We took this cruise because the itinerary was good, the price was right and it dovetailed with the end of a land tour that we took in Croatia. However, we did not anticipate that the ship would be full of Italians on Easter holiday with their children, or that some port and shopping activities would be completely closed due to the holiday.
The reviews on MSC Opera are not as bad as some people would lead you to believe. I think probably it's a 3 star overall. The Opera is older and smaller than some and doesn't have the staffing (#s and training ) of Holland America (HAL); however, I would compare it's overall service level to Carnival. CAVEAT : We have 175 days on HAL, so that may "color" some of these comments.
Embarkation in Venice went smoothly; however, we were there early and it would not have been as smooth if we arrived with the crowds because they just didn't have the staff to handle a crush of people. Also, the staff's English is often limited. This was true in MANY aspects of the voyage. The rule: Speak slowly, clearly and make sure that you are understood...Don't assume that because they smiled and nodded their head that they completely comprehended what was said.
The Lido restaurant's smaller than some but is able to handle the crowds but you have to know when to eat--"earlier is better than later". The fixed seating restaurants are adequate,but there is a limited "as you wish option ". The service people are sometimes overwhelmed because the waiters handle ALL drink orders and virtually everything is a paid item, even water, coffee and tea--except in the Lido.The food is adequate, sometimes very good, sometimes just OK. There is not the selection as on HAL, and the portions are smaller; however, I never saw anyone go hungry and they seem to be happy to give you double appetizers, entrees and/or desserts. The buffet offered in the Caravelle sit-down restaurant for breakfast and lunch seems to be a little more genteel, but here again, "timing is everything" to avoid crowds.
We had a balcony, which was a nice room -- bigger than NCL, but not as big as HAL. The one really funny thing is the size of the shower. If you are approaching 200 lb it's tight. Our cabin steward was from Madagascar and he did everything that was required -- promptly, efficiently, cheerfully, with no complaints.
Getting back and forth through the ship requires learning which elevators go all the way to the top and which elevators go all the way down and to what facilities --until you learn this you'll have a fair number of missteps . MSC needs an orientation tour presentation for people who have not sailed with them previously.
We had a number of dealings with both Recepton and the Voyagers Club. In ALL instances we were very pleased with the help the we received . We only took one excursion, because MSC excursions are expensive, but we had on board credits to use and that was one of the ways we could use them.
We found that most ports were doable on our own,especially with the help of the Rick Steve's Mediterranean Cruise Ports book and the wife's able trip planning. ..It certainly wasn't due to any info that MSC provided. I may do a port-by-port review on the individual ports--time permitting...
MSC "nickel 'n dimes" ya for everything. Especially annoying is the charges for beverages (at least for Americans)--it's kinda like paying 1 € to go to the bathroom, while ashore--very European, but annoying. Charging for gelato and cappuccino on an Italian ship is just plain WRONG.
Some people were pushy and didn't do lines well...We got used to it (:-). Some kids were often out of control and their parents seem clueless or incapable of making them behave.
Eating can be a rugby-style event, if you don't adjust to minimize interaction with the crowds.
Entertainment is barely OK--amateur hour in some cases. Good seats are gone, unless you arrive 30 mins early.
MSC ties, or is slightly below, NCL and Carnival for the lack of information on ports (though the excursions desk did print out some basic Lonely Planet maps). There are NO programs on anything historical or natural. On sea days, if it's not pool, child, silly games/sports or drinking related it doesn't exist. It seems that they only want to sell over-priced excursions. Speaking of excursions, one of the really annoying things was the fact that they charge for transportation from the dock to the town, even though when they are very nearby. They should provide some sort of Transportation or at least info on alternative methods of transportation because paying anywhere between 8 and 10 €/pp to go in from the port is OBSCENE! !
BIG problem is getting on/off ship--their system is old and slow and they don't have enough people manning the stations, even during daily on/offs.
Final disembarkation was an absolute mess, plus their system denied departure for a number of folks right at the last minute because it thought they hadn't settled their accounts (which they had)...TOTALLY unacceptable! !
Staff is very friendly and helpful, but ensure they understand EXACTLY what you want.
Ship is very clean, rooms are nice (but showers are miniscule). Many bars, lounges and common areas are available (most with live music at nite).
Room stewards, waiters and staff are friendly and helpful--willing to meet your needs (as long as they clearly understand what you want).
Good ports and good weather made this an overall good cruise...So, other than the disembarking problem this maybe approaches a 3.5 star. BUT, with that problem it falls to a 2 5 star I think MSC may adjust some things to cater to American-habits when it does more sailings from the States, esp with their newer ships--who knows??
Will I cruise MSC again--PROBABLY?? It depends on the itinerary, price and ship--BUT, never on a major holiday, especially in Europe. "Ya get what ya pay for" and in this case It was worth every penny...
Great cabin,clean, spacious and comfortable--but shower is a joke! Room steward did an outstanding job.
Good Friday crowds were heavy--I can't imagine what it's like in the Summer. We did a 1/2 day tour of Murano, Doges Palace and St Marks. The boat ride to Murano was interesting, but I'm not sure I would do it on my own, unless I specifically wanted to go to the glass factories. Doges is probably worth a guided tour (get there early to avoid the crowds), but St Marks and the rest of Venice can easily be done on your own (with the help of Rick Steve's). We particularly enjoyed getting a 24 hr Vaporetto pass (20 euro) and cruising the canals at will--especially the night ride from Fiero, near the port, to the Bridge of Sighs and St Marks. Getting to/from the port is simple, but needs to be thought out, if you're in town--and not just coming from/to the airport. The cruise out/in to Venice is absolutely spectacular--DON'T miss either.
Nice little town,80 nm from Venice. Took the free elevator up to the old town, which is right across from the ship, then did a quick walk thru, but most shops closed for Easter Saturday so hit the TI and continued to the bus to Piran (6 euro r/t). Beautiful 30 minute drive to one of the neatest towns on our trip. Piran is a seaside town that is pretty much the way this area was before it was "discovered"...I am fairly sure that we were the ONLY Americans in town. It has a beautiful town square, nice cathedral overlooking town and many alleys and byways to explore, along with the requisite bakery for an excellent lunchtime Boreck. The bayside promenade is lined with little restaurants and cafes and made an enjoyable stroll. Back to Koper in the PM, there was a grocery next to the market,which is where the bus dropped off. It was a nice stroll back to the ship, along the waterfront promenade.
Great town, with the Diocletian palace, right on the "Riva"; however, it's a 1/2 mile hike from where the ship docked (OK if the weather's good). The Palace is really something--we had done it the week before on a Gate 1 land tour, so we didn't repeat, but I think a guided tour might be worth it. There's plenty to do in the old town, with a great market area on the right-hand side (which was closed this time, since it was Easter Sunday). Be sure an go to the big statue (looks kinda like Dumbledore,from Harry Potter) and rub his toe for good luck. Right behind the statue is a nice park which is great for a picnic, if you have a "breakfast" sandwich along from the ship. There are a lotta shops, cafes and restaurants in the old town alleyways--good for wandering. We enjoyed sitting along the "Riva" in froni of the British Embassy, just people watching.
If there was ever a required"early get-up" this was it...ABSOLUTELY spectacular sail in, starting around 0600. This is the southernmost fjord in Europe (though I don't think it was formed from a glacier). MANY picture opportunities. Kotor is at the end and is a beautiful, albeit small, walled city. You can climb the walls (1350 steps), but I would recommend an early trip to Perast to see the little church on the island that was built by sailors dropping their ballast over a 100 yr time period. A taxi would probably do it for 3-4 folks, then the 10 minute boat ride out, followed by a presentation by one of the ladies who works there. Go early to avoid the ship excursion crowds. Back to Kotor you can just wander the "warrens" and alleys to your heart's content.
The quintessential Greek island town, replete with white-washed houses, blue roofs and windmills. You dock at the new port and water taxi to the town. If you only doing one r/t, consider using the 2 euro o/w water taxi vs MSC's 7 euro unlimited rides. On landing, immediately go right and follow the seaside thru the Old Venice area toward the windmills. Then just wander the old town--expect to get lost in the alleyways that are full of shops, which range from ultra-expensive to China-made tourist crap. We elected to not stay in town for the sunset, since it was cloudy and overcast.
This was our only MSC excursion of the trip (we had OBCs to spend), which is pricey @ 76 euros ($65 if you pre-book); however, you get off the ship first and go directly to the port where you get on tour buses that whisk you to Fira, on the other end of the island. The lower your excursion # the faster you get there--we were #2 and beat most of the crowds. You spend about an hour wandering thru the white-washed town seeing the sites and taking pictures. Then it's back on the bus and thru the countryside (full of donkeys) to a winery for snacks, tastings and a FREE bathroom. After about 30 mins you head to the main town of Oia and are led on a breakneck-paced tour to the cliff, overlooking the bay. This is where you are released and directed to the tram (ticket provided) which takes you down to another port where your tenders are located. The walk along the cliffside is spectacular, with its hanging doors, restaurants, shops and all sorts of tourist stuff . There are a couple of churches along the way. The line for the tram was 20 mins long and probably got worse as the day progressed???View All 41 Fira Walking Tour Reviews
This was our only MSC excursion of the trip (we had OBCs to spend), which is pricey @ 76 euros ($65 if you pre-book); however, you get off the ship first and go directly to the port where you get on tour buses that whisk you to Fira, on the other end of the island. The lower your excursion # the faster you get there--we were #2 and beat most of the crowds. You spend about an hour wandering thru the white-washed town seeing the sites and taking pictures. Then it's back on the bus and thru the countryside (full of donkeys) to a winery for snacks, tastings and a FREE bathroom. After about 30 mins you head to the main town of Oia and are led on a breakneck-paced tour to the cliff, overlooking the bay. This is where you are released and directed to the tram (ticket provided) which takes you down to another port where your tenders are located. The walk along the cliffside is spectacular, with its hanging doors, restaurants, shops and all sorts of tourist stuff . There are a couple of churches along the way. The line for the tram was 20 mins long and probably got worse as the day progressed???View All 255 Oia Village Reviews
A different kid of Greek island. It was ruled by a lot of folks throughout the years. It is NOT whitewashed and feels more European. Here again MSC "nickel 'n dimed" us with a 9 euro/pp bus into town, but first you caught the free bus from the ship to the port exit. We decided to use a 10 euro taxi for 4 people. This took us right to a square where we entered the city and just walked around the alleys and byways. It was Orthodox Good Friday and the town was jammed with people watching and participating in the many parades that are sponsored by churches and organizations. Each had a band, singers, marchers (church goers, scouts, Navy people,etc) and someone carrying the cross and others the simulated remains of Christ..It was VERY interesting. We wandered, shopped and took a lot of pictures. Corfu is famous for its kumquat liquor--very tasty, but I was afraid I'd get a large bottle confiscated by MSC, so just bought a small souvenier bottle.
A true suprise port. We didn't expect much and almost didn't get off the ship due to rain--since it's a 1/2 mile walk from ship to town. MSC offers a 10/pp euro bus, but we looked and determined that the old town started right at the port exit--so when the weather cleared we walked (my wife just had knee replacement 5 months ago and one of our companions is 84 and we had little trouble doing any of the walking). There are buses but we didn't connect to either the port bus or the one that circumnavigates the port to town (#56, I believe). Upon entering the old town we just followed our noses and got to the St Nick's Church, which is where the bones of St Nick were brought from TU in the 1300s. Continued wandering the alleyways--with a cappachino and bakery break--eventually ending up at the fortress. Then it was a 1/2 mile back to the port entrance.