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jknezek

Opera Review Jan 8 - Jan 15

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Hello Everyone.

 

Having just returned from my MSC Opera Western Carribbean cruise Jan 8-Jan 15th I figured I'd add my 2 cents about this line to the postings that have already gone up. As a little background, I'm 26 and my girlfriend is 24. This was my 6th cruise (3 Princess, one RCL and one awful Carnival experience) but her first.

 

I'll kick this off by saying we both had an excellent time as did most of the guests we socialized, ate and wandered with. The ship is beautiful, the crew was wonderful and the entertainment is amazing. However, everyone we talked with did have some small nitpicky comments. Many were valid and many are or will be addressed according to the crew I chatted with. I'll address these concerns as I go along.

 

To begin with, the ship is a masterpiece. I may be a bit biased in my review as I paid for an inside cabin and was upgraded to an outside. A wonderful bit of luck that certainly set the cruise off in the right direction. However, the cabin we were upgraded to suffered from an odor in the bathroom approximating raw sewage or rotting food. Not sure which but it was discernible, although certainly not overpowering, the entire cruise. For those interested, the problem seemed to affect the entire aft portion of the 10th deck at least. My room was 10232, but several of our neighbors also noted the odor. We generally solved the problem by plugging the sink whenever it was not in use. This, thanks to other posts addressing the issue, certainly kept the smell inside the bathroom and relatively faint.

 

The cabins are small. Smaller than any other cruise ship I've been on. On the other hand, the layout and storage possibilities are probably the best of any ship I've been on. So while the physical space is limited, it only feels cluttered if you don't take advantage of all the storage to put and keep clothes, toiletries, etc out of sight. The issue regarding the ill-fitting chair is extremely annoying but nothing to ruin a cruise over. After I tripped over it for the 10th or 11th time trying to get to the bathroom in the dark it really just made me laugh.

 

The bathroom is well laid out but the shower is small. I'm not a particularly small person (5'10" give or take 225lbs depending on the start or end of the week) but I could shower without too much difficulty. Any larger than me and it would have been very difficult. My girlfriend and several other women we chatted with remarked that the size of the shower made shaving a disaster. Like the chair, irritating but nothing to spoil the fun.

 

continued on next posting -----

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Continued from previous ---

 

The food was tremendous. However, a word to the wise. If your thoughts on Italian food tend to focus on the Olive Garden, you are in for a surprise. While there are pasta dishes every night, they are not entrees. The food focuses on seafood, steaks and sometimes fowl cooked to northern Italian tastes. There is some confusion over how steaks will be cooked. Several times I asked for medium and got well done. Eventually I described what I wanted to my waiter (the very excellent Pepe and his assistant the outstanding Budha) and he got it just right.

 

I would highly recommend trying to find yourself in the L'Approdo dining room (aft, deck 6). It is significantly smaller than the other room (I believe called the Caravello, midship deck 5) and the vast majority of complaints I heard about service came from the other room. Contrary to several posts on here, our food came out in a very timely manner. As soon as I finished one dish, the next was ready. Our outstanding Canadian tablemates said if anything the food came out a little too quickly for their tastes. We ate just one meal in the Caravello dining room, a lunch, and it was both slow, cold, and missing courses with a waiter significantly less enthusiastic than any we had for a myriad of breakfasts and lunches in the Approdo. However, I think the wait staff on a whole is wonderful with perhaps a few bad seeds in the mix.

 

As for the coffee/tea/ice tea/water postings that have shown up on earlier cruises I believe whatever issues they were having are well resolved. Be warned the ice tea is not crystal light (thank goodness from my perspective) but actual earl grey or other tea that is chilled. It was delicious to me, but I noticed many people did not appreciate it. Water was constantly being refilled either from the assistant waiter or by the wine steward when she wasn't busy. Coffee and tea was offered the first several nights until our patterns and preferences were known. Then they came automatically at the end of the meal. In fact, one night when I didn't feel like my usual coffee I sensed that Budha was a bit concerned he had gotten it wrong! I can't say enough about our waiter and assistant.

 

We did not order the wine package, but several passengers who did gave it extremely high marks. If you order drinks every night with dinner, the wine steward is very attentive. Since I'm a hit or miss drinker I didn't receive the best service from our wine steward but with some effort I was able to catch her eye most of the time.

 

We brought our own bottles of rum (2) and some .5 liter cokes on board with us. We left them out all week and mixed our own drinks in the cabin and also to take to one of the quiet back decks (we also brought some thermos cups to keep them cold). No one ever said anything to us and it worked well for keeping our tab down. However, they do post signs at the various ports and take away any alcohol you buy in port. My recommendation is to bring some with you at the beginning and just don't flaunt it anywhere.

 

Speaking of drinks, don't expect them to be pushed on you as the drink of the day in any of the many wonderful lounges or on deck. The waiters are not going to come ask you for a drink. They are going to politely wait with a smile until you signal them and then come over and provide you with excellent service. A true enhancement over the mass market ships and the constantly circling buzzards! Drinks are very reasonably priced and well made. Although the wine steward was not familiar with a crown and coke and some other drinks that were ordered by people we ate and drank with, the bartenders were. So, if you get a puzzled expression don't fret! Just ask the waitress/wine steward to repeat what you want to the bartender and we had no problems.

 

As for the English language issues I think too much is being made of it. I didn't come across a single staff member who did not speak English to one degree or another. Do they always get the meaning of colloquialisms and slang? No. But they understood everything I asked for or asked for clarification. The first several nights we thought our waiter didn't speak much English but he actually speaks it quite well. He is just self-conscious about it as he feels his command of it is not very good. My thought is that much of the crew is the same. They understand and speak English well, they just speak other languages better and feel a bit intimidated by native English speakers (as I do by native Spanish speakers).

 

The entertainment is wonderful! I was blown away by the classical music and the Italian tenor. Both of those shows were simply fantastic. Unfortunately I missed the magician who everyone said was the best of them all. Again a small caveat... none of the lounge performers are native English speakers. Hearing renditions of Sinatra with a pronounced Italian accent as well as good old rock and roll did not sit well with me. So, despite the enormous number of lounges and the generally high level of the singers we spent more time relaxing outside than in, even at night.

 

As for the smoking issue it can be annoying. I smoke cigars on rare occassions and enjoyed one on an empty aft deck one night. However, some of the lounges were a bit hard to stomach, as were common areas near elevators and, if there wasn't a breeze, spaces on deck. Did it ruin my cruise? Absolutely not. But if you are especially sensitive to smoke be warned there is a lot of it on this ship.

 

As for the dress code... casual means golf shirts (polo shirts) and slacks for men. For the formal nights I wore a suit and tie and was perfectly in line. You could be more dressy, button down shirts for casual and tux for formal and not feel out of place but it isn't necessary.

 

The main complaint I heard all week was about the excursions. It is my opinion that MSC doesn't know who to hire to run these excursions right now and is probably being ripped off along with the passengers. Many people complained that the tours were not well run. I only did one ship excursion in Roatan and came away less than impressed (Snorkel/kayak). For the money ($80 per person) it was not worth it. We kayaked down the beach, not an ecotour type experience, just a paddle, then snorkeled off a public beach with people who didn't pay a lot of money to be guided around. Others had similar complaints in Cozumel although not in Grand Cayman. Everyone I talked to in Grand Cayman had as good a time with the Stingrays as I did a few years back on a different ship.

 

The duty free shop on the boat is somewhat useless. There is very little in it and in fact there was no tylenol or dramaine, staples on most ships. We did find, however, that if you go to the medical center you can get these for free. So I guess they don't stock what they give away. A more than fair trade so long as you know ahead of time where to look when you are in desperate need of dramamine!

 

I could probably right some more about this ship but I think having gotten this long no one would read it. If you are interested or have any other questions, please feel free to contact me at jknezek@aol.com and just put OPERA in the subject so it doesn't get lost in my ever-mounting piles of junk mail.

 

As a final thought... if you are an experienced cruiser with RCL or Princess and you'd like your next cruise to be almost exactly what you're used to, this ship may not be for you. However, if you are open to a little bit more international experience in terms of passengers, crew, food, drinks and entertainment, this cruise is a bargain at the current price.

 

Good luck to all who sail on her and I hope this helps answer any questions or doubts.

 

Jeremy

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Wow, thank you Jeremy!

 

I am going on Jan. 29th and can't wait!

 

Jana

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As a final thought... if you are an experienced cruiser with RCL or Princess and you'd like your next cruise to be almost exactly what you're used to, this ship may not be for you. However, if you are open to a little bit more international experience in terms of passengers, crew, food, drinks and entertainment, this cruise is a bargain at the current price.

 

Good luck to all who sail on her and I hope this helps answer any questions or doubts.

 

Jeremy

 

 

Excellent and well rounded review Jeremy! Thanks for sharing.

 

Ernie

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Thanks for the great review...it only heightens our anticipation for our 1/29 curise...got our tickets just a few days ago and can't wait!

 

Larry and Marie Davies

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Florida -- I think the average age would have been in the late 40s or early 50s. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people in their 20s-late 30s that my girlfriend and I met and socialized with. However, as with most cruises, the senior crowd dominates and the disco was mainly dead at night.

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Jeremy:

 

Great review! I find there was balance in your comments. Like other poster, we're going on Jan 29. We have booked an inside also and will be surprised if there is an upgrade. A few questions:

 

Please comment on embarktion/disembarktion - how early can one board the ship, time when you arrived to board, how long to get on ship, how long to get off ship, any issues that one might need to work around. The US has some sort of security form to be filled out which we haven't seen as yet, for many lines this is done electronically prior to ticket issuance, how/when does MSC handle this?

 

Pricing of alcohlic/soft drinks and the wine package.

 

Dining, while we generally prefer the dining room and I understand there is deck restaurant/buffet for breakie/lunch, is this also available at dinner time?

 

Is there access to punch/lemonade or similar cold fluid from the deck restaurant during the day/evening without having to resort to bar purchases for something cold?

 

Availability of coffee/ice cream and let's say at 11:00 p.m. at night, I like to have some on the deck at night. We picked the early seating, any concerns noticed for passengers trying to change early/late?

 

With the sewer gas issue, was there any corrective/definitive action by the hotel staff to address or is this "normal" to expect?. I have seen this issue raised by other posters.

 

Toiletries provided, e.g. shampoo?

 

Fitness equipment, access/availability.

 

What did you need on this ship that you didn't bring with you?

 

Thanks again for you review.

 

Ken

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Ken -- All documentation and embarkation procedures are handled at the dock. I live in South Florida and drove to the dock arriving a little after 1p.m. in what was the peak loading time. All documentation will need to be filled out in the embarkation lounge as you cannot fill out anything online prior to boarding. The MSC website hasn't gotten to that stage yet but I know most of the younger crowd was adding that to their comment sheets. We boarded in approximately a half hour. I heard it took a little longer, up to 1 hour, for international travelers to get on board as they had fewer possible counters and slightly more work to go through. However, if you arrive earlier, and I heard reports of people getting on the ship as early as 11:30 a.m. the line was significantly shorter. Between 1 p.m. and 2:30 seemed to be the longest waits but I didn't hear anyone complain, US or International, about waiting longer than 1 hour.

 

I found the alcohol and soft drinks to be reasonably well priced. Mixed drinks were as high as $5 for a delicious made from scratch daiquiri/pina colada down to a very reasonable $3.75 for a Baileys on the rocks. Soft drinks were $2.10 or $2.30 per can (we had brought our own so I never ordered a soft drink). I did not order the wine package but I believe it was $70. Significantly less than buying one bottle per night at dinner and one of the people I met who works as a wine importer was reasonably impressed with the quality of wine provided.

 

The buffet on the Opera is open for dinner between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. So a nice window. You can get pizza on the deck until 6 p.m. and hot dogs and hamburgers until 5 p.m. There is ice cream on the deck in the afternoon but not, to the best of my knowledge, at night. However, every night there was a midnight buffet. Since I had second seating I never once felt a desire to go to the midnight buffet, but they did not have ice cream in the buffet at lunch or dinner so I'm guessing it would be a no go at midnight as well. However, you can order ice cream in the dining room for dessert and it is fabulous. Not quite real Italian gelato standards, but much better than the milk based ice cream in the states.

 

There is ice tea and water available on the deck all night. No juice or punch that I was able to find. You can buy fresh squeezed lemonade from almost all the bars and it is simply fabulous, though a bit expensive.

 

To be honest we never complained about the sewer smell. Thanks to earlier postings on here we knew to keep the drain closed and with the bathroom door shut it never invaded the room or overwhelmed us in the bathroom. We were happy to accept the smell in return for the upgrade. Others in the aft cabins on deck 10 found it to be a nuisance but I don't know anyone that put up a fight about it. I have a feeling everyone in that area of the ship in outside cabins were free upgrades. We passed around the cruise critic remedy and most people were satisfied with the results.

 

Toiletries in the form of shampoo (so-so. my girlfriend brought and used her own but I was happy with it. took the salt out of my hair...), soap, shower cap and sewing kit were provided and replaced every night if used up. To address a complaint I had seen a lot of discussion about on this site earlier our sheets were changed every day but 1. In fact, twice we spilled either pizza or ice tea on the sheets while having a meal in the room and the steward had replaced the sheets in the morning and then because of the mess did so again at turndown! Our cabin steward ranked with our wait staff in excellence!

 

As for fitness equipment I know it was available but I'm sorry to say I never availed myself of it. Nor did I even go check it out or ask anyone about it so I can't give you a description. Sorry. I was truly lazy on this trip.

 

As a somewhat experienced cruiser I had managed to bring everything I needed. In fact, due to some vagaries in the dress code which I hope I have helped to clear up I had overpacked significantly while debating the Italian idea of "casual".

 

Good luck and enjoy your cruise. She is truly a magnificent vessel. Very understated in elegance and I hope you enjoy your cruise as much as we did ours. Please do not hesitate to post any other questions you might have and I will do my best to answer them.

 

Jeremy

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Jeremy - Thank you for a good read and I am sure that you have helped a great many people overcome their fears and worries. Let s hope so at least.

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Thanks for the great reviews me and my girlfriend (25,24) are going jan. 22nd and can't wait....very informative and not to much trash talking the ship,,,what a welcomed event.

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I am going on the Opera on Mar 5th to the W. Caribbean. You said that you brought alcohol onboard. I was under the impression it was not allowed. Was it checked or in your carry-on? My girlfriend and I would love to save a few dollars by mixing our own drinks. Thank you

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Terence we had no problems bringing alcohol in our checked luggage. if you try and buy it in port they will take it away from you but i didn't hear of them taking it away from anyway that had it in their checked or carry on baggage.

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