8 friends all sailed with the Opera on our first cruise experience ever, on April 21st from Durban to Portuguese Islands and back on the 4 night cruise. We had been told so many stories of how WONDERFUL the MSC Cruises were, and how awesome the food was etc etc blah blah.....so of course we were expecting the best, the most amazing, the most wonderous.....
Boy were we wrong....well at least on a few counts.
The ship itself is great, clean, glitzy (to a point) and we enjoyed the cruise for the mere fact that we relaxed, had fun with friends and got to get off at Portuguese Islands on both days and relax on the beach (note, not on the ship thankfully)....but that's about where the wow factor ends....
Firstly the queueing process outside on the dock, this was a DISASTER of EPIC proportions. We have bought the "Fast Track" pass to board quicker, cost us R125 per person extra... well don't waste your money....you queue in the same queue as the non fast trackers, More
it's only supposedly when you get to immigration that you have a fast track, so be prepared to stand in the queue from 6am to 3pm just to get on board...
Then as we boarded, our ID cards (issued at embarkation desks outside on the dock) gave errors and we had to all have our cards replaced at reception....
Finally armed with cards in hand, we prepared to explore - we were then accosted by staff offering us their "all inclusive drinks" package - $31 per person per day and you can drink as much as you like, UNLIMITED, - this was definitely a plus for us, not having to worry about keeping track of our dollar spending. Worked out to R330 per person per day, unlimited drinks.. this again was a major bonus.....BUT....be prepared to be hated by the staff because once you've bought this, you only pay 15% service charge once off, so staff lose out on tips and therefore HATE serving quests on the 431 (all inclusive drinks) package, so this makes them RUDE and unattentive.
So, now the fun begins (or not).....the 431 drinks package as mentioned is a boon, saves you a lot of money, but boy, does it makes the staff peeved.....we were ignored flat by waiters, told we couldn't order drinks so often, asked pertinently if we felt we'd abused the system enough when ordering a 5th drink, told we'd had enough alcohol and should stop drinking! We are paying customers, you serve, we pay, so don't back chat us please! One waitress blatantly told us that we weren't welcome to order drinks, because the staff didn't get enough tips from us due to us having purchased the 431 package! What a cheek!
So, I re-iterate, the staff are RUDE and UNWELCOMING!
Then there's the food! NOT at all what it's cracked up to be...we had heard RAVE reviews from almost everyone we'd spoken to about how awesome the food was. Well they were all wrong (or must have sailed in a parallel dimension). The food was mass produced, re-heated, of limited variety and totally sub-standard. The seated dining area (La Caravella) - served nouvelle cuisine, but even so, the food was tacky - the kind you'd expect at an all you can eat budget buffet. About the only thing worth mentioning, is the pizza on the patio deck, this was usually fresh and hot, albeit very limited in variety, but at least tasted like something. The buffet restaurant served mediocre food that left the pallet feeling robbed.
The entire cruise works in the ID card - and you load your cash onto this card upon boarding, and that's how you pay for everything, by swiping your ID Card....I went on the last night to buy a photo from the "gala dinner" - a rip off at $15 per pic and wasn't sure how much funds I had left on my card....the photo attendant, after having swiped my card, slapped it down and at the top of her voice told me "you have not money left" making me feel like a naughty school boy at the tuck shop.
When I complained to reception, the "Guest Relations Manager" wasn't around to personally take my complaint and it was only late evening that I found a card in my cabin advising me to contact reception (I had complained at lunch time and again before dinner)....
When I got hold of reception I was informed that the guest relations manager had told the reception to tell me "sorry" - this was the extent of the apology and attention to my complaint.
I truly feel that the best two days of the cruise were those two spent OFF the ship at the Portuguese islands, where we relaxed in the sun, swam and drank our cocktails.
MSC you should be ashamed of your staff and your lack of attention to detail, your food is sub-par and so are your staff......
I expected more and will most likely never go on a cruise again having had this as my first experience.
I was planning on doing the cruises in the Mediterranean one day but now I'm thinking twice. Less
MSC Opera Cruises to Africa