MSC Opera – Day 6 – Constanta
After a fairly rocky night we had a slightly later start missing both the buffet and the al a carte breakfasts. Thankfully there’s a continental breakfast served until 11.45 in the fast food area outside the buffet so we had croissants and fruit while planning our day in Constanta, Romania.
The destination doesn’t feature on many itineraries and there weren’t many port reviews when I was researching things to do however I did discover that the Mamaia Riveria, a popular and beautiful looking beach resort was just a 10 mile taxi ride from the port. MSC do a half day excursion there for around 30 a person but we were planning to take a taxi however the weather wasn’t looking good. Grey clouds were looming and it was more suited to jumpers than a bikini so we opted for the 3.90 return fare shuttle bus into town for a quick look around. As the clouds got darker and spots of rain started to fall I was glad we hadn’t opted for the beach excursion!
You can actually walk the 2km into town from the port and many were doing so but after a short and easy bus ride we were dropped in Constanta town. We had a wander around the streets looking at the faded grandeur of once beautiful buildings many of which were now in a state of disrepair. We found a main square with an archeological museum and a craft market surrounded by bars and restaurants but didn’t stop for a drink as the local currency is the Lei and we only had Euros. Apparently they will take them but nothing was priced in Euros and we didn’t want to haggle over the price of a drink. It’s worth noting that there’s an official currency exchange in the terminal building so if you’re heading to Constanta you should maybe consider getting a few Lei before heading into town.
Aside from the museum and a small mosque where you could ascend one of the minarets there wasn’t really much else to see or do so we decided to head back to the ship for lunch. You need to take and show your passports at the terminal but there were no queues and we were soon back on board enjoying yet another delicious al a carte lunch, pasta and salad to start followed by pork escalopes with rosemary potatoes. I had a heavenly cream puff and a slice of cheesecake for dessert, washed down with a few glasses of red.
The weather outside resembled our home city of Manchester so we went back to the cabin to relax and have our first siesta of the holiday but after an hour of snoozing Finn was wide awake so I took him off to find some fun. The entertainment team had moved inside and were hosting games and quizzes in the Cotton Club lounge so we founds some seats and watched the other passengers competing. There was also a Cha Cha slide dance lesson I had a go at but Finn wasn’t keen, preferring instead to read his book than dance with his mum! He’s growing up fast.
At 6pm the ship left port and we watched the sailaway from our balcony before changing for dinner. Tonight’s theme was a 60s, 70s or 80s night but take up was low to say the least. Thankfully I’d packed a 60s style shift dress so I did my bit to get in the spirit and the entertainment team had dressed the Piazza Di Spagna lounge for a Flower Power Party later which looked like it could be fun but didn’t start until just before midnight.
Dinner was once again exceptional, Andy enjoyed a pearl barley soup and spaghetti al gamberi, I skipped starter and went for a cheese and basil risotto, then we both had leg of veal with potatoes.
After dinner and a few drinks in the pub watching the same duo we’d seen the night before it was time for the Evergreen show. On our first day on board Finn had seen a preview on the TV which featured can can dancers doing the kind of things the can can is famous for. He thought it was hysterical and wanted to see the show and Daddy didn’t seem to mind going either! I’d booked tickets using the on board system, or at least I thought I had but when we arrived the staff couldn’t find our booking, I probably hadn’t done it properly to be fair. They quickly resolved this and managed to get us in so thankfully Finn wasn’t disappointed. The show was a mix of Opera and dancing and I couldn’t fault the quality of performance but it’s just not really our kind of thing although Finn loved the can can dancing. We ended the night with a quick nightcap and went to bed hoping for better weather tomorrow for another sea day.
MSC Opera – Day 7 – Another Sea Day
We’re halfway through and have yet another sea day as we head up The Black Sea to Sochi in Russia.The weather was much improved with just a few clouds giving way to some blue sky so I was up and dressed early, determined to bag us a day bed on the top deck solarium. I needn’t have rushed, all four day beds were still available and a few remained so until around 11am! The boys followed me up a short while later as the sun broke through and the wind finally dropped. We snuggled up with our books and the occasional trip to the pool as the temperatures soared. We had the best seats in the house with a view over top deck for the Lego Parade which was in fact just the children from kids club singing a song on the outdoor stage and one of the entertainment team dressed in a Lego man costume. It wasn’t quite up to the Royal Caribbean Dreamworks parades but the kids seemed to enjoy it and Lego obsessed Finn liked the man in the costume. We wanted to hang on to the day bed so the boys went to the buffet and came back with burgers and fries that rival any high street chain and we had a few reds as we enjoyed a relaxed and lazy day. It was a pretty much perfect way to spend a Sunday despite the lack of one of Andy’s weekly roast dinners.
The entertainment team were working hard pool side with dance classes, competitions and a beer festival and there was also impromptu shopping opportunities at the tables around the deck including the ever present inch of gold and spa staff offering poolside mini massages and manicures for a very reasonable 10.
Tonight’s evening meal was another mouth watering six (or is it seven) course gala dinner featuring rack of lamb as a main followed by a nightcap and an early night ahead of Sochi tomorrow.
As we’re now half was through the cruise and have had the time to experience the ship I thought it might be helpful to list my pros and cons of MSC Opera so far…
First the rather few cons.
Layout – The ship has no mid ship stairs from decks 9 and 10 to the top deck, this means you need to get in a lift to go up one floor or walk to the aft stairs. It’s not a huge deal just a little frustrating at times as we’d much rather walk a few flights than wait for endless lifts. I guess I need to get used to this as we are booked on P&O Britannia for Christmas and apparently that’s the major complaint on there too!
Entertainment – There’s plenty of it on board, from quizzes to musicians and the quality is good but it’s not really to our taste or of the standard of say P&O or Royal Caribbean. I think for Italians the entertainment is actually a long indulgent dinner so shows are probably of less importance : )
The Cabin – it’s a bit small and when the bunk is down getting around involves climbing over the bed – it’s a good job I’ve upgraded to a suite for our Christmas cruise!
No speciality restaurant – although arguably the food is so good in the main restaurant we possibly wouldn’t have used one anyway but it might be good to have an Oriental or Indian on board just as an optional change from the faultless Italian food
The many pros.
Food Glorious Food – the dining really is outstanding, I dread to think how many pounds I’ve gained on board
Drinks Packages – the inclusions in the Allegrisimo package are much better than many other cruise lines including lots of cocktails, sparkling wines, milkshakes, liqueurs and ice creams. Ours was included in our fare but even if you had to pay it has to be one of the best value packages at sea.
The Aurea Perks – from priority boarding, solarium access to anytime dining and free spa treatments we’ve felt a bit like VIPs only without the suite prices you’d normally need to pay for these privileges
Show reservations – when you use the system properly (unlike I did a few nights ago) it works brilliantly, no rushing from dinner to reserve seats
The itinerary – glorious sea days, interesting cities and idyllic Greek beaches yet to come – heaven!
No corner cutting – unlike other cruise lines MSC seem to go the extra mile, offering amuse bouche tasters at dinner, crisps and snacks with every drink in the bars, multi course dinners, cheeseboard, sorbets etc.
The service – across the ship has been excellent, from dining room to bars and reception and our ever friendly cabin attendant Luis. The staff work their socks off trying to accommodate and converse with guests of all nationalities and always with a smile
The clientele – I really like the cosmopolitan feel of the many nationalities on board, we’ve heard everything from Australian to Russian accents on board and it feels a lot less like being on a British all inclusive package holiday than some of the UK departing cruises we’ve been on. Everyone has been friendly and polite with none of the pushing or queue jumping you sometimes read about in the MSC reviews.
The Spray Park and Top Deck – MSC Opera is a small but recently refurbished ship and the top deck area is tastefully decorated with two swimming pools, two paddling pools, numerous fountains and a fabulous kids spray park. We’ve loved it up there and it’s been the perfect place to cool off in the glorious sunshine
Value for money – we’ve paid half what we’ve paid previously for a two week summer cruise so MSC is an absolute bargain for what you get. Just be sure to do your research and check it’s what you want from a cruise as there’s no big show productions or full English breakfasts but if you’re ready to embrace La Dolce Vita and enjoy pasta and gelato then you’ll have an absolute ball!