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Richster

MSC OPERA Transatlantic Review

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Well, it's been over two weeks since the end of the cruise, and I've allowed myself enough time to and distance to create a fair-minded review of my experience on the MSC Opera's maiden transatlantic voyage. This was my first cruise, and having done a little research before booking this one, I must say that my expectations were probably too high; thus, whatever disappointments I encountered are probably endemic to most (except the expensive luxury) cruises and fimiliar to those of you who cruise frequently. When I filled out my comment sheets at the end of the cruise, I had indicated that my experience had only been average, but in hindsight, after having looked at all the pictures I had taken and explained all about the cruise to my friends, I am willing to forgive most of the unpleasantries and upgrade my satisfaction level to above average. (I took an extra comment sheet with me to fill out later--which I haven't done yet--since I am by nature not succinct when asked for my opinion about something...)

 

I have read some of the comments pertaining to this cruise and would appreciate hearing even more. I will say, however, that I originally looked at them in order to corroborate the negative aspects of the cruise, and I generally agree with the negative comments made about the voyage. Those most pertinent:

 

The buffet food ordinary and boring, and after 17 days it was the same stuff over and over. I WAS impressed, however, with how the previous night's dinner leftovers were recycled in the following day's vegetable/meats salads and quiches and soups. (Of course, I am not suggesting that we were served food that people had left on their plates, just the food that had been prepared previously and hadn't been served. Lest I receive any nasty comments to the contrary, I own a restaurant and know how to disguise leftovers.....) I any case, this isn't a criticism, just a curious observation.

 

The restaurant food was very inconsistent. The menu choices sounded appealing enough, but often what arrived on the plates had little to do with the descriptions. At our table, the high marks went to the prime rib and most of the beef choices. The pasta choices were almost always superior, too. The lobster thermidor we were served was dry and tough. High points, too, for the wine list, which was varied and well-priced.

I guess it just depends on what you order, but the dinner food was, on the whole, a hit-and-miss affair. However, there were so many courses on the dinner menu that you were bound to enjoy at least enough of your dinner to satisfy you.

 

(Note to vegetarians: A vegetarian menu was offered throughout the entire cruise at dinner, a real plus, since I am a vegetarian. However, check the dinner rolls for bacon pieces, the spinach canneloni for minced ham, and the caesar dressing for anchovy paste--this happened to me, and after explaining, with some difficulty to my Italian waiter, I was always graciously served something else. Vegetarian choices on the daily buffet limited to the soups and a really ordinary salad bar that only had iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and sliced onions on it. Go to the Pizza grill and have them fix you a pizza with whatever topping you want on it--a real plus.)

 

The outside grill had the usual stuff on it and most people seemed to enjoy their hamburgers and hot dogs. The Pizza station provided average tasting pizzas that were at least good enough to make you want to forgo the luch buffet. There was supposed to be an ice cream bar at the back of the pool area, but the machines were broken during the trip. I'm sure they've been fixed since then.

 

I promise more later, I have to go but will continue soon....thanks for reading.

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Oh no - we are due to depart Genoa transatlantic on the 27th Dec on Lirica.

I do hope its better than you found Opera.

 

Anyway I am sorry you didn't enjoy the food, I am a big steak person so I guess I might be OK if the two ships are similar.

 

Do you think, as was proposed on this forum a while ago, that the menu for US bound cruises was different fromt he European ones the ship was on previously? Or do they wait until tjhey depart from a US port to change the menu?

 

How much was the wine, and could you buy a package on boarding or just in the diningroom as you go.

 

Was the currency on the ship US$ from the beginning?

 

Any tips on what we should look out for during our 17 days?

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Mike, don't worry about your cruise. I've only really underlined some of the negative aspects of the food operation (since I expected more consistently good food on the trip). Like others on the board have stated already, this was its first transatlantic voyage, and the chefs probably hadn't realized what to expect and how much of a specific food product they would need to order to cater to 1600+ passengers for 17 days straight. I don't think they were expecting so many Americans either, which explains some specific food shoratges. Case in point, we ran out of skim milk about half way into the trip. Bummer, but not enough to spoil your trip, just your morning cereal. True, the fruit juices were awful at breakfast; eat the orange instead. Also, if you're a fan of Iced Tea, ask for a big glass from one of the bars and brew it yourself. They tried to have iced tea at dinner after the first few nights (I assume some of the Americans complained), but it was weak and bland. You should have access to a variety of tea bags at the coffee stations on the patio deck and in the buffet cafeteria, as well as ice; best of all, it was FRREEEEE---so stock up for the duration of the trip if you like iced tea.

 

I'll try to write more later, but I gotta sleep now. Rest assured, the cruise will be whatever you want to make of it depending on what you are willing to overlook--I would cruise them again nonetheless.

 

To answer some of your specific questions: There is a wine program that was attractive, although we didn't buy it since it required you to drink reds, whites and rosés and we were all only red wine drinkers. I can't remember the price, but it was cheaper than buying wine each night. There was also a cocktail package that was attractive, but included in the price were a number of non-alcoholic cocktails that we wouldn't have ordered anyway, so we passed on that package. There's also a honeymooners' package that includes a bottle of Italian sparkling plus several alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails. I recommend buying some duty-free bottles of mixers and alcohol and hosting your own aperitif cocktails in your room with some fellow travelers. That's what we did every night and had a blast. The wine prices ranged from 15-16$ to $70+; they were reasonably priced. Our wine steward, the hilarious Remus from Romania, would keep unfinished bottles and bring them to our tables the following night, which I found very rewarding. So if you wanna splurge on an expensive bottle and savor it for three or four nights, you can do so....You could buy the wine package on baord in the restaurant if you wanted to; just ask the wine steward.

 

As for the menu choices being changed for the American market, I couldn't say. The menu was very continental at dinner and had enough choices each night to satisfy just about anyone's tastes. I just wish all of the very tempting-sounding food had actually tasted better. There was always a steak choice in any case. We never really complained a lot about the quality of the food, except when we were asked why we didn't finish a particular course. Our waiter, the adorable Benny from Italy, seemed concerned when we didn't eat everything. They may alter certain menu choices depending on which items were ordered the most and judging from the plate returns in the kitchen, a practice which only seems normal and prudent.

 

As for on-board currency: you will be issued a cruise card for your on-board spending. Everything you buy will be automatically charged to this card, which you can reserve using a credit card or putting cash advances to it every few day's at the purser's office. The casino was the only place you couldn't use the card, and they accepted dollars and euros on board. I would count on using US Dollars, if you have them. If you are dying to get rid of those euros, do so at the casino, or on one of the European excursions.

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I am continuing my review of the transatlantic trip---I first wanted to get the negative aspects out of the way to concentrate on the good, and there is much good to be said. Having taken a couple of days to read other posts on other threads, I don't want to repeat everything already written about certain potentially contentious aspects of the cruise. Big case in point: Smoking Policy. The smoking/non-smoking areas of the cruise were only relatively clearly defined near the end of the trip, as we noticed "No Smoking" signs appear on what were previously "smoking" tables at that point. There was no other signage to indicate areas, although we were told that, in general, the left side of the ship, including deck areas, was considered smoking. I am sure that they have adapted a more clear smoking policy since then as they will be catering to a larger, less smoking tolerant American public in the Caribbean. Interestingly, we noticed quite a lot of smokers on board, some Americans but mostly Europeans.

 

The other only negative aspect I can think of was an excursion snafu that sent us on the wrong bus, but when we figured it out, the bus was leaving the dock and it was too late; so we remained on the other excursion. No one had bothered to carefully read our excursion tickets either inside the boat or upon handing them to the excursion guide. The tour cost $4 more than what we had originally booked, and they charged us the extra afterward...I complained that the error was theirs and after lots of firm but very cordial and polite insistence on my part, we were told that we would be refunded the extra cost (a whopping $8). When we received the bill at the end of the trip, only one of our two excursions had been refunded the $4. Trying to explain the error to the excursion manager, Rafaele, was difficult as his understanding of English was not all that great. I gave up eventually, as $4 isn't going to kill me, but I initially felt that the principle of the matter showed them to be unflexible and unfair. I was tiffed, but now I am willing to believe that perhaps Rafaele thought I was only talking for myself and not my traveling companion, too. Thus, I want to believe that it was just a miscommunication error that doesn't really amount to much anyway.

 

Other negative aspects--cost of on-board services. But since this was my first cruise (and definitely won't be my last), I wasn't sure whether the prices were higher than those on other cruise lines. For instance, the photos on gala nights were $20 a piece for the posed background shots and $10 a piece for the phototgrapher-coming-by-your-dinner-table-for-a-quick-snapshot. In any case, I didn't buy any, but I did avail myself of the backgrounds to take my own portrait photos whenever the photographer wasn't present. And I shot my own tableside photos, too. So, unless you just HAVE to have the professional portraits, etc., you can do them on your own. Ours turned out very nicely, by the way.

 

Gotta go again--will write more later

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Richster

How did you find the crossing. How was the weather and seas?

 

We are going across on April 1, and my wife is hesitent because she gets sea sick easily

Laz

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Dear Laz, You indicate that you wife is afraid of getting seasick. I suggest that you stop by almost any drug store and purchase "Seabands". they are elastic bands that fit around your wrist and have a little button that presses into your wrist two fingers above you wrist and prevents seasickness. This sounds a little out there, but they really work! On our first cruise I got a little sick, even though we used Ginger tablets and other remedies. On a latter cruise we got the .seabands in London (they are ofter available on the ships) Once we had them we were OK. On that transatlantic we actually ran into the tail end of a hurricane and had 40 foot waves, but had no trouble with seasickness. It is important to wear them properly. An other lady we met on the ship had put her seabands around her wrist at the pulse point, but had been seasick for six days. I readjusted her bands to two fingers higher the day before we hit the hurricane. She sought me out to thank me the following morning to let me know that even with the 40 foot waves it was the first time she didn't get sick.

 

Get the bands and I hope you and your wife enjoy the cruise and all future cruised.

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There is a "bank" on board which seems to handle all major currencies, but it might be best to get in early if you want a few euros since there is no guarantee they will have enough. If you are calling at Madeira then you could use an ATM there to get some with your credit card which may be a better deal for you.

The bank on the ship, like other services, was not always open at the times advertised in the daily program, but its a place you will pass every day a few times anyway.

The safe in my cabin was behind the mirror over the desk and you had to be careful opening the mirror/door not to knock your laptop or the tongs on the icebucket onto the floor.

The safe (where you would normally keep your money)has several hard to reach places in it so check it carefully when you empty it at the end of the cruise. I found my car keys and a twenty in it when my partner assured me it was empty.

Being my ususal suspicious self I always doublecheck drawers, under the bed and the safe before finally vacating the cabin.

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