My wife and I, both retirees, have taken more than thirty cruises but this was our first cruise with MSC. We decided to take this cruise at short notice and selected the Lirica because of the itinerary and the price. Had I read the reviews before booking the cruise I might have had second thoughts. But it was too late to cancel so we decided to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. As it was, it turned out to be one of our most enjoyable cruises.
Embarkation was swift and problem free and we were pleasantly surprised by the friendly welcome with which we were greeted. At disembarkation we were part of a large group of passengers who elected to carry off their own luggage. There was some congestion around the gangway which might easily have been avoided if the group had been divided into two or more sub-groups. However, this was no more than a minor glitch in what was otherwise a smooth process.
All the reviews that I had read before boarding the ship, even the most negative ones, commented on the cleanliness of the ship. We fully agree with this assessment and found the Lirica to be amongst the cleanest ships that we have ever sailed on. The housekeeping department deserves the highest praise.
Since we tend to spend so little time in our cabin we usually select an inside cabin. This time we were on deck nine about two thirds on the way toward the rear of the ship. The cabin was about standard size for an inside cabin, spotlessly clean with adequate storage space. It took us a while to find the safe which was concealed behind the mirror. As on other ships the bathroom was small but this one had the smallest shower stall that we have ever seen. My wife and I are both on the small side and felt confined by the space. It would have been a problem for someone verging on the obese side. Before moving on I must note that we experience a vibration in our cabin. This was rather surprising since we were at least nine decks above the engine room. It did not bother me but my wife found it to be annoying.
As an ex-smoker cigarette smoke does not bother me but my wife is allergic to second hand smoke. Consequently, we were pleased to find that smoking was restricted to certain areas of the ship and that these restrictions were generally well observed. The one exception that we found was on the pool deck where some passengers either could not distinguish the port side of the ship (smoking allowed) from the starboard side (smoking prohibited), or chose to ignore the regulations. This was just a minor annoyance but one that might be eased if no smoking signs were prominently displayed (in six languages) for all to see.
My wife and I both enjoy dancing and we were pleased to find three lounges that offered dance music as well as other lounges that provided music for listening. There was also a disco for the younger crowd. We found some of the dance music to be repetitive and uninspiring and we have danced to more lively groups on other cruises. The Los Paraguayos were among the better groups but they were scheduled to play only one session in the Cabaret Lounge. We would have liked to see more of them. There was very little in the way of verbal interaction with the audience and the musicians did not solicit requests from the dancers. This was probably due to a language barrier. But this is just a minor complaint and one that did not distract from our enjoyment.
The shows in the Broadway Theater were magnificently staged and costumed and on a par, if not superior to presentations that we have seen on other ships. Because they catered to a multi-lingual audience the content of the shows relied mainly on dance, music, acrobatics, and illusions for entertainment and, in our opinion, they were eminently successful in doing so.
The eight members of the recreation staff were an energetic and engaging group and amongst the best that we have seen. They seemed to truly enjoy what they were doing and their enjoyment carried over to audience participation. As an added benefit, and one that we have rarely seen on other ships, they acted as dance hosts and hostesses during evening hours in the Lirica Lounge. This was a real benefit to the unattached guests and gave them a chance to dance.
So far, so good. But now for the downside. I had read the comments of other reviewers who described menu selections as being a hit or miss affair. In our experience the misses beat the hits by a fairly large margin. I will not go into an itemized description of the culinary disasters for if I did this account would run to several pages. Management clearly needs to look into this and take some corrective action.
The problem is not confined to the kitchen staff alone. The wait staff overlooked some very basic principles of service that had nothing to do with language barriers. They failed to bring the appropriate condiments with the food, did not ask if you wanted a refill of your coffee or some additional bread with your meal, and seemed to rush through dinner service as though anxious the see the back of you.
Now despite all that, here is the strange thing. After completing our last meal and making the usual complaints about the food, I asked our table companions whether knowing what they know now, would they take this cruise again and, without hesitation, they all said yes. So, my recommendations to the reader of this review is that if you expect good quality food then stay away from MSC cruises. But if you are willing to put up with some less than perfect food and want to have an enjoyable cruise at a decent price then go with it. We did and we would gladly do it again.