MSC Opera Cruise Review by Claire
- Sail Date: September 2011
- Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
Our cruise departed from Venice. As we've booked direct with the cruise line we made our own way to the port and we were greeted by an MSC rep with a coach organised the terminal. The bags were taken from us at the terminal and arrived at the cabin shortly later. Embarkation was remarkably well organised and we were on the ship within 20 minutes (actually far quicker than our last Princess cruise).
The ship set off on time after the usual lifeboat drill. The views of Venice sailing from the port were spectacular.
I've read lots of complaints about the food on the ship on previous reviews so wasn't really looking forward to meals. However the food was lovely (although the portions are small - we got around that by ordering more courses). It probably should be noted that this is an Italian ship so meals are all Italian and are in the course sizes that are served in Italian restaurants in Italy - which are small by UK/US standards. We didn't really eat in the self service restaurant other than afternoon tea and an occasional breakfast but the food we had there was good. Service across all the restaurants was excellent.
Our cabin wasn't a standard one as it was squeezed into a space at the end of the corridor. This was actually a bonus as it was larger than the standard ones. It was cleaned twice a day and we had clean bedding every other day.
Our cabin was on of the lowest grades so we paid 6 euros a night. This actually seemed quite reasonable as Princess charged us $11 last year for a similar cabin. Drinks have a 15% service charge.
I can't really say much about this as we didn't go to any of the shows as the times of them clashed with our getting ready for dinner or having our dinner as we were second sitting. Although from speaking to other people on the cruise it seemed they were the usual standard for cruise ships. The day time activities included exercise classes held in the sun on the deck and dance classes (these were all well attended).
The ships is lovely and is cleaned constantly. There is also a constant painting programme.
Our cruise went to the Black Sea - so included Bari, Athens, Yalta, Odessa, Istanbul, Olympia, Dubrovnik and returned to Venice. The variety of places visited was the main reason we chose the cruise. The time spent in each location varied however it was long enough.
We went on tours in Yalta, Istanbul and Olympia. The tour guides were all local and spoke excellent English. The tours were good value as particularly for Olympia you need someone to explain the ruins. We didn't intend to take a tour in Istanbul but the palace was only open to those on tours on the day we went there so to see that we paid for the tour(opening times are on the Topkapi palace website).
This wasn't the fault of the staff on the Opera but MSC had also booked the port for another ship on the same day. We returned to the port at 10:45. Our ship was moving to a tender position (we were told) at 11 but it had already departed when we arrived, to make way for the other larger MSC ship. Presumably this was intended to save port fees for the company. However it meant that we were on a tender which arrived at the Opera soon after it had moved - only to discover that the sea was too rough for the tender to dock. After a couple of quite hair raising attempts to dock we were directed to the other side of the ship and waited for a while, whilst the facilities were set up to dock. The most annoying thing about this wasn't MSC or the rough sea but the back seat drivers on the tender who seemed to believe they knew better than the crew of the ship and the tender!
Prior to departure there was the usual briefing and everything seemed well organised. On the morning of departure we were told to leave our cabins by 7am which we did. We had breakfast and went to read in one of the lounges until we reached Venice. We sailed in past St Marks Square, everything seemed fine. Having reached Venice at 9am we went to our departure point. We eventually left the departure point at 11:15am - after having sat there for 4 hours with no drinks and no announcements about what was causing the delay.
People around us were catching trains and flights - they had told MSC this but were told that it wasn't urgent enough for them to leave the ship sooner (with hindsight it would appear that if you have travel arrangements and haven't booked excursions or transfers with MSC I'd suggest you don't hand your bags in and take them off yourself).
Anyway when we eventually got off the ship we realized what was causing the delay. There were 2 MSC ships offloading passengers in Venice and MSC appear to employ only a minimum number of bag handlers who had been split between these. I actually saw my case coming off the ship as I walked down the steps - so it wouldn't have helped to leave the ship earlier as we would have been waiting on shore.
We enjoyed the cruise. The staff were all friendly and helpful but the organisation having arrived back in Venice left a lot to be desired.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Athens (Piraeus)We didn't really like Athens. I think this was partly as we were so looking forward to visiting and its actually not a pretty place - its really quite tatty and tired.View All 1,107 Athens (Piraeus) Cruise Port Reviews
There were tour companies touting outside of the port and we took a tour with one of these (mainly because the underground station is quite a long walk and we wanted to get to the Acroplis as early as possible - after 10am you are part of the cruise tours whether you are on them or not!)
Anyway the tour bus was 20 euros and was quite reasonable particularly if you were there for longer as it was a 2 day ticket.
Tickets for the Acropolis are 12 euros and cover other sites but not the Acropolis Museum which requires a separate ticket which was 5 euros.
The Acropolis is worth visiting but is currently being renovated so has scaffolding. The Acropolis museum is worth a visit.
View Cruise Critic's Athens (Piraeus) Cruise Port Review
BariThere were a couple of tour companies touting for business inside and outside of the port in Bari. We didn't know what was there and decided to take a tour with one of these. The bus was shaped like a train and for twenty euros included an English speaking guide. The bus took us to the main attractions and the guide gave us details of what we could see (although she didn't come inside with us). We felt this was good value and we were quite surprised about the guide as we'd thought it was one of the usual hop on hop off tours. Well worth trying if you go there as its cheaper than the cruise version.View All 149 Bari Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Bari Cruise Port Review
DubrovnikWe arrived in Dubrovnik earlier and walked the walls first - this was a good move as its busy later in the day. It cost 70KN.View All 1,013 Dubrovnik Cruise Port Reviews
We also went to the Rectors Palace which was 40 KN and is worth visiting.
The city is only small and with the large cruise crowds you need to stagger your visits to all the tours to go - there are cafes around so suggest you get a coffee and watch them leave before venturing inside (although don't wait too long as there are always more tours).
Also Dubrovnik is quite expensive but they do take Euros.
View Cruise Critic's Dubrovnik Cruise Port Review
IstanbulIstanbul is lovely and I'd recommend everyone goes there - although I think you need longer than the few hours that a cruise allows to visit all the sites.View All 403 Istanbul Cruise Port Reviews
Its probably worth noting that Topkapi palace closes on Tuesdays - so if you want to go there you need to go on a tour. Opening times/days for the palace are on their website. The Harem is a separate ticket and wasn't included in our tour (so worth looking for one that also includes that if you go on a cruise tour as its supposed to be lovely).
There were lengthy queues for the blue mosque and st Sophia so be aware of that also the Blue Mosque closes at prayer times
View Cruise Critic's Istanbul Cruise Port Review
VeniceI could review Venice as its utterly stunning I think its somewhere everyone should go!!!View All 1,233 Venice Cruise Port Reviews
If you want to get into Venice quickly and cheaply then you may want to use the People Mover. It takes about 5 minutes to Plaza Roma and from there you can get a waterbus to everywhere in the city.
The People Mover costs 1 euro each way - I'd suggest you buy multiple tickets if you are in Venice for a few days (or like us are travelling from there to the cruise terminal and returning a few weeks later) as there are lengthy queues for tickets at the cruise terminal station so its worth saving a little time and getting the tickets in advance.
View Cruise Critic's Venice Cruise Port Review