I'm presently aboard Mediterranean Shipping Company's (MSC) new 58,000-ton Opera on a cruise to Italy, France, Tunisia and Spain. You'll be hearing quite a bit about this 10-year-old company and its fleet of brand-new vessels, since sister-ships Lirica and Opera (built in 2003 and 2004 respectively) will soon begin one-week Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings and 11-night partial transits of the Panama Canal.
Costa Cruises claims to be Cruising Italian Style, but really isn't. MSC gives you the real Italian experience, from waiters to front desk, bar staff and officers. I've had some of the most sublime Italian food of my life on this cruise, carried out with efficient and friendly service.
My cabin stewards, also very polished, are from Bali and Madagascar. In spite of this mix of nationalities, I've yet to encounter anyone who doesn't speak enough English to converse a bit. MSC estimates that around 30% of its passengers on the Caribbean sailings will be American, the rest European.
Opera is contemporary Italian in decor, with a good half-dozen lounges, large theater, enormous coffee bar and shops located on two decks. There are two main restaurants with two-seating dining; new this winter will be casual evening fare in the ship's Lido restaurant. The company operates its own spas, staffed by superb Eastern European masseuses.
One area that may be a drawback for Americans is the small number of balcony cabins available (around 200). Most cabins are inside and outside, nicely decorated, but smaller than the industry norm.
On the plus side, MSC will charge low rates -- starting around $550 for a one-week Caribbean itinerary. With this outstanding food and polished service, it's the biggest bargain in the Caribbean.
I am the editor, but I also speculate, ask questions and play devil's advocate. I reserve the right to change my mind.
It will be interesting to see when Anne returns and writes the review. The short e-mail I received sounded promising from Anne. Let alone her first impressions from on board in the recent CM news letter.
Round trip San Francisco Mex Riv, Mercury May 4, 2005
Transatlantic from Rome on Galaxy Oct 17, 2005
Round trip Los Angeles to Hawaii, Summit March 26, 2006
__________________ Ready to Steer towards another cruise
I agree with most everything Ann writes in her prelim review, having probably been on the same sailing she was on.
What a beautiful ship, with great service, food in the main restaurants, and entertainment. Bar prices not too bad either. Wine package at dinner a great deal.
At the prices being advertised in the Caribbean, this ship is a good choice if all things remain the same and as well done.
We're also booked on the 2-26-05 Lirica cruise to Panama. I understand that this a country/western themed cruise with entertainers from Branson. We've got a group of 22 going with us, many of whom are country/western dancers. It sounds like the Lirica is a beautiful ship with good service and good food. The ports-of-call should be interesting too.
no one has mentioned that rick sasso formerly celebrity is active in this
operation . when he was with celebrity
he ran a great cruise line .I am
looking forward to booking the cruise
to the panama canal .
I disembrked the MSC Armonia today. We sailed 7 days from Rio to Salvador and back. For anyone thinking about booking on this line my advice is DON`T!
I have been on 35 cruises on most lines from Seabourne and Crystal to Orient HAL Carnival Celebrity RCCL etc. I am knowledgeable and do not regard my self as a snob. I have no axe to grind. This was by far the worst cruise I have ever been on in absolute terms and in terms of value.
An inside cabin cost me about $300 per day per couple. I can usually get outside cabins on Carnival Corp and RCCL companies for that price or lower.
Without regard to price, the food was horrendous. Only breakfast you can get from room service is a continental one of bread and coffee. Other room service came with a charge. Breakfast buffet was scrambled eggs only sometimes with reheated hot dogs and/or greasy bacon or other unappetizing cold cuts. Canned fruit except for melon; white toast only- forget english muffins or bagels. Juice is like koolaid. No omelets. No variety day after day.
Lunch buffet was not much better. Seemed like the food was recycled. Dessets were bad. They advertise pizza....for Italians they ought to be ashamed of what they call pizza. Hotdogs (with strange rolls)and hamburgers at the grill...cheese anyone , relish or a pickle anyone - forget it. Food handlers often were not wearing gloves. I got the runs my last day. In the buffet lines and grill there are no food trays so you must carry a large dish and put everything on it. Forget about service. The waiters are there to clear the tables, nothing else. My wife and played cards for 4 hours at a poolside table on deck one afternoon and were never once asked if we wanted a drink.The ice cream bar was closed - I was told it wasnt profitable.
Dinner in the dining room was BAD. Service was marginal at best (can I please have a choice of salad dressing or must it always be oil and vinegar? - ever consider asking me if I wanted to exchange that plate I hadnīt touched?), but not as bad as the food itself. Pasta was served everyday , and with the identical mundane tomato sauce! Breadstick and roll ordinary - no bread tray. Soups all tasted same no matter what they were called. Over salted food. Meat as tough as shoe leather. Fish with scales not all removed. Some plates were downright inedible. My tablemates concurred.
Entertainment...the dance group were okay dancers, but the production values of the shows were poor. Costumes, lighting , props and decor all amatuerish. Music in the lounges was very limited and ordinary at best. No library or card room to speak of. On last day library was open 1 hour. It consists of about 2 feet of english paperbacks probably left behind by passengers. One spanish language scrabble set.
Tv in the rooms advertised pay movies.Thet were not operable in any language.Not much programming though we did get CNN for a while one day.The shops kept limited hours , but that was no problem as there wasnt tthat much offered.
The pool was always crowded because on this So American run there were/are loads of kids...to whom I have no objection. Just that it was noisy and crowded.
Embarkation ...donīt ask. We somehow got left off the passenger list. A friendly land agent of MSC ( I later learned) who didnt want to recognize his affiliation told me to go F my self as we frantically tryed to convince MSC staff we had indeed paid for this fiasco ( had I known what was in store I would have happily stayed ashore). When I complained to MSC management (after boarding and in a detailed written memo ) I was told they would get back to me. No apology was forthcoming.
As usual on many occasions the cabin attendant provided the best and in this case the only decent service. An oasis in a sea of incomptence and poor quality.
There has to be a better way to spend your money. MSC started as a freight moving line. I predict that they will get out of the passenger business in a couple of years. They will not be able to sell their product to or in the north american market...and I canīt see europeans forking over cash for this product when there are other options.
Shore Excursions: where to go and what to do for the best $$
My sister and I will be sailing on the Opera 1/29/05, eastern caribbean. I would like to know what shore excursions to take. On several other cruise lines there were pro's and con's listed by previous travlier's. Where to go and what to do for the best price? Any ideas would be appreciated