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Opera..April 2 '05

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undefinedWe're booked for this cruise and really excited about sailing straight to Genoa. My husband is from Genoa and his family (now just his brother, sister, their families and lots of cousins and friends) is all in that area. AND he was a merchant seaman (with Costa back in the 50's and 60's) and he is really looking forward to sailing into the port of Genoa which was always a big deal for him. Over the last 40 years we've always flown so this will be a nice change for us. Our life history in a paragraph!!

 

We took an inside guarantee..we paid for a twelve and now are an 11 with high hopes of a couple of moves up. Any projections from those of you who have sailed with MSC before? We've had inside, outside and a balcony (once) which I would love to do again but we are trying to watch our budget, too. When we've had an outside cabin it was neither clear or convenient for looking out so, if anything, I'd love to spring for a balcony. Oh, well..

 

Now for the real dilemma...getting home again! I mentioned to the TA that we want to stay in Italy for at least 2 weeks after the cruise and he said we'd have to make our own plane reservations for an extended stay. Fine. I know it's very early on but I checked a few one-way fares directly with the airlines and had to sit down. Then I got one of MSC's brochures that showed their air packages for this years transatlantic cruise. And someone on another board said that some cruiselines will make later/earlier air arrangements for a $50 pp fee which would be fine with us. Well, their brochure rate to get us from NO to FLL and then Genoa to NO is cheaper than anything I could ever hope to find. I asked our TA to check with MSC as to their policy in this case. They finally got back to him and said they want $50 each up-front (non-refundable) for them to see what they can come up and what the cost would be.

Final decision..we will wait till a little closer to 'final payment due date' at which time I will check with everyone AND their brother and maybe even MSC again and see what I can come up with.

 

Is this the right course and what would you do if you were in our shoes. Mamma mia..everything is so complicated!

Thanks!!!!!

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That is interesting. I've only done one transatlantic (over 9/11/01...but that's another story) and the air fare through the cruise line was by far the better deal. I live in the midwest and had to drive 100 miles to the closest "hub" city, but even with that, it was worth it. I also had my TA work on it and she was also unable to find a better deal. Those one way air fares are a killer. I never did understand why it costs twice as much to go one way as it does for round trip. HEY have you checked that out? Get one of those bargain rate round trips and not use half?? Seriously, you might come out ahead. Good luck and keep us posted!

 

nocaper

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Yo-

 

We joined Bestfares about 5 years ago-

 

We found when we flew to Barcelona and back from Athens and Rome and back from London for our two Med cruises - that their airfares were about 60% of the Cruise Lines

 

You may want to look into their deals - I also know that they beat Orbitz and Expedia on the International airfares.

 

Also - don't forget to look into Southwest Airlines from NO to FLL - they have some kicka** internet only fares.....

 

Just a few thoughts - hope it helps.....

 

Happy Cruisin'

 

Mike

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Hi there

Well looks like we are to be cruise-mates as we too are on Opera 2nd April 2005 Return to the Old Continent sailing and really looking forward to it. We will have to meet up for a drink (or two!!). There are some great ports of call but also those nearly 6 days at sea should be wonderful.

We have reserved Balcony Cabin 12003 La Boheme that is Category 11 on the msccruises site deck plans. We got a fantastic brilliant price and are very very happy indeed.

Have you seen the Opera deck plans? The Category 6 cabins are outers but with restricted view. Cabins 7100-7133 all look out to life boat and life boat deck. The forward and aft outers e.g. 10243 and 10238 have windows on to the fwd and aft public galleries/balconies.

Size wise outers and inners are same and clever use of mirrors does not make the inners feel claustrophobic.

FLIGHTS: Understand your situation VERY WELL. MSC handed out a flat refusal to arrange air travel for us travelling from Europe. Like you I was staggered at the prices coming up for one way fares. I do not know how things work for you but for us here in Europe the earier you make air line bookings the better the rate. Through lastminute I eventually made reservation for round trips. Will just not use the return portions - wonder if I am wise to broadcast that!! To give you an example we are paying USdollars686.00 to fly Vienn/London/Miami - to us thats good not sure how you feel. On the return to we have a more complicated journey but it does end in our home town of Ostrava in Czech Republic.

Our journey will begin 30th March when we make a 3 hour train journey from Ostrava to Vienna. We fly 31st March and will spend that night plus friday 1st April at Fort Lauderdale Marina Marriott. Stayed there before our Lirica cruise last year and found it very pleasant, lovely comfortable beds and brilliant for getting to the harbour. They do a complimentray bus service and we were able to get aboard very early - first group in fact.

 

Should you be interested there are some sites when you can get good info and plenty of pictures including cabins concerning Lirica. Think that she and Opera are very very similar indeed with exception of extra balcony cabins on Opera plus the inclusion of inner cabins on Deck 10.

 

Hope all this is of some help. We have sailed with MSC on both Melody and Lirica so guess you can say we are satisfied customers. Stay in touch if you wish - would be good and also interesting to learn how things work out for you.

 

Happy planning and even happier cruising

 

Barry

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We are flying out of Toronto on the 13th of August for our Opera med cruise. I don't know where you live in the US but if you can get a cheap flight to Toronto you can fly anytime one way via Zoom Airlines to Toronto (YYZ) from Paris (CDG) for $150 USD (Add $75 USD and you can fly First class!)

 

To CDG take an Air France shuttle from Genoa (there are a lot of them every day) for only $120 USD.

 

Bottom line: Genoa to Toronto $270 USD! Find that anywhere else.

 

Good luck in your research.:)

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Thanks everyone! Those are good ideas and will check them out.

 

If we were doing the westbound cruise we would certainly consider using a RT ticket as a one-way to get us there. I might raise some eyebrows if - being US residents - we wanted to buy RT tickets originating in Italy. (Could it even be done?)

 

I will definately check out bestfares AND getting here from Toronto with that very good rate. Getting together for a drink would be fun. Maybe there will more of us from this site when the time comes!

 

One more question about MSC. Is their food VERY Italian? My husband would order something like 'tripe' in a heartbeat! I am not very daring when it comes to food. I like all the heads off shrimp and fish before it gets to the table but have noticed some changes over there since my first trip in '64. I hope there's things on the menu that he will go 'wow' over even if I don't!!

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Ooops, one more thing. I meant to say we booked a 1 guarantee but are a 2 at this point with hopes of moving up a notch or to. Oh, to be a 12!!!

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OK, I'll admit I have only pulled off the round trip domestically, not with an international flight. How 'bout this...you get the round trip and do the westbound too! Now that's cruisin'!

 

The food on the Lirica was average, with a lot of Italian dishes. The nightly pasta choices were wonderful. The best meal? Prime rib...some of the best I have ever had. The worst? The lobster tail. Kinda chopped up and mushed together with Parmesan and I don't know what else, and put back in the shell. UCKY! Mind you, this was in May and things change. I sure didn't starve! You'll find plenty of choices and our waiter was wonderful. When I couldn't make up my mind between 2 pasta dishes and asked him to choose for me, he brought a half serving of each on the plate.

 

nocaper

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Hi again

It is good to see that you are getting info from 2 people who travelled with MSC!! Maybe a few more will join in.

To me the biggest problem is that with the new staff - not so new now! - coming in and many people expecting them to make big changes it is hard to know exactly what the position will be by April, 2005 and whether the changes they make are always for the better of the many rather than for "the few"!!

It is my view the food is good but not "VERY Italian!! Certainly there is an Italian influence especially the pasta and some of the stews. At no time did I see things like "horsemeat" on the menu and that pops up quite often in some parts of Italy. There was not as much use of ingredients like aubergine/egg plant/bringle in heavy tomatoe sauces as one finds in southern italy. I do not recall ever seeing tripe on the menu ...... from memory liver was as far as they went in that regard!! The problem for MSC is that they are not catering for solely Italian passengers but an international clientele. The pasta dishes are certainly Italian influenced although sometimes the flavours may not be as robust as your husband might remember or wish. MSC also followed a "healthy" eating policy and so there was a tendency to low/no salt usage - many people believe salt adds flavour. In the past we also found things like British Beef and Suet pudding and english fried fish and chips!! Some of the sea food starters with cuttlefish, calamari or octopus certainly had a strong italian feeling to them.I agree with nocaper on the prime rib the Beef Wellington was also more than acceptable as were just simple steaks.As said before we will all have to wait and see if the new "ITA LIAN SIGNATURE" means a bolder italian influence or a reduction. I certainly hope the former!! I am a lover of Italian food!

Have a friend sailing on "Armonia" this weekend - she also cruised with Lirica - and I look forward hugely to her input and discover is she detects discernible changes for the better or worse.

Barry

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Head like a sieve thats me!! Must be old age!!

Wanted to say if your husband is keen on dessert and pastry then he will love it - that is if there are no changes!! You can sense that I am apprehensive that the new CEO at MSC is going to make too many changes and ruin an excellent product.

Ice Cream was delicious and the pastries and cakes are VERY Italian - although I must say the Tiramisu was not as good as mine!!

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Hi, Go to http://www.cruisepage.com >on the left side click Photo Gallery> search type in Opera. Wow! What great photos when the ship was being built. When I talked with Fran at MSC she so nice and pointed out the location of the dinning rooms deck.

 

We might just work up to a cruisecritic party but if not a GTG meet pre-cruise or at the bar before lifeboat drill has worked great in our last few cruises. As we go along let see where everyone is planning on staying pre-cruise and have a party.

 

I won my cruise from skyauction which was a I/S Cat 3 Deck 8 and upgraded it to Cat 6 GTY. Let's hope I end up on La Traviata.

 

I'm also so happy about this cruise I don't care where they put me. I have been trying to get to Italy to see some 'getting older" ex-in-laws up north by Trento, since the '50s.

 

AIR: We always pay for most everything by credit cards that has a mileage program. Our flight on AA from LAS to FLL, then out of Rome FCO to LAS all for $38.50 tax. This will be our 3rd int’l trip we have paid with ff miles. It’s takes 60K p.p. miles for this trip…….. so you have to save for awhile or spend a lot of money.

 

R/T ticket – Yes, you should buy a round trip. Even some airlines will even suggest it now. So I guess it’s gotten more legal because so many cruisers are doing it.

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UPDATE: I called our TA back and asked him to please check with MSC about using their air if we stay two weeks in Italy. That was two days ago and I haven't heard back yet. I received the new MSC brochere a couple of days ago and their fare from the gateway city of New Orleans is $720pp. If we can get from NO to FL and then Genoa back to New Orleans for that amount I will jump for joy. The stickler here is the fact that we want to stay there for a visit and we wouldn't go unless we can do that somehow.

 

Back to the question of using a rt ticket as a one-way. As US residents, would the airlines go along if we try to buy a rt ticket with the first leg being Genoa to NO?? Couldn't we only do that if we fly there and sail back? If that would work, that would be my second choice for completing the trip (if MSC doesn't come through).

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We are flying out of Toronto on the 13th of August for our Opera med cruise.

 

Have a great time.

 

marge

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Hi Marge and hubby Ernie

Well we solved that e-mail problem and have been able to exchange mails!!

 

Almost started counting the days now till Opera on 2nd April. Should be fantastic and with so many days "at sea" there will be so much time free to do all the things you want to do but never find the time when you are visiting ports of call frequently.

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We arrived yesterday afternoon from Paris and are in serious jet lag right now. We will post our impressions and review of our cruise within the next couple of days. It exceeded our expectations in every way. The ship, food, weather, and itinerary. And we are second timer med cruisers.

 

More later

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Welcome back! Get some rest, but sleep fast so we can hear all about it! I'm still trying to decide between the Opera and Lirica for Spring. I am leaning toward the Lirica because of the theme cruises, but ya nevah know!

Hope you have some pictures for us too!

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This is part one of a multi-part posting about our impressions of the Opera on our Western Mediterranean cruise from August 15-21, 2004

 

Food and drink

 

Dining Room

 

We were travelling as a party of four and had a window-side table for four in the Aprobo dining room, first sitting. We ate all of our dinners, four lunches and one breakfast in the dining room, and all but one at our regular table (Interesting note: the same wait staff, including the wine steward, were assigned to the our table at breakfast, lunch and dinner!)

 

A word about the dining room. It did not have that huge "banquet hall" feeling that we experienced on all of our previous cruises. Instead it had a more intimate ambiance that was a result of the clever architectural treatment of the dining space, broken sight lines, smaller tables, mirrors and windows. Noise levels tended to be high, but that was due more I think to the wine-inspired animated conversation and happiness of the guests than to any inadequacy of the ship's design. Eating in the dining room was like eating out every night in your favourite neighbourhood resturant, where the staff know you by name and assign you to your regular table.

 

The food in the dining room was outright glorious. My wife and I are parially vegetarian (we will eat fish and seafood but no meat or meat product of any kind. I also eat dairy but my wife islactose-intolerant. My two sisters who were with us are meat-eaters but are very picky. Let me say that in the entire week we were on board there was only one occasion where I did not particulary care for the main entree I had selected (Couscous with curry) but Natasha our waiter picked up on it and offered to substitute it for another choice.

 

The appetizers were consistently exceptional, plated with artistic flair, and always served at the precise temperature the dish required. The appetizers (antipasto) were presented with unusual combinations of tastes, colour and textures to produce very delicious and attractive starters. We all agreed that none of the appetizers we ordered during the entire week were disappointing, and most were downright outstanding.

 

Delicious soup, pasts, risotto, fish and seafood were chef Ciro's strongest talents I believe. (My sisters tried the meat courses and while they were quite good, they also tested samples of our fish courses and found them to be exceptional. By mid-week my sisters were ordering fish over meat most of the time. Being a vegetarian I have endured more badly prepared fish and seafood, even on cruise ships, than most people. On the Costa Mediterranea, for example, I found the fish to be usually bland, inedible and floating in too much olive oil. On the Inspiration, if fish wasn't pan-fried, it usually tasted pretty cruddy. On the Opera, I found out how an inspired chef can make fish dishes that are lyrical (pardon the pun). They were amoung the best fish dishes I have ever tasted. I had fish three times a day for the the seven days we were on board, and with the exception of breakfast (where I picked up a liking for herring or achovies with my omlette), I usually had fish or seafood in more than one entree at each meal. Every fish and seafood dish was superlative. We had lobster on Gala night and with the right chef, lobster can be downright sinful on a cruise ship. It looked like the the lobster had been removed from the shell and lightly sauted with herbed butter (with a hint of pesto?) and then put back into the shell for presentation. Amazing, tender and delicious.

 

My wife particularly loved the soups. They ranged from velvety vichysoise to subtle but delicious bouillon, from cream-based chowders to hearty paysan zuppa. They all were exceptional.

 

We are regular pasta eaters and thought our taste was fairly sophisticated for North Americans. But we have tasted pasta and risotto on the Opera that makes most of our previous experience with pasta in the US and Canada pale in comparison. The pasta course was alway plentiful and delicious, served perfectly al dente. When the pasta was eaten I would soak up and eat the remaining sauce with crusty bread or foccacia, something I couldn't do on the Mediterranea because of the excess olive oil. Ditto with the risottos -- hints of spice, creamy but with the arborio rice slightly al dente. An excperience!

 

We did something that, in retrospect, could have spoiled our experience with any lesser chef than Ciro. The evening before departure, we had a meal of authentic Ligurian fare in a small but excellent restaurant called y Lupo in Genoa (It came recommended by our hotel as one of the best restaurant frequented by Genoans but largely unknown to tourists. We arrived at eigth thirty pm as the only customers, but by nine pm it was full. We definitely concur that it was a very special place with marvellous food). I was not a big fan of pesto but I heard that in the hands of a skillful Ligurian chef, pesto can be downright miraculous. I tried it at y Lupo and am now a staunch convert of "good" pesto. To get to the point, chef Ciro on the Opera was able to consistently produce pesto dishes that were as good and sometimes better than what we epxerienced at y Lupo! after the cruise we dined at the Guide Michelin recommended Antica Cantina i Tre Merli in Genoa, and I once again had pesto. To my amazement it was not as good as what we had on the ship!

 

I am not a big dessert eater and in fact I try to avoid anything with sugar in the evening, so I usually chose the sugarless option. I found all of them to be quite acceptable and satisfying. The others in my party chose with more adventure and judging from the oohs and ahhs it appears the Opera has a good pastry chef as well. Strong points seemed to be the gelati, sorbets, and profiterole. However I didn't see any dessert plate at our table with uneaten portions.

 

The same attention to detail was observable in the dining room whether it was breakfast lunch or dinner.

 

We purchased two wine packages which the cruise ship offers, a bargain at 100 Euro each which include in each a selection of three very drinkable Italian whites, three robust reds including one French and one surprising rose (I am not usually fond of rose but this one was delightful!), as well as 14 acqua minerale. The wines in the package must be consumed in the dining room but any leftover wine is graciously corked, stored and available at lunch in any dining room. If not consumed at lunch, it is waiting for you at your table at the next dinner (the white in an ice bucket). The acqua minerale can be consumed at the table and/or brought back to the cabin. We would usually consume two bottles of frizzante with our 2 wines at dinner and bring two bottles of naturale back one for each of our cabins.

 

Our waiter and assistant were discrete, attentive and efficient. In multi course meals timing is everything. We neither felt rushed nor waiting for each course, even though I would always order antipasto, zuppa, and the 1er piatti and some of my party would skip a course or two. The staff had been well-trained to have us all arrive at the main course at the same time. Masterful!

 

As I stated before we were at the first sitting. There was very little time between sitting to bus the tables and prepare for the next sitting and some of the guests tended to luxuriate in the ambiance. If any table seemed to be "lagging" behind, our maitre d'hotel, a man I would estimate to be in his early sixties, would step in, not give orders or instructions to the wait staff, nor to serve courses but to bus tables, and to lay down tablecloths and new table settings! What an inspirational example of teamwork.

 

All staff had a particular fondness for children. Our waiter Natasha would kiss all the kids when they arrived in the dining room and hug and rock the babies. When our maitre d'hotel was not bussing tables he was sitting at a children's table in the corner, entertaining the chilren like an old family uncle. (The adults from three tables had reorganized their table assignments to put all the children at one table and the adults that the other two). What a priceless feeling of family.

 

With the exception of the flaming parade of baked alaska on gala night, and the discrete and the occasional, somewhat self-conscious singing of happy birthday, mercifully there was not the usual dining room "waitertainment" of the Carnival nor the kitschiness lounge pianist of the Costa. Everything was fairly dignified and low-key. The accent in the dining room seemed to be on food, friends and conversation and everything was built around that.

 

Our next installment will deal with food and drink in le Patio and in le Vele buffet retaurant as well as in the lounges. We will also describe our "open jaw experience" with midnight buffets Italian style.

 

Stay tuned. Now I am going back to bed to catch up a little more on my jet lag!

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WOW, bdintertech, fabulous review. This is MSC to a 'T' [or should that be Tee]:) excellent description of the dining. I look forward to the rest when you've had a bit of sleep.

 

Pam

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Hi bdintertech:

Very pleased to read your initial review of the Opera, as we're sailing the same itinerary on Oct 17th from Genoa. How was the Zoom flight?

We are flying Zoom to Scotland to visit relatives before flying on to Genoa.

Thanks also for the dining tips in Genoa.

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Zoom is fantastic. Checkin waits in Toronto and Paris CDG were astonishingly short. They have lots of checkin counters open. They have a pre-screener that looks at your paperwork while in line so there are no delays when you get to the counter.

 

They showed three recent release videos over and three back. On our trip over we saw Mean Girls, Laws of Attraction, 13 Going on 30 and on the way back 50 First Dates, Shrek 2 and Walking Tall. something for everyone.

 

They served delicious hot meals (actually 2 meals on the way back). They passed the drink and snack cart every two hours. Hot towels just before landing, etc. etc.

 

The plane was full but the cabin staff were very efficient. There were two cabin stewards that I could count in premier class and six in economy.

The major airline executives should fly Zoom to see how transatlantic flights should be run.

 

One caution however...they are pretty strict about overweight baggage. They even weigh the carry on and the limit is 5 kilos and only one carry on bag permitted per passenger. If checked baggage is slightly over 20 kilo they'll let it go otherwise, you either have to upgrade to premier class (30 kilo limit) or pay the overweight penalty. But here is the amazing thing. On the way back from Paris they were discounting the available premier class seats for 49 Euros! We saw a young couple travelling with several very heavy bags and after consultation with the ticketing agent they paid the upgrade to premier class because it would have been cheaper than paying the overweight penalty!

 

We decided against the upgrade because the economy seats were quite comfortable and the service almost the equivalent of premier class.

Another plus. They appear to time their return departure from Europe to minimize jet lag and to arrive at low peak times in Canada. No exaggeration, it took no more than 30 minutes from the arrival gate to our car in the parking garage at Pearson! That includes clearing customs and picking up our checked bagage at the carousel.

 

We'd fly Zoom again in a heartbeat. It's the long haul equivalent of WestJet with added bells and whistles.

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This is part two of a multi-part posting about our impressions of the Opera on our Western Mediterranean cruise from August 15-21, 2004

 

Food and drink

 

Le Patio, Le Vele, Lounges and Midnight Buffets

 

We ate most of our breakfasts in le Vele buffet restaurant. The fare was the usual buffet spread, with lots of choice and very fresh ingrediants. Fresh fruit was abundant. Italian breakfasts are not really what we are used to in North Americas so there were some interesting variants: a huge assortment of cold cuts and salami, cheeses and breads and croissants but no toast; scrambled and hard boiled eggs but no omelette (they did fried eggs to order in the Patio so I built my breakfast from both lines); lots of hot meats, salt fish, and potatoes; very strong mediterranean style coffee that I liked but the others in my party drowned with latte caldo; the orange juice was mediocre but it was not the ship's fault because we got the same juice in the hotel breakfasts in Genoa;

 

This is the first ship we have been on that actually had soy milk available so that my wife could enjoy her breakfast cereal. She asked the first time, but after that they recognized her and brought it out to her without asking. Class Act!

 

Lunches were of acceptable quality with lots of salads, foccacea and crusty rolls, fine cheeses, fish, chicken and beef dishes, vegetable medleys and excellent pasta. There were also abundant pastry trays for the sweet tooth. The pizza from le Patio was exceptional, surpassing even the pizza from the Carnival which is pretty hard to do. The pizza chefs tried to encourage people to take a whole or half pizza instead of a single slice, because they knew they would be back in line for seconds.

 

I would say that the food offered in the buffets was competent, sometimes surprising, but certainly not up to the standards of the food in the dining room.

 

That did not stop the hordes from descending upon the buffet lines at meal times like Visigoths descending upon some peaceful celtic village. It was sheer pandemonium. For some reason the concept of the queue is unkown in the Opera buffet lines. People jumped into the line wherever they pleased and passed plates over the heads of people in line to waiting confederates who would rush down the lines, breaking in and out as if there was no one there. At our first buffet We were absolutely flabbergasted at this behavior! That is until we quickly learned how the buffet game was played Mediterranean style! We got into the spirit of things and I saw my wife in a new light as she assertively went eyebrow to eyebrow with an elderly but agile challenger who tried to take her place in line. You go girl!

 

The buffet lines were an absolute hoot, and we immensely enjoyed letting our hair down in this culinary version of football scrimmage. Besides, the sqeamish passengers could always seek refuge in the decorum and peace of the formal dining room.

 

We did two midnight buffets. While the breakfast and lunch buffets were somewhat competitive, the midnight buffets were the equivalent to running the Ironman! On Home Style Buffet night we were sitting discretely about five feet from the starbord door of le Vele having planned our strategy in one of the lounges beforehand. OK silly us! We naively thought that we were close enough to guarantee a clear touchdown run to the tables once the doors were openned. We under-estimated the cunningness of the other team. Their game plan was to place several rows of linebackers at every doorway and strategically open a breach in the lines precisely at door openning time to alow their team members in first whilst blocking or delaying access to all others teams. When we saw what they were doing we quickly came up with a counterplan to rush to the port doors. We were seriously outsmarted! There were as many if not more of the other team jamming those doors also. So we graciously accepted temporary defeat and waited while the other team composed of about eighty percent of the ship's passengers passed through the tiny opening in their defense line. Suddenly we had a break! Some members of the their team were not as quick as planned in pushing themselves into place, we saw the breach and rushed the opening. WE WERE IN! Yay Canada! Once in it was old hat! With my wife on point we rushed the tables and were able to rebuff all attempts to push us back from the goal line. Are we good or are we good!

 

Levity aside, midnight buffet was more a delightful sociological experience than a culinary one -- the food was good but the entertainment value much better.

 

One thing stood out that impressed us very much. The Opera did not have waiters walking around continuously pushing alcoholic drinks like we experienced on the other ships we were on. We were never bothered in the pool area, and drinks were not served in the Opera theatre. If you sat down in a lounge to listen to music or have a conversation, you would be approached once. If you declined you were never bothered again (that is unless you wanted a drink, in which case a quick gesture towards the bar and you were served.) We really liked that about the Opera.

 

Lounge acts were somewaht cheesy and mediocre with the exception of the Duo Strauss (a pianist and violinist) who did requests of classical music. Boy were they good! We spent a lot of time in the Piazza de Spangna listening to the sweet music they played.

 

Our next installment will deal with embarcation and accommodation.

 

Stay tuned.

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bdintertech........Sincere thanks for the amount of offeort put into the reviews. Really enjoyable reading and of course now even more impatient to get aboard 2nd April 2005.

Do you suggest we pack American football dear for the midnight buffets?? :-)

 

Maybe transatlantic will be more genteel or maybe us cruisecritic fans get our own team together and make a game plan :-)

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I'm glad you enjoyed the humour. I guess the point I was trying to make is that a cruise will always turn out to be what you want to make of it. Sure it is easy to get annoyed at things, but if you want to have things to be just like home, well I guess the best thing would be to stay home and keep your lawn mowed.

 

How does that saying go again? When in Rome...

 

I rather be participating in the Med olympic buffet games than pushing my John Deere around the back forty. I think I get a better workout.

 

;-)

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This is part three of a multi-part posting about our impressions of the Opera on our Western Mediterranean cruise from August 15-21, 2004

 

 

Embarkation and Accommodation

 

 

Embarkation on the Opera in Genoa was an absolute dream. We took a taxi to the pier from our hotel before noon. (Note on distance to the pier. While most travel books and hotel bumpf will state that the old part of Genoa (Centro) is within walking distance of the Stazione Maritimi, that is the most outrageous fib going. Yes you could walk it if you fancy a workoput in 40+ degree weather pulling your suitcase(s) downhill and then uphill over sidewalk stones laid by the Romans whilst trying to avoid hundreds of Vespa drivers who think they are on the home stretch of the LeMans. Pay the 10-20 Euros for a taxi. Thanks to our hotel desk clerk who gave us the heads up on this.

 

While checkin was formally posted as 3:00 pm we learned from previous experience that showing up at the cruise line recommended checkin time is insane. All first time cruisers do this and then wonder why the lines are so slow, and why they got an embarcation batch number of 3000 or something. ;-]

 

The reward for showing up early was no lineups, shaking hands with many of the ship's program staff and even engaging in civilized getting-to-know you conversation. Then to the ticket counter for about three

minutes for checkin formalities (picture taken, passports checked etc.) We had boarding priority number 10, 1-9 being the vip/suite passengers. Then it was up to the air conditioned departure lounge where complimentary water and juice was served by two of the ship's bar stewards. The seats in the departure lounge are soft and comfortable, but we didn't have to wait long. MSC seems to use the business strategy of under-promise/over-deliver. We had been told that we would have wait until 3 pm to board, but our number was called at 1:00, we were in our cabins by 1:10 pm, our bags were delivered by 1:30 pm, and we were in the pool by 2:00 pm. Now that's organization!

 

This efficiency is probably due to the way MSC organizes their cruise itineraries in the Med. While MSC published the Opera's departure port as Genoa, most of the passengers board the next day in Naples, then more in Palermo, Palma, Barcelona and Marseille. (Note to myself: next time book the Opera out of Barcelona!) You take can the cruise for seven days from your port of departure back to your home port. With the exception of Naples, where quite a few people boarded, embarkation was amazingly fast and stress-free. (Disembarkation, by the way was just as fast -- we were off the ship by 9:30 am and we weren't even the priority disembarkation passengers!)

 

Here's another amazing nicety of the MSC. It will sell you a cruise that will let you disembark for a holiday in Mallorca and then re-embark a week later for the remainder of the cruise. Take a hint from MSC you other cruise lines!

 

Sadly, this kind of flexibility is impossible for ships sailing out of US ports due to the Jones Law.

 

Now to accommodation. If there was was one thing that was not quite up to snuff on the Opera it was the size of the cabins. My back yard toolshed has more floor space than the regular cabins on the Opera. I am no pixie (I have been accused of leaving a permanent dent on our bathroom scale) so despite the clever use of mirrors and the extensive Sheng Fui consultations the ship owners commissioned, the cabin still looked small and felt even smaller.

 

We had our cabin made up into a queen configuration and my sisters had theirs configured to twin. The twin configuration definitely gives you more navigable floor space. The beds come with enormous throw cushions that cause a problem when you want to go to sleep -- there is absolutely no place to put them but on the floor. So the microscopic floor space left is covered in cushions during the night. So be very careful if you make a middle of the night pilgrimage in total darkness to the WC...

 

We booked real early (the ship hadn't even left the shipyard) and chose two inside cabins for two main reasons:

 

#1: $$$$$$$$$$$$ When you pay in $CAN you take quite a hit in the exchange

#2: Jet Lag. Based on our previous Med experience and discussions with other people having the same experience, North American passengers get over transatlantic jet lag much faster if they are in an inside staterooms than if they are in outside ones. Has something to do with the sunlight disturbing the adaptation to your internal clock.

 

And unless you booked one of those super-cabins aft ship, don't feel too smug if you have booked a regular outside cabin with balcony. Guess what? You have about the same size room with a door on both ends (even less floor space?). I suppose the advantage is you could store your throw cushions on the balcony overnight, whilst tossing and turning due to sunlight streaming in through the patio doors at a time your body think is one oclock in the morning.

 

Because of the early booking we were upgraded upship to the Turandot deck. Only one deck down from the pool, le Patio, and le Vele buffet. A good thing right? Also one deck down from the midnight pool dances and deck parties and from the 6 am deck chair setup. Not such a good thing! It didn't bother me too much because I sleep like a hibernating bear, but the others in my party thought at times that the ship was still under construction.

 

The cabins on our deck were usually very quiet, almost tomblike. I wondered about that since the ambient noise from other cabins was far less than on any other ship we have been on. The Opera is very quiet. My theory is that the Mediterranean passengers never use their cabins even to sleep (too snmall even for them?) I think they camp out on the pool deck and the lounges for the entire week. But more on the pool deck in the next installment of our review.

 

The bathroom was very spiffy and well-appointed, but the shower was so small I had to wash myself in installments.

 

I found the cabin steward to be invisible and efficient. Almost like the tooth fairy. You could never be sure he/she existed (couldn't tell from the name 'Sewa' either), except for the not-so-subtle evidence of his/her furtive visit when I was not around. That arrangement was entirely to my liking since I am not of the school where small talk with the cabinista every time you leave your room is considered an indispensable feature of one's overall cruise experience.

 

In our next installment we will talk about the pool deck.

 

Stay tuned

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Please continue asp. And thank you for taking the time to clue us all in. I have been laughing out loud and my husband has called out 'what's so funny?' several times. I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment and I am really curious now about the entertainment, which I'm sure you'll get to.

 

Thanks again!!

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Genoa disembarkcation: It looks like Stazione Principe is not that far from the port does anyone know? Because we are on the transatlantic we arrival in Genoa on Apr 19. I hope someone posts how long it takes for disembarkcation. Opera's arrival, if on time, is 10 am and we would like to get the train between 12-1.

 

Your "installments" are great. Glad to hear about the wine package. I think this is the first review I have ever read that has praised the food & service so much on a cruise ship.

 

Thanks on the tip about the Turandot deck. We "won" on skyauction a I/S, upgraded to a O/V 6a. I think I will request that they don't place us there. We prefer the lowest O/V on a ship anyway. Love to see that water up close.

 

Marge

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Stazione Principe is not far from the port, but not easy walking distance with luggage. Suggest you take taxi. They were plentiful at the port whne we arrived. Fare is about 14 Euro to Stazione Principe on the meter and supplementary charges are added for pickup at the port, bagage, extra passengers etc. Count on no more than $20 Euro.

 

Sorry but no one will know how long it takes to disembark passengers because your crossing will be the first time Opera discharges all her passenger in one port. (See my previous posting)

 

However if you have a tight scheule to meet insist on a priority bag tag colour ("celeste" or light blue is one of the first as Irecall)

 

They are very efficient with disembarkation at every port however so I wouldn't worry too much

 

Thanks for the feedback. I love good food that is prtepared with care and flair so I call it like I see it. You wouldn't want to read my review of the Italian food on the Costa Mediterranea. :mad:

 

Any other qwuestions just post them . I will be continuing my review when !have a moment. Busy unpacking...

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Yes, I meant to comment on the wine package info too. When I told my husband about it, he thought it was a great idea. We like a glass of wine with our meals but, unfortunately, aren't able to do it all the time. But, heck, we'll be on vacation!

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To bdintertech....please continue. I, and others I'm sure, are checking this post often in hopes that we'll find the next chapter of your interesting and, at times, very funny Opera review. Even my husband, who never checks these type sites, has asked me if you've written any more. I will say that he did not laugh as hard as I did over your description of the Italian regard for lines and the 'first come, first served' theory. But deep down he knows it's true! I reminded him of the time we were almost trampled (and our two little ones with us) when the gate to get on a plane opened. So he grudgingly admitted, 'well, yes BUT 'they just don't get it' AND 'when in Rome...' were a couple of his comments. See what I have to contend with!?

 

All joking aside, I hope you are okay, about rested up, and that you'll be back here soon.

 

Ciao

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Sorry for the delay but my laptop went south and I had to get it reset by our IT department. Everything's fine now and so I can get back to my posts. Glad you like them.

 

Should have the next one (pool deck) up this evening...

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This is part four of a multi-part posting about our impressions of the Opera on our Western Mediterranean cruise from August 15-21, 2004

 

Pool Deck

 

The pool deck of the Opera is where everybody hangs out in the daylight hours when they are not laying seige to the buffet tables or swarming souvenir shops in each port of call. It is a real "happening place". (I often wondered how come the ship didn't tip over with all that weight on the top deck...excellent gallic marine engineering I suppose)

There is much to enjoy on the pool deck and much that might annoy if one was to allow negative karma to infect one's cruise happiness.

 

First of all there is the clear directive in the cruisebook and the daily news bulletins that deck chairs are not to be reserved. A clear fiction! I am a very early riser and when I went up every day for my morning cup of Joe, there were orange pool towels on deck chairs everywhere (Not a soul in sight...just towels). So by the third morning I saw the pattern and went for my coffee with four towels under my arm, dropping on on each chair on my way to le Patio.

 

And it is no wonder why folks lay claim to the deck chairs, since there are only enough of them to accommodate maybe 300 passengers not the 800+ that are regularly on the deck in the heat of the afternoon.

 

The ship is designed so that there are rows of deck chairs that are always in the shade and others that are always in the sun. Since I can get a sunburn at midnight under a lamp post, I always chose the shade. Even so I slathered on sunsreen (UV Factor 45) and wore a hat when I swam in the pool. I looked like sort of a lumpy parisien street mime, bobbing in the water.

 

In the pulsing eclectic mix of shapes, sizes, ages and states of undress of the passengers on the pool deck I positively blended into the background. This money cannot buy!

 

When there are no more chairs people simply doubled up or alternated using the same chair (sort of a deck chair timeshare). In fact there were a few amorous couples who seemed to positively prefer the cozy menage a deux arrangement.

 

There were two pools separated by a podium with dual hot tubs that were always full. (I squeezed into the hot tubs a couple of times but found the temperature of the water to be wimpy warm...maybe because the temperature in the sun was about 40+ degrees. My working theory is that folks who were afraid of swimming in the pools sat in the hot tubs to cool off.)

 

The pools on each side of the hot tub podium were divided into two sections separated by solid dividers: the kiddy wading pool for adults having a phobia for water over their head, and the deep end for the million kids on the ship aging from 6 months to 16 years who had a phobia for the wading pools.

 

Kidding aside, I would cruise the Opera again purely on the merits of the pool. This is the first ship I have been on where I could bob like a top in seawater without touching bottom. Which I did often. The pool depth runs from 5'6" to 6'6".

 

There are signs in pictographs and several languages all around the pool enjoining the passengers not to dive into the pool. You are supposed to use the ladder. So the million kids who joined me in the pool never used the ladder and simply dove, belly-flopped, cannon-balled and threw each other in the pool incessantly. I liked the wave pattern this commotion cause because it allows me to bob without effort. Other adults were not so amused.

 

I hope I never get so old that I am upset by the energy and joy of kids doing what they do best...having a great time in and around the water. Note to all curmudgeons: there were no kids in the pool from about 6:30 to 7:30 every morning. Your opportunity to commune quietly in the seawater without the risk of getting your hair wet. (And your choice of deck chair to boot).

 

For me and my wife, we enjoyed the insanity of the crowded pool and deck. In fact this is the first cruise where we spent so much time on deck (ok the tiny cabin was a factor also!).

 

If you are a people watcher like I am it was a feast for the eyes.

 

On other cruise ships one could count on the usual dumb and boring activities that the cruise program staff organized for bored, self-conscious passengers.

 

Not so on the Opera. Deck activities always verged on the manic and were well-attended: daily morning deck exercises with 300+ people , dance instructions with 300-400+ of all ages, games with too many participants to count, crazy costumes, cross-dressing contests, etc. It was an absolute scream. People participated on the Opera to a degree I haven't seen on any other ship. Even I mixed it up a little. But that's another story not to be told. (Won a ball cap though!)

 

I guess if I had advice to give prospective passengers on the Opera, it would be that if you love children and commotion on the pool deck, this is the ship for you...if you don't, you should run, not walk to another cruise line.

 

In the next installment I talk about the nightly entertainment in the Opera theatre.

 

Stay tuned.

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Yo bdintertech-

 

You are GOOD!!!!

 

Hope that you write for a living........

 

Your style makes one feel as if you are there-

 

Your posts have us looking forward to our "Lirica" cruise even more!!!

 

Thanks again-

 

Happy Cruisin'

 

Mike

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Thanks bdintertech, another good review and well worth rising early for. When I read your description of the cabins, I thought the pool deck might be the place 'to hang out' and it sounds like it is!

Thanks again for taking the time to brighten our day!

 

And Bigmike7, your final word in your postings is so true. I have never been on a bad cruise either but, yes, liked a couple better than the others. I will never be the one saying 'never again' to any line or ship...I'd do any one we've been on again in a heartbeat!!! If I'm not cooking, doing dishes, making beds, etc., I'm in paradise!!!!!!

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This is part five of a multi-part posting about our impressions of the Opera on our Western Mediterranean cruise from August 15-21, 2004

 

Theatro D'Opera

 

What is a cruise without the nightly entertainment to cap off the evening after a delicious meal with family and friends? Hats off to MSC for the very delicate balancing act they must perform to provide truly entertaining acts that bridge the language and age barrier.

 

Thank you #1. Many have perhaps suffered self-consciously as we have on other ships through the cheezy and often off-colour jokes of second-rate comedians delivered to a mixed audience of all ages. Mercifully we were spared this kind of entertainment on the Opera.

 

Thank you #2. My wife has always been turned off by the pseudo-Vegas style acts prevalent on most cruise ships where women wearing nothing more than a limp peacock feather and a dining room napkin prance across the stage in a futile effort to looked like serious and dignified artistes. While I must admit that I do not always agree 100% with her opinion (I think that some of the feathers and napkins looked absolutely stunning in context), I must agree with her that the mark of true entertainment is the ability to put the audience at ease -- to find comfortable common ground with everyone. My wife thought that the boa dancing on the Opera was more seasoning than main course (they burst on and off the stage quickly between more substantive and PG-rated acts) And that is high praise indeed -- especially given that my million pool buddies were also in the audience and hardly had a chance to develop "frisby eyes".

 

Let me characterize the entertainment on the Opera in a way that will certainly date me. It was like a modern and hip Ed Sullivan Show, complete with a very un-Ed Sullivan-like manic host Marco, amazing trapeze artists, an impossible contortionist, a world class ventreloquist (who was also an accomplished pick-pocket -- you had to be there!), an illusionist, a sultry chanteuse, modern and classical dancers, and the best of all, authentic and very-talented flamenco dancers who were absolutely masterful.

 

One never knew what to expect, but what was offered was always enjoyable. you could sit through each evening beside your mom/wife/sweetheart/children without blushing.

 

Call me old-fashioned. I think what they offered was a class act. If I want off-colour I can watch the blue channel or comedy-central on TV at home.

 

Yes we did have a complaint -- well more of a suggestion to MSC maybe. For a ship named the Opera, it conspicuously lacked operatic entertainment in the theatre. How about one night of operatic highlights. Or if they can't, at least can they swap the boas and napkins of the dancers on one night for armoured breastplates and viking horns.

 

In the next insallment I talk about our impression of the itinerary and ports of call

 

Stay tuned.

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Thanks bdintertech. I was most curious about the entertainment and it sounds right up our alley. And yes, someone like a Mario Lanza would be great and a perfect addition to what sounds like a very good line-up.

 

As for peacock feathers and napkins, I agree with your wife! One of our first cruises was on Carnival (and I have to say they have more of both on that line) and my husband bought several pictures that were taken over the course of the week...including one outside the theatre with one of these scantily clap dancers(?). When we got home I displayed these photos for friends and family and asked if they noticed one particuliar difference in one photo over the others...everyone saw it...his BIG GRIN with 'Miss Hardly-No-Clothes-On!! Grrrrrrrr. But really, we had a good laugh over it BUT that photo is staying in a box, in the closet!!

 

Thanks again bdintertech, your review has been very enlightening so far!

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This is the sixth and final installment of a multi-part posting about our impressions of the Opera on our Western Mediterranean cruise from August 15-21, 2004

 

Ports of call

 

Genoa

 

We spent two full days in Genoa (one pre and one post cruise day). We used the recommended Volabus (100) to get from and to the airport. At 3 Euro it was a fast, clean and painless trip to and from Stazione Principe. Volabus runs every 1/2 hour during the day and meets all flights so there is little wating. Do not use a taxi for transport to and from the airport unless you are a) very rich or b) a taxi driver on holidays.

 

We stayed at the newly-renovated Britannia (now part of the Ramada chain). It was a superb hotel but a little pricey at 160 Euro per night for us poor Canadians! Picture 10 foot ceilings in an untra-modern suite comprised of a bedroom, a living room, pullman kitchen, and a sumptuous bathroom (the size of normal Canadian hotel room). The bathroom even had one of those porcelain foot washer thingies only found in Europe. Breakfast (hot and cold) was included in the room rate. The hotel is a mere 82 steps from the Stazione Principe (yup counted them!) so an easy suitcase roll to and from the Airport Volabus. The staff at the hotel desk speak fluent English and are very friendly and helpful. Always a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.

 

Now for the bad news. Sundays and Mondays they practically roll up the sidewalk in Genoa. Most museums and tourist attractions are closed all day Monday. Add to that, half the shops are closed in late August for staff holidays. There is a tourist bus that leaves Stazione Principe at 9:30 each morning (at 13 Euro the 2 1/2 hour tour is excellent value for money -- however it is the one and only daily tour). Otherwise you are on your own. Genoa Antico, for all its tortuous alleys and carrugi is relatively easy to navigate. When in doubt head downhill and you'll eventually cross a main artery. Don't walk old Genoa at night though unless you are in a crowd on the busy thoroughfares -- it is unsafe and can be scary (been there, done that, and it was!).

 

Before the cruise we attended 9:30 am Sunday Mass at a very old church called San Guiseppe just around the corner from the hotel. It showed its age but had some magnificent paintings. After the cruise we attended 5:30 pm Sunday Mass at San Carlo a block away from the hotel on via Barbi in the other direction.

 

Across from the hotel there was a little sidewalk cafe that serves the most amazing foccaccia and hot pannini sandwiches I've ever tasted. Topped with a cafe and an acqua frizzante, lunch cost a mere 4 Euro per person. And my sister thought the waiter was drop-dead gorgeous to boot.

 

We visited the Acquarium at the Porto Antico, a short walk from the hotel. With an 18 Euro entrance fee, it is great value for money. It was fabulous. No wonder it is considered one of the finest in Europe. But give yourself time to really visit. It easily takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours to see everything. Lots of good souvenir shopping in the Porto Antico and everything is wide open seven days a week.

 

MSC did not take much money from us for excursions during the week

 

Naples

 

We stayed submerged in the pool on the ship . Two reasons. Jet lag and heat. It was so hot that my sister burned the soles of her feet on the deck just from walking from her chair to the pool. So after a serious 6 second disccussion on the merits of walking uphill to Capodemonte, or around a volcano or through the ruins of Pompei during the heat of the day, we opted to stay put. Besides, my wife and I had visited Naples on a previous Med cruise and generously offered to recycle our old photos. There is practicality to the old saying: "Let's not and say we did!"

 

Palermo

 

We rented a taxi for the morning (at 100 Euro, still a lot less that the ship's tour, and we saw a lot more). The driver took us to the Capuchin catacombs where 8000 bodies are on view in various states of decomposition. I loved every minute and would have stayed longer but my wife and sisters were thoroughly creeped out. So it was up to Monreale and the Duomo. When the tour books say it is a must-see, they really mean it. Words cannot express the magnificence of the place. After visiting the cathedral itself, we walked all the way up the tiny castle stairways of the Duomo to the roof and had a breath-taking view of the cloister and of the valley and the tiny cruise ships on the horizon. Then it was back to Palermo and visits to the Cathedral in Palermo, Royal Palace, Via Roma shopping district, fountains etc.

 

Tunis

 

Since we had previously "been there, done that, bought the "authentic Roman coins", my wife and I stayed close to the ship's pool and my sisters took the cultural bus tour that the ship offered. They found the tour to be good value for money and came back with some very interesting souvenirs.

 

Palma (Mallorca)

 

We opted to take the hop-on-hop-off Turista bus that is available at the port rather than any of the tours offered by the ship. At 12 Euro each it was a great bargain. Again we were not alone in coming to that conclusion. A million and a half other people had the same idea. However we had a secret weapon -- my wife the buffet line warrior. She grabbed our fares and disappeared into the throng (did she body surf at concerts when she was young?) and a few seconds later her head popped up at the door of the bus. She thrust the money into the hands of the ticket-taker and pointed to us way in back of the crowd. The ticket-taker did his Moses thing, parting the crowds so that we could easily walk to the promised land. We stayed on the bus while it toured the entire city, listening to the pre-recorded background information and noting the places we wanted to visit at length. We then repeated the route as far as the cathedral, where we got off the bus, had a cold San Miguel and then toured the cathedral at length. Stupefying! Hopped back on the bus and headed back to the ship in time for dinner.

 

Barcelona

 

We all agree we would gladly change nationality if we could be allowed to settle down in Barcelona. The place is breathtaking in its beauty, cultural treasures, cleanliness and friendliness. We took the Turista available at the port for a mere 16 Euro allowing you unlimited access to 40 cultural and historic venues as well as discounts for entry to most. Surprisingly there were few tourists when we got on at the port so we were able to get seats on the prized upper deck. They check the language of the boarding passengers and offer live commentary of the places visited. We only had time to do two loops (blue and red) in a full morning tour of the city before heading back to the ship and a late lunch. But during the whole tour I kept drooling and pointing: Oh my gawd -- look at that...its...its...its....Oh my gawd -- look at that too...its even more...its...its. I was exhausted from the sensory overload.

 

After lunch we decided to amble down the main pedestrian mall close to the port, the famous La Rambla in search of souvenirs. It was hot so we decided to take a break in one of the many tapas restaurants that line the route. I used my poor spanish and sign language to order a jug of cold San Miguel and four glasses. My spanish must have been worse than I thought. The waiter brought my wife and sisters one litre jugs of beer and I was given a two litre cask. My spanish improved immediately after downing my cask!

 

Marseille

 

We booked an excursion with the ship to Montecristo but it was cancelled due to the high Mistral wind so we opted to go to Aix en Provence instead. Aix is a picturesque and charming place with lots to see (but with horrifically high prices typical of the French Riviera). I had a baguette and coffee and it cost me slightly less than a second mortgage on my house.

 

Well that's it folks. Hope you liked the reviews. if you have questions on any of it we'll be happy to answer them.

 

Ciao

bdintertech

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bdintertech.

Sincere thanks for the hours of pleasure - and the wealth od great information - your reviews have provided. Life will not be the same without a "next installmen" tp anticipate. Will have to make do with constant re-reads.

Cheers - and hope you are soon hitting the high seas again!!

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