It was our first experience of cruising and my husband and I, together with another couple, boarded the MSC Opera on Monday the 16th February, for a four night cruise to the Portuguese Islands in Mozambique. We were very excited and our boarding procedure went quickly and without a hitch, as we had purchased the Fast Track package when purchasing our cruise package. After reporting at the reception we proceeded to the pool deck, as the cabins would only be ready after we had sailed. The atmosphere was great and we all got into the party mood in no time. The sail away party was great fun even though the wind was howling and the sea was somewhat choppy, making walking look like we were all drunk and stumbling around. We had a good laugh at ourselves and the other passengers! On entering our balcony cabin, we were pleasantly surprised. The cabin was quite ample for the two of us and the balcony was great. The bathroom was small but adequate although the shower was tiny and as our cruise director, Steven, joked during a talk in the theatre, the shower curtain 'attacks' you when you least expect it! Allow me at this point to say that the cruise director Steven Cloete, was outstanding in everything he did. He is a true asset to your company. The only criticism relating to the cabin was the bedding. Although we found the bed to be comfortable enough, the bedding was tired and worn and the pillows were awful and very thin and lumpy. I phoned housekeeping and requested extra pillows, which were delivered promptly but alas, another two thin lumpy pillows!
Breakfast was satisfactory, however not great. It is best to sit at a table and be served rather than do the buffet breakfast which was unappetizing. The eggs benedict were yummy but for the rest just very average. The fruit juice was watered down cordial juice and the coffee that was served was horrible. Tea was a tea bag in the cup and they pour hot water on the tea bag and then cold milk before the tea has time to draw! The tea and coffee from room service is a lot better. The buffet restaurant at the back of the ship also did not have great food at all. The fast food section looked even more unappetizing although we did try the pizza, which surprizingly was not bad at all. We got the impression that they were catering for the masses and the same old food was served every day with only a change in the daily protein. Meat was very scarce! We found our evening dining experience not much better. We had a wonderful waiter serving us, Avinash was his name, but the food really was not up to standard. The calamari was totally overcooked, as were the steaks which we ordered as medium rare and got well done tough pieces of meat. The lamb cutlets were no better and were tough and rubbery. The food was also more often than not cold and we didn't always get what we ordered. The curry's from the Indian cuisine choice, were very tasty though.
We also had a bad experience regarding the table of 10 or so men that were seated one table away from us. They were rowdy and disrespectful of fellow diners and the personnel. The maitre d had no control of these guys. We dressed up for dinner every evening, as we understood was required, and on the gala night put on all our finery. The program for that day specifically stated the dress code as being formal. These men came to the diningroom dressed in T-shirts, shorts, caps and open sandals every evening. I called the maitre d over on the gala evening and enquired why they had been allowed into the diningroom dressed like this when we went to the time and effort to respect the dress code and he replied "I can do nothing, they are too many and too big"! This was in our view totally unacceptable and he should never have allowed them to enter the diningroom dressed like that.
We were more than happy with our cabin however were not impressed with the tired old bedding and the thin lumpy pillows.