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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Mediterranean Shipping Cruises

m/v MSC Lirica

Rating:Three and a half Stars
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Operator:Mediterranean Shipping Cruises
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 2003 / 2003
Length / Tonnage: 824 / 58,600
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 765 / 1,530
Officers / Crew: Italian / Italian
Operating Area: Mediterranean, Caribbean

Review by Pam Massey - TravelPage.com, Guest Contributor

MSC Lirica was completed in March 2003. Built at Chantiers de L'Atlantique in St Nazaire, France, her keel was laid in December 2001, floated out on 10 Aug 2002 and delivered on 25 Mar 2003. Her Maiden Voyage was on 13 Apr 2003. At 59,058 grt, max 21.6 knots, 253.25m long, 28.8m wide, and with a draft of 6.8m, she is not amongst the largest of today's cruise ships. She is beautifully decorated and very elegant inside & out. Nothing overly bright, no clashing drapes & carpets, no glitz and a 2 storey Atrium. Schemes flow from one area to the next. Some may say 'bland', but not me. She rode the waves well, including the "rough" 12ft seas we encountered between Palma & Barcelona.

MSC Lirica carries 1,590 passengers [double] with a maximum occupancy of 2,200 and 760 multinational crew members. The Officers, Hotel Department Team & Entertainment Staff were all Italian. The Hotel Manager was Antonio Cuccaro, a very pleasant chap, and the English/International Hostess was Alessia Di Ruvo, a very nice lady too, especially when trying to cope with teaching us some Italian.

Our most recent sailing was a 7 night round trip out of Genoa, calling at Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma, Barcelona and Marseille. The cruise was chosen as it slotted in nicely with the Autumn mid term break in the UK. After an uneventful 6.40am Alitalia flight, we arrived at Milan, Linate Airport on time. The MSC Rep was there to meet 176 passengers for MSC Lirica all on various flights. As each coach was full, they set off for Genoa. After a 2 hour scenic drive, most of which was by motorway, arrival at Ponte dei Mille, Genoa's new Cruise Terminal, was welcome. It was busy, with Costa Mediterranea also in port. But with refreshments available & entertainers, a clown & chap on stilts, keeping people amused in the queue, time passed quickly. As it was pouring with rain, boarding was by small groups at a time, so no-one was left standing on the open gangway.

In command was Captain Silvio Cappuccio. I never got a chance to talk to him apart from the niceties at the "Welcome Cocktail" Party for all guests on Gala Night, after departing Palermo, and at the "Repeaters Cocktail" Party on the Gala/Formal Night after our day in Barcelona. Drinks and nibbles were aplenty on both occasions and a large cake cut and distributed at the Repeaters Party. Repeat Cruisers have a gift placed in their cabin during the cruise. A better one for those with the most MSC cruises under their belt, and prizes are given during the party. We received a rather nice, heavy, pewter, MSC Lirica, 2003 inaugural, paperweight. One for each cabin, not just the family as a whole. "The guest is a jewel placed on the pillow of hospitality".

Externally MSC Lirica is no beautiful classic liner of bygone days, but is pleasing to the eye with a sharp bow and stepped stern decks from which you can sit and "wake watch" from decks 7 to 12. There are no aft balcony cabins in the way. She has 795 cabins, of which only 132 have a balcony, so does not have the apartment block appearance.

Public Areas
The ship was sailing full, but never appeared crowded anywhere. Many of the lounges were empty during the day, until they took on their individual evening entertainment.

Around the pools there was always plenty of space and free loungers, but the weather, apart from a couple of half-days, was not that warm and only the hardy "sunbathed" or swam. The loungers on the Solarium [fwd Sun Deck 13] were never put out, as not required. Le Piscine, Pool Area, is very sheltered from the wind. The two pools are identical, surrounded by teak decking with a beige rubberised walk through path each side. There is a Stage Area where various poolside competitions and dancing were held, at the aft end, and the Pool Bar - La Canzone Del Mare - fwd. Two hot tubs are on a raised section between the pools. Both pools are filled with heated sea water and divided in two; one section being 1.8m - 1.95m deep [6ft - 6.5ft] and the other for toddlers just 0.25m [10inches]. The shallow area near the stage has a small fountain, not always in use. The loungers were stacked up and pools closed at 5pm. On our cruise it was too chilly to have used the pools after this time, but might be a bit too early in hot weather.

There is plenty of open deck area to wonder about, but no wrap around Prom. The Promenade on Ponte Puccini [6], with rubberised decking, only extends along the sides and there are no chairs or loungers, but nice to stand under the lifeboats and watch the sea or port goings on. The jogging track on Ponte Rossini [12], with rubberised decking, goes all the way around midships above the Pool Areas, but one has to cross on a bridge back over the Stage, or go up to the Mini Golf and around the funnel to come back.

Forward on Panganini & Albinoni Decks [8&9], are open deck viewing areas. It can be very windy out here, hard to open the doors, even the "sheltered" one, and whilst at sea they were often locked & tied up to prevent access. Not many people came out here, so a peaceful viewing area in good weather and in port. Dark at night.

The Atrium is 2 storey, from the Reception Area below on Deck 5 and surrounded above by the Coffee Corner on Deck 6. It has an elegant staircase and a lovely patterned marble floor. MSC Lirica has 9 elevators in 4 banks. These are super speedy & the fastest I've come across afloat. More than once I missed the right floor as, well, "We couldn't have got there yet, or could we?" I wasn't alone. They are completely mirrored on all sides; one gets used to seeing thousands of one's self.

The Cybercafé on deck 6 is open 24 hours a day. One of only two very brightly decorated areas. There are a number of flat screen monitor workstations. It costs e4.90 for the first 10 minutes and e0.49 per minute thereafter. To use, one just inserts one's MSC Cruise Card, and a receipt is printed out when you've finished. I only used it a couple of times, but found it hassle free with a speedy connection. This may differ depending on what part of the world one is sailing in.

The Beverly Hills Bar [Ponte Verdi 5] fwd of La Bussola, in peaches & blues, is "circular" with lovely large round windows to port. Also to port there is a bar in one corner, and to starboard is the Rodeo Drive Shopping Arcade. Usually quiet during the day. There is a central stage area with piano and audio equipment, where "Music D'Ambiance" is played during late afternoon and dancing later in the evening. A relaxing room; just right for that pre dinner drink.

The shops are quite unobtrusive and were only open whilst at sea; which didn't give us much time for browsing. There's a Jewellery Shop, Cosmetic Shop, Boutique, MSC Shop & "Duty Free" Shop [wines, spirits etc nearer the reception area]. Most goods are top quality & Italian. The sales were not pushed, and there are no walkway stalls set up of "50% Off Today Only" watches, perfumes etc, but discounts of the same within the shops from time to time. No "Inch of Gold". The Excursion Desk, where one can collect detailed maps and port information, along with booking excursions, is behind Reception. Lovely marbled floors, with plenty of seating and a stage with piano where easy listening music is played. The Main Foyer and Reception Area, again has a marble floor and staircase leading up to the Coffee Corner around the Atrium's Upper Level.

To one side of Reception is an interactive unit which you can use to see details of the ship and ports, along with an Interesting Maritime History section on the famous Explorers of Yesteryear. Reception will post your postcards, e1 a time, hand out as many MSC Lirica postcards as you would like, free, but charge you e1 for any postcards of the Ports of Call. All the girls spoke reasonable English and were very helpful.

The Lord Nelson Pub with red tartan carpeting, deep blue and red decor, nautical pictures on the walls and polished wooden flooring to the bar area, is another lovely room. The lower level of the Broadway Theatre empties out into here, but within a few minutes the crowds have walked through and departed. During the daytime various quizzes, darts, card tournaments, chess, backgammon, draughts & other games and Italian Lessons take place in here. Le Cabaret [Ponte Puccini 6] midships, again in peaches, oranges and blues, but much brighter colours and "modern art" bright murals on the walls, has a central dance floor, disco lights etc, stage with band to one side, and comes into its own in the evenings with lively entertainment. During the day it was the venue for, amongst others, the Mime Cinema Quiz, Dancing Classes, Aperitif Game [water pyramid]. Bingo, Music with Punjabi Atmosphere, and outdoor entertainment was scheduled for here if the weather was bad.

L'Atmosphere Piano Bar in strong reds & blues, with bar, tables with candles, and a piano on a stage to one side, describes its own function and intimate ambience. This was a very popular evening venue, hard to come by a seat. The Las Vegas Casino is small, made to look bigger by the clever use of mirrors, and slot machines line the walls and walkway outside. I cannot comment on the type or standard of games, as I never played

The Lirica Lounge [Ponte Scarlatti 7] is beautiful, in pinks, mauves, maroons, divided seating areas with tables, stage, dance floor & band. Big Band Dancing, Ballroom Dancing, and such Contests as "Mr Lirica", along with the Cocktail Parties took place in here. During the daytime hours it was little used.

The Blue Club [Ponte Rossini 12 aft] in bright greens & blues is the Disco area. Very popular at night, but little used during the daytime. Wonderful all round views over the stern and sides. To one side is a small Virtual Reality Games room. The Blue Club was the meeting place for the teenagers and many of their organised parties took place here. It's a wonderful room, but in my opinion should have been placed forward, and "swapped" positions with the Lirica Health Centre, Gym, Saunas and Beauty Parlour. There is no forward observation lounge on MSC Lirica and this room would have been ideal. As it is, when coming into port, people crowd into the gym for viewing [this is usually before anyone is using it for a workout].

The professional photos were not too pricey, and the photographers were not intrusive. There were the usual embarkation photos, and they did the rounds of the decks, entertainment venues, and dining rooms, but no endless photos taken at every port of call, nor with scantily glad women! If there had been, I doubt there would have been time for passengers to see them all. You could have a formal photo taken if required, anytime.

The Library was situated in the Card Room, with the books locked in cabinets, only accessible for an hour each morning and a couple each afternoon. I don't think many had the time for reading. I had my own books, but never got one finished. Board Games, Packs of Cards etc are all available. There is mini-golf around the funnel, table tennis by the pools, and table football on the Sun Deck [Solarium], all of which require a deposit to be held [e10] by reception for any equipment borrowed.

Both of the main dining rooms, L'Ippocampo Restaurant on Puccini and La Bussola Restaurant on Verdi Deck serve passengers at two sittings. Because these ships are so heavily booked by Europeans who eat later than most Americans, dinner sittings begin a few minutes later than many U.S. based cruise lines. So if you don't like getting your main course served to you after 9:30 at night, you may find second sitting which starts at 8:45, a little too late for you.

"Gala Night" is the more formal of the 2 formal nights on a 7 night cruise. Italians Dress very well, so do not leave your Tux at home. The other 5 nights were classed as "casual", with one designated "60's Era", but by far the majority of passengers dressed smartly every night. I did see a couple of teenagers in cords in the dining room one evening on formal night, but the next night, a casual one, they were dressed up to the nine's. They had been too late back to change the previous evening, so were making up for it.

We were assigned 1st sitting, 7pm, in La Bussola Restaurant, Ponte Verdi [5] aft. In my opinion, although the largest of the two main restaurants, this is by far the nicest. We had a table for 4, towards the stern, port. Raffaello was our waiter. L'Ippocampo Restaurant, Ponte Puccini [6] is two narrow uncarpeted 'legs' with the main seating area at the stern. The main area is on 2 levels, higher in the middle section and lower around the windows. That bit is carpeted and rather nice. However I did not take to the mirrors on the ceiling. Weird I thought for a restaurant? Perhaps to make the ceiling seem higher? It is still however a very nice room, especially if you have one of the tables by the stern windows. There are only side windows in La Bussola.

It appears La Bussola is filled first and the rest of the passengers are assigned to L'Ippocampo, so La Bussola is always full. This I found detracted from the service. It was slooow.. well in our section. The waiter seemed to keep all his particular tables at the same stage. Now whether that was just our waiter, or how the PTB have decreed it should be done I don't know. It certainly wasn't that way on MSC Melody. It was a bit irritating for us, as we only ever have either an Appetiser or Soup or Pasta before the main course, occasionally 2 but rarely, which meant we were sitting with nothing at times while other tables ate all 3 courses. I could probably have said something, but didn't as the waiter was so nice and didn't want to upset him, but did make a note on the comment card about the system.

Friends we made who were assigned to late seating, 9pm, in L'Ippocampo said it was quite empty in there [even though this was a fully booked cruise] and their service was top notch and at their rate. The difference in timing could have contributed to this, as with it being mid term break in most of Europe there were many children aboard and a wait list for 1st seating. 9pm is really too late for youngsters, so 1st seating was full, probably also in L'Ippocampo. I didn't meet anyone on first seating in there. Dining Venue Photos.

Our waiter was Italian, and not as good with English as some, but never got anything messed up, and knew what we meant [apart from the water! see below]. He was superb with French at the table next to us. Puts us lot to shame with the number of languages some people speak. The first evening I asked for regular water, tap water, ordinary water, and got shown a bottle. I do not like most bottled waters, but drank it, then noticed the table next door had water in a jug. So I pointed to it, and asked for water, ah he says, "Jug of water". So thereafter I asked for a "Jug of water", no problem!:) Most people in the Med region of Europe do drink bottled water. On land you wouldn't drink anything else, unless a local. On a ship of course it's different and you can trust the water. So ask for a 'Jug of water'.

Raffaello was from Sorrento and had worked on the other MSC ships. Making conversation I asked if he knew Guiseppe from Melody [our waiter on her & a fantastic one]. "Oh yes" he says, "Biiig Guiseppe [he is:)], his brother Luciano is on Lirica over there. Come". So off we were all waltzed over to the otherside of La Bussola and introduced to Luciano like long lost friends!

I forgot to collect the week's menus from Raffaello on our last night, but they are very similar, if not identical, to those on our MSC Melody trip in Aug 2003. There is usually a choice of 3 Appetisers, 2 Soups, 2 Rice or Pasta Dishes, 4 or 5 Main Courses [inc. a Vegetarian Choice], Cheeseboard, Fresh Fruit & 2 Desserts. There is no emphasis on desserts and the choice will be either a 'cake' or ice cream. No big deal is made of gooey chocolate puddings etc and one will be asked for one's selection of dessert when choosing the main course. Besides the Main Course choices, every night there is also available, Broiled Salmon, Grilled Turkey Paillard & Grilled Beef Steak all served with Fries. There was a good selection of wine.

I found the food to be delicious, but then I am adventurous trying everything I've never had/tried before, especially the seafood including the Baby Octopus which caused many "ughs" from the children. They however tended to have the pasta followed by turkey or steak, and found the turkey great, but the beef steak would be slightly overdone, so order rare for medium done. On gala night Bomba Vesuviana, Baked Alaska in the shape of a volcano with different flavours of ice cream within. If you are lucky you will get the pistachio.

On Halloween, the children were all served a small portion of blue mashed potato in a swirl with carrot 'eyes', for fun. "Yuk" they said, but had a taste:) With such a port intensive itinerary and never a full day at sea, we rarely had lunch. If we did, it was a quick salad in Le Bistrot [there was also a large range of salads, all very fresh, hot food, veal, sausage, pork, steak strips and lots of very gooey covered in icing [frosting] cakes with hundreds of hundreds & thousands over them] or for the children, the Burgers, Hot-Dogs, Fries or Pizza served at La Pergola on deck. I do not eat Pizza, but was advised it was tasty, although only a couple of different toppings served on any particular day.

Croissants were served in the Coffee Corner mid morning and Afternoon Tea & Cakes in Le Bistrot and/or La Pergola between 4 & 5pm. The cakes & pastries are Italian style. No choc chip cookies or muffins, but the Rum Baba type traditional Babà Napoletano [cake with rum, one could call 'soggy'] and from Naples the Pastiera with ricotta and canned fruit. Shortbread and macaroon type biscuits too. There was no ice cream bar in the afternoons, though one could purchase a lolly, choc ice, cone in La Pergola.

Coffee was served from 6am at La Pergola, with breakfast in Le Bistrot from 6.30am [officially, but it was often open beforehand]. Breakfast [and lunch] is "Open Seating" in the main restaurants and begins at 7am. As always in a rush we ate in Le Bistrot and had Room Service one morning. The breakfast choices in the buffet are the usual cereals, fruit, rolls, toast, cakes. cheeses and cold meats. Hot food however is bacon [European style, not US streaky], baked beans, boiled eggs, hash browns, sausages, cooked tomatoes, and a range of Italian items I do not know the name of - bird's nests & solid egg squares, I refer to them as - tasty despite my description.

The hot food choices varied daily. I have never come across a buffet/cafeteria area so promptly cleared once you get up to leave. Never a problem finding a table either, as there is such a large outdoor covered seating area [La Pergola]. The Port side of La Pergola is designated "Smoking" with ash trays on the tables, but I only ever saw a handful of people smoking there. It certainly did not waft across to starboard. Smoking was not permitted in any restaurants, theatre and other areas, and I can't say I noticed much at all, except on the stern deck areas, where there were specially marked receptacles for cigarettes, so perhaps people took the hint and only smoked where these had been placed - the smoke then just disappears away over the stern.

Coffee & tea are free all day, from Le Bistrot, La Pergola [inc Hot Chocolate] & Room Service, and in the main restaurants. Speciality coffee is served and charged for in the various Bars & Coffee Corner. Juices are free at breakfast, but chargeable at any other time and also sodas, cokes etc are chargeable. You do not help yourself at the machines, but your choice will be poured for you.

Room Service is 24hr, BUT only free for Breakfast and the choice for that is limited to rolls, croissants, bread, jams, juice, coffee/tea/choc etc, no cereal. Beverages [tea,coffee] throughout the day are free too. At all other times room service is limited to club sandwiches and salads, all e2.80 each.

Bar service is available to the cabin, at bar list prices, no delivery charge*, and all cabins have a mini bar stocked with sodas, alcohol miniatures etc with a separate price list.

* a tip is not expected, or even thought about. Italians do not tip as in the US. I did however tip the waiter when he brought breakfast, as it wasn't our room steward, and he did seem a bit taken off guard. There is no additional service charge added to the price of the drinks on the menus, what you see is what you pay.

There was a Midnight Buffet every night in either Le Bistrot or La Pergola along different themes. Neopolitan, Fruit & Crèpes, Pastry, Country Style, Spanish with Paella, and the "Buffet Magnifique". Unfortunately I didn't get to any of these to comment. The Buffet Magnifique was in La Pergola on Halloween Night and I did see the display being set up, with carved pumpkins and other 'Halloween' decorations it was looking good. A few on the children did a bit of trick & treating along our corridor; I didn't open the door to see who it was, but in the morning it was evident they had sprayed small amounts of 'silly string' on some of the doors. The stewards were cleaning it off, but took it in their stride smiling and commented that it was a bit of fun once a year.

LIRICA has a total of 765 cabins of which 357 are outside, 132 with private balcony and 272 are inside. There are four cabins with facilities for disabled passengers.

All cabins are equipped with satellite TV, minibar, room safe, and radio. Room service is available 24-hours a day. Bathrooms in some of the lower end accommodations can be rather small.

We had 2 identical inside standard cabins on Ponte Panganini [8], 4043 & 4047 [these both had 2 upper berths if required]. Howard & myself in one, and Beverley with her friend Katy in the other. Nicely decorated with light beige/cream furniture, blue carpet and yellow & blue bedspreads; Not overly large, but well laid out & plenty of storage space. A double wardrobe with plenty of hangers, another wardrobe with 6 deep drawers and 2 shelves above. Mini Bar [with price list] in fridge in cupboard under the TV. Pool towels [blue] supplied and changed by your cabin steward when required. Corner dressing table unit & chair, with central drawer and thin cupboards either side. Large mirror which swings open to reveal shelves and a safe with which you use a 4 digit number of your choice.

The beds can be made up as a double or 2 singles. Two cupboards with shelves between the beds, both with lamps that had arms to swing out over the beds. Upper bunks had their own individual lights recessed in the ceiling. A large mirror made the room seem bigger than it was. The room temperature was fine throughout the cruise. Two large pillows are placed on the beds during the day. Sheets & blankets used, rather than duvets. The beds were very comfortable and the cabin quiet, so we slept well. The phone can be used for an alarm call,

The bathroom was small but adequate. The basin had cupboards underneath. A selection of toiletries are provided and replenished as required, including sewing kit, shower hats & shoe shine. The shower is small, curtained and it sticks! Need to be careful one doesn't flood the floor, but any spilled water drains away through an outlet under the toilet. Water temperature remains constant and a decent pressure. The hairdryer, attached to the wall, is not too powerful, but adequate unless you have very long thick hair.

The TV shows the "Report from the Bridge", the Navigator's Log including the ship's position, heading, speed, next sunrise/sunset, air temp/humidity/pressure, wind speed & direction, sea conditions, time aboard and arrival and departure time in the ports. Bridge Cam & "Safety on Board" pages showing how to do everything from following the floor lights to loading the lifeboats.

Various channels showed documentaries on the ports of call, including historical facts & what to do and see, and how to get around, no "Shopping Tips". BBC News 24, English Films, Foreign Programmes & many other items, but I didn't see any of these to comment. There are electrical outlets for both 110v [US flat 2/3 pin] & 220v {European round 2 pin]. Having a multi point extension lead is useful if one uses a laptop & battery charger.

A bowl of fresh fruit was in the cabin [but no chocolate on the pillow at night], replenished daily by the cabin steward, who was excellent. His command of English was not brilliant, but we got along fine with a few gestures & laughs. The girls' cabin was always a mess, as they appeared to try on every item of clothing they possessed, every night whilst changing for dining and the Teens Activities, discarding the "unsuitable" ones on the floor. I was not amused and the poor steward picked them up all the time. He got a good tip!

MSC Lirica does not have a self-service launderette, but the standard laundry is reasonably priced. In the higher category suites/balcony cabins, I understand robes are provided, but I didn't see them myself.

The Broadway Theatre is two-storey and well appointed with good lines of sight & comfy seating in deep reds. Drinks are not served in here. With such an International audience shows tended to be a variety of acts which everyone can enjoy. Magic & Illusion, Plate Spinning, Contortionists, Singing, Mime, Dancing & Flamenco. The contortionists & "strong men" were superb. Some other acts were not to my liking. I didn't go every night either. DGM-Fascination Ballet were the dance troupe and "OK". There was a Spanish night "Eviva Espana" with Duende Flamenco [Flamenco dance troupe], and an Oriental Amulet which was very good. Bit of a mix 'n match really. By the time one has heard the CD introduce and applaud the acts at the beginning and end of each show in numerous languages, where the word "Applause" appears to be the same in every one of them, it does get a bit tiresome. Movies are sometimes shown here in the afternoons, usually in English with sub-titles, but not always.

Quizzes of all types are held daily, very popular it seems. Various types of music can be found all over MSC Lirica during the afternoon and evening. Piano, Violin, Duo's, Trio's, Instrumental, Italian Music, Classical, International Music, could be heard in the Beverly Hills Bar, L'Atmosphere Piano Bar, Lirica Lounge, Blue Club, in the Foyer; a myriad of types and styles. People just sat and listened. The Mr Lirica contest caused a laugh, as did those for Miss Teen & Lady Lirica. There was a large Indian group aboard from London for whom a special Diwali Night was held, along with other Punjabi parties and activities during the week. There is Bingo, Ballroom Dancing, other Dancing, Deck/Pool Games, Dance Classes, Arts & Crafts, Learn Italian, Carving [fruit & veg] Demonstration, Cocktail Demonstration, Cooking Demonstration, Meringue Lesson, Mini-golf, Shuffleboard, Table Football Tournaments, Millionaires Game, Talent Show, Grease Party, Dance Contest, Magic Tricks. All in 7 nights with 6 ports! I didn't do any of it, except obtain a Diploma in Italian. There are no Art Auctions.

A Bridge Tour can be requested at reception, and at some point an 'invitation' to visit the Bridge will be placed in your cabin. This will usually be for some time when the ship is at sea. All same language speaking guests are grouped together to make life easier for the person doing the explanation of the various pieces of equipment and the procedures followed. Alessia, the English host took our tour.

The Children's Mini-Club, "I Pirati" was in a lovely room, themed as Treasure Island, brightly decorated. Open during different times of each day depending on the hours in port. Children could be booked in whilst parents went ashore on excursions. Howard [8] loved it in here, even though he was the only English speaker most of the time.

The Teens had many activities during the evenings, not so many during the daytime, but once they had all met at the first disco, they met up in the Blue Club most of the time, or could be found playing board games and cards in the Library. Beverley & Katy made many friends from all over, and keep in contact via email now. My only gripe was that the teens discos & activities often did not start until 10 or 11pm each night, so I could never get them up in the mornings!

The Lirica Health Centre had lots of good equipment, all sorts of programmes running and was very popular. The Beauty Parlour & Hairdressers was always busy, various packages of 'treatments' were available and there is a small shop selling sportswear. There are steam & sauna rooms, mixed sex I believe, I did not use them to verify, and a relaxation area serving soft drinks & juices.

Who Goes
What a let down arriving in back in Genova.Disembarkation was by way of colour coding depending on ones forward transport arrangements. Fully explained and laid out in Reception for you to collect the right coloured labels the previous day. We had a late afternoon flight back from Milan [arranged by MSC], were given lunch on board and disembarked well after embarkation commenced for the following cruise. Nice touch. So as not to get in the way of embarking passengers and push back down the gangway they were boarding by, we were taken out through the baggage loading area. Whilst having our cards swiped for the last time we were able to watch the incoming baggage go through the scanners. Surprising the number of hangers people bring aboard. I am obviously not the only one who leaves everything on their hangers for a quick unpack in the cabin.

Tipping is done in the "Old Fashioned" way, by handing an envelope to your Cabin Steward & Waiter. They share the money with their assistants. No guidelines are given, but passengers suggested amongst themselves around e8 per person per day between the staff, more or less depending on how you rated the service. It is cashless onboard and everything is charged to your cabin using the MSC Lirica Card issued on embarkation. This is also used for security purposes when going ashore and returning in ports. Your picture shows up on the operator's screen. No other ID is required.

The Passenger mix was very International. As a guess, 40% were Italian, 20% British, 20% German, !0% French & the remaining 10% were Spanish, Austrian, other Europeans, Australian, New Zealanders, Canadian & American. Many would be most welcome for dinner. The language barrier was evident at times, and occasionally the announcements seemed to go on forever in numerous languages. Thankfully they were few and far between. Most of the time it's fun to try and converse with other language speakers. I can see the food may not be to the liking of Americans, as it is very Southern European both in Style & Flavour. French Toast is not the sort which comes with Maple Syrup, and bacon is not the streaky crispy variety. Steaks are thin and there are few "Death by Chocolate" or Cheescake type desserts.

She splits her time between 11-night and 7-night Caribbean sailings from Ft. Lauderdale and extended Mediterranean itineraries.

We visited Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma, Barcelona and Marseille. MSC are very good in providing Port Information. For each Port of Call there was a 4 page 'leaflet' giving an historical outline of the city, a list of sights to see, monuments to discover, places to visit, shopping ideas, "gastronomical delights" to try and other useful information where appropriate. A3 sized detailed maps were also available. There was a selection of Shore Excursions for each Port of Call, quite reasonably priced as far as Cruiselines go. Full details were provided in a 5 language booklet along with the embarkation documents. A flyer was also available onboard.

Naples - Whilst navigating through the Islands of Ischia & Procida in the Bay of Naples [Napoli] we received a running commentary from the bridge. The backdrop of Mt Vesuvius is spectacular in the mist. There were a number of other cruise ships and ferries in port. The City of Naples was founded by Greek settlers in 5BC on the hill of Pizzo Falcone. Wealthy Romans built their summer houses here, whilst the Emperors built theirs' on the Island of Capri. Today life in Naples is fast & furious, hardly a vehicle seen that wasn't covered in dents. I wouldn't want to drive here. The centre of the city is just outside the port entrance with many of the sights within walking distance. We took an organised tour to Pompeii; buried under rock and ash when Vesuvius suddenly erupted on 24 Aug 79 AD. If one has never visited Pompeii, it is a 'Must Do'. On the return journey we stopped for a brief visit at a Cameo Factory.

Now the capital of Sicily, Palermo was founded in C8 BC by the Phoenicians. It was subsequently occupied by the Carthaginians, Romans, "Vandals", Odoacer the barbarian King of Italy, the Saracens & the French Crusading Knights amongst others, finally becoming an autonomous region within the Italian Republic after WWII. Hence Palermo's buildings are as varied as its history. On arrival we took an hour's tour of the city in a Carrozza - an elaborate horse-drawn carriage. Some bartering was required to bring the price down to a reasonable level, but still quite expensive. Many of these carriages were available in the port area throughout the day, along with taxis. The driver pointed out the relevant sites, but one does not get far in an hour. The main town is a stone's throw from the port entrance, so we wandered back in the afternoon for shopping & more sightseeing. A lovely city with a varied history, worth a visit.

Tunis consists of 3 cities: The modern Capital City with its skyscrapers & sidewalk cafes etc, Carthage, 18km from the centre, founded by the Phoenicians over 2000 yrs ago & the Arabic Medina [Old Town] founded 13 centuries ago, a labyrinth of narrow alleyways, shops, mosques & palaces. You can spend most of a day exploring its warren of low, arched stone passageways. Shops selling carpets, perfume, leather, silverware, khaftans everywhere. Bartering non-stop. After much haggling we hired a somewhat battered taxi outside the port entrance to take us on a tour of Tunis and to shop in the Medina. Do not go into the Medina on your own, it's a maze and you may well get lost! Some of the shops are of the old style & sell swords, old cameras & flintlock rifles. From a roof terrace, you can peer out over the top of the Medina. I did wonder if the taxi would make it back intact to the port at La Goulette, but we're still here. A fun day.

Palma is the capital of Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands. It's a lovely city to wander about.

We took the 'Hop on Hop off' bus tour which stops directly outside the port entrance. There were 2 different tours. It was a melee just trying to get on one, with so many ships in port, but eventually we were off, and enjoyed the trip. When finally able to sit down and plug in the earphones provided for the commentary, they did not work. But a booklet was provided from which the information of what we were seeing was outlined.

Later on we walked back to the commercial centre "Porto Pi", advertised as a 5 min walk, but in reality a lot further, for a bit of shopping. Alcohol is cheap here.

Barcelona dates from the 1st century A.D., when the Romans established a small colony around the Taber Mount. It grew to be one of the leading Mediterranean centers of commerce with its port being one of the most important in the Med. It's an attractive and captivating city; one which deserves more than a brief call on a cruise ship.

One usually docks at the outer mole, which is a bus ride away from the bottom of La Rambla. Shuttle buses will be provided, for a daily fee [e3], or even free on occasion. It is only a 5 or 10 minute ride over the bridge. Walk up La Rambla, take a 'Hop on Hop off' Bus Tour, you will come across many, and take a trip on the Cable Car over the World Trade Centre, weather permitting. Great Ship-Spotting here.

Marseille is the 2nd city of France & lies on the SE coast. Founded in 600AD by the Greeks. The Port of Marseille is large, and anywhere is a bus ride away. Howard & I took the shuttle [e5 for multiple trips] into the "Old Port" where we met a very nice Cruise Talker who showed us around the centre, some shops for delicious local chocolates, Calissons d'Aix, & the Maritime Museum, which is small, but full of interesting French Line models. Back to the ship for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the port area, quite unchallenged, photographing other cruise ships. We had the most glorious sunset, with an impromptu 'party' on deck to end another lovely day.

There is no confiscating of alcohol taken aboard from ports of call. All bags are subject to security searches, x-ray, & a walk through metal detector for the humans. All baggage coming aboard is screened on embarkation on the ship, asides from any security procedures already carried out in the cruise terminals. There are two security personnel who constantly roam the ship together, in contact by radio with each other and their base. Nicknamed [by us] "The Goons", as they always wore suits, with tie, and stuck out like a sore thumb, akin to Italian gangsters in the movies.

Please note that this is an Italian Ship mainly catering to Southern Europeans, and we were on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Cruises sailing from Florida, may be slightly different, with amended menus, tariffs and entertainment.

All in all we had a wonderful cruise. MSC Lirica is a beautiful ship and we'd return anyday. Can you have lots of fun on this ship? Absolutely. Is this ship right for everyone? Not necessarily.

If you are uncomfortable traveling with people for whom English is a second language, you might want to think twice. Most of LIRICA's cruises - both in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean attract a diverse group of passengers who bring with them a diverse set of attitudes, opinions and habits. If you are open to meeting new people and can survive a cruise without rock walls and the razzle-dazzle found on the mega-ships, you will very likely have a good time on LIRICA. The food is fine, the itineraries good, and the Italian flavor on board make a cruise on LIRICA an interesting alternative to mainstream cruises.

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