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Melinda Kazmer

Age: 60


Number of Cruises: 27

Cruise Line: MSC Cruises

Ship: MSC Lirica

Sailing Date: March 9, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

What a great time we had on this beautiful two year old ship! MSC was a different experience for us and we loved it! I warn you now that this review will be long since everything I had read prior to sailing on the Lirica was so mixed. I wanted to give you a good feel for our experience – albeit from our perspective.

Let me give you a little background. We started cruising in the mid 1980's and are veterans of 27 cruises with most major lines represented – we have cruised with Commodore, Premier, RCCL, Costa, Carnival, NCL, HAL, Celebrity and Princess in the past – some many times and truly enjoy cruising. We lived in Naples Florida for 10 years and cruised multiple times during the year since the ports were so easy to access. We love good food – and we were especially looking for something a little different from the normal mass market cruise this time. Since we now live in Chicago, and we have to fly to the port it was important to us that we book a little longer cruise and one we thought we would really enjoy since we aren't cruising multiple times in a year now.

After researching MSC we decided that the international flavor of the line and the size of the ship and its age would all be pluses and we were looking forward to the experience. We booked about two months out and booked an inside guarantee cabin. Our documents arrived about two weeks prior to departure and our cabin wasn't assigned at the time. A day before we were to leave, I called the travel agency and was given our cabin assignment – it turned out to be an inside cabin – an upgrade from what we booked and a handicapped cabin. This turned out to be a real plus because the cabin was about twice the size of a normal one and the bathroom had no ledges and a huge shower! The location was on Deck 9 forward and was perfect for either going up or down on the ship.

Below is a picture of Cabin 9052 – beds were on each side of the room with tons of closet and storage space as well as a vanity and mini-bar (which we didn't use) – Towels were huge – and replenished as needed. Shampoo and Body Gel and Bubble Bath were in the bath and there was a hair dryer that was good for short hair. Not many electrical outlets – so bring a strip if you need to plug in battery chargers etc. Very quiet cabin. Fresh fruit daily.

The MSC Lirica is a two year old ship – and the max passenger capacity using all berths is 2065. Double occupancy capacity is 1560 passengers. The line is the second largest shipping company in the world and branched out into the passenger cruise business and has seven cruise ships sailing today with two more to come. The Lirica was designed for International sailing and this is the second season I believe that she is in the Caribbean along with her sister ship the Opera. Reviews from passengers have been mixed – but all agree that the ship is a beautiful, clean ship with a true mix of passengers from many countries.

The officers are all Italian as are the upper echelon in the dining room and the style and flavor of the ship is Italian. The Captain on this voyage was Mattia Manzi and the Cruise Director was Andrea Olivieri. The Entertainment Team that he oversees was excellent. All the staff are multilingual. The few announcements that are given are in five languages and entertainment is in five languages. The mix of passengers on this cruise were from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, USA, Great Britain, and other countries as well. Menus in the dining room are in different languages to accommodate those passengers who do not speak English.

Let me take you through our experience with the Lirica. It almost didn't happen – we had a very early morning flight out of Ohare – we got to the airport and looked over the luggage and realized that we were missing a bag – my husband had to get back into the cab and make another round trip to our home to get it as it had all his dress clothes in it – I had gotten our boarding passes on line the night previously and was able to check our other two bags in curbside to Fort Lauderdale. I waited anxiously for him to return and he just made it – we sprinted down the concourse, had to plead our case to security, got through it and made the plane with about 5 minutes to spare – not a good start – but the only bad thing to happen. Once in Fort Lauderdale, we took our time, got some coffee, and then a cab to the port once we retrieved our luggage. Since this was an 11 night cruise, we were sailing on a Thursday and returning on a Monday and the airport was not crowded with cruise passengers – just two other ships were leaving from Port Everglades that day and we would be the last to depart. We got to the port about 11:45am – left our bags with the porters and got a number for boarding. The check-in lines opened right at noon and we were one of the first to be processed. Other than the fact that the person processing us in was doing it for the first time, it went very smoothly and we were on board in about 15 minutes. We were greeted with a staff member to lead us to our cabin and were settling in quickly. There was a welcome aboard lunch being served – but it was delayed by a surprise inspection – a footnote – the Lirica has scored 100 on all inspections – it is probably the cleanest ship we have ever sailed.

We decided to acquaint ourselves with the layout – we had a great map of the ship and started at the top. There are 13 decks – and we started at the top and worked our way down. Deck 13 is for sunning forward and aft there is a miniature golf course. Deck 12 is an additional sunning deck and also is the walking/running track – with 8 times around a mile (by my calculations). Deck 11 is the buffet restaurant all the way aft – with a grill on the port side and a pizzaria on the starboard side – directly in front of that is a bar and shaded seating area and forward of that are two beautiful salt water pools with space for sitting all around. The lounge chairs had shades on them. Forward there was a place to get ice cream (extra charge) and then the gym, saunas, massage etc were all the way forward. Decks 10, 9,8, and part of 7 were passenger decks. Decks 6 and 5 are public decks with lounges and restaurants and shops and reception etc on these decks. With the exception of Caya Levantado we disembarked in each port from deck 5 forward. View of Pools from Deck 11

The itinerary for this cruise was as follows – two days at sea, San Juan Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, Tortola, Caya Levantado (private island), day at sea and back to Port Everglades. We spent a good amount of time in each port – the only one we could have done without was Grenada. Caya Levantado is absolutely beautiful – it is a small island off the coast of the Domican Republic and the seas were gently rolling – the day was beautiful – a great beach day. Since we have been to all these islands a number of times we were familiar with them- in the past we have explored each of them and have places we like to return to – we like to shop and enjoyed each port thoroughly. We always walk into the town – great exercise and usually an easy walk. Each port offered us something different – and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Our weather was exceptional each day except the day we were in Grenada – it rained and we didn't care – we were only off the ship for about 15 minutes anyway. There were a number of excursions offered in each port – we haven't done those for many years so I can't comment on them.

There were three formal nights and the remaining were a combination of informal and casual. The Captain had a welcome aboard party for the first formal night and another party for the last formal night. Not everyone adhered to the dress code – but the majority of passengers did. There were very few children on this cruise – I can't comment on the facilities for them.

We checked in at the dining room immediately after settling into our cabin. We had requested late seating – which we got – and we wanted to request a table for two. The Maitre D' was very gracious in granting our request – we were later told that early seating was full – but late seating was not. Our waiter was Windia – his assistant was Agus – both from Indonesia – our Table Supervisor was Salvatore – and the supervisors and the Maitre D' and his assistants were very visible all the time – the service in the dining room was excellent – leisurely since it was late seating and that suited us very well. There were menu items that you could order each night, there was always a choice of appetizers, soups, a pasta of the day, choices of main courses and desserts. The portions were very nice – not huge – but if you wanted more than one thing or something not on the menu – all you had to do was ask. We rated the food overall as good. My husband had one meal that he had to send back – it was a pot roast and the meat was not acceptable – but other than that we had no problem with choices – we tried things we had never had and we enjoyed MSC's version of dishes we were familiar with. We ate only two meals in the buffet – the welcome aboard lunch and one breakfast – all other meals we ate in the dining rooms. We were assigned the LaBussola dining room for dinner so we ate breakfast and lunch in the Ippocampo dining room. Both rooms are beautiful – and the service was excellent in both. The wait staff was comprised of Indonesians, Italians, Romanians, and some other countries. The Maitre D' and his assistants and most of the table supervisors were all Italian. First seating for dinner was at 5:45pm and second seating was at 8:00 pm. Breakfast in the dinng room was served from 7:00am to 10:00am and lunch from Noon to 2:00 pm. On deck the hours were a little longer – and there was afternoon tea from 4 to 5 pm each day. Continental breakfast was offered in your cabin and there was a small room service menu available 24 hours a day. Much has been written about the food on MSC. Our overall assessment is that the food is good – breakfast was great – lunch very good – dinner was very good – we found the pasta dishes to be somewhat bland – the beef was always prepared to our order and very tender – lobster was excellent – as were the soups. Desserts were good – some great – the baked alaska was some of the best I have ever had. Food is so subjective – I can tell you that you won't go hungry – there is something for everyone.

We found the crew and officers and staff to be exceptionally friendly – always a smile in greeting – the Entertainment Team was exceptional too. We didn't attend all the shows so can't comment on most of them – the Entertainment Team had something going on each night on Deck 6 and they were lots of fun – they were out by the pool during the day – there were food demonstrations, there were Italian language classes, there was dance music for every taste, some Bingo, there was an Art Auction (not well attended), there was a small display of Inch of Gold (very unobtrusively) – the shops on Deck 5 were nice – very low key. Drinks were not “hawked” on deck or in the lounges – if you wanted something all you had to do was ask – but you were not approached time and time again – announcements were kept to a minimum – you were expected to read your daily program to find out what was going on and when. It was very relaxing.

Some additional items – there was a $12/per person tip amount added to your bill each day – you could remove it if you chose to and tip each person yourself – we did the automatic tipping and it seemed most people did this. I did see a number of people giving extra money to their cabin stewardess or steward and some to the waiters – tips are automatically figured into drinks on deck and in the bars. There are wine packages that can be purchased and glasses of wine were reasonable. There is an Internet on board – it was $6.00 for the first 10 minutes and 60 cents a minute after that. If you travel with a laptop, there are prepaid packages you can buy and the ship also has 3 laptops equipped with WI-FI that you can rent. The Library was on the honor system – you could just walk in, take a book and return when finished – there were books in multiple languages.

I know this is long – I tried to cover everything that would have been important to me in a review. Please feel free to contact me at it you have additional questions. We would sail MSC again in a heartbeat – the feel of the ship – the ambience – all of it was just great – taking a longer than 7 day cruise was so nice – Embarkation and Debarkation were a breeze - I tried to learn some basic Italian prior to cruising – that was always received well. All in all it was a perfect vacation for us.

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