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carl luther

MSC Opera Dec 18, 2004 Christmas-Panama Canal my two cents

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Hello and Happy New Year to all you happy travelers out there.


Yes, I have to agree with most of the other posts concerning this ship and this particular trip, both good and bad. We lived it, too. What a roller coaster! The Italians would pamper us and make us feel special and without fail would do something to completely turn my attitude sour within 24 hours. That goes right up to disembarkation. I was so mad when I was rushing to catch my 10:06 am flight home (YES I KNOW IT WAS TOO EARLY) that I swore I would never ever take an Italian cruise again and frankly didn't care if I ever even went to Italy again! I am over that now. We finally got off the ship at about 9:00 after waiting for too long, and watching them take off the Ft Lauderdale shore excursions and all the wheelchairs on the ship, before allowing even a single passenger off the ship with an early flight. We made the flight by the way. A miracle!


They did so many things so well on the ship, a few things they did very poorly. I am looking forward to only remembering the good and chalking the bad up to experience.


From the first moments on the ship it looked promising. Embarkation was a breeze, photographers were only mildly offensive, and a smart looking group of crew members in white gloves were on hand to escort us to our cabin. I thought this was a really nice touch, she led us through the public rooms, the length of the ship and then dumped us at the closest elevator, not our cabin as I has assumed.


The inside cabin was smallish, but very functional, except for that chair that wouldn't fit anywhere. Lots of mirror & colorful art. I see why people complain about the shower. Yes, it is small. Check behind the corner mirror for the safe. Go straight to the reception desk for an instruction sheet if there is not one in the packet in your cabin. After having rearranged the beds together myself at 12:45 am when we returned to our cabin the first night, we slept well. Deck 10 aft. For the record, we had left a note for the cabin steward, and called reception to have the beds placed together. Typically we were told it would be taken care of but was not. When they finally put the beds together, they did an excellent job. It seems the standard has become for most lines just to shove the beds together. Not so at MSC. The beds were properly joined together and were finished in double bed linens and spread. Very comfortable. They had placed a basket of fruit in the cabin for our arrival, and a lovely gift Christmas Eve. Really nice towels and good product. Hardly ever saw the steward. Seems she was more a supervisor, other folks did the work.


We were aft, in the L’Approdo Restaurant. It does have the best views, though it is rougher during high seas. If you are not assigned to this restaurant, take your lunch and dinner there so you may enjoy more ocean views. It doesn’t really matter after dark. We were blessed with a round four top table and two of the most wonderful strangers you would ever want to share ten nights of your life with. Check your seating assignment the minute you get to your cabin, if it is not right (few seem to be) head to the Spangna Lounge and get in line to speak to the dining room managers. First seating will force you to end up in the buffet some nights because of late shore excursions etc. Our tablemates barely made our second seating one night. I rate the food very, very good. We ate fish three meals a day and sometimes three times in one meal. The risottos are fabulous. Our tablemates had the beef some nights and had no complaints. Try to get off on the right foot with your waiter and bar steward. Practice your few words of Italian (start with Buona sera), ask their name if they don’t tell you, and smile. Our experience was mostly good. A few rough spots, but I never had anyone say “keep your knife” or whatever. They were very good with the flatware! They were not so good with coffee, tea, or water service. You just don’t get any unless you ask. It’s a struggle to get a teapot. Order a large pot of hot water, four tea bags and some ice from room service and make ice tea in your cabin. Bring your favorite mug from home and green tea if you want any. Christmas Eve was just magical. The tables all had open flame red taper candles burning in little Christmas holders with fake greens. The menu was outstanding and the baked Alaska was a the real thing. No production number, just a little worship for the Alaska.


Entertainment was almost all really very good. The tenor was world class. The comedian with the hair was no class. Just don’t expect every dancer to be in perfect step and don’t look for a live orchestra. The stage seemed larger than most, plush theater seats, and no eating or drinking.


The days at sea were great. Lots of activities or hide out aft on every passenger deck for a quiet spot that takes most passengers a while to discover. The best deck chairs & towels ever. Good saunas. Announcements kept to a minimum. Saw crew toss cigarette butts over the side more than once.


Ports Ochos Rios, Cartagena, Panama Canal, Puerto Limon, and Cozumel were all good choices. We experienced each on our own without ships excursions. Would go back to any of them again except maybe Jamaica. We were pretty much never anywhere when we were told we would be. The ship’s crew did not handle Panama well at all. As previously reported, the near riot was inexcusable. We were on the side waiting to get off. We soon realized we were going to be late for our second seating dinner if we didn’t abort the going ashore folly. We got as far as the end of the ramp and saw the hundreds waiting to get back on board before turning back. Turns out our exhausted table mates were in the group waiting to board. My companion was told by reception that the passengers were “animals” and my tablemate was told by the Captain “I had a thousand people that wanted off. What was I supposed to do?” Yikes!!


The lecture series with Ambassador Brody was a highlight. Too bad they booked him in like a lounge act, and cut him short on his lecture time.


There is always more but enough already….


Oh, one last thing. Anyone else out there that was on the ship experiencing colds, flu etc? I left Costa Rica with the start of post nasal & a cough, tablemate had sore throat etc, I’m better now but my companion is a mess, coughing, sneezing, stuffed up and all. It seemed there was a lot of people coughing and hacking the final days. Chicken soup or remedies anyone?


It was a fantastic Holiday.

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Thank you for your review Carl,


Colds and infections are common on ships, particularly in winter. We (my better half and I) just returned from RSS cruise from LA to FLL. We left 60F in LA, spent 3 days freezing our buts off (we are from Florida), and then entered 90F Costa Rica, and Panama Canal, then back to 60’s in FLL. Most passengers came from up north and underwent 90F temperature change in a span of a week. There were a lot of runny noses by the end of the cruise. It happens even on a 6-star cruise line (as RSS claims to be). Europeans tend to be less obsessed with hygiene that we are in the US. (I know – I come from there, but have been brainwashed enough).


I am more and more concerned about my scheduled sailing on Opera. During my last trip to Italy is summer 04, (and it was LAST), I swore never to return (as a tourist anyway). I can’t stomach arrogant waiters who slam a 9 euro coke on the table as if they are doing you a favor, then expect a tip. Looks as if at least some of the crew is like that. Commenting that passengers are “animals” is uncalled-for, regardless of circumstances. Standing in lines is not my style either, so I hope that I get a good table…


Please post additional comments; I am sure they will be welcome by everyone. There seems to be a lot of anxiety about MSC…



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Hello Miro.


I have never come back from a cruise sick before. I know I may be a minority but that's the case. The Opera had a very high CDC rating when I checked before I left. I think anytime one is in such close quarters, germs will be spread.


I think you will enjoy your trip on the Opera. You know what to watch for. I too, was shocked about the "animals" comment. I try to chalk some things up to language differences, but most comes down to staff attitutude. As you have wittnessed, most Italians seemed to rather be served, than the other way around. I guess we may all be that way. Some cultures take great pride in service and I believe being a waiter is still a noble profession in much of Europe and other parts of the world. The waiters were well taught on the Opera, many of them apparently skipped the day they discussed common courtesy.


The only times I was stuck in a line, I soon realized I should not have been there anyway(midnight buffet & getting off the ship in Panama).


The European flavor of the ship is a definate plus, just be prepared for the 'tude.



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