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Sail Date: January 2004
We were looking for different ports to visit, so decided to try MSC's Lirica. The ship is lovely, with pleasant pastel colors and nice decor throughout the ship. We had a very nice room with veranda. To our dismay, we had cigar ... Read More
We were looking for different ports to visit, so decided to try MSC's Lirica. The ship is lovely, with pleasant pastel colors and nice decor throughout the ship. We had a very nice room with veranda. To our dismay, we had cigar smokers on both sides of us, so we couldn't always enjoy the veranda without that disgusting smoke. Now for the food. My husband cruises to eat, but he was sorely disappointed on this cruise. Though the pasta and veal dishes were often very good, the fish and beef dishes were truly terrible. There were no extravagant desserts. Service was very slow and disorganized, often taking 2 hours at dinner. The ship ran out of butter, so served margarine that tasted like lard. No brewed decaf coffee, only little packets of dried coffee. Re the gym, there are only 3 treadmills with no sign-up sheets. And these were shut down during siesa time, from 12 noon to 3 every day. The entertainment was adequate, though repetitious, with the same acts reappearing with different costumes and routines. The Animation Team, a group designated to instill laughs in the passengers, was supposed to be slapstick--but actually bordered on cruel, using passengers and their own sidekicks as pawns. There were no movies on board except on the TV, and these were repeated over and over. The "new" ports were the best part, with beauty to be found in St. Lucia, Grenada, and Tortola--but St. Barts is just a collection of expensive boutiques. We would not choose to travel on MSC again. They are young, new and learning a difficult trade. But we are not willing to be their victims, paying good money for a bad experience. They need to learn fast or depend on first-time customers for their profits, for they won't get many repeaters. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
Our cruise was better than expected based on some of the reviews we had read beforehand. Here is a quickie critique of a wonderful trip on a very nice ship! Crew: Friendly, attentive and efficient. Cabins: (Inside location) Small , but ... Read More
Our cruise was better than expected based on some of the reviews we had read beforehand. Here is a quickie critique of a wonderful trip on a very nice ship! Crew: Friendly, attentive and efficient. Cabins: (Inside location) Small , but not crowded. Surprising number of shelves and drawers. More than most other ships we've been on. User-friendly thermostat: no numbers, just press the up or down arrow! The hidden safe was in a convenient area; behind the mirror over the desk! However, although the instructions for opening it were clear, the closing instructions weren't exactly accurate. (We figured out what they meant after a few minutes.) The bathroom was spotless. The only complaint was the location of the light fixtures over the mirror. They were not positioned for convenience in applying make-up, shaving ,or checking out your hairdo! A special treat was having a fruit bowl on the desk/vanity that was replenished every day! But, I really missed not finding a nice souvenir pen in the desk drawer!. Entertainment: The Broadway Theatre was well-named. The talented professionals, sets and elaborate costumes couldn't have been better! A special treat was having the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on board providing REAL dance music. Fantastic!! Elevators: Just out of curiosity, I wondered why the button panels inside the elevators were not uniformly placed on either the left or right side of the doors. It was a surprise when you started to push a button that wasn't there! Also, the layout was narrow from side to side. Those in the back sometimes had a hard time trying to squeeze out! Casino: Out of approximately 50 slot machines, only 15 were the everyday types that you find on most cruise ships and big casinos . Many of the players were disappointed at having to wait in line for a machine. Bridge Tour: Available when requested in advance. The high tech era has pared down much of the manpower and equipment usually seen on cruise ships just a few years ago. Not much to see anymore except computers, and a fantastic ocean view from the large windows! Activities: Some of the popular activities had conflicting schedules with those of a higher priority, but you can't please everyone! Fitness Center: This was spacious and professionally appointed, but lacked enough of the most popular equipment i.e. stair-steppers, stationery bikes and treadmills. Public Restrooms: Most were squeaky clean, but the liquid hand soap was very watered down! Meals: (Finally!) Most everything on the menu was excellent! The steaks were a standout in that they could (almost) be cut with a fork! The Gelato was available for dessert at lunch and dinnertime. Also, served on an outside deck between 3 and 5 pm. This was every bit as good as that served in Rome, Florence, Naples etc. etc. (Don't miss it!) The Breakfast buffet was pretty much the standard except not as many pastry choices that you might find on Celebrity. The Dining Rooms were spacious, airy and well lit. Not as formal as Princess and Celebrity. The Diet Menu was very good! Late night buffets held on an open deck were sometimes too windy. They would have been more enticing had they been set up along the existing buffet line inside. A "first" is the use of recorded music for celebrating Birthdays and Anniversaries. I'm sure this is much-appreciated by the busy waiters! Although some of the niceties that still exist on other cruise ships such as: Art Auctions, glass elevators, chocolate on your pillow at bedtime and waiters carrying your lunch tray to a table for you, the price is right! Best of all, you don't have to speak Italian! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2004
We arrived at the ship around 12:20 and was on the ship within an hour. Everything went very quickly and the staff all made you feel very welcome. They had water and orange juice while you waited. It was the easiest embarkation I've ... Read More
We arrived at the ship around 12:20 and was on the ship within an hour. Everything went very quickly and the staff all made you feel very welcome. They had water and orange juice while you waited. It was the easiest embarkation I've ever experienced. We were taken to our cabin by a white-gloved attendant. There was a bowl of fresh fruit in our cabin which was replenished daily. Our cabin steward had a bit of an English problem but took care of all our requests very quickly. He was great. He kept our cabin in great order. The ship was lovely. At first glance you might think it to be bland but on closer inspection find a very understated elegance. The colors are very soft with a lot of mirrors and brass. We were in cabin #8275 which is an ocean view. By most standards it is small but with all of the storage space it was most workable. We were two women traveling together with all the clothes that requires plus we also had scuba diving gear. We noticed some of the desk chairs in the hall and figured out that when the bed was in the queen configuration that it took up too much space. Our cabin was next to the last aft cabin and we enjoyed having the fantail to relax on. The bathroom was small with a tiny shower but it had a removable shower head which was a huge help. There was plenty of storage in the bathroom. There was a blow dryer on the wall which we didn't use. Food is very subjective but talking with other passengers, I found most shared my opinion. The buffet was not good. We had all of our meals in the dining room which we found to be very good. There were a few disappointments but found the food to be really good overall. We saw a big change in dining room service just in the week while we were on board. We asked to be moved and our request was gladly taken care of. We had great dinner companions and enjoyed our meals. Champagne was served on our last formal night which I thought was a nice touch. They had the baked Alaska parade AND it was actually yummy. Instead of a Cruise Director the ship had a Cruise Staff which was FANTASTIC! They made sure that everyone who wanted to have fun did. We would check our daily program to find where they were going to be and that is where we headed. I just can't say enough good things about them. There are numerous lounges with great musicians in most. My personal favorites were the Caruso Lounge and the Cotton Club. I have sailed on Carnival, Celebrity, HAL, Princess and Royal Caribbean. The MSC Opera was the most "fun" cruise I've taken. If you enjoy new experiences, don't sweat the small stuff and like to have fun then the Opera is a perfect choice. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
The MSC Opera was a beautiful ship. I loved EVERYTHING on the ship. It is very hard to explain the whole ship. It was amazing*. The dining room was even pretty. The food was excellent. My Family and I traveled on the Cruise. My sister ... Read More
The MSC Opera was a beautiful ship. I loved EVERYTHING on the ship. It is very hard to explain the whole ship. It was amazing*. The dining room was even pretty. The food was excellent. My Family and I traveled on the Cruise. My sister and I are teenagers and there were many* things for us and my parents to do. One thing I will never forget on the Cruise was the Animation Team. They made the Cruise even better than it already was. My sister and I would get up, get a lounge chair, and then go eat breakfast. Our chairs were always* in the front so we could watch the Animation Team. I learned how to bachata, tango, and country line dance. The boat was clean as possible. Our room was cleaned each day. My sister and I were in a darts tournament. We went on an Excursion in the Bahamas. It was called the Glass Bottom Boat ride. I saw lots of pretty fish. It was very informative. The saddest part was the last day and we were leaving the ship. My sister and I cried. Over all, The MSC Opera is a never forgettable trip. No matter what age, you will have fun! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
This was my seventh cruise and my fifth cruise line. The ship was very pretty and very clean, from there on it was all downhill. The reason we took this ship is because some close friends went on it in Feb 2005 and it was fantastic. They ... Read More
This was my seventh cruise and my fifth cruise line. The ship was very pretty and very clean, from there on it was all downhill. The reason we took this ship is because some close friends went on it in Feb 2005 and it was fantastic. They went on it again with us and about fifteen people from the church, bad mistake!! Our friends were in tears over the cruise because they recommended it. We were told that a new CEO was in charge and the service could not have been worse. The fastest you could eat a meal in the dining room was two hours, then the food was not good. I actually lost weight on the cruise, that is a first for me. Several times we did not get what we ordered, we sent it back once and twenty minutes later they came back with the same plate. You could not ask what a dish was because the waiter didn't understand you. The food was very European and not to the taste of the majority of the passengers. The menu had only a few choices. For the first few nights, if you ordered iced tea with your meal, they brought a can of it and charged you $2.25. The vast majority of the crew could not speak English, I might expect that if I was sailing from the Med., but I was sailing from Florida. We booked three in our cabin and when we arrived, the room was made up for two; two towel sets, two glasses, etc. Two times we ran out of toilet paper in our room, and twice the room steward took our ice bucket and never brought it back. The inside staterooms were small; 144 square feet compared to Carnival's 180 square feet. The ship was late leaving Fort Lauderdale so we only had two and a half hours in San Juan, (instead of the six advertised) from 8:00 P.M. to 10:30 P.M., Everything was closed, and of course no time for tours. I did not book a tour in San Juan, so I can't say what happened to those people who did. This cruise line needs to study how other lines operate if they hope to succeed in America. They are new to the American market. They only cruise here for three months, then go back to the Med. The high reviews must have come from last year, not this year. The ship was much smaller than the Sprit class Carnival, but they packed in more passengers with three hundred less crew members, crowding and poor service was the result. Speaking of tours, the ship did not back up the tours, you were on your own. They just sold the tickets. Some of the tours did not have tour guides and the drivers could not speak English. One tour came to the ship while we were anchored out and did not have any lifevests on the boat, and the boat handler must have just started that day because he kept crashing into the ship. The shows had very talented performers, but a lot of the show material was not in English. The first show was completely in French. The ship was five hours late getting into Fort Lauderdale because the ship did not call in ahead and notify the harbor master. Therefore a lot of people missed their flights. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
A little about me before the brief review. Family of four, two boys 2 and 4. We have been on about eight 7 days cruises in the past three years (Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean). We had two rooms, one an oceanview ... Read More
A little about me before the brief review. Family of four, two boys 2 and 4. We have been on about eight 7 days cruises in the past three years (Carnival, Holland America, Princess, and Royal Caribbean). We had two rooms, one an oceanview and the other an interior view. The check-in process was painful. The ship arrived late, the taxi drive told us that this is common with MSC. We had to wait outside in the heat since the metal detector was at the entrance not the interior of the building. Once past the heat, the embarkation was fair. On the boat, ship is newer, nicely decorated, with very small but deep elevators. The ship is definitely long but not very wide. The room is clean to me but my wife wasn't impressed. One nice thing I would say is that there was lots of closet and space made available for you things compared to the other ships. Now to the main reason why we cruise, the FOOD! The food was at best mediocre. Another person I met on the ship put it more bluntly, "I would return it if I was at the restaurant!" However, they do have some good stuff. Their best has to be the spaghetti and the pizza. However, these things are not available 24/7. In fact, we had to time ourselves constantly for certain type of food. It seems like the food places were open for the ship's personnel's convenience. The only available food 24/7 was the room service with only about 10 items on it. They will NOT deviate even if you offer incentives. They even suggested that I not bother them and go to the buffet! I had to hang-up after telling him the line for that buffet was two miles long! One more thing, the Europeans have this thing for eggplant. I must admit that they prepare it well. However, I could only tolerate three days of consecutive eggplants. Next reason to cruise, service. Here worse in than other cruise line is the language problem. Since more than 30% of their clients are European and 70% of the worker are from Italy, there is definitely a language barrier. This may get better with time but it was frustrating for us. One big complaint from my wife is the children program or lack of it. There was an attendant there but not much beyond that. We had only two hours in Puerto Rico. St. Maarten was nice. La Romana of Dominican Republic scares me but I think it is just a developing nation with lots of people loitering about. The Cayo Leventico is MSC private beach place and it was the best stop. The entertainment was different and good. I will end it here and hope it helps with your decision to cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
I found the MSC Opera to be a beautiful ship with great potential; however MSC has several issues that need to be resolved before it can provide an enjoyable cruise experience. I was looking forward to a relaxing and rewarding cruise ... Read More
I found the MSC Opera to be a beautiful ship with great potential; however MSC has several issues that need to be resolved before it can provide an enjoyable cruise experience. I was looking forward to a relaxing and rewarding cruise based on the information I received from my travel agent and various web sites that critique cruises. The itinerary seemed great. The itinerary and the price was my major reason for choosing MSC, which I was unfamiliar with. However the cruise was filled with disappointment. One of the major issues was communication. This became obvious when I first boarded the ship and realized that my dining requests had been completely ignored and I had to stand in line for thirty minutes or more to get them changed. MSC did fulfill my request by the following day. There were several areas where communication was a problem. Although the dining room staff worked diligently there were few who could communicate adequately in English to explain the menu or to take special requests. I also found it difficult to get information from the reception desk concerning the itinerary. Either they were unable to communicate adequately in English or they did not know the information or how to obtain it. For example the daily paper printed the names of streets to shop at one of the destinations in the Dominican Republic. However, the name of the city was not listed. Since the port was near several small villages it was unclear if the streets listed were from one of the villages or Santo Domingo (a two hour drive away). When I asked the staff the name of the city where these streets were located they were unable to provide an adequate answer. In addition on most cruise lines we were told in the daily publications and/or over the intercom system how to get off the ship at the Ports of Call. On the MSC Opera each passenger was on their own to figure out which Deck to exit on. Another major issue was the inability of the ship to arrive at several of the ports on time. We were 2-3 hours late leaving Port Everglades due to high winds, which meant we arrived in San Juan at 8:00 p.m. instead of the scheduled 5:00 p.m. This left a little more than 2 hours to visit San Juan. One instance of arriving late can be blamed on inclement weather; however this happened at other stops as well. This problem reached its climax at the end of the cruise when we arrived into Ft. Lauderdale for disembarkation approximately 5 hours late and were unable to get off of the ship until 12:30 p.m. or later. Obviously many flights were affected. We were scheduled to disembark at 8:30 a.m. MSC attributed this late arrival to issues with Port Everglades that were beyond their control. Late arrival seemed to continually be a major problem plaguing the MSC Opera, which I have not experienced when traveling with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean or NCL. There were several other minor problems too numerous to mention (limited cuisine choices and poor food quality; unfriendly staff members; limited availability of tea and coffee; poor itinerary either due to limited time at Ports such as San Juan or St. Maarten or limited activities at Ports such as La Romana). Although many of issues were small problems in and of themselves they accumulated quickly to diminish the cruising experience. On the positive side the performances in the theater appeared professional and most people seemed to enjoy them. Our cabin stewards were friendly and hard working. Our cabin was kept clean and they were quick to get us what we needed. The same is true of our dining room staff. However, communicating with both the Cabin Stewards and Dining Room Staff was very difficult. We have traveled on other cruise lines where English was not the first language of many who worked on the ships, but there were always people available with whom we could communicate. This was not true of the Opera. There were very few people available with whom we could communicate adequately to resolve issues or gain more information. This was probably the most frustrating part of the cruise. What is most amazing is that there were several people who were on the MSC Opera a year ago. They rebooked the cruise because they had a great experience the previous year; however after this cruise they were disappointed and were not planning to rebook. I am not sure what occurred in the past year to make such a difference, but obviously something has changed. I have enjoyed all of my previous cruising experiences with various cruise lines. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but overall they have been excellent cruises. However the same is not true with this cruise. At this time I am not planning to rebook with MSC. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
One lady said to me when we were disembarking that this was the first cruise she had ever lost weight on. She was not the only person to comment on how awful the food was. I was so surprised that food was as important to me as this cruise ... Read More
One lady said to me when we were disembarking that this was the first cruise she had ever lost weight on. She was not the only person to comment on how awful the food was. I was so surprised that food was as important to me as this cruise soon revealed to me. The first few days you think you have ordered badly until it begins to dawn on you that it is the food. Instead of looking forward to too many choices we began to hope there was at least one choice on the menu we wanted. Simply put the food was tasteless, unimaginative, poorly presented and without interest. Even the lobster was overcooked and I didn't even finish it. The buffet was not much better. The rooms was the smallest room I have ever been in. My partner could not go the bathroom at night without crawling over the bed. There were no drawers in the room and only one closet. The bathroom was so small that when you went to the bathroom you could sit there and turn the bed for the night. We had second seating and the room steward would call our room, to check if we were there and hang up if we answered because he/she wanted to finish for the night. One night they never even bothered to make the room. I like to play blackjack before dinner but couldn't because the tables were closed from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm while the dealer had dinner. I asked why and was told there were only 7 dealers. Funny but I don't recall much more on the other ships I was on. The ship is nice - modern and sleek with lots of nice places to sit and read. The lounge chairs are the most creative I have even seen allowing to you to block the sun from your face while you read. The entertainment was above average sort of Cirque du Soleil. I read the comment on here before I left and it gave me a wrong impression about the ship. What people refer to as Italian flair I would refer to as attitude. "We will get to you when WE are ready." The food isn't different it is bad. I don't know how this cruise line which is already heavily discounted can continue to attract people. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
This was my first MSC Cruise, having sailed before on Holland America, Carnival, NCL, Royal Olympia and Commodore. Pros: beautiful ship, ample deck space for sunning, pool area, shows, itinerary. Cons: inconsistent service, ... Read More
This was my first MSC Cruise, having sailed before on Holland America, Carnival, NCL, Royal Olympia and Commodore. Pros: beautiful ship, ample deck space for sunning, pool area, shows, itinerary. Cons: inconsistent service, inconsistent food, scheduling snafus, language barrier, complaining passengers Embarkation The Opera uses Pier 29 which was recently transformed from a cargo dock to a combination cargo/passenger terminal. The set-up is less ideal than the more established terminals at Port Everglades with taxis, busses, passengers and luggage all congregating directly in front of the buildings entrance. Employees arranged passengers in groups who were allowed to enter the building at staggered times. Once inside the terminal, the process was fairly smooth and quick. We were on the ship within 30 minutes of entering the building. While we were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a full oceanview (from an obstructed view), our luggage was delivered to our first assigned cabin. I retrieved the luggage myself and transported the baggage to our new cabin. Cabin The cabin was small but with plenty of space for storage. The white and blue color scheme was pleasant enough but perhaps a bit boring. The tiny shower was the biggest complaint. An irritating shower curtain further reduces your workable space by sticking to your body as you shower. Solid glass doors would improve the perception of space and functionality of the shower. MSC provides tiny bottles of shampoo and shower gel. The gel is good for about one shower, and it never seemed that I had enough on hand. Soap/gel dispensers are strongly recommended. Cabin service was certainly adequate but nothing special. A definite language barrier reduced communication with the steward. MSC would do well by instructing cabin personnel to wear deodorant as there was a nearly constant body odor problem in the corridors. Ship Amenities Overall, the MSC opera is a clean, beautiful ship with intimate public areas and lounges. A large pool area (2 saltwater pools) and solarium provide ample deck space for sunning. Despite 40 knot winds, there always seemed to be areas protected from the strong winds. One could certainly make the argument that there are too many lounge areas on this ship, as many seemed completely empty much of the day. Perhaps expanded shopping opportunities and specialty restaurants could be a better use of the copious lounge space. Speaking of shopping opportunities, prepare to spend a bundle if youre interested in purchasing watches or jewelry onboard. Even discounted clothing at the boutique was expensive. Excellent prices on alcohol and cigarettes could be found in the duty-free shop. I estimate prices were nearly half of what can be found at the local ABC store here in North Carolina. Another bonus  alcohol purchased onboard CAN be brought back to your cabin for your enjoyment! With such cheap prices, dont bother trying to smuggle anything onboard. The gym space was larger than on some ships but could greatly benefit from additional free weights and adjustable benches. The facility always seemed to be on the hot side. Adjacent to the gym are steam/sauna facilities for men and women. Choose from a steam room or dry sauna lined with cedar. Relaxation rooms in this area provide a quiet respite following your time in the sauna. Cuisine Most of the food tasted in the dining room was acceptable, with a few items falling into both the very good and not so good range. Southern Italian pastas made with tomato sauce and cheese (lasagna, cannelloni, spaghetti Bolognese, etc.) were quite delicious and expertly prepared, while some of the highly acclaimed risottos failed to impress. Some entrees and side dishes were quite salty. The Baked Alaska (which usually doesnt impress me on cruises) was actually well prepared and enjoyable for a change. Accustomed to the creative and upscale dishes found on other lines, MSC's offering did seem to be a bit of a letdown. Eggs Benedict is not available for breakfast, and the so called ham steak is actually some type of a pressed cold cut. Even presentation was a disappointment at times. For example, a medallion of tuna was served with a steamed white potato, white risotto, and white pearl onions. What were they thinking??? I only visited the buffet twice, so I wont make many comments other that to say that the selection did seem to be lacking when compared to other cruise lines. Room service did arrive promptly, sometimes within 3 minutes! The selection of sandwiches offered here are obviously made well in advance, as the bread often arrived in a dried-out condition. Service Again, inconsistency is the word of the day. Our Indonesian waiter Umar was quite exceptional and hospitable, while some of the European wait staff seemed aloof and less than approachable. Cream and butter often seemed to be in short supply. When asked to provide additional cream or butter, some waiters would bring only one small packet to the table. On several occasions, I noticed passengers on scavenger hunts at adjacent tables scouting out their own supply of cream. This should be an easy problem to solve. Is anyone from MSC reading this? There is also confusion at times in the dining room. Ordered items never arrive, food is delivered to the wrong passenger, several waiters ask for your drink order. There is a language barrier between the wait staff and the passengers, so it is easy to assume there is also a language barrier between members of the wait staff. I also witnessed inconsistent service at Reception and the shore excursion desk. Some of the Italian hosts were quite helpful, while others seemed annoyed when answering questions. To be fair, the ship was loaded with demanding and difficult passengers, so perhaps the impatience on the part of the staff is somewhat understandable. Shore Excursions We booked excursions only at La Romana and Cayo Lavantado. The kayaking trip down the Chavon River in La Romana was overpriced, and in retrospect not worth the money. I would opt for snorkeling/sailing/beach adventure combined with an independent taxi tour of Altos de Chavon, La Romana and Casa de Campo. On the other hand, our horseback riding adventure to Salto de Limon in Cayo Levantado was the best shore excursion ever. Adventurous souls will enjoy riding the horses over rocky hills, through lush fields, and across idyllic, tropical streams. At the end of the trail a vigorous hike to the bottom of the impressive Limon falls awaits you. Those with bathing attire can swim underneath the falls to explore the hiding places behind the actual cascade. This is a serious adventure, so one should be in good shape, have a good back, and not be afraid of a little mud. If you fit this bill, you will enjoy this experience. Fellow Passengers The average age of passengers was a bit older than I expected. There were numerous scooters and wheelchairs for those with challenged mobility. The largest nationality represented seemed to be the USA with a large contingent of Italian-Americans and South Florida/New York residents. A surprising number of Italians were also on board, along with numerous English, Spanish, Germans and Eastern Europeans. A younger crowd did congregate after 11 pm in Byblos disco for drinking and dancing. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that some of the American passengers on board were demanding and somewhat loud. I also overheard lots of complaining about anything and everything; it doesnt appear that everyone had a good time on this cruise. Disembarkation This was a real disaster. For some reason, we were denied entry to Port Everglades until around 10:00 am (we should have been at the dock around 7:00 am). We sat offshore for several hours as passengers waited impatiently in their designated holding areas. Only one announcement about the situation was made with no indication as to what caused this problem. One can probably imagine the turmoil such a delay causes with missed flights and fidgety cruisers. The first group left the ship around 12:00 noon just as passengers for the next cruise were arriving. Terminal 29 is already inadequate, but with passengers leaving at the same time everyone else is arriving, the scene was chaotic. This surely wasnt the memorable sendoff MSC had in mind. Miscellaneous Comments Strong winds at Port Everglades on the day or our departure prevented our ship from safely exiting terminal 29. We waited over two hours for the Zuiderdam to pull away before we had enough clearance to exit the harbor. This delay placed us over two hours late in San Juan. There isnt much to see at night in Old San Juan. We took a long walk to the fortress at the opening of the harbor which was quite enjoyable. Those looking for good shopping and nightlife may be disappointed. We rented a car on St. Maarten. Driving is easy, but the roads can be somewhat congested. Be sure to leave yourself ample time to get back to the ship at your designated time. We underestimated and almost missed the boat! We found Bia Rouge on the French side to be quiet and enjoyable. This is a clothing optional location, so please be forewarned if you find nudity objectionable. The ship spends too much precious time in La Romana. Additional time would be better spent in Cayo Levantado. I very much enjoyed the quiet and rustic ports of La Romana and Cayo Levantado. Shopping at these locations is almost non-existent, so those looking to spend money should focus on St. Maarten. Cayo Levantado (Samana area of the D.R.) is rustic, unspoiled, and beautiful with rugged hillsides and lush tropical foliage. This is the most memorable stop on the entire cruise. The show performers on this cruise are fantastic  the best I have seen on any ship. Plan to take full advantage of their talents by seeing all the shows. The captains party was quite an affair with strong drinks, caviar canapEs, and live music/dancing. Despite 12 foot seas and strong winds, the Opera sliced through the water with ease. Given my experiences on other ships, I was surprised by the overall lack of rocking and rolling. A couple who sailed the Opera last year reported that the overall experience has gone downhill. They described a more sophisticated, European experience last year that they found lacking on this cruise. Perhaps the attempts at Americanizing this line are dumbing down the overall product. Conclusion You might be thinking from my comments that I did not enjoy the cruise  quite the contrary! While the ship experience itself left some to be desired, the combination of the itinerary, on-shore experiences and friends made on board really made for a memorable experience that I would not be interested in trading. Im just not sure Ill be doing it again on MSC anytime soon. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Opera  Back to the Caribbean  1/14/06 Preface: This was originally posted, on 1/22/06, on the Cruise Critic Community Board, which led to some questions and allowed for clarification based upon those questions. The biggest ... Read More
Opera  Back to the Caribbean  1/14/06 Preface: This was originally posted, on 1/22/06, on the Cruise Critic Community Board, which led to some questions and allowed for clarification based upon those questions. The biggest clarification is that we did, in fact, have a great cruise! This was directly due to the group we were with. There are issues mentioned here specifically to help those who follow also have the best possible cruise. We returned late last night from the first Opera Caribbean cruise of the season (more on late last night later). A little background so our perspective can be understood  We are an almost mid-50s couple. We are Platinum on Princess and reached Select on Celebrity with the two day cruise just prior to boarding Opera. DH has schedule flexibility as long as he has internet access. Generally, vacation limitations are mine in both amount of time and when I can take that time. As of January 15th of this year we had managed 25 days at sea out of the last 365 starting with a 7 day Grand Princess Western then 14 day Galaxy TA, 2 day Century Bahamas and the first two days of MSC Opera. This is highly unusual for us since we generally do 3 cruises every 18 months due to my limited vacation time. When we look at cruises, our primary concern is ports, with either new or favorites winning. Opera had one favorite (St. Maarten) and two new ports (Dominican Republic). Booking MSC  we had two groups of friends who booked this cruise as soon as the schedules came out. Only 1 of the 14 others that booked had sailed MSC before. We planned to book it last season (its first) but the scheduling did not work due to other commitments. We received many reports from the first season cruisers and felt that this would be a good fit for us. We were looking forward to the European flavor of the cruise since we had enjoyed it on the MS Carousel a few years ago. We didnt book until mid December due to outrageous air costs from the Chicago/Milwaukee metro area. We finally hit a brief window with reasonable flight times and air prices and immediately booked. The original plan was to fly down on 1/13 and spend the night in FLL pre-boarding. However, we discovered that flying down on the 12th and taking a two day Century cruise pre-embarkation worked out to be the same price and put us up to Select so we jumped on it. Another friend on MSC with us did the same to be taken to Elite level on Celebrity. Expectations  Based upon last season reports, we had developed certain expectations for this cruise. During the interim, there was a top level management change that directly impacted those expectations. Of the expectations that did not work, we expected reasonably priced drinks along with multiple drink specials per day. We also expected real iced tea being served poolside along with gelato. Additionally, we had some other expectations based upon cruising both Princess and Celebrity, which did not work on this cruise (more later). Embarkation  We were off the Century by 9:15 which is the fastest that we have ever disembarked. Our original intention was to stay on Century as long as we could (we were close to the last group off) then drop off our luggage and take a cab to meet friends at their hotel. We took a cab over to the Opera terminal when we disembarked. Another Chicago area couple was already there and waiting when we arrived. Porters were not available so we decided to wait for them rather than lug our luggage all over FLL to meet friends who would be boarding later. Porters showed up at about 10:30 but we had to wait until the cabin assignment sheet came out so we could get the cabin number on our tags. We had two separate groups on this cruise. One member of the smaller (six of us) group was considered a VIP due to the number of cruises that she takes and our cabin assignments were based upon hers. We had all booked inside guarantee and we were given cabins 10218-10230 which were the top level of the inside cabins. Once luggage was handed over to the porter (Yes, we did tip), we proceeded to the terminal lounge and waited for processing. Once processed, we returned to our seats and waited for boarding. We followed the back to backers and the handicapped to board and were on the ship by 12:10. Our escort took us to our floor and left after pointing us in the right direction. Cabin  compact, attractive and generally workable. It definitely looked 30 sq. ft less than the Century inside cabin that we had just left. Century had two chairs and a table at the foot of the bed but this cabin only had room for 1 chair at the desk and it blocked getting off the bed when in use. Cabin came with mini bar set up in the refrigerator that actually kept things cold. Two power outlets above the desk meant that we did not need the power strip that we brought (however, it appears that they did not handle battery or cell phones chargers very well). Tiny bathroom and shower finished off the cabin. Blow dryer in the bathroom was moderately better than Century. Exploring the upper levels - Our luggage had not arrived yet so we proceeded to the upper deck to check out the public areas. Deck 11 holds the Cafeteria (directly above our cabin), the open air multi purpose seating area (also has the omelet station, grill and pizza station), the pool, the Spa, the health club and the relaxation room. While we were wandering, the cafeteria opened and we decided to get in line to have a quick lunch of typical first day buffet food. Of note, Opera has large oval plates rather than trays. As all of this is going on, our cell phones were very busy keeping track of the individual members of our group and allowing us to finally get together when everyone was on board. Dining arrangements  It was not long before we realized that our pre-arranged dining did not happen which required a trip down to see Mario to make corrections. Both separate groups had the same problem and ended up standing in line to make changes. It ended up that we managed to get the tables straightened out but wound up in different dining rooms, which we decided to live with. Sail away  We returned to our cabin and unpacked prior to muster. Muster and then sail away was upon us (at least we thought so). Muster was directly to the outside deck station and went rather quickly then we were off to meet everyone by the pool bar as planned. The day had started out cold and extremely windy but this was our pre-arranged party location so we bundled up and headed up. When we finally had everyone, we moved into Il Patio to escape the wind. We attempted to sail away on schedule only to end up moving back into our berth. The Zuiderdam was directly behind us and the winds were so strong that she had to leave first or we could have easily blown into her. The additional time spent waiting to pull out of FLL and rough seas on Saturday/Sunday ended up taken from the San Juan stop, which meant that we were only there 3 hours. Seas were rough enough that I actually put on the patch as a precaution (I havent worn it on the last six cruises). One of our dinner companions did not make it due to seasickness and another valiantly picked at her meal. Ports San Juan: Shortened time due to late sail away and a rough trip over. This night was open seating in the dining room so we went down early for dinner in preparation for getting off. Part of the group went to the buffet and felt it was unsatisfactory. We arrived in port at 8:00 PM and were off by 8:30 with a required return of 10:45 PM. Most of our group disembarked and headed to Walgreens to pick up Diet Coke (ship was still serving Coke light) and a few other necessities. St. Maarten: We all went in different directions. Some went to Orient Beach and had a great time. Others took a city tour then shopped. We took the water ferry over to the shopping area and wandered about then relaxed in a cafe and people watched. We were the smallest of 4 ships in port on the Dutch side which accounted for the huge crowds. We had to be back on board for an early departure. La Romana: The group again went separate ways. One stayed on ship and the other five from our dinner table headed to the beach (Bayahibe) by van which cost us a total of $60.00 for 4 ½ hours on the beach . ($45 round trip including the first two hours then a reduced additional fee the next two ½ hours since we told him not to wait but just come back and pick us up). Everything we read indicated that we would probably not meet anyone who spoke English but many at Bayahibe did. Chair rental $5.00/chair. Band was playing close by for the entire time and cold Presidente beer at $2.00 each. It was a great beach and a great day! One of the couples did have lunch at the small restaurant and said it was good. Bathroom facilities were provided by the restaurant and were primitive but clean. We returned to the ship to change and grab something to eat since we were doing the ships Kandela excursion and it left prior to late seating. Had pizza and cheesecake from the buffet which was quite good. The five of us really enjoyed the Kandela show though we thought it was a bit over-priced since it did not appear to be the full show (due to our sail away time). We returned to the sangria sail away party on pool deck which was very well received. It was so successful that they ran out of Sangria before the music stopped. The party was brought to an end by the only rain that we had during the entire trip. Cayo Levantado: Private island. Actually owned by a group and leased to various cruise lines. Set up quite nicely. This was a tender and seas were (again) very rough. We went over when tickets were no longer required and found the rest of our group and beach chairs to relax and enjoy the music and sun. Lots of vendors (requires cash). We waited in line for 25 minutes to get the tender back to the ship and we were definitely running late since it was very difficult to hook up so we could board. Some ate at the beach BBQ and said it was good. We waited until we boarded and had pizza. Shops  This is an area with much less focus than other cruise lines. The included a clothing store with a small selection of MSC logo items and upscale resort clothing, a small jewelry shop, a perfume shop and an equally small duty free shop. Liquor purchased is supposed to be held until the last night. Reports upon our return indicated that this policy was not being followed in at least part of the cases. Cigarettes can be taken immediately and are very low cost at $11.90/carton. Positives (please note that many of these are highly subjective): 1) The ship. New ship with beautiful public areas and constantly being maintained and cleaned. 2) Pizza. A definite highlight for us though others did not like it. We did always watch for the new to be brought out which may have helped. 3) Pasta and Risotto (lunch and dinner in the dining room). 4) Chilled soups. 5) Fish and seafood entrees. 6) Entertainment Team (previously known as animation team). High energy and fun. Wonderful at getting people involved. 7) Shows  only missed one of the main shows but the rest were great. Since this really was a multi national cruise, it was a challenge to come up with shows that pleased all and they appeared to succeed. 8) Cabin Steward  Unofficially met her in the hall outside the cabin. She was very good. All you had to do was ask once and it was done immediately. 9) Our waiter. Also never introduced himself and had very limited command of English. It was a very slow start but we really appreciated him by the end of the cruise. He was more than willing to do whatever was needed to keep us happy. 10) Lively and fun pool area with the entertainment team keeping the fun going. 11) Great pool lounges with sun shield. 12) No corkage fee on wine brought to the dining room. 13) Availability of reasonably priced ½ and full carafes of house wine. 14) The galley buffet. This was something we have never seen done. The galley for La Caravelle dining room was set up with a buffet (separate of Grand Buffet) and it was fun to see the area where food was prepared. 15) Small aft deck on each of the passenger floors for a quiet place to watch the wake and relax. The other side (keep in mind that we had developed some pre-conceptions based on experiences on other lines and information received about Operas first season. 1) Too many passengers for the size of the ship. Many public rooms became impassable when entertainment was performing. The buffet at full operation had two lines running that went well out the door whereas the comparable Celebrity ship (passenger count) had 4 lines running. 2) Coffee. Coffee urns in Il Patio were emptied at 6:00 PM promptly. After that, (outside of dinner or room service) you need to purchase coffee which started at $1.50 for the plain ordinary and went up from there. Coffee service was missing at the evening buffets also including the Pastry buffet but could be purchased from the bar. We choose not to sit in the cabin waiting for room service so purchased large insulated mugs to fill prior to the cut off time. 3) Decaf is Sanka instant. I would have really enjoyed the coffee bar if they had real decaf to make the specialty coffees with but was not worth it with Sanka as a base. Later report from MSC corporate was that brewed decaf is, in fact, available in the Coffee bar along with the main dining room and buffet. 4) Lack of included cold beverages other than water outside of meals. The included iced tea at poolside is gone and replaced by cans of iced tea at a charge. Juice is removed from passenger access and not replaced with tea/lemonade as on most cruise lines. 5) Cups  Extremely small coffee cups which are even bigger than the water glasses in Il Patio. Styrofoam cups in Il Patio. Fortunately, I had my Galaxy water bottle with and we were able to pick up travel mugs for coffee in San Juan. 6) Very limited breakfast hours. Both buffet and dining room stopped serving at 9:30. Croissants were available in several locations until noon when the Grill, Pizza Station, Dining Room and Buffet opened. This really put breakfast out of the question for those who enjoyed sleeping late since room service has very limited options. 7) Large gaps in snacks or light dining options with a very limited room service menu. An interesting aside was that the original room service menu in our cabin (dated 11/05) had prices in it for everything other than continental breakfast. We found out that this was in error and our cabin steward corrected it with the right menu. The morning gap is followed by a gap after 6:00 PM until 11:30 when either waiters bring around snacks or a buffet is set up. Due to rough weather and times in port, many missed dinner and were left with very limited choices when they felt better or returned to the ship. 8) Very disorganized. Appears to be directly related to level of training. Cabin steward did not introduce herself or show the cabin amenities. The layout of the cabin is extremely close to that of Celebrity so we did not have a problem locating the safe but have heard from newbies that they had to ask. Wait staff in the dining room did not introduce themselves either. First two nights in dining room and could not get through that we wanted iced tea. Our waiter finally understood on the third night and actually found large glasses for it by the fifth night. There was not a single dining room meal where everyone at our table got everything they asked for. In some cases, we received more than we asked for. One night had some getting their salads first while other received their soup first. We received an invitation to a special cocktail party less than two hours prior to the party. We did not see it until ½ hour after the party started since that is when we returned to our cabin to get ready for dinner. Our VIP friend was invited to a special cocktail party. When she got there she noticed that she was the only single female. She finally figured it out when she saw the picture of her and the captain with the Happy Honeymoon cake in front of them. 9) Confusing information. We were told that there was a 3% charge to get cash on your sea card and that it must be handled at the bank. After multiple attempts at the bank, we finally went to the casino. Not only was it not a problem but we increased the amount slightly and there was no surcharge. 10) Beef entrees  ok to not very good. 11) No wine steward available for those who preferred that method of ordering. 12) Time management. We went down to the duty free shop during their listed open hours and they said to come back later since they were re-stocking. We came back when they suggested and they told us to come back in another hour. This was during the hours that they were supposed to be open. 13) Things not happening as scheduled. A shop bazaar was scheduled for the last sea day but none of us ever found it. Sandwiches were scheduled after San Juan sail away but we finally went to bed after seeing no sight of them or waiters in any of the public lounges. 14) Lack of announcements when we were free to disembark in port. However, art auctions and other announcements were often made. 15) Excursion Desk. We did not receive info on tours until embarkation. We went to the excursion desk to get information on available tours and transportation in La Ramona and it took 15 minutes and many questions to finally get a copy of a price listing for cabs since they had no information on the tours that they were offering. 16) Casino. Very small and few chairs for slot machines. 17) Drink prices. MSC went from possibly the lowest in the industry to very high with drink specials at $6.50. Number of drink specials were also cut back from multiple choices to 1 mixed cocktail choice per day or 1 Martini choice per day at $6.50 in the martini bar (This does include the tip). There have been reports from some on Lirica that there were $4.00 drinks for Happy Hour prior to dinner but this did not exist or we all totally missed it on Opera. There were also a couple of times when Sangria was an additional special at $3.00/glass and a very big hit. One couple that we were with just got off Sea Princess where the same cocktail was 50% less. 18) No quiet location in the pool area for much of the day. There are other locations for those who wish peace and quiet. 19) $12.00 per day auto tipping. This is the highest of the mass market tipping amounts. In this case, the question is whether many of those getting auto tips deserves them at all while those that do may be shortchanged due to the amount given to others. Recent information brings this whole tipping issue up as questionable. Some have indicated that these tips go toward salary and are not given as additional tips to the staff. I can neither confirm or deny this. I do know that if you wish to remove auto tipping then you need to do it early in the cruise. 20) The line is supposed to be Italian style but most of the staff that passengers interface with are not Italian or even European as on other lines and have very limited command of English. We booked Opera originally with the idea that this would be a lower cost way to get an extra cruise in each winter and offer a different experience than our normal mass market cruises. Per diem at booking was comparable to the other mass market lines but last years pricing of extras indicated that we would, indeed, save money overall. The changes with the start of this Caribbean season (in drink pricing and tips) brought the overall costs up and put MSC in direct competition with X and Princess where we have accrued Captains Club benefits. Up until disembarkation all the above listed negatives were just nuisances which did not impact the enjoyment of our cruise and would not remove MSC from consideration when we booked our next cruise (based upon attractive pricing and itinerary). In reality, we thought many of them amusing to downright funny. We were told by Brits that were on with us (having made the transatlantic crossing) that things dramatically improved when we Americans boarded the ship. The improvements, in their opinion, covered not only the quality of food but, even, the hours that it was available. It seems that the grill and pizza shut down at 2:30 every day during the crossing. Disembarkation  this is where it alleviates MSC from our possible cruises. We were supposed to dock in FLL at 7:00 AM. None of us are sure of exactly what happened to change that. The official information from the bridge was that the harbormaster would not allow us in due to high cross winds. We did not reach the dock till close to 11:00 and were beaten in by Hal, Princess, Celebrity and Carnival that I could actually see. We had friends who had missed their early flights but we were still hoping to make our 12:40 flight at this point. Occasional announcements were made but didnt do much to clear up the question that all of us had about when we would be able to disembark. At 12:00, we realized that there was no chance that we would make our flight. Unfortunately, we had 3 cell phones and they were all dead. For some reason they did not charge correctly in the cabin. DH went down to the desk to ask to use a phone to contact our airline. He was told NO. He was told that there was a public phone for passenger use in the terminal, which he could use when we disembarked. However, he was given no indication of what time that disembarkation would take place. A lengthy discussion did not change their minds. He spotted a friend and was able to use their phone to notify our airline of the problem. The airline had seats available on the 1:45 and the 8:45 flights but we were advised to not do anything over the phone and to just see the rep at the airport. If we had not notified them in advance, we could have been out a considerable amount of money for a last minute booking. We were still on the ship when our original flight left and we made it to the airport 5 minutes too late to make the 1:45 flight. They booked us on the 8:45 at no extra charge and we ended up renting a car and going out to Sawgrass Mills until it was time for our late flight. We were in a similar situation with Royal Caribbean many years ago and the treatment was like night and day. Royal Caribbean handled everything even though we had booked our own air. Did we enjoy our cruise? Yes, definitely! We were with great old friends and made some great new ones. We had a wonderful time! Most of the negatives were actually amusing as they were happening. That said, based on our experience on Opera and with the increased costs and the disembarkation mess we are unlikely to forego our Captain Clubs benefits and consider them again. Our biggest disappointment was that we were looking for something different to provide competition to Celebrity and Princess but this doesnt seem to be at that point yet. MSC appears to be caught between two worlds and doesnt appear to be getting the best of either. Only time will tell! I would be happy to answer any questions. I can be reached at donnaw7471@yahoo.com. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
The good: service from the non-italian staff is fantastic! seafood and pasta dishes are excellent spotless ship. very very clean! entertainment is the best! Really vegas show quality!!!! entertainment team is really good. The not so bad: ... Read More
The good: service from the non-italian staff is fantastic! seafood and pasta dishes are excellent spotless ship. very very clean! entertainment is the best! Really vegas show quality!!!! entertainment team is really good. The not so bad: Other food dishes in the dining room are not prepared consistently well, but still acceptable. Ask for omelettes or other dishes made with real eggs. Outside of meal times not much is offered. Room service menu is limited and not good. Burgers and hot dogs are not good either (available 1200-2100hrs). Pizza is not bad, but not great. The bad: Dealing with the Italian staff (reception, excursions, etc). The tipping policy! : make sure you opt out of the mandatory tipping of 12.00/day/person that is added to your bill. This money is not given to the staff as a bonus for good service, it is merely used to pay the service staff their fixed salaries. Instead, give a cash tip at the end of the cruise. They work really hard for this money. Don't give it to the cruise line! 2 of 3 excursions cancelled at the discretion of MSC! Bioluminescent tour in San Juan and snorkeling at Cayo Laventado. Don't count on this line honouring any excursions that you book with them. Any complaints regarding the cancellation or mishandling of excursions will fall on deaf ears! The Italian staff at reception and at the excursion desk will do nothing to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the customer! One of the excursions was taken to the wrong place in St. Maarten. snorkeling was supposed to be the excursion, but the tour group was only offered kayaking instead. Money for the excursion was not refunded even though the group paid for snorkeling and didn't get to snorkel!!!! Casino has limited hours of operation and is small The gym on board has crappy equipment, the location is nice. Embarkation is really slowed by the ship photographer trying to take everyone's picture. Many of us in the lineup bypassed this. All passengers are escorted to their rooms by staff- nice touch Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around 11:30 and were on the ship by 12:15. It was a very smooth process. Upon arriving on the ship you are greeted with a line of white gloved crew members and one of them escorted you directly to your ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around 11:30 and were on the ship by 12:15. It was a very smooth process. Upon arriving on the ship you are greeted with a line of white gloved crew members and one of them escorted you directly to your cabin. You don't have to hunt for your cabin. We then went to the buffet for a lunch and had plenty of time to explore the ship before the lifeboat drill. The Ship: The Opera being new is very clean. All the public areas are large and very bright and clean with plenty of seats. The public rest rooms are large and were always very clean. Our cabin wasn't very large , but has plenty of storage space. The bathroom for a new ship was rather small. The shower was small and didn't give a normal size person room to turn around. The safe was hidden behind the mirror and was awhile before we found where it was. Our cabin was very clean and comfortable. We didn't get a towel animal or chocolate left on our pillow at night, but we did get fresh fruit left in our cabin every night. I found the daily program wasn't as informative as found on other ships and it was slipped under your door instead of being left on your bed. Itinerary: This wasn't the best times and places to be. We were in Old San Juan from 5PM -11 PM. This didn't give you much daylight time to explore the island . Then we went to St Maarten. Again we were only there from 9AM - 3 PM. We took a nice tour of the island, but didn't have any time to shop at the end of the tour. Had to be back on the ship by 2:30. Then they took us to La Romana in the Dominican Republic. We were there 12 hours and unless you went on a tour, there was NO place to walk to or go. The private Island of Cayo Levantado was the most wonderful place to go. It was the best part of the entire cruise. Food: The meals were not the best I have ever had. This was my 8th cruise and the worst food as far as selection goes. Being Italian cruise line, you get pasta every night, but the steaks weren't the best. The dining room is under staffed. Our waiter who worked very hard had to wait on you, do drinks, water etc. Most of the time we didn't get a refill o water and Never had a bar person come around for service. Unless you went to the dining room with a drink, which we learned to do, you didn't get one. The second formal night they did give you free champagne and they had flaming baked Alaska. The hours for breakfast at the buffet was over by 9:30 AM We had pizza that was excellent. They actually made it there. It was fresh pizza. Entertainment: The shows at night were the best I've seen on a cruise ship. The entire entertainment crew were just the best. The comedy team of young people were very entertaining before the main shows. They were so funny they made tears come down my face. The cruise: The pool area was very large with 2 full pools and hot tubs in between them. One pool was where a lot of pool side programs were held and the other one was rather quiet. The average age on this cruise was probably 60. There was only a handful of children on board. Debarkation: Debarkation was as smooth as getting on. All the same color tags were put in different lounges. They checked and our lounge every one had the same color tags. In 1 1/2 hours everyone was off the ship. Overall, I had a good time, but this wasn't the best cruise I have been on. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
BIO: I along with my wife have been on 14 previous cruises. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, Century, and yes even Disney. By far this has been the worst cruise yet. EMBARKATION: First, the ship on the previous sailing had ... Read More
BIO: I along with my wife have been on 14 previous cruises. Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, Century, and yes even Disney. By far this has been the worst cruise yet. EMBARKATION: First, the ship on the previous sailing had not arrived till 10 am. We always get to the ship early to beat the lines and unwind. However, as we got to the gate we were told we could not enter the port and was turned around. We were told that we would have to wait till 1 p.m. To add further insult to injury the port security told the cab driver a specific place to drop us off (the Causeway & 14th).Like we're locals and really know the area. We hailed another cab which took us another way to the port and we still had to wait in the sun in a parking lot. We were fortunate enough to find chairs to sit in and drink watered down juice that was offered from the cruise line. But the cruise line did not go out of their way to accommodate the many passengers who had no chairs to wait outside in the sun. Once inside the embarkation went pretty smooth. ON BOARD:The ship is very nicely decorated. They greet you with the white glove service upon the ship to escort you to your room. However, our escort got lost taking us to our room lol. ROOM: Room was spacious,clean and bright. Shower leaves much to be desired for anyone over 150 lbs. For all the men there is enough closet space for his and mostly hers. ENTERTAINMENT: Was not that bad. I would rate it a six. Lot of body parts showing (the European style and way of life). PUBLIC SPACES: Very spacious and many places just to sit and relax or talk. Never felt claustrophobic or contained. The casino is a disappointment, it's very small and the tables were hardly ever open and there were no denomination machines such as $.25, $.50, $.05. You just used tokens which I believe were equivalent to U.S. $.25. There were only about 20 slot machines. The best room was the relaxation room adjacent to the gym. A soundproof room with wicker chairs and subliminal style music playing subtly. FOOD: Was a big disappointment!!!!! Alternate dining served the same food as in the dining room at that moment. Food was the same day to day just garnished and prepared differently. Not a large assortment of products. Food for the most part was bland and over or under cooked. The lobster had more breadcrumbs than lobster (disgusting). The Neapolitan Grand Buffet was a joke!! First it was held in the galley and you did not get a chance to take pictures because they started carving and eating the layout before 1/4 of the people had the chance to see the designs. The Grand Buffet Magnifique proved lightning does strike twice. There was no order with the line and they opened the doors 1 hour later than scheduled. By the time you got to the layout half of it was already eaten, because as you go around you grab food at the same time. Overall, the appearance of the ship is a 10. Very elegant and a lot of marble and brightly toned. Entertainment a 6. If you're European it would be a 10. Food a 4 and that's being generous. Rooms a 8 cause they need a real shower otherwise the rooms were excellent. MSC service is good for the Mediterranean and Europe. But if they expect to run with the big boys in the North American market (RCL, CCL, NCL, HAL, Disney, Princess, etc.,.) they have to step it up a notch. Otherwise, they will not make it. I will never ever cruise MSC again. Even if I won it as a gift, I would trade it in for the cash value. If you have been on any other cruise line then don't waste your time you will be disappointed. You get what you pay for and MSC is the truth to that. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
The Opera is a lovely Italian ship with ample public space; super clean, good entertainment but unpredictable food. Embarkation was ok, a bit confused as usual. We were met by white gloved staff who showed us part way to our cabin, a free ... Read More
The Opera is a lovely Italian ship with ample public space; super clean, good entertainment but unpredictable food. Embarkation was ok, a bit confused as usual. We were met by white gloved staff who showed us part way to our cabin, a free upgrade from an outside to one of their best balconies, mid ship, on the 10th floor deck. I felt like I won the lottery. We had previously cruised on the Opera February 2005 so knew what to expect. The cabin was very clean. MSC uses a dual steward system, one cleans only toilets and the other the linens etc. Seemed like the sheets were changed at least 5 times on a 7-day cruise! They also have staff detailed constantly cleaning all surfaces, banisters, tables etc. The balcony was cleaned twice at least too. The public areas are beautiful and always have Italian or other popular music. The bars serve good drinks, the Italian grappa, aperitifs, and bitters are not to be missed. There were two very nice cocktail parties, one for repeaters, with ample champagne and real martinis and manhattans. The unique Animation team is no more, replaced by a lower key Entertainment team synonymous with those on other lines. There are now art auctions (yeah!) and bingo (boo!). The entertainment remains top-notch European style. On board stores had more MSC logo items and a good selection of Italian goods. Ports of call were good; we went to a bar in San Juan, shopping in St. Maarten and a lobster lunch. The Dominican Republic ports were new to me and MSC gave out little info. Cayo Levantado was a lovely private beach and at La Romana we skipped the town to go the wonderful beach at Caso del Campo, a $10 cab ride. Now for the bad news, MSCs food is still very spotty. I think I actually lost weight! Breakfast is OK, but MSC seems to think grilled Spam is a substitute for ham. Coffee and ice cream are excellent on MSC. Lunches were better and dinners were abysmal to decent. MSC is a big one for canned food, the soups tasted like Campbells bean soup or worse, leftovers. Prime rib was served almost raw. Lobster was good but no drawn butter. Frog legs surprisingly good but spoiled by inedible over salted veggies on the same plate. Pasta was very good; risotto ruined by addition of cheap ingredients like leftovers or canned shrimp. Pizza was good one time and horrendous other times, Velveeta and tuna fish topping anyone? Dont even think about eating the hamburgers or hot dogs. The buffet reminded me of the old high school cafeteria, you could go through the whole line and end up with nothing on your plate you wanted to eat, cold tinned peas or macaroni salad. The veal roast was composed of meat scraps, etc. MSC could produce decent food but they need to stick to Italian cuisine and stop using canned sauces or bland preparations. All in all, you might do as well at a High School or a hospital cafeteria. One gala dinner was a choice of chicken breasts or fish. The best meal I had was on the way home at Sals Italian restaurant in Stuart, Florida, a veal sandwich. Oh did I mention MSCs penchant for ruining good food by putting tepid brown gravy on top? Will I go on MSC again? I think so but they should really do something about the food. They need to stick to pasta, serve items they can actually prepare and stop serving canned food and Argentine meat. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
The ship was decent but nothing overly special. The nightly entertainment was excellent. The singers were excellent. However, on the first night, there should have been an "NC-17" warning on the song and dance routine. You can ... Read More
The ship was decent but nothing overly special. The nightly entertainment was excellent. The singers were excellent. However, on the first night, there should have been an "NC-17" warning on the song and dance routine. You can probably find cleaner entertainment at a lap dance bar. The dining restaurant had its shortcomings. It had more variety than other cruise ships that we have patronized but it tasted like the lasagna that I ordered (we had the late seating) was cooked for the first seating and then microwaved for me. There were very few announcements over the P.A. system flogging their sales. However, this means that you have to be very astute as to what is going on and when. The service in the buffet dining room was good. The attendants there would get you coffee, tea, or fruit juice when wanted. We were thankful that they upgraded our cabin but I found the shower stall very small. I am of average weight but found the stall very tight. Those who are battling a weight problem might find the stalls too small. The final two complaints I have are that fruit juice was only available during breakfast and the itinerary. I realize that the itinerary has no bearing on the review of the ship but I feel that that particular itinerary was poorly planned. Outside of the itinerary, I enjoyed the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Getting There is Half the Fun? Oy... you'd think it would be easy to get from the #1 US vacation destination to a major US port, but it isn't. The only direct flights eastbound were red eye ones, anything else entailed a long ... Read More
Getting There is Half the Fun? Oy... you'd think it would be easy to get from the #1 US vacation destination to a major US port, but it isn't. The only direct flights eastbound were red eye ones, anything else entailed a long layover. So I opted for the red eye and I will say that Song did a fairly good job with it. Since I haven't heard anyone mention them, I thought I'd take the opportunity to say a few things about it. First, this is an airline with a sense of humor. The safety lecture was actually a bit amusing, I don't remember ever smiling at one of those. There is some food available for sale, this can be arranged for on line or in flight. Menus are available. Television is free, as are the headsets. The ones they use have a single prong and fit into the ear so can't be used with ear plugs (I had ones to help with cabin pressure since I had hoped to sleep). Individual screens, many entertainment choices including PPV movies, customizable playlists for music and games along with flight info. No pillows, plenty of blankets. Each of them sealed in a plastic bag. One pass of the food/beverage cart early in the flight, another of water near the end. Flight was without incident, luggage arrived promptly and I went upstairs to await my cabin mate. It is not a lot of fun to be in a airport alone for an extended period of time. These days one has to lug their luggage everywhere... and there is no room in a bathroom stall for it... AND the chances of finding a seat when one returns is slim. But we did eventually meet up and shared a cab to the pier. Meeting Opera A pleasant surprise when we arrived... we were allowed to check in immediately and then to sit in a large comfortable waiting area. Juice and water were available to drink and this was our first chance to see the excursions information. They were also showing (and trying to sell) their wine packages.) Most of the group met up here and the wait to board seemed very short. On the ship a white gloved cabin attendant took my carryon and escorted us to the elevator where we were given instructions as to how to find our cabin. Having been in various inside cabins, I didn't expect too many surprises. Worthy of note is the fact that there's a large mirror over the bed instead of the usual curtain in an attempt to simulate a window. There was another mirror over the desk and a full length one on another wall. There were two closets and to make our clothing fit all I had to do was remove a few of their large hangers. Six drawers and some shelves behind another door. Shelves in the bedside tables. A lap drawer in the desk with enclosed shelf space on either side. Outlets in both 110 and 220, no adapter necessary (I had needed one on Melody). Two shelves over the bathroom sink and storage below it. Two shelves in the shower too. All in all plenty of storage. Lighting MUCH better than I had experienced on Melody. Enough to be able to read in bed. Wall mounted hair dryer in bathroom. The sort of shower I've come to expect with a moveable, removable hand held head and a temperature sensitive control. The shower drained well and even though we had rough enough seas to encourage holding on at times I never had water slosh over into the rest of the bathroom. Most of what was available on the television was news. There were several movies running continuously, one in each language. I couldn't find a way to get subtitles on the non-English ones (on Melody a movie was always subtitled... of course neither language could be counted on to be English) Nadia was our cabin attendant and she stopped by to introduce herself and check to see if we had any special needs. She seemed to be a nice young woman, but that was the only conversation I had with her all week. By then I was getting hungry (remember that red eye... I had brought Cheerios with me and that was all I had had to eat since leaving home) and we went in search of lunch. Opera Time Our first clue about "Opera time" came with our docs. Initially we had been told that the dinner times were (roughly) 6 and 8, but the docs said 7 and 9. IMO 7 is pretty ideal and on most cruises I'd "settled" for late seating (a bit late for my taste) rather than dining "too early". When we saw the times in the docs several of us opted to change from late to early. My happiness with that only lasted from the time we got our docs until shortly after boarding though, as it turned out that the times were indeed 6 and 8. The next incidence of Opera time was on boarding day. The Daily Program clearly said what time the buffet would be open, and lots of pax were there, but it didn't open until a half hour later. We kept being told it would open "soon" or I suspect that many of us would have gone away and come back. (To be fair, there were inspectors doing their thing and that may have been the cause of the time difference.) The last "annoyance" along those lines had to do with luggage. Two of us shared a cab and so our luggage was handed over at the same time to the same person. My cabin mate's single bag arrived promptly, my two were very delayed. As long as I see active signs of luggage being delivered I don't concern myself too much about such things, in fact this time I made jokes within earshot of the crew that it might be an interesting week with me naked. Of course I was actually well prepared, with enough clothing etc. for a full day in my carryon. When I was no longer seeing new bags in the hall and the door to the crew access was closed I called the desk. Nice lady asked how many bags and the size and color. She assured me that they were still distributing luggage. She called back later to make sure I had them (and I did). These were the ONLY examples of such things and were quite minor and were I not trying to be thorough I probably would have forgotten them by now. Opera Nights This trip confirmed my feelings about a couple of things on a cruise... the first is that I prefer late seating and the second that I really prefer a large table. I like the quiet time on deck while the early seating folks are getting ready for dinner and missed that the nights that I was one of them. And as I've often said the "dining experience" is a large part of why I cruise, a small table doesn't afford me the conversation and exchange that a large one does. Most of my meals at home are eaten right where I am now, in front of the computer, so I relish listening to live people and interacting with them. A large table shares the "burden" of that so that no one feels as though they have to carry the conversation. Portions for some courses at dinner were considerably larger than necessary. Pastas were enough for three or four people unless one intended them as an entree. Risottos likewise were in portions that were much too large for most people and the times I had them I shared. Even the night I intended my ravioli to be an entree I didn't finish it and instead had two things off of the dessert menu (gotcha... I had cheese and then a sweet) The menu itself required a careful eye since there was an "International Menu" on the left that sometimes had items that weren't listed elsewhere. One of the changes I saw that I liked was that MSC now had cold soups a few times. I tried and liked a couple of them. Cappuccino and espresso are bar drinks and not available at all in the dining room. The wine list looked to be pretty extensive and ranged from inexpensive wine by the carafe to over $100/bottle. There is no sommelier. I didn't see any bar service in the dining room and suspect that there isn't any. A wide variety of music is available in six different venues starting just before dinner and ending in the disco "whenever". (Speaking of the disco, it's the largest one I've seen on a ship. It's located on Deck 12, aft, with lots of windows. It's a beautiful place to be during the day and there's even some deck space outside.) Teatro Dell'Opera is a real theater and the shows were well attended and very much worth seeing. I would categorize most as "variety" shows, with dance, music, magic and acrobatic acts. All were a delight. The Animation team did pre show "things" some nights, and they were very funny. I'm not going to give anything away here. They also entertained in a couple of the lounges, putting on shows and dancing with the pax. Buon Giorno Opera There were several early risers greeting the dawn each day. You could tell it was early, there wasn't any hot milk next to the coffee and we had to help ourselves to what was there, but despite the hour there was a selection of teas available. I was a bit surprised that cocoa was not among the offerings. Breakfast began at 6:30 in the cafeteria and grills, 7 in the dining room. I looked at the dining room menu and decided that I would stick with the buffet for breakfast. My personal choice was fresh fruit, a piece of whatever frittata they offered, cheese, smoked whatever and (usually) a chocolate croissant. The idea (for me) is to eat something other than what I would have had at home. The buffet included scrambled and hard cooked eggs, sausage, bacon, hot and cold cereals, (including mueslis), various bread type things, fresh, dried and canned fruit, juices, yogurt and other less easily identifiable foods. Outside they had an omelet station and pancakes. I never got close enough to be sure of the exact offerings, but what I saw people eating looked pretty good. (I found it of some passing interest that the food in the buffet was labeled in English and ONLY in English. The dining room menu was in whatever language seemed to fit.) The Animation team did games and crafts in the mornings, along with some group exercise and there were fitness classes held in the gym (for a fee). The cabin attendants put out Do Not Disturb signs on the cabin doors, flipping them up in such a way that they would drop into a normal position when the cabin was vacated. I guess this was "nicer" than putting a piece of paper in the door, but the signs did sometimes fall onto the floor rather than remain hanging. If someone put a Do Not Disturb sign out themselves they ran the "risk" that it would be taken when the room was made up. (Someone told me that they had a problem hanging onto their sign) Baseball Greats on an Italian Ship? It does sound just a bit odd, but the cruise did originate in the US. Stan Bahnsen has been organizing and facilitating these groups. He was joined on Opera by Greg Luzinski, Pete Mackanin, Graig Nettles, Frank Howard and Gary Peters. They each had their wives and other family members with them. I had a chance to speak with each and invariably they were quite charming. There were several activities aboard that involved them such as clinics, video presentations, Q&A sessions, trivia and of course autographs. I am not particularly a baseball fan, but I'm the mother of one, so made sure I got everyone's signature and that's why all the photos with the players. I would suggest that anyone who goes on one of these in the future bring along a couple of baseballs as they were $25 in the gift shop. Where Does this Cruise Start? Apparently that depends on where one lives. For us it originated in Port Everglades, but for others in San Juan. Shopping Opera There were more shops with more choices than I had seen on Melody. They now have some MSC Crociere goods in the boutique, although nothing with any specific ship's name. They don't have magnets and they don't have made in China items with the names of the various ports on it. The DO have expensive Italian clothing which doesn't seem to be selling and some reasonably priced items such as polo shirts for $13 and baseball type caps for $4.80. There is a Duty Free shop which seemed to do a brisk business in liquor and cigarettes. The prices seemed good and alcohol could be purchased and taken back to one's cabin (although everything in writing said otherwise). There is also a pretty upscale jewelry store which sold 18K gold and diamond jewelry along with some less expensive items. Finally they had a perfume and cosmetic shop which was usually pretty quiet. While I did go in, I don't know how the prices were, maybe someone else did? You Call This Art? I don't usually go to these things, but did last week because the subject comes up so often... They said frames were included, with upgrades (for a fee of course) available. Shipping $35. "Fee" of (I think) 15% (I don't get that one) Most things were available in almost endless numbers, but some were supposedly originals. There was a viewing and only those pieces that someone had expressed an interest in were presented. There was almost no real bidding, prints were sold at the price that was presented, only bidding on the originals. I enjoyed my glass of champagne and didn't buy anything nor did I go to any other of their presentations. Oops As I've mentioned, I cruised with MSC before and knew that there was going to be a repeat cruisers' party. Since I had passed the info on my status along when I booked I had expected an invitation which never came. When I asked about it I found that I wasn't the only one who didn't automatically get an invitation, that several people had only been invited because they had spoken up in time. I guess I missed out on a glass of champagne. Singles There was a meeting for the Singles at 11am on the second day. This was attended "mostly" by women. Champagne was served and it was just an opportunity to meet and chat. I'm not sure why men don't seem to go to these things as I know that there were several single men aboard who didn't attend. Formal Nights As is typical on a 7-night cruise, there were two of these. The first was the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party. Only thing of note was that this took place in two venues. The Captain and Staff were in the Caruso Lounge. If one didn't care about that aspect of the party, they could go to the Sotto Vento Pub. Photos This is one of the things I wish they hadn't changed. Opera is handling photos the way other lines do. They print them and try to sell them. Of course since most are thrown away, the ones which are sold are at very inflated prices. (On Melody only a few were printed and pax selected what they wanted from a computer. Because that kept their costs down prices were lower.) But the photographers seemed to be less intrusive. For example they didn't stop people on the gangway to take pictures, they were taken on the pier and it was very easy to avoid them. Library Good, but as happens most times with limited hours. One or two in the morning, two in the afternoon. Towels and Chairs Opera has the same type of chairs that impressed me on Melody. There were more than enough for the number of pax aboard. Beach towels were available on deck. One was supposed to give the pool attendant their cabin number and sign for them. Arrivederci Opera This is another thing that they did very well. Colored luggage tags were distributed the night before we left and we were assigned to a place to wait between vacating our cabins and when we left the ship. Because they had some control, there wasn't the crowding I'd experienced other times and everyone was assured of a comfortably seat. I saw one of the young ladies from the Animation team during this time and she appeared to be on the verge of tears. I suspect this was all very new for her and every bit as difficult as any farewell could possibly be. When my color was called, I walked off the ship, quickly found my luggage exactly where it was supposed to be and headed out. Every 15 or 20 feet a smiling person was stationed to keep us headed in the right direction. You all know the drill... show your passport... hand over the Custom's declaration and out the door. I got onto a 12 pax van almost immediately and was at the airport in a matter of minutes. A full TEN hours before my flight was scheduled. Some of you may be aware that there was a lot of wet weather in the Eastern part of the US Saturday. So many flights were delayed that even those that started out on time got caught up circling FLL long periods of time. I tried to check my luggage when I got there and was told that I had to wait, inside they would take bags within two hours of flight time, outside four. As much as it was a pain for me, I understood why it was that way. At about 2:15 I asked (inside) about checking in and since there wasn't a line I was able to. Took just a few minutes and I headed right to security, commenting that it felt as though I were skiing when I was zigzagging through where long lines had earlier snaked. The man at the x-ray machine said they had been waiting for me... so you get the idea. But on the other side... what a mess! People all over. Most seats taken, people laying on the floor. I heard stories of flights that had been canceled, delays of hours. I met people from all over the country and just as I had done the Saturday before, spoke with both of my sons while waiting. My flight (Song again) came from NY and while it was in FLL air space on time, it circled a long time and was about an hour late landing. They changed over as quickly as possible and even thanked us for our cooperation once we were ready for take off. I hope that when the Song/Delta dust settles they don't lose what's good about Song. I did read that they might be adding a First Class to their planes. The present cabin configuration will make that very easy, in fact the planes appear to have been built with that intention. The rest of the trip home was uneventful although it had been a VERY long day. My Final Thoughts To get the obvious out of the way, I'm a fan of MSC Crociere. That's what got me to book my first GGC and I have no regrets about having gone. It was good to see that ships are still being built that I find esthetically pleasing. Good to see people again that I hadn't seen in a long time, good to see others that I hadn't met before. Another thing they seemed to do well was how they handled large groups. While we certainly knew that the polka group was aboard, and there were 400 of them, their activities were kept separate from the rest of the pax. There were so many smaller groups aboard that the ship had one large cocktail party for all of them in the disco. Our group had a wine and gift exchange the last day, also in the disco, and there didn't seem to be a problem with our having brought bottles in. I don't know what Cal did to arrange it, so I wouldn't suggest anyone try to walk around overtly with their own alcohol. I went ashore at Cayo Levantado. Since I haven't been to any other lines "private island", I don't have anything to compare it with... but I can tell you that it was BEAUTIFUL! Soft clean sand... long curving beach. Shade. Plenty of chairs. Live music. Bar. I went early and left before lunch was served, but I know others from the group were there later so maybe they will comment. There is an ice cream bar open in the afternoon... they had fancy ice cream based drinks for $6.50 (I think) and sundaes topped with cookies for $3.50. People were eating them, so they much have been pretty good... but there was ice cream and sherbet in the dining room at lunch and dinner every day. You may have thought to wonder how I dealt with my dinner issues. Those who know me won't be surprised to learn that I started going to both seatings, usually eating at the late one. Our group had three tables early and one late, so it was a simple matter to join them. I was much more relaxed once I'd started doing that. We saw several versions of their tipping policy prior to sailing. They applied $12/pp/pd to our accounts. I noticed that several in our group had it taken off and tipped directly. If/when I were to decide to cruise again, MSC would be a likely line for me. It supplies a combination of things that fit me reasonably well. http://community.webshots.com/user/thoseeyes48 Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Our experience 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 ... Read More
Our experience 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 writers 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 goodbye 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. Dont 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. Maarten 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 didnt 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. Maarten- 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 Campos luxurious yacht marina for a round trip cost of $6 pp from a shuttle at the ships 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 ships 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 youll want to be in one of the first tenders over to enjoy every single second. It is gorgeous. The bluest, clearest water of any weve 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. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
My wife and I have been on over 25 cruises including many of the Celebrity and Holland America ships as well as Cunard, Princess, and the older Home Line. Only one time on a Carnival Cruise and that still remains our worst experience. ... Read More
My wife and I have been on over 25 cruises including many of the Celebrity and Holland America ships as well as Cunard, Princess, and the older Home Line. Only one time on a Carnival Cruise and that still remains our worst experience. First the simple things. Embarkation and debarkation were by far the easiest and best organized of any of our cruises. We arrived at the pier a bit early (10:45) since we did not want to wait for the Courtyard shuttle and caught a cab direct to the pier. At 11:05 they opened the doors to security and registration. By 11:10 we were escorted up to the ship level at the terminal and at 11:20 we boarded the ship. We did have a bottle of vodka and sherry in our carry on bags. They went through the scanner with no issue what so ever. Again it is a case of if you don't flaunt it and it is for cabin use only I don't think MSC has an issue. They do collect the boxes of alcohol that people buy in the ports and hold it for you but it appeared that if you were only bring back a bottle in your beach bag there was not a problem. Some have said that if you buy in the ship's duty free you can bring a bottle back to your cabin but we don't know that for sure. We were escorted to our Cabin (8180), an outside room, no balcony. On the way up to the room I did put our name on the list at the registration desk for a possible upgrade to a balcony room. The room was very bright and clean. The configuration was set up with two twins. We knew it could be turned into a double but decided to wait until we found out about the upgrade. The ship is absolutely beautiful and as clean as any ship we have ever seen. Every public room is bright and well laid out. The lunch buffet opened about noon and was pretty typical for boarding day. We went for the pizza and Italian sandwiches at the pizza ovens. I think the sandwiches are called Stromboli's. The pizza was and continued for the cruise to be the best we have ever had aboard ship. Made by hand (no rolling machine) with 3 different types every day. Always had at least 4 pizzas in the oven so it was always fresh and hot. In the same area there was a pasta station every day. Again fresh to order with varied types every day. At 1:00 PM I went to check on the status of upgrades. The information desk said they might not know until departure. However when I went down to check on our luggage there was a note from the Head Housekeeper to see her about an upgrade. Next thing I knew we were moving everything to 10053, a balcony cabin at a very nominal fee. The room was identical to 8180 except for the balcony. It makes a great difference however. The cabin are undoubtedly the smallest we have ever sailed on except maybe an inside cabin on the old Oceanic. The storage space is adequate for a 7 day cruise. We really missed the lack of sitting space inside the cabin. Fortunately the weather for the week could not have been better and we used the balcony as a sitting area whenever we wanted. The bathroom is small with very small showers but the water pressure was great with plenty of hot water. I am 6 Ft. under 200 and was barely comfortable within the shower. We spent the afternoon wandering the ship and admiring the public areas. Access from deck to deck was very easy. For the most part food is in the stern area. Entertainment and lounges from the middle to the bow. The first night dinner set the pace so I will only comment on the dinners once.. We had late seating, table 42, Sergio from Romania was our waiter, he was great and we highly recommend him. Dinner quality was very good, 2-3 appetizers, 2 salads plus Caesar salad anytime, 2 soups usually 1 cold 1 hot, choice of a pasta or risotto every night. Our table was universal in how good this course was every night. I especially like the risotto and had a different one nearly every night. Main courses always had a meat, seafood, and vegetarian dish. Steak Chicken and grilled fish was always available. Contrary to other comments I have seen the beef was excellent 3 out of 4 times (1 time just OK) and never saw a strange gravy. They may have changed meat purveyors and are now using a US based provider. The fish was also outstanding and perfectly cooked. Desserts were OK. Always Ice Cream that was very good. In general desserts are good if you are not looking for sweet things. A little bland for American tastes. Some items we really enjoyed included Lobster Bisque, Smoked Duck appetizer, Shrimp Cocktail, Fettuccine Alfredo, Pear Risotto, Potato Gnocchi, Halibut with Hollandaise sauce, Salmon, any of the beef dishes including prime rib. Lack of a wine steward and recommendations from someone who knows wine was a definite disadvantage. However, they do have a very good, moderately priced wine list. Usually about 2 to 2 ½ US retail but remember all alcohol pricing included gratuities so if you want to compare to other cruise lines deduct at least 15% from the menu price. We did not meet the Maitre D', his Assistant, or a Head Waiter the 1st night, or the 2nd, or the 3rd, or the 4th, or the 5th or the 6th. In fact we did not see them the last night either. Expected them around looking for a tip but they never showed. There were couple of the carts normally used to prepare special dishes or table side preparations but they just collected cobwebs on our cruise. I will mention that we elected to NOT have tips automatically added to our bill. We believe in making our own decisions on amounts. We may have over-tipped our Waiter and his assistant but that is our prerogative, not the cruise line. I might as well mention now that our cabin was kept very clean except for not bringing fresh glasses each day, but we never met or even saw our cabin stewardess or her assistant. We know that it was a stewardess rather than a steward because it was written on our comment forms. We did not over-tip them. You have all seen reviews that indicate good entertainment and a good cruise activity group called Animation. Animation is their European name, here in NA they were just called the Entertainment Group. They are not good. THEY ARE GREAT. Evening entertainment is excellent, both in the lounges and in the main theater. The Animation group seems to be working 24 hours a day. I have never seen such passenger participation and it can be directly contributed to this group. Their multi-lingual capabilities are astounding. At one dance lesson I observed (didn't participate) the Animation leader was explaining the steps in 5 different languages, English, French, Italian, Spanish, and just a little bit of German. That will also give you a flavor for the passenger mix. Very few announcements but always multi-lingual. It was hard to estimate the mix but it might have been 50 % North America and 50% other if you include Puerto Rico. One thing that we did not experience was any rude group of passengers. Everyone we met or saw were there to have a good time. Very little rudeness in lines and few people with vocal complaints. There is a cruise director, Franco, however he does not seem to participate in very many passenger activities. Other than the initial ship introduction in the theater, the only time we saw him was at quick and sometimes hokey introductions of the evening show and then he disappeared. During the introduction to the ship he seemed like he didn't even know the ship very well and had to be constantly prompted by other cruise personnel to remind him to mention a ship's area or activity. Maybe his major tasks are administrative. The unusual evening stop at San Juan is also geared for discharging and embarking quite a few passengers. We wish we knew they did that. We may have opted to start and end our cruise in PR rather that Florida. We had been to San Juan many times and elected to leave the ship for an hour or so to use the Internet Cafe that is across from the pier and to have a margarita at Senor Frogs. The Internet Cafe is about 1/10th the cost of Internet access on the ship. Access on the ship is prohibitively expensive and I heard that it was very, very slow. The Breakfast buffet was very disappointing. There is definitely a European emphasis in the buffet. Salads, cold meats and cheeses, hard boiled eggs and hot dogs. The scrambled eggs were probably powdered but I only tried a couple of mouthfuls, The breads, rolls, and croissants were excellent but other than melon and baked apples, most of the fruits ere canned. They need to find someone who can cook bacon. It was either under or over cooked usually in the same pan. The sausages were typical precooked and heat, like you would find in the frozen food section of a grocery. There is an egg, pancake, and omelet station where the burgers and hot dogs are available during the day but it tends to have lines and limited ingredients for the omelets. There was never waffles or French toast available. We did not have breakfast in the dinning room but I believe it would be much better that the buffet. I usually went up and brought back a plate of croissants and melon to our cabin and sit on the balcony. We always travel with our own coffee maker and coffee so we did not have ship coffee in the morning nor did we ever need room service except for more ice. They were always amazingly fast in response to that request usually every afternoon. The luncheon buffet was also disappointing to us although we saw many, many people with heaping platefuls every day. Lots of salads, some of them strange. Usually 3 or 4 hot choices like a pasta dish, meat dish that looked a lot like one of the dinner entrees, and some type of fish. Always a carving station, beef, turkey, veal, and one day sucking pig, head and all. Again, we did not use the dining room for lunch. We usually opted for a green salad and some of the great pizza and pasta. My wife and I did not like the hamburgers. Some type of spice we could not determine. The hot dogs were good but no sauerkraut or chili. The grill and pizza stations are open all afternoon until just before dinner. There is a dinner buffet for those that do not want to use the dining room. We looked at it one evening and it appeared that many of the items on the dining room menu were also at the buffet. In general we were pleased with the quality of the dinners. They were comparable in quality and taste to latest Celebrity and Princess, (none of them are as good as they were 5 to 10 years ago) but not as many choices. The service from our waiter and his assistant was excellent. He had good recommendation of food selection, too bad he didn't know anything about wines. It was very unusual to have to refill our own wine glasses. Last Celebrity cruise I had my hand slapped for reaching for the bottle to refill my wife's glass. As I said we had late seating usually in the dining room from 8:15 to 10:15, just in time for the late show in the theater. The shows were very good. The only one that we decided to leave was a classical show that included a very good pianist, violin, soprano, and tenor. Heard they were excellent but it is not our cup of tea. Other nights included a decent magician and illusionist. It is hard to have great illusions on ship's stage but he did pretty good. Some great gymnasts and dancer for the variety shows. The lounge groups were pretty good. The piano bar is usually our favorite spot but this one used a synthesizer as well as the piano and it was too loud for easy conversation. We found the bartenders and drink servers very aloof. Never very friendly, never much for conversation, except among themselves. To say they don't push drinks is an understatement. Usually you had to solicit their service and some times interrupt their private conversations. We like a good martini bar but the choices at the La Cabala that serves as the martini bar on Opera left a lot to be desired. We were very disappointed that we were unable to satisfy our once a cruise extravagance of caviar. It is not offered at any price on the Opera. You probably have read that the lounge chairs at the pool area are a little different. They do not have a lot of choice in the angle of the chair but they do have a built in sun screen if desired. We never had a big problem finding a chair at any time. There are still an awful lot of chair hogs all day long but there are always more chairs stacked in the corners of the deck and an attendant will get them for you and help move them to a space of your choice. The pool activities run by the Animation group are great and surprising not too noisy at any time. In fact if you go to the opposite end of the pool area you can barely hear want is going on. I have never seen a group draw as much passenger participation as this group. As I said they are great. One hint, bring a 16 Oz. cold drink container and some Crystal-lite individual lemonade or iced tea portions. Every time we went to the pool we filled the container with ice and water and made our own drinks. Nothing is available during the day and the juice cups in the morning are extra small. We did not use the Spa services at all so can't comment on them. The ships shopping is very limited. It almost seemed drab compared to other ship shopping areas. Incidentally the Art Auctions are there, but not very obtrusive, many people went there just for a free glass of champagne. Inch of Gold was only on deck the last day of the cruise and took up about 10 feet of deck space. These items are really not an issue on the Opera and have not created a negative situation. The casino is small and not very busy. It is open a lot less often than most other cruises we have recently been on. For example it is usually always closed between 6:30 and 8:30. This is when I usually would go there while my wife is getting ready for dinner but not on this cruise. The ship itinerary could use a little change and/or explanation. We arrived in San Juan around 4 and I really think they go there for loading and unloading passengers and it is incidental to the itinerary. We did not participate in any activity related to San Juan so we can't comment on any excursions. We have been to St. Maarten many times. We elected to just walk around the town for an hour or so, buy some t-shirts and went back to the ship for lunch and the pool. From everything I heard, it is just as easy to get you own cab if you are going to the beach and it is a lot cheaper. I don't understand why they leave St. Maarten so early. It seemed to us they could stay a couple of hours longer with out impacting the rest of the itinerary. There were 4 other ships when we got there and they were all still there when we left. Our next visit was La Romana. We decided not to use any ship excursions. We took the shuttle service that provided transportation to either the Casa De Campo Marina or Altos De Chavon or both for $6 person. We thoroughly enjoyed walking around the Marina for an hour or so. The yachts in the Marina are overwhelming. There were a few multi-million examples that must cost a million or so per year to maintain. We then got back on the shuttle to Altos. This again was an enjoyable walk for an hour. Great Chapel and views of the river and golf courses. Back to the ship just in time for lunch and a few more hours at the pool. The highlight of the trip was the beach at Cayo Levantado. We have been to a few cruise line private islands and none compare to the Cayo. Too bad the barbecue was not of the same quality. It was very disappointing. Overcooked burgers, chicken breast, and hot dogs. A couple of salads and a little fruit. The people who went on the whale watch saw many whales but also had a lot of very sea sick passengers. When we got back on the ship my wife went up to deck 12 and saw some whales passing right along side the ship. General Conclusions Food  Be a little adventurous. Just because a dinner item has a strange name don't dismiss it out of hand. Ask your waiter what it is like and if he recommends it or not. They don't want you unhappy but remember you can always ask for something else. If you are a breakfast person either head to the dining room or plan on making the omelet station your last stop at the buffet. Check out the lunch buffet but don't forget the pizza and pasta station. Don't miss the entertainment. Check the Daily Program and follow the activities that are being run by the Animation Group and you can't go wrong day or night. If you find the ship excursions expensive do some investigation here the boards and plan ahead. San Juan, St. Martin, and La Romana have choices that are safe and less expensive. If you run into any problems tackle them head-on. Don't wait until it either can't be corrected or has prolonged your disappointment. An example would be that you were seated at dinner with someone who is not compatible. Don't wait, go to the Maitre D' and he will solve that problem in a heartbeat. Understand in advance that the cabins are small and may seem cramped to you. Unless you have a suite the rooms are essentially all the same. We believe that most people felt they got their money's worth. A lot depends on expectations. This is not a 5 or 6 Star ship. It is value priced and you get what you pay for. It needs some changes if it is going to depend on the US marketplace. Will we cruise MSC again? Not the Opera mainly because of cabin size and lack of food options such as alternative dining, even at extra cost.. We will reserve judgment until we can review the new ships on MSC's schedule. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Opera is a beautiful Italian ship with plenty of public space; very clean, good entertainment, and wonderful food. Embarkation was uncomplicated and fairly smooth. My wife and I had previously cruised on the Opera in February of 2005 and ... Read More
Opera is a beautiful Italian ship with plenty of public space; very clean, good entertainment, and wonderful food. Embarkation was uncomplicated and fairly smooth. My wife and I had previously cruised on the Opera in February of 2005 and knew what to expect. Our cabin was clean and very functional. Public areas are abundant and very pleasant. Very interesting ports of call: We visited Fort Morro and walked around the old town area in San Juan; snorkeled and relaxed on Orient Beach in St. Maarten; and spent the day, including a shore snorkel at Bayahibe beach near La Romana. Cayo Levantado, their private island was an excellent location to relax and enjoy the last port on the cruise. We are vegetarians -- so we always look forward to the many meatless options available on an Italian menu. Breakfast and lunches were very solid; good selection and good food. Dinners were very good, especially the soups and pastas. Overall we were very satisfied with our second MSC cruise and plan to return next year. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
Review of MSC Lirica Sailing Date of March 9, 2006 to March 20, 2006 What a great time we had on this beautiful two year old ship! MSC was a different experience for us and we loved it! I warn you now that this review will be long since ... Read More
Review of MSC Lirica Sailing Date of March 9, 2006 to March 20, 2006 What a great time we had on this beautiful two year old ship! MSC was a different experience for us and we loved it! I warn you now that this review will be long since everything I had read prior to sailing on the Lirica was so mixed. I wanted to give you a good feel for our experience  albeit from our perspective. Let me give you a little background. We started cruising in the mid 1980's and are veterans of 27 cruises with most major lines represented  we have cruised with Commodore, Premier, RCCL, Costa, Carnival, NCL, HAL, Celebrity and Princess in the past  some many times and truly enjoy cruising. We lived in Naples Florida for 10 years and cruised multiple times during the year since the ports were so easy to access. We love good food  and we were especially looking for something a little different from the normal mass market cruise this time. Since we now live in Chicago, and we have to fly to the port it was important to us that we book a little longer cruise and one we thought we would really enjoy since we aren't cruising multiple times in a year now. After researching MSC we decided that the international flavor of the line and the size of the ship and its age would all be pluses and we were looking forward to the experience. We booked about two months out and booked an inside guarantee cabin. Our documents arrived about two weeks prior to departure and our cabin wasn't assigned at the time. A day before we were to leave, I called the travel agency and was given our cabin assignment  it turned out to be an inside cabin  an upgrade from what we booked and a handicapped cabin. This turned out to be a real plus because the cabin was about twice the size of a normal one and the bathroom had no ledges and a huge shower! The location was on Deck 9 forward and was perfect for either going up or down on the ship. We were in Cabin 9052  beds were on each side of the room with tons of closet and storage space as well as a vanity and mini-bar (which we didn't use)  Towels were huge  and replenished as needed. Shampoo and Body Gel and Bubble Bath were in the bath and there was a hair dryer that was good for short hair. Not many electrical outlets  so bring a strip if you need to plug in battery chargers etc. Very quiet cabin. Fresh fruit daily. Bathroom in Cabin 9052 The MSC Lirica is a two year old ship  and the max passenger capacity using all berths is 2065. Double occupancy capacity is 1560 passengers. The line is the second largest shipping company in the world and branched out into the passenger cruise business and has seven cruise ships sailing today with two more to come. The Lirica was designed for International sailing and this is the second season I believe that she is in the Caribbean along with her sister ship the Opera. Reviews from passengers have been mixed  but all agree that the ship is a beautiful, clean ship with a true mix of passengers from many countries. The officers are all Italian as are the upper echelon in the dining room and the style and flavor of the ship is Italian. The Captain on this voyage was Mattia Manzi and the Cruise Director was Andrea Olivieri. The Entertainment Team that he oversees was excellent. All the staff are multilingual. The few announcements that are given are in five languages and entertainment is in five languages. The mix of passengers on this cruise were from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, USA, Great Britain, and other countries as well. Menus in the dining room are in different languages to accommodate those passengers who do not speak English. Let me take you through our experience with the Lirica. It almost didn't happen  we had a very early morning flight out of O'Hare  we got to the airport and looked over the luggage and realized that we were missing a bag  my husband had to get back into the cab and make another round trip to our home to get it as it had all his dress clothes in it  I had gotten our boarding passes on line the night previously and was able to check our other two bags in curbside to Fort Lauderdale. I waited anxiously for him to return and he just made it  we sprinted down the concourse, had to plead our case to security, got through it and made the plane with about 5 minutes to spare  not a good start  but the only bad thing to happen. Once in Fort Lauderdale, we took our time, got some coffee, and then a cab to the port once we retrieved our luggage. Since this was an 11 night cruise, we were sailing on a Thursday and returning on a Monday and the airport was not crowded with cruise passengers  just two other ships were leaving from Port Everglades that day and we would be the last to depart. We got to the port about 11:45am  left our bags with the porters and got a number for boarding. The check-in lines opened right at noon and we were one of the first to be processed. Other than the fact that the person processing us in was doing it for the first time, it went very smoothly and we were on board in about 15 minutes. We were greeted with a staff member to lead us to our cabin and were settling in quickly. There was a welcome aboard lunch being served  but it was delayed by a surprise inspection  a footnote  the Lirica has scored 100 on all inspections  it is probably the cleanest ship we have ever sailed. We decided to acquaint ourselves with the layout  we had a great map of the ship and started at the top. There are 13 decks  and we started at the top and worked our way down. Deck 13 is for sunning forward and aft there is a miniature golf course. Deck 12 is an additional sunning deck and also is the walking/running track  with 8 times around a mile (by my calculations). Deck 11 is the buffet restaurant all the way aft  with a grill on the port side and a pizzeria on the starboard side  directly in front of that is a bar and shaded seating area and forward of that are two beautiful salt water pools with space for sitting all around. The lounge chairs had shades on them. Forward there was a place to get ice cream (extra charge) and then the gym, saunas, massage etc were all the way forward. Decks 10, 9,8, and part of 7 were passenger decks. Decks 6 and 5 are public decks with lounges and restaurants and shops and reception etc on these decks. With the exception of Caya Levantado we disembarked in each port from deck 5 forward. View of Pools from Deck 11 The itinerary for this cruise was as follows  Two days at sea, San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, Tortola, Caya Levantado (private island), day at sea and back to Port Everglades. We spent a good amount of time in each port  the only one we could have done without was Grenada. Caya Levantado is absolutely beautiful  it is a small island off the coast of the Dominican Republic and the seas were gently rolling  the day was beautiful  a great beach day. Since we have been to all these islands a number of times we were familiar with them- in the past we have explored each of them and have places we like to return to  we like to shop and enjoyed each port thoroughly. We always walk into the town  great exercise and usually an easy walk. Each port offered us something different  and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Our weather was exceptional each day except the day we were in Grenada  it rained and we didn't care  we were only off the ship for about 15 minutes anyway. There were a number of excursions offered in each port  we haven't done those for many years so I can't comment on them. There were three formal nights and the remaining were a combination of informal and casual. The Captain had a welcome aboard party for the first formal night and another party for the last formal night. Not everyone adhered to the dress code  but the majority of passengers did. There were very few children on this cruise  I can't comment on the facilities for them. We checked in at the dining room immediately after settling into our cabin. We had requested late seating  which we got  and we wanted to request a table for two. The Maitre D' was very gracious in granting our request  we were later told that early seating was full  but late seating was not. Our waiter was Windia  his assistant was Agus  both from Indonesia  our Table Supervisor was Salvatore  and the supervisors and the Maitre D' and his assistants were very visible all the time  the service in the dining room was excellent  leisurely since it was late seating and that suited us very well. There were menu items that you could order each night, there was always a choice of appetizers, soups, a pasta of the day, choices of main courses and desserts. The portions were very nice  not huge  but if you wanted more than one thing or something not on the menu  all you had to do was ask. We rated the food overall as good. My husband had one meal that he had to send back  it was a pot roast and the meat was not acceptable  but other than that we had no problem with choices  we tried things we had never had and we enjoyed MSC's version of dishes we were familiar with. We ate only two meals in the buffet  the welcome aboard lunch and one breakfast  all other meals we ate in the dining rooms. We were assigned the LaBussola dining room for dinner so we ate breakfast and lunch in the Ippocampo dining room. Both rooms are beautiful  and the service was excellent in both. The wait staff was comprised of Indonesians, Italians, Romanians, and some other countries. The Maitre D' and his assistants and most of the table supervisors were all Italian. First seating for dinner was at 5:45pm and second seating was at 8:00 pm. Breakfast in the dining room was served from 7:00am to 10:00am and lunch from Noon to 2:00 pm. On deck the hours were a little longer  and there was afternoon tea from 4 to 5 pm each day. Continental breakfast was offered in your cabin and there was a small room service menu available 24 hours a day. Much has been written about the food on MSC. Our overall assessment is that the food is good  breakfast was great  lunch very good  dinner was very good  we found the pasta dishes to be somewhat bland  the beef was always prepared to our order and very tender  lobster was excellent  as were the soups. Desserts were good  some great  the baked alaska was some of the best I have ever had. Food is so subjective  I can tell you that you won't go hungry  there is something for everyone. We found the crew and officers and staff to be exceptionally friendly  always a smile in greeting  the Entertainment Team was exceptional too. We didn't attend all the shows so can't comment on most of them  the Entertainment Team had something going on each night on Deck 6 and they were lots of fun  they were out by the pool during the day  there were food demonstrations, there were Italian language classes, there was dance music for every taste, some Bingo, there was an Art Auction (not well attended), there was a small display of Inch of Gold (very unobtrusively)  the shops on Deck 5 were nice  very low key. Drinks were not hawked on deck or in the lounges  if you wanted something all you had to do was ask  but you were not approached time and time again  announcements were kept to a minimum  you were expected to read your daily program to find out what was going on and when. It was very relaxing. Some additional items  There was a $12/per person tip amount added to your bill each day  you could remove it if you chose to and tip each person yourself  we did the automatic tipping and it seemed most people did this. I did see a number of people giving extra money to their cabin stewardess or steward and some to the waiters  tips are automatically figured into drinks on deck and in the bars. There are wine packages that can be purchased and glasses of wine were reasonable. There is an Internet on board  it was $6.00 for the first 10 minutes and 60 cents a minute after that. If you travel with a laptop, there are prepaid packages you can buy and the ship also has 3 laptops equipped with WI-FI that you can rent. The Library was on the honor system  you could just walk in, take a book and return when finished  there were books in multiple languages. I know this is long  I tried to cover everything that would have been important to me in a review. Please feel free to contact me at melnbobkaz@wowway.com it you have additional questions. We would sail MSC again in a heartbeat  the feel of the ship  the ambience  all of it was just great  taking a longer than 7 day cruise was so nice  Embarkation and Debarkation were a breeze - I tried to learn some basic Italian prior to cruising  that was always received well. All in all it was a perfect vacation for us. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
The MSC LIRICA is an insult. The food was so bad that our table of eight sent back as many entrees each night, except for the nights that even more were returned to the kitchen. Several times there were more than three entrees served ... Read More
The MSC LIRICA is an insult. The food was so bad that our table of eight sent back as many entrees each night, except for the nights that even more were returned to the kitchen. Several times there were more than three entrees served before one could be eaten. The rest of the dinner meal ranged from fair to poor with emphasis on the poor. The wait staff was superb and would at times nix a dinner choice knowing that it would be returned. Our cabin attendant, Daniella, was another gem that mitigated the otherwise ruined cruise due to the poor food. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and every food thing in between lacked inspiration, quality, flavor, presentation and best of all consistency. This last attribute of the food service enabled one to eat a decent meal on occasion. Some of the staff exhibited a bad attitude caused entirely by bad management. How so many of the crew members were able to keep a friendly and professional demeanor was a mystery to everyone. Smoking was another big problem. Smoking everywhere including "no smoking" zones without any enforcement. I know several couples that wrote scathing reviews to MSC and not one received any correspondence regarding their poor impression of the MSC Lirica. Bad choice, very bad choice for 22 days of imprisonment. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
MSC Lirica 11 day Eastern/Southern Caribbean 22 April  3 May, 2006 Embarkation Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale: Access road construction is complete at the FLL airport easing traffic congestion. The new construction helps immensely. ... Read More
MSC Lirica 11 day Eastern/Southern Caribbean 22 April  3 May, 2006 Embarkation Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale: Access road construction is complete at the FLL airport easing traffic congestion. The new construction helps immensely. We routinely fly in, arrive on departure day and make our own arrangements to Port Everglades. A one day rental car is about the same price as a cab ($18). If youre a group of 4 or more, youll need something big enough to hold all the bags and it will cost more. A couple can get the smallest, cheapest car. So, arrive early, enjoy a day in Fort Lauderdale and return the rental car. Enterprise (off airport on Andrews Drive) will pick you up at the airport and take you to the terminal about 4 miles away when youre ready to board. Enterprise has the best customer service lately of any of the rental companies  at least in Fort Lauderdale. I booked an economy car for $17.99 and got a PT Cruiser for that price  perfect for our four bags and one carry on. Its gotten very competitive in the rental car business and they want your business and they want to keep it. Take advantage. River Walk is a nice place to hang out with several open air restaurants. Consider Los Olas Boulevard; numerous good restaurants and shops. We also plan on boarding the ship about 2 or 3 hours after the posted boarding time  1300 hours. We walked on with ease and no wait about 1500 hours. The ship leaves at 2000 hours on this itinerary. This has turned out best for us  no crowds or impatient children (or adults). Baggage handlers at Port Everglades are union Long Shoremen. Theres a sign that says handlers are salaried. No tipping is necessary. Depending on the time of day and who wants to work, there may be two guys there or maybe four. You get the point. MSC has nothing to do with this rather inefficient state of affairs. The baggage handlers have a list with your name in alphabetical order so you can find your cabin number and obtain and complete your baggage tickets. Our tickets were purchased through an on-line agent and we were told to pick up the tickets and baggage tags at the terminal. As in most other lines, we could not complete our pre-boarding documents on-line. MSC has a web site but its very basic. Once in the terminal, check in was a breeze. This is also done by contract, not MSC employees  the usual Fort Lauderdale greeters seem to be getting much nicer. Weve mentioned on post cruise critiques they can be unpleasant. Maybe those unpleasant ones are gone as a result of comments. Once on the ship, greeting and escort to your cabin was very good. The Lirica: Lirica is a medium sized ship that accommodates 2200 passengers. I personally like smaller ships so this one was good for me. It was built in 2003. Theres nothing sweeping or impressive on this ship like there is on some of the mega ships but it is elegant, tastefully decorated in subdued colors and very well laid out. Public areas handled the less than capacity crowd nicely. It is the cleanest, best serviced ship we have been on since a Celebrity Mercury cruise in 1997. Weve also sailed on Celebrity Millennium, Constellation, Century and Horizon, RCL Explorer, Grandeur and Carnival Inspiration  9 cruises in all. I would rank this ship near or at the top of those Ive experienced in terms of its feel and cleanliness. The other thing I liked is that it was clear that section staff (pool, bar, deck, dinning area) were all very well supervised by officers and petty officers. This has not been the case previously  especially Carnival. In reviews on Lirica I have read in the past, some negative comments were made about the aloofness of the all Italian crew. These reviewers had a totally different experience than we did or the Captain has changed. In any event this was a top notch, professional, service oriented friendly crew. Its been our experience that the ships company and their conduct matches the character of the Captain. We didnt see a lot of him and he was nice but not gregarious at the welcome aboard party. Theres no question though that he runs a quality guest and engineering operation. While the officers and principal hotel staff are Italian, Indonesia, Madagascar, Greece and the Balkan states are all represented. Small Casino. We dont gamble. Lots of nice bars, a coffee/pastry bar and three very nicely set up outside pool side bars/seating areas that are protected from the wind. Few shops but completely adequate for us. In the Caribbean, the passenger mix is about 60% American and 40% European  its the other way around, Im told, when the ship sails the Mediterranean. Average passenger age was probably mid to late 40s. Very few kids mostly because of the time of the year. Cannot speak for the childrens programs but this line caters more to adults than to families with young children. Id say the majority of the US passengers were from Florida in the form of former New Yorkers. We did meet couples from Nebraska and Washington State. A few Canadians  North American/English speaking guests seemed to stick together but we had a few conversations with Europeans who spoke very good English  there was no anti-American bias that I could detect. Hey, this is a cruise vacation. Youre supposed to have fun, not talk politics. Cabins: We routinely book inside, guaranteed cabins. The price is right. We spend little time in our cabin. Those who prefer to do so would find our choice a poor one. Lirica has just a few balcony/suite cabins and many more inside and outside cabins. Apparently, Europeans tend to be more frugal and dont splurge on accommodations and this ship was built for the European market. Liricas inside cabins are of a similar size and layout of other ships. The shower was a little small but we are small so this is not a problem. Large folks will find the shower too small. Storage in the main part of the cabin and the head area were fine. We had plenty of room for 11 days worth of clothes but were also smart packers after 9 cruises. Theres a min-bar and bottled water. We dont use them. Potable water, fruit and ice as requested. Very attentive cabin staff. We had one small complaint. It was rectified immediately. Our experience has been, if theres a problem, tell the cabin staff first and give them a chance to fix it before calling someone else and complaining. Works every time and these hard working people appreciate it. When a complaint reaches the ears of supervisory staff, the repercussions for the worker bees can be harsh. Avoid precipitating these kind of unpleasantries unless absolutely necessary. Be patient. You put on your pants one leg at a time just like most other folks. Food/Beverage Service/Late Seating (2000 hours): Previous comments I read on Liricas food were mostly negative. I also heard a lot of negative comments from passengers on this cruise. I found the food to be very good. I think peoples expectation can be unrealistically high aboard mid-priced lines. If you want Five Star cuisine, pay the bucks for Crystal, Silversea or SeaDream. Otherwise enjoy the fine job most other lines do with 2000 or more plates per night. The dinning room service was not as elegant as I have seen it on Celebrity, for example, but it was top notch. There are 3 formal nights; about 60% of the men wore formal wear, the rest suits. I'm told that on MSC's Italian competitor in Europe, Costa, people dress up more there and dress down more on MSC. Food prep and presentation was good. MSC offers a very reasonably priced wine package and also serves jug wine in a carafe for $8 (about 5 small glasses). There are no specialty restaurants. A feature weve enjoyed on Celebrity. Buffet food was good as well. Breakfast omelet/eggs/pancake bar  the pancakes were great. There was a hamburger, hot dog, chicken line and pizza line on deck just outside the aft buffet area. These were not always open but I didnt notice a time when there was not some kind of food available. Water, tea (iced or hot), coffee always available. The buffet and inside/outside dinning areas were immaculate; tables cleared immediately, no trash, left over food on the deck or plates/empty glasses around at all. Very nicely done. Excellent sanitation and infection control awareness  probably some of the best Ive seen. Both outside and inside seating is available. One thing I appreciated at the evening meal was that there were several options for food combinations. You could always get salmon, steak or chicken if nothing appealed to you on the main menu for that evening. There was also an international selection that was always interesting. The main menu was 5 courses including a pasta course and desert. The menu was unique and well thought out. I dont think the complainers understood the varied nature of the menu if you looked at it closely. No one should not have found something to like. There was a daily drink special for $5/6, domestic beer was $3, imported more  excellent and varied beer selection. Sodas were $2.50. Well drinks were $6, call brands $7. I paid $9.25 for a Gray Goose martini - once. As with other lines, as cabin prices come down, beverage prices rise. Our first cruise in 97 had gin and tonics for $4.50 and Martinis for $6  no more. By the way, we bring our own gin and tonic these days, prepare and drink them inconspicuously. Entertainment: Varied and mostly good. Nice theater with excellent sight lines. Seats do not have cocktail tables or drink holders. The shows were not terribly imaginative or well choreographed but thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. Talent level good but not outstanding. Late night discos with DJs or live bands  we dont stay up late so cant comment. There was also a central area where ball room dancers danced to a two man group of singer/musicians. Small dance area but some of the dancers were darn right good. Several late evening deck theme parties - subdued and nicely done. Plenty of day time fun and games but not intrusive as with some lines. Bingo, bridge, art auctions, Italian lessons and more of the usual day time fare. Plenty to do. MSC also features this particular cruise as a big band and baseball special. Im not a baseball fan but those that were had positive comments about the well known players that were on this cruise and had baseball seminars on hitting, pitching and coaching. Same with the big band performances which we did not attend. Itinerary: Besides the excellent price and value, the itinerary was outstanding and was a big reason for us choosing MSC  our first time with this line. The cruise took us to several ports wed not seen in the Caribbean (Tortola, Granada, Antigua). These were all nice, low key ports. We are not fond of St. Thomas or the Grand Caymans and this cruise didnt go there. Other ports were San Juan, St. Maarten, Barbados and the MSC Island of Cayo Leventado off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Lirica tenders at only one port of call on this itinerary which is the island, Cayo Leventado. The tendering was the best organized and well run operation of this type that Ive seen outside of Celebrity. We dont book tours instead choosing to use cabs if we want a tour. I usually do some research about the island pre-cruise and use it to plan what we want to do. We also dont stray too far from the ship, eat a lot of local food (except fresh fish when the restaurant is willing to show it to me before its cooked) or go down dark alleys. St. Maarten has become a very well developed cruise port. On this itinerary it had the best shopping values. We also liked San Juan. Weve been there before but the port time was cut short. We walked old San Juan on our own this time after picking up a map from the local tourist bureau just to the left of the pier. You cannot enjoy Old San Juan in a van. If youre in decent shape, you can reach all the nearby sights and forts on foot in 4 hours. Final Comments/Impressions: Great value. Tips are added to cruise account; $12 per day per person split between the cabin stewards and head waiter at your table; you can tip more or less as desired. We gave cash tips to those who were outstanding instead of increasing the amount on our cruise account. This was the least expensive per day itinerary I found this cruise season (under $85 per day, per person  almost unheard of these days). The itinerary was unique  something important to us since we love the Caribbean but have been to all the usual ports at least twice. Late April is an excellent time to cruise if you want good prices and no screaming kids. The weather is almost perfect this time of year in the Caribbean as well. My wife and I like to exercise together and the gym is not run by Steiner - who has the corner on every other ship and acts like it - but rather another European contractor whose name is Freddy. Weve finally realized were going to have to pay for classes if we want them. Unlike Steiner, this spa manager was willing to package 36 classes at a very reasonable cost. We were basically it in the classes and had what amounted to a personal trainer for 10 days doing aerobics and something called Strepel (sort of like Pilates except men can do it!). I lost 6 pounds and an inch on my waist line. My wife lost 8 pounds and we ate just about everything we wanted within reason. Wed return based on the fitness center experience alone but theres plenty more to praise MSC Lirica about. If you want clean, neat and tidy, MSC is the line for you. If you want a mega-ship with ice skating and rock climbing along with Five Star cuisine and Las Vegas quality shows, its not. You also cant be upset that the announcements  the few that there are - start in Italian and gradually make their way to English and there are a lot of non-English speaking passengers. I liked the European flavor of the crowd and orientation of the ship it was different and a nice change of pace. I would return to this line and this ship based on our experience. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2007
This was our fifth cruise; my wife and I have cruised on Princess once, Holland America once, and Norwegian twice. We are in out late 40's, and feel that cruising is the perfect vacation. Embarkation was one of the quickest ... Read More
This was our fifth cruise; my wife and I have cruised on Princess once, Holland America once, and Norwegian twice. We are in out late 40's, and feel that cruising is the perfect vacation. Embarkation was one of the quickest we've ever had. We arrived at the terminal at 3:30pm the terminal was empty. We were onboard and in our cabin by 3:45pm. Our baggage arrived within one hour. The cabin (an inside) was spotless, but it was not set up the way we requested. I found our steward and let him know what we needed and expected for the next 11 days. The next time we returned to the cabin all was right. Our steward was very good throughout the entire cruise. The ship was very clean, but did show some signs of her age. The public rooms were rather small. No smoking in most public rooms, except the casino, and the Lord Nelson pub. Also smoking was allowed in most outdoor areas. Cigar and pipe only outdoors. There was no grand atrium; the theater had very comfortable theater seating, but no tables. We didn't go to any of the shows. The casino had 7 Blackjack tables, 2 roulette tables, one craps table (that was never open), and about 100 very tight slot machines. The casino is run by a contractor (NTG Gaming), not by the cruise line. The fitness room looked good with lots of equipment, but we didn't use it. The dining room was very cozy but a bit noisy due to the low ceilings. We found the food to be very good for the most part. I ate the fish every night, and loved it all. (Except the Lobster) The lobster was Florida lobster and had no taste at all. The pasta, soups, and salads were also very good. The other meats (Beef, chicken, and veal) were all a bit tough. The buffet was good for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast buffet was the same everyday, assorted fresh and caned fruit, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, various lunch meats, herring, beans, toast, bagels, waffles, assorted muffins and Danishes. You could go out to the pool buffet for cooked to order omelets and pancakes, with about a 5-10 minute line. There was only one cook at that station, but he was very fast. The lunch buffet was also good and had lunchmeats and cheeses, fruit, and 5-6 different hot dishes including at least one fish, one pork, one chicken, and one beef. The desert bar was a bit limited, but good. You could also go to the pool buffet, one side was Hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled chicken with all the fixings. The other side had a pizza buffet with 3-6 different pizzas freshly made, and pasta of the day. The pizza and pastas were very good. We never made it to the midnight buffet (we didn't need it), but it was a different theme every night, listed in the daily program. The ship passengers were a 50/50 mix of Europeans and Americans. The announcements were in 5 languages, and very few in numbers. Most of the announcements limited to public areas only, not in the cabins. Most of the crew was very nice. We did run into a few that never smiled and must have hated their job because it showed. One that comes to mind is one of the pasta cooks on the pool deck. He was Russian (I think) and was not a nice person. We called him "Sunshine". The biggest complain we had (and we are not complainers) is with the only excursion we booked. Whale Watching, or as we called it Whale Chasing. The cost was $71 per person for a 3-4 hour adventure. We boarded a small open-air boat with 30 small seats, no bathroom, and no cover. The sea conditions that day in the watch area were 6-8 foot swells. As soon as we left the ship they handed out seasickness pills, and raincoats for most, but not enough for all. (This should have been my first clue that it was going to be an ADVENTURE!!!). Two women seated next to us got sick within minutes (they brought their own barf bag). For the next hour and a half we experienced rough seas and what we called whale chasing (not whale watching). There were 5 small boats and one large. We all ended up in the “Prime watch area” and waited to see the spout, then all the boats would go full speed, bouncing over the 6-8 foot swells to get to that area we saw the spout. We never saw the whale because all the boat motors would scare it away (Whale chasing). Finally after about 2 hours people started getting sick everywhere, due to the rough sea conditions. Most of the passengers wanted to go back to the ship, but the operator said he needed to keep us out for at least 3 hours. Then finally we saw some whales jumping out of the water, so---- full speed ahead, pounding over the swells to that area. It was hard to see the whales due to the extreme rocking of the boat. If the boat was on top of the swell when the whale jumped we saw it, other wise all you saw was the wall of water. By this time we were all soaked. At this point everyone was yelling “Take us back to the ship”. The boat turned back FINALLY. But half way there they shut down the engines and offered us some coke, or water. They again said that they needed to stay out for 3 hours to get paid. I thought there was going to be a mutiny. They took us back but couldn't get close to the ship due to the rough seas. It took 5 attempts to get the boat tied up to the ship so we could get off. About 12 of us went right to the front desk and demanded to speak to the shore excursion manager. We all demanded our money back, because they refused to return to the ship. We all understand that the ship can’t control the sea conditions, or the number of whales. But they should have accessed the sea conditions before sending us out. We were told that they usually use larger boats, but due to the popularity they booked extra boats. They told us they would have to contact the head office (in Naples) to see if they can give us a refund. The next evening (just hours before we were scheduled to end the cruise) they informed us that they were going to give us a 25% discount on the tour. So that means $53.25 per person for the abuse and sickness, instead of $71. The excursion manager was no longer available for us to talk to. We feel the safety of the passengers was not a concern of the ship; they just wanted to make the money. That is why we rated the excursion a 1. We did have a good time (it's hard not to have a good time on a cruise), but we won't take an MSC ever again. Not because of the excursion, it's just not our style; it's geared toward the Europeans. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
I sailed on MSC Lirica for the holidays in 2007 (Dec) and was so disappointed by the cruise. Now let me explain, I have sailed 2-3 times a year on various lines, including Carnival, RCCL, Celebrity and Cunard. Checking in was the worst ... Read More
I sailed on MSC Lirica for the holidays in 2007 (Dec) and was so disappointed by the cruise. Now let me explain, I have sailed 2-3 times a year on various lines, including Carnival, RCCL, Celebrity and Cunard. Checking in was the worst experience I ever had at what is usually a seamless process. It took a good 20 minutes for each of us to check in. I had my own cabin so it should have been 1-2-3. Upon boarding, I found the cabin quite small and when I asked the steward to put the two beds together since I am alone in the cabin, that was the last I saw of the steward until day three! I moved them myself, no problem. The ship was very pretty and I had no qualms with the amount of lounges and areas onboard. BUT... no one ever was in the lounges! After dinner and show I went to one lounge where there was a 'singer' singing standards. I walked in and found the cruise director singing a Frank Sinatra song (one of my favorites). As there were only three couples in the lounge, I sat down and softly sang along. The cruise director stopped singing and told me to please not sing as I was throwing him off. OK..I didn't think my voice was THAT bad but no problem. Then after he was done he left and the 'singer' began singing Nat King Cole... "Unforgettable". Picture a man in his 60s, overweight, balding and with a heavy Italian accent, trying to sing this song. HE BUTCHERED IT! I thought this may have been Karaoke! I wondered why he didn't just sing some Italian songs as they are also nice to hear. Well I left to wander the ship looking for others. I made my way to the dance club(?) and found that even though it was after midnite and the program stated that it was a disco after midnite, it was filled with children (8-14 yrs old) and they were playing games there. I asked the bartender if this was the dance club, and he looked at me like I was on another planet. He said that since the 'kids' were here, they had free use of the room. Again, I left to wander. I headed to the casino, very small with 3 poker tables, a 3 card poker table, a mini craps table (?) and 2 roulette tables. A few slots (as my Mom loves the nickel slots)& I found 3 nickel slots. I went to the cashier cage and asked to have a $100 bill broken. The casino Mgr was manning the cage (thats how small it was) and he told me he would give me two $50 bills. I said I needed $5 notes and would like 10 $5 bills and one $50 bill. He said "NO!, PUT $50 in the machine and spend your money"! I thought he was kidding with me as the night before he had offered me a cocktail while I sat at the blackjack table. He opened the drawer and I could see a huge stack of 5s. He handed me 2 $50 bills. I said I needed 5s and he said "NO" Well, I looked him in the eye and told him the customer always wins. I proceeded to the slot machine, put the $50 bill in and then cashed out. I took the bucket of tokens back to the cage and handed him 20 (25 cent) tokens... he handed me a $5 bill. I counted out another 20 tokens, and he handed me another $5 bill. As I was counting out the next 20 tokens he got angry and asked me what I was doing? I told him, again, the customer always wins! Reluctantly he handed me the 10 $5 bills I originally asked for. During the day, I went to the pool and watched as they had 'disorganized' games at the pool for adults only. The staff kept yelling at anyone under 16 to leave the area and go to the children's room because these games were for adults only. What games were they playing? They had these plastic lids, like the kind used to cover dog food cans, and they had a boxed area 10 feet away. The object was to toss, 'frisbee like' the lids into the boxed area. WOOPEE! The adults all avoided this 'game'. They had to grab passengers as they passed the area on their way to the bar to play. All I could do was laugh and tell myself these were amateurs! Dinner was 2 and a half hours long every evening. On Christmas eve I asked for a bottle of champagne for the table but was told there was no need as they were serving champagne complimentary. I waited, and waited, and waited some more.I asked if I can just order a bottle, and was told it wasn't necessary. After dinner, after desert, they finally came around and offered half a glass of champagne. I again, chuckled inwardly and toasted my table mates. While I do enjoy any cruise itself, I can enjoy myself without these amenities, and did so. However, I would never sail on MSC again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
Let me preface this review by saying I have about 15 cruises on many cruise lines and in general MSC has a long way to go to compete in the US market. Embarkation: We arrived at the dock by Limo at 2PM with boarding supposedly having ... Read More
Let me preface this review by saying I have about 15 cruises on many cruise lines and in general MSC has a long way to go to compete in the US market. Embarkation: We arrived at the dock by Limo at 2PM with boarding supposedly having started at 11 am. After dropping off our luggage we entered the hall and we were given a number and told to be seated. One hour and 15 minutes later our number was called and we moved into a second hall and stood on line for another 15 minutes before we received our cruise card and were allowed on the ship. Never went through this before on any other line. Cabin: We had a minisuite with balcony(actually the only balcony cabins on this ship. The cabin was lovely, clean and good size. The balcony while small had two wicker chairs and a table. Steward service: On most cruises the Steward presents himself and asks if you would like anything special. On this cruise we had to introduce ourselves to our steward on the second day of the cruise, and that was the only contact we had with him on the whole cruise. Yes he kept the cabin clean but otherwise his service would not qualify him on any other line. Common areas of ship: The ship is beautiful and has multiple bars, a good fitness center a small casino( I am not a gambler). There are two pools, but if the ship was full there would have been problems with finding a chaise. The best bar is the Martini bar(L'atmoshere) with pianist or mexican group(harp and two guitars. Dining Room, menu and food : There are two dining room and two sitting,no personal choice dining. This as advertised as an Italian ship and one of the reasons we took it was that I lived in Italy for 5 years and spoke Italian and was looking for the Italian waiter, and Italian menu. First be aware the only Italians were supervisors or the Maitre D. The dining rooms are staffed 90% Indonesians,who were inexperienced, and for the most part spoke little English. Our first night we sat down at 8:30 and got up at 10:45. Needless to say we changed tables and waiters for the rest of the cruise. The second seating was not crowded so this was easy. We were lucky to next have a waiter who was from Bali but had been with the ship for 4 years and spoke good English. Now for the food, although billed as Italian, the only thing Italian was the Pasta which was a different Risotto every night and a not very special second Pasta. After eating the Risotto for 7 nights we made a request to the captain in our area for Spaghetti Carbonara, but took a second request to the Maitre D to get it the last night of the cruise. The rest of the food was not Italian but a poor attempt to match the other cruise lines menus. The lobster was the worst I have had(first time I did not request seconds for lobster and the only Italian main dish in 10 days was Saltimboca. Itinerary: The itinerary was good and we especially enjoyed Saint Lucia and Antigua. We took an independent tour at the first and my only ship tour in Antigua which was Sail and Snorkel. The people we met on the islands were friendly and gracious and I only wish we could have taken them on the ship. Our itinerary was changed somewhat by a storm(Tortola shortened and Nassau instead of Caya Levantado(their beach stop)). Debarkation: Well done. They assign colors and lounges to wait and we were off the ship by 9:30. If only Embarkation had been as easy. Summary: MSC lines is trying to compete in the USA market. What they don't understand is that Service is important in this market. They did nothing with a smile and the hospitality I was used to living in Italy was lacking both from the Italian and other nationalities. I often saw staff arguing with guests. In ten days on the ship I had conversation with two members of the staff for longer than two minutes and one was on the excursion and the other came over at the request of our waiter because he knew I spoke Italian( it was his original supervisor). I met numerous people on the cruise and everybody had the same feeling.People who initially wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt soon changed. The only thing I did hear was some got a deal. Well I enjoy cruising and if a deal means poor service, only adequate food, then I won't cruise MSC again. Read Less
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