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Review of MSC Opera cruise, April 23-30, 2005

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MSC Opera cruise, April 23-30, 2005


We booked this cruise about a month before leaving. It was kind of a spur of the moment decision. At the time we booked this cruise we already had one booked for July 2005 onboard Celebrity's Connie. This cruise was meant as a consolation for the hardships we went through in the last months. Two days after booking and sending a check to MSC's reps (they didn't want a credit card), they called me with the good news that MSC was selling this cruise at two-for-one rates and they sent me back half of the money I already paid.


We left Tel-Aviv on April 21st which turned out to be the busiest day at the new Ben-Gurion 2000 airport (which typically opened in late 2004 instead of 2000) as many folks were departing for a Passover vacation.


Our connection from Milan to Venice was scheduled to leave at 8:40 PM. Since this was a smaller aircraft they used busses rather than a jetway to get us from the gate to the plane. At 8:30 there was no bus at sight but we were assured that in 5-10 minutes the busses will arrive.

When we were finally on the plane there was a delay. The captain came over the PA to tell us we are waiting for a passenger whose luggage is already onboard. We waited. At 9:20 PM the crew made an additional head count. Turned out they mis-counted the first time and everyone was onboard. So we were 45 minutes late for this 25 minutes flight.

We landed just before 10 PM but the luggage from the flight started to arrive only at 11:15. Our suitcase (we had only one) arrived, torn, twisted and broken. The Alitalia rep issued us a voucher for a new suitcase, gave us a list of stores to get one and some masking tape to wrap the suitcase and keep our clothes inside. After a short taxi drive we reached our hotel in Mestre around midnight. The night clerk assured us one of the listed stores in only 5-10 minutes walk from the hotel.


The next morning we got a new suitcase. The entire ordeal took about 2 hours and we were ready to take the bus (we bought a day pass for busses & vaporetto) to Venice. The bus company was on strike from 10 AM to 1 PM so we crossed to the railway station and took the train.


Venice is so beautiful. We did not get into any museum but strolled the streets and did our own town tour with the Vaporettos including the Lido and a round trip around Venice. It was late evening when we got back to our hotel.


After a leisurely breakfast we finished packing and took a taxi to the cruise terminal in Venice. We arrived around 10:00 AM. Many passengers were already in the terminal but the counters were not open yet. In 5-10 minutes they'd open, we were told. The counters were opened at 11 AM. The procedure was very quick and included taking our photos for the sail card. The passport officers were still absent, 5-10 minutes until they arrive said MSC agents. At noon they came and a few minutes later we were on the ship.


Passengers Mix


Mostly Europeans with French, Italian & German speaking being the majority. We also "spotted" Spanish, Argentineans, Moroccans, Algerians, Dutch, Turkish, Americans and New-Zealanders.




Saturday - Venice, Italy

Sunday - Bari, Italy

Monday - Katakolon, Greece

Tuesday - Kusadasi, Turkey

Wednesday - Istanbul, Turkey

Thursday - Sea day

Friday - Dubrovnik, Croatia

Saturday - Venice, Italy


The stops in each port on the way were short with Bari being the shortest (10AM-2PM) and Istanbul the longest (8AM-3PM).

Since we regarded this cruise as a relaxation cruise, we only took one excursion - a Bosphoros sailing in Istanbul. This boat tour was very scenic and allowed us to get a glimpse of this huge city.

In Bari & Dubrovnik MSC provided shuttle busses to the old city. In Katakolon and Kusadasi we strolled on our own.


There were passengers boarding the ship in Bari and in Istanbul and they start their week long cruise at those ports. Accordingly Saturday & Sunday were casual, Monday was Gala (formal), Tuesday was formal (seems semi-formal to us), Wednesday was casual, Thursday was Gala (formal) and Friday was casual.



The Ship


The MSC Opera is a beautiful ship with many brass decorations and railings. The ship is spotless and constant cleaning and rubbing is going on.

There are many public places to hang out on decks 5 & 6, one on deck 7 (The Caruso lounge which seems to us to be under-utilized), the pool area and Il patio dining area on deck 11 and the disco on deck 12. The impression of the public lounges is that there are many of them, more than on the Summit. However, since the ship is 84' wide (compare to 105' of the Summit) the passageways between each of them tend to get crowded.


There are almost no announcements on the PA system except checking for late passengers when about to leave a port.


Some elevators go between floors 4 and 12, some between 5 and 11 and one to floors 5,6,8,9 (no 7).


There are some lack of efficiency and some attitude issues that can be improved. Some examples:

1) Announcements and instructions, when given, are done in 5 languages - Italian, German, French, English and Spanish. We know a little French and my wife knows a little German, so we knew that some information given in these languages (and we assume in Italian too) was not repeated in English.


2) One afternoon we went to the casino to play the slots. It was almost deserted. The only players were my wife & I and another passenger at the other end of the casino. When we left we forgot our cigarettes and lighter near the machine. We came minutes later, still only that single person at the other end (not much traffic around the casino either) and the cigarettes and lighter were gone. The ashtray was cleaned and removed. We were almost certain that the cleaner took it but we were not sure. We asked the casino staff (only one was there the entire time) if he saw it and "suddenly" he could not speak a word of English. Same with the cashier - she doesn't understand English. We asked to see the casino manager. When the manager arrived we told him all about it and asked him to ask the cleaner if he saw it, just ask him. He refused, telling us about a cellphone he left on the table that was gone and telling us that in all probability we would not find it again. It wasn't the value (half a pack and a cheap one-time lighter) but we felt it was either policy, inefficiency or Italian style - you tell us.


3) In Bari & Venice there is an hydraulic ramp that attaches directly to deck instead of the usual stairs/ramp. Both in Bari & in Venice they did not know at which spot to attach the ramp and had to do a trial and error, including moving the magnetometer gate and the red carpet that were already in place. Duh, is this the first time the ships docks there? Don't you know already?


4) One channel on the TV shows the ship's position, weather and sea condition. We could look out our balcony and see completely flat water, mirror like when the channel showed waves up to 4 feet, or we can see and feel the waves when the sea was stated as glassy.


5) Reception staff is not courteous to non-Italians.


6) On the first night, first seating started at 7 PM and second seating started at 9 PM. With seven courses at dinner and everyone trying all of them on first night, people were still eating their main course at 8:45 and the waiters were frantic. On subsequent nights, first seating was 6:45, second seating was 9:15. Duh, is this the first time you serve seven course dinner? Don't you know already?


[picture shows sailaway from Venice]


(continued on next post...)


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MSC Opera cruise, April 23-30, 2005 (continue from previous post)




The officers, when we saw them were aloof.

The waiters in the lounges were courteous and fun.

All other staff, cleaning personnel, cabin attendant etc were friendly and smiling.

Room service was very fast when we ordered coffee.




There are two restaurants on the ship (the bigger Caravelle on deck 5 and the smaller L'Approdo on deck 6) in addition to a buffet (La Vele on deck 11) and Pizza & hamburger/hotdog stations on the open Il Patio (deck 11).


In the morning and at lunch time the L'Approdo is closed and the hamburger/hotdog station serves as omelette station in the morning (only one variety of scrambled eggs in the buffet).


The buffet & the Il Patio are closed in the evening so it's only traditional dining in the evening.


We were assigned to the L'Approdo. The structure of this restaurant is that the center part of it is in a circle surrounded by brass railing outside of which are the stations for the waiters. We were sitting next to the railing. This led to some noisy spot but we were able to see how the waiters operate.


The first evening was chaotic (see note 6 above). Our waiter ignored us until my wife got up and started walking towards him with that killing look in her eyes. From that moment we had superb service every night, the waiter Rafaello was always with us first and he was very attentive to our needs. On the third night he and my wife were already on hugging and kissing basis. Italian style?


With seven courses dinner (appetizer, soup, salad, pasta/risoto, main, cheese, dessert) it is inevitable that some people will skip some courses. To accommodate this, the cutlery is changed every course with the waiters looking at their card for the next course for each person and pick the needed cutlery from a drawer at their station. This process takes time and add to the total meal time. To save some time, our waiter gave us some courses through the railing instead of going around and placing the plates from the appropriate angle. Italian style?


The waiters also show some initiatives. One evening, one of the pasta dishes that came to the station was big. The waiter looked at it, took about a third and put it in the "soiled" position and proceeded to serve the reduced portion to the unsuspecting passenger at a nearby table. Italian style?


We saw many wearing jeans for dinner, even on Gala (formal) nights. None were denied.


The daily states that no one will be allowed in the restaurant 15 minutes after dinner starts and the doors will be closed. Not so. A table of 8 French speaking passengers next to our table were late every night, sometimes 45 minutes late. This didn't bother us but on Baked Alaska night we had to wait until they were on their main course before the parade started and I suspect the same went on at other areas of the restaurant.




First of all - Italian food is GOOD!!!

It is our impression, from previous visits to Italy and from this cruise, that Italians don't handle meat as well as they handle fish and vegetables.

I took the fish dishes every night (except the lobster) and they were outstanding. My wife took some of the meat dishes and some fish and while the meat was good, she didn't rave about it.

The sauces are less intriguing than they were on the Summit.

The soups (not chilled ones) were not hot when served.

The pasta dishes were excellent and the risoto dishes were superb.

The desserts were not heavy, they were interesting.

The ice cream was good but not Italy's best.


One night they had a Buffet Flambe in the buffet area. They had some fruits (melon, pineapple, watermelon, grapes) and they would caramelize some of it for you. The impression was they want us gone ASAP.


We did not attend the Grand Buffet.




In the Il Patio there is a large coffee container. When the coffee level gets low the staff fills it with hot water! Italian style?

This container is emptied around 4 PM so in the evenings there is no coffee except in the dining room, room service and in the Aroma cafe (for a fee).


Next to the coffee container are juice containers. They were empty and dry the entire cruise.


Alcoholic drinks in the bars & lounges are cheaper than those on Celebrity. A typical drink is 4.70 Euro (about $6.10) but they already include the tip. The catch is the glasses are smaller by 40%-50%.

"Tropical" drinks tend to be weak (lots of juice and not much juice).




Ah, the Animation Team. A bunch of kids, full of energy. They do games, shows, dance lessons, craft lessons and much more till the wee hours of night. Maybe it was just coincidence, but out of three times we were at the pool deck in the morning, only once were they there to entertain.

They are so enthusiastic that during their games they "forget" to call in English, sometimes in other language too. At least the Italians can always understand them.


We saw three shows in the Teatro D'ell Opera. I guess they were OK. I have a thing about hearing English songs in a heavy Italian/Spanish accent. On the first night the only thing worth taking picture of - at least for me - were the lights on the ceiling before the show started.

It was also a habit of starting the 9:15 PM show at 9:30 or 9:45 (just 5-10 minutes late).

The show featuring a tenor singer and a violinist was good.


There's live music in the evening at the Cabala, the Cotton Club, Piazza Espagna and Caruso.

During lunch there's music at the Il Patio. (Los Paraguayos with the same sequence every day).


[picture shows the Opera in Istanbul]


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Boten ~ thanks for the informative and detailed review. Very interesting. We appreciate the time you've taken to share the info with us.


Have a great time on Connie later this year!

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Boten, thanks for the review of your "Italian Style" cruise. Glad you and Mrs. Boten could get away together on such short notice, and Hey, you've got another Celebrity cruise lined up pretty soon! It doesn't suck to be you!:D

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MSC Opera cruise, April 23-30, 2005 (continue from previous

The daily states that no one will be allowed in the restaurant 15 minutes after dinner starts and the doors will be closed. Not so. A table of 8 French speaking passengers next to our table were late every night, sometimes 45 minutes late.


This is one of the things about reviews that makes them so fascinating!!

Only yesterday I read one where the famly were complaining bitterly that they came 15 minutes late and were locked out! They were warning future passengers to be prompt!!

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...they came 15 minutes late and were locked out!

On that cruise? in the L'Approdo? Can't be! Lots of people came late. This particular table was next to ours so we really noticed. They also complained about the service rather loudly.

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Interesting review, thank you Boten. I have not sailed Opera, but certainly the doors did close on Lirica, my daughter who had nipped back to the cabin to fetch her camera, had to be specifically 'let in' by the steward on her return. On Melody too, people were shut out. It is extremely rude when people constantly turn up late, it disrupts the dining flow for others, and I had a bug bear with this on a recent HAL cruise. If only they had shut the doors, it might have taught a few people a lesson. On the other hand, passengers are 'guests', so really they feel like they should be able to do as they want. Can't please everyone all the time.


Hope you have a good trip on Connie. As we have been 'invaded' by the X board posters, I popped over there, and found an interesting thread, " MSC Opera vs X - A 'JMO' Review".. worth a read all MSC'ers.

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...As we have been 'invaded' by the X board posters, I popped over there, and found an interesting thread, " MSC Opera vs X - A 'JMO' Review".. worth a read all MSC'ers.

Magwa, Don't berate the X board posters, some of them are very nice people as I can attest to. ;)

Yes, I've read the post you mentioned.

Don't think that the cruise was bad in any form or shape. We had a ball on the Opera. Most of my observations were of the things I think would make Americans "mad" about MSC.

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Please don't think I was berating anyone; my wording did not come over as I meant it to:( I often read through many of the boards, just thought it interesting to find a couple of mainly X posters in here. I had not seen the thread I quoted above. It's very difficult to do an MSC v Any US line, as they are so different, neither is necessarily better or worse, just... different. There are things I enjoy about each, and things I dislike about each. An amalgamation of the +'s and -'s would ne nice:)

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I think a list of +'s and -'s will be very difficult. Because MSC caused allready many +'s and -'s between their European and Carribean season/sailing.

Even management in U.S, Europe(Napoli) and during the cruise is different, as you can see on this (part of) a MSC-mail I received : "because management regarding cabins during the cruise is different" !!

As regards the 'problems' with service on board during OPERA's first Med.cruise (she just arrived from Atlantic Crossing, where I was on), I can understand that for a bit. Crew told me that as well as in Genova as in Venice totaly 400 to 500 (!!) crewmembers will leave the ship. And has to be replaced by new ones. Only the Italians like the named Rafaelle (he was our waiter too) would stay on board. And,.. on some cruises he will leave the ship in Bari, take train(is not far) to Napoli (where he lives) and returns next week. Just like the other crewmember do on LIRICA (which is actualy call at Napoli) and as you know a lot of Italian crew comes from Napoli, Sorrento, etc.


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Was this by any chance you waiter.. http://www.magwa.co.uk/lirica/pics/raff.jpg

They are all called Rafaello or Guiseppe, and come from Sorrento/Napoli etc:) That photo was our waiter on Lirica, but he had been on other MSC ships and introduced us to the brother of our waiter on Melody, who we subsequntly met again on Armonia. It's like a family really at times.



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Yes, this was the same Rafaelle. Nice guy.


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Yes, "our" Raffaelo too.

As for crewmemebers leaving the ship, we talked to some of them and were told they leave soon (1-4 days after we docked)

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Interesting review boten. It's obvious that this cruise wasnt exactly X, but it does sound like it was enjoyable. I'm booked for january, and really looking forward to that risotto!

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Hi Boten,

We also signed up last minute for this cruise. Admittedly I kept wondering which couple you were. I was a bit obvious if you saw us as I was the only one on crutches with small children in toe. We were in the first seating. The reason first seating wasn't done untill late is because it often took them an hour and a half to get us our food. It was anoying. I enjoyed reading your review. I just posted mine. We've had similar suitcase problems with other lines, not a nice way to start a trip.

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