We decided to take our grown up family (two boys 18 & 22) to the Middle East for some mid summer sun. We therefore decided on an all inclusive cruise out of Abu Dhabi for 7 nights, with two separate staterooms, on board MSC Lirica. The first point is the price, with flights included (Etihad from Manchester)& with all inclusive package is a great value way to spend a week in the Middle East. We arrived on the Sunday morning obviously jet lagged, so you don't feel like doing much in Abu Dhabi before you sail. The next day is at sea & the weather & sea crossing were great, Tuesday is Muscat (Oman) & once you have the confidence to face the taxi drivers as you come out of the port gate, you can get a two hour taxi tour of the mosque (be sharp off the boat as it shuts at 1100) and the palace for 40 Euros. The next two ports are really 'stay on the ship' unless you are adventurous or have a tour booked. Ladies be careful as this is a strict Muslim area & it is easy to offend with Western standards. The next port is Dubai which is outstanding. The weather was great throughout.
So what about on board? First off the boat itself is clean & well looked after. The all inclusive deal makes sense as all the 'extras you buy' are expensive (drinks, ice cream etc) & also attract 15% service charge. Therefore with the all inclusive this is removed & really just feels part of the cruise price. On deck there are plenty of beds and the entertainment is lively. One point is you can (for 2.50 Euros a day) get a western paper printed and delivered to your cabin each day and is a great way to spend a couple of hours in the sun.
The staterooms are clean and well looked after, our cabin steward was excellent & looked after our boys room really well. A note about the standard of service on board, its very mixed, some staff are helpful, others are just too cold & surly for words. You have to just accept it, don't worry about it, you still get what you want. The biggest bug bear is the Head Waiters in the restaurant, what do these guys do & get paid for? On every other ship Ive been on they talk to you & take an interest, ours NOT once approached the table, pathetic at the least! The guys waiting the table were great and deserve better support.
The food, outside the main restaurant is pretty much canteen standard, not much more, the best is the burger bar! In the restaurant there is one course per night that's top notch, the others are quite bland.
The nightly entertainment is poor in the bars but ok at the bigger events.
All in all we had a great break in the sun & I would come again for the value, but it would have to be all inclusive, I think I'd have burst a blood vessel with the standards of service and then pay high prices & 15% service charge for the privilege!