We have just returned from our family summer holiday on the MSC Opera. Overall, we had a great time, but MSC have room to improve.
Embarkation : We started the cruise in Southampton. We live in Yorkshire, so drove to Southampton and took advantage of the MSC Free Parking offer. This worked great. We first dropped off the luggage at the cruise terminal and then dropped the car in the car park, that was about .75 miles from the cruise terminal. Shuttle bus then returned us to the cruise terminal for check in and embarkation. Embarkation was very easy and seemed well organised.
Cabin : We shared a 4 berth outside cabin on deck 8. This comprised of a double bed and 2 pull down bunks for my 2 girls. Cabin was well presented, clean, ample storage....but a little compact for 4 persons. The bathroom was small, as was the shower. However, the steward was fantastic and kept our room spotless, with 2 sets of clean towels daily (though the "white" towels did vary in colour from White to varying shades of yellow). I'd also give the beds 6/10 for comfort as the double bed was 2 singles pushed together with a ridge in the middle.
Food : The food on board was okay. As in other reviews, it's not brilliant, but it is acceptable. We ate both in the self serve buffet as well as the waiter service restaurants. My main criticism would be the food was served luke warm at best. Food was available 22hrs per day. Note, during our 10 night cruise, there were 3 formal nights.
Drink : Drinks on board were not cheap. We were very happy we had pre-booked the Allegrissimo drinks package. We got more than our monies worth and had a great choice. The only thing excluded were some premium spirits and expensive wines. There were numerous bars with different entertainment and themes...all serving the same drink options and some great cocktails.
Kid Clubs : There was evidence of kids clubs operating. Though they were not widely advertised. My youngest daughter is 12 and chose not to take part as some of the club meetings were not until 10:00pm onwards....far too late. We were also told by a fellow passenger that their 8 year old son was left to find his own way back to his cabin and 10:30pm one night after a kids club meeting.
Entertainment : Great animation team on-board who would turn up anywhere and anytime and bring a smile to your face. During the day, the majority of the team based themselves on the pool deck and entertained everyone with games etc. On an evening they were nightly shows in the main 'Theatre del Opera'. These varied from acrobats to dancers to tribute night to mime to opera. Depending on your taste, some were great and some were less than great.
Excursions : MSC organise a wide range of "expensive" excursions. My advice is plan your own. When we arrived in Lisbon, we booked a private 4hr tour with a taxi driver who was a registered tour guide. We had a great day. The other destinations were okay...but a little less to our taste and not overly family friendly.
Smoking Areas : MSC really need to review this. There are 3 smoking areas on the ship. One in a bar near reception...so if you go to reception, this is all you can smell. The next one is in a section of the pool deck next to the Ice Cream Parlour. With the final one in the Casino. In my view, the ones near reception and the Ice Cream Parlour need relocating...or better still MSC needs to impose a smoking ban on board.
Photography - Lots of good photographers all over the ship, especially on formal nights. Various packages on offer for the finished photos. Basically, the more you buy, the cheaper it gets.
Staff - The staff were from all over the world. Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, India, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria to name a few. The staff were fantastic and I don't object to paying the daily service charge on my account at the end of the cruise.
Duty Free - reasonable choice of duty free. However, note it is "Duty Free" and NOT Duty paid....so take care with your allowance.
Manners - This was a multi-national cruise with people from many other European nations. We found manners of some of the other European Guests to be very poor with pushing, no queuing etc. It actually made me proud to be British as other British Guests were generally polite and considerate of other guests.
Overall : We had a great holiday and it was good value for money. However, the destinations were not inspiring or really family friendly. As mentioned previously, the staff were fantastic. I'm glad we took this cruise, but would not repeat next year.