Outbound from Dover on the MSC Lirica on 20 May 2009. This ship is very clean and comfortable with excellent staff covering all our needs. The ship's shows were good and catered for all walks of life. On the sea days the entertainment was good, particularly the fruit carving and the jewellery talks by the manager of the jewellery shop.
One criticism was the price of the drinks on board - cocktails 6.90 euros, large beer 4.80 euros, soft drinks 2.50 euros, cheapest bottle of wine 19 euros, which compared to fred.olsen prices was astronomic. Also you are restricted to eating in the main restaurant on an evening unless you want to eat pizza. We found this quite restrictive as we were on 1st sitting at 18.30 hours which was a rush after being ashore all day.
According to the news page on the MSC website, the English had been catered for by providing free tea and coffee 24 hours a day. However, this was not the case as there was never any milk after 8pm.
On our way to Fjords, we called at Bremerhaven. This is not a picturesque port of call and we were surprised that the ship did not have Hamburg on the itinerary instead. The cruise terminal is at least 2 miles from the city centre, although the ship did provide a shuttle service for 9 euros. We can only suggest that you take this option to the main train station and get a train to Bremen which is an hour away and the trains run every hour.
As we travelled out of season for Norway, we found that in the northern ports of call in Norway - Olden and Geiranger, the public transport was not running as it did not start until mid June. This meant that people on board are forced to take the expensive excursions provided by the ship if they are not prepared to walk anywhere. However, if you want to go the view point overlooking the harbour in Geiranger, there is a local bus trip for one hour from the tourist information office which costs 200 krone.
Norway is a very expensive country to eat and drink out and a cruise is definitely the best option for seeing this beautiful country, thus limiting the need to purchase food and drink ashore. However, knowing what we know now, we would have waited until June to take this cruise.