The MSC Opera


A Review
By Marvin H. Perton 


            The MSC (stands for Mediterranean Shipping Company) is one of the most beautiful ships afloat. Traditional old-world deco décor gussied up in 21th Century elegance, every one of its public rooms (and there are many) dazzle the senses with eye-pleasing color, texture, lighting and design. Bravissimo! Carried through to the guest cabins, the interiors are resplendent in their appeal. If only the ship’s designers had made the cabins and bathrooms roomier. Perhaps the ship was built according to European tastes where rooms tend to be smaller. Cozier? But room for only one chair? That is small. As is the shower – so miniscule you have to get out of the shower to dry off. Or risk bruising your elbows. Always wonder how the portly guest manages.

            But the staff is just great – not necessarily the Italians they promise you in the brochures – but warm, friendly young men and women from Asia – mostly Indonesian and Thai. They provide a level of hospitality and welcome that’s hard to come by these days. They’ve even learned to say Buon Giorno! Cheerfully. They were an absolute delight. Everyone aboard, in fact, seemed to have guest satisfaction as his or her number one priority. Only negative is a problem with the English language, Even among those stationed at the front desk. They may want to help, but nevertheless get an “F” in English language skills.

            The cuisine, for the most part, was good. Especially the pasta. Very, very good. But there were times when the fare wasn’t good or imaginative. Lunch in the dining room seemed to be the best dining on the entire ship. Civilized. Varied menu. Attentive staff that remembers you and what you like. The Le Vele Cafeteria (buffet) on Deck 11, although wonderful at breakfast, was so crowded most of the time, especially on a sunny day at sea, you’d wait in line for what seemed like forever and then scurry off to find a table. But underlying the scope and depth of the menu, there seemed to be a dearth of some of the upscale food items we’ve grown accustomed to on other luxury cruise ships. No assortment of cheeses on the buffet or the dining room (I thought the Italians loved and made some of the best cheeses in the world). No shrimp cocktail. We had lobster once on the captain’s gala dinner and it was inedible. No escargot. No cappuccino unless you wanted to pay for it. And no iced tea on the luncheon buffet.

If the buffet line seems endless and you’re in your bathing suit, you might  want to try the open air Il Patio on Deck 11 for made-to-order omelets in the morning, burgers, hot dogs and pizza at lunch. This is a good place to enjoy a meal after an excursion or walk around town. They serve till quite late in the afternoon. There’s even a pasta-of-the-day station, so be sure to stop by to mangia. All in all, the food is adequate and you’ll never go hungry.  You’ll probably even gain a few dreaded pounds. If you don’t like something you’ve ordered, the waiter will cheerfully bring you something else.

There are two outdoor pools and Jacuzzis – one is quite active with a boom-box variety of pool events and contests. Not the place you want to be if you’re into taking a snooze. But there are quiet spots on deck where you can snuggle up with a good book and snore the afternoon away. Speaking of books – better bring your own as the library is very limited.

There are excellent spa, exercise, and weight lifting facilities aboard – you might need these amenities to help you shed the unwanted pounds you’ve put on since you boarded. Or you can forget about the exercise till you get home. Maybe. For the less energetic, there’s a nicely-paced miniature outdoor golf course on the Sun Deck.

Most ships today have recognizable shopping malls that draw In a lot of lookers and buyers. Not on the Opera. The beautifully-appointed Via Condotti shopping area, although it carries an excellent array of Italian and other European goods, is so subdued and hidden from view, you might never find it. Hey – that’s a positive - could save you a bundle. Shopping tip: If you buy some booze aboard, unlike other ships these days, they let you take the liquor back to your cabin.

Getting around the Opera is relatively easy, and once you get the hang of forward and aft directions, and avoid elevator banks that lead to dead ends, you’ll have no problem mastering this fine vessel. If you get lost, you could always ask a staff member. But then again, there might be a language problem.

Bottom line: The ship is beautiful; the fares are very affordable; the staff simply wonderful. Makes for a winning combination!    


About the MSC Opera:
Built/Refurbished: 2004
Passengers: 2,200
Crew: 750
Decks: 14
Pools: 2
Jacuzzis: 2
Total Cabins: 795
Inside Cabins: 272
Suite Cabins: 387
Balcony Cabins: 132


Other ships in the MSC fleet: