My sister and I had a ball on the Opera! We have taken several cruises (together and with others) and felt that this cruise was the best ever. We booked on-line and it couldn't have been easier. Everything was done in a timely manner and our service was very responsive.
My sister and I met at the Ft. Lauderdale airport and took a taxi to the port, which was only a few miles away, but a $15 cab ride (with tip). Some guy at the airport came up, took our bags and sent us to a cab, then asked for a tip. (We were doing just fine on our own, thank you!)
Our cabin was small (but no smaller than cabins on other ships) with tons of storage space. Two women bring alot of clothes for eleven days, but we had no problem with storage. Beds and pillows were comfy, and although the shower was small, the huge, fluffy bath towels were first class! We honestly don't know how some very large people who were aboard could possibly shower!
The Opera is beautiful! Mirrors everywhere! The deck is not teak, but trex-style, and was hosed off nightly, so it was immaculate. They washed the outer windows of the ship several times while in port and although we did not have a balcony, friends who did said they completely cleaned it twice during the voyage. Our cabin was also well taken care of by a very efficient, but not aggressive, cabin steward. We hardly ever saw him, but the room was cleaned, taken care of, with fresh fruit renewed daily. We loved all the diverse entertainment in the small club rooms.
Not the best dining on a ship, nor the worst. We had some great meals, some OK meals. Always went away full and happy. We had great service, which I think comes from being nice, calling servers by name and smiling. Our Asst. Maitre d', Luigi, was the most attentive I've ever had on a ship. Usually they just stand around, but Luigi's eyes were on every table, and he directed the waiters like a traffic cop. He also wasn't afraid to pour water, clear tables, or do whatever was necessary to provide good service. A real change from meeting the Maitre d' the last evening of the cruise, just before tips are handed out... We thought the Breakfast Buffet was great. I've heard alot of complaints about it, but everything we had was cooked well, hot and plenty. The fresh grapefruit we had each morning was the best I've ever eaten.
We enjoyed the activities provided by the Entertainment Team. The "line dances" were the best and the games played were fun and funny. The Italian personalities of the team made every activity special. The young guys asked many of us "older" women to dance, which made for a great time. We laughed alot and enjoyed their moves and antics. We even took Italian Lessons, which was great fun. We enjoyed the morning walks and stretching/aerobics on deck with the Team.
Service was excellent! Again, a smile and friendliness opened many doors. Sometimes there was a language barrier, but we were always able to get our point across. And the women of the Entertainment Team spoke 5 languages! Any minor problem that came up was quickly solved by the staff.
Entertainment on board was amazing! In addition to the Big Band, the regular MSC entertainment was truly incredible. Quality shows every night. Very varied and classy. The shows lasted 45 minutes, which is perfect! I usually don't attend the shows on cruise ships, but I didn't want to miss one of these - and I made sure we were on time each night. Yes, it got crowded in the theatre, but we never were denied a seat.
Shore Excursions We took three shore excursions - in Costa Rica, Panama and Curacao. They were all very fun, informative and well worth the money spent. It's always fun to see more of the country than just the port. It certainly made the country "come alive" for us.
Disembarkation was a little slow, and we were getting nervous, as my sister had an early flight out. We went to the staff member in charge, told her our problem, and she got us out with the first group. My sister made her flight with no problems. Again, I think a smile and polite request went a long way.
We'd go on another MSC cruise tomorrow! We have memories we will never forget. I particularly appreciated not having general announcements all day long. The Captain's report in the morning was the only one, so we were not constantly bombarded with announcements for Bingo, Art, Jewelry, Shopping, etc. Now that's a vacation! We also have lots of MSC Crocieres souvenirs, thanks to the fact we participated in several activities.