MSC Opera cruise report

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sunseeker16
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MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 10 Jul 2013, 10:03

MSC Opera 29 June – 6 July 2013

A brief report, as time has passed and I have probably forgotten details. I'm very happy to answer any questions

A lovely sunny day and reasonable trip to Southampton, though hold ups near the end due to a car fire on the M3. However, we arrived about midday and found the Opera car park and saw the many liners in port that day at their various terminals. Minor chaos at the car park – we were waved into a space (there were plenty) by a cheery attendant but it was never suggested to us that we should drive to the terminal/fruit shed to offload our luggage first. The couple next to us in the shuttle queue had tried to do that but had been sent away from the terminal! The abp advice was unclear – otherwise we would have done what was asked. Anyway, there was a 20 minute or so delay, as we waited, with others, for the shuttle minibus. Bit boring – and it would have been no fun if it had been raining


Overall
Our first impressions of MSC are very favourable. There were irritations (aren't there always/) but pound for pound we thought the cruise was very good value and we certainly enjoyed it greatly

The ship
Built in 2004 and still sparkling. It is very clean and bright and we didn't spot any 'issues', like buckets in corridors etc. We were told she is going in for refit in the autumn. TBH we couldn't see why – we think she looks better overall now than did Oceana when we boarded her immediately post-refit in December last year. We found the layout easy to negotiate and felt that the 5 stairwells and lift arrays meant that he whole place semed less crowded and more relaxed than Oceana which is the same size.
The open prom deck is wide but only runs front to back – no wraparound so no circuits on Deck 6. No chairs, sunbeds or steamers, which seems a shame – there is a lot of potential quiet outdoor space.
It's possible to 'do circuits' on the top decks.
No Crows Nest at the front but a large and very bright 'disco bar' overlooking aft.

Cabins
Our deal was for an inside double. We actually had a 4 berth, with the two additional beds folded in. This was a pain with our bed configuration as double, as the folded pullmans gave us even less space on either side of the bed. We had to learn to limbo! This cabin should only be configured as twin, when there would be no problems.
Apart from that the (small) cabin was well appointed, very bright, full of mirrors (could do a back view of dresses & hair!) and clean. The bathroom was larger than those we have had on P&O, with much more storage space. In contrast, the shower itself seemed smaller – that bliddy cold nylon curtain always managed to wrap itself round. A different shower system – no post shower glug and spit from the overtflow. No issues with shower or toilet and always plenty of hot water and clean towels. No face cloths. Shower gel and shampoo/conitioner in dispensers in the shower, a chrome built-in pump with liquid handwash in the basin.

Food
Well, we loved it. Two MDRs and only fixed dining. A large and airy buffet and two outdoor facilities – grill and pizzeria. The grill also catered for breakfasts with cooked to order eggs, pancakes, waffles etc.
Lunch and dinner have an Italian feel. Dinner goes Appetiser, Salad, Soup, Pasta/Rice, Entree, Dessert, Cheese (!). Always available are plain salad with dressing of your choice, penne or spaghetti with bolognaise or tomato basil sauce, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, grilled white fish, grilled steak or chicken breast.
If you don't feel you've eaten unless you've had meat and two veg, including a pile of potatoes, you might find it difficult. The 'meat course', the entrees, were lovely but tended to be, eg, two generous slices of beef etc with a ittle tasty sauce/jus/gravy and little more than a garnish of a potato wedge or two and a few green beans
Our package was all inclusive, so wine was poured by the general waiters. They weren't stingy.

Bars/Entertainment
Lots of bars, inside and out. No problem in getting served. Entertainers in most of them most of the time. Some were excellent and only one was what we would describe a s 'below par'.

Ice cream (mmm, Italian ice cream!) and a 'Vitamin Bar' – tasty eccentric healthy fruit and veg drinks, included in the All Inclusive deal. Plus decent coffees, chocolate etc. Coffee is available from all bars, including the deck bars. Lovely!

Lovely theatre. We went to 3 shows – 2 vaguely light classical and 1 Pop Icons. Very good. Audience arriving late and leaving early were annoying. One was aware of how many nationalities were onboard when the CD did his spiel in English, French, Italian, Spanish and German ...

There seemed to be plenty of quizzes, deck games, bingo, and the like. Two guest speakers, one a travel writer and one a generalist. The bingo was so sophisticated players didn't even need a dabber!

There were a lot of children on board (not Brits, except the pre-school ones) and they always seemed happy with whatever the children's entertainers were offering them.

Itinerary

Four ports – IJmuiden in Holland, Flam, Stvangar and Oslo. Sea days post-Holland and pre-disembarkation.
IJmuiden is probably a new one on most people. It is very much a working port but the cruise dock is to one edge. You could walk off and cross a road over to dunes/beaches/typical Belgian/Dutch coastal topography. I think there was the tiniest of 'resorts' or perhaps just facilities for the few yachts which were there. Anyway, not knowing the above, we booked Haarlem on your own. It was very much that – a 10-15 minute coach ride and dropped at the rail station. Not even a map (In fact this would be a criticism all through; we received no pre-info on any of the ports.) It was Sunday but a lot of shops and facilities were open. It was a beautiful day. We did nothing more strenuous than stroll around the place. Lots of water/canals, beautiful houses, lovely square with flea market and noisy clock/bells.
Now I know the Dutch cycle a lot and have excellent facilities for bikes. I know there are lots of bikes. I would never have believed how many bikes though. Around the station there were thousands parked, some double decker parked, inside, outside, above ground underground ... and this was a Sunday. Imagine how many there would be from commuters on a working day.
The station is well set out and I would Imagine it would be fairly simple to get to Amsterdam

Flam is as lovely as ever. No trips here, so just a good walk. Much cooler but dry. MSC Musica was in before us and had bagged the dock, so we were tendered. The tender operation was slick and problem-free

Stavanger Cool and damp. Did you see me on the webcam? I was the one in rain jacket and carrying a spotty umbrella. Queen Victoria and Azura were in as well, so there were a lot of disappointed cruise passengers making the best of a bad job. It semed that all the QV people had bought Cunard umbrellas – Red & White rules, OK?

Oslo Cool and wetter. Oslo is a very lovely city and I felt sorry for the waterside eating/drinking places which missed out on custom. We walked around the new waterfront developments. Very nice – swish new apartments and mooring for your small boat immediately below! We also walked to the Opera House and were pleased to see the 'pink building' overlooking the water is being refurbished, rather than left to deteriorate. I think it may become very des res apartments in time

General
The 'bus route' itinerary was fine. Pax joined at Southampton, Ijmuiden and Oslo. It was nice that the ship was not exclusively Brit – we met lots of nice Dutch and Norweigan people. It was a pain for disembarkation. I think this was mostly down to The Border Agency, doing what they need to do but perhaps the system could be refined for future

Dock 104 (or The Banana Shed) just about sufficed for embarkation. Check in was done by ship's crew. There weren't as many as at Ocean or Mayflower, so it took a little longer, but not that much. There were refreshments available and a playhouse for children. By contrast, once checked in the security check was immediate and there you were – aboard and directed to your cabin. No hanging about or carying hand luggage around. Muster was on deck, at your lifeboat, same as we had on Thompson. I rather like it – seems better than hanging around in a theatre waiting for late people to turn up. We were given personalised red 'muster cards' with our cruise cards and had to hand these in at the muster, to prove our attendance. Good system.

There was a suprising amount of smoking permitted - or should I say places where smoking was permitted. Two bars, The Casino and the usual deck areas. A shock at first but we soon learned to plan our routes to avoid them

Would we do it again? Oh yes. We purchased a future deal – a 10 euro payment, valid for bookings made within 18 months of our trip, which will give 150 Euro OBC inside, 200 outside or balcony, 400 suite. It seemed like a good bet and not the greatest loss if nothing comes up. (Next years ex-Southampton itineraries are just out – have a look at some of the all inclusive bargains, some going to hotter places, on Cruise Nation or Iglu)

That's all that occurs to me for now. Please ask if there's anything else

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by The Monocled Mutineer » 10 Jul 2013, 13:07

Thank you for your interesting report.

One of the reasons why I would not cruise with MSC or Costas is the "southern-European" tolerance for smokers.

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 10 Jul 2013, 14:14

Actually, it bothered us a lot less than we thought it might. We didn't use the two smoking bars, so no problem there. The Casino was port side, with a corridor/way through on the starboard side. There were no doors, just spaces to allow access from the passageway to the casino. The carpets and upholstery in this area were cleaned within an inch of their lives, daily, with a wet/dry system. I think if you chose to take a seat there you would, eventually, smell some smoke but simple 'passing through' was perfectly pleasant - no need to hold a hankie over the nose!

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Manoverboard » 10 Jul 2013, 17:46

Thanks for that SS99, tis always good to read about the alternative Cruise Lines and how they compare with good old P&O.

We have cruised with Cruise Lines that had the multi language announcements and to be honest we simply switched off or ignored them, including the English versions ... how did you get on with that aspect on MSC.

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 10 Jul 2013, 19:03

Ditto MOB
English was the lingua Franca and any announcement (there really weren't that many) was made in English first. So you listened, switched off and shut up till they were over - no problem

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Manoverboard » 10 Jul 2013, 19:17

:thumbup:

That's good to know, I recall we were about 5th on ours, or was it 7th :lol:

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Kendhni » 11 Jul 2013, 06:44

Great report. Have been tempted by MSC on a couple of times (great prices).

I know what you mean about being surprised by smoking areas. Even on land based holidays you find some bars/areas allow smoking that you weren't expecting.

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 12 Jul 2013, 06:51

It's a dangerous pursuit to recommend a holiday to anyone, let alone anyone you don't actually know, but I'd certainly say it's worth a look at next summer's ex-Southampton offerings (or perhaps any of the Med fly cruises).

MSC exceded our expectations, did not live down to our fears about multilingual chaos or barging Italians(!) and altogether gave us a very good value cruise, with a new port to boot. We have our 10euro gives 150/200euro voucher and I expect we will find a 2015/16 trip on which to use it

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Silver_Shiney » 04 Aug 2013, 10:24

Hi Sunseeker, what's the dress code?
Alan

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 04 Aug 2013, 10:43

There are two 'gala nights' per week. Black tie or suit/jacket and tie for the men, long or cocktail for the ladies. It wasn't a big thing - people dressed pretty much as they wished.

I'm sorry to be a bit vague - after stressing like crazy over my first cruise and worrying that we would not pass muster, I'm now pretty relaxed about it, so I haven't much recollection. We dressed as we would for P&O formal and felt perfectly comfortable. The other 2 gentlemen on our table wore business suits (though one said only because his formal had unaccountably 'shrunk'). Nobody minded very much/at all. I recall seing some very nice dresses and don't recall and shorts/vests type of thing. There's no 'beachwear' allowed in the MDR on any evening

Incidentally, we have booked again, for MSC Armonia on a fly cruise out of Gran Canaria. She (and we, for that matter) has been relocated out of the Red Sea for the winter. We have cancelled a beach holiday in Sharm. There are some excellent deals available

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Silver_Shiney » 04 Aug 2013, 12:14

Thanks, Sunseeker. We've now booked for a ship's tour on 14 September to have a look around the ship (£20 including lunch, refundable if you book a cruise).
Alan

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 04 Aug 2013, 12:16

I hope you enjoy it. Tip - skip breakfast!

We thought the ship was stunning and were amazed that she is due a refit in November.

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Dennis The Menace » 04 Aug 2013, 14:32

Interesting report SS, cheers :-)

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by cruiseclues » 24 Mar 2014, 18:21

Don't know why you thought you wouldn't remember much detail...thank you for the detailed report...which had much good information.

When we went 10/26/2013 on the 7 Night Grandeur of the Seas to Bermuda out of Baltimore, Maryland...as we arrived at the muster they were scanning our cards, so they could be sure who attended muster...I jokingly said I guess we could leave now that we have been scanned...and the ship entertainer who scanned us took it well...laughed and said that she didn't have any way to reverse the scan, so I was probably right... we stayed for muster, of course. :) :) :) :)

I was going to post a photo...but remembered there were size restrictions...and I couldn't seem to find the information...maybe it was right in front of my face?
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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Soldier » 12 Jul 2015, 13:18

Hi
Seating allocation in the fixed time MDR 's was it allocated tables ?

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by ITWA Travel Writer » 12 Jul 2015, 15:39

Thank you for a good and detailed report “Sunseeker99”. :thumbup:

MSC do like to have travel writers as guest speakers on their Lirica Class ships. Both Lady Macbeth and I have spent many hours on-board this group of MSC ships installing the virtues of the next port of call and have found that their lecture timetables are much more civilised than on some American based ships.

I am obviously biased towards MSC, as some of the geriatrics and ten bob millionaires on this forum are biased towards (chanty), sorry I mean po, no that’s not right P&O. :sarcasm:
John

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by sunseeker16 » 12 Jul 2015, 15:46

Hi Soldier - yes, allocated tables and allocated times (not to say you wouldn't have been able to change from 1st to 2nd, or vice versa - I don't know)

I've read your post, about wanting to eat 'a deux'. That being the case, I'm not sure MSC would suit. On both MSC cruises we've done (yes, we went on a second after the one I reviewed here) we were on allocated tables (6 then 8) BUT there were tables set for larger groups but with only 2 people on them. I don't know if that was accidental or whether they had sought out the maitre'd to get the table.

We enjoyed ourselves a lot and think MSC has a lot going for it - price for one - but don't know if it's a good line for first time cruisers, particularly shy ones. We're not crazy party people, or particularly gregarious, and wouldn't chose fixed dining if there was a choice, but we've enjoyed those tables we've found ourselves on


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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Soldier » 12 Jul 2015, 16:38

Thanks Sunseeker .
We are not shy ,just private . We don't tell the Strangers about ourselves over a meal and we like each other and enjoy each other's company . But we like a laugh and enjoy the Italian style and flair and of course food .
But you are correct .It might be difficult to get a "deux"table and that would not be relaxing. Do they have select dining?
Thanks

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Re: MSC Opera cruise report

Post by Holiday Planner » 13 Jul 2015, 10:57

Hi SS99, I think we were on Ventura GE together. We too enjoyed an MSC cruise last November, and your experiences pretty well match with ours apart from dress code. Maybe because of we cruised from Barcelona rather than the UK we found the dress code much more relaxed than P&O. On the first formal night Andrew was the only passenger in black tie (he said he felt like one of the photographers lol). The second formal was after Genoa which was the main embarkation port and there were a few more in black tie but not loads. Most people dressed smart casual every evening, apart from one man in shorts and T-shirt who was permitted into the dining room. It did not spoil our enjoyment of the cruise, but I mention it because I know it would for some on here.
Angela

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