Life on Sea
Sandip Hor on his maiden voyage on MSC Opera
It’s almost midnight in Havana. I am standing at the top deck of MSC Opera with a ‘mojito’ in my hand to bid good bye to the Cuban capital. Soon the horn blows breaking the night-time silence and the vessel begins to roll on. As the illuminated silhouette of the Cuban capital fades away, life on sea begins for me. I feel excited, this being my maiden sea voyage. While many continue to swing their hips with high pitch Cuban rhythms at the deck top disco, I sneak out to check out my cabin and some of the ships facilities and amenities. After all it’s a discovery mission for me.
The 65,591 ton and 274.9m long ship belongs to MSC Cruises, a reputable name in the industry. It was built in 2004 and was the company’s flagship then. After recent renovations, its advanced age is camouflaged. It appears pretty modern and appealing -reflecting Italian and Mediterranean touches in décor.
While the glittering lobby and the reception areas create the first impression of a luxury abode, the rest of the features I experience in the next few days assures me vacation of a lifetime along with thousands others.
Yes, the medium size ship with 13 deck levels, each named after a celebrated opera like La Traviata , Rigoletto and Otello , accommodates 2679 guests in their 1075 cabins, fitted with all contemporarily elements as expected in any star rated hotel. This includes minibar, safe, wardrobe and satellite television. And there are over 700 crew members to look after the guests and make the odyssey most comfortable.
Life on the ship is different to that on the land, but MSC Opera has almost everything contained within its hull, so that nobody misses anything, including reliable wifi connections. Array of other on-board facilities include shopping outlets, duty free goods, library, several bars and lounges for socialising to even a disco, casino and a cigar room where connoisseurs gather for sampling the best Cuban and Dominican cigars with drops of cognac. The ship also has dedicated play areas for the children to make this itinerary suitable for a perfect family vacation.
Exclusive dining is always a highlight of any cruise and no exception in MSC Opera. There are four restaurants which serves gastronomical delights of all kinds, though Italian cuisine gets a bit of upper hand, considering the Italian roots of MSC Cruises. While La Caravella and L’Approdo offers elegant fine dining, a huge international buffet is spread at the Le Vele venue for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The last one, Il Patio is open for pizzas and hamburgers for almost 24 hours.
And to shed off the extra kilos gained from various culinary indulgences, the ship is well equipped with a modern gym, swimming pools, jogging track, spa, massage and sauna facilities.
No shortage of things to do on board, thanks to the wide variety of state of the art leisure and recreational facilities, main drawcard being Broadway style shows, such as Romeo and Juliet and Lipstick, at the plush theatre ,Teatro dell'Opera which presents seating for over 700 guests.
One of the great appeals of cruise-holiday this is that with just one lot of unpacking and without changing rooms and bed, it’s possible to explore a new destination every day, generating a great interaction between land and water.
After leaving Havana and one full day at sea to enjoy endless blue of the Caribbean Sea, the ship in the next four days sequentially touches shores of Isla de Roatan the largest of the three Bay Islands of Honduras, Belize City, in Belize which is the only country in Central America with a British colonial legacy and the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere, followed by Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico where the beaches are beautiful and ruins of the Mayan empire are most captivating for the cultural buffs.
As the journey starts and ends at Havana, passengers have the option to explore Cuba – one of the most sought after destinations today – before or after the cruise. In fact that was a major factor for me to consider this itinerary which included both Cuba and Caribbean – two of my top end bucket list items.
This being my first experience in an ocean liner, it’s difficult for me to bench mark it with odyssey in others ships. However I have to say that this journey provides comfortable stay and lots of indulgence and pampering by the crew, grants myriad opportunities to make new friends and allows no time to get bored.
I shall be happy to be on board with MSC Cruises again.