We cruised the MSC Lirica on a 11 day cruise from Fort Lauderdale visiting such ports as San Juan, Puerto Rico, St Maarten, Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia, Tortola V.I., & Cayo Levantado/Samana, Dominican Republic
Before leaving on the cruise had some reservations due to some of the reviews that had read. Overall we were very satisfied with the cruise. The cruise ship was 1st class and very clean. The staff were constantly cleaning the ship. The quality and quantity of food was good.
MSC has a scheduled dining at supper. There were 3 formal nights. While we have a preference for freestyle dining, the scheduled dining worked out fine.
In San Juan when arrived caught a private tour just outside the terminal for I believe $10-15 US per person. It was good and lasted about 2.5 hours. Touring the Fort and San Juan. Afterwards, caught a taxi with another group and spent the afternoon on the beach. Caught a taxi back downtown and shopped for a couple hours.
St Maarten got in about 8:00 am and after walking outside the terminal decided to spend the day at a beach. Spoke to a couple off another cruise ship who were raving about a beach called "orient beach". They had been there a few years ago and stayed there in a condo for a week. We caught a cab. I seem to remember it was about $15. When we got there the beach was beautiful. I was awestruck and mesmerized by the beach and ocean. Suddenly my wife taps me on the shoulder in alarm. It turns out most of the beach was a nude beach. We went down to the far end of the beach to get away from it and spent the rest of the day there. Late afternoon caught a taxi back to the terminal and browsed around a few of the vendors. If a person would have liked there is a small shopping areas about a 10 min. walk from the terminal.
Grenada We had heard alot of negative things about Grenada in reading previous reviews. We enjoyed the island. It is a little gritty and less developed. Upon arriving we went out the terminal and negotiated a tour through a taxi with about 4 other couples in a small van for $15 per person. It last about 3 hours. We toured the island, went up to the jungle(seen a monkey), a spice factory, and finally back down to Fort George. My wife by this time had developed a migraine headache and declined going on a tour of Fort George(cost $3 per person). I really enjoyed the tour. A police officer actually gave us the tour. My wife had wanted to simply look at a few vendors outside of Fort George while the tour was happening. Our taxi driver while I was touring propositioned my wife on behalf of a colleague for marriage. He was relentless even though she kept declining. Finally a female vendor who overheard everything dragged my wife away to rescue her. When I arrived back down my wife looked like a deer caught in headlights. The last stop with the tour group was the beach which we spent a couple of hours at and then caught a boat ride to our cruise ship for about $3 a person from the beach.
Barbados Arrived there about 7:30am. Disembarked and walked out of the cruise ship area and walked about 4 blocks. On your left hand side there is a bus terminal. If you go into the office they will sell you bus passes for about $3 per person that will give you a bus ride to the far north of the island. We rode the bus to simply to see as much of the island as possible. When we reached the north part of the island there is alot of agriculture and sugar cane. When we hit the end of the route the bus driver stopped the bus for a break, and cut a small amount of sugar cane so we could sample. We caught the bus back down about 1/2 way to the cruise ship and got off at a nice beach and spent 1/2 the day there. When we were done we caught the first bus coming buy and dropped us off back at the bus station we had started at. We walked down to the shopping area which was about a 10 min. walk away and looked around for an 2 hours and then walked back to the ship.
Very very beautiful island. In the cruise terminal we inquired about going scuba diving. The tour operator wanted $130 US simply to get us to the dive area about 15 min. away. We walked outside the cruise terminal and negotiated a taxi ride for $25. We got there a few min. before they opened up. The cost for diving for 2 tanks was $100 US including equipment. We dived a wall and a ship wreck. There was some awesome coral . Our divemaster was great and very attentive. We finished diving about 1:30 pm and rushed to get back to the ship for the 2:30 departure.
We again walked out of the cruise ship terminal and walked a few blocks downtown and arranged a tour of the island from a private operator named "Captain Friendly". He was a native of Tortola and had spent some time in the US. His tour was very informative and toured most of the island including the rainforest. After that browsed around the shopping area.
Cayo Levantado/ Samana
This was the only port where we tendered. Tendering was very orderly though. We went to the cruise ships private island of Cayo Levantado. Probably one of the nicest beaches on the cruise. If you snorkel and have your own equipment would recommend taking it and doing some snorkeling off the edge of the island. Some colleagues did and raved about it. The cruise ship had a buffet for $15. We didn't try it. Spoke to a number of couples who tendered to Samana and were very disappointed as wasn't much there.
General Things about the cruise and cruise ship
The avg age of cruise passengers seemed like it was in the 70's. Probably about 10-15 from europe, 5% from canada, and the remaining from the US(mostly florida). We have only been on one other cruise through Norwegian. This ship was much nicer than the Norwegian one we had cruised on and had less sea motion.
Each morning you received an itinerary of what was happening on the ship and at port. There were few other announcements so if you didn't pay attention you missed out. If there was it would be in about 5 different languages and would take about 10 min.
The entertainment was great. We had heard alot of complaints about the food in reviews and from some passengers on the cruise. We thought the quality and quantity was good. About the only inconvenience we sometimes found was that many of the restaurants would be closed mid afternoon and all that left was a pizza buffet and another self serve cafeteria. Alternatively, there was room service that had about a dozen regular items you could order from. Over and above that there was menu you could order from. What I will say if you are a regular cruiser it will be a different experience than other cruise ships. It has a european flavor. Keep an open mind! Overall a very good value