We sailed on MSC Opera, western mediterranean (Genova, Marseille, Palma, Ibiza, Olbia, Livorno) on 30 june 2018. I am Italian, my husband is from US, we sailed before on other cruise lines. We choose MSC to get the "Italian experience".
Let's start from the good things:
* cabin: a bit worn out, but extremely clean and confortable, good service and luckily we had a cabin with balcony
* Embarkation: ok genova is a bit messy, but we survived, everything went well, we had our luggage very quickly.
* Entertaiment: the quality of the shows is extremely good and can suit a multicultural audience (a mix of europeans, russians and americans)
* The public rooms and the ship is spotless, extremely clean and you can see staff constantly cleaning
* The Opera is small and its interior decor is nice, classic (a bit retrò) and elegant.
* Ports: there is a MSC shuttle for Palma, Ibiza (13-15 euros), at Marseille, Olbia and Livorno there is a free shuttle that drops you downtown. At Olbia, get the public bus number 40 (5 euros) from the port to go to nice beach Pittolongu. It's worth it!
* The service at bars and cafès was weird, sometimes we had the impression that staff were trainees at their first real work experience. We sat and waited, waited, waited... for 2 espresso!
*Food is free and ther is plenty at any time. Free water is ok, free coffe is bad (for italian standards).
*Dress code: dress as you like, except at dinner time at restaurants where you can't go with a swimming suits and filflops, no particular elegance is required.
Now the bad experience
* food: you find free food everywhere, unfortunately is pretty awful. Everything was either too salty or overspiced, with strange combinations of flavours. Pasta at the buffet was overcooked and full of stuff than no italian would dare to put in a sauce (pesto with seafood and tomatoes??). Desserts too sugary and sweet. Only meat options, pizzas, bread, salads and fruits were good.
The buffet is designed in a irrational way: at peak times you just got stuck in a crowd of people in line (chaotic italian style), staff cleaning dishes and people trying to get out or to find a place to sit.
A better choice for lunch is the restaurant la Caravella, less crowded, slightly better food quality.
At the Restaurant l'Approdo in the evening the dishes were estremely disappointing. Italian classics like lasagne and cannelloni were chewy, salty and had a bad taste. Risotto with porcini mushrooms had no porcini flavour. The "signature dishes" were mostly pretty inedible, let alone international options (chinese, asian or paella - directly from freezer).
The maitre attitude was annoying: we argued on Mychoice option, he didn't let us eat at free dinner time, as stated on the documents, claiming that our travel agency messed up. We discussed quite a lot and in the end we won... no comment..
The waiter's service was slow. Most of the times we arrived at the table and we were left waiting for nearly 30-40 minutes before getting our orders. Sometimes I just wanted to walk out and go to pizza buffet!
* On MSC there is a constant aggressive sales attitude: from the first moment you get onboard, staff tries to sell you beverages packages, excursions, photos.. I was really annoyed by that.
* Day at sea: the ship was packed, so you had to queue everywhere: at the (small) swimming pools, jacuzzi and gym. If you don't like crowds and children screaming and splashing, get a cabin with a balcony and relax there!
Would we go again on a MSC cruise? Only if we get a dirty cheap deal for a balcony cabin (and we bring food from home).
wardrobe and curtains a bit worn out and broken. bed confortable. cabin space ok for european standards, nice view balcony
Genova is a messy town, I suggest a visit to aquarium and to the city center behind it. It can be easily reached on foot (15 minutes)
I loved Marseille: get the free shuttle from cruise terminal, walk 10 minutes to old port. I suggest to catch the little train (8 euros), have a drink at the Old Port and relax!
Palma de Maiorca is a beautiful town, full of life, shops, ancient monuments. We took the MSC shuttle (15 euros) and used it various times. At night there are lots of nice bars and cafès.
From Ibiza you can go in 30 minutes with ferry to the island of Formentera, if not, get a water taxi and visit some beaches around the town. In the evening take a walk up to the cathedral, in the old town. you will enjoy a great view!
Olbia is a very small town, get the free shuttle bus from the port and then the public bus number 40 (5 euros buy the ticket at Tourism Board near the Town Council-Municipio) to Pittolongu beach, 7 kms from Olbia. Pristine cristal clear waters, white sands and relax. Sun umbrella and sunbeds to rent at 15 euros half day.
Livorno is an industrial port, don't expect much from it. It has been heavily bombed during WWII and it was rebuilt. So if you can't get the MSC excursion to Florence&Pisa, pay 5 euros for the Port -downtown shuttle, catch the LAMBlu public bus (tickets can be bought on board) to Livorno train station, buy a 2.5 euro train ticket to Pisa (20 minutes by train) and visit Pisa.