Well, after booking at Thomas Cook last year, I then came home and read the reviews and wondered what I had done! After sailing on Ventura, Celebrity and Princess, I did not have high hopes about the Opera! However, we have just got back after a great time!! Remember folks, you know when you book how old the ship is, the size of the ship and rooms and what facilities it has...so don't complain it hasn't got the choice of bigger ships, you know that when you book. Anyway....
Embarkation at Southampton - free car parking. Arrived about 12pm, dropped bags off first, then hubby dropped me and the kids (7&11yrs) at the door while he drove to park car. Not far away and was dropped off by shuttle bus 10min later. After a quick check in (15mins), we were on the ship..easy peasy!
Ship - small compared to Ventura, more Aurora sized. All public areas clean and well presented. Bit old fashioned if used to new ship, but nothing to complain about.
Cabin - inside 4 berth. Had the 'bunk bed' arrangement. A surprising amount of room, managed to hide all our stuff in wardrobes/cupboards etc and our 5 cases under beds. If we can fit in all other folk can. Bathroom was small, but clean and functional. Cabin steward was Lionel Richie (!), and kept it clean with new towels twice a day and beds made etc. The ONLY complaint...be aware we were above the Caruso lounge! Music was sooo loud at night from 11.30-1am. So would not book this cabin location again.
Kids Clubs - Great if under 10..smallest child (age 7) loved it and made new friends. Oldest (age 11) was still supposed to be in this club but thought the games etc were too little for her. So she wanted to go to the Youth club (12-14yrs), but started at 10.30pm!! So, not much in her line, but made friends at the pool in the day and in the eve after dinner we went to entertainment activities together which was nice too.
Food - Booked on First Sitting ..6.30pm. Got into restaurant at latest 6.50pm so nights, and ok getting in! Waiters were fantastic, very friendly and accommodated all my youngest daughters fussy meal requests. If you don't like something just ask! Our food was great, yes small portions, but if you had a starter, soup, pasta/risotto, main, pudding...yikes who eats this much? We had a starter and main and sometimes a pud and were full up. Pastas and risottos were lovely. Buffet as usual on ALL ships was a busy nightmare in the mornings, so tried to get down to the restaurant or ordered room service. Lunch was better either in restaurant, or casual round the pool with burgers, pizza (lovely), salads etc..great, no complaints.
Drinks - if you like a drink book the Allegrissimo drinks package as well worth it. Think my eldest daughter drank 5 drinks plus ice creams every day! I on the other hand like a cocktail or 2! It was great, no waiting for waiters to come over, all friendly. Spent 600 on package as a family and spent 1200!! Water, coffee etc all adds up.
Entertainment - well this was strange at first, getting used to the games in lots of languages, but added to the charm of it all! Respect to anyone who can switch between 5 different languages depending who is playing. We did daft games round the pool (cube like challenges), quizzes, and activities. There was shuffle board, table tennis, table footie, mini golf, and board games to hire. Evening was mixed. After dinner we went to the Cotton Club with a very dodgy singing duo, then entertainment team with a game, then the show, then bed. Shows were good, not fantastic, but better than Princess! The Entertainment team who organise the games were brilliant and friendly.
Fellow Passengers - majority from UK, but met folk from France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and even Argentina!! I experienced no pushing or bad manners, everyone very friendly. 90% of folk dressed formally for dinner on gala nights. In fact the ones that did not were Brits!
Excursions - too expensive. We are happy doing our own thing and using public transport. So in Holland opted to go to Haarlem for the day on the 75 bus (stops 5 mins walk from terminal just ask for directions). 14 euro return for our family. Lovely place to visit. In France, we again got the local bus to Honfleur (lady in cruise terminal gave us the times). Around 30 euro return. Would recommend a visit as it was a beautiful place. Nothing in Le Harve.
Disembarkation - 10/10..who are the folk who say its a problem? Same as all cruise ships, need to get you off in chunks. Out of cabin at 7am, down for breakfast. We were given time of 8.55am, and in less than half an hour were at our car! Best thing was hour went back, so 8.30am were on way home, great!
Overall, yes I would use MSC again, based on fantastic value for money. Kids free is great for us. If it was just myself and hubby paying then would choose Celebrity but they are charging double when adding children into the mix. Is P&O worth double what we paid? No, I don't think it was. Would love to try a bigger MSC ship with more choices.