This was our first experience with MSC cruise lines (and probably our last). This was our 11th cruise in the past 8 years and we enjoy trying different cruise lines. We have cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Costa, and Norwegian with Celebrity being our favorite. The things we look for when booking are ports and price and hope to find good food and entertainment while onboard. We did find good ports and a good price with MSC but the food and entertainment were both below average.
We arrived in Orlando two days early since we could not get a flight into Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. We rented a car and arrived at the ship around noon. Embarkation was smooth and the Lirica is a beautiful ship. We were pleasantly surprised at the upgrade from an inside cabin to a deck nine oceanview. Our first disappointment was finding two single beds instead of the queen size requested. I looked for the cabin attendant but he could not be found. In fact, we did not see him the entire first day which surprised us (we did not find out his name until the last night). I called the desk but the line was constantly busy. No problem; I moved the beds and nightstands myself. Under the beds were old candy wrappers and other garbage. I must say that except for this instance the rest of the ship was extremely clean and well kept. After a quick lunch we toured the ship and stopped at the library for some mystery books for the cruise. Unless you can read Italian, French, or German, make sure you bring enough reading material as the English section is practically non-existent.
We had the first dinner seating which began at 5:45 and was escorted to a table for four (we had requested a table for 6 or 8). Fortunately the other couple at our table was very nice and we had a great time with them. We had our first experience with the food. Although there were "some" decent meals, much of the food was tasteless. The good part was that after eleven days of eating neither my wife nor I gained a pound, which is a first for us. Even the pizza served all day on the buffet deck was bland. The desserts (which I normally look forward to on a cruise) were not very good and the selection was very limited (they were pushing NY cheesecake for quite a few nights but it was like a parfait with no taste). I wound up settling for ice cream for half the dinners. The waiter was constantly getting the orders wrong and got upset when he had to go back and get the right meal. The gentleman we were eating with asked for a knife to cut his salad and was asked by the waiter what he needed a knife for instead of just bringing it. We never saw the wine steward the entire cruise. The mixed drinks aboard the Lirica run $7.95 but you can get them for $5.50 during happy hour at selected lounges. No drinks are served in the theatre. You can purchase a soda card but unlike other ships the number of sodas are limited. The nightly shows in the theatre were below average and quite repetitive. The dancers appeared most nights and the girls were scantly dressed in thongs with their bare behinds being displayed nightly; must be a European thing. The cruise director, Paulo, introduced each show in five languages as there were many foreign passengers onboard. All onboard announcements were also made in the five languages. There were no comedians during the entire cruise and all shows were put on by the ship's in-house entertainers. Some shows were mostly in Italian or Spanish. One night the show consisted of a Latin American trio that performed nightly in one of the lounges. The best of the entertainers was the Italian tenor that appeared in part of five or six shows. In all, the entertainment lacked the variety that most ships provide.
The entertainment team on the Lirica got most of their laughs at the expense of the passengers. Three of the male members made fun of an overweight woman during one of the lounge shows to the extent that she was close to tears. They would constantly appear before the theatre shows and run up and down the aisles and climb over passengers already seated to pick on certain people to get laughs. Many passengers avoided the lounge shows because of the entertainment team. It was not uncommon for them to be patting the behinds of female passengers and in one case pulling the pants off an elderly gentleman to reveal his underwear. Pushing a passenger into the pool was one of their "fun" tricks. If you like Karaoke, forget this cruise. There is one Karaoke contest where eight "volunteers" are chosen to compete against each other with a song chosen by the entertainment team. If you like ballroom dancing, the lounges are for you. If you like regular dancing, you will not be doing much on this cruise. There is very little variety of music offered in the lounges. If you want to play board games, make sure to bring your own. You will only be able to find checkers and scrabble (only in Italian or German) and only a few games available. Don't look for the chocolate on your pillow at night; they do not exist. You do get a small bowl of fruit the first night to pacify your desire for chocolate
We did have to tender to San Blas Islands and the process went smoothly. We enjoyed all of the ports visited (Jamaica, Columbia, Cristobal, San Blas, Costa Rica, and Roatan) and the excursions were good. Disembarkation was smooth and we were off the ship by 9:00 am.My wife and I had a good time on the cruise thanks to the ports of call that we visited and the people we met. We do, however, place the MSC line at the bottom of the list of cruise lines that we will use again. Our travel agent told us that if we enjoyed our Costa cruise, we would be thrilled with this cruise as there is a world of difference between the two lines. She was partly correct; there is a world of difference between the two lines...Costa, even with their glitzy ships, is far superior. MSC needs to hire a new chef and upgrade their entertainment.