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MSC Lirica Review

3.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
224 reviews

Lots o fun

Review for MSC Lirica to the Western Mediterranean
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First Time Cruiser • Age 60s

Rating by category

Value for Money
Public Rooms

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Sail Date: Oct 2008
Traveled with children

My family took the MSC Lirica on a 7 day cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Genoa, Marseilles, Valencia, Tangier and Malaga that departed October 24, 2008. We are from Texas and our travels included our 17 year old son. I have taken two other cruises, the Windsurf out of Barbados in 1999 and the Carnival Triumph from Miami two weeks after 9/11/01. My wife has taken a Norwegian and a Carnival cruise without me. This was my first cruise in a room with out a window and I did not miss one. Our room on deck eight has two fold down bunks over the two twin beds put together. I am 6'3" and there was plenty of room and storage but the shower was a kind of small. The second bunk served well as additional storage. The ship was beautiful and sparking clean. My overall impression of the cruise: we had a really good time.

Getting on the ship was easier than any other cruise we have ever experienced. Passengers get on and off the ship at most ports so there were only about 300 (of the 1500+ total) getting on at the same time. It took minutes to go through embarkation and passengers are escorted by a staff member to their room. Disembarkation was just as easy. The first night there were just a couple of dozen people on deck as the ship went to sea. It was like taking a private cruise. The ship was filled to capacity as we left Marseilles. Beer and Soda coupons are available in books of 14. You save about 10 euros by purchasing the "big beer" (about ½ liter) book. You can use the soda coupons for bottled water at dinner. The Lord Nelson pub is gorgeous but a haven for smokers during the cruise. I don't remember being bothered by smokers anywhere else and there were plenty of other places to quaff a pint. Unlike our US based cruises, I never saw anyone get really intoxicated. The food: We opted for the late seating (8:45-9:00 PM). Our waiter, Jaya from Bali, was the best. I like it spicy and after the first night there was always Tabasco and hot chili's on the table. There was only one main course that any of us did not care for, the salt cod my wife ordered the first night. I love fish and selected the fish most evenings (white fish, salmon, red mullet, fish stew). I had lamb one night and a beef filet another. The beef wasn't bad but tasted like South American grass fed beef, very lean. When you order "sea food" anything, unless it says specifically what it is, it is likely to have squid and/or octopus in it. That did not bother me at all. I had three servings of their wonderful squid stew for lunch as we left Marseilles. The last night I ordered the risotto with cuttlefish (squid family) ink. It was the most interesting shade of blue/gray and it was delicious. As an alternative to the Italian specialties, pasta with meat sauce, turkey/chicken or salmon is available every night. Most nights the menu highlighted a region of Italy and its style of Italian food. I am not a sweet eater but the wife and son were very pleased with the impressive deserts that were served. The breakfast and the lunch buffets had an interesting variety and for breakfast they served these tasty little link sausages that had a rich wonderful flavor. For lunch, many of the salads with inside and outside buffets were unique and delicious. Some of the vegetables served with the salads, like cauliflower and brussel sprouts, were lightly blanched for the perfect texture. (As the chef on another ship told me; "you go to the US for beef, Europe for the vegetables".) The buffet plates were very large saving trips back. The coffee was particularly good and was served with hot milk if desired. The yogurt I had on the ship and in Rome was particularly rich and creamy compared to US brands. The outside buffet had burgers, hotdogs and pork chops on one side and pizza on the other. Getting pizza was a challenge because the one oven had trouble keeping up with demand. They had several very beautiful late night buffets but with our late seating we were still too full to enjoy them. Unlike US based cruises, I never saw anyone at an adjacent table order more than one main course. The Europeans: One of the reasons we took MSC was because we wanted a real European experience. Of the 1500+ on the ship, 150 spoke English as a primary language. The good news is most Europeans speak some English. I speak some Spanish and that was very helpful in Spain and understanding some Italian. We made Italian, English, German and Spanish friends on the ship. There were many French on the ship but I discovered that the French in Europe are like OU fans in the big 12 conference. It is not just University of Texas fans they don't get along with, it's everybody else. Maybe this analogy is a tad harsh (comparing the French to OU fans) but they just were not as gregarious as the Italians and the Spaniards. Who ever says Americans are loud has never been in a room with several hundred Italians during a meal. We only had one incidence where someone tried to push us aside in line and that was a teenager. One stern look and he was back in line. As a whole, the other passengers were very friendly, courteous and fun to be with. It was entertaining watching them go swimming when it is 50º and windy outside. It was a blast arguing the merits of American verses English football on the tour bus. (They said our ball was the wrong shape. I complained that in soccer, you don't get to hit anyone.) I enjoyed a hot pepper eating competition with some Spaniards at an adjacent table during dinner (Texas 1, Spain 0). I also have new best friend who is a retired policeman from Naples named Tony (of course). 17year olds and under are free. This saved us about $500-$800 over other cruise lines. There were no more children on our cruise than most others (the Windsurf had a no kids policy). Not only were most of the children reasonably well behaved and unobtrusive, they were quite a joy to be around. The ship has a "kids club" for the younger ones and a multi lingual director that appeared to be very attentive. There was a wide variety of young people for our son to hang out with in the hot tubs during the day and the disco on deck 12 after dinner. The young ladies appeared to outnumber the guys which didn't bother my son too much. Alcohol was only available to those 18 and over to the surprise of the German teens who said they could buy it at home legally at 16. The stops and tours: we took tours at all of the stops except Genoa. When you get off the ship in Genoa, ask for a walking map from the tourism desk. Everything of interest is within easy walking distance. We skipped the famous aquarium and enjoyed the wide variety of shopping available just back from the waterfront. I had a couple of wonderful Italian coffees, fried sardines, a pear shaped fried rice ball with peas inside, and cold beer. My wife had a large slice of pizza that she enjoyed. mmmmm Genoa is a much more relaxed city than Rome. What was also cool was watching the crew back the cruise ship through the harbor to the dock. We loved Genoa. Our next stop was Marseilles. Our first tour was quickly organized and loaded on the bus with no problems (as was the case with all of our excursions). We shared the bus with Italians and had an English and Italian tour guide. We took the city tour but with almost everything closed (it was Sunday), there was less to see aside from the major sites such as the cathedral on the hill and the water memorial. Even though this was my Grandmother's favorite city in France, it was an interesting but least favorite stop. In Valencia, our bus first went to the caves, a 45 minute drive North West of town. The country side was beautiful, looking like a mix between southern California and Northern New Mexico. They packed us a sack lunch and we ate at an open cafe near the cave entrance. The cafe sold ¾ liter of San Miguel beer for 2.8 euros, very tasty. The cave tour was interesting but the city of Valencia was breathtaking. Not only was the city the most impressive combination of old and modern architecture I have ever seen, it was also one of the cleanest. Rosa was our tour guide. Her English was easy to understand and she was very knowledgeable and hospitable. We loved our stop in Valencia. Tangier Morocco was our next stop. As an American, I was a little worried about visiting a Muslim country. We thought taking a tour would be the safest bet. We were also late because the ship was traveling into a 20+ knot wind with 7-12 foot seas. Despite the weather, the ship was comfortable. As we passed Gibraltar, I was privileged to listen to a first hand account of being stationed there during WWII by former British seaman. The ship was close enough to see the rock very well and to take good pictures. Our tour guide in Tangier Usef spoke excellent English, was very pro American and also an unapologetic advocate of everything Moroccan. The first stop was a Moroccan show where local tea and cookies (quite tasty by the way) were served. Next was a visit to the Hercules' cave, then the Sultan's palace and Kasbah. We were given the option to skip the palace to head strait to shopping. Usef works with two other men and they kept a close eye on us. We felt very secure. Walking the back streets of Tangier at night reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie. The guides knew just what shop had what we were looking for. The peddlers in the streets are some of the most persistent I have seen but not unmanageable. This was the one stop that just about any currency was welcome and haggling was expected. We enjoyed Tangier because our guide was really good. Our final stop was in Malaga. Our tour bus had a guide named Fernando that spoke English and German. Malaga was a beautiful city too with an 11th century castle that overlooked the town. We toured the castle and then went down to the city center to see where Pablo Picasso was born and the location of the Picasso museum. We had a detailed tour of the cathedral that Queen Isabella (of Christopher Columbus fame) commissioned. After the tour, the guide cut us loose for an hour of shopping on the West side of the cathedral. I found a nice place called El Jardis del Obispo at the rear left of the little square. I sat just outside enjoying tapas (anchovies, red pepper, and spicy meat balls) and a couple of cold San Miguels while listening to a young man play Danza De La Vida Breve, Capricho Arabe, and Asturias on his guitar. I could really learn to love Spain and our visit to Malaga was wonderful.

So much for the details, here are some random notes I made about the trip. The ship's passengers were comprised of mostly working class Europeans. Shuttle busses were available at stops for much less money than the tours. Most went to the city centers. At the 50's style "Grease" function we determined that Europe has given mankind beautiful things like opera, architecture, and language. Americans have given the world the Village People. Most of the music played on the ship is American. After a couple of days, I began to understand Italian TV. The cocktail waitresses are not as aggressive as other cruises. They are attentive but don't pester you 10 minutes asking if you want another drink. Go early to the complementary cocktail party in the Lirica lounge. They have photographers that the entrance and the lines get lengthy and move slowly. Room service is not complementary. You get a daily news letter for the following day while you are away for dinner. Read it. The ship keeps announcements to a minimum because an announcement in 5 languages can take some time. Some the announcements in "English" were very difficult to understand. Food is not available 24 hours. When it is time to close the buffet, it closes. Read the news letter. Time is in military time i.e. 22:00 for 10:00 PM. Before we left the US, the Euro lost 24% of its value against the dollar, which saved us quite a bit of money. No drinks come with dinner. Bottled water is 2.75 euros. A little irritating at first but we got used to it. We purchased soda coupons which could be used for the water. The deck chairs have a neat adjustable face shield. The Cruise Director and the Excursion Director could go from Italian to German to French to Spanish to English with seemingly little effort. Not only did the Cruise Director speak English well, he would go from a British to an American accent and back again during a sentence. It was amazing to witness. The after dinner show theme repeats after 3 or 4 nights because passengers are constantly getting on and off. Excursions are available in advance on the web site. Some excursions were canceled because there were not enough passengers were booked. Some excursions are multi lingual. Some are not available until you get on the ship. As we were passing Gibraltar, the best place to see the waves break on the bow was the gym on deck 11. I and others were asked to leave (very politely) because we were not in work out attire and not working out. I was a little miffed but understood the policy respects those using the gym for its intended purpose. The end of October was an excellent time to travel to southern Europe. It was not too warm and it was only too cool for us to enjoy the pool. Our hotel in Rome had air conditioning but was prohibited by law from turning it on in October.

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