Live from the Broom Cupboard
MSC Opera cruise 15th June 2013
Itinery Southampton UK round trip to, Ijmuiden/ Amsterdam Holland, Flam, Stavanger and Oslo Norway.
This review deals mostly with the ship rather than the places visited.
The Mandatory Lifeboat Drill was carried out on the outside decks under your assigned Lifeboat, prior to boarding you are given a Red attendance card with your name and cabin number on along with your sea pass card which you have to hand over when you attend the drill. The drill was also carried out at Ijmuiden and Oslo for guests joining the ship in those ports, we still find it strange that they have you put on the Life Jacket and then demonstrate how to do it!
Having arrived at the Opera departure area at around 12.15pm and dropped off our cases we were given directions to the car park, once parked up we were taken by Mini bus back to the drop off area.
Once inside the building it was clear that there was a large number of people waiting in lines, one of the MSC staff told us there had been a long delay before people could board and as they had run out of coloured notices and we would have to wait until one group had boarded before we could be given our boarding colour.
We asked about the fast track for club members and were told they were only doing it for Gold and Black card members and that we should wait with the others seated to our right, just as we sat down another member of staff came to us and asked what member level we were and once shown our card sent us to the fast track lane where we were seen and were onboard five minutes later.
Most people when they are given an upgrade are usually quite happy as we had been, because we had also booked an Aft Balcony cabin on the Divina Grand Voyage as MSC like to call them in November we had decided to book an Inside cabin for this trip.
Having checked out the notoriously glitch ridden MSC website a while back we noticed that we had been given an upgrade to a Category 7 obstructed outside cabin behind the lifeboats on deck seven, these have to be the smallest guest cabins ever on a cruise ship and certainly the tiniest one we had ever been in. The term not enough room to “swing a cat” came to mind and should really only be used as single person cabins, hence the title of the Broom Cupboard.
Basically you have the two single beds put together with around fourteen inches of space on either side between bed and cabin wall, to get to this space you had to climb over the bed because the dressing table was up against the end of the bed on one side with a single wardrobe (supposed to be a double) next to that and on the other side there was a cabinet around four feet tall with the TV on the top that was also touching the bed and the side of the toilet wall. This cabinet housed the small fridge and two storage shelves that became unusable from 6pm on the last night because it was locked!
The fact that there was already a lack of space appeared not to matter, MSC said they have to be locked and locked they were, this cabin also appeared to suffer from what we call “sad cabin syndrome” we both woke up every night during the early hours feeling cold and that was having turned up the heating.
Some of the rooms with lower numbers than 7112 “ours” are used by crew members as are the rest of the cabins on deck seven going forward which means that you cannot use the hallway after the six cabins going forward from 7112. On deck plans no cabins are shown beyond the six to the left of 7112 so in order to reach the Caruso lounge you either had to go up and along deck eight or down and along deck 6. The same applies to the Port side of the ship.
Right so that is the Broom Cupboard sorted now on to the ship, Opera is around Nine years old and is beginning to show some wear and tear in a few places our cabin being one of them where the strips on the edges of the dressing table had come off and not been replaced despite the cabin steward telling us that they were to be glued back on during the week. The public areas in the main are in good condition and the ship is very clean although we rarely saw it being cleaned until the last night of the cruise, they must have been doing it over night or in stealth mode. The food areas were cleaned and scrubbed at least twice a day.
We noticed one of the windows in the Caruso lounge on the port side leaking water and the Salmon coloured carpet on the stair landings was becoming dirty in some places, the other half of the carpet that is Blue appeared not to be affected.
We were told on our last night that the ship is to be dry-docked this coming November although it is programmed for a reposition cruise in October.
The Buffet on this ship is far too small and the angled glass at the front of the food trays makes it almost impossible to reach food at the back unless you bend under the glass, this really does need to be changed. The food in the buffet compared to the Poesia that we traveled on last November was at best poor especially the breakfast fare.
The Buffet is closed at 9-30pm in the evenings and is re opened at midnight until 2 am.
The food in the Dining room did not come out much better despite the efforts of our waiter Rosid and his assistant, we chose to eat elsewhere on at least three nights. There really does need to be an overhaul of the Executive chef’s on MSC and the stick in the mud Italian ones need to be changed along with their menus.
The choices were very poor in both the Dining room and Buffet with most food having little taste and there appears to be no ambition with the menu offered, in the buffet day in day out 70% of the sweets on offer were the same.
We are both usually easily pleased where food is concerned but it is saying something when the best meal we had was Meatballs in Amsterdam! Although we can say we never went hungry and the best food on the ship was the Pizza on deck 11 at Il Patio.
One noticeable thing was that there are no women working in either the Dining rooms or the Buffet areas! in the bars 95% of the servers were women! Around 130 of the 800 crew were Indonesian, 800 crew is clearly not sufficient for this ship despite its small size.
We had the Allegrissimo drink package and never failed to get a drink although we did notice a lack of staff in general on the ship in every area, the bars only had one person serving drinks hence people saying service was slow. One thing to be aware of is that you will not be served any drinks on the final morning of your cruise even if you have a drinks package as we found out and think is wrong. Another thing I noticed was that bar staff and waiters and waitresses did not look too happy when they looked at our sea pass card to see that we had a pre booked drink package could this be one reason for some of the unhappiness?
After we had put our carry on bags in our Broom Cupboard we headed to deck 11 and the bar on Il patio for a drink, while standing waiting to be served by the One barman we were told by a waiter to move away from the bar and sit down because we were standing in the area used by him to collect drinks! That did not go down well at all with my other half. Drinks in that area and the pool are served in Plastic rather than Glass for obvious reasons.
It seemed to us that this is not a happy ship and one thing I said to my other half is that it appeared that many of the crew had been on an MSC smile removal course! Though most did smile back if you smiled at them and said hello. I had to laugh when one person told me they call the line the Mafia shipping company!!!
I can well understand why some of the crew feel the way they do after witnessing the stupidity that the pool deck crew had to endure on Friday 21st June a complete day of dense Fog, pouring rain and a biting wind, they had been made as usual to put out all the sun loungers? Why? They were using neoprene squeegees to try to clear the decks of pouring rainwater and the poor guys who were in charge of the pool towels had to stand there all day and for what? MSC need to change their management style if this type of stupidity is to be ruled out and to make their ships a happier place to work.
Ijmuiden People getting off the ship doing their own thing were made to get on a bus to be taken 100 yards to the small terminal building! A pointless exercise and one that slowed down the process of people getting off the ship, we chosen prior to the cruise to book the Amsterdam on your own bus at 29 euros each return that took around 30 minutes and dropped us off across from the main rail station outside the Victoria hotel. Around the corner was the mooring for the canal trip boats that cost 9 Euros pp for about a one-hour trip, we returned to the bus for 4pm for the trip back to the ship.
Flam.. Many people chose the Flambana train or boat trips along the Fjord that we later traveled out of on the ship, having already seen the 7 sisters waterfalls at Gerainger on a previous visit to Norway we chose to stay in the town.
Stavanger … As this was a short stay we chose to wander around the town and shops and met a nice Norwegian lady near the Petroleum museum that houses a drilling rig mock up who gave us some good information on the town.
Oslo. We walked along the wonderful looking waterfront and then made our way via the shops back to the ship where we took the hop on hop off bus tour of Oslo which lasted around Ninety minutes at a cost of 150 Krone pp.
The Opera being a ship built some Nine years ago has an issue with embarkation and disembarkation in ports in so far as there are only a maximum of three usable exits on each side of the ship and are all at the front and close together, this makes for slow access and egress from the ship.
Now then disembarkation in Southampton, the ship sails on European time which means that the minute you step on the ship you have to move your watch forward one hour and also means you lose one hours sleep on the first night, on return to Southampton you stay on European time and the lost hours sleep stays lost and you have to be out of the cabin by 7am! (6 am UK time)
Depending on the colour coded tags given to you for your cases you have a set time that you have to join the line to show your passport and cruise card to the UK Immigration people, once done you are meant to proceed to the lounge allocated and wait there until someone comes to take you to the exit gangway.
No one is allowed to leave the ship until everyone leaving that day has been seen by Immigration!! There were around 15 people sat in lounges and elsewhere over and hour and more later who eventually had to be called by public address to go to see the Immigration officers onboard and holding up all those who had bothered to read and understand the information given the day and night before. For us it meant a time of 9.40am (8.40am UK time) to present our passports and a time of 11.15 (10.15 UK time) to be in the lounge, we finally got to leave the ship at around 11.45am (10.45am UK time) Little wonder that on the 15th our sailing day there was long delays to those waiting to board as there would have been on the 22nd.
People who had decided to wait in the Theatre with an early time prior to the process were made to leave and join a queue that had begun to form outside and stretched back to and around the Coffee bar making the place impossible to pass and hard work for the few waitresses/waiters serving drinks there. Finally someone made the decision to have the queue go along the walkway so that the Coffee bar was clear for those that wanted to use it. Anyone else wanting to join the queue on deck 6 from the Caruso lounge on deck 7 or anywhere above that had to go down to deck 5 and walk along to the next set of stairs and go back up to deck 6 to join the back of the queue.
We came across an oddity with MSC that no other line that we have sailed with so far has, as a couple I am a Silver club card member but my other half is only a Classic member prior to this cruise based on the fact that my credit card paid the bill! Just as it did with Princess, Cunard, NCL and RCI yet we are both at the same level with the other four.
This is yet another oddity that MSC need to iron out and bring into line with other cruise lines, it does not matter who pays the bill both people should be at the same level of membership having traveled the same number of days or nights.
One person we spoke to while waiting to leave the ship told us her father had done 5 cruises with MSC but had not been allocated his cruise points despite constant E mailing to the UK office! We passed on the name of a contact for them to get in touch with.
So far it is one all in the satisfaction stakes on MSC with Poesia being the Winner and Opera the Loser, the Divina cruise in November may be a make or break as to whether we cruise with them again but there is no doubt there would ever be a return to the Opera.
The ship would not be my choice to use on this Itinery due to the fact that the pool deck and Il Patio (apart from a small area) are unusable in bad weather and being only 59,000 tons has little to offer on sea days when you cannot see more than 50 yards around the ship due to fog and pouring rain. A sensible thing would be to use one of the newer class of ships with an indoor pool and seating area on this route as some of the other cruise lines do.
We do not doubt that there are people who actually enjoy this class of ship but the first time cruisers we spoke to onboard told us they were unlikely to book with MSC again and agreed with some of what is posted above along with their own issues one of which was a couple with a young daughter who were both refused to stay in the kids club with her despite the place being empty! They were told only one parent could stay, they also had an issue regarding the purchase of currency onboard the ship. They were told to go back to customer service on at least three occasions and they would have Krone available for exchange, they never did get any and went away from the Opera with a sour feeling and a never again goodbye.