ITINERARY--We were on the MSC Opera's Eastern Mediterranean cruise from October 19-31, 2001. The ports of call were Bari & Venice-Italy, Piraeus/Athens & Katakolon/Olympia-Greece, Yalta & Odessa-Ukraine, Istanbul-Turkey & Dubrovnik-Croatia.
THE MSC OPERA is not a glitzy or gaudy cruise ship. It is a modern, clean ship with solid quality--a lot of brass & glass (mirrors). The cruise had an outstanding itinerary with sites of great historical & cultural significance. The cost was very reasonable.
OUR BALCONY ROOM was well-designed, clean & comfortable. It was a pleasure having relatives in an adjoining room to share balcony visits & meals.
MEALS--After reading the comments on Cruise Critic we tried to avoid the buffet. With a couple of exceptions, the 4 of us ate our meals in the formal sit-down restaurant where we had an excellent table location, great service & very good meals. The menus for each meal had a large variety of dishes from which to choose. The best entrees were fish/seafood & the weakest were beef/pork. The appetizers & desserts were very good.
SHORE EXCURSIONS did a very brisk business. It seemed that a very high percentage of the passengers were interested in seeing the sites/sights (tours thru MSC or self-arranged).
CLIENTELE--Most of the passengers were from 50+ years--we were about average age for this group. There were only a couple dozen kids under 12 years of age & very few teenagers. Most of these younger passengers were Russian or Ukrainian. There very few passengers from 20-50.
ENTERTAINMENT tended to be highly visual (no stand-up comics) & relied on international music & dance (pop hits--English & Latin, opera/classical..), traditional Italian music & gymnastic performances. The 2nd show at the Theater ended about 10. By 11:30 the public areas were quite empty & the ship was very quiet--never any noise from rooms, hallways or balconies.
LIFE ON BOARD the MSC Opera was very relaxed--not pushy in selling drinks (drinks not even allowed in the theater), very limited selection of MSC logo merchandise, no cheesy art auctions, no highly intrusive photographers... The predominantly older clientele enjoyed going on tours, visiting, playing cards, reading, dancing, drinking tea/coffee...
PASSENGER LANGUAGES. On this cruise the breakdown seemed to be:
German-40%, Italian-30%, Russian/Ukrainian-10%, Japanese-10%, English & Others-10%.
CREW-NATIONALITIES: Indonesia- 40%, Honduras-20%, Other: Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Argentina, Philippines, Montenegro, India, Bulgaria, Madagascar...
ANNOUNCEMENTS were generally made in 5 languages. One particularly important announcement was made in 7: English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian/Ukrainian & Japanese.
BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE: In order to avoid feeling isolated, we would strongly recommend that English speakers travel with English-speaking friends &/or be very fluent in one of the major passenger languages.