Our 11-day cruise on the MSC Lirica, an Italian ship, began in Ft. Lauderdale on Friday January 13, 2006, with 1,600 fellow passengers. Our ports were Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Cartegena, Columbia; San Blas, Panama; Cristobal, Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; and Roatan, Honduras, with only San Blas involving the use of tenders to get ashore. There were many side tours available, but we had pretty much "been there, done that" before. We did visit the tourist souvenir shops areas near the pier which were much improved in cleanliness and safety from our previous visits. We met more interesting people on this ship than any other ship prior to this one. Besides the Americans and Canadians (mostly French) we talked with Swedes, Brits, Belgians, and even Ukrainians. The cruise director, who was Italian, smoothly spoke five languages every time he made an announcement. English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. We were impressed by his fluency.
We liked the entertainment variety. The singers and dancers were energetic and colorful. The best act was a ventriloquist/comedian who had at least a dozen voices in a variety of languages. Les De Merle played drums and sang with his 15-piece band. They played all the big band favorites. We never saw so many couples dancing with the band as well as with an up beat tango/cha cha duo, a trio, and at the deck party. They knew all the fancy "moves." We spoke with people, listened to music, read books, got some sun by the two pools, played cards, and generally relaxed, doing things we don't seem to have time for at home. Sounds dull? Not by a long shot.
Of the 17 cruises on various cruise lines that we have taken, this one was easily in the top third for variety of enjoyable features and camaraderie. The food was only average, mainly due to the less-than-average beef dishes; but the seafood (especially the salmon) was great. The menu choices were numerous and even included an International Menu with unique choices. Several repetitive alternative entrees and pasta were available at every dinner. There were two "Captain's Cocktail Hours" with free drinks. The crew was extremely friendly and smiley.