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David A Landry

Age: 54

Occupation:web hosting and design

Number of Cruises: 29

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Lirica

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

“We are very proud of the record of excellence that the MSC Lirica and MSC Opera have established in their inaugural Caribbean seasons,” says Richard E. Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA. “Their performance on these important health inspections exemplifies the high standards MSC Cruises sets for the cruise experiences we offer our guests.”

“We have an extraordinary team of staff both on board and ashore and I am especially proud that they have been recognized in this way. Bravo to the officers and staff of the Lirica,” he added.

And so began our private meeting with Mr. Sasso. You could see and feel the pride he was displaying. He asked us to thank the crew members whenever we saw them, and that we did.

Our trip actually began the day before, flying in to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday to ensure no delays, and to unwind from a day of flying. AirTran has newer 717’s and 737-800’s. We upgraded to business, or first class on other airlines when we made our reservations. New Orleans to Atlanta, then to Ft. Lauderdale. A very smooth flight, comfortable seats and complimentary cocktails helped us arrived relaxed.

We caught a cab to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Resort, and checked in. I asked, and was upgraded to a tower room, with views of the port. The room had a super comfortable bed with down pillows and blankets, large marble bath and a wraparound balcony to sit on and take in all the sights and views. Considering the fact we use, and got the $460 tower room for $80, we were very satisfied! You can walk to the Inter-coastal Waterway and view the yachts, play a round of golf, or relax in the Jacuzzi.

Friday morning came quickly. We checked out and got a taxi to the port about 11:30. Security is very tight, passing through 3 checkpoints before getting to the terminal. We entered the waiting area, and were greeted by well trained personnel. We sat, made small talk for about 10 minutes. Our number was called, and away to check in we went. We breezed through check in and were on the Lirica for 12 noon.

Now for the first of many wonderful surprises. Smiling greeters to escort us to our rooms. Not one greeter for a group, but one on one. Impressive!

Our room was smaller than we were used to, but we spent so little time in the cabin, we adjusted quite quickly.

The bathroom, while small, had plenty of storage. Being 6’6” and 330 pounds, there was no way I was going to be able to take a shower. Throughout the cruise, many asked me how did I take a shower. I smiled, said I called room service and they installed a garden tub just for me! After the laughter, I said I didn’t close the curtain, just used the whole bathroom. It has a drain in the floor so no problem there. There was no powered vent for the steam, so I left the bathroom door open a little. I just asked the wife to close her eyes. Another surprise, in that the water stayed at full force and the exact temperature every time I took a shower. I took 2 showers a day, very long showers. Thank You, Mr. Sasso!

Unless you look, you will miss the storage areas. Behind the huge mirror is a safe and a large shelf, plus space around the safe. The small desk has a drawer and two cabinets for storage also. Two end tables with deep shelves, and storage above the fridge, all hidden by a closet door. Finish is nice, very easy on the eyes. The bed is hard, but I need that for my back, and I slept like a baby. It was probably the martinis that helped. Many thanks to the Captain, for his welcoming party, repeaters party, send-off party, and our gracious host for his generous get-togethers.

We unpacked, everything fit quite well, and we were anxious to see this fantastic ship. Knowing it had just scored a perfect score for cleanliness, I was sure I could find areas that were missed. I scoured every nook and cranny, out of the way places, stairs, public restrooms, staff restrooms, and could only find clean, shiny sparkling areas.

It is interesting to know that of the 780 cabins, 64 percent offer outside views, but only 132 have balconies. All balcony cabins are actually mini-suites. Every cabin is equipped with a safe, a television (there are no interactive features) and a fridge. The mini-suites have larger bathrooms with a bathtub.

We went to deck 11, for the buffet. Having skipped breakfast, we were starved. Having sailed 28 previous times, we were used to seeing a cold buffet, with limited items. MSC rolled out a full buffet, hot and cold items galore. Did I mention all the red and white wine you wished? Great iced tea, and strong coffee. And desserts....

MSC Italian Cruises believes in a traditional dining concept, so forget any thoughts of “freestyle” when-and-with-whom-you-please options. Cuisine mostly focuses on Italian fare with specialties that include risotto-made-tableside, fresh fish, such as cuttlefish, veal stew, and penne al ‘arrabiatta.

There are four different dining areas onboard: Both La Bussola Restaurant on deck 5 and L’Ippocampo on deck 6 serve sit-down meals, although the latter is used only for overflow. Le Bistrot Cafeteria on deck 11 is the spot for informal buffet breakfasts and lunches. The fourth dining venue, La Pergola Restaurant, is adjacent and offers outdoor dining — including casual fare, such as pizza, pasta and burgers. Tables are tucked under a large canvas and well protected from the sun, rain and winds.

The meal times are rather short and are designed more according to European tastes than to American. Buffet-style breakfast and lunch are served at the Le Bistrot Cafeteria from 6:30 to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. respectively. The more formal La Bussola is open for breakfast from 7 - 9:30 a.m.; lunch is served from 12:30 - 2 p.m. There are two seatings at dinner (6:30 and 8:30 p.m.). There is no casual alternative dining during evenings. MSC Italian Cruises, however, seems to be among the last lines to feature the midnight buffet, at 11:30pm. It varies each night, from a fruit-themed spread to a gala anything-goes repast. I didn’t try it, as we finished late seating dinner about 10:15, and most nights went straight to bed.

Room service is rather limited. The menu includes cold sandwiches and salads, and there is in-cabin continental breakfast available. MSC no longer charges for room service on any of its ships.
The ship has a very nice layout, with more elevators than many larger ships. And you don’t have to go up here, down that hall, to the next elevator to get the the room you seek. Everywhere are signs showing layouts, locations, and you are here dots. And if that doesn’t help, just ask one of the the very helpful crew.

MSC Lirica offers a great selection of public rooms and lounges with different design and entertainment. Most of them are located on decks 5 and 6 (graciously connected by a marble staircase), although there is a large “secondary” lounge on deck 7 and a huge disco surrounded by glass walls on deck 12. The high number of public rooms helps to keep passengers spread throughout the ship. All in all, Lirica offers eight different bars/lounges.

My favorite spot was the expansive Lord Nelson Pub, which is a quiet place to enjoy a beer or a pre-dinner drink. Although located in the path of the show lounge, the bar did not tend to attract much clientele - perhaps because there was no live music. This made it a great place for quiet conversation or reading.

Another interesting area is Beverly Hills Bar and Rodeo Drive shops on deck 5, just before the entrance to the dining room. Fitted out with a lot of marble and shining brass, this is a favorite spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks, and an excellent place to dance with the tunes of slow music. Occasionally, you can listen here also to classical music, as well.

On the starboard side it is flanked by a group of duty-free shops, which offer souvenirs and luxury items.

There is also an Internet cafe with 10 stations. The charge for using the Internet is $6.00 for the first 10 minutes, then 60 cents per minute thereafter.

There is a lot of entertainment available during the evenings, and it is mainly tailored for the multi-lingual European tastes (except in the Caribbean, where North Americans are more catered to). The main stage is the Broadway Theatre, which normally has two seatings (both rather late); at 9:00p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

The ship offers a great selection of music: from slow tunes in Beverly Hills Bar to Latin dance music in the Lirica Lounge to piano favorites in L’Atmosphere. You can sample faster dance music with a live band in Le Cabaret Lounge and disco music nightly in the Blue Disco Club.

The Lirica Health Center is located on deck 11, and offers truly magnificent views to three sides through the floor-to-ceiling windows - along with the usual workout equipment. The spa is operated by an Italian spa company and offers traditional treatments, such as facials and massages.

In the main pool area on deck 11, there are two swimming pools and two whirlpools. The pool area is surrounded by open deck space and lounge chairs. More space and lounge chairs can be found on deck 13, which is protected from the winds by windscreens.

All in all we had a great cruise, and a great time with a gracious host. Would I book MSC again? In a heartbeat! Other cruise lines should take notice, and adapt to an emerging star among stars!

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