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JennP

MSC Opera Review - March 12-19th

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In comparing our cruise to friends and colleagues of mine, I was very impressed with the overall service and we have recommended this cruiseline to others. However, having said that this was our very first cruise experience so don't have anything to compare it with. These are some of the highlights we found:

 

- Arrived at 11:30am and even with departure at 5pm they still welcomed us aboard to enjoy the ship. This was great as our hotel check-out was at 11am and we were able to enjoy the ship before everyone arrived - buffet and all! There were no lines to wait in just went through quickly and very welcoming

- The food in the restaurants was EXCELLENT...far surpassed my expectations! We have been to all-inclusives usually and the food was far superior. The dinner was fantastic offering many different courses with a variety of selections, as well as a regular menu on top of the daily menu selections. The service was outstanding and the staff treated you well. We had an excellent waiter (Pepe) and I loved the dinners! My husband also loves cheesecake and we ended up ordering between 2-3 day from room service because they were so delicious. hehe :) The food in the buffet, grill and pizzeria I found to be above average but not as high quality as the restaurant experiences.

- It was a smaller ship, not offering some of the 'bells and whistles' of some of the larger ships, but also was an advantage as the atmosphere was very relaxing

- Average age was probably around 60, although there were some younger couples and families. Only a handful of children which was surprising for March Break, however very nice for us as we were looking to escape and relax (and I'm a school teacher so I didn't complain :) We loved this as it seemed like the ship was never crowded, there were often less than 10 people in the pool (sometimes none!) and there was never crowds anywhere. If anything, it sometimes felt like there was only a small number of people on the ship (we guessed around 700-800), although they said that there were 1500 passengers aboard. Would recommend for those looking to have a relaxing vacation, perhaps not singles looking for partying-type fun.

- We had booked our inside cabin for a great deal to begin with and then once onboard we went to visit the accomodations person (don't know what their 'title' is) and she was very helpful and accomodating. Again, great service. We asked if there was any available balcony rooms and upgraded to a balcony deck room for $100 US pp. It was such a good deal!! We were very pleased and the balcony deck room made the experience 10 times better right away!

- Our room was a good size, and the bathroom wasn't too small like I have heard on cruiseships. The room was cleaned at least 3-4 times a day and more if we requested with our door sign. We even had bathrobes!

- They had baseball greats on board for different events, so able to meet some past baseball players like Cito Gaston, Kelly Gruber and some others that I didn't know but who played with Mickey Mantle etc. I'm not a huge baseball fan but loved the Blue Jays when I was younger so was neat to see those ones :) Since the ship felt so small, had a chance to interact with them often.

- When coming to the ports it was never a problem getting on and off. We never had to wait in lines (I spoke to my friend who went on the Princess and she was telling me about the many long line-ups they endured!). It was easy disembarkation and embarkation each time. We opted to hire locals for touring and getting places and it was always a great experience. We often met passengers from other cruiselines and the biggest complaint seemed to be that their ship was so crowded...something we never had to deal with at all.

- Lots of food choices from buffet, grill, pizza and every night they had a specialty night. The food was awesome! I definitely would do all-inclusives again.

- They didn't have a deal to get soda pop any cheaper (I know some ships provide cards etc), but at our first port we bought a few 2-litres and brought them on board and no one had a problem with that. Even alcohol they didn't check, it was more of an honour system on whether you stopped to hand it in until the end of the cruise.

- A nice gym with treadmills overlooking the water that never seemed too crowded. The only downside was I was excited to try Pilates classes etc but they charged an extra $15 for the classes. Would've been nice if those were included.

- Good shows in the theatre. My favorites were the magic show and their final night which reminded me a lot of a Cirque de Soleil type show. They also had a great entertainment team.

- They did not require tipping!! If anything, they discouraged it and said that if we found that we had excellent service than to write that on the comment card and the staff would be rewarded internally. They provided envelopes at the front desk on request only and even then reiterated over and over that the tipping was not expected, nor required. This was much nicer than being expected to tip a certain % and actually made you want to tip even more!

- There was always things available, plenty of lawn chairs free for use, a library of books, free playing cards to borrow, etc

- The announcements were in 6 languages which I found some reviews online found negative, but we didn't really notice too much. They weren't very often and the person did a great job at speaking quickly but clearly so that it didn't go on forever. It was actually neat having so many different languages on board.

 

I think those are the main things. There weren't any surprising costs, although I did get my hair cut on board and that was a bit pricier than I expected (but noted that on their comment card). I would definitely recommend this cruise ship to others - especially those looking for a nice relaxing getaway! We would without a doubt book with MSC Cruises again based on this experience!

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Jenn, I'm so glad you enjoyed our positive experience. The unobtrusiveness and the friendliness were definitely plusses for us! I can't wait to get the transatlantic report from all my newfound friends ... I think one of the best things about doing this is the friends we all made onboard and online!

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I too was on board for this week (and the next). It certainly was quieter for the first week and very busy the next. Had a great time and would repeat as a lone traveller on this occassion there really was nothing to beat the prices for a cabin with no single suppliment. All in all avery good holiday. Few announcements, as you say, and one big plus - no art auctions :-)

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I am surprised to hear that tipping was discouraged on board. I know that MSC state that tipping is not required but many TAs are advising their passengers to tip as per usual cruise standards.

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I am surprised to hear that tipping was discouraged on board. I know that MSC state that tipping is not required but many TAs are advising their passengers to tip as per usual cruise standards.

 

This also surprised me.

 

The following is printed in the information booklet I received with my Lirica tickets:

 

"Gratuities (Tips) are a globally accepted way to thank the personnel who have taken care of you during your cruise. It is also accepted that tipping is a very personal matter between you and the personnel concerned. The Cruise Director will offer more advice on tipping during the Cruise. Gratuities to Cabin and Restaurant personnel are generally given on the last evening before arrival in the home port. A 10% service charge is already included in the price of all beverages."

 

It seems, according to this, that tipping is expected. I cannot immagine not at least tipping my cabin steward and dining room staff.

 

Kyle

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Hi Kyle

 

On Opera we had conversations with many of the staff and they all indicated that they were paid good wages and did not expect tips BUT that these were very gratefully accepted. The "onboard" tipping info/advice was slightly contradictory especially in terms of amounts and from language to language!! All rather confusing.

 

We had absolutely outstanding service from several staff who in our opinion went far further than simply filling "job specification" and we rewarded them accordingly. To us it was our way of expressing a very personal "thank you" not only for the good service but also the pleasure that had been provided.

 

 

These same persons we also made special mention of in the "Comment" sheet even though we were aware that many would leave Opera for the entire Med. season.

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The wording regarding crew tips is getting murkier by the minute. It is beginning to sound like HAL who had controversity until they changed their guidelines. Some TAs were telling their people that no tips were required but the crew was depending on them for their wages.

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The words from "the Horses mouth" i.e. The crew themselves - on Opera was this - We do not depend upon tips for our living we are paid a decent wage. Tips are appreciated if you feel that we have done a good job and given you good service.

 

For us they had done so and more and were rewarded accordingly.

 

It mattered not that Eduard a waiter who started out in the Caruso Lounge and then moved to La Caballa was paid 10% of the price of every one of the excellent Margueritas I consumed - he not only provided excellent service but was intelligent and amusing in conversation - I gave him and the barman who made the drinks my personal "thank you" in the form of a gratuity.

 

Lounge Waiters who had worked for both companies informed us that on Royal Caribbean they were paid only $50 per month and thus desperate for tips. They stated they were far happier with the MSC policy.

 

The WORD on Opera - with which I am not happy is -

To cut staff costs MSC plan to withdraw all the wine waiters from the dining room. They will expect the normal waiters to take the wine orders and serve the wine as well as the ice water and ice tea. These people already have enough on their plate (excuse the unintended pun) with welcoming the diners, drawing back the chairs to seat them, placing napkins on laps, handing out menus, taking orders and serving. At times they are asked to explain items on the menu and thus held up simply doing their job and assisting passengers.

They do not need/deserve this extra hassle and service will fall as complaints increase. The staff could well be penalised by passengers because they are perceived as not providing the expected level of service.

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I hate to harp on about this but if that is the word that the cruiseline and waiters etc. are passing around, they will be receiving only TOKEN tips of $10 or $20 instead of the customary cruise industry recommended amount from a lot of cruisers. HAL help were stiffed by lots of passengers because the TAs were translating the tipping policy (as written by the management) to mean no tips required, just to get bookings. Did the Cruise Director give tipping guidelines during one of his talks?

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I hate to harp on about this but if that is the word that the cruiseline and waiters etc. are passing around, they will be receiving only TOKEN tips of $10 or $20 instead of the customary cruise industry recommended amount from a lot of cruisers. HAL help were stiffed by lots of passengers because the TAs were translating the tipping policy (as written by the management) to mean no tips required, just to get bookings.

 

I think you're right.

I'm amazed when people feel no obligation to tip at least the cabin stewards and dining room staff. By obligated I don't mean "required", it's simply the decent thing to do, even if the company line is "thank you but you don't have to."

Some people will happily drop $4000-$5000 on a balcony suite that they're hardly in much, and then are loath to part with $40 or $50 for somebody who's sole purpose is to make their holiday as pleasant as possible.

I'm not rich, I can only book the minimum categories, but if somebody is making an effort to make sure that I am happy and satisfied, they deserve to be slipped an envelope at the end of the cruise.

Just my thoughts icon12.gif

Kyle

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The tipping thing is getting rather complicated here - and almost unnecessarily so.

 

The staff themselves admit that they already recieve a decent living wage and way above the industry standards.

 

They are happy with a token $10 or $20 tip as it is a personal expression of gratitude for a job well done. They do not consider that they have been "stiffed".

 

The information provided by the Director and his staff varied from language to language. It was stressed that it was not necessary but you were free to make your own decisions. The industry standard expressed to a group in one language was given as $5 per day per couple to ALL staff. To another language group it was $7 per day per couple to ALL staff and to another $10 per day per couple to ALL staff. You pays your money and you takes your choice!

 

I chose to ignore all this information and reward persons as I saw fit - and that included some outside the cabin/dining/lounge staff. My sole criteria was how they had performed some I rewarded far far more generously than others..

 

Although this played no part in my own thinking there is another factor worth considering. "Western" wages can be misleading. I live in an East European country. Huge % of the populuation lives on a wage below $5000 PER ANNUM. Staff from these countries working on MSC consider themselves fortunate to have the opportunity for the earnings they enjoy. To them $20 is MONEY.

 

Our Balinese waiter advised us that he has worked on MSC for 3 years. In Genoa he left Opera permanently to return home and get married. During that 3 years he had earned sufficient to buy land, build a home, furnish it, buy a new car and put savings into his bank account. In future he would work in a 5 star luxury hotel on Indonesia for a fraction of his wage on MSC and considered that he had been very fortunate. He was outstanding and received above the "top" industry standard from me.

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