MSC Opera Cruise Ship Review – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
We joined the MSC Opera Cruise Ship in Havana Cuba and sailed around the Caribbean and Central America. We have cruised many times before but had never cruised with MSC. We were travelling in a group of 11 with one wheelchair and one mobility scooter and spent 2 weeks in total which enabled us to get to know the ship very well.
Embarkation on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Prior to joining the ship we stayed at the Memories Miramar Hotel in Havana and arrived at the cruise ship terminal after a short drive. The cruise terminal is called the Terminal Sierra Maestra San Francisco and is located right in the heart of Havana. Our transfer was arranged by Trailfinders at 1200 so we reached the terminal by 1230.
Unfortunately, our first contact with MSC was not a positive one. We realised we had arrived early and wanted information on what our options were. We could not find any representation for MSC in the terminal, just a suitcase drop off area that could not provide anymore information, so we headed for the customs area where after a little confusion they let us through. We were then greeted by a very rude man with an MSC badge on shouting at us to go away and come back later. He actually said ‘who did we think we were trying to get on the ship early, you will get on the ship when I tell you! Not the welcome we have come to expect from other cruise companies we have sailed with.
Why Trailfinders arranged our transfer so early is a mystery but no surprise as the service we have received from the Bristol office has been sub standard all through the booking process buts that’s another story! Sorry if it sounds like we are a couple of old grumpy sods as generally we are not, please do read on as there are some positives to come!
We retreated back through customs and headed out of the terminal very ready for a drink. Luckily the cruise terminal is central and right across the street from San Francisco Square where we spotted a bar, the Restaurante Cafe De’Oriente. We sat outside waiting for our drinks when it started raining, after arriving from the cold wet weather of England this was not what we expected or wanted, so we all retreated inside. This actually was a good move as they had an excellent pianist playing and after a couple of Mojitos we had the best fun and a good singalong!
After a couple of hours we decided to try to embark again, this time we were successful, met by some smiling staff and by 1630 we were on the ship. Hooray!!
So now let’s get down to business and show you around the MSC Opera and we will start at the top on Deck 13.
By the way did you know that MSC stands for Mediterranean Shipping Company, no we didn’t either!
Deck 13 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Deck 13 can only be found at the back and the front of the ship separated by going back down to deck 12. Here you will find the mini golf course which is free of charge and surrounded by a small area for sunbeds. It is a really nice and quiet place to sit and also a great place to watch the sunsets.
Towards the front of the ship is the exclusive Top 13 Solarium. A place where suite passengers only can go free of charge, but us little menials have to pay 10 euros per day. We chose not to use this facility, however, we were told that up here there were good views, no problem getting a sunbed, free water and cold towels and your own private bar and waiters. So it may be something to consider perhaps on a sea day when the pool decks get particularly busy.
Deck 12 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Here you will find the ship’s disco, called Byblos which opens around midnight and continues into the early hours. We had some fun nights in here with Shy’s excellent service. There is also a little deck area out the back which was perfect for a late drink and a moonlit sea view.
The rest of deck 12 is a promenade and is covered predominantly in chairs that recline and sunbeds. Quieter than deck 11 but can get very windy. The views and sunsets from this deck were incredible!
Come and have a walk with us around decks 12 and 13 and check out the Norwegian Getaway docked next door and coastal views of Cozumel.
Deck 11 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
The pool area space was excellent, back to back salt water pools with two whirl pools in the middle. There is no shallow end but there is a wide lip all the way around where you can sit and chat which was a lovely place to cool off.
This deck did get busy particularly on days at seas, the MSC Opera can carry 2,679 passengers apparently and at times it did feel that they were all round the pool at the same time! We are not early risers so beds would mostly be gone by the time we surfaced but there was always seats by the Spinnakar Bar which suited us. The sunbeds were pretty funky with a built-in large sun visor which was great for having a snooze, you can see what we mean on the video below. Beds would then free up during the day which would then be perfect for an afternoon snooze. In port days the pool area was blissfully quiet and at times we made the most of this!
The Lo Spinnakar Bar is the main bar on the pool deck at the front of the MSC Opera. It has plenty of tables and chairs in front that led to a dance floor and stage then on to the pools. Lots of daily activities were held here including dance and fitness classes with Yusi and Pedro, fun games, live music and theme parties in the evening. We really enjoyed the 60’s, 70’s 80’s party and the Snow party! They also had some demonstrations with the staff and entertainments team who were good fun, including fruit carving, which went down very well with the crowd.
Smoking is allowed all down the left hand side looking towards the Spinnakar Bar.
All the announcements were in multiple languages with English mostly being last so it took us a while to understand what was going. However, once we sussed it we did have some fun times and between us we won two lanyard’s, a bandana and a backpack being displayed here by Paul’s brother Dean.
The majority of the time, the volume of the microphone and music was so loud that the sound coming out of the speakers was distorted. The entertainment team were fun but shouting very loud did seem to be one of their skills! However, we did have some fun here and the service from the bar and banter with Shy and Ramses was excellent, and we certainly did make full use of our drinks package here!
Deck 11 on the MSC Opera is where you will also find the Spa and Gym but we can’t comment on these as we preferred to spend time at the bar and pools, after all we were on holiday!
Le Vele is the ship’s self-serve buffet restaurant, located at the back of deck 11 and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To be honest the breakfast was pretty average and we did prefer to go to the main dining room for our’s or have it delivered to the room. Afternoon tea and dinner was ok. Alcohol was also available if you wanted and it has a 24 hour tea, coffee and water station. There is also a large balcony right at the back of the Le Vele restaurant that can be accessed and this was a perfect spot to watch our midnight sail away from Havana. We only found this towards the end of our cruise and so wished we had found it early as this was a great spot.
Il Patio is a snack bar area that is situated between Le Vele and the pool areas. It has two sides which serve snacks, pizza, hot dogs and burgers and a bar in the middle. It is also a good place to sit when the buffet restaurant Le Vele is really busy. You will certainly never go hungry on the MSC Opera.
Here is a walking tour of Deck 11 on the MSC Opera starting at Le Vele and ending at the Spinnakar bar.
Deck 8 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Our Fantastica Ocean View Cabin 8251
We stayed in a Fantastica ocean view cabin. There are different cabin categories on the MSC Opera, Bella being the most basic then Fantastica. There is also a Wellness level, focusing on fitness and health and then the Aurea which we dream of but unfortunately is well out of our budget. We chose an outside cabin on deck 8 cabin number 8251 near to the back not far from the lift, which we thought may be a little noisy but it wasn’t at all.
First impressions were that is was not the biggest cabin we have stayed in before, pretty compact but nicely decorated with a good-sized bathroom. The only criticism was that the shower cubicle seemed smaller than previous cabins and had a curtain rather than a solid door which did get a bit annoying as it would stick to you.
Our cabin on the MSC Opera had plenty of storage, under the bed, in the bedside cabinets and a large wardrobe. The bed was large and really comfortable.
It took us 2 days to find our safe as it is positioned behind a huge mirror over the small dressing table area, here we discovered a huge cupboard and the safe. The small desk dressing table with 4 plug sockets 2 x round pins 2 x flat pins so charging our electronics was not a problem.
Beach towels were provided and changed whenever you needed. The fridge had a mini bar which you did have to pay for, we even had to pay for water even though we were on the all-inclusive drinks package if we drank the water from our room. On our drinks package we could have bottles of water so we would just get the bottles from the bar and put them in our fridge.
Disappointingly there was no kettle for tea and coffee, however there is complimentary breakfast delivery to your cabin provided you have to put your card on the door by 2am. We did this on a few occasions and really enjoyed it.
The TV had a good selection of channels but didn’t have the facility to check your on board account which was disappointing. To check our accounts you had to visit reception and get a balance and to be honest they were not the friendliest bunch. As always there were mistakes on our accounts but to be fair were sorted promptly.
We didn’t have any towel animals during our 2 week stay, however, otherwise we did receive exceptional service from Raphael our cabin steward who kept our cabin spotless.
Watch our video here showing you around our cabin.
Our friends treated themselves to balcony cabins on the MSC Opera and all stayed on Deck 9. Check out this video of their balcony cabin to compare to the ocean view cabin that we stayed in.
Deciding on a balcony is all about how much you will use it, I must admit I do love a balcony, however Paul is not fussed, so depends on your budget and your needs. The difference of the cost was £400 per person which went towards excursions, souvenirs and treating ourselves to WiFi too!
Deck 6 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
La Cabala Piano Bar
La Cabala is areally comfortable lounge and we had excellent service from Agrianata and Eduardo. Antipasti is also served with your drinks. With only a short walk through the photo shop to our restaurant L’Approdo, it made the perfect spot for our group to meet before dinner. Music was provided by a guitarist and a pianist who took turns in entertaining us.
Teatro dell’Opera deck 6 – main theatre on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Two shows are performed each night at around 7.30pm and 9.30pm to cater for early and late seating’s in the ship’s main dining room and last for around half an hour. Due to the ship’s multi-cultural passengers the shows largely feature musical or visual acts.
We must admit we were not impressed with the standard of the shows in the main theatre, shows such as Lipstick and Dirty Dancing were ok but disappointing compared with other cruise lines.
There are over 700 seats and the theatre spans decks 5 and 6. As we had two of our group in wheelchairs we accessed the theatre on deck 6, however the seats here towards the back were all on the same level so if you were not in the first row you couldn’t see. It seemed also acceptable for passengers to talk loudly all the way through the shows which really did get on our nerves!
We were excited to see that some Cuban Musicians were coming on board for a Cuban Music Show. We then realised that if we wanted to watch this show we would have to pay 32 dollars each! This was really disappointing, we have cruised 11 times before and have never had to pay extra for shows, so we politely declined their kind offer!
Cotton Club deck 6 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
We did not use the Cotton Club, it predominantly seemed to have classical music and art auctions and other demonstrations.
Aroma Coffee Bar deck 6 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
This was our morning meeting point, with superb service by Tanuska and Erica who were always a joy to see. Lots of fun banter and superb coffee was a great way to start the day!
Other drinks and cocktails are available which we did take advantage of from time to time! There were also pastries on the counter that you could help yourself to if you had missed breakfast or wanted another treat!
Aroma Coffee Shop with the reception below
Med Pearl Casino deck 6 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
We did not spend any time in the casino, however, we did notice it got busy and had a selection of gaming tables, slot machines and is served by its own bar. Even though we didn’t visit the casino ourselves, there were always people in there. And why not? If this is what makes them happy and enjoy their time on the cruise, then good for them. Smoking is also permitted here.
Shopping on deck 6 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Various shopping opportunites are available, including duty free, handbags and perfume and a Logo Shop. The only thing we bought was a bag of crisps for 1.50 euros, we do love a crisp, not cheap but so worth it!
L’Approdo Restaurant deck 6 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
Our introduction to dinner in the L’approdo restaurant was a problem as a party of 11 we had been allocated a table of nine and a table of two! It took us 3 days to sort this out which was extremely frustrating, we were told to go to Madame Florentine who assured us it would be sorted but alas that was not the case. Eventually Paulo the Maitre’d sorted it out so we could eventually all eat together.
After this was sorted we did enjoy our dining experiences here. We were served by Paulo from Italy and Jefferson from Brazil which was really entertaining. Paulo was efficient and sometimes serious, where Jefferson was playful and fun, both really good at their jobs, just very different styles. We received excellent service from them both.
Paul’s Dad John had never eaten Lobster before so we treated him at the gala dinner and it really went down a treat!
All in all we were very satisfied with the standard of food and service in the main dining room.
Come and have a walk around deck 6.
Deck 5 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
One of the main entertainments lounges on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship is the Piazza Di Spagna.
You will find a variety of entertainment here with live music from the duo’s on board, fashion shows, dancing classes, and Mr and Mrs. The majority of the entertainment was in Italian so a lot of the time we were not sure what was going on and must say bingo was a bit long-winded when the numbers had to be repeated in 5 different languages!
Saying that we did have a few good evenings enjoying the music from the duo’s, some fun singalongs with the added bonus of small bowls of crisps being served with your drinks, and anyone that knows us knows that we love the crisps!
Proud to say that the Morgan family are talented singers, so we do love a bit of karaoke and pleased to say that John and Paul went down a treat! It is a really comfortable lounge and the service from the bar waiters and waitresses was also very good.
Sottovento Pub deck 5 on the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
The Sottovento Pub is located by the theatre on deck 5 which can be accessed by some stairs. The pub is split into two sides, and on one side smoking is permitted. There are TV Screens which show sport, predominantly american football and baseball, unfortunately no English football, so Paul could not watch his beloved Spurs!
There was also a Card room, library and computer/internet stations situated to the right of the entrance.
La Caravella Restaurant on deck 5 of the MSC Opera Cruise Ship
La Caravella is the restaurant that passengers who have booked the Bella experience have their dinner. We used this restaurant a few times for breakfast when we got up early enough! The service and breakfast were very good and we preferred it to the buffet. It is also open for lunch and a varied menu is available.
Come and have a walk around deck 5.
The Good –
There is no doubt that the MSC Opera Cruise Ship is a beautiful ship, our ocean view cabin was really comfortable and kept spotlessly clean by Raphael. Overall the service was good and there was pockets of excellence with the individuals mentioned above. The ship overall was very clean and the seating in the lounges was comfortable and the service good. Our dining experience after the initial hiccups was excellent and we really enjoyed the food here. The games by the pool were good fun but spoilt sometimes by the noise – see below.
The Bad –
The food in the buffet was very hit and miss and we mostly came out disappointed in comparison with other cruise line buffets that we have experienced. The service in the Le Vele was excellent though with very happy staff.
The ship was really noisy, hard to describe but there were few areas where you could go to be quiet, even when the entertainment was good the volume was so high that the quality was distorted.
About 75% of the hand sanitiser’s were empty, and a lot of the soap dispensers in the toilets were too, and when we informed staff we were met with a shrug of the shoulders, which was concerning.
There was little assistance when disembarking with the mobility scooters except one guy (shame we didn’t get his name) who was a delight and we were always pleased to see him.
Not all of our friends staying in a balcony cabin experienced the excellent service we had with our cabin steward but instead rarely saw their’s and received their daily programme a day late!
The Ugly –
We were treated so rudely by members of the reception team, dismissed at best and insulted at worst. My friend Sally and I both had bought the Wifi package so that we could access it at sea which was how it was advertised. However, when Sally had some issues logging on, she was rudely told ‘well what do you expect, I want you to understand that we are at sea and there is no WiFi’. The irony was that I was sat upstairs in the coffee shop surfing the net on the WiFi! There was also a mix up with our luggage labels and after much huffing and puffing they were eventually changed. We have never been spoken to like this on any of our cruises and it was really sad to see.
Embarkation as described at the beginning of the post was a nightmare and very confusing.
This paragraph is not a reflection on MSC but we are Europeans and always try to be polite but it seems the majority of passengers on this ship who were also Europeans did not have the same decorum. It was especially upsetting to see our friends who were in wheelchairs not being considered a priority.
So there you have it, would we cruise with MSC again, if we had an unlimited budget then we may try another MSC cruise but only if it was on one of their new ships and it sailed out of the UK. As we have a budget then we would rather spend our money on companies that provide better costumer service. In our 12 cruising experiences unfortunately this has been our least favourite, and sits right at the bottom of the Paul and Carole’s Cruising Charts at number 12!
We hope this honest review is useful, we would love to hear from you in the comments below if you have cruised with MSC before. Maybe we just had a one-off negative experience or is this what is to be expected from cruising with MSC. We would love to hear what you have to say!
Please do check out all our other cruising experiences here we promise there are some positive ones!
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