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Barry

Age: 64

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: Many

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Opera

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Transatlantic - Fort Lauderdale to Genoa


MSC Opera. Transatlantic Crossing Fort Lauderdale to Genoa 2nd to 19th April, 2005.

Although this is our own personal thoughts and opinions based on our experience from time to time there may be comment upon opinions and thoughts of some of the people with whom we spent time during our 17 wonderful days.

This was not our first cruise with MSC and what really concerned us was that changes  may have been made during the 2005 Caribbean Season that might reduce our personal enjoyment. On board there were a couple who have taken 38 cruises with MSC, a lady on her 32nd cruise with MSC, a lady who had sailed with MSC westbound in November and loved it so much that she had stayed on board throughout the 2005 Caribbean season and a couple who had sailed westbound and enjoyed it so much that they immediately booked the return to cruise eastbound. It can be seen therefore that we are not alone in our appreciation of the MSC product.

There were some very minor changes which we thought were not for the good. For instance previously there was a jug of water in the cabins and this was refreshed twice daily. Now there was bottled water to be purchased. In the dining room a jug of iced water was delivered to the table and remained there throughout the meal - now you had to wait for the wine steward to refill the glasses. There had been orange juice and pineapple juice available all day along with tea, coffee and iced tea but now the juices had disappeared. Previously we had been able to purchase ashore local spirits and take back on board or purchase in the shop on board and take to the cabin and open. This was no longer permissible. The pool towels were delivered to and collected from the cabin on a daily basis.Now they had to be collected from a box in the pool area and on the odd occasion there were none available.

None of these minor changes spoiled our overall good impression and many other things remained as we remembered.

There was one change with which we disagreed strongly and this was splitting the "welcome" cocktail party to 2 venues and at one venue there was not one person present to extend a welcome. It seems that certain passengers complained during the 2005 Caribbean season that "they" did not wish to queue to enter the rooms!! Maybe the fault is that the Caruso Lounge is the wrong venue with its isolated position on Deck 7 and very little space outside the entrance doors.

We found Opera to be every bit as elegant and stylish as her sister ship Lirica. Whilst the Opera colours may have been more vibrant there were always tasteful and attractive. There were again some lovely lighting features as you would expect on an Italian ship. The very highest standards of cleanliness were again visible everywhere. Night and Day the staff were hard at work keeping Opera spotless. We love the size, the design, the space, the intimate atmosphere and the facilities on Opera and Lirica. Not for us are the massive ships including the MSC new builds.

We preferred the soft furnishings colour schemes (and especially the art work) in our cabin 12005 to that on Lirica but in all other ways the design was identical. The same excellent storage - it was impossible to utilise it all - the same clever use of mirrors and an identical bathroom with bath and shower. The same fluffy bathrobes. Fresh fruit in the cabin every day and the ice bucket filled twice a day.

When cruising we are not interested in the casino or the onboard shopping so whilst there are cruise liners with supposed superior facilities these would not be of concern to us. We love the "old fashioned" quality and charm of MSC. Dining at a fixed time at a fixed table in a fixed restaurant with the same waiter who comes to understand our likes and dislikes is very high on our list of "wants" on a cruise. It is a bonus that Opera like Lirica is a "quiet" ship and there are no daily announcements, broadcasts and advertising .

Towards the very end of the cruise we did encounter extreme rudeness from one particular area but overall the staff were impeccable in their behaviour and service. Wherever we went we were treated politely and greeted with huge smiles and this continued every day. The staff were so willing to do anything they could to please and assist. Nothing was a bother or trouble. Even late at night in the lounges the stewards willingly and smilingly would bring a glass of water when requested.
At the lunch time buffet they were only too happy to serve at your table tea, coffee, ice tea, water. Plates were removed from the tables swiftly together wih an enquiry if there was anything else that you might wish.

Nothing was forced or pushed upon us. There was no harassment or pushing of drinks, photographs or any other item. Good natured cajoling by the entertainment team to take part in their activities could easily be rejected and was accepted gracefully.

Let me now deal with the negative aspects although I would stress that not one was a major problem and certainly did not spoil our enjoyment nor create the feeling that we would not sail with MSC again.

1) MSC are not an easy company to deal with. Requests for brochures are ignored, Faxes and letters are ignored. You are advised requests regarding dining etc are just that "requests" and nothing is guaranteed. There should be a far greater urgency to fulfill customer wishes in this highly competitive field. Information provided by the company varies from country to country and most certainly is not always accurate. Two very good examples of this lack of liason were
A) USA passengers were given a total incorrect arrival time in Genoa which caused great problems for some and worry whilst on the cruise in trying to make new arrangements for their onward travel. In fairness to MSC the staff on Opera did endeavour to help and provided free internet access to facilitate these revised plans
B) The confusion regarding buses from Genoa to Milan.Would they be provided? What was the cost? Different information in different countries. Even during the cruise the staff were trying to get information from their Italian Head Office

MSC have a complicated sales programme in different countries with huge fare differences.

(I do have to say that for our dining requests L'Approdo Restaurant, second sitting, table for 2 finally I did receive a "guarantee" after a long distance telephone call and this was honoured)

These administrative people were not actually on the cruise wth us - so what was really most important was our actual cruise experience and this is what we judged - and on this our review is based.

2) The manner in which our complaint for rudeness via the telephone was not well handled. There was a closing of ranks to protect the guilty party. The Hotel Director was contradictory in his response. First he needed the identity of the person responsible but when we tried to discover this we were blocked because "if one person was rude then it is the fault of everyone and we cannot give one name".

Answer this question. Would you give 2 rude people the power to ruin your cruise?  I expect that like me you would reply "NO WAY!" So these 2 persons at the end of a fabulous experience were not very important in overall terms although it was regretable. .

3) The Virtual Reality Games Room was totally empty of games. This was upsetting for some and especially those with pre-teen and teenagers. It is wrong to advertise facilities which you do not provide.

4) The DJ in the disco had no interest in catering to the tastes of the passengers. The DJ would frequently disappear for up to an hour leaving the most terrible "noise" blasting out!! Hardly surprising that the attendance was very sparse.

5) I have the highest respect for the very hard working entertainment team and joined in some of their activities!! However we could not disagree with those who voiced the view that some of the games were overlong, a little repetitive and a touch too "loud". This was especially true of the area of the pool - the main "relaxing area" for many. Possibly changes of venues would have been an advantage! However this was minor as overall they do a superb job especially with solo passengers and must be exhausted with very few hours sleep per night

6) I felt that the staff lost a wonderful chance for a huge deck "Goodbye Caribbean"  Party the day we departed Barbados. Similarly the arrival in the first European port was very low key.

7) The grilled frazzled bacon at breakfast is terrible!! I did read via "Boston Globe" that a chef had been employed especially to cook the bacon as "european chefs" were no good at that!! Well it seems the employee does not understand that not everyone wants their bacon prepared the same way and served cremated!!

8) The "Welcome Cocktail Party" was in 2 venues Caruso Lounge and Sotto Vento Lounge. We opted for Sotto Vento and there was not one officer or higher ranked person or member of the entertainment staff present to indicate "Welcome". That said it was unanimous that MSC were THE MOST generous hosts with unlimited complimentary cocktails and canapes. This was true of the "Welcome","Repeaters"a and "Farewell" cocktail parties

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