Opera Reviews

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21 User Reviews of Opera Cruise Ship

Other (Specified in Review)
Publication Date: May 26, 2011

The whole time you are on this ship you can't wait to get to land. A British man I talked to compared it to being in the army and he hit the nail on the head. If you go on this ship drink HEAVY to cope with no service and no entertainment…BTW you will pay through the nose for it!

Food The food was for the most part is inedible. One morning the eggs were cooked is a dirty pan that fish (with bones in it) was cooked in the night before and I threw up. You can only eat when they tell you it is time and if you are late by 15 minutes…YOU DO NOT EAT! Room Service you need to pay for and the menu consists of bad pizza, boiled hamburgers, and soup. The "juice" is Tang unless you pay for it. All of the food is the cheapest crap they could buy. Every meal you need to fight for a glass of water and most times you loose. There is no service and if so none of the people understand English. Avoid the buffet unless you

like hospital food!

Customer Service There are only three answers at MSC if you can find a slave from a third world country that speaks English. NO, I don’t kNOw, or that is closed! I bought a cigar in the shop and the guy told me to go cut it with scissors or poke a hole in it and he had a cutter right behind him. I bought a 200 euro amber bracelet and had to fight to get a box. Checkout they made you stay on the ship in the lounge for 5 hours with your carry on bags.

Entertainment The entertainment was the worst! Unless you like country western music in sang in Dutch or comedy in Italian, or dancing the Achey Breaky Heart and the Macarena...I am not kidding! I have seen better stuff at the High school level. They have one good singer in one of their 70's style lounges other than that it was awful. I forgot if you want some real entertainment go to the smoking bar and watch the bartender yell at the staff and customers…that is funny!

Casino They only have Roulette, 21, and poker for table games. The machines are from the 1980’s from Vegas and some you need to put the Tokens in each pull and they do not pay.

Laundry "Misplaces" your clothes and then calls you a liar when you ask for it all back.

TV There is only one channel in English (BBC) and two movies that loop the whole time but if it has subtitles you can’ read them because the TV is two small and the volume does not go high enough to hear most of the time. Also it goes out all the time! BBC went out while in South Hampton.

"Beds" - Cots They are not beds!!! They have COTS that are less comfortable then the ones I have for camping!

Safety They do not go over the safety plan for the life boats! You watch it on TV and in England the port authority would not let us leave because there were not enough people that spoke English to properly execute the safety plan.

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Greece/Greek Isles
Publication Date: May 1, 2011

If you are an American you will not enjoy this cruise! It is geared for large, loud herds of Italians. The help is rude, the passengers are rude, the food is sparse and not good, the rooms are tiny and stained, you can't have ANYTHING to drink at dinner without paying extra, and the time in ports was too short. The public areas onboard have poor traffic flow, so with 3,000 passengers you feel like cattle. The only thing good was the entertainment! Don't waste your money. THis was my 7th cruise, and the worst cruise line by far.

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Baltic Sea
Publication Date: June 2, 2009

We just completed a 12-day Baltic Sea cruise on the MSC Opera. In a word: GRAND.

Check-In (in Copenhagen) was a breeze. MSC was very well prepared and remarkably efficient. We heard there had been a line-up when embarkation began at noon, but we arrived about 1:30 pm and had no line-up whatsoever. Note, however, that many passengers had embarked the previous day in Kiel -- the Opera lets you embark at either Kiel or Copenhagen. We had no problem bringing on board a few bottles of our favorite wine.

Cabin We were very pleased with our cabin. We had a 12th deck "suite." The Opera has no real suites -- ours was a slightly larger room, with a bathtub. We had ample storage space and a reasonably large closet with plenty of room for 10 dresses, 4 suits, 10 or so shirts, -- we did not pack lightly. The regular rooms have less closet space, and no tub, only a shower. NOTE -- the two forward facing suites face into the wind, and on a Baltic cruise you will be typically cool if not freezing. The port and starboard suites are

much better protected from the wind. In fact, we hardly ever sat on the balcony -- it was too cold (~9-14 C / 48-57° F) most of our trip.

Food The food was excellent. Not everything was sublimely superb -- but could your favorite restaurant give you 36 consecutive sublimely superb meals? When cooking for 1,000 diners twice a night? Let's be reasonable. The pasta was consistently sublimely superb. I recommend a pasta course with every meal; you can diet later. Some main course meat dishes were very good, some were ok. Based on our traveling companions' reviews, I never ordered beef. Instead I had chicken cacciatore, guinea fowl, duck, fish, etc. Remember that this is an Italian cruise line, and the menu reflects this. I was pleased; I'll order steak some other time.

LUNCH we usually ate ashore. For the few lunches we had on board, we always had pizza (& beer). The pizza was superb. But remember that it's ITALIAN style pizza -- not Domino's or Little Caesar's.

BREAKFASTS were great -- either in the self-serve cafeteria or in the table service sit-down dining room. Lots of choices, and excellent waffles.

We found only two disappointing things about food: we ate far too much and we had to leave after only 2 1/2 hours (we had the first sitting). We could have quite happily lingered longer over our dessert and cheese. Overall, I enjoyed the food far too much -- it's not good for your waist line.

Service The service was excellent throughout the ship. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and eager to please. We travel a LOT, and we have never come across a more friendly, accommodating, eager-to-please staff. Language was not an issue. Some staff have better English than others, but (a) it's better than my Italian or Indonesian; and (b) if foreign accents annoy you then why travel?

Activities I can't really comment because we do not gamble, did not partake in any organized activities, and only rarely watched the entertainment. We went with 2 other couples so we amused ourselves with conversation when not ashore sightseeing. The bars & lounges, etc. were all very nice, in a Holiday Inn lounge sort of way; but I reckon that this is par for the course on any cruise ship. We spent most of our lounge time in the 12th deck disco at the stern. Its ceiling-to-floor windows (on 3 sides) gave a panoramic view, and it was quiet, since the disco music doesn't start til 11 or 12. Some entertainment struck us as a bit hokey (again reminiscent of a Holiday Inn lounge) but others (such as the "special guest" Swiss Dixieland jazz band) were entertaining. But we spent almost no time in show bars. We preferred to visit & chat in quieter bars, catching up with old friends.

Facilities It was too cold to swim, so no one used the pools. Early June in the Baltic is too cold for pools unless you're very, very hearty. I tried the "hot" tub once, but at its advertised 22° C / 72° F, it was a tad too tepid for my liking.

Drinks We bought the buy-ahead beer package (14 bottles for US $38 or so), and it's worth it. Otherwise bottled beer is 4 or 5 Euros, depending upon the brand. We bought a wine package at embarkation -- saves you 20 Euro, but I didn't find it to be any big deal. The house wine at 8 Euro per 1/2 litre was cheaper than the package and quite drinkable. We also pre-purchased an embarrassingly large number of bottles of wine for our cabin, at about US $19 each -- this I recommend if you enjoy a glass of wine on your balcony. But you CAN take unfinished wine from the restaurant to your cabin or a lounge.

Ports of Call Great! The ports were the primary reason for us taking this cruise, and we were not disappointed. I like medieval old-town centers, and we saw a few of them.

Gdansk: Dluga Targ (pretty much the medieval main street) was gorgeous. But my camera broke so I was able to take only a few pictures on my PDA. A great place for lunch in Gdansk is "Salonik" on Deluga. It's a wonderfully decorated room, featuring traditional Polish food. At about 4pm it started to pour and got quite cool, so being creatures of comfort we took a taxi back to the ship, thus cutting a bit short our sightseeing. Note that it's about a 45 minute taxi ride from the cruise port (in Gdynia) to the Gdansk Stare Misto. Six of us shared a min-van taxi, and he charged us 200 zloty. We suspect this is about half the meter rate, but Poland's hurting, and split 6 ways it's not a bad fare. Anything to help a suffering economy, I say.

Riga: Riga was very nice, but has not yet completed its post-Soviet makeover. Once their EEC economy kicks in and they complete their medieval old-town center renovation, Riga will be as strikingly beautiful as Prague or Tallinn. Depending upon your ship's berth and your walking pace, it's a 20-40 minute walk to the medieval old-town center. It is NOT a scenic walk (from ship to old town), but we welcomed the exercise so we enjoyed it. It poured (again), so we spent more time than we would have planned having a thoroughly enjoyable lunch. Our friends reported a superb lunch at a different restaurant. I'll try to track down restaurant names if anyone is interested. The Latvian Museum of Occupation (soviet & nazi) is an educational MUST-SEE. Missus bought a very nice amber bracelet in Riga for what seemed to us to be a better price-to-quality ratio than other Baltic ports. But we are in no way gemological experts, so buyer beware. Riga also featured the cheapest beer -- CAD $2 / pint at an otherwise expensive, trendy, fashionable & good-food restaurant. The primary reason we chose MSC was the inclusion of Riga (and Visby) and we were NOT disappointed. If you're only going to take one Baltic cruise -- capitalize on the opportunity and sample as much as possible. GO to Riga.

Tallinn: Tallinn was the gem of the trip -- an absolutely gorgeous medieval old-town center. There is too much to see and enjoy during a 1-day port call. Tallinn is the only port-of-call to which I would gladly make a special trip to re-visit.

St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg is ... St. Petersburg. You've already read all about it. Glorious churches, near-decadent architecture, Romanov legacy, and the Hermitage. But it's also bureaucratically tourist-unfriendly, and most of the city is 200-year old run-down and seedy following years of neglect. Call me a Philistine (I shan't protest it), but a 2-day cruise call is sufficient.

Helsinki: Helsinki. Sigh. More rain, more chill. This is the only cruise ship excursion we took -- to Porvoo -- and I cannot recommend it. On the other hand, Missus highly recommends the fresh-fried smelt (?) at the dockside market. At the risk of once again revealing my Philistinity, I declined the opportunity to eat entire fishes -- heads, tails, bones, GI tracts and anuses.

Stockholm: Stockholm was fun, architecturally interesting, wet, cold, rainy, and expensive. A gorgeous (big) city, with lovely looking cafés galore, but with $20 soups and $15 beer (or glass of table wine), it's not high on my list of must-go-back-to places.

Visby: Visby was picturesque. Unique in its small-town densely packed old-town "cottages" combined with long-lost Hanseatic glory. MSC may be the only cruise line stopping in Visby, and it's well worth it.

Kiel: Good shopping, just past the block or so of sex-trade merchants. But (at the risk of being racist), with typical German gemütlichkeit, it's a tasteful, well-scrubbed, tidy and not in the slightest bit seedy sex-trade block.

Copenhagen: Copenhagen -- the start & finish. We spent 2 nights prior and one night after the cruise. One of the most vibrant cities we have visited. Cafes everywhere, generally busy with people enjoying themselves, evidently immensely. The old-town core is full of people enjoying themselves. It's catching.

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Russia
Publication Date: May 18, 2008

This cruise was a mixture of the ridiculous and the sublime. First, the sublime: the balcony cabin (category 10) was beautiful, comfortable and roomy. The balcony was big enough to sit and enjoy the views, and the shower was big enough for my 6'2" 250 lb. husband (something rare on cruise ships). Beware, however, of the 'obstructed view' cabins. The obstruction is a lifeboat occupying the entire balcony, blocking not only the view, but the light, too. You're better off going down a category, and saving the money.

The ship is wonderfully decorated in an elegant art deco style and has several areas for activities -- including a lounge dedicated to smokers. There is an adequately equipped gym and a large theater which provides excellent entertainment.

That was the good stuff. Everything else ranged from merely annoying to outright awful.

The food -- of which there is plenty (there are 5 different times one can 'dine) is laden with MSG. If one is allergic to MSG (as I am), one is limited to a nightly dinner of pasta pomodoro (even the salads and the pizza are off limits). The daily programs state that

passengers should notify the Maitre d'Hotel about dietary limitations, but their solution is to tell you what you cannot eat (which is most of what is on offer in my case). The menus are wonderfully diverse, but the execution is hit or miss: mostly miss. The poultry and the fish were always dry and stringy, the meat (beef, lamb, pork, etc.) is like shoe leather, and the vegetables were sometimes mush and sometimes very good. The desserts were mostly very good.

The staff (when they can be located) are dictatorial, argumentative, and rude, except for the few servers from Thailand and Cambodia. The posted schedules are rarely accurate (except for meal times and the entertainment), and passengers are frequently huddled in masses awaiting their quide/leader/whatever to appear.

The internet café is extremely expensive, and the computers are almost always down (yet that's the only way to confirm flights, for example). The beauty shop offerings are about twice as expensive as the same services on land. I also learned -- to my horror -- that the beauty shop staff aren't even well trained. My once shoulder length hair is now 2" all over my head. When they did a touch-up, they used extremely strong peroxide and overlapped -- once I got home, my hair started coming out in handfuls right at the overlap. I now get frequent concerned questions about how my chemo is coming.

The excursions are highly overpriced and always late. The staff also lies about the rules of the various countries. For example, they told us that the only way to see St. Petersburg was to go on their planned excursions because Russia would not let us off the ship. This is a complete lie: the Russian government allows all passengers to visit Russia for the day as long as they a) spend the night on the ship and b) have a copy of the front page of their passport -- no visa required (in fact, you can't get a visa for one day -- I tried).

MSC offers a 'children cruise for free' gimmick, but even that is not worth this cruise from Hell!

My husband and I have been to Italy several times, and love it -- we were hoping that 'cruising Italian style' would be an extension of the pleasure we had on land. We couldn't be more disappointed.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: February 27, 2007

This review will be very short.

Embarkation: Very rapid. Arrived at approximately 12:30PM. Obtained a wheelchair for wife and was checked in and onboard within 20 minutes.

Cabin: Outside with about 140SqFt of space. Adequate storage space for hanging and drawers with shelves. Beds kept as twins since by moving them together would take up too much floor space. Large Safe easy to operate. Shower nice arranged but no enough upper shelf storage. Large under sink storage. Shower was nice except it was way too small. Door lock was easy to operate with the sign and sail card. Television was small and did NOT have an AV plug in to view digital Pictures.

Sign and Sail card had imprinted the Cabin Number on it. To me this is a security violation. If anyone lost the card anyone finding it would be able to enter your Cabin.

Food: IMO the food was NOT good. Many dishes were overcooked. The menu selections were limited and it was not prepared as I thought it should be. The lobster entre was prepared with head and tail together. I did not like it.

Service: Service was excellent. The waiters

were prompt, attentive and polite. Your continous request were honored and waiting for us as we entered the dining room. We were seated at a table for 4 but no one showed up to dine with us. We requested to have company at dinner but none was provided.

Décor of ship: The arrangement of the facilities were excellent. They were adequately decorated and very nice. There were only one deck which you could not go from bow to stern and that was deck 5 where one of the dining rooms were located.

Cleanliness of Ship: All areas were in excellent condition. Cleanest ship we have cruised on.

Entertainment: The shows were very good. The started promptly on schedule. Most programs only lasted for about 45 minutes. Since we ate at 8:15 it would give us 30 minutes before dinner. The shows could have been longer.

Daily Programs: The programs were very hard to read. If you wish to find a certain activity you would have to search all over for it. IMO activities should be listed by time of day so that could be followed.

Dress: Of the 11 day cruise there were only 3 casual days. All the rest was Informal or Formal. IMO there should have been more casual. A large percentage of passengers ignored the notices.

Languages: Since this was an Italian ship most of the activities were run in European languages. Each time and announcement was made it was made in 5 languages, French, Spanish, German, Italian and English. Very annoying to me. But this is an Italian ship and we knew it.

Vacating the Cabin on debarkation. They listed in the instructions that they wished everyone to be completely out of the cabin by 7 AM. This was entirely too early. The first to leave the ship was about 9 AM. The cabin stewarts had adequate time to clean the rooms before the next passengers came onboard by allowing us passengers to remain in the cabins longer.

The most outstanding part of our cruise: Music of your Life sponsored The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra conducted by Buddy Morrow. The entire Big Band was there. They played several times each and every day of the cruise. They brought along their lead singer Ron Gutierrez. Also we heard noted singers, Lorri Hafer, Michele Anastasio and noted singer and disc Jockey Herb Oscar Anderson. This group books on many cruises during the year. "Music of Your Life A Sea". If anyone has the opportunity to cruise along with this group be sure to take it. It was outstanding. Buddy is the only person along who was with the original Tommy Dorsey Band. He is now 88 years old.

Overall rating: Would I book another MSC Cruise? Maybe. The Opera is a very nice ship but many minuses make me think awhile.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 18, 2006

With a name such as Opera, Italian MSC cruise line seems to promise a lot of impressive entertainment; and in fact - it actually delivers completely and then some. We had the privilege to travel on that ship from February 18th to the 25th, 2006

The excellence of entertainment is true of the magnificent and unusual stage shows we saw and the ongoing on board dynamic activities, animated (brought to life if you will) by an especially dedicated clownish crew called the "Animatores".

Contrary to other cruise companies - that only offer two major stage productions - MSC Opera offers nearly every night an exceptional production and most of them feature the dancing cast made up of 6 gorgeously shaped and physically matched young ladies and 3 very handsome young men.

One of their most impressive productions was called "Le Cirque Imaginaire"; it has great similarity with the productions of "Le Cirque Du Soleil" without the ridiculous high associated price tag. Indeed "Le Cirque Du Soleil" does not own the exclusivity to this style of shows no more than it does not owns le denomination of cirque, or circus in English. I am

only surprised to see that no one else thought of doing this before.

In addition the dance team presented a couple of shows outside the theater, on the top bridge – by "le piscine" area - dancing an exquisite tango, presenting an extract of the play Cabaret and offering a delightful fashion show. In the theatre a 26-year-old tenor from Romania called Adrian Mocanu deeply moved us with his wonderful operatic renditions of very famous Italian songs.

The "Animatores" drafted with genteel insistence the participation of all hesitant guests to their numerous games and rewarded them with a multitude of various gifts. Unfortunately the Animatores are so continuously working that they barely sleep 5 hours a night and they are actually exhausted, several of them confided this to me. We got very close to these individuals because we love people in general and are always willing contestants. By the end of the trip they all knew our names.

I was NOT particularly impressed with the selection nor the quality of the food served on board; in fact, even though I can eat nearly anything, I usually found very little interesting food choices.

However the way I see it, we - as a society - eat way too much! So I did not regard the lack of food choices as necessarily a negative in this particular instance; one must eat to live not to live to eat. Still we were served lobster on the second formal night, a selection that we did not get on the Costa Allegra cruise last month.

One of the most serious weaknesses of the cabins was the shower compartment! Imagine a square of 2 ½ feet on two sides cut in two diagonally by the shower curtain and this is your shower area – I AM NOT KIDDING!

Needless to say that if you drop anything onto the floor, with the shower curtain closed, you are facing a serious dilemma. Ad to that fact that the shower controls are round and you don’t have much of a grip on them, after you soap up, it is extremely difficult to open or turn off those valves.

A rather large man explained to me that he was taking his showers with the curtain opened and afterwards was wiping the excess water that fell outside the shower area. However, he also pointed out that because of his size, not that much water passed by him outside the shower compartment.

We found the personnel courteous and seemingly anxious to resolve a couple of negative issues we experienced.

The selected ports of calls were most interesting, especially in the new stops of the Dominican Republic - that other cruise companies seem to constantly bypass.

There, we stopped in La Romana where we visited Altos De Chavon – A gorgeous 16th century, Mediterranean artist village replica created by Italian cinematographer Roberto Copa who spent 6 years of his life building this little town, which is perched high on a cliff above the Chavon River.

This faithfully executed historically styled architecture village, is decorated with mosaics of River Black pebbles and built with coral and terracotta bricks. We also stopped on a paradisiacal private island called Cayo Levantado; nearby, we actually got to see for the first time in all our cruising years, several large whales.

As usual and probably more so with each new cruise we take, we received lots of compliments from others - on board guests, and Animatores - regarding my wife and my own innovative dancing techniques.

Should you experience the MSC Opera? Without the shadow of a doubt I answer a resounding YES! I am now anxious to try the other ships of this wonderful Italian Company.

I think that it would be marvelous to have other theme-type vessels presenting an ambiance of other foreign countries, like France, Greece Russian, Polish, Spanish, possibly even Canadians Eh? It would be a pleasant change to have the MAIN onboard language in something other than English and only use it as a means of secondary communication. This way I could learn and constantly improve on my knowledge of other tongues.

Copyrights Roger Holstein 2006.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 28, 2006

Our cruise on the MSC Opera from 1/28/06 to 2/4/06 was a truly wonderful experience. We researched MSC prior to our trip due to the unfamiliarity of the ship line. We read both positive and negative reviews. Yet, as we reviewed the negative reviews meticulously, we began to ask ourselves if the writer's comments were likely to affect our enjoyment of the cruise. We determined they would not. Also, from the tone of the reviews, we suspected the writer was overly particular or critical. We booked the cruise and we are so glad we did.

In every aspect we found the crew to be attentive to detail, customer-service oriented, friendly, and devoted to excellence. Our inside cabin was spacious with an exorbitant amount of storage/closet space. Our bed was quite comfortable. It was fixed as a queen; we thought it would feel like two twins with the slice in the middle but somehow it felt like a queen bed. Dining was in six course meals at lunch and dinner. Salmon, steak, and other American dishes were always available as alternatives; although we always made selections from the daily menu. The cold soups

were delicious-a must-try. Our waiter, Desi, was by our side to remove one course after the other immediately upon completion. We established a bond with him and it was sad to say good-bye at the end of the week. The entire crew works so hard to please. The high level of attention to cleanliness is readily apparent. We saw the common walls and stairwells being steam-cleaned on a daily basis. Signs were posted at the public restrooms to use hand towels to open the doors upon exit. Activities such as pool games, bridge tournaments, dance and language lessons, and crafts were available throughout the day. The evening shows were exceptional-Las Vegas quality. Don't miss them. Each show is unique and creative with superb choreography offering a variety of talent throughout the week. Every passenger we spoke to echoed the same thoughts.

The ports of call were also a reason for our selection of MSC. Although arriving in the evening in San Juan, it still allowed us to enjoy the flavor of Old San Juan, which is where the Opera docks. The cobblestone streets, the Spanish colonial architecture and historical city walls immersed you in the local culture. Even though El Morro, a massive fortress, is closed, the nighttime view from outside is still worthwhile.

St. Martin is beautiful. We rented a car and toured the 37 square mile island. We reserved a car from Best Deal Car Rental in advance for $60 but realized upon arrival we didn't need to. The car rental company booths are to the right, just behind the bus parking lot, off the dock. It is just a few minutes walk from the pier dock. Anyways, the car rental companies are very negotiable and fight for your business. You can easily negotiate $40 for the day. Make sure you drop your car off at the rental office rather than the separate car lot. We were told to drop the car off at the separate car lot; there is no office there. Bring your car back to the rental office, get your final papers and head back to the ship. We went to Dawn Beach, beside Oyster Pond, among other places. It was an attractive small beach. All of the beaches were small with the exception of Orient Beach. If we had to do it again, we definitely would have skipped Dawn Beach. Orient Beach was gorgeous. Plenty of water sports with gentle waters on the longest beach we saw in St. Martin- 2 miles long- and especially white sand. The colorful buildings there were also a sight to see-very picturesque. One note is that Orient Beach is recognized as a swimsuit optional beach. I thought we would be able to walk along the French Cul-de-Sac, as I had read prior to our trip, but discovered it required a short motor boat ride over, so we skipped it. We circled the western edge of the island without stops due to our concern about time. Traffic was congested in some of the towns. Mullet Bay looked beautiful. The terrain on the eastern side of the island is low lying hills where the western side is low land surrounding a lagoon. St. Martin is truly a charming island.

The place to go in La Romana is Altos de Chavon. It is a must-see, regardless of your age. It is a re-creation of a 16th century Mediterranean village on the grounds of Casa de Campo resort. There are art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and souvenir shops surrounding a cobbled square. There are cobblestone streets lined with lanterns, wrought-iron balconies, wooden shutters, courtyards, and gardens. It is on a bluff overlooking the Rio Chavon. You can go to Altos de Chavon and Casa de Campo's luxurious yacht marina for a round trip cost of $6 pp from a shuttle at the ship's dock. The Kandela show is shown at the amphitheater at Altos de Chavon. It is colorful and entertaining in a beautiful setting.

Taxis are available at the ship's dock. The local transportation service at the dock pairs people up in the taxi according to your destination making it very easy to get a reduced rate per person. The taxi driver waits for you an hour or two or however long you wish and drives you back. We went to Bayahibe Beach for 2 hours. It took ½ hr by car. Six passengers-total cost is $52($8.66 pp plus tip) The beach was quite small; yet we still enjoyed the time there. A resident was in a motor boat offering ½ hr snorkeling in an area just offshore. We would have gone except our time at the beach was almost up. Others we met did go and negotiated $6 pp; they said the fish were colorful and that they had a great time. We were going to go to Dominicus Beach but discovered it is a private beach.

Cayo Levantado is the Caribbean at its finest. Be sure to pick up your ticket for the tender early in the morning of your arrival there because you'll want to be in one of the first tenders over to enjoy every single second. It is gorgeous. The bluest, clearest water of any we've ever seen with the most pure white sand on the palm-tree-lined beach. Although we did not go on any excursions there, we learned from talking to other passengers who had gone on the whale watching excursion and jeep safari that they thoroughly enjoyed it. Marco, the cruise director, said MSC has had a high satisfaction rate on all of their excursions on Cayo Levantado.

I hope this information is helpful. We are sure to cruise on MSC again due to their commitment to excellence, high customer service level, exceptional entertainment, and focus on maintaining a clean ship.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 28, 2006

Our cruise on the MSC Opera from 1/28/06 to 2/4/06 was a truly wonderful experience. We researched MSC prior to our trip due to the unfamiliarity of the ship line. We read both positive and negative reviews. Yet, as we reviewed the negative reviews meticulously, we began to ask ourselves if the writer's comments were likely to affect our enjoyment of the cruise. We determined they would not. Also, from the tone of the reviews, we suspected the writer was overly particular or critical. We booked the cruise and we are so glad we did.

In every aspect we found the crew to be attentive to detail, customer-service oriented, friendly, and devoted to excellence. Our inside cabin was spacious with an exorbitant amount of storage/closet space. Our bed was quite comfortable. It was fixed as a queen; we thought it would feel like two twins with the slice in the middle but somehow it felt like a queen bed. Dining was in six course meals at lunch and dinner. Salmon, steak, and other American dishes were always available as alternatives; although we always made selections from the daily menu. The cold soups

were delicious-a must-try. Our waiter, Desi, was by our side to remove one course after the other immediately upon completion. We established a bond with him and it was sad to say good-bye at the end of the week. The entire crew works so hard to please. The high level of attention to cleanliness is readily apparent. We saw the common walls and stairwells being steam-cleaned on a daily basis. Signs were posted at the public restrooms to use hand towels to open the doors upon exit. Activities such as pool games, bridge tournaments, dance and language lessons, and crafts were available throughout the day. The evening shows were exceptional-Las Vegas quality. Don't miss them. Each show is unique and creative with superb choreography offering a variety of talent throughout the week. Every passenger we spoke to echoed the same thoughts.

The ports of call were also a reason for our selection of MSC. Although arriving in the evening in San Juan, it still allowed us to enjoy the flavor of Old San Juan, which is where the Opera docks. The cobblestone streets, the Spanish colonial architecture and historical city walls immersed you in the local culture. Even though El Morro, a massive fortress, is closed, the nighttime view from outside is still worthwhile.

St. Martin is beautiful. We rented a car and toured the 37 square mile island. We reserved a car from Best Deal Car Rental in advance for $60 but realized upon arrival we didn't need to. The car rental company booths are to the right, just behind the bus parking lot, off the dock. It is just a few minutes walk from the pier dock. Anyways, the car rental companies are very negotiable and fight for your business. You can easily negotiate $40 for the day. Make sure you drop your car off at the rental office rather than the separate car lot. We were told to drop the car off at the separate car lot; there is no office there. Bring your car back to the rental office, get your final papers and head back to the ship. We went to Dawn Beach, beside Oyster Pond, among other places. It was an attractive small beach. All of the beaches were small with the exception of Orient Beach. If we had to do it again, we definitely would have skipped Dawn Beach. Orient Beach was gorgeous. Plenty of water sports with gentle waters on the longest beach we saw in St. Martin- 2 miles long- and especially white sand. The colorful buildings there were also a sight to see-very picturesque. One note is that Orient Beach is recognized as a swimsuit optional beach. I thought we would be able to walk along the French Cul-de-Sac, as I had read prior to our trip, but discovered it required a short motor boat ride over, so we skipped it. We circled the western edge of the island without stops due to our concern about time. Traffic was congested in some of the towns. Mullet Bay looked beautiful. The terrain on the eastern side of the island is low lying hills where the western side is low land surrounding a lagoon. St. Martin is truly a charming island.

The place to go in La Romana is Altos de Chavon. It is a must-see, regardless of your age. It is a re-creation of a 16th century Mediterranean village on the grounds of Casa de Campo resort. There are art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and souvenir shops surrounding a cobbled square. There are cobblestone streets lined with lanterns, wrought-iron balconies, wooden shutters, courtyards, and gardens. It is on a bluff overlooking the Rio Chavon. You can go to Altos de Chavon and Casa de Campo's luxurious yacht marina for a round trip cost of $6 pp from a shuttle at the ship's dock. The Kandela show is shown at the amphitheater at Altos de Chavon. It is colorful and entertaining in a beautiful setting.

Taxis are available at the ship's dock. The local transportation service at the dock pairs people up in the taxi according to your destination making it very easy to get a reduced rate per person. The taxi driver waits for you an hour or two or however long you wish and drives you back. We went to Bayahibe Beach for 2 hours. It took ½ hr by car. Six passengers-total cost is $52($8.66 pp plus tip) The beach was quite small; yet we still enjoyed the time there. A resident was in a motor boat offering ½ hr snorkeling in an area just offshore. We would have gone except our time at the beach was almost up. Others we met did go and negotiated $6 pp; they said the fish were colorful and that they had a great time. We were going to go to Dominicus Beach but discovered it is a private beach.

Cayo Levantado is the Caribbean at its finest. Be sure to pick up your ticket for the tender early in the morning of your arrival there because you'll want to be in one of the first tenders over to enjoy every single second. It is gorgeous. The bluest, clearest water of any we've ever seen with the most pure white sand on the palm-tree-lined beach. Although we did not go on any excursions there, we learned from talking to other passengers who had gone on the whale watching excursion and jeep safari that they thoroughly enjoyed it. Marco, the cruise director, said MSC has had a high satisfaction rate on all of their excursions on Cayo Levantado.

I hope this information is helpful. We are sure to cruise on MSC again due to their commitment to excellence, high customer service level, exceptional entertainment, and focus on maintaining a clean ship.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: January 28, 2006

Meeting Opera We got a pleasant surprise when we arrived at the Port Everglades pier: We were allowed to check in immediately and then 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. The cruise staffers were also trying to sell 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 carry-on and escorted us to the elevator where we were told how to find our cabin.

We had an inside cabin. Worthy of note is the fact that there's a large mirror above 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. The cabin had two closets, and to make our clothing fit, all I had to do was remove a few of the large hangers. There were six drawers and some shelves behind another door, as well as shelves in the bedside tables.

The desk had a lap

drawer with enclosed shelf space on either side. Outlets were both 110 and 220, no adapter necessary (I had needed one on Melody). There were two shelves over the bathroom sink and storage below it, plus two shelves in the shower. The lighting was much better than I experienced on Melody -- enough to read in bed. The bathroom had a wall mounted hair dryer and a shower with a moveable, removable hand-held head and a temperature control. The shower drained well and even though we had rough seas at times, the water never sloshed over into the rest of the bathroom. Most of the content on the TV 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.

Nadia, our cabin attendant, stopped by to introduce herself and 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 and we went in search of lunch.

'Opera Time' Our first clue about "Opera time" came with our cruise documents. Initially we had been told that dinner seatings were 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., but the documents said 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. I think 7 p.m. is ideal, and on most cruises I'd settled for late seating rather than dining too early. When we saw the times in the documents, several of us changed from late to early seating.

However, after boarding we found out that the times were indeed 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The next evidence of "Opera time" was on boarding day. The daily program stated when the buffet would open, and lots of passengers were there, but it didn't open until a half hour later. We kept being told it would open "soon," or 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 delay.)

The last annoyance along those lines had to do with luggage.

Two of us shared a cab, so our luggage was handed over at the same time to the same person. My cabin mate's single bag arrived promptly, but my two were very delayed. As long as I see active signs of luggage being delivered I don't concern myself too much. I was actually well prepared, with enough clothing, etc., for a full day in my carry-on.

When I no longer saw any new bags in the hall, and the door to the crew access was closed, I called the desk. A 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 The dining experience is a large part of why I cruise, and a small table doesn't afford me the level of conversation and exchange as a larger one. Most of my meals at home are eaten in front of the computer, so I relish listening to live people and interacting with them. A large table distributes the conversational burden.

Portions for some dinner courses were larger than necessary. Pasta servings were enough for three or four people unless one intended them as an entree. Risottos likewise were in portions much too large for most people. Even the night I intended my ravioli to be an entree I didn't finish it.

The menu required a careful eye since there was an "International Menu" on the left with some items that weren't listed elsewhere. One changes 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 pretty extensive, ranging from inexpensive wine by the carafe to others at $100 per bottle. There is no sommelier. I didn't see any bar service in the dining room.

Entertainment A variety of music is available in six 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; 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, but I'm not going to give anything away. They also entertained in a couple of the lounges, putting on shows and dancing with the passengers.

Buon Giorno Opera Several early risers greeted 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 there was a selection of teas available. I was a bit surprised that cocoa was not among the offerings.

Breakfast began at 6:30 a.m. in the cafeteria and grills, 7 a.m. in the dining room. I looked at the dining room menu and decided that I would stick with the buffet.

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 at home.

The buffet included scrambled and hard cooked eggs; sausage; bacon; hot and cold cereals (including muesli), various breads; 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.

(The food in the buffet was labeled 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 exercises, and there were fitness classes held in the gym (for a fe

e).

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. 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.

Baseball Greats on an Italian Ship?

It does sound just a bit odd, but the cruise did originate in the U.S.

Stan Bahnsen has been organizing and facilitating these baseball 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 I made sure I got everyone's signature and some photos with the players. I would suggest that anyone who goes on one of these 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 it started in San Juan.

Shopping Opera The ship had 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. They do have expensive Italian clothing that didn't seem to be selling, and some reasonably priced items like polo shirts for $13 and baseball caps for $4.80.

There is a Duty Free shop that 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 cosmetics shop that was usually pretty quiet.

You Call This Art? I don't usually go to art auctions, but I did on this cruise because the subject comes up so often. They said frames were included, with upgrades (for a fee of course) available. Shipping was $35. Most things were available in large 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. The only bidding was 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 invited; several people had only been invited because they spoke up in time. I guess I missed out on a glass of champagne.

Singles There was a meeting for Singles at 11 a.m. 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 seven-night cruise, there were two of these.

The first was the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party, which took place in two venues. The Captain and Staff were in the Caruso Lounge. If one didn't like that 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 that are sold command inflated prices. (On Melody, only a few were printed and passengers 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 The ship's library was good, but with limited hours -- one or two hours 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 passengers aboard. Beach towels were available on deck. One was supposed to give the pool attendant their cabin number and sign for them.

Arrivederci Opera

Disembarkation was handled very well.

Colored luggage tags were distributed the night before we left, and we were assigned a place to wait between vacating our cabins and leaving the ship. Because they had some control, there wasn't the crowding I'd experienced other times and everyone was assured a comfortable seat.

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. I got onto a 12-passenger van almost immediately and was at the airport in a matter of minutes -- a full 10 hours before my flight was scheduled.

My Final Thoughts

I'm a fan of MSC Crociere. That's what got me to book the first time and I have no regrets. It was good to see 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 handle large groups. While we certainly knew that a polka group was aboard, and there were 400 of them, their activities were kept separate from the rest of the passengers.

I went ashore at Cayo Levantado. Since I haven't been to any other lines' private islands, I don't have anything to compare it with... but I can tell you that it was beautiful, with soft, clean sand and a long, curving beach. There was ample shade, plenty of chairs, live music and a bar.

An ice cream bar is open in the afternoon, with fancy ice cream-based drinks for $6.50 and sundaes topped with cookies for $3.50. But there was ice cream and sherbet in the dining room at lunch and dinner every day.

We saw several versions of the tipping policy prior to sailing. They applied $12 per person per day to our accounts. I noticed that several in our group had it taken off and tipped directly.

If/when I decide to cruise again, MSC would be a likely line for me. It supplies a combination of things that fit me reasonably well.

see photos here
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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: January 21, 2006

I just finished reading two reviews about the same cruise but taken one week later. I had to reread them twice I wasn't sure it was the same cruise until I recognized the ports. My experience with this cruise line was quite different and I think readers need to have some balance in making a decision to take this cruise.

Three negative areas were : the food, the staff and the rooms. Three positive areas were: the ship and the entertainment and the ports.

The food was terrible - tasteless, unimaginitive and poorly presented. It was the first cruise I have ever been on that I didn't look forward to dinner. I wandered the menu trying to find something enjoyable and nothing was appetizing. I wasn't the only person on the ship to voice this concern. One lady said she had lost weight.

The staff was uneven. We had late seating. My room steward would phone the room to see if we were in the room even though we had a do not disturb sign on the door and then hang up if we answered. One night he knocked even though we

had a do not disturb sign and asked if it was alright not to make the room as it was almost 8 pm. The casino tables were closed form 6:30 to 8:30 pm so that the whole staff could have dinner. This was a first for me on a cruise ship. Our waiter was very good and helpful and kind.

The room Category six was so small that on one side you had to climb over the bed to go to the bathroom. There were no drawers in the room. The bathroom was hall closet size and I smiled thinking that some people on the ship would be squeezed.

The ship was very nice - modern sleek, lots of cozy places. The deck chairs were amazing. The ports were some of the best I have been too. The entertainment was clever -sort of Cirque du Soleil.

One clue for people thinking of taking this cruise is to ask why it is so heavily discounted.

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