MSC Opera Tour Index

I went down to get MSC Opera returning on the 25th May 2011 after an electrical problem abruptly curtailed her first cruise from Southampton.  Much to my surprise a short while after I got home, I received an invitation from MSC to visit two days later.  Naturally I jumped at it, clean forgetting I had a physio appointment for my back at 10am that day - oops!  Well it's not every day you get the chance so I moved my appointment.  Isabella sent the details through the day before.  It would be my first time on an MSC ship and I very much looked forward to seeing what they were like having heard conflicting opinions from friends.  It was a miserable old day but I went over on the ferry then walked via Mayflower Park to Dock Gate 8.  By the time I arrived at the terminal there were already many peope waiting.  It turned out to be 99% travel agents!  I got chatting to three from Bath Travel, only one had no idea the ship was repaired in Gdynia, telling his colleagues it was Stockholm then giving me a disbelieving look when I corrected him.  

People began to disappear and I was getting worried I'd be left behind since I'd been told to sit and wait so I went to ask someone who took to me Rochelle from MSC.  She said I was her VIP, but had to collect some people from the station.  Time passed and nothing happened.  It seemed Rochelle had some sort of problem to deal with and the rest of us loitered then were called.  When I collected my pass, the lady said, "You're the journalist."  I was told to wait by the young Russian guide so I did after security.  MSC had laid on refreshments so I had an orange juice while I waited then we followed her onto the ship, boarding via the Promenade on Otello deck (5) and went down one to Aida (4) to begin our tour in the gorgeous Piazza del Spagna, which also contained Boutique Lui & Lei, which is fairly unusual on a ship.  

During the tour as we walked towards the Shore Excursions desk, the crew emergency drill began which meant s a few places were off limits.  There were so many groups it was easy to end up tacked onto the wrong one as I found but then it turned out I ended up with the correct one after all.  I was part of a small group who were members of the forum and Grant Thomas recognised me from the video I'd done of Opera returning after repairs.  Fame at last!  They were a nice, friendly bunch.  Our guide, Derrick van Wyk, was from South Africa and he said he was the cruise director onboard during English speaking cruises.  He told us when we were in the Pub Sotto Vento about what happened when she broke down and how the original intention had been to return to Southampton until they realised they wouldn't be able to.  This was a very nice room and very purple with a mirror along the wall.  There are a lot of mirrors around the ship, especially in the lifts which is a bit of a shock when you get in but then you pay no attention after a while.  

If you want to use your computer onboard there are signs around the ship at wireless hotspots but there is no wireless available in the cabin, as is the case with many ships.  He explained you can buy a package for 24 hours but, if I understood correctly, you don't have to use it all in 24 hours, it just takes it to that total.  Prices are in Euros, as you'd expect from an Italian line, but change to US dollars outside Europe.  We made out way back up to Otello after seeing the Ristorante La Caravella and saw some lounges including the Piana Bar La Cabala, which is situated next to the photo shop as well as The Cotton Club, of which the name was quite amusing.  On the Promenade deck were crew doing their drill. The Cyber Café can be accessed via the opposite side of the Piano bar.  Rostorante L'Approdo is quite a contrast to the one on the deck below and is situated at the stern complete with view as you sail.  The same chairs are used in the Cyber Café.  

We were unable to go into the Casino Monte Carlo due to the drill but outside again is a huge mirror along the wall between two of the entrances.  The Aroma Coffee Bar is in a lovely, bright area which overlooks the foyer where you can find Reception below.  In fact, most of this ship's public areas let in a lot of natural light which, to me, is a personal plus.  I like to have a connection with the sea and enjoy watching it go by when I have a drink.  The Teatro Dell'Opera is the theatre with a low ceiling.  The Caruso Lounge on Rigoletto (7) was closed, which was a shame so then it was up again to see a few cabins.  If you're expecting enough room for a multitude of suitcases and shopping, you'll be disappointed.  But you don't go on a cruise to spend all your time in the cabin so does size matter?  I've seen more cramped ones, inside, outside and balcony on Arcadia and have been in a smaller and narrower oceanview on Aurora.  We saw the spa and gym on Tosca (11) before heading up to La Bohème (12) for a suite and then across the deck towards the stern and our refreshments in Discoteca Byblos, which consisted of nibbles (crisps and pretzels) and champagne or fruit juice.  

Before we headed for lunch back on Aida in the Ristorante La Caravella, we went down to Tosca to look at Caffetteria Le Vele, the buffet, which again was so bright with the natural light streaming through the windows.  There is also Il Patio, which is an outside buffet, mostly under cover and perfect for a hot day.  At lunch, the menu had English in the middle and we ordered all courses.  They even offered wine as well as bottled water.  After a pleasant meal, we headed back to Piazza di Spagna for coffee, finally disembarking just after 3pm via the dockside which gave more photo opportunities then collected our passports from the pass office.  

I came away impressed with the ship because if you like a ship rather than a floating resort like me, then MSC is for you.  Of course, one general complaint is everything is in Italian with little in other languages so if you can't put up with that, then MSC definitely aren't for you.  If Italians, French, Japanese, whatever went on P&O, they wouldn't expect it to cater to them.  Personally it wouldn't bother me unless I was put on a table with people who spoke no English but if that was the case, I'd simply go to the buffet instead.  I go cruising to experience new things and meet new people, not expect to have them done my way and keep to myself (especially when travelling alone) on a foreign line.  MSC is one I have yet to cruise on but after seeing what they offer on this gorgeous ship, it's certainly higher on my list.

Many thanks to Valentino, Isabella and Rochelle of MSC for making this visit possible.  To see photos of Opera's return after repairs, click here.

La Boheme Deck (12)
Tosca Deck (11)
Turandot Deck (10)
Norma Deck Cabins (9)
La Traviata Deck Cabins (8)
Rigoletto Deck (7)
Otello Deck (6)
Aida Deck (5)

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© Patricia Dempsey 27th May 2011
Not to be reproduced without permission