My wife and I are both 50. This was our 18th cruise together. We have cruised with all the major lines. Our 11 night Southern Caribbean cruise on the Opera, from 1/14/07 to 1/25/07 was by far the WORST cruising experience we have ever had. The idea of cruising with an Italian based ship and experiencing a different shipboard "culture" sounded appealing, but was terribly disappointing in its execution. The only positives on this ship were the entertainment and the pasta. Everything else was far below our expectations, and far below the level we have experienced on any other cruise.
Embarkation: A disaster. More than 2 hours in line with hundreds of extremely elderly people. SLOW, SLOW, SLOW, with only half the agents you would expect for a ship of this size. We were told that the Opera was not using their usual embarkation facility due to the high number of ships leaving Port Everglades that day. Still, this experience set the tone for the rest of the cruise, and was consistent with all the other areas of poor performance.
Our Cabin: Adequate. Nothing particularly good nor bad. It was a bit smaller than our cabins on most other ships, but had enough storage space. The shower was very small and irritating because the curtain always stuck to your body.
The Ship Itself: Very poorly designed public spaces and narrow travel paths caused terrible traffic jams among the guests. Getting from the showroom at the front of the ship to the dining room at the rear would take 20 minutes unless you went VIA a different deck.
Dining: THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE ENTIRE CRUISE. You would thing that the food on an Italian ship would be great. WRONG!!!! Selection was very poor with about half the variety we have experienced on other ships. All meats and fish were terribly over-cooked. Everything except pasta and risotto tasted flat and totally unseasoned. The service was slow, inattentive and often intentionally rude. When we, and the others at our table complained to the Maitre'd, we received a condescending smirk and a comment about "Crude, demanding Americans".
The Cultural experience: If you want to experience another culture, go to that country, don't try it on a cruise ship. The close quarters and fixed schedules made for tense, chaotic experiences throughout the ship. We witnessed several fistfights among very elderly people over deck chairs, seats in the theater, line cutting and intentional rudeness. Most of this was from Europeans, directed at Americans, but toward the end of the cruise, the older Americans got fed up and started fighting back.
itinerary and Ports: MSC did little or no research regarding the ports we visited, hence the shore excursions were limited, and the people staffing the excursions desk had no idea about the excursions they were selling. WE DID NOT REACH A SINGLE PORT BY THE SCHEDULED TIME. The port we were most looking forward to was Willemsted, Curacao. What happened here is almost beyond belief. The ship failed to tie the mooring lines properly before allowing people to leave the ship. As people were exiting, a mooring line snapped, the gangway fell away from the ship and crashed to the dock. The bow thrusters sucked up the snapped mooring line, and the ship began drifting away with no power. Local tugs pushed us back to the dock, and it was 3 hours before anyone could leave the ship. We missed the majority of our port stop in Curacao.
Other Irritants: To many to list. No food available at all between 10:00 am and noon. No drinks of any kind (except water) available when the buffet was closed. Constant blaring announcements in 5 languages. Unrecognizable food items in the buffet. Language problems and cultural misunderstandings constantly. Rude, condescending officers and staff.
Overall: This was a BAD cruise, but we have to accept part of the blame. We liked the idea of a culturally different cruise, but found out that the reality of it just doesn't work. We will stick with the older, well established cruise lines in the future. We had enjoyed them all, so kept going back. We predict that MSC will abandon the American market in the near future, because as word gets out, Americans will abandon them first.