I'm back from another great cruise and wanted to share some initial thoughts. A full review will follow sometime in the future. I had hoped to fly directly home after the cruise but mother nature decided against that. An ice storm in Atlanta wreaked havoc and almost every flight into the city was canceled. I spent the night at my mom's who lives across Florida outside Naples and made it back to Atlanta on Sunday. As fate would have it, I'm missing a bag and I only hope it turns up. After working 11 years at Delta I've never had them lose a bag, and I hope my luck doesn't change now. Regarding the ice storm ... well it's a distant memory and it's all but melted.
I sailed on this cruise with my mom and a couple friends and I like to think we all had a great time. I know I did! I absolutely loved the ship ... there is so much public space per passenger. The MSC OPERA is practically a brand new and her size is around 58,000gt so she is not too big or too small. She is considered a medium to small sized ship by today's standards. For a smaller ship, the amount of public rooms is amazing not to mention the variety of bands, bars, and dance floors. In fact there seemed to be more public areas than ships almost double her size. Most of all, I loved the Italian/European atmosphere. MSC Cruises is an Italian cruise line that is just breaking into the North American market. It was a breath of fresh air and the most refreshing cruise I have taken in a long time. I can't say enough about the staff, entertainment, and of course the energetic Animation Team! They were amazing. What other cruise line schedules an activity at 1:15am?? These guys (and gals) always looked like they were having such a great time and I just wonder where they get all their energy from?? I really admired them.
Dinners were fantastic. The best I've had since Silversea. The pasta dishes and bread were to die for. Our dining room staff was excellent and food was served at a very good pace. Our waiter Pepe would never bat an eyelash at special requests or orders for extra entrees. We were even granted a specific table I requested in advance. I had faxed the Maitre d' directly before the cruise and requested a large, round table by the aft windows of the smaller L'Approdo Restaurant. A reservation card was waiting in my cabin, and sure enough we were escorted the first night to the exact location I had requested.
There were a few minor details that could use improving. Better cabin TV programming. More equipment in the gym (such as elliptical machines). More MSC logo items in the gift shop. Larger cups in the buffet. As I stated, they are minor and easily corrected. Even so, MSC gets really high marks from me and I would sail them again in a heartbeat. My only wish is that they don't change and become too Americanized. It was everything European about the line that I truly enjoyed. I felt more like I was cruising the Mediterranean than the Caribbean. English was definitely not the first language spoken by the staff, crew, singers and musicians. Italian was #1 but everyone did know at least some English. It was also the things MSC Cruises doesn't do which I found refreshing. No bargain basement tables in the lobby selling $10 t-shirts. No art auctions. No revenue producing announcements. No "inch of gold" being hacked everywhere. No pushing drinks. Unlimited large towels by the pool. No waiters singing "hot, hot, hot" in the dining room. Fresh fruit everyday in the cabin. No automated gratuities. No pushing for "excellent" grades on the comment form. In a nutshell, it was very civilized. I might also add it was the easiest and quickest embarkation I have ever experienced.
On a side note, I felt the officers, staff, and crew onboard were probably the best looking I have seen on a cruise ship.
There was also much more officer/staff interaction with passengers then I have seen before. This made for a great evening atmosphere in the lounges. The entertainment staff such as the dancers and Animation Team also worked much harder compared to other cruise lines. They were everywhere at all hours interacting with passengers and trying to make sure everyone had a great time. The dancers and entertainers also don't get away with just two production shows during a 7-day cruise (as on most lines). In fact they had some type of performance almost every night in the show lounge, either with their own show or complimenting the other entertainment acts where were featured.
In closing, I truly wish MSC all the success in the world. They are not for everyone but for those that enjoy a multi-cultural experience at sea on a quality product you can't beat it.
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