We boarded the Lirica at Civitavecchia to cruise to Istanbul, Yalta, Odessa, Athens, Sorrento (Capri), and Genoa. MSC traces its history to cargo shipping, and care of the ship is tops -- constant cleaning, polishing, painting, crew training on a regular basis, arrival always on time, and the ship is well and tastefully furnished. The ship was very smooth and quiet. It has good facilities for children, including a popular water shower over one of the pools, a youth club, and video games, such as Wii. The lounges are spacious and attractive as well as comfortable, and the library is popular as a card room, also. Embarkation and disembarkation were fairly quick and the crew was very helpful.
The service by the waiters and dining staff is good; we had a sharp-looking, almost-all Indonesian staff who did a good job. The food variety and quality was generally good but not outstanding in the dining room, with two buffets, one near the pools and one fully enclosed. They are somewhat limited and not always supplied with hot food. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all available in the dining room, with good service at all three times. Dining room times are rigidly adhered to, with assigned tables for dinner and casual table assignment for other meals. One strange item is that coffee is not available at dinner. Bottled water is available but no tap water is served, and American and Canadian passengers get a free bottle daily.
The entertainment was typical cruise material, lots of American music, a bit loud; good dancers and a champion juggler, a couple of opera singers (an excellent tenor and a good soprano), and a Sinatra impersonator with a German accent. The entertainment seemed to be tailored to Americans, although there were large groups of Italians, Germans, and French, plus a group of Norwegians, and all the announcements had to be made in five or six languages. The theater is well designed and decorated.
The problems we had with the cruise were mostly with the excursions, which were poorly described in the literature and not always well managed. We took four of their excursions. At Yalta we visited two of the Tsar's palaces, which were described as "sumptuous" and such terms. The first palace was sparsely furnished and had never been lived in - only used for summer picnics, and it was dark and not very attractive. The second, Livadia Palace, was the site of the 1945 meeting at which Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin agreed on how to divide Europe. It was an excellent visit to a very attractive location, so that tour averaged out fairly well. We took the tour of Odessa and its catacombs, and found that good. The first real problem was Athens, where we arrived for an 8-hour visit on the Orthodox Easter Sunday, and EVERYTHING was closed and largely deserted. We had been to Athens for several days on another trip but had not seen the new Acropolis Museum, and wanted to see that, but were disappointed. We were not warned until the morning arrival that we wouldn't see anything except closed buildings, but surely the staff must have known. The next problem was in Sorrento, where we paid about $190 each for a "four-hour" tour to Capri during about a six-hour stopover. The tour description said we would be taken to the center of town, then a minibus tour followed by a walking tour to the Caesar Augustus gardens. Actually, we had a two-hour tour, with no minibus tour, and the walking tour was so rushed that it more resembled a foot race on cobblestones. The rest of the four hours was taken up by a tender ride to Sorrento, a ferry ride to Capri, and a shuttle bus to a parking lot on Capri, then the reverse after the quick foot tour, with quite a bit of waiting between each of the phases. We had no more that 30 minutes to look around in Capri on our own and shop, and we were tired after the foot race. That excursion should not even be offered if the time cannot be increased and the tour properly described. In Genoa, we took the local bus tours rather than the ship tours, and found them very satisfactory -- Genoa is a beautiful city.
Overall, it was a pleasant cruise, with a couple of serious problems on the excursions.