We have family in Dubai so it is handy to visit them in January and then to tag on a week long cruise before flying home. Unfortunately RCI seem to have pulled out of the Dubai to Dubai cruise so you have the choice of MSC Lirica or Costa. With memories of the Concordia episode, we were not keen to go on Costa so it was Lirica. We had been on the ship a couple of years ago and in my review I said I would not be in a hurry to go back on it. Just shows what a knock down price can do to alter opinions!!
We did cruise only having arranged our own flights and we bought into the premium allegrissimo drinks package. We did this last time and it worked well for us. Last time we had an inside cabin on deck 9. I did not like it because of the lack of daylight and also the cabin seemed cramped. This time we booked an outside cabin, still on deck 9 having decided it was not worth the extra money for a balcony cabin on deck 10, especially as some people had said these cabins are noisy being below the pool and buffet deck. We had also asked for the sleeping arrangements to be 2 single beds instead of one king size. The cabin we booked was the same size as the inside one last time so we were rather apprehensive about being cramped again. However as soon as we opened the door we were delighted. The 2 beds were by opposite walls which gave a good clear space to move around in right opposite the window. It seemed that the cabin was a lot bigger than last time just by altering the beds configuration. The only downside to the cabin is the size of the shower cubicle which is impossibly small. Everyone complains about this. Otherwise, Sura, our cabin attendant did a good job and everything was done, towels cleaning etc. No complaints. Also there was loads of hot water in the bathroom.
We had a table for 6 in the Bussola restaurant for evening dinner, first sitting. The other 4 were all from the UK and we had a good laugh with them. The food was fine but too much to eat, especially if you had the pasta course - half as much would have been plenty. There was a good choice on the menu and they have an "always available" menu as well. We ate breakfast in the Bistro buffet at the back of the ship. This remains the absolute worst aspect of this ship. The place is cramped to the extent that all of the seats cannot be used as there is not enough space for people to move about. What it must be like in the middle of summer with children running around is too much to think about. The food is usually lukewarm, even the fried eggs first thing in the morning were cold. At least they had got rid of the ghastly blue plastic mugs which appeared when we were last on the ship and they are now large crockery ones. The food was a little better at lunchtime with a good selection of sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and other hot dishes.
We love the layout and decor of the bars throughout the ship and think they are better than any we have been in on P&O. This is Italian ambience at its best. Of course having the drinks package took the pressure off wondering what the on board account would be like!! We thought the staff were really good and service excellent in the bars and the Bussola restaurant. The ship is spotless everywhere. Full marks here. We did not bother getting off at any of the ports as we had been to most of them before so it was a real "chill out" trip. Check in at Dubai was speedy and easy, as was disembarkation. Another plus was that I never had to queue once at reception. I purchased internet wifi time. Not cheap and it was clear that they don't let you download everything as I wanted to download our usual newspaper each day. No luck on the ship but it was instant as soon as were at Dubai.
So we enjoyed the trip (apart from the buffet) and it was nice being on a smaller ship. No hassle over sunbeds, good weather and drinks. What more could you want?