We sailed on the Lirica on 5 February 2006. We went a day earlier and staid at the Econo Lodge in Hollywood. It was no "great shakes" but it provided a free continental breakfast and free transportation from the airport and to the ship, which was worth $50.
The ship processing was quick and efficient so that we were onboard by 1 pm. Be certain that you have a passport. We had a little problem locating ours and for a time we thought that our cruise was a goner.
The Lirica passengers were about 1/3 American, 1/3 Canadians and 1/3 European. Many Americans came in large groups and they tended to stay together initially but as time went on they became more friendly. The Lirica is a modern ship with the most recent mechanical equipment. It seems to be constructed for Mediterranean cruising because there is a very large pool area and sun deck area. We never had to scramble for deck chairs.(they were not the best for reading though) There is not the Las Vegas gliz found on other ships. It's clean. modern decor and functional.
The food was generally very good. Sure the veal was a bit tough...but there were lots of different dishes to try. If you didn't like the dish, the waiter would get you another. The breakfast and lunch buffets got a little boring after awhile i.e. lox and prociutto (sp?) disappeared after the first day. The desserts were recycled from the evening meal and they could be dry, but I like fruit and fruit was everywhere (even in your room).
The supervisory staff was Italian and the service staff was mixed. They were friendly and really tried hard to please. I liked that they did not constantly push alcoholic beverages, as with other cruise lines.(at $6.50 each).
My wife was surprised that they were not as formal in the dining room as advertised. Basically there were 3 dress up nights and the rest were casual. There was a carnival night in the"Le Cabaret" one evening which was fun. The club bands were Italian and they played a good repertoire of Italian, American and Spanish music.
Entertainment staff danced with the single passengers and they were tireless! The shows was more like the variety show, whereas in other cruises it was more Broadway/Las Vegas extravaganzas. They where entertaining for the most part. Rene Luden, ventriloquist/comedian that had the place roaring!
The tours were fine but we went on our own in most ports. The countries are poor ,with the exception of Costa Rica. We were disappointed that the ship did not enter the Panama Canal. We took a 1 1/2 hour van trip to Panama City over the worst roads in creation to visit the reception area on the Pacific side. A waste of money! The driver and guide could hardly speak English...that is the chances you take when you don't take the ship tour! They had a very good gym but need more treadmills. 3 are not enough for the ship. There is, however, a great relation room next to it with a great observation window with a quiet environment.
Catholic Mass was held each day and on Valentines Day there was a special renewing of the marriage vows. All faiths were invited to all the services. Father Jack is a Missionhurst Priest who does the Caribbean cruises for Lirica. He's another Bishop Sheen!
My trip on Lirica was like a vacation in Naples/Capri. Italian hospitality is wonderful and the recreation staff knocked themselves over trying to make it fun. It reminded me of an Italian Wedding. It was mostly a 40+ crowd but they did have a late night disco in the Blue Club and maybe the young people were there?? In summary it was a lot of cruise for the money. MSC is primarily a Mediterranean cruise line appealing to Europeans. They are attempting to attract more North Americans when in the Caribbean. They are trying very hard and as time goes on they will perfect the programs. I think they provide much value for the money spent. We are Italian-Americans, with some knowledge of the language so the Lirica was a special experience to us. My wife, however,still prefers the Celebrity line because it provides all that Americans expect on a cruise... the dream of living royally. Frank B Norbeck Maryland
P.S. I rated the bathrooms a 4 because the men's room tended to be neglected in the evening when it is in use excessively.