did not include transportation to and from the ship. Rather than purchase trip insurance we booked our flight a day early to avoid any possible weather flight delays. The representative from the La Quinta Inns and Suites picked us up at the airport and transportation to the ship was provided the following day. There were no problems and this was we were sure that our luggage made it to the ship with us. The boarding process was easy and without unusual delay. Since many of the passengers were from Europe, who had to provide more documentation, some lines moved slowly and, with my experience with always being in the slowest line, we changed lines twice before finding an agent who had no one waiting. This process could be expedited if they instituted the “one line leading to the next available agent” process found in most banks today. Since we were early, it was not a problem but I am not sure how it was when more passengers arrived nearer the sailing time. Having learned how to pack wisely, we each had one carry-on piece of luggage and a back pack, leaving only one larger suitcase to be delivered to the cabin. After the obligatory arrival photo we were greeted and a nice young lady showed us to our cabin. I think she was one of the dining room staff because we took the “scenic” route but it wasn’t much of a delay. Having booked with a consolidator, we did not pick our cabin in advance. It was an outside cabin on the eighth deck and much better than we had believed that our $525 each would have purchased. The large window provided a nice view and was equipped with double window coverings in case we liked to sleep late…or in the afternoon. It was similar to what we have come to expect as far as size is concerned…perhaps a little larger. There was the most storage space that I can ever remember having at our disposal and we were unable to use it all. The hanging closet was equipped with 18 “suit” type hangers, which is the most I have ever seen in a cabin. We have learned to pack 10 or 12 plastic hangers to supplement what is provided but they were unnecessary this time. The bathroom was pretty standard with the shower curtain everyone hates…the one that loves to grab onto your leg and hang on like the dog your grandpa had on the farm when you visited as a kid. The towels were wonderful and the toiletries were what one would expect. The only limited drawback to the cabin was the carpet. I hope MSC is getting some refund because the cabin carpet was of poor quality. The result was that it was “balling” and often looked less than clean. We didn’t notice this carpet problem in other areas of the ship. It wasn’t a problem for us but did detract from what was otherwise an outstanding room. The television was what one would expect…nothing to brag about but why is that important on a cruise? Being a typical American I like to stay current on the news and, as I would find out, the television was totally devoid of news…at least in English. Part of the way through the cruise I did finally find a news program but it was from in Italy and I do not speak Italian! I would love to see them put in FOX News…heck, I would have even been happy with CNN! To be fair, they did provide brief written summaries of various newspapers at the information desk every day. They covered the USA, Canada, England, France, Germany, and Italy, in their own languages. It was interesting to compare the three English language presentations of the news and see just how limited the American world view is. Before we could unpack our small bags our larger suitcase arrived and we quickly settled in. My wife was tired and took a short nap while I went out with the visual layout of the ship provided and checked out what was available on the various decks. It was a medium sized ship with plenty of amenities provided in a limited space. After returning to the cabin, I gave my wife the tour of the ship. She tends to be challenged when it comes to directions but, by not bothering her with areas which were of no interest to her, she was able to navigate very well during the entire trip. In our cabin we had found a card informing us of our dining room table number and that we were scheduled for the second seating. We had requested first seating so we went to the area where changes were being made. It appeared that we were not alone. It was a slow process as each person went to a table where they explained their problem and three of the ships staff looked through their records and then at a plastic chart of the tables. When the problem was solved, one person wiped off the wrong information, replacing it with a grease pen. I suggested that a computer program could expedite the process but, from the looks I received, I wondered if they thought I was from another planet. We requested a table for a total of 6 to 8 people. We like to interact with people and know that when there are only two couples who don’t know each other, it doesn’t always click. We ended up at a table for 8, but only four of us were present the first night. We looked forward to meeting the other couples for a night or two before we decided that our table of 8 was going to be a table of 4. As it turned out, we were quite compatible with the other couple and found their dinner company very interesting. During our first tour of the ship we stopped by the Le Vele Cafeteria for a light lunch. Having cruised before we know the potential for overeating and that challenge was present throughout the cruise. We ate all but one of our breakfasts in the cafeteria along with our lunches. Just outside the cafeteria was the Il Patio Open restaurant where we sometimes combined the two facilities to take advantage of the best of each. After more exploring and then returning to the cabin to regroup we had the compulsory emergency lifeboat exercise, which was done professionally. It was more “relaxed” than any we had taken part in before. No one took any kind of attendance to make sure that everyone was present. I can remember on other cruises where delinquent passengers had been rounded up and made to take part in a make-up drill the following day. I liked the Italian way better! After freshening up we went to the L’Approdo Restaurant for dinner. The L’Approdo was the smaller of the two but I am not sure that made any real difference. Since all that I had read about the staff before our cruise had indicated that they were all from Italy, I was surprised when I asked our waiter his name and he responded, “Daniel,” and I commented that I didn’t know that was a common Italian name. He responded that he wasn’t Italian but Bulgarian. As time went on I found that, except for the “professional” crew, there were about as many different countries represented among the staff as the other cruise ships we have taken. It took Daniel a few days to warm up to us. I found his cool attitude to be similar to that which I had experienced when I visited Russian about 10 years ago. We pursued Daniel and soon he warmed up and a basic friendship developed. From the start he was a very competent waiter, but it was more pleasant as he got to know us better. While the dinner experience was satisfactory, I must say that the food did not live up to the generally established industry standard of the other cruise lines we have had. The fresh baked breads were to “die for,” and I cannot comment about the special pasta dishes offered because I didn’t want to fill up on pasta but I assume that they were good. The deserts were very good but we always followed the suggestion of Daniel. I think that this was the first time when the lobster was thermidor and no snails were offered…even cleverly disguised with the French word that I can’t spell. Even with these drawbacks, I would rate the evening meals a strong “B,” but it along with the ports of call, were the only real drawbacks to what was otherwise an “A” cruise. Since most of the passengers were from Europe, the second seating was the most popular but there was a two and a half hour delay between the first seating and the second. On other cruise lines I have felt pushed to complete my meal and get out of the way so they can set up for the second shift…not so on the Opera. There was adequate time for a leisurely dinner and coffee. The evening theater entertainment was the best I have ever experienced on any cruise. A few of the costumes in the dance numbers were a little skimpy for my liking but that did not distract from the quality of the talent. The acrobatics, magician, comedians, and other entertainers provided top quality shows with great diversity. I must confess that the one night, when the violin and piano musicians performed at a later hour, we did not attend. If I had to do it over, I would have had a cup of coffee with caffeine and gone. The Italian tenor, Enico Scotto was outstanding. It was amusing when, after his performance when we were in the elevator my wife asked a couple what they had thought of the performance and the lady said that it was “too loud and she couldn’t understand anything he sang!” Duhhh…like it was in Italian! One distraction was, since many language groups were present on this cruise, the entertainment director had to translate her welcome and introduction at each evening’s presentation in English, French, German, and Italian, which could become a little tedious for impatient Americans were we think everyone should learn English. When one listened as Cruise Director Ketty’s flawlessly flowed from one language to another without stopping, it was a unique form of entertainment of its own. Given that all other cruise lines that we have been on have countless public address announcements day and night, I will trade the multi-language show introductions for the total void of intrusive announcements we avoided on the Opera. Over all I felt that the staff treated the passengers more like responsible adults than on other cruise lines. When you purchased a shore excursion you were told where to be and when, but then it was up to you. The same can be said of how we were not hounded by the bar attendants or shop keepers. It was almost as though they didn’t really care of you did anything that you really didn’t want to do! The casino was off of the main thoroughfare and wasn’t all that busy. Bingo, I am told was very low key and inexpensive. The fact that the calling had to be in all of the languages present may have lowered the attendance but I didn’t hear anyone complain. There was more smoking that you would find on most ships where Americans are in the vast majority but it was not a problem and I don’t like being assaulted by second-hand smoke. I don’t remember ever having to change my location to avoid smokers. There were places where smoking was permitted and I simply avoided them. No problem I should mention that, a best guess estimation of the make up of the passengers would be about one third Italian, one third French and German, and one third from the U.S., Canada, and England. It was possible to sit on the deck for an hour and never understand a word that was said around you. If you are only comfortable with Americans this can be unsettling but we thoroughly enjoyed the cross-cultural experience. I was not surprised to find that the vast majority of the passengers were over 60…some well over, but I was surprised at the number of European couples who were traveling with their small children…some of whom were babies. Some parents were even more oblivious to how obnoxious their children can be than some American parents I know. There was one “mouse pack” of little girls, ages about 6 to 10, who thought the cruise had been arranged just for them and no one told them otherwise. Not a big problem…just a minor annoyance. Since we both like to start our day with a time of reading and spiritual reflection, we were very surprised to find that the ship had a “quiet room.” It was located at the very front of the ship next to the work out room. It had floor to ceiling tinted windows and was equipped with comfortable chairs and lounges. Quite music was available and it was a unique highlight of the cruise for us. The only drawback was that one of the entrances was from the workout room so, when that door was opened, the sounds of the loud, lively music were disruptive. The first few days a number of people would come in to check out the facility and then quickly leave. As the week passed it was far more of a genuine quiet room. Since there is a second door from the Spa area the door from the work out room could be eliminated. Since we have been on a number of Eastern Caribbean cruises we did not depend on the ports of call to enhance the cruise. However, we did feel that the ports of call were a weak part of the cruise. Perhaps it is because MSC is the new kid on the block that their options are limited but arriving in Puerto Rico at 7:00 in the evening and then leaving seven hours later makes it attractive only to those who might want to take in the nightclub and bar scene. The berth in St. Thomas was far from the town and unattractive. That part of the port is being developed and in a year it will be more than adequate. St. Croix is still off the beaten path offering very little to visitors. Nassau was a rainy day but that wasn’t the fault of the cruise line. The port area is pretty typical and not very attractive. It isn’t a bad place to pick up some last minute overpriced items for those still on your list. As you can see, when it comes to ports of call, these left a good deal to be desired. Tipping on the MSC Opera is still confusing. You are told in writing and in person that tipping is not necessary but the message is, rightly so, that it is a reasonable expectation. While nothing is expected we were told that $5 per person per night was reasonable for our waiter and room steward. That is higher than the $3.50 we have been told in the past on other lines. There was also the suggestion that we give our dinning room tips to the headwaiter to distribute them. Sure…I have that kind of faith! We tipped our room steward, waiter and his assistant a little better that our “standard” because they were above average. On a personal note, I wish that cruise lines would just pay their staff a fair wage and then charge the appropriate amount to their clients. Then passengers could really tip for special services rather than feel guilty over the plight of people from third world countries who are trying to obtain a basic standard of living. Overall we were we were well pleased with the staff. The officers seemed a little aloof, perhaps reflecting a European attitude of how “professionals” should conduct themselves. While the bar staff were not pushy, they were friendly. I don’t think enough could be said about the Entertainment Team. Their energy and creativity were boundless and added a real spark to all that they were involved in. Two American Social Hostesses, Vanessa and Amanda were great when it came to bridging any cultural misunderstandings. I think we have already stated our pleasure with our dining room and cabin staff. Disembarking in Fort Lauderdale was easy. We had a flight that left at 11:30 AM and were scheduled to be in the fourth group to be allowed off of the ship. I think that initially a large number of people got off out of turn because it took over 30 minutes to get the first group off. We decided to get off with the second group and when asked what our group color was, I told the truth and was told that was no problem. We caught a taxi for the 10-minute ride to the airport, which cost about $15 including the tip. We made the flight with no problem. In conclusion I would say that probably the MSC Opera is not for everyone…especially for the American who wants everything to be “made in the USA.” For those who like to be stretched and enjoy new experiences and cultures…go for it!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

I was very nervous about this cruise because they have not been around very long and I had read so many bad reviews. I had an outstanding time. I have been on two previous cruises with carnival, but found MSC much more personal. They are not as crowded even though it was Easter/spring break. We did not have to fight over or get up early to find a chair by the pool on days at sea. The entertainment crew was great. I had read bad things

about the food, but I enjoyed it. This will just depend on if you like Italian food, but you can always find American dishes on the menu. Overall, my wife and I had an outstanding time and I would advise people of all ages to give MSC a try.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My husband and I booked this cruise after reading many reviews and searching for a vacation that wouldn’t break the bank. Our prior cruises were aboard Royal Caribbean twice and Princess once. This was a great vacation. First, we weren’t working, didn’t have to cook, clean or make the bed. Second, we were together. We had a great time! Below are some highlights. Ram: A category all to himself. Ram was one of the waiters in Le

Vele (the buffet restaurant). He found us on the first day, showed us to a table and assured us that if we sat in his section each day he would give us the best service possible. That he did. He spotted us when we came in, got our drinks and reserved a table for us before we were even through the line. Ram seemed to have a rather large following, as his section was always full, and he had a good rapport with many passengers. He took the time to get to know us and even noticed when we missed breakfast or when I wasn’t feeling well. Ram was top notch! I recommend looking for him on the first day and sitting in his section the entire cruise. Dining: The food was about as good as any other cruise line; you can’t expect “superb” when a kitchen has to cook for so many people. Our waiter wasn’t overly friendly, but adequate. The assistant waiter appeared to do the brunt of the work load, yet always had a smile and was eager to make our dining experience enjoyable (more sauce, an extra dessert…). Our wine steward also took care of our water glasses. He was pleasant and didn’t mind stopping to talk to us, both in the dining room and in the various lounges. My husband enjoyed the pasta course, which could have been an entire meal in normal circumstances. The desserts were delicious, especially the ones that the Maitre D’ cooked at his station in the dining room. Entertainment: The nightly shows were the best that we have experienced onboard. The juggler was talented and funny. The magician and his wife (I think she is his wife) were enjoyable. The variety shows kept your interest. It was also nice to see the entertainers walking around the ship. In addition, it was nice to see the Captain around the ship. He could be found in some of the lounges and even in the buffet dining room. We got to meet him at the Captain’s cocktail party, where he took the time to talk to us for a minute. That was really nice, considering we look younger than we are and sometimes are not taken seriously. Spa: My husband got the Balinese massage treatment. All week he was going back and forth between getting it and not getting it. Finally, on the last port day, the spa discounted all massages by 25% (the biggest discount) swaying him to go ahead and get it. He said it was magnificent. Room: Sufficient. There is plenty of storage and enough room for two. The bathroom was equally sufficient, minus the shower which was tiny. Tipping: I really liked that tips weren’t forced upon us. In fact, being able to tip at my discretion, made me want to tip the people that I interacted with daily more generously. Pool: The pool lounge chairs were so comfortable and it was refreshing to have the flip top to shade your eyes from the sun, making reading so much more enjoyable without the sun coming in over your sun glasses. I would have loved to have smuggled a couple off for our house. If anyone knows where to purchase them, let me know! The animation team was always at the pool, which was entertaining, but they were ALWAYS at the pool. (If you know what I mean) Ports/Roatan: This was the only island that we booked an excursion. We went horseback riding, which we booked through http://www.BarrioDorcasRanch.com. This was so much fun. After we were finished with the ride we arranged to stop at Fosters and enjoy the beach for a while. The other ports were Key West, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. It was nice not to have a trip jam packed with excursions. We leisurely walked around the shops and the areas near the pier. Other: It was nice to be able to buy a drink and not have to worry about having to get a second job when you got home in order to pay the bar tab. Drinks were extremely affordable and there weren’t a lot of shops luring you to the register to spend money, which helped keep the final bill lower than a cruise aboard a different line. The casino was quiet as well, which was good because it didn’t call you in. We found all of the staff to be friendly. There were lots of “hello’s” and warm smiles. While this was a great trip and we wouldn’t mind sailing with MSC again (as long as the price stays low), there were a couple of… I don’t want to say negatives because they didn’t affect our overall cruise experience, rather minor inconveniences. Room: We were below the Il Patio, pizza side. This is where they held the special lunch buffet and midnight buffet several nights. Let’s just say they have to set up and clean up several times a day, dragging tables across the floor. Not a big enough annoyance to make us request a room change, instead it became a joke for us. However, if you are a light sleeper you might want to make sure that you are not directly under the Il Patio. Dining: There wasn’t that much of a selection for people on the South Beach diet. Granted, I knew that I would splurge and eat desserts and a couple of pieces of pizza; however, there wasn’t a huge assortment of vegetables on the buffet or at dinner. The salad lettuce and toppings weren’t that appealing either. You could get an omlette for breakfast at the grill, but it was cooked on the grill, and the insides weren’t warmed because the eggs cooked too quickly on the hot grill. This complaint could be due to the fact that there were so many other things that I don’t eat at home that were just calling my name making the healthier choices pale in comparison. :) Roatan were not the same as they originally scheduled. Like I said, nothing that would ruin our vacation. In fact, we enjoyed being in Cozumel at night. This was by far our most relaxing vacation. We went into the cruise with the mindset that we were going to relax, not plan a lot of things and enjoy having time off to spend with each other. That is exactly what we did.

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Nov 30, -0001

Transatlantic - Genoa to Ft. Lauderdale

ABOUT US: We are 55 and 60 years old, and have traveled extensively. We took the Westbound Transatlantic crossing of the Opera in 2004, starting in Genoa, Italy and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. This was our 7th cruise together. ABOUT THE SHIP: If you have a specific idea of what cruising should be like, with a thousand detailed requirements, you will not enjoy this ship. It does not offer the same experience as Carnival, Royal Caribbean

or Norwegian and probably never will. If, on the other hand, you find the interplay of cultures fascinating, and find differences stimulating instead of just “wrong,” you’ll have a wonderful time. MSC is an Italian company. They are the second largest cargo line in the world and are relatively new to the cruise market so there are some good values to be had. At least half of the passengers on our ocean crossing were Europeans and the blessedly few PA announcements were in five languages: English, German, Italian, French and Spanish. Service personnel must function in most of these languages. Some do this better than others, but all seemed pleasant and patient. The MSC Opera is new and is a sleek greyhound. It was designed for the luxury trade before the decision was made to pursue the budget end of the market. The interiors are quietly elegant in dark blues, smoky plums, corals and creams. There's no art in particular but the lighting fixtures are well designed like big sculptures. The ship lacks glass-sided elevators, high atriums and Vegas-style metallic glitz, but makes up for it by being really comfortable, human-scaled like a good European hotel. Lots of small places to settle in. Lots of glass and views of the sea. We had an inside cabin. It was not the largest we’ve been in, but the mirror layout was the best we’ve seen, giving more light and sense of space than we expected. The bathroom equally well-planned, generously sized with an excellent shower. Water heat and pressure were both good. The smaller of the two restaurants, L'approdo, is a jewel box of red and pink. The larger restaurant, La Caravella, is very sophisticated in green, cream and yellow, with lots of columns and divisions so it seems more intimate than its size would indicate. There is a cafeteria on the top deck with indoor and outdoor seating. The top deck also has two pools and is very lively. There is often an excitable host screaming in 4 or 5 languages, running incomprehensible games and contests with enthusiastic passengers, Europop blaring on the speakers. If you want quiet, there are lounge chairs on the Boat Deck most days and also at the stern of many of the cabin decks. ABOUT THE FOOD: Extraordinarily good. Northern Italian. We were on for 17 days and they didn't miss on a pasta or risotto once. Good pizza, superb homemade ice cream, excellent bread, good soup. We found the meat entrees a little lacking but others singled them out as exceptional. You could always get a grilled sirloin or chicken if you didn't like the chef's entrees. The cakes were of the baba au rhum variety. Very airy and not much chocolate, but plenty of variety. Lots of salads and fresh fruit, plus fresh fruit in the rooms. The waiters are Italian and joke a little heavily at first and not always successfully in an attempt to charm you. On the whole they are very good. When I expressed a preference for ice tea and breadsticks rather than rolls, I found them waiting every night. Luigi was an excellent waiter, Mario and Carlo excellent maitre’d’s (and Sylvie was a superb cabin steward too.) MSC has a policy that you don't have to tip if you don't want to. This is churlish, the staff deserves it, they work hard. We followed the policy we have always followed. We ignored management’s guidelines and tipped what we wanted to and felt was appropriate. THE BEST THING ABOUT THE SHIP: The intimacy and sheer livability of the ship are the main virtues for us, but one of the most civilized things is that they allow you to get duty free liquor and open it and consume it in your room. They don't seal it for the voyage so you'll order more from the bars like many lines do. THE WORST THING ABOUT THE SHIP: There are two really bad things about the ship: 1) SMOKING: Many Europeans smoke. Like chimneys. And seemingly they aren't even aware it might hurt others. They are behind us on banning smoking. Fortunately they were not allowed to smoke inside the restaurants, but the outdoor patio area was rendered unusable for non smokers. This was a big disappointment to us, but didn't ruin the cruise. We don't go to the lounges at night (we like to get up for the dawn) but we understand there were fights in the lounges about people who ignored the non-smoking area designations. And there's nothing like being in a jammed corridor trying to exit the ship in a port and having someone light up. Some Americans complained to the offenders but many of the smokers didn't speak English, so it was futile. We never saw staff do anything to enforce the no-smoking areas. I am asthmatic and suffer from smoke, but I was able to get away from it OK. Judge for yourself whether it makes a difference to you. 2) MANAGEMENT: Charming but utterly chaotic. Generally inefficient and sometimes maddeningly so and in odd ways. The loading of the ship in Genoa, for example, was the most efficient I have ever seen. You checked in, reserved your dining table, and booked your shore excursions in one very smooth line. But once on board, both the purser’s and excursion desks were uninformed and uncoordinated. For example, we tried to book a transfer from the dock to Ft. Lauderdale airport. Reception said Shore Excursions handled that, Shore Excursions said Reception handled that, they bounced us back and forth, called each other and yelled into the phone. We eventually did get to the airport and make our flight, but a little more coordination would have worked wonders with the experience. Similarly the 24 hour internet service broke down periodically because the satellite gave them problems. Nobody had any idea when it would be fixed. There is a technician on board but service remained unreliable. Our two valiant American hostesses, Amanda and Vanessa, bravely took a barrage of passenger criticism, justified and otherwise, and relayed the complaints to management. Often the response from the bridge was an automatic “no,” but then the problem would be mysteriously solved 24 hours later. THE PEOPLE ON BOARD: The Americans on board this repositioning cruise were largely retired people, many from Florida. They are very experienced budget cruisers. They have taken every line and they have very set expectations about what they like and want from a cruise. When they don't get what they are used to from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, etc., they don't perceive this European ship as different, they perceive it as WRONG! This makes some of them very hostile. For example, there are only small cups of ice water on a hot day. Not spigots of iced tea or fruit juice like on other ships. There is iced tea but only in the dining rooms. Not in the cafeteria or on the outdoor patio. This one thing made a lot of people hostile. (Until management gets around to this one, bring a tall insulated mug and make your own). We were told there is little music for ballroom dancing at night. Only disco (I guess their Mediterranean cruises have more young people -Europeans have longer vacations than us and the American passengers skewed older). There are movies on the TV but they are dubbed in many languages. And the English-language originals are often not on at convenient times, nor are the schedules reliable. “Welcome to Mooseport” loses something when dubbed in German (I'm not kidding). And some passengers just don't like it when they are so many people on board that they can't talk to, and they grow impatient when instructions have to be translated. Also, some cultures are trained to get on line, while others just crowd in, which makes for conflict. If management would put rope lines like a bank in front of the reception counter, that might defuse a lot of bad feeling. We read some hostile reviews of this ship and its sister ship, the Lirica before we booked this, but we must say we enjoyed the experience thoroughly and found it a phenomenal value. You just have to know what you are getting in to. SHOPS: Very tasteful and very expensive, which made no sense at all. The shops were one part of the ship not recalibrated for budget cruising. The stock was entirely for the European market, the wrong weight clothing and not even in American sizes. They didn’t sell bottles of aspirin or Tylenol, but did sell several kinds of expensive anti-cellulite cream. Considering the average age and needs of the Caribbean cruisers this is pretty odd. Also, one lone bottle of SPF sunblock shared shelf space with plentiful supplies of old-fashioned tanning butter. If they sold some insulated mugs with the ship’s logo, they’d clean up and stop the no iced tea hostility, but they are not yet that sensible. The $350 dollar sweaters didn’t sell even at 50% off. When the temperature outside went to 90 degrees, people wanted tee shirts. They only had a few, they were expensive and for sale only in the liquor store! A simple $29 item in the jewelry shop would have sold out. But they didn’t have anything at all in that category. SHORE EXCURSIONS: The stops on our crossing were: Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Barbados, Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten, and Nassau. Generally well run. Remember to bring Euros for Barcelona and Funchal (not all the Americans on board did). The ship charges 3 percent to change money. This includes 3 percent to cash travelers checks which is a bum deal. They're supposed to be cash. The full day excursion to Marrakesh from Casablanca which includes a 4 hour bus trip both ways is exhausting but sooo worth it! Don’t miss this one. In Madeira, we found riding a wicker basket down a mountain in Funchal is terrifying without much thrill. They don't tell you you're riding down a HIGHWAY with trucks coming at you and you're being steered by 2 guys with string. Phooey! Take a cab to the top of the cable car instead. Also, Tortola is the most beautiful place I ever saw in the Caribbean. A NOTE ON LUGGAGE: Our luggage was lost between Paris and Genoa. The idea of a 17 day cruise with no luggage was really frightening for us. It was found and delivered to our hotel at midnight the night before we departed. We met people whose luggage was lost connecting from Rome, Frankfurt and London. Some bags caught up with the ship before we left, some joined us at our first stop in Barcelona, some never caught up at all. Since the art of transferring baggage seems to have been lost, travel insurance is a good idea, at least giving you some money for replacement clothing. And pack your carry-on bags carefully in case your big suit case (s) go AWOL. HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: MSC has hired management from American cruise lines to explain American cruise culture to them, so improvement should be swift. They are really trying hard. But we don’t expect they’ll ever be “plain vanilla.” If you like, by all means give them a try, but only if you understand going in it’s going to be different, and that’s not a bad thing.

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