MSC has some pretty bad reviews, and I'm pleased to report that we had a very pleasant time on board Opera. However, it was not all plain sailing, if you'll excuse the pun. So let's start with the bad points and if you feel you can stomach those, I shall move on to the good points.
The biggest minus for us was the very poor vegetarian food. Meat and fish eaters are very well catered for, but poor old veggies get a very raw deal - literally! Raw carrots, raw lettuce, raw onion, but often no hot veggie dish at the buffet aside from the side veg. I don't consider a bowl of boiled broccoli to constitute a meal. Often meat was added unnecessarily, reducing the choices even further Eg breakfast omelettes with added ham, breakfast potatoes with added sausage pieces, pasta with added meat or fish. Even at the sit-down restaurant at lunch and dinner time there was not always a veggie option for each course. This was particularly disappointing for the gala dinners. what there was was very samey eg cheese appetizer followed by a cheese salad followed by a cheese main course. Aubergines were presented in various ways day after day. I love aubergines, but was starting to go off them, and my poor old daughter hates them so was left with no alternative. There were no labels to indicate what was veggie and it was not always easy to tell and the staff did not always know. We did say we were veggie at time of booking and were contacted part-way through the cruise to check that all was well, but nothing resulted from our complaint.
Deserts in the restaurant and buffet were generally good, the ice-cream was very nice and the pizza parlour was good. The afternoon tea was always very nice and the scones were very tasty. Tea at the tea stations was usually rather too weak and no tea or coffee was served after the meals.
The other big bugbear was the tender service, which was necessary twice on this cruise. We have been on many cruises and realise that this can be a bit slow, but we've NEVER encountered anything quite so shambolic and painfully slow. MSC really need to sort this out, as it was causing considerable upset. We were informed that tender tickets would be available at 9am. At 8.30am we passed by and there was already a queue forming so we joined it. At 9am there was virtually no movement and finally at about 9.20am, as the queue was slowly moving, a man came down the line handing out tickets. We were given 'H' tickets, despite being fairly near the front. The first tickets (A and B) were called to disembark at 9.45 and C and D and 10am, then everything stopped. By 11.30 no further tickets had been called but people were leaving the ship. We joined the massive queue and were let off. No one checked what letter we were, but by then it was well after noon and other poor souls were waiting patiently for announcements.
The same thing happened the next time. This time we just joined the queue that was forming, even though no tickets had been called. We were let off the ship with no one checking our letter (B this time)! It took an age, and there was much pushing and shoving. It made a mockery of the so-called system. People with J and N were in front of us. This cast an unnecessary shadow and could easily be made slicker and fairer.
A surprising problem was the lack of chairs in the buffet. There were not enough to go round. I think this is because the assumption is that the outside seating will be used, but this was a Northern European cruise during a cold spell and it was either too cold, wet or windy to sit out so everyone sat in - if they could a) find a table (always a problem) and b) find a chair to place at the table. There were times when we got a table but could not find sufficient chairs to go round it. Many people brought in chairs from the deck.
One final gripe was about smoking, which was allowed in too many places. the smoking lounge and smoking casino are not closed and the smoke permeates other areas and is unpleasant.
On the positive side, the ship is very nice and looks well maintained. The theatre is especially good and the shows were also very good. Unfortunately fellow guests often arrived late and everyone had to stand up to let them past, and many talked through shows.
The cabin is reasonably roomy as cabins go (we had a standard ocean view) but our steward was not great. Often we returned and the cabin had not been made up, despite being vacated for several hours. He always looked a tad unhappy and I wonder if perhaps he was simply over-worked. No chocs on pillows or towels shaped like elephants and swans unfortunately.
There was a nice walking/jogging track, but unfortunately it was over blocked by sun loungers.
Drinks are rather pricey - both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ones. However, the bar service is generally quite good and reasonably fast and friendly. The restaurant staff were also very friendly and efficient.
Despite some gripes this was a good cruise with some nice ports of call on a pleasant ship.