First, the positives. The ship was spotless and remained so throughout a long cruise. We arrived at every port exactly on time and in an excellent and convenient location. Embarkations were easy and well handled. The crew and staff were, for the most part, polite and accommodating. All of this was enhanced by terrific weather, including the five days spent crossing the Atlantic.
Now the negatives. The food was not good. At its very best, it was adequate; at its worst it was inedible. When whole tables of passengers send their nearly-full plates back to the dining room, it should be a signal that something is wrong. It was bland, the meat was tough and almost everything tasted canned or left over. The upper level dining area closed up tight in the late afternoon and remained so until 6:00 AM. If a passenger chose not to go to the dining room for dinner, he was out of luck. Room service was available but there was not a big selection. We quickly learned to purchase snacks at our stops and keep them in our cabin.
Some odd practices on board: The towels by the pool had to be checked in and out daily. Passengers stood in line to sign them out and back in (including sea days) Why? So the staff did not have to pick them up? Books had to be checked out and back in of the meager library (which was obviously stocked by leftovers from previous travelers) by painstaking notes in an accounting journal. Ridiculous.
The pillows in our stateroom were like cement bags. After three days of asking for softer pillows (which did exist, we later found from other passengers) we bought pillows at one of our stops and left them on board for the next luckless passenger.
Entertainment was adequate but because everything was announced in five languages, translation time exceeded performance time. The cruise director did a good job, though, and he and his staff transitioned easily from one language to the next.
Gratuities: After several visits to the purser we learned the cabin stewards and waiters get a miniscule percentage of charged gratuities. We decided to leave the tips ourselves, but later found out the staff is directed to turn those over. Hope this is not so.
The ship was very clean, but rather without character. Other ships we've cruised on have nice art work, fresh flowers, etc.; the Lirica was decorated with one sculpture and several large vases of plastic flowers.