Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: Man
Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
Ship: MSC Opera
Sailing Date: n/a
CruiseReviews at aol.com
Getting to the Ship:
I was attending a travel industry conference in Ft. Lauderdale and simply took a taxi from the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Hotel to the MSC Opera's dock in the harbor. Boarding started at 2 pm and I was in my cabin ready to explore the ship by 2:30 pm. It was totally painless.
The Opera is the second ship to be delivered of several new ships on order for Mediterranean Shipping Cruises. With a rich history as one of the largest cargo lines in the world and also a seasoned European passenger line operating in the Mediterranean, MSC is looking to penetrate the lucrative U.S. cruise market. The Opera reflects MSC’s rich Italian heritage and offers a unique cruising experience. In fact, the Opera's Godmother, Ms. Sophia Loren was traveling with the ship and was to address the passengers in the evening.
MSC has enjoyed a place among budget cruise lines in Europe and I was keen to experience the new Opera. Having cruised on the Lirica (the Opera's sister ship) earlier this year, I wanted to see what improvements had been made. When I first boarded the Opera, I was taken with how much it resembled the Lirica. In fact, I would have thought I was on the same ship with the exception of the names of the various decks and public rooms.
I was located on deck 10 in an oceanview cabin. Many of the cabins on the Opera offer triple and quad accommodations that are configured with two additional pull down beds. There was ample space for me to store my clothes in the closet and the drawers in the cabinets offered more than enough room for additional storage. My computer and printer were accommodated on the desk without effort and there were ample 110 volt outlets. The beds and bedding was quite comfortable. I could have elected to have had the queen size bed turned into two twin beds had I been sharing with another person.
The bathroom was consistent with those you would expect to find on a mass-market ship. I especially enjoyed the wrap around glass enclosures in the shower, rather than the usual shower curtains. There is ample storage in the bathroom for toiletries and such, however I always recommend bringing a hanging toiletry bag, as it makes it so much easier to keep everything orderly during the cruise. The television offered a wealth of channels and ongoing movies to enjoy (many in Italian). All in all, the cabin was quite adequate.A Tour of the Ship
The Opera is quite easy to navigate with the exception of the center elevator bank that only serves a limited number of decks. However, getting around is quite easy and she retains many features that folks remember from the classic liner days such as aft fantail decks on almost every deck. Join me as I take a tour of the ship. First I will go all the way aft and take the elevator to the very top.
Deck 13, The Minigolf Deck
Miniature Golf Course
This deck is really extra space on the ship. All the way aft, there is a small miniature golf course that is fun to play.
The Minigolf Sun Deck
All the way forward some lounge chairs are found. While none were set up for the inaugural cruise, one could easily see that the area would accommodate a good number of passengers.
The Byblos Disco
Again, all the way aft is the wonderful Byblos Disco. The Byblos Disco is the ship’s disco and also serves as a meeting venue when other rooms are occupied with groups. The disco is quite large and will accommodate hundreds of people, but the way it is laid out, it never seems crowded.
The Byblos Disco Dance Floor One of the best features of the Byblos Disco is its many small cubbies that are set up for intimate conversations for small groups, On the port entrance to the Byblos Disco is the video game room that offers a good number of video games for the younger set. The jogging/walking track lies just forward of the entrance to the Byblos Disco and is heavily used in the morning and late afternoon. There is a good amount of lounge chairs around the perimeter of the jogging track for sunning. Passenger cabins make up the forward section of the deck.
Le Vele Cafeteria
Deck 11, Tosca Deck
Ah, the Tosca Deck. First of all, the Le Vele Cafeteria is located all the way aft on this deck. This is where breakfast and lunch is served (also in the main dining room). The buffet offers a good assortment of fare that everyone enjoyed.
II Patio Open Restaurant
Besides the two main buffet lines in Le Vele Cafeteria, there are also two other dining venues, one committed to pizza and associated foods and the other to omelets and specialty egg dishes in the morning and hamburgers, fries and the like for lunch. Known as II Patio Open Restaurant, they are a great place to eat on a crowded day at sea.
II Patio Open Restaurant Outdoor Dining Area
There are a good number of tables available for outdoor dining should one choose to dine alfresco.
The Opera's Le Piscine Pool Area
Forward of the dining area is the main pool area of the Opera. There are actually two separate swimming pools, as well as, 2 Jacuzzis that are heavily used. There is a good amount of deck lounges to use, as well. The Opera issues deck towels in your cabin, so when folks leave the pool area, they always take their towels with them making finding a deck chair easy and fast.
The Lo Spinnaker Bar
The Lo Spinnaker Bar serves the pool area and was a very popular place to hang out. The waiters were always present if you wanted a drink, but never invasive.
Moving forward on the port side of the ship, one finds the Buffalo Bill Children's Room. This is a very colorful spot that children seemed to really enjoy.
The Opera Health Center
Forward of the children’s club is the Opera Health Center featuring a full aerobics room, gymnasium, steam room, sauna and relaxation areas.
Some of the Machines in the Gymnasium
While I didn’t take advantage of this part of the ship, those that did were sold on the relaxation room. They worked out, took a sauna and then relaxed in the relaxation room to soothing music and simply loved it.
Fitness Club Free Weights
The fitness club resided on the starboard side of the ship most forward and offered enough equipment for a moderate workout.
The Opera Health Center's Cardiovascular Equipment
Behind the fitness club working aft is where the Opera Health Center and beauty salon called home.Deck 10, Turandot Deck
Deck 10 is made up entirely of passenger cabins
Deck 9, Norma Deck
Deck 9 is made up entirely of passenger cabins
Deck 8, La Traviata Deck
Deck 8 is made up entirely of passenger cabins
Deck 7, Rigoletto Deck
The Caruso Lounge
All the way forward on deck 7 resides the Caruso Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues, but not the main show lounge. It is a beautiful lounge and offers entertainment nightly.
Directly aft of the Caruso Lounge is the Opera's library. It offers a good selection of books in a comfortable setting.
The Opera's Card Room
Adjacent to the Library is the Opera's card room. Aft of the Card Room and Library is all passenger cabins.
The Teatro dell'Opera
Deck 6, Otello Deck
This deck is totally committed to public rooms. Again all the way forward on deck 6 is the upper deck of the Teato dell'Opera. This is the main showroom on the ship and is beautifully appointed. It offers great sightlines in an intimate environment.
The Aroma Coffee Bar
Just aft of the Teato dell'Opera is the Aroma Coffee Bar. This is the ship’s specialty coffee bar and one can get a latte, espresso or cappuccino any time day or night. The prices are very reasonable and it is a very popular place most of the day,
The Cotton Club
Moving aft still, next comes the The Cotton Club. This is one of the main dance venues and there is music here every night. This is also the venue for the art auction and other “at sea” events. It is a very pleasant room indeed.
The Cotton Club Bar
The Cotton Club Bar serves the Cotton Club and is a great place to drink as a single. It faces one of the major walk ways through the ship and is quite active on its own behalf.
The Monte Carlo Casino Gaming Tables
The Monte Carlo Casino takes up as good amount of space on this deck and was very busy when it was open. There seems to be a good number of gaming tables for this sized ship.
The Monte Carlo Casino Slots
There were ample slot machines that many people loved. The Casino bar always seemed to be busy, as well.
La Carbala Piano Bar
Just aft of the casino is the La Carbala Piano Bar. If you like soft and romantic dance music in an intimate environment, this is the spot for you.
The Cyber Cafe
Just aft of La Carbala Piano Bar on the port side is the ship’s Internet Café, the Cyber Cafe. There are several terminals and I never found the café so busy that I couldn’t sit down and take care of business without waiting. While the charges seem somewhat high, access is fast and the system works quite well.
The Opera Photo Shop
On the Starboard side of the ship is the Photo Shop and Gallery. While it was not open during this short cruise, the photo gallery is quite large enough to accommodate the number of passengers on the Opera.
All the way aft is the location of the L’ippocampo Restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful and the tables inviting. There are few “bad” tables and with configurations of 2, 4. 6 and 8, you are sure to find the right table for your desires.Deck 5, Aida Deck
Moving down the stairwell in front of the L’ippocampo Restaurant takes us to the dining venue known as the La Caravella Restaurant. Both restaurants serve the same menu and you are assigned to one or the other when your table is assigned while checking in. If you prefer changing restaurants or tables, the Maitre d’ is most accommodating. There are two seatings for both restaurants (main at 6 pm and late at 8 pm) however, our cruise only had one main seating at 8 pm.
The Piazza Di Spagna
Directly in front of the restaurant is the Piazza Di Spagna. This is a great lounge, but is rarely crowded.
The Piazza Di Spagna Bar
This is a perfect bar for relaxing and watching the whole ship drift by. I was a single on this cruise and really enjoyed the opportunity to relax in an environment where people were so prevalent.
The Via Condotti Shopping
The Via Condotti Shops surround the bar on the starboard side offering a sundries shop, jewelry store, clothing store, and other shops. There are quite a few quality items to shop for while on the cruise.
The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk
The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk lie just forward of the Via Condotti Shopping area. Along with the Registration Desk is the Tour Desk for booking optional tours and the ship’s bank. The bank is available for currency exchange and is only open limited hours. HINT: Make sure you know when the bank is open so as to have the proper currency in port.
The Main Foyer Sitting Area
The area around the main foyer offers a substantial amount of sofas and chairs to relax in. It was a very inviting area to relax.
The Sotto Vento Pub
All the way forward on Deck 5 is Sotto Vento Pub. This great pub is authentic and is a great place for pre-dinner cocktails. There is a wonderful bar (hardwood floors and all) and several nooks and crannies to meet in. Overall, this was my favorite bar on the ship and I think everyone enjoyed it.Dining
We enjoyed a fabulous dinner with many courses. I am not sure if this was typical for an Opera cruise or simply a special dinner for those in attendance. The difference between the dinning experience I had on the Lirica and the dinner I had on the Opera was like night and day. I am sure that future reviewers will make a point to define their dining experiences.
Over All Impression
The cruise industry needs another viable competitor. Mediterranean Shipping Cruises is well capitalized and interested in evolving a major presence in the U.S. cruise market. The ships are beautiful and they have attracted seasoned cruise executives that have been successful in the market. It will be quite interesting to see how MSC progresses.