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MSC Cruises: MSC Lirica

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Mar 4, 2014

Middle East

Overall we had a great cruise on board the MSC Lirica. She was the smallest boat that we have cruised on during our 12 cruises over the last 7 years, but she had a snug, cosy feeling about her. Food was what you would expect from MSC ... lots of Italian and Mediterranean. Opportunity possibly to expand this into Greek and Spanish?? Ok cabin, nothing special. Limited activities are presented due to size of ship My only

complaint with this cruise was around the excursions. We booked excursions through the MSC website before we left to ensure that we got the ones that we wanted. The booking confirmation stated that we would be charged at check-in and that any cancellation once on board would be subject to a charge of up to 50%. We went on the excursions but were horrified to find on the last night when we received our account that they had been charged at an increased price. No-one on board the boat (Reception, Excursion Manager, Guest Relations Manager) were able to explain why. We had to pay the increased amount in order to settle our account to get off the boat. On our return I emailed MSC Customer Relations on the 14th of January. Got the standard email back from them saying that they would investigate and reply within 28 days. Today is day 49 and still no reply despite repeated emails to them. Just thought that I would post this review to ensure that no-one else gets ripped of by some very questionable practices by MSC that they are not willing to justify. Spoilt by excursion fiasco.

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Jan 3, 2012

Middle east

We went on msc lirica anyone thinking of this don't bother cabins clean so is pool deck and entertainment areas food is absolutely awful and served cold most of the times. Cabin staff very friendly but staff serving tables in food restaurant couldn't be bothered guest relations manager got no manners at all. Sailing date December 25th 2011. Food wouldn't give it to pigs. Served cold most times only cruise I have been on and lost weight.

Stateroom very small with small bathroom but cabin staff very friendly. Ok if you could talk Italian if you,re English don't bother. Dubai Abu dhabi and muscat lovely nothing to see at Kasab watch out for taxi drivers who rip you off in al fujariah.

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Sep 9, 2009

Dover to Genoa

For our first experience of a cruise together, we were very impressed with every aspect, but would particularly like to comment on the superb standard of cleanliness on board ship. The staff were both friendly and efficient. We thought the food was excellent. There was plenty of variety and choice at each mealtime. The buffets and Gala Nights looked spectacular, even though we were too full to even try any, having eaten a 4-course meal for

dinner at 9 o clock. It is amazing just how many people manage to STUFF themselves to the limit. The Stateroom was both pleasant, welcoming and comfortable. We would choose a balcony next time though. The shows were very good, although they did not last that long. We found that on some evenings it was very difficult to find a seat, especially after the second sitting dinner. We did not participate with the activities, but enjoyed watching some of them. We did not experience the excursions offered, but heard they were quite good. Our overall experience was very good and we would not hesitate in recommending an MSC cruise to anyone.

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Jul 9, 2009

Caribbean

The ship was on par with other cruise lines and the staff was friendly. The cabin was good. The food was terrible, most of the time served cold and in small portions. The buffet was the same menu all week long. Everyone was complaining about it. Other than room service, food was not available after 9:00PM for the most part. Shipboard activities were practically non-existent, but the shore excursions were good. There was no TV other than

pay per-view. I would not recommend this cruise to anyone. The rooms were good but the entertainment was poor. Do not take MSC Cruises! The trip included other activities besides the cruise so overall we enjoyed ourselves.

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Apr 25, 2009

Caribbean

Our overall experience was very good except for the excessive smoke in the hallways from the casino, pub and staterooms on our floor. We had looked forward to practicing our Italian and would have loved to be seated with Italian speaking people, but were with French Canadians who were very nice, but didn't speak English comfortably so spoke mostly French. Also, too much smoke in the pool area - the policy of no smoking on one side was not enforced.

We are involved with the Italian centre here so we were prepared for the difference from American cruise ships as we attend dinners at the centre. We loved the food in particular the nice light desserts. Had a window for the first time and loved it. I am spoiled for the inside cabins now. The window makes the room seem much larger. The shower was small but it worked fine. Lots of storage. Very clean. Fruit in the room was a nice touch. The shows were wonderful the singers and dancers the best we have seen. They were a little short, about 40 minutes. I chose to stay away from the magician show which had a python which was apparently brought out into the audience. I was thankful for the warning in the daily activities letter and required reassurance from staff that the snake would not be seen anywhere else on the ship. I fail to understand what that adds to a show. I heard complaints from other passengers about that. The ship had several fairly large dance floors and great music for ballroom dancing and those lounges were completely smoke free so we spent time every evening dancing our kind of dancing. There is also a disco with two dance floors one large and one smaller for the younger crowd that goes late in the night. Lots of latin music also at all lounges. This was the best music and opportunity for dancing we have had on any cruise. We are beach lovers so we checked with the staff to know where we could go to the beach on our own and one was within walking distance from the ship so we spent the day there.$20 for 2 chairs and an umbrella and four drinks (St. Maartins) For the other islands we took beach tours and of course at Cayo Levantado the tenders take you to the beach) We loved the beaches and the tours were interesting on the way to whatever beach we chose. We loved the Lirica in almost all respects, the cleanliness, the staff were cordial, the resturant staff were excellent, the food was great , the entertainment was wonderful. We were disappointed in the excessive smoke in the hallways and we did not get the italian classes that were promised. I would want to know that the clean air policy is more in place before sailing on an MSC ship again ie: non smoking staterooms does not mean 'strongly discouraging' smoking. What smoker cares if it is discouraged? Certainly not the ones on our floor.

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Mar 18, 2009

carriaben

With all the negative reviews I read, I was apprehensive and pleasantly surprised. Check in was quick. No waiting for our luggage - it was in our room. Lots of storage. Food was good a good variety I had no complaints. Pasta, desserts, yummy. Clean lots of storage space. Fresh fruit dailyhouse keeper came in twice a day did a great job. The entertainment staff was great. First time I particapated. The music on deck was good, as well.

The whale excursion was a rip off. I will book the cruise again the price was great. In a nutshell, I had a great time.

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Feb 4, 2005

Deep Western Caribbean

Wow, what a great trip. Everything was wonderful. Very comparable to HAL, Celebrity, RCCL & Princess. Cabin stewards among the best. I can remember every single dinner. What fantastic food! The appetizers, soups & main courses were gourmet. Because they have no "gourmet room" that charges like Holland America, Princess & Royal Caribbean have, I think the food on MSC in the dinner room is better!!! The fish and meat dishes were A+ at

every dinner! And the ports were simply the best - What a fantastic time: Went on a memorable Rainforest "Arial Tram Tour" while in Costa Rica (saw a wild parrot); Went ashore and visited up close the Panama Canal locks; Took a taxi into Colon, Panama; Visited the unique and never to be forgotten San Blas Indians; Toured the old town in Cartagena, Columbia and scaled Dunn River Falls in beautiful Ocho Rios, Jamaica. All quite memorable. Only small negative were the fellow cruisers who kept saying “This isn’t as good as..HAL, RCCL, Princess, etc.” If you look at life and see the cup as half full, then I highly recommend this present Southern Caribbean itinerary on the MSC Lirica.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern/Southern Caribbean

MSC had an offer almost to good to be true! An 11-night cruise on the Lirica over the holidays. Adults, regular price and 3rd or 4th person in cabin "Free"! However, 3rd and 4th were responsible for government and port fees. I had sailed the Lirica in 2005, transatlantic and knew this would be the perfect ship for a family cruise. By the end of July eight Sherf's, ranging in ages from 17 to 79, had booked passage. Then came questions. Enquiring

minds wanted answers as five had never cruised before. "Will I fall off the ship while running on the upper deck?" "Will I get seasick?" "Will my laptop work?" "Has there been norovirus on the Lirica?" On December 18th, we met for a group picture before walking the gangplank to board the Lirica. Four of our group flew from Phoenix, one from Evansville, and the other three drove from St. Petersburg, Florida. We entered the ship through the Grand Foyer. At the foot of the staircase stood a tall fir tree, fully decorated. We wouldn't miss Christmas after all! We were greeted by stewards who escorted us to our cabins. All of us were on deck 9. Our dinner time had been changed from 6:15 to 5:45 so we had to scramble with limited unpacking for a change of clothes. I had checked and rechecked to make sure we were all at the same table but Kimberly fell through the cracks and was placed at the wrong table. She had cruised before and knew whom to ask to be righted. For eleven nights we read eleven different menus. Not once was a dish repeated! And, a comment from "yours truly", the chefs on the Lirica make the best chilled soups afloat! Coffee is ready by 6 am in the Le Pergola area on deck 11. This is a partially open air space. I watched a worker early one morning pushing away rainwater with a squeegee. He then took the same squeegee and wiped the tabletops. How sanitary was that? Breakfast and lunch can be eaten anywhere food is being served. We chose the Le Bistro Buffet every morning because of the variety of foods and the panoramic views from the windows. We learned early in this cruise to let everyone do their own thing so as not to spend time looking for one another. But, because of this excellent buffet our kin joined us. Except Stacey, who slept until noon! The live shows in the Broadway Theatre were A+ productions! Accolades to the cruise director, Frano Pili, for scheduling family-style entertainment! The first port-of-call was St. Marta, Colombia. This is a new cruise port. We could walk from the ship to an un-crowded beach. St. Marta reminded us of Acapulco forty years ago. The next day we sailed into Cartegena, Colombia. The skyline looked like lower Manhattan. A walk in the Old Walled City is not to be missed. Cristabol, Panama was next and to get to an excursion bus, you must walk through a shopping mall. Even if you don't take an excursion this mall is be experienced. Shopping to the beat of live Caribbean music. Christmas carols no less, is some kind of good! On to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. This port has a big flea market off of the pier. I saw many people buying Christmas presents. The next day we sailed to Roatan Island, Honduras. Here we tendered in. When we passed through the gates, everyone was turning right so we followed the crowd. Wrong! We should have turned left and walked through the "high-rent district". We left Roatan at 3pm and sailed around the island. This was when you needed to be on the aft of this ship. The Lirica has fantail decks where the lounge chairs are never stowed. A fabulous place to be for watching, reading, and snoozing! Then on to Grand Cayman, a port not to be missed. Well, missed it was as due to high winds the port was closed. But not to fret...on the upside, the ship sailed from the south of Cuba to the most western tip, then the northern side of the island through the Florida Straights. We ship arrived in Fort Lauderdale early the morning of December 29th and de-boarded while throwing kisses to our family. It was hard to hold the tears back. The only downside of MSC is their ships are registered in Italy so they bank in Italy. If you pay for passage by credit card your bank may charge you a service fee to concert US dollars into Euros. In my humble opinion, if MSC is sailing in the Americas they should bank in the Americas! On the other side of the coin, MSC offers cruising that goes beyond glossy brochures! Our #3 son, Zachary, who burned his candle at both ends; walking the deck at sunrise and discoing in the Blue Club until the wee hours of the morning, summed-up his first cruise experience by saying, "Sleep is for the Weak"! Hear! Hear! The answers to the questions that were asked are; Aaron did not fall off the ship while running, Cary didn't read the instructions on the box of Dramamine and suffered from seasickness, the ship was equipped with Wi-Fi so Kimberly could use her laptop, and to my knowledge no cases of norviris were reported.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern/Southern Caribbean

Embarkation Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale Access road construction is complete at the FLL airport easing traffic congestion. The new construction helps immensely. We routinely fly in, arrive on departure day and make our own arrangements to Port Everglades. A one day rental car is about the same price as a cab ($18). If you’re a group of 4 or more, you’ll need something big enough to hold all the bags and it will cost more. A couple can

get the smallest, cheapest car. So, arrive early, enjoy a day in Fort Lauderdale and return the rental car. Enterprise (off airport on Andrews Drive) will pick you up at the airport and take you to the terminal about 4 miles away when you’re ready to board. Enterprise has the best customer service lately of any of the rental companies – at least in Fort Lauderdale. I booked an economy car for $17.99 and got a PT Cruiser for that price – perfect for our four bags and one carry on. It’s gotten very competitive in the rental car business and they want your business and they want to keep it. Take advantage. River Walk is a nice place to hang out with several open air restaurants. Consider Los Olas Boulevard; numerous good restaurants and shops. We also plan on boarding the ship about 2 or 3 hours after the posted boarding time – 1300 hours. We walked on with ease and no wait about 1500 hours. The ship leaves at 2000 hours on this itinerary. This has turned out best for us – no crowds or impatient children (or adults). Baggage handlers at Port Everglades are union Long Shoremen. There’s a sign that says handlers are salaried. No tipping is necessary. Depending on the time of day and who wants to work, there may be two guys there or maybe four. You get the point. MSC has nothing to do with this rather inefficient state of affairs. The baggage handlers have a list with your name in alphabetical order so you can find your cabin number and obtain and complete your baggage tickets. Our tickets were purchased through an on-line agent and we were told to pick up the tickets and baggage tags at the terminal. As in most other lines, we could not complete our pre-boarding documents on-line. MSC has a web site but it’s very basic. Once in the terminal, check in was a breeze. This is also done by contract, not MSC employees – the usual Fort Lauderdale greeters seem to be getting much nicer. We’ve mentioned on post cruise critiques they can be unpleasant. Maybe those unpleasant ones are gone as a result of comments. Once on the ship, greeting and escort to your cabin was very good. The Lirica Lirica is a medium sized ship that accommodates 2200 passengers. I personally like smaller ships so this one was good for me. It was built in 2003. There’s nothing sweeping or impressive on this ship like there is on some of the mega ships but it is elegant, tastefully decorated in subdued colors and very well laid out. Public areas handled the less than capacity crowd nicely. It is the cleanest, best serviced ship we have been on since a Celebrity Mercury cruise in 1997. We’ve also sailed on Celebrity Millennium, Constellation, Century and Horizon, RCL Explorer, Grandeur and Carnival Inspiration – 9 cruises in all. I would rank this ship near or at the top of those I’ve experienced in terms of its feel and cleanliness. The other thing I liked is that it was clear that section staff (pool, bar, deck, dinning area) were all very well supervised by officers and petty officers. This has not been the case previously – especially Carnival. In reviews on Lirica I have read in the past, some negative comments were made about the aloofness of the all Italian crew. These reviewers had a totally different experience than we did or the Captain has changed. In any event this was a top notch, professional, service oriented friendly crew. It’s been our experience that the ships company and their conduct matches the character of the Captain. We didn’t see a lot of him and he was nice but not gregarious at the welcome aboard party. There’s no question though that he runs a quality guest and engineering operation. While the officers and principal hotel staff are Italian, Indonesia, Madagascar, Greece and the Balkan states are all represented. Small Casino. We don’t gamble. Lots of nice bars, a coffee/pastry bar and three very nicely set up outside pool side bars/seating areas that are protected from the wind. Few shops but completely adequate for us. In the Caribbean, the passenger mix is about 60% American and 40% European – it’s the other way around, I’m told, when the ship sails the Mediterranean. Average passenger age was probably mid to late 40’s. Very few kids mostly because of the time of the year. Cannot speak for the children’s programs but this line caters more to adults than to families with young children. I’d say the majority of the US passengers were from Florida in the form of former New Yorkers. We did meet couples from Nebraska and Washington State. A few Canadians – North American/English speaking guests seemed to stick together but we had a few conversations with Europeans who spoke very good English – there was no anti-American bias that I could detect. Hey, this is a cruise vacation. You’re supposed to have fun, not talk politics. Cabins We routinely book inside, guaranteed cabins. The price is right. We spend little time in our cabin. Those who prefer to do so would find our choice a poor one. Lirica has just a few balcony/suite cabins and many more inside and outside cabins. Apparently, Europeans tend to be more frugal and don’t splurge on accommodations and this ship was built for the European market. Lirica’s inside cabins are of a similar size and lay-out of other ships. The shower was a little small but we are small so this is not a problem. Large folks will find the shower too small. Storage in the main part of the cabin and the head area were fine. We had plenty of room for 11 days worth of clothes but we’re also smart packers after 9 cruises. There’s a min-bar and bottled water. We don’t use them. Potable water, fruit and ice as requested. Very attentive cabin staff. We had one small complaint. It was rectified immediately. Our experience has been, if there’s a problem, tell the cabin staff first and give them a chance to fix it before calling someone else and complaining. Works every time and these hard working people appreciate it. When a complaint reaches the ears of supervisory staff, the repercussions for the worker bees can be harsh. Avoid precipitating these kind of unpleasantries unless absolutely necessary. Be patient. You put on your pants one leg at a time just like most other folks. Food/Beverage Service Previous comments I read on Lirica’s food were mostly negative. I also heard a lot of negative comments from passengers on this cruise. I found the food to be very good. I think people’s expectation can be unrealistically high aboard mid-priced lines. If you want Five Star cuisine, pay the bucks for Crystal, Silversea or SeaDream. Otherwise enjoy the fine job most other lines do with 2000 or more plates per night. The dinning room service was not as elegant as I have seen it on Celebrity, for example, but it was top notch. Food prep and presentation was good. MSC offers a very reasonably priced wine package and also serves “jug” wine in a carafe for $8 (about 5 small glasses). There are no specialty restaurants. A feature we’ve enjoyed on Celebrity. Buffet food was good as well. Breakfast omelet/eggs/pancake bar – the pancakes were great. There was a hamburger, hot dog, chicken line and pizza line on deck just outside the aft buffet area. These were not always open but I didn’t notice a time when there was not some kind of food available. Water, tea (iced or hot), coffee always available. The buffet and inside/outside dinning areas were immaculate; tables cleared immediately, no trash, left over food on the deck or plates/empty glasses around at all. Very nicely done. Excellent sanitation and infection control awareness – probably some of the best I’ve seen. Both outside and inside seating is available. One thing I appreciated at the evening meal was that there were several options for food combinations. You could always get salmon, steak or chicken if nothing appealed to you on the main menu for that evening. There was also an “international” selection that was always interesting. The main menu was 5 courses including a pasta course and desert. The menu was unique and well thought out. I don’t think the “complainers” understood the varied nature of the menu if you looked at it closely. No one should not have found something to like. There was a daily drink special for $5, domestic beer was $3, imported more – excellent and varied beer selection. Sodas were $2.50. Well drinks were $6, call brands $7. I paid $9.25 for a Gray Goose martini - once. As with other lines, as cabin prices come down, beverage prices rise. Our first cruise in ’97 had gin and tonics for $4.50 and Martinis for $6 – no more. By the way, we bring our own gin and tonic these days, prepare and drink them inconspicuously. Entertainment Varied and mostly good. Nice theater with excellent sight lines. Seats do not have cocktail tables or drink holders. The shows were not terribly imaginative or well choreographed but thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable. Multitude of late night discos with DJs or live bands – we don’t stay up late so can’t comment. There was also a central area where ball room dancers danced to a two man group of singer/musicians. Small dance area but some of the dancers were darn right good. Several late evening deck theme parties - subdued and nicely done. Plenty of day time fun and games but not intrusive as with some lines. Bingo, bridge, art auctions, Italian lessons and more of the usual day time fare. Plenty to do. MSC also features this particular cruise as a big band and baseball special. I’m not a baseball fan but those that were had positive comments about the well known players that were on this cruise and had baseball seminars on hitting, pitching and coaching. Same with the big band performances which we did not attend. Itinerary Besides the excellent price and value, the itinerary was outstanding and was a big reason for choosing MSC – our first time. The cruise took us to several ports we’d not seen in the Caribbean (Tortolla, Granada, Antigua). These were all nice, low key ports. We are not fond of St. Thomas or the Grand Caymans and this cruise didn’t go there. Other ports were San Juan, St. Marteen, Barbados and the MSC Island of Cayo Leventado off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Lirica tenders at only one port of call on this itinerary which is the island, Cayo Leventado. The tendering was the best organized and well run operation of this type that I’ve seen outside of Celebrity. We don’t book tours instead choosing to use cabs if we want a tour. I usually do some research about the island pre-cruise and use it to plan what we want to do. We also don’t stray too far from the ship, eat a lot of local food (except fresh fish when the restaurant is willing to show it to me before it’s cooked) or go down dark alleys. St. Marteen has become a very well developed cruise port. On this itinerary it had the best shopping values. We also liked San Juan. We’ve been there before but the port time was cut short. We walked old San Juan on our own this time after picking up a map from the local tourist bureau just to the left of the pier. You cannot enjoy Old San Juan in a van. If you’re in decent shape, you can reach all the nearby sights and forts on foot in 4 hours. Final Comments/Impressions Great value. This was the least expensive per day itinerary I found this cruise season (under $85 per day, per person – almost unheard of these days). The itinerary was unique – something important to us since we love the Caribbean but have been to all the usual ports at least twice. Late April is an excellent time to cruise if you want good prices and no screaming kids. The weather is almost perfect this time of year in the Caribbean as well. My wife and I like to exercise together and the gym is not run by Steiner but rather another European contractor whose name is Freddy. We’ve finally realized we’re going to have to pay for classes if we want them. Unlike Steiner, this spa manager was willing to package 36 classes at a very reasonable cost. We were basically it in the classes and had what amounted to a personal trainer for 10 days doing aerobics and something called Strepel (sort of like Pilates except men can do it!). I lost 6 pounds and an inch on my waist line. My wife lost 8 pounds and we ate just about everything we wanted within reason. We’d return based on the fitness center experience alone but there’s plenty more to rave about. If you want clean, neat and tidy, MSC is the line for you. If you want a mega-ship with ice skating and rock climbing along with Five Star cuisine and Las Vegas style shows, its not. You also can’t be upset that the announcements – the few that there are - start in Italian and gradually make their way to English. I liked the European flavor of the crowd and orientation of the ship– it was different and a nice change of pace. I would return to this line and this ship based on our experience.

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Nov 30, -0001

NOT FOUND

We chose the Lirica based on three criteria: ports of call, particularly the Panama Canal, price, and our available dates. The Western Caribbean itinerary out of Ft Lauderdale consisted of stops at Ocho Rios, Cartagena, San Blas, Cristobal, Puerto Limon and Roatan. Tours included the Panama Canal by boat, the zip line canopy tour high above the jungle in Costa Rica, and the Cartagena city tour. We’ve been on perhaps ten cruises, so we have some

idea what we can expect. We had read the reviews on this ship prior to signing on, so we were aware of the shortcomings others felt characterized the Lirica. We talked with many fellow passengers and were able to get their reactions and opinions as well. Following is a summary of what we found: General This ship has truly an international clientele. Some may find this unfamiliar and disconcerting; we were pleased to meet so many people from various countries. It is not a typical American cruise. The entertainment is – well, odd. The shows are distinctively European, and of necessity more visual than auditory, since whatever is said is repeated in five languages. Think a watered down Cirque de Soleil. Not much in the way of stage setting – mostly smoke and lights. There is a group of roving people called The Entertainers. We dubbed them the Nitwits. Their humor consists mainly of stuffing their shirt fronts with balloons and wearing wigs, rubbing against female passengers, and other third grade humor. Enough said. The shows are surprisingly short. First and second seating are at odd times, so that the usual procedure of flip-flopping the nightly shows doesn’t work. The second show follows the second seating. If you retire fairly early, you’ll need the first seating, if you want to see the entertainment. First seating is an early 5:45. Our fellow passengers were surprisingly old, perhaps due to the length of the cruise (over seven days). There were only a handful of children and young couples. There were few single people onboard. Because the Lirica encourages a predetermined gratuity rate (12%), the staff do not overly ingratiate themselves. This is a very refreshing change. You can always tell accounting you’ll do it yourself, if you don’t agree with the rate or you want to recognize service individually. We did, and it’s a hassle-free procedure. Positive The Western Caribbean itinerary was outstanding. The ports listed above are not the usual Caribbean stops, except perhaps for Ocho Rios. Each location was unique. The tours we took were well worth the time and money. No one should miss the Panama Canal. The zip line (Crazy Monkey Canopy Tour) was exciting and everything we hoped it would be. We observed a variety of jungle life from high atop the canopy, including sloths, a viper, and toucans. The ride itself was exhilarating. The city tour in Cartagena was well-run, interesting and informative. The ship was the cleanest we’ve ever sailed on. There wasn’t even a water mark on the silverware. The Lirica makes every effort to eliminate the possibility of contamination, including sanitizing hand dispensers at the head of every buffet line and prominent signs telling the passengers not to bring used plates or glasses back for refills, but to get new tableware. Food is well protected behind glass or covered trays. Cleaning and polishing is ongoing. Our balcony suite was spacious and well laid out. We had plenty of room for everything, with many closets and shelves. The bath was large for a ship’s cabin. The Lirica disdains unnecessary announcements, a real plus. That even included disembarkation procedures. We’ve grown to hate those incessant blathering on many ships. We can read the program. The cabin steward was attentive and unobtrusive. He kept things in tip-top shape, including a supply of ice and fresh fruit at all times. He didn’t torture napkins into weird shapes, thank God. The wait staff in the dining room was attentive and professional. Past reviews indicated there were complaints of indifferent service and advances towards female passengers in the past. The Lirica seems to have cured this problem by hiring a more international staff. Embarkation and disembarkation were the smoothest we’ve experienced. Luggage handling is painless. When boarding, each group is met with a white-gloved staff member and escorted to their cabin, a very nice touch. Negative Most passengers felt the food was below gourmet level, and that seems true when it comes to meats and desserts. The Italian dishes were very good. For instance, spaghetti Bolognese was an option every night and delicious, probably the best we’ve ever had. The pizza station served tasty varieties at pretty much all hours. The meats seemed well below choice cuts – tough and fatty. The desserts are not very tasty or imaginative – more European than American - and we never found something rich like chocolate cake or cookies. Every dessert seemed full of air. One oddity - there is no free ice cream. Some passengers felt the menu was very limited. The suite balconies become small lakes a good part of the time. That’s because the decks are canted inward towards the stateroom, and water puddles there, sometimes so high the level is above the shoe sole. If the Lirica ever goes very north, suite passengers will have their own mini-ice skating rinks. When the balconies were washed, the accumulated water was soapy. We are not shoppers, but other passengers uniformly felt the shopping lectures vague, overly long, and uninformative. The tour desk was manned surprisingly little of the time, and the personnel at that desk did not appear overly concerned or helpful. They were not very familiar with the actual tours, and as a result were of little help. Perhaps this is because we understand this was only the second time the Lirica visited these ports. Two examples: no one knew whether women should take purses for the zip line tour (yes, they could leave them on the bus) and the ship sold water for the Panama Canal tour when there was plenty available free on the boat. If you are looking to rest and relax on deck, near the pool, you will have a hard time as there is incessant “entertainment” spewing from the microphone, whether athletics, quizzes, or games. The MSC literature concerning ship’s dress is misleading. Everyone brought way too many dressy clothes. There are only three nights requiring coats and ties, and the other evenings are informal, despite the literature calling for coats and ties almost every night. In the casino, the two blackjack tables were invariable full, yet a third was not manned. The Lirica scheduled a formal dinner night on the evening of the Panama Canal tours. This was madness. Everyone got back barely in time for dinner, or later, and the formal evening would have been a better bet on a day at sea. When we pointed this out, we were told “that’s the way they always do it.” The chaise lounges are fiendishly poor in design, with only one awkward reclining position. You’ll see. Tips Deck six is the wide promenade deck. Strangely, there are no deck chairs anywhere, and it’s the only deck. The chaise lounges are found by the pool on deck 11, on the track on deck 12, and on the fantails. The fantails are the ship’s secret. They run from deck six all the way up to deck 12. Most people don’t even know they are there. You should check them out. Don’t bring more than three dress outfits. Find out about the tours in advance, even if you have to e-mail or call the tour operators. The ship is virtually no help. If you take a similar itinerary, the bus ride to the Panama Canal is long and there is a considerable wait to embark on the tour boat. For many passengers, especially the elderly, the lack of rest rooms until they had boarded the boat – which was very crowded – was very uncomfortable. Summary The Lirica is a well-appointed, clean and tasteful ship. For the most part, it is well-run and well worth the cost. If, as others have said, you are looking for strictly American-type cruising, the Lirica may not the vessel for you. The negatives noted above can be easily remedied by MSC, for the most part, and I hope they do because there is much to recommend the Lirica. We were very pleased with the cruise and would repeat with MSC, depending on the itinerary.

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By Lou _CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Caribbean and West Indies

I am writing this review mostly for people that have not cruised on the MSC Lirica or with MSC cruise line to supply insight from seasoned cruisers. Over the past 22 years my wife Margaret and I have sailed on 14 cruises on the Princess, NCL, RCCL, Carnival, and Commodore cruise lines… Our cruise departed from Ft. Lauderdale on 12-04-07 and returned 12-14-07 and we will start by reviewing the check in process or lack there of… We arrived for

check in fairly early at about 12 noon as the MSC office had told us that was a proper time to arrive. The previous cruisers were still in the process of leaving the ship and there was much confusion on what to do with the arriving passengers and their luggage, it took some time to find anyone that knew what to do with our luggage but we finely did find a porter. We went into the area designated for arriving passengers and were given a number 3 and then lead to the ‘holding’ area were we sat or a long time but we did meet some very interesting people from Philadelphia.. Finely after what seemed an eternity (probable more like 1 ½ hours) were let into the check in area were there were like 14 lines and you just picked any line... As can be expected some lines move faster then other, it appeared that a lot of the computers the check-in personal were using either did not work or the personnel were very unfamiliar with them. After some time in line we reached the check in lady and this went fairly well as we had pre-registered and that appeared to have helped a lot... Several people had trouble with there check-in due to lack of all required travel documents, or a credit card or lack of a passport. The cruise line requires you to have a credit card on file or a cash deposit as they list this as cashless cruising, upon check in you are given a passenger card to use for all purchase onboard and to ID you upon leaving the ship or returning to the ship during your trip. The cruise line will also deduct granitites at $12 per passenger per day to your listed credit card (more on this later). We were then allowed to board the ship. At the entrance to the gangway were the ever present ship’s photographers (more on them later)… Upon arrival aboard the Lirica were meet by head steward that handed us off to a white gloved steward who took us via elevator to our cabin which is a Veranda suite cabin number 10071. The suit was very large and comfortable with a queen bed, fold out couch, chair, small but very adequate walk in closet, drawer space, bathroom with tub and shower, and very nice veranda >>> NOTE: there is NO smoking on any verandas on the MSC Lirica and also smoking is discouraged in the cabins – there are like 8 to 10 places on the ship one can smoke and that is all.. This ship has truly an international clientele. Our table mates were from Sweden and a very nice couple and we were pleased to meet so many people from various countries. It is not a typical American cruise. All of the announcements are given in 5 languages and on cruises to the Caribbean English is given 1st. The passengers on our cruise were surprisingly old, perhaps due to the length of the cruise (over seven days). There were only a handful of children and young couples. There were few single people onboard. Because the Lirica uses a predetermined gratuity rate (12%), the staff does not try to win somebody's favor by pleasing him or her, especially in order to gain an advantage. We believe this makes the service way below what it use to be and we do not like it at all – plane and simple put service suffers a LOT because of this policy. BUT it is used by almost all the cruise lines now... I have asked the staff if they ever get the tips we supply this way and have received many different responses but most staff say yes in a divided way with the management getting the majority of the money and the working staff getting very little. You can always tell accounting you’ll do it yourself, if you don’t agree with the rate or you want to recognize service individually. Our cabin steward was the best staff member we meet on the cruise, always there when you needed him and the room was always made up and immaculate. He kept things in tip-top shape, including a supply of ice and fresh fruit at all times. The waiters and waitresses in the dining room were way below standard especially on the 1st night but after we talked to the maitre d’ things got somewhat better. They only have one waiter and NO bus boy for about 6 tables and the staff always seems behind, our water did tell us that the kitchen was under staffed and that made the wait staff always behind… Most passengers felt the food was below quality level, and that is very true when it comes to meats and desserts. The one night we had lobster it was beyond dry and there was no drawn butter served with it, it was very bad. The Italian dishes were good. The desserts are not very tasty or imaginative one oddity - there is no free ice cream. The menu was very limited. I am a shopper but my wife is not and there are very few shops on the Lirica maybe 4 or 5 and that included a shop dedicated to cameras, computers, and all things electrical and that shop was way way over priced. The liquor shop is GREAT and has GREAT bargains, the Emeralds International shops was also great and had a wonderful staff and many bargains although you had to look for the bargains which are in watches and NOT jewelry.. The cloths shop had very few t-shirts and very very few items with the ships logo this shop was very limited... The perfume shop was also over priced… The personnel from the photo shop are very nice and very professional and take very nice photos but most passengers thought the photos were very over priced… The tour desk was manned surprisingly little of the time, and the personnel at that desk did not appear overly concerned or helpful. They were not very familiar with the actual tours, and as a result were of little help. Find out about the tours in advance. If you are looking to rest and relax on deck, near the pool, you will have a very very hard time as there is continuing “entertainment” spewing from the microphone, whether athletics, quizzes, or games and there are deck chair everywhere and none to spare. The MSC information concerning ship’s dress is somewhat misleading. Everyone brought way too many dressy clothes. There are only three nights requiring coats and ties, and the other evenings are informal, despite the literature calling for coats and ties almost every night. In the casino, the two blackjack tables were invariable full, yet a third was not manned the also had two roulette tables although we only saw one ever in use, and there was a craps table. The personnel are nice and very helpful. When we 1st. came on there one penny slot and 3 nickel slots although one was out of order the entire cruise, after a day or two there did convert 4 quarter slots to nickels.. My wife was lucky enough to leave the ship a winner and this is most unusual on any cruise line. The entertainment was not to our liking so we did not attend any shows on board but our fellow passengers told us that the entertainment was not very good. First and second seating are at odd times, so that the usual procedure of flip-flopping the nightly shows doesn’t work. The second show follows the second seating. If you retire fairly early, you’ll need the first seating, if you want to see the entertainment. First seating is an early 5:45. The itinerary listed was great but due to bad weather we were cut short on our stay in Roadtown (Tortola) and had to skip Cayo Levantado (Samanà - D.R.) And replace that with Nassau Bermuda. Also this ship appeared to ride very ruff through out the cruise and I do believe it is because the Captain did not deploy the stabilizers probable to save money on fuel. Tips Deck six is the wide promenade deck. Strangely, there are no deck chairs anywhere, and it’s the only deck this is also one place smokers can go. The chaise lounges are found by the pool on deck 11, on the track on deck 12, and on the fantails. The fantails are the ship’s secret. They run from deck six all the way up to deck 12. Most people don’t even know they are there. Don’t bring more than three dress outfits. Cokes are $2.50 each but you can buy a coke card that gives you a small discount. Mixed drinks also know as bar prices are a little odd. Crown Royal is $3.90 unless you have it with water then its $4.60 because it’s a "cocktail". Summery In conclusion, this ship definitely did not live up to our most conservative expectations. Our expectations were based upon the literature that MSC Lines distributed as well as our previous cruising experience. All in all we had a good time, however, there was nothing that made us feel we wanted to return. As our travel agent said ‘you get what you pay for’ BUT with MSC you really do not.

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Nov 30, -0001

Caribbean

SUPERB experience!!!!! We came very, very close to canceling our cruise after reading some scary reviews. One reviewer even (falsely) claimed the Chinese staff was so miserable that a staffer jumped overboard. That's a vicious lie, as we learned there isn't a single Asian employed on the Lirica ... not to mention that nothing corroborates the claim. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip. The service was exceptional, the ship was pristine, the food was

excellent, and the schedule was impeccably coordinated. Every meal (including the 11:15 pm buffets/snacks) was executed EXACTLY on time, with great flourish and absolutely delicious! Outstanding! The leg of lamb was among the best, most tender I've ever had. The children's menu included a "lamb cutlet", which turned out to be two lovely lamb CHOPS that were phenominal! The chilled soups were excellent. There was an abundance of fresh fruit, which unfortunately this time of year (December) was sometimes "prettier" than it tasted. All in all that would be the only food criticism we have ... and that is beyond MSC's control. We definitely preferred to dine at La Bussola for breakfast and lunch, as opposed to The Bistrot (buffet), but both were fine. The pizza is superb --- and the gelato is addictive! The service of our particular waiter (Panji), w/assitant waiter (Bongaya) and Assistant Maitre D (Romualdo) were particularly superb. At breakfast, Panji would come over from his other duties and tend to whatever we needed --- such as water, extra lemon/creamers, or taking our orders. For this reason alone, we would book again on the Lirica rather than even consider another ship. Why mess with perfection? Quite adequate. We had two interior staterooms with a total of 7 people: three adults, one teenager and three small children. The bathrooms were sufficient, although be prepared that the showers are quite small. Not really something that MSC could remedy. We read that you had to stand with one foot in the bathroom just to fit in the shower, which was largely a big exaggeration. In truth, the shower itself (although small) was sufficient --- especially if you could strategically tack some water shoes to hold the shower curtain at the perimeter so it didn't blow in on you. The grab bar, while necessary, was a bit of a nuisance. The removable showerhead was a HUGE plus when bathing children. Plenty of storage. We had ample room to store our clothes and luggage, with the better part of space under both beds empty and available for more stuff! Our cleaning crew, as apparently for the entire ship, were from Madagascar. Each spoke sufficient English to understand our needs and did an impeccable job of tending to us. Entertaining. We had a total of 23 family members onboard the Lirica, ranging in age from 2 years to 75 years. The shows in the Broadway Theatre were stunning, although sometimes not appropriate for smaller children. Sadly, a number of other patrons chose to leave their children in the Children's Program (which we never used by our own personal choice to enjoy every aspect of our vacation with our children). We will say that the children's program staff appeared to be quite competent and thoroughly enjoying their interaction with the children. The Entertainment Team was delightful and interacted well with each other and the patrons. One patron requested and was given permission to teach line dancing poolside and we watched as the Entertainment Team cajoled other patrons to join in the activity, as well as particating themselves. The nightly dancing lessons were a blast. The activities in the Lirica Lounge (10:00 pm+) were definitely geared towards adults and not appropriate for children, although that should be a given. There were a number of games and activities onboard, such as painting t-shirts, trivia quizzes, etc. Very entertaining! We have small children, so we did not participate in any planned excursions. However, some of our family took the catamaran/snorkeling excursion in Cayo Levantado and really enjoyed that. We had a DELIGHTFUL experience. The ship was pristine. We personally observed them touching up paint on the walls, scrubbing the pool decks every night, polishing the brass on the stairs every time we took them. Our ports of call were Key West, Florida; Cozumel, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cayo Levantado, Domincan Republic. We hadn't planned on getting off at Key West, having resided in Florida for many years, but the weather was gorgeous and it was a nice bus ride in. Some of the shops down the main street (Duval) sold inappropriate items, so parents with children may want to avoid that. Cozumel was nice --- but the taxi drivers gouged my brother on the return trip from the beach: $14 out and $50 back for two adults and two small children. Grand Cayman had a lovely beach, with calm waters at Seven Mile Beach and soft, white sand. Everything was quite expensive ... and we paid $70 round-trip to get to/from the beach (7 people). That included a side-trip to the most-expensive children's store (!) on the Caribbean to buy a stroller we had neglected to pack. Cayo Levantado was the MOST LOVELEY island I have ever been to. It is a private resort island, not visited by the other ships (which docked across the bay on the mainland). The island was the cleanest, most pristine, most untouched --- although the water was rough and the sand quite shelly. It rained off and on during our day on Cayo, but the tree cover was so thick that we were able to stay dry for the spurts of rain. The tender drivers are highly-skilled and did an extremely good job of getting everyone to/from the ship.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal / Western Caribbean

We sailed the MSC Lirica (Mediterranean Shipping Cruises) for their 11 night Deep Caribbean on March 31st and absolutely loved it ! (My husband Dennis and I....our two teenagers---one boy 16, one girl 15) We had heard rather "mixy" reviews..............some not so good..........and then heard that new President Richard Sasso had made sweeping changes and had helped the line to understand the American market a bit more. (Sasso was President of

Celebrity Cruises for many years----and was also onboard our sailing.) With the lackluster reports I had heard, was certainly somewhat hesitant to sail but decided to try it. We had the best time ! Embarcation..........A BREEZE. Wow........never have I ever gotten thru Embarcation so quickly. I don't think we have gotten thru as quickly even when we had priority Embarcation. Boarding the ship............Wonderful ! Friendly ! Staff lined up and escorted us to our Stateroom. Our rooms were ready and our luggage arrived shortly. They were really "on it". Ship................Gorgeous ! Really lovely. Really the right balance of elegant and modern. Stateroom--------We were Mid-Ship on Deck 9 in Oceanview Staterooms. Nice. Clean. Crisp and Fresh Decorating. Beautiful, colorful artwork on the walls that I loved looking at the entire cruise. Small but efficient bathroom. TEENY shower, however. I took my shower things with me to the spa a couple of times so I could stand in a regular sized shower. Food.............we thought it was great ! Service was just wonderful always. They made THE BEST CHEESECAKE...........ohmigoodness. Fantastic. Only thing they were disasterous at..(we thought)........their Lobster ! Unbelievably bad. (Funny how some of these lines have an item or two that really throws them.) We loved our Table Stewards. We just fall in love with those people ! We were there every single night of the 11 night cruise for our 7 course meal. They had a wonderful late afternoon Tea time buffet every day that we made in their Lido that we loved. Also-----------oh their Pizza !!!!!! Amazing ! Its been two weeks since our cruise and I am still dreaming about that wonderful pizza they served in their outdoor pizza grill area. Absolutely delicious. They would also have FRESH and wonderful pasta made right before your eyes every afternoon...........every day a new recipe. Always worth stopping by for a bite. Not sure if Richard Sasso changed anything about the food but it got rave reviews from all the people we talked to. Formal nights.............only asked that men wore suits..........not Tuxedos............and EVERYONE wore them. Far better percentage of people who followed the dress guidelines. They also do a nice job with Birthdays and Wedding Anniversaries. They blast the Birthday song or the Wedding March over the loudspeaker........everyone sings and claps............its very festive. Music............oh at last ! Just the right mix of piped in music. Lots of Mo-Town, Burt Bacharach..........things that had broad appeal for 30, 40, 50, 60. Whoever was picking the tunes did a great job. They also had a nice mix of Italian Opera that I really loved and found so appropriate on this ship. Entertainment......FUN ! Sophisicated ! They had both ! We went to an excellent violin and piano concert one evening that was fantastic. They also had the BEST pool games and audience interaction on stage during some of the evening shows. They had a couple of excellent lectures on Astronomy and then had Star Gazing on deck later that night at 10 pm. They did this a couple of times during the 11 nights to catch different night skys. (What a great idea...........our first for seeing this on the program.) We also had Italian Language lessons !! We went to three lessons and just loved that. Also..............their Arts and Crafts were terrific. We only caught the last one...............we painted a T-shirt with these really great scans (so you ended up with something you were truly proud of) and everyone there said that they had all been great. (Some ships offer classes but they are not great crafts. Good area for them to really step this up to a much more sophisicated level.) They also offered gatherings several times for Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis...................I haven't ever seen this on other lines. What a great idea and a huge group to make happy. Teen Program...........a bust. I understand the little kids program was very good but with Teens and Pre-Teens........you need to meet them at the gangway with the program for the week and nab them from the beginning. Trying to add things two days into it simply doesn't work. This was a big disappointment as all lines we have sailed have really had great programs. Luckily....our kids connected on their own. From our standpoint, however--with two teenagers--we didn't know where they were and what they were doing. When their is a kid program...you know there is some cruise line involvement. The Spa.................WONDERFUL wonderful wonderful Turkish Spa ! Spectacular. Large steam room with beautiful tile. No charge for Caribbean sailings...........$10 or $12 per visit for Mediterranean sailings. I was there every day and loved it. Beautiful workout room with vistas of the horizon with huge windows. Certainly takes the edge off of exercise when you have views like this. Itinerary............great. Particularly loved their Private Island. Just the best ! Really the most perfect island I have ever been to. They are also building a hotel there, I believe. Yes.......its different ! It almost felt like we went to Europe instead of the Caribbean. There were only about 20% Americans onboard. Our two teenagers mixed and mingled with teens from Belgium, France, Italy, Spain.........it was really a great experience for them. One thing we really noticed......................NO ONE was complaining about anything ! Now.....of course, I couldn't understand a lot of people...........but we didn't hear a single whiner onboard among the English speaking. It was so wonderful to take a cruise and not have to listen to that ! It really made all the difference in our own cruise experience. In conclusion, I really urge everyone to take a GOOD look at this cruise line ! It fits the perfect bill for the Celebrity range customer..............someone who want something nice and sophisicated (but its also "fun" and lighthearted) but cannot spend the Seabourn/Crystal/Silversea price. We would love to sail MSC in the Med ! What a great way to experience the Mediterranean from the people who have a ton of ships there ! (Tremendous schedule). They also do the Baltics and Norwegian Fjords that I would love to sell. They have the new Melody coming out in July that sounds wonderful.

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By Al _CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

• The ship was very nice and very clean • The staff was pretty good, sometimes excellent, our waiter (Agung), helper (Budy) and supervisor (Ivan) were excellent. • The animation team worked hard on the decks during the day. • Bingo was kind of a rip-off. The ship was keeping too much of the proceeds. • The cabins were small. • The showers even smaller....there wasn't a chance in the world that some of the people I saw could even fit

in it and close the curtain. • The food was OK...the spaghetti was very good as well as the steaks…the pizza was OK • The evening shows were adequate at best, definitely the worst entertainment ever • All the restaurants close at 8:30, couldn't even get anything to drink except coffee, tea or water. • They did have a buffet at 11:30PM....but it was limited...one night dessert only...another time they had some rice with stuff in it.... • No free ice cream, except at dinner... • The drinks are expensive $6.50 each • They had no new slot machines....but it was possible to hit on them.....we played most every night and ended up about even. • There were also a lot of Europeans...most of whom I found rude (German and French in particular).....most announcement were made in at least 4 languages..... • The itinerary was excellent….great port selection. • Port arrivals were on time • Embarking and Disembarking went smoothly. • The tour selection modest at best, although pricing and quality was good. • The Bob Marley tour was excellent (Jamaica) • The jungle canopy tour was excellent (Costa Rico) • The glass bottom boat ride was good (Rotan Island, Honduras) • The city bus tour was good (Columbia). Although, the vendors were a pain in the backside, we had one vendor follows us from stop to stop. A necklace he was selling for $10 each at the first stop we ended up getting but….we got 7 for $10. • In Panama we hired a driver once we got of the ship, there is a quality tour company at the dock. We went to the locks, thru the old American zone then drove across the country to Panama City and back for $50/person (with a three person min). • The San Blas tour was good, you got to visit the Kuna Indian village, their Mulas (?), were very nice. However, the wanted a $1/person if you wanted to take a picture with them. • In all of the ports beware….do not buy anything at the asking price…with some bargaining you can get items for 50% or even less…but you must dicker. • The staff tried their best to be everything for everyone despite the different nationalities, thus they came off being mediocre to all, and they should either be an American or Italian. • All in all we had a good time....however, there was nothing that made us feel we wanted to return....we would though if the itinerary or price was good/excellent.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

I love cruising, and as my wife has limited mobility, it is the one holiday we collectively enjoy. We were more or less convinced into taking our MSC cruise by a travel agent who promised a '7th heaven' because the new boss is Rick Sasso, the wonder kid of Celebrity. Well Rick, take it from us, you haven't killed your chicken yet. MSC has beautiful looking ships, designed by an architect who seems to think that Americans like cruising

on ferries. Whoever coordinated and designed the colors is a splendid artist, but whoever dreamed up the ridiculous spaces for corridors and cabins has never cruises. MSC apparently has little ferries somewhere in Europe, and they must think that people who cruise take an overnight bag and a T shirt. Furniture in our cabin on Deck No 8 was good quality, but nothing fits. We had to put our chair in the corridor just to get space in front of the mirror. The TV works sometimes, but not always, and there is just nowhere for luggage. Our gracious little cabin junior put it somewhere for us outside the cabin, but honestly, MSC, if you are going to win in the USA market, get a new architect or do something about storage space. On the plus side, and after having cruised on most of the big companies (but not the high-end market), I have to say I have never seen a cleaner ship, at least not in the public areas. Those poor polishers work day and night but the ship is gleaming. On the down side is the service, mainly in the food area. The food is average, a bit like the older Carnival ships, and we didn't have a single meal that you could say was upper end. The Buffet is repetitive and the coffee they give is just bad (except the cappuccino you have to buy at a good value price). There isn't much Italian about the menu, and its certainly not a classy Italian act that Mr. Sasso promises. The sad part about it is the Italian service. MSC has a lot of cargo ships, and the waiters probably all come from them. We didn't crack a smile from our waiter, in fact we have to say the Italians just didn't seem to care a damn about Americans. The busboys and the housekeeping people were wonderful, but the rule of the Italians seemed to be 'don't smile, don't be cheerful, don't care'. The Cruise Director was outstanding, but his aides had no communication with our age group. The drink waiters who served us were polite enough, but they didn't have a clue about what they were serving. We didn't see the officers sitting with passengers, and there was no effort to demonstrate the, what did RIck Sasso call it, Premier Class or something. No Rick, you got it wrong. MSC builds ships that look beautiful, but until they get the cabins right, until they get the food right (in fact the food was like a cafeteria chain), and until they teach the Italians to be Italian, No thanks. The touches I did like were the nice beach towels when we went ashore, nicely organized at the gangway, and the very obliging boys at the lido buffet who took great care of my wife when we had to park her chair there for breakfasts and lunch. These boys (I think from Thailand or Indonesia or somewhere like that) could teach their Italian bosses a thing or two about hospitality and courtesy. We are booked on the MSC Opera in March, because our travel agent tells us its a much better ship and they have got their act together. I wonder, but we will give it another chance. MSC was not the worst cruise we have ever been on, but it was the most disappointing, after all the hype about superior Italian style. MSC Lirica is a big, beautiful ferry, extraordinarily clean, with unsmiling Italians and no space for baggage - and very very average food. Before closing, I have to say that they tried their best to organize the smoking and non smoking areas, but by the time the cruise was over, nobody cared, and nobody supervised the rules. Entertainment was ho-hum, but Linda, my agent, assures me that the entertainment on the MSC Opera is really first class. Overall, it was good value, because MSC is clawing at the market to get a toe-hold with prices too low to resist. Did we tip? Yes, but we still don't know if we had to or not. The MSC book says no, the Cruise Director says yes, and the Front Desk doesn't know. MSC doesn't give any information about anything, including arrival times, why the ship sails late, when dinner is served (even if just for the first night) or what island we're passing. When the ship sails away, it leaves in silence, and they don't tell you whether you've arrived or what the weather is until its too late. And of course, you have to guess about tipping. America will love these ships if they get their act together, fix the cabins, fix the food, start smiling, tell us what's happening and how to tip.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Mediterranean

We had a very nice trip and experienced and excellent service.The food was good and even excellent at some occasions. Since we traveled during summer holidays many families and kid's (traveling for free in the same cabin) were present. The childcare was fine and it was opened from the morning until 11.30 p.m. (also during excursions)The staff was friendly almost all the time. Overall we agree with the description of Tom Ogg in almost

all details - certainly the ship is beautiful. The animation team and the performances were motivated but the activities were not always to our taste. Criticism: we had some problems with the credit card authorization which was rather poorly handled by the staff [it turned out to be a communication problem with our bank] also we were charged for an excursion that had been cancelled (due to lack of interest) and it took a few minutes discussion to get the item removed from our bill.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Mediterranean

Our cruise started in Venice. We managed to find a discount airline that flew from Stuttgart Germany to Venice for only 40 Euros/person Return, including all taxes (Hapag-Lloyd Airlines). It was difficult finding out how to get to the port on arrival, although I researched information on the web before-hand. We found an Express Bus that leaves Marco Polo Airport from 9:10am (3 Euro's) to the Bus Terminal, where, after much searching,

a FREE shuttle is availiable every 15 min's to the Cruise Port.The information at the Bus Terminal is not clear, and we were told that there was no such service by one of the Terminal staff. We ended up taking a Taxi after anoth r person told us we couldn't go any other way. It set us back 15 Euro's for the 5 min Taxi trip. It is possible to walk, but I wouldn't recommend it if you have luggage. Search out the free shuttle. On arrival to the Port, it was a breeze. Check in was smoother than most others cruises I've been on, and there were plenty of staff on hand for information. After checking in, we waited in the air-conditioned lounge until about 12:30pm, when we were allowed to board. A pleasant touch was that we were personally escorted to our rooms. The rooms were clean and spacious. Our first tour of the ship showed itself quite well. There was Pizza available on the 11th floor for a quick snack, which at this point hit the spot well. Our luggage arrived outside our room in about 90 min's after boarding (quite fast compared to our other cruises). We were pre booked for the Late dinner, because of the departure times conflicting with eating times in some of the ports. We were surprised that we were booked on the early dinner. Others at our table had the same experience. It was changed without any problems after our first night, when we requested the late sitting. Soft drinks are not included on this cruise, nor are any 'soft drink' cards available for purchase (as Royal Caribbean/Celebrity cruise lines offer). Ice Tea (real brewed), and standard water were available at no charge, and 750ml bottled water was availiable for 2.20 Euros. Soft drinks and beer were in the same price range. Food is not available 'round the clock', although they did have 'midnight buffets' at 12:15am every night. We didn't bother eating anything there since the 9:30pm late sitting dinner, ended at about 11pm. The self serve Buffet Breakfast was alright. Eggs made to order were available outside the restaurant (not advertised), and scrambled eggs were available inside. The bacon was a bit tougher than what we were used to, but sausages and cold cuts were avail as well. The sit down breakfast was generally the same as the buffet, except it was 'served' to you. For the sit down meals you generally had to put aside about 90 min's eating/service time..so we found the buffet better for breakfast. The lunch was better in the dinning rooms since the menu selection was much better. The Buffet lunch was basically hamburgers/chicken burgers and fries/salad. The selection on the dinner menus was good, with at least 3 entrees to choice from. There was plenty of selection on the menus. The food was generally well prepared, and we enjoyed it. What we would have liked was an area where food was available in 'off meal' times. If one missed breakfast for instance, you would have to wait til lunch before eating anything (small selection of stale buns/coffee are avail. at the upper deck bar til 11am) We had no problem in buying bottles of water and beer at the ports and bringing them into the rooms. The rooms have a small fridge that has enough room for a liter bottle of water and a can of beer. There is also no restriction (unlike other ships) of buying alcohol at the on-board duty free store for personal consumption on the cruise. The music was a problem for us. We checked out the Blue Room dance club one night to watch people dancing to songs like George Michaels "last Christmas" (not something that's usually played in July)...and (a very hard to dance to) outdated song by Pink.We must have heard the rap artist Eminem 2 times daily...as well as a daily listen to the rap artist "50 Cent" with his 'birthday' song!!! Maybe its a European thing, but we certainly thought it got quite monotonous! We knew this was an Italian cruise line, with mainly Italian guests, BUT, we found the entertainment was geared mainly to them! On the positive side, the evening shows were multi lingual and were generally entertaining. There were many children on this cruise. The cruise should have had a policy of parents supervision, and not have them running all around the ship. We even noticed a boy (by himself) no older than 12 playing a slot machine outside the entrance to the casino.The next day a hand written sign was posted on the entrance to the casino saying no admittance under 21, but we still noticed children being allowed to put money in the slots and pull the arms of the machines (although with their parents at that point). The pools were mostly full of children jumping in and splashing around. We didn't get a chance to use the pool at all for this reason. We waited until the ports that had nice beaches. Tipping was also done in an unconventional manner on the ship. There were no 'envelopes' given with recommended amounts as in other ships. On the daily itinerary of the last day, A small mention of tipping being recommended was mentioned, but nothing more. We found a German tour group info sheet (not from the Lirica) on board that recommended giving 27 Euros/couple to the Room Steward and dividing 54 Euro's/couple between the Buffet staff and Waiter, giving more to the waiter if you were in the dining area more. They should spell things out for the guest more (especially for the first time European cruisers), for the sake of the staff that live for these tips. We thought that maybe that is why the staff isn't up to the quality level of the American ships...because they aren't paid as well with the tips. The Photo Shop was a joke. After taking every one's picture entering the cruise, they generally only took pictures of people on tours. We only had one picture taken of us all week..so there was no opportunity to select anything like in other ships.The video was edited from previous trips of scenery shots, to include people on the tours. They also only had a VIDEO available for purchase, at a time when most have converted to DVD. The destinations were good. With research, one can tell which ports are the better values for the ship excursions..and which are better on your own. We were surprised to see some of the ports had the ship tours sell out a day or two before! Something that I've rarely seen before. We didn't stay very long at the ports, but in many cases we didn't need more time. In all...we enjoyed the ship and the cruise. A Mediterranean cruise is generally expensive in the summer, so we found this to be an excellent value compared to other cruises. We think that after another year or so on the cruising market, and with a bit more experience...the MSC line may be an alternative.

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Nov 30, -0001

South and Central America

Tom Ogg CruiseReviews at aol.com Summery in Advance: There has been a lot of discussion about the Lirica and much of it negative. I found that the Lirica exceeded my expectations in most areas and that the cruise line was making every attempt to continually improve in areas it has identified and targeted for improvement. With the addition of Mr. Sasso (former President of Celebrity Cruises) I suspect things will change dramatically

and that the Lirica (and ships to follow) will be formidable competition in the Caribbean mass market. I can�t wait to cruise her again to see what changes are made. Everyone that I talked with on the cruise that liked it was well traveled and flexible. We ran into one couple that was booked on the cruise back-to-back and told me in no uncertain terms �you tell people not to listen to the complainers on the message boards, this cruise is GREAT!� Here is how you will know if the Lirica is for you. You will not like it if you: Love everything about a Carnival Cruise Haven�t really traveled outside the United States before Do not want to experiment with International cuisine Do not want to experience another culture Expect Las Vegas style reviews nightly Are looking for a 5 star service and dining experience Don�t like going to ports where English isn�t widely spoken Don�t like it when folks speak a language other than English You will enjoy it if; You loved the old Costa Cruise Lines, but miss the Italian flavor it once had Are well traveled and enjoy diverse experiences Want to experiment with international cuisine Want to experience a multi cultural environment Speak more than one language Want unique and interesting itineraries and ports Are happy entertaining yourself and enjoy intimate performances MSC Lirica in Cartagena, Columbia The Setup: I was the group leader and seminar facilitator for a group of 38 cruise professionals on board Mediterranean Shipping Cruise�s new Lirica. I had read some very negative reviews of her and was anxious to see what we would experience. The Lirica offers a very exotic itinerary to the deep Western Caribbean that includes such interesting ports as Cartagena, Columbia, Panama�s San Blas Islands, the Panama Canal and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. We also called on Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Nassau, Bahamas on this itinerary. Getting to the Ship: I flew from San Diego on Southwest Airlines to Ft� Lauderdale with stops in New Orleans and a plane change in Orlando. The flight was non-eventful and we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale as scheduled. I had a reservation at the Holiday Inn Express on 17th Street near Port Everglades, as it had been recommended highly on one of the discussion groups that I belong to. I didn�t find the hotel satisfactory for the amount of money I paid and would not recommend it to anyone. My room was noisy, my telephone did not ring, the breakfast (included) was below acceptable standards (even for a free breakfast) and I am not sure how safe and secure the hotel is. In fact, a couple staying at the hotel was robbed in the parking lot on the evening I was staying there. Their car was approached by two men as they were getting out, the windows were broken and over $50,000 in jewelry was stolen from them. While I was unaware of this event until the morning while checking out, it didn�t surprise me. : I checked out of the Holiday Inn Express and took a taxi to the M.S. Lirica in Port Everglades. Wanting to get on the ship early to finalize the group�s arrangements, I arrived at the terminal at 11 am to find hordes of passengers still debarking from the prior cruise. I then found out that these passengers were on the motor coach transfer to Western Florida and were taking the motor coach returning after dropping off the coming weeks passengers. The port finally opened for new passengers to clear security and begin checking in for the new cruise at about 12 noon. By this time, there were a good number of passengers ready to check in and the process went reasonably smoothly once inside the passenger terminal. I was in boarding group #8 and was finally called to board the ship. I made my way down the corridor and across the gangway to enter the grand foyer of the M.S. Lirica. The MSC Lirica anchored off San Blas Islands, Panama The Ship:: The Lirica is the first of several new ships on order for Mediterranean Shipping Cruises. With a rich history, as one of the largest cargo lines in the world and also a seasoned European passenger line operating in the Mediterranean, MSC is looking to penetrate the lucrative U.S. cruise market. The Lirica reflects MSC�s rich Italian heritage and offers a unique cruising experience. Right as I was writing this review, MSC announced the appointment of Mr. Rick Sasso (formerly President of Celebrity Cruise Lines) to head up MSC�s U.S, expansion. This appointment will certainly make dramatic changes in the areas of this review that reflect the need for change. This appointment was a very wise move on behalf of MSC and promises that MSC will take a place among the major players in the U. S. cruise industry. It will be quite interesting to see how MSC progresses under Mr. Sasso�s direction. The MSC Lirica in Ocho Rios, Jamaica First Impressions MSC has enjoyed a place among budget cruise lines in Europe and I was keen to experience the new Lirica. My expectations were lowered by a number of negative reviews I had read reporting poor service and below-standard dining. I was expecting a budget experience and a ship that met that criteria. The MSC Lirica's Grand Staircase Upon boarding the Lirica I was knocked over with its beauty. The ship is of the same quality as you would expect from a premium mass-market product (Holland America and Celebrity) and it is one of the most beautiful ships in its price category. The quality and beauty of the Lirica is probably one of its own biggest hurdles. When you are sitting anywhere on the ship, you would think you are on a premium line based on your surroundings. Yet, the pricing of the Lirica is competitive of budget lines. It is a paradox that I believe Mr. Sasso will bring into parity. Cabin 8122 Cabin 8122 I was located on deck 8 in an oceanview cabin. My cabin was configured to accommodate up to 4 people with two lower twin beds and two more upper twin beds that could fold down. Many of the cabins on the Lirica offer triple and quad accommodations that are configured as mine was. There was ample space for me to store my clothes in the closet and .the drawers in the cabinets offered more than enough room for additional storage. My computer and printer were accommodated on the desk without effort and there were ample 110 volt outlets. The beds and bedding was quite comfortable. I could have elected to have had the two twins turned into a queen size bed but elected to keep it the way it was, using the other bed for storage of the volumes of stuff that I had brought to work on. The bathroom was consistent with those you would expect to find on a mass-market ship. I especially enjoyed the wrap around glass enclosures in the shower, rather than the usual shower curtains one would expect. There is ample storage in the bathroom for toiletries and such, however I always recommend bringing a hanging toiletry bag, as it makes it so much easier to keep everything orderly during the cruise. The television offered a wealth of channels and ongoing movies to enjoy (many in Italian). All in all, the cabin was quite adequate, but would have been tight with four people in it. A Tour of the Ship The Lirica is quite easy to navigate with the exception of the center elevator bank that only serves a limited number of decks. However, getting around is quite easy and she retains many features that folks remember from the classic liner days such as aft fantails on almost every deck. Join me as I take a tour of the ship. First I will go all the way aft and take the elevator to the very top. Miniature Golf Course Deck 13, Ponte Minigolf This deck is really extra space on the ship. All the way aft, there is a small miniature golf course that is fun to play. All the way forward some lounge chairs are found. The Blue Club Deck 12, Rossini Deck Again, all the way aft is the wonderful Blue Club. The Blue Club is the ship�s disco and also serves as a meeting venue when other rooms are occupied with groups. We had our seminars in the Blue Club and they worked great! The club is quite large and will accommodate hundreds of people, but the way it is laid out, it never seems crowded. The Blue Club Bar One of the best features of the Blue Club is its many small cubbies that are set up for intimate conversations for small groups, On the port entrance to the Blue club is the video game room that offers a good number of video games for the younger set. The jogging/walking track lies just forward of the entrance to the Blue Club and is heavily used in the morning and late afternoon. There is a good amount of lounge chairs around the perimeter of the jogging track for sunning. Passenger cabins make up the forward section of the deck. Le Bistrot Buffet Deck 11, Vavaldi Deck Ah, the Bellini Deck. First of all, the Le Bistrot Cafeteria is located all the way aft on this deck. This is where breakfast and lunch is served (also in the main dining room). La Pergola Restaurant Bar Beside the two main buffet lines in Le Bistrot, there are also two other dining venues, one committed to pizza and associated foods and the other to omelets and specialty egg dishes in the morning and hamburgers, fries and the like for lunch. Known as La Pergola Restaurant, they are a great place to eat on a crowded day at sea. The Lirica Pool Area Forward of the dining area is the main pool area of the Lirica. Pool Area There are actually two separate swimming pools, as well as, 2 Jacuzzis that are heavily used. There is a good amount of deck lounges to use as well. The Lirica issues deck towels in your cabin, so when folks leave the pool area, they always take their towels with them making finding a deck chair easy and fast. The pool bar (La Canzone Del Mar) is always busy and there are a good number of attendants serving drinks to the crowd around the pool, but without being invasive. The Children's Club Moving forward on the port side of the ship, one finds the children�s club. This is a very colorful spot that children seemed to really enjoy. Forward of the children�s club are the steam room, sauna and relaxation areas. While I didn�t take advantage of this part of the ship, those that did were sold on the relaxation room. They worked out, took a sauna and then relaxed in the relaxation room to soothing music and simply loved it. Fitness Club The fitness club resided on the starboard side of the ship most forward and offered enough equipment for a moderate workout. Behind the fitness club working aft is where the Lirica Health Center and beauty salon called home. Deck 10, Bellini Deck Deck 10 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 9, Albinoni Deck Deck 9 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 8, Paganini Deck Deck 8 is made up entirely of passenger cabins The Lirica Lounge Deck 7, Scarlatti Deck All the way forward on deck 7 resides the Lirica Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues, but not the main show lounge. It is a beautiful lounge and offers entertainment nightly. The Lirica Lounge Bar This is where the Captain�s welcome aboard party takes place and it is a wonderful place to hang out. Aft of the Lirica Lounge is all passenger cabins. The Broadway Theater Deck 6, Puccini Deck This deck is totally committed to public rooms. Again all the way forward on deck 6 is the upper deck of the Broadway Theater. This is the main showroom on the ship and is beautifully appointed. It offers great sightlines in an intimate environment. The Coffee Corner Just aft of the Broadway Theater is the Coffee Corner. This is the ship�s specialty coffee bar and one can get a latte or cappuccino any time day or night. The prices are very reasonable and it is a very popular place most of the day, Le Cabaret Moving aft still, next comes the Le Cabaret. This is one of the main dance venues and there is music here every night. This is also the venue for the art auction and other �at sea� events. It is a very pleasant room indeed. The card room and ship�s library are on the port side of Le Cabaret. The Las Vegas Casino The Las Vegas Casino takes up as good amount of space on this deck and was very busy when it was open. There seem to be a good number of gaming tables for this sized ship and there were ample slot machines that many people loved. The Casino bar always seemed to be busy as well. L'Atmosphere Just aft of the casino is L�Atmosphere. I didn�t discover this bar until late in the cruise, but if you like soft and romantic dance music in an intimate environment, this is the spot for you. The Internet Cafe Just aft of L�Atmosphere is the ship�s Internet Caf�. There are several terminals and I never found the caf� so busy that I couldn�t sit down and take care of business without waiting. While the charges seem somewhat high, access is fast and the system works quite well. My Internet bill ended up being far less than I have spent on other ships for this length cruise. The Lirica Photo Gallery On the Starboard side of the ship is the Photo Shop and Gallery. L'ippocampo Restaurant All the way aft is the location of the L�ippocampo Restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful and the tables inviting. There are few �bad� tables and with configurations of 2, 4. 6 and 8, you are sure to find the right table for your desires. The Maitre d� is an awesome gentleman who will be sure to take care of you. However, if you choose to tip him, you will get even better results. La Bussola Restaurant Deck 5, Verdi Deck Moving down the stairwell in front of the L�ippocampo Restaurant takes us to the dining venue known as the La Bussola Restaurant. Both restaurants serve the same menu and you are assigned to one or the other when your table is assigned while checking in. If you prefer changing restaurants or tables, the Maitre d� is most accommodating. There are two seatings for both restaurants (main at 6 pm and late at 8 pm on this particular cruise) The Beverly Hills Bar Directly in front of the restaurant is the Beverly Hills Bar. This is a great lounge, but is rarely crowded. We met here for pre dinner cocktails many evenings and sometimes had it all to ourselves. The duo that played there were playing to an empty house on more than one occasion. The Beverly Hills Shops surround the bar on the starboard side offering a sundries shop, jewelry store and clothing store. However, I found a dearth of logo items and other items one would expect would be staples on a cruise ship. Once again, I believe Mr. Sasso will make immediate changes here as well. The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk lie just forward of the Beverly Hills Bar. Along with the Registration Desk is the Tour Desk for booking optional tours and the ship�s bank. The bank is available for currency exchange and is only open limited hours. HINT: Make sure you know when the bank is open so as to have the proper currency in port. The Lord Nelson Pub All the way forward on Deck 5 is Lord Nelson Pub. This great pub is authentic and is a great place for pre-dinner cocktails. There is a wonderful bar (hardwood floors and all) and several nooks and crannies to meet in. Overall, this was my favorite bar on the ship and I think everyone enjoyed it. Dining This was one of the biggest complaints I had read about in the reviews that I had read prior to boarding the Lirica. In truth, I was expecting a welcome aboard buffet of white bread, bologna and American cheese. Of course, the reviews greatly exaggerated the quality and quantity of food that is offered and my personal dining experience (with a few exceptions) was quite in line with the product I was cruising on. I suspect, this is the area that Mr. Sasso will change the fastest and most dramatically, so I would look forward to a much better dining experience as MSC evolves its U.S. presence. In your quest for information regarding dining on the Lirica, I would only read the most current information and then expect improvements on your cruise. On this particular cruise, those that wanted traditional cruise fare were disappointed. Those that were looking for an Italian and/or international dining experience were happy. The dishes offered in the restaurant were northern Italian dishes that were more subtle than the Americanized Italian dishes we have come to know and love. The pasta is heavier and the sauces seem to be blander, If I had to try to described a dish that would be representative of the experience, breaded stew would come to mind. It is heavy, somewhat bland and filling. The selection of fish, as an example, included many filets of perch, sole and other fish that Americans consider less than their first choice. However, anyone that has traveled to Italy knows, these fish are their first choice and they are considered to be excellent. That said, one can find something to enjoy at every meal and the breakfast and lunch buffets certainly offer a wide variety of choices. The Service Here is another area the Lirica is sure to change under the management of Mr. Sasso. The service level on the Lirica is all over the board. The dining room waiters run from excellent to just OK, The waiters are very Italian and have no problem showing their attraction to the more attractive female guests. While this is always fun, I saw several instances where it became awkward for the males escorting them. One of the ladies in our group was repeatedly asked to become involved and it was quite clear that the waiters were quite serious about it. If you are not used to the ways of Italian men and might be irritated with your wife or companion being �hit on� by the waiters, you might be offended on this ship. On the other hand, if you are an attractive woman looking for some fun with the crew, you will love this ship. Bar service was again, very spotty. Our wine stewardess in the dining room was exceptional, but in some of the bars they were inattentive. At one of the pool side bar-b-ques, the server was downright rude, while the guy that made the omelets at the outside breakfast station was downright superb and could have easily worked for the luxury lines. I suspect that this will change dramatically in the near future. HINT: Gratuities are a major issue on this ship. They are not added to your shipboard account at the end of the cruise, but handled in the traditional way of presenting gratuities at the end of the cruise. We collected full gratuities from our group and presented them to the Maitre d� on the second evening for our tables, letting him know that the waiters could expect more at the end of the cruise for exceptional service. I would highly suggest tipping at the beginning of the cruise on this ship. I also gave the wine stewardess a $20 �down payment� on her exceptional service and was spoiled to death from that point forward. Where just about every other cruise line automatically adds 15% to every cocktail and bottle of wine that is ordered, MSC Lirica does not. There is a service charge of about 5% that is added and I suspect this is why service levels vary so much. I would strongly suggest picking you servers and tipping them generously and early on this cruise in order to get the kind of service that will make you happy. Like everything in life, if you take responsibility to train your servers and let them know what you want, they are anxious to please you. On the Lirica a few dollars rewarding good service will take you a long way. WARNING: I normally take my tux and other cruise wear on the ship unlaundered and have them cleaned and pressed on the ship. While my tux came back fine, I had a pair of Tommy Bahama pants that were laundered instead of dry-cleaned and they came back like shorts rather than pants. The Lirica does not use laundry slips, but rather your room steward picks up the laundry bag for processing. If you do have items dry-cleaned, make sure your room steward knows what you want done. The Passenger Mix This particular cruise saw about 60% Americans and the balance Europeans. There are numerous different cultures and announcements were made in English, Italian, German and French. However, the Lirica makes every attempt to not make announcements, so it is rarely invasive. There were very few children on board and everyone seemed to get along well. The shore excursion were available by language spoken, so instead of going with folks from all countries, the Lirica segregated folks by the language the tour guide spoke. All in all, it was quite like being anywhere in Europe on any given day. The Cruise Thursday, April 1st, 2004; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida I was in my cabin, had set up my computer and printer and made my way to the registration desk to find the group coordinator or Hotel Manager�s representative to arrange for our cocktail party and meeting space. I was able to secure a 5 pm time and place of meeting, so I returned to my cabin to unpack and get ready for the cruise. I met with Lirica�s representative and then prepared flyers for the group to let them know about this evening�s cocktail party and the seminar dates. After getting ready for the evening, I made my way to the Lirica Lounge for our cocktail party. Some of the Lirica�s staff was in attendance, as well as the 38 agents making up the group. In addition to an open bar cocktail hour and hot and cold appetizers, we were treated to our own private hour with the Lirica�s orchestra playing wonderful tunes that allowed us to enjoy their musical talent, as well as converse. It was a wonderful venue and experience for our group�s first meeting. At the conclusion of the cocktail party, we made our way to the L�ippocampo Restaurant and our respective tables. Our first dining experience was wonderful. One lady at our table insisted on sending her entr�e back for this or that reason three times. While it was totally embarrassing for the balance of the table who all found their entrees prepared quite nicely, our waiter was as gracious as he could be and took the challenge to satisfy this woman as a personal opportunity to show everyone at the table how professional his skills were as a waiter. The conversation continued until we ended up being the last table in the restaurant and decided to call it a night. Friday, April 2nd, 2004, Day at Sea I awoke to a sunny morning and decided to simply take the day to relax in the sun and get some work done on a rewrite of a book that I had written. I took breakfast in the La Bistrot Cafeteria on deck 11 and enjoyed fresh fruit, yogurt, a slice of cheese, a croissant, orange juice and some coffee. I would like to state here and now, that the food on the Lirica is fine. One of the complaints that I have read about the ship was that the food in the buffet was inedible. That is absolutely nonsense. The selections on the Lirica lean more toward a European or Italian palate (I suspect that those that complain about the food are the same folks one sees in buffets on mass market lines with food piled a mile high) and diet. You will not find an unlimited selection of fattening food high in calories and fat content. That said, if huge buffets are your thing, you might not like the Lirica, but if you are concerned about what you put into your body, you will find the Lirica to be everything you could want and more. I spent the day in the sun by the pool and enjoyed a lunch at the La Bistrot Cafeteria. I enjoyed a huge salad from the salad bar and a generous portion of mixed vegetables with a piece of fish. Once again, the food was excellent, just not the same portions and amount of fattening foods one would find on a mass market line. I spent the late afternoon in my cabin working on my computer. Nancy Norris was also on this cruise and spent a good amount of the day collecting gratuities from the passengers to prepay them for the cruise, as we wanted to set up a �round robin� environment where folks could jump from table to table within our group during the dinner hour. The Maitre D� had graciously conceded the opportunity to do this and was appreciated by everyone. We had another excellent dinner with rich conversation and lots of laughing. One of the incredible features of the Lirica is the wine list. We were enjoying a bottle of Chardonnay that cost only $12, including gratuity! There were several choices of wines under $20, including gratuity making their wine list the most generous of any cruise line I have ever sailed. The sun had zapped me of my energy and I decided to turn in after a quick nightcap in the Blue Club. Saturday, April 3rd, 204; Ocho Rios, Jamaica Some of the group members had cruised together before and had invited me to join them at the Margaritaville Restaurant and Bar in Ocho Rios. Margaritaville is fairly new in Ocho Rios and offers everyone attending excellent food and beverage refreshments. There is a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and a water slide that runs through the entire restaurant. It is a very fun place located in the Ocean Island Shopping Center that is located at the foot of the entrance to the port. We walked to Ocean Village to visit the flea market and stores surrounding the market. Stopping at another bar in the port before returning to Margaritqaville for a tasty lunch of fish and coconut shrimp, we decided that the Ocean Island Shopping Center was a major and positive addition to Ocho Rios. By now, our evening consisted of pre dinner drinks in one of the lounges on the Lirica, followed by an excellent dinner in the restaurant with lots of conversation and laughs. This evening the folks I was sitting with wanted to enjoy the evening�s entertainment, �Many Personalities of Holber Show� starring Holber and Angelo. This creative skit was entertaining leaving one wondering how Holber could change costumes and personalities so quickly behind the small dressing curtain that sat on the stage. After the show we went to the Beverly Hills Bar and listened to the talented group �Duo Fantasy�. Sunday, April 4th, 2004; Day at Sea This was our first seminar meeting in the Blue Club that had been set up for us by the Lirica. After a quick breakfast, I went to the Blue Club to make sure everything was ready for our meeting and was pleased to find that everything had been attended to and was ready to go. The seminar went quite well with lots of networking and fun. The afternoon in the sunshine by the pool went by too quickly and before I knew it, I was preparing for this evening�s dinner and cocktail hour. I had decided to try a different table and tablemates and sat in a different area of the restaurant. Our waiter was noticeably grumpy and not particularly interested in his performance as a server. A couple of people at our table began to complain about it. It never ceases to amaze me how folks will allow the actions of a waiter to influence their ability to enjoy their meal. I mean, why would anyone empower another person to affect him or her in such a way. I threw out the challenge to see how long it would take to turn this guy around with positive reinforcement. One of the ladies at the table engaged him with smiles and questions and we followed with compliments and support. Within five minutes, our service went from lousy to world class. The waiter really appreciated the positive feedback and rewarded us with exceptional service that ended in a rousing round of applause from our table when we completed our meal. The experience really drove home the point that if you let poor service exist without taking positive action to correct it, you are just as responsible for it as the waiter is. The next time you are on a cruise and are receiving poor dining room service and someone at the table starts complaining. Take charge of the moment and retrain the waiter and complainers by focusing on the positive side of the opportunity. We stayed late in the restaurant and once again missed the evening�s entertainment opting for a nightcap in the Beverly Hills Bar instead. Monday, April 5th, 2004; Catagena, Columbia This was my first visit to Cartagena and rather than do a standard city tour, I opted to take the Cartagena Beach and Boating tour. This turned out to be a great choice. We departed the ship and walked a short distance to a small pier where a large panga waited for us to board. We then started our trek to a beach where we would spend a couple of hours sunning, snorkeling and generally enjoying the tropical environment. We went by several pueblos and a walled enforcement that protected a small village before kicking the boat into full speed for about 45 minutes until we arrived at the island itself. The panga backed down its anchor so that the stern was almost on shore. She was then tied off making for a safe exit onto the sand. Everyone exiting the panga was met with beach vendors selling all sorts of things; beaded necklaces and bracelets were abundant, fresh shrimp, lobster, and oysters were everywhere and there were many young ladies offering to massage you for a nominal amount of money. These Columbian vendors were quite effective sales people and were anxious to complete the sale. We decided to get a beverage and relax in the sun while we got oriented with the beach area and started talking with some of the venders. It seems that these folks lived quite a distance from the beach and walked for 2 � hours with their wares to have the opportunity to sell to the tourists that arrive there daily. Most of them make the products they sell and are trying to support families on their earnings. They turned out to be very friendly and respectful people. I purchased a number of necklaces and bracelets for the upcoming �ideas for prizes� seminar at our next meeting. I took a long walk on the beach, as the snorkeling was primarily over beds of sea grass and wasn�t very interesting. After a couple of hours, it was time to board our panga and make our way back to Cartagena and our ship. We passed the villages that we had seen on the way out to the island and then turned into the downtown area of Cartagena where we could see quite a bit of the old section. Passing several large yachts and a large marina we finally made it back to our ship. After a quick lunch I made my way over to the port�s duty free and shopping center where one could purchase everything Columbian with no problem. I used the communications center and finalized some business that came up that needed to be taken care of. This evening�s formal dinner followed the same routine that was now pretty established, pre-dinner cocktails, dinner and then either the entertainment or a visit to one of the lounge venues for a nightcap. As this was the second formal night on the cruise, we opted to take our group photo taken on the steps directly in front of the reception desk and then enjoy a no-host cocktail party in Lord Nelson�s Bar directly in front of the reception desk. Dinner was another pleasant experience and the meal excellent. Finishing dinner in time to attend the evening�s entertainment, we found seats in the Broadway Theater for the presentation of �Music Awards�. This was a full production show featuring music from all eras and was quite entertaining. The dancers were excellent, as was the singing. We were having such a great time that we decided to attend the �Disco 80s� theme disco party in the Blue Club Disco. There was a good number of people in attendance and the dance floor saw a lot of action. Tuesday, April 6th, 2004; San Blas Islands, Panama I have been looking forward to seeing the San Blas Islands for decades and this was my first visit. I wasn�t disappointed. The San Blas Islands are inhabited by the Kuna Indians known for their unique and beautiful �molas�. Kuna women make multi colored wall hangings and fabrics using pieces of fabric that are sewn together to produce a very unique look. They use these fabrics for their own dress and also as items for tourists to purchase. Kuna Indians live much the same now as they always have and a visit to their islands is well worth the effort to get there. We arrived on shore and then negotiated to take a tour of one of the outer islands in a dugout canoe. The tour took us to an island that was heavily populated with wonderful thatched roofed huts built close together to create a wonderful close community. It appeared that the main source of revenue for the island was the sale of molas and other trinkets to visiting tourist. It was a very peaceful experience and I found the Kunas to be friendly and very respectful of their visitors. I had come down with a cold and after the tour I decided to head back to the ship for a nap and then to work on my computer for a bit. I had been invited to join a group for dinner, but before dinner, attended a cocktail party on the aft deck of deck eight. I love the exterior decks on the Lirica. They are widely available for every passenger to enjoy and are not taken up by balconied cabins. Dinner brought another excellent dining experience and more quality conversation. I stopped by the evening�s show for a bit, a variety show, and then called it an evening. Wednesday, April.7th, 2004; Transit the Panama Canal Having been through the Gatun locks before (most recently about five weeks ago) I decided to sleep through the process that started around 5 AM. The Lirica made its way up into Gatun Lake and set anchor right off of the Gatun Lake Yacht Club. HINT: If you do not sign up for a shore excursion, you will not be able to debark the ship in Panama. A number of our group had signed up for the yacht club and were called to disembark for the shore excursion around 10 AM. The yacht club turned our to be more of an attraction than a yacht club, as there were markets manned by both Kuna and Darien Indians, on-going entertainment, a bar and snack area and several areas for sunning and lounging along the shoreline. While there was no beach area, there is a large float secured in a roped off area that one can swim to and enjoy the sunshine. All and all, the yacht club was a pleasant diversion to spending the day on the ship, but not really an experience one would remember. Dinner found us back at our table enjoying yet another evening�s conversation and meal. Thursday, April 8th, 2004; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica We arrived quite early in Puerto Limon and Nancy Norris had found an attraction on the Internet that she had wanted to experience. Four of us had agreed to share a taxi to the �Almonds and Corals Resort� near the border of Costa Rica and Panama. We debarked the ship, cleared the port area and made our way into Puerto Limon to negotiate for a taxi to take us for the day. We found one that cost us only $120 for the entire day and then set out for the resort. It took about an hour to make our way into the rain forest region along the coast south of Puerto Viejo (a huge American outpost) and to the resort. After signing a million documents holding the resort harmless should we be injured in any way, we made our way to the staging area to dawn our �Crazy Monkey Canopy Ride� apparel. Once we had our helmets, straps and rigging on, we walked up through the rain forest until we came to a tree that had stairs leading to the top of the canopy. We were fastened to �fail safe� wires as we made our way up the various staircases to the very top of the forest. Once on top, we found out that the little roller harness was to be attached to a cable that led from treetop to treetop throughout the rain forest. Our guide was the first to attach and then step into space as he slid along the cable through the treetops to the next treetop station. I would estimate that we were at least 200 feet off the forest floor and while one could not see it because of the thick vegetation, one could imagine where it was. Carole, the first of us to traverse the cable, hesitated and then finally made the leap of faith. Shouts of glee were heard as she disappeared into the forest as she slid to the next station. We all went learning to love the feeling of gliding throughout the rain forest in search of flora and fauna. During the various stations we traversed 11 cables and two suspension bridges hanging hundreds of feet over the forest floor. We saw many types of birds and two sloths. It was certainly a memorable experience well worth the $40 cost. After the experience we had full use of the resort for as long as we wanted and enjoyed some fresh juice and fruit at the restaurant before moving on. It was our intention to dine at a restaurant on the border in Manzanillo that one of our guides had suggested, but the traffic was horrendous as this was a huge holiday for all of Costa Rica and everyone from San Jose (Costa Rica�s capital city) seemed intent on going to the same place. We decided to turn north and try to find a good restaurant in Puerto Viejo, but encountered the same problem. In an effort to save the day, we decided to make our way to Playa Bonita, just north of Puerto Limon and the site of several restaurants. It took an hour to make it to Playa Bonita and we were presented with a crowded beach and packed restaurants. We chose the very first restaurant on the north side of the beach and were assured by the waiter that the comarones (shrimp) was legendary. This was a huge mistake. We were presented with a meal that was barely edible, much less memorable. HINT: Forget dining at Playa Bonita and opt for the restaurant on top of the hill in town that your taxi driver will take you to. We made it back to the ship with minutes to spare and boarded for the next two days at sea. Dinner continued to be an excellent social experience and since we were all bushed from the day�s activities, turned in early for a good night�s sleep. Friday, April 9th, 2004; Day at Sea We were greeted with warm sunshine and the promise of a beautiful sea day. Following my regular routine of breakfast in the buffet and then taking a lounge chair by the Jacuzzis, I was falling into my normal cruise mode. I thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine and ended the day with a glass of wine in the Jacuzzi before heading to my cabin to get ready for the ship�s evening events. Saturday, April 10th, 2004; Day at Sea This was the second of our two seminars and we met at 9 AM in the Blue Club for a 3-hour seminar that ended in a rousing session of �Ideas for Prizes� Everyone had a great time (as I did) and it reminded me of how everyone loves to cruise and tends to let other people into their lives when under normal circumstances, it might not happen as freely. I spent the afternoon in my usual spot by the pool and then got ready for our third formal night of the cruise. Our group met in the Beverly Hills Bar for pre-dinner cocktails and then made our way to our appointed tables for yet another entertaining dinner with lots of conversation. We had decided to attend the evening�s entertainment so finished dinner in time to make our way to the showroom and an excellent show. After a nightcap, I turned in for a wonderful night�s sleep. Sunday, April 11th, 2004; Nassau, Bahamas The Lirica had made excellent time in the lake-like conditions and we arrived in Nassau early in the morning. After clearing immigration, the ship allowed passengers to go ashore. I lingered on the ship enjoying the sunny morning by the pool and eventually decided to get off the ship to try to find an open pharmacy to obtain some much needed cold relief medicine. As this was Easter Sunday, I did not put much hope into the effort. Fortunately, I found a pharmacy and was able to obtain the cold decongestants that I needed and immediately felt better. Nassau was vacant even though there were a number of ships in port. Many of the shops were closed and all of the liquor stores were shut tight. Even with the limited shopping opportunities, folks seemed to be enjoying their visit. I was back on the ship and in the Jacuzzi by 1 PM and then enjoyed the afternoon relaxing in the warm sunshine. Evening brought our last dinner experience aboard the Lirica and also the beginning of the debarkation process, the dreaded packing to go home. Even though we had prepaid our dining staff�s gratuities, many of us opted to tip extra for the fine service we had experienced from our respective waiters. After lingering conversation, I headed to my cabin to begin packing. The evening ended with a sound sleep provided by the cold medicine. Monday, April 12th, 2003; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida The morning brought a new cold front and rain, which surprised me, as we had just had 12 days of perfect weather and flat calm seas. I could see my next ship, the Radisson Seven Seas Navigator out of my cabin window and wondered if I could just walk to her. After breakfast, I finished packing and made my way to the Lirica Lounge where some in our group had arranged to meet to wait for the embarkation process to proceed. I was in no hurry to debark, as I would simply make my way to the next terminal and wait to board the Seven Seas Navigator. Around 11AM I debarked the ship and was surprised to still find lines at immigration, but quickly realized that this was the non-USA citizens waiting to clear immigration and that the US citizen line was non-existent. I cleared immigration and customs and began my walk to the Navigator.

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Nov 30, -0001

Deep Western Caribbean

My wife and I joined MSC Lirica in Port Everglades on January 13th 2005 and were very impressed with the ship. The ship is beautiful and our suite on deck 10 was superb with a bathroom that had a bathtub and shower and plenty of storage. The cabin itself had a large walk in closet and ample sitting area. The balcony was big enough for two to have breakfast at the table in comfort. The public rooms were excellent and the entertainment was

excellent and catered for a mixed international passenger list. The standard of service varied and showed that a lot of the crew were new and inexperienced. Departments on board varied and showed, in some cases, that their management was poor. The meals were excellent in the dining room and the selection at the buffet was also very good. Unfortunately my wife had an accident on deck and then things deteriorated. The medical treatment was woeful and resulted in my wife having a fractured ankle that was basically left untreated until we arrived back in UK. Not one person of this crew even made an enquiry as to her condition and we were virtually confined to our suite for most of the time. In conclusion, this is a beautiful ship and most things are fine but crew training and customer relations need to be reviewed urgently. Because of our experience I feel that I could not recommend this company as it operates at this time.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

It ain't Carnival but it ain't Holland America either. This is a wonderful ship with a wonderful staff but it isn't quite tuned to what American cruisers are used to. Think of it as a nice moderately priced European hotel with mostly European guests and it might be easier to grasp what they are doing. Europeans don't expect explicit instructions as to how to do this...go there...see this or buy that. Expect announcements in five languages

and bingo games are beyond description. Having said all that, you can't help but love the music including Italian ballads and American standards sung in a strong Italian accent (halloo dolee, itz so neece to hav u bak!) Outstanding musicians and vocalists in every respect. The food is fair. Pasta everywhere is naturally great, desserts are o.k., fish is usually overcooked but beef is always as ordered. The service we experienced was attentive and friendly. Everyone wears a tux -- even room service at 7 am. The lounges are gorgeous but some are seriously under utilized and a couple are mobbed on a regular basis. Lots of public spaces on this ship. We had a balcony cabin with a bathtub (?), king size bed, couch, large balcony and a ton of storage and closet space.  Entertainment is European I guess. The jugglers and magicians aren't my style but the dancers and singers were great. The itinerary is wearing with 7 ports in 8 days and 3 days at sea. I've seen them all before and knew what to do and what not to do but the information they provide is pretty limited and they don't give you the sales pitch for certain "approved" stores. Very good choice of tours at typical prices in all ports.Bar prices are a little odd. Dewars is $3.90 unless you have it with water then its $4.60 because its a "cocktail". They are however much more reasonable than I'm used to and there is no 15% add on service charge. Tipping in general is never mentioned -- do what you want is the motto. All questions are answered politely and promptly but don't expect much advice or direction. It's possible that we Americans expect being told what to do in these situations. Embarkation was as simple and speedy as I've ever seen. One advantage to being in the minority was debarking! Long lines for Non-US Citizens and walk up to the desk and right out for the rest of us. I will look forward to sailing with them again. Of our dining group of 4 couples, all strangers, (one Britisher, one fluent in Italian, one Hungarian) it was agreed that we all probably would do it again.

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Nov 30, -0001

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 [email protected] 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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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

I went on my first cruise with MSC. This was the worst experience ever. My husband and I went on a vacation without our daughter and had no expectations since it was our first cruise and just wanted to enjoy ourselves. We didn't know what to expect. However, I did not expect the treatment I received from the staff aboard the MSC Lirica. I was returning from an excursion (provided by the ship) and was preparing to board the ship when a 6ft x 3ft

glass panel fell from the top deck of the ship onto the loading dock below where my husband and I were standing. The panel hit the side of the ship shattered. My husband was able to get under a cover, but I was not close enough and was showered with large chunks of glass that hit me from 11 stories. I had my towel with me and was able to cover my head, but my legs were cut from the glass hitting the concrete and shattering. I stood there in shock and couldn't move for a while and my husband came to see if I was okay. No one from MSC asked if I was hurt or needed assistance. They told me that it was over and I needed to move along. My legs were bleeding, but I was to shaken to climb aboard the ship, so I moved to the side to get out of the way and tried to gather myself. I stood there about 15 minutes and still no one asked if I was okay. I went on board and then went to reception to ask where the medical center was located. They told me that it was closed. I told them that I had been hit by the glass panel and then they called and had the Dr. open. They turned around and said, "it is on the 7th floor, do you know where that is?" Never even offered to assist me. I asked if they could show me where it was located. I got to the medical facility and there was another couple inside who had been injured by the falling glass. The man's face had been cut several times. They were extremely rude and unhelpful and treated us like we had broken the glass and caused the accident. We both filed accident reports and left the medical facility. Not once did ! they check on either of us to ask if we needed anything or if we were okay. My husband wrote the cruise director a letter, to state how displeased he was with the way they handled the situation. They never responded. My travel agent emailed the regional sales director and he never responded. We filled out the cruises cooperate evaluation and they never responded. We will never travel with them again and they have turned me off from cruising again.

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Nov 30, -0001

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 priceline.com, 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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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Tom Ogg CruiseReviews at aol.com The Group on the Lirica Summery in Advance: WOW! While I had hoped that changes had been made on the Lirica, I was not prepared for the total transformation that had occurred. All I can say is whatever MSC is paying Mr. Sasso, he deserves a raise, a huge one. Here are the major differences. The food and dining experience: On my first Lirica cruise (April 1st, 2004) the food was simply OK

at best. The buffet was awful and dinner in the dining room was not the kind of experience most cruise passengers would enjoy. Now, the buffet had tons of dishes that I found excellent (note, however that I am kind of a health nut) Dinner in the main restaurant was an absolute treat! Every night saw a six course meal reminiscent of cruising premium line years ago. It started with several appetizer choices, but when the appetizers were served they were very generous portions. Most folks could have made a meal just of the appetizers alone. Then a salad followed, then soup, then pasta, the entree and finally, dessert. Not only was the food abundant, the quality was excellent. I selected fish every night and never had anything but an excellent meal. The service provided by the waiters was as different as night and day from my last cruise. On the last cruise, the waiters were more interested in propositioning the good looking lady dinner guests than they were in serving dinner. Their attitudes were arrogant and downright rude in some cases. This cruise found excellent service from the wait staff. Our particular waiter had his hands full with some very particular and demanding travel professionals and he took it all in stride. The Maitre d' was always attentive and made sure that dinner stayed on schedule. Here is a testament to the quality of the food. I have been on several hundred cruises and since I am a health and fitness nut, I never gain weight on a cruise because I watch what I eat and I get plenty of exercise. On this particular cruise I gained 7 pounds, which I am in the process of shedding before my next cruise to the Baltic on the Century in May. The Service: Last cruise, the service was very weak. This cruise, unbelievable. Upon boarding, I was met by smiling faces dressed to the hilt complete with white gloves. She took my carry-on luggage and showed me the way to my cabin. It was great! Overall the service was excellent with only a few pockets of the former problems. The The Lirica was basically a new ship when I sailed her in April of 2004, but on this cruise she looked better than new. In fact the ship was met with surprise inspection on the day I boarded and received a perfect score of 100. The crew was so proud they could bust and the ship's management was proud of them too. All in all, Mr. Sasso has introduced a "bottoms up" management style that is working quite well and will only get better. Now before you think that I work for Mr. Sasso or MSC, as a reviewer, you always want to find the best to report and the changes that have been made since my April 1st, 2004 cruise deserve raves, so I am raving about them. If you read my earlier review, you will find I generally call a spade, a spade. The Entertainment: Overall the entertainment was awesome! People were raving about most of the shows and acts and compared to the last cruise on the Lirica, this is another area that is night and day. The Liquor Pricing and Policies: On the last cruise, the price of wine and mixed drinks was an absolute give-away. While prices have been increased, they still remain far below competitive cruise lines and are a remarkable value. As an example, a bottle chardonnay started at around $15 and up. The wine selection was good with many California wines mixed into the international list. All were priced reasonably. Drinks by the glass were around $3.50 to $4.50 each (including wine). While there was a "no bringing liquor aboard" policy stated in the Daily Program, there was no enforcement and folks were openly bringing wine and liquor aboard. Many passengers verbalized their appreciation of the drink prices and policies onboard the Lirica and made promises to cruise with MSC in the future. I suspect that most people are fed up with liquor pricing and policies on competitive lines. The Consensus: I had 47 people traveling with me, most of which were cruise professionals and seasoned cruisers (more than 100 cruises). During the last seminar we did a cruise and port review. This particular cruise drew a unanimous 10 for price to value. Sure, some of the folks found this wrong and that wrong and when compared to their favorite premium or luxury line this fell short or that fell short, but for the experience on a price-point to value received, every single person felt this was the best in its price-point category. It doesn't get any better than that. I you are hesitant to cruise the Lirica because you have read bad reviews on her, don't be. If you cruised her a year ago and said you would never cruise her again, change your mind. It is that good of a product. The Setup: I was the group leader and seminar facilitator for a group of 47 cruise professionals on board Mediterranean Shipping Cruise’s Lirica. I had sailed her a little over a year ago and was anxious to see the changes that had been made subsequent to the addition of Mr. Sasso as President of the cruise line. Getting to the Ship: I flew from San Diego on American Airlines with a connection in Dallas/Ft. Worth. We had a major tail wind, so we arrived early and I had plenty of time to connect to my flight to Ft. Lauderdale and enjoyed a salad at Friday's in the airport before boarding. I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale shortly after 11pm and then grabbed a taxi to the Renaissance Hotel on 17th Street. This is a great choice, as it is in the same strip mall as my favorite restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, the Bimini Restaurant. I was finally in my room shortly after midnight and fell fast a sleep. I checked out of the Renaissance Hotel and took a taxi to the M.S. Lirica in Port Everglades. Wanting to get on the ship early to finalize the group’s arrangements, I arrived at the terminal at 11 am to find hordes of passengers still debarking from the prior cruise and another large group of arriving passengers already in the lounge area of the pier. I then found out that these passengers were on the motor coach transfer to Western Florida and were taking the motor coach returning after dropping off the coming week's passengers. The port finally opened for new passengers to clear security and begin checking in for the new cruise at about 12 noon. By this time, there were a good number of passengers ready to check in and the process went reasonably smoothly once inside the passenger terminal. I was in boarding group #4 and was finally called to board the ship. I made my way down the corridor and across the gangway to enter the grand foyer of the M.S. Lirica. The Lirica Docked in St. Maarten The Ship: The Lirica is the first of several new ships on order for Mediterranean Shipping Cruises to be delivered. The Opera entered service earlier this year (2005) and another will follow in 2006. With a rich history, as one of the largest cargo lines in the world and also a seasoned European passenger line operating in the Mediterranean, MSC is penetrating the lucrative U.S. passenger cruise market. The Lirica reflects MSC’s rich Italian heritage and offers a unique cruising experience. With all the changes that have been made, MSC is certainly on their way. I can't wait to cruise them in another year to see what else has changed. The Lirica Docked in Antigua First Impressions MSC has enjoyed a place among budget cruise lines in Europe and I was keen to experience the changes on the Lirica. The greeting by white-gloved room stewards and stewardesses to show me to my cabin was an unexpected treat. Upon entering the main Registration area, I was amazed that the ship looked even better than it did the first time I boarded her. The MSC Lirica's Grand Staircase The ship is of the same quality, as you would expect from a premium mass-market product (Holland America and Celebrity) and it is one of the most beautiful ships in its price category. The quality and beauty of the Lirica is probably one of its own biggest hurdles. When you are sitting anywhere on the ship, you would think you are on a premium line based on your surroundings. Yet, the pricing of the Lirica is currently competitive with mid-mass market lines. This, with the vast improvements mentioned above make the Lirica an excellent choice at its current price-point. Cabin 8024 Cabin 8024 I was located on deck 8 in an oceanview cabin forward on the Starboard side of the ship. My cabin was configured to accommodate up to 4 people with two lower twin beds and two more upper twin beds that could fold down. Many of the cabins on the Lirica offer triple and quad accommodations that are configured as mine was. There was ample space for me to store my clothes in the closet and the drawers in the cabinets offered more than enough room for additional storage. My computer and printer were accommodated on the desk without effort and there were ample 110 volt outlets. The beds and bedding was quite comfortable. I could have elected to have had the two twins turned into a queen size bed but elected to keep it the way it was, using the other bed for storage of the volumes of stuff that I had brought to work on. The bathroom was consistent with those you would expect to find on a mass-market ship. There is ample storage in the bathroom for toiletries and such, however I always recommend bringing a hanging toiletry bag, as it makes it so much easier to keep everything orderly during the cruise. The television offered a wealth of channels and ongoing movies to enjoy (many in Italian). All in all, the cabin was quite adequate, but would have been tight with four people in it. A Tour of the Ship (Adapted from Prior Review) The Lirica is quite easy to navigate with the exception of the center elevator bank that only serves a limited number of decks. However, getting around is quite easy and she retains many features that folks remember from the classic liner days such as aft fantails on almost every deck. Join me as I take a tour of the ship. First I will go all the way aft and take the elevator to the very top. Miniature Golf Course Deck 13, Ponte Minigolf This deck is really extra space on the ship. All the way aft, there is a small miniature golf course that is fun to play. All the way forward some lounge chairs are found. The Blue Club Deck 12, Rossini Deck Again, all the way aft is the wonderful Blue Club. The Blue Club is the ship’s disco and also serves as a meeting venue when other rooms are occupied with groups. We had our seminars in the Blue Club and they worked great! The club is quite large and will accommodate hundreds of people, but the way it is laid out, it never seems crowded. The Blue Club Bar One of the best features of the Blue Club is its many small cubbies that are set up for intimate conversations for small groups, On the port entrance to the Blue club is the video game room that offers a good number of video games for the younger set. The jogging/walking track lies just forward of the entrance to the Blue Club and is heavily used in the morning and late afternoon. There is a good amount of lounge chairs around the perimeter of the jogging track for sunning. Passenger cabins make up the forward section of the deck. Le Bistrot Buffet Deck 11, Vavaldi Deck Ah, the Bellini Deck. First of all, the Le Bistrot Cafeteria is located all the way aft on this deck. This is where breakfast and lunch is served (also in the main dining room). La Pergola Restaurant Bar Beside the two main buffet lines in Le Bistrot, there are also two other dining venues, one committed to pizza and associated foods and the other to omelets and specialty egg dishes in the morning and hamburgers, fries and the like for lunch. Known as La Pergola Restaurant, they are a great place to eat on a crowded day at sea. The Lirica Pool Area Forward of the dining area is the main pool area of the Lirica. Pool Area There are actually two separate swimming pools, as well as, 2 Jacuzzis that are heavily used. There is a good amount of deck lounges to use, as well. A pool attendant was always on hand to dispense towels for use around the pool and they were consistently collecting them from lounge chairs when folks would leave without depositing their used towels into the towel bin. This seemed to make many lounge chairs available at all times. The pool bar (La Canzone Del Mar) is always busy and there are a good number of attendants serving drinks to the crowd around the pool, but without being invasive. The Children's Club Moving forward on the port side of the ship, one finds the children’s club. This is a very colorful spot that children seemed to really enjoy. Forward of the children’s club are the steam room, sauna and relaxation areas. While I didn’t take advantage of this part of the ship, those that did were sold on the relaxation room. They worked out, took a sauna and then relaxed in the relaxation room to soothing music and simply loved it. Fitness Club The fitness club resided on the starboard side of the ship most forward and offered enough equipment for a moderate workout. Behind the fitness club working aft is where the Lirica Health Center and beauty salon called home. Deck 10, Bellini Deck Deck 10 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 9, Albinoni Deck Deck 9 is made up entirely of passenger cabins Deck 8, Paganini Deck Deck 8 is made up entirely of passenger cabins The Lirica Lounge Deck 7, Scarlatti Deck All the way forward on deck 7 resides the Lirica Lounge. This is one of the main entertainment venues, but not the main show lounge. It is a beautiful lounge and offers entertainment nightly. The Lirica Lounge Bar This is where the Captain’s welcome aboard party takes place and it is a wonderful place to hang out. Aft of the Lirica Lounge is all passenger cabins. The Broadway Theater Deck 6, Puccini Deck This deck is totally committed to public rooms. Again all the way forward on deck 6 is the upper deck of the Broadway Theater. This is the main showroom on the ship and is beautifully appointed. It offers great sightlines in an intimate environment. The Coffee Corner Just aft of the Broadway Theater is the Coffee Corner. This is the ship’s specialty coffee bar and one can get a latte or cappuccino any time day or night. The prices are very reasonable and it is a very popular place most of the day, Le Cabaret Moving aft still, next comes the Le Cabaret. This is one of the main dance venues and there is music here every night. This is also the venue for the art auction and other “at sea” events. It is a very pleasant room indeed. The card room and ship’s library are on the port side of Le Cabaret. The Las Vegas Casino The Las Vegas Casino takes up as good amount of space on this deck and was very busy when it was open. There seem to be a good number of gaming tables for this sized ship and there were ample slot machines that many people loved. The Casino bar always seemed to be busy as well. L'Atmosphere Just aft of the casino is L’Atmosphere. I didn’t discover this bar until late in the cruise, but if you like soft and romantic dance music in an intimate environment, this is the spot for you. The Internet Cafe Just aft of L’Atmosphere is the ship’s Internet Café. There are several terminals and I never found the café so busy that I couldn’t sit down and take care of business without waiting. While the charges seem somewhat high ($6.00 for the log-on and first ten minutes and $.60 per minute thereafter) access is fast and the system works quite well. My Internet bill ended up being far less than I have spent on other ships for this length cruise. The Lirica Photo Gallery On the Starboard side of the ship is the Photo Shop and Gallery. L'ippocampo Restaurant All the way aft is the location of the L’ippocampo Restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful and the tables inviting. There are few “bad” tables and with configurations of 2, 4. 6 and 8, you are sure to find the right table for your desires. This restaurant was reserved for a large group observing Passover for the entire cruise and was only serving kosher dishes. La Bussola Restaurant Deck 5, Verdi Deck Moving down the stairwell in front of the L’ippocampo Restaurant takes us to the dining venue known as the La Bussola Restaurant. Both restaurants serve the same menu and you are assigned to one or the other when your table is assigned while checking in. If you prefer changing restaurants or tables, the Maitre d’ is most accommodating. There are two seatings for both restaurants (main at 6 pm and late at 8:30 pm on this particular cruise) The Beverly Hills Bar Directly in front of the restaurant is the Beverly Hills Bar. This is a great lounge, but is rarely crowded. We met here for pre dinner cocktails many evenings and sometimes had it all to ourselves. The duo that played there were playing to an empty house on more than one occasion. The Beverly Hills Shops surround the bar on the starboard side offering a sundries shop, jewelry store and clothing store. However, I found a dearth of logo items and other items one would expect would be staples on a cruise ship. The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk The Grand Foyer and Registration Desk lie just forward of the Beverly Hills Bar. Along with the Registration Desk is the Tour Desk for booking optional tours and the ship’s bank. The bank is available for currency exchange and is only open limited hours. HINT: Make sure you know when the bank is open so as to have the proper currency in port. The Lord Nelson Pub All the way forward on Deck 5 is Lord Nelson Pub. This great pub is authentic and is a great place for pre-dinner cocktails. There is a wonderful bar (hardwood floors and all) and several nooks and crannies to meet in. Overall, this was my favorite bar on the ship and I think everyone enjoyed it. Dining As mentioned above, the dining was fantastic and reason enough to take the Lirica on any itinerary. Excellent menu, preparation, presentation and service. Great job! The Passenger Mix This particular cruise saw about 60% Americans and the balance Europeans. There are numerous different cultures and announcements were made in English, Italian, German and French. However, the Lirica makes every attempt to not make announcements, so it is rarely invasive. There were very few children on board and everyone seemed to get along well. The shore excursions were available by language spoken, so instead of going with folks from all countries, the Lirica segregated folks by the language the tour guide spoke. All in all, it was quite like being anywhere in Europe on any given day. The Cruise Friday, April 22nd, 2005; Ft. Lauderdale I arrived at the cruise terminal early and was greeted by a large group of passengers from western Florida that had arrived early in the morning on motor coaches that were then going to take departing passengers back to western Florida. All in all, this must present a logistical problem for the cruise lines, as these passengers are simply dumped at the terminal hours before boarding and when embarkation begins at noon or so, they are anxious to get on the ship and bored with sitting around. MSC has established a lounge with several hundred chairs in it to accommodate these passengers, which is better than having them wait outside in the sun. Wanting to board early, I arrived at about 11 am and was surprised to still be in boarding group 4. The first boarding group was called promptly at noon and by 12:20 they had called boarding group #4. The main registration part of the terminal was crowded with people waiting in line, which is unusual for such early boarding, but the dynamics of the western Florida passengers changed that. I was checked in and on the ship by 1 pm. After being met and escorted to my cabin by a wonderful and friendly room stewardess, I set up my computer and began the work of finalizing our group's arrangements on the ship. While I am not a vegetarian, I do prefer vegetables and fresh fruit. In fact, I live on a ranch in San Diego and grow about 86 different varieties of citrus, avocados and deciduous fruit (not to mention vegetables and berries, as well). I also thoroughly enjoy fish and shellfish, as a steady diet and rarely eat meat of any kind or starchy foods. Living in San Diego, we are blessed with the ability to maintain a Mediterranean diet. After contacting the main desk I made my way to the buffet for lunch. I thought I had gone to heaven. There were three different vegetarian salads that were perfect for me. One had a variety of halved brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, peas, broccoli and cauliflower. It was to die for. Another salad of keen interest was a Russian salad made from peas, green beans, corn, asparagus and other vegetables. It was also excellent. To top it off, there were fresh steamed carrots. I piled my plate high with these treats. I also enjoyed a glass of merlot for only $3.50. I was already loving the new Lirica. I spent the afternoon working on finalizing our group's arrangements and then met some of the group for a pre-dinner cocktail before going into the La Bussola Dinning room for our first dining experience. While there was a pre-dinner show for late seating, I normally pass on the first evening because the shows tend to be simply introductions of the Cruise Director's staff and entertainers for the cruise, however I heard that the show was well worth attending. I found out from group coordinator that there was several groups on board the cruise including a "Passover group of 250 passengers". The group had reserved the entire L'lppocampo Restaurant for kosher dining. Since meeting space was at a premium, I agreed to remain flexible with our group plans. Our first dining experience was fantastic and set the stage for what was to become the focus of every day. The Maitre D'Hotel kindly agreed to allow our group switch tables within our group of tables and was very gracious indeed. This was a huge change from my last cruise. I was immediately impressed with the quality, quantity, presentation and overall dining experience. Saturday, April 23rd, 2005; Day at Sea I awoke to a beautiful morning, made my way to the buffet for an early breakfast and enjoyed the fruit, yogurt and a croissant before returning to my cabin to get ready for our first seminar of the cruise. One of the really excellent things that MSC does is postpone the mandatory life boat drill until the day after departure. Having to muster for the drill right after boarding the ship is always such a negative, in my opinion. Today's muster occurred at 10 am and our group halted the seminar and attended the event. We returned to finish the seminar and I was very impressed by the quality of agents we had in our group. After a quick lunch in the buffet, I made my way out onto the deck to enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the warm sunshine. I felt so good that I stayed until the sun had almost completely set. I hurried to my cabin to take a shower and dress for the evening's Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail party and made it just in time for the opening of the doors. The party was well attended and the drinks circulated freely with a minimum of intrusion by the ship's staff. The Captain introduced his staff and the cruise director gave a little talk and that was about it. They served drinks for the entire hour. From the cocktail party a group of us made our way to the restaurant for dinner and were again treated to a fabulous meal. I was really starting to like the Lirica and all the changes that had been made. I was bushed from the sun I had taken during the daytime and decided to retire for the evening. I heard the next day that the show was excellent. Sunday, April 24th, 2005; Day at Sea Ah, a sunny day at sea cannot be beat in my opinion. Great breakfast, sunshine, great lunch, sunshine and then a little work in my cabin before getting ready for the evening's entertainment. The Lirica offered a pre-dinner show for late seating almost every night and there was entertainment after dinner, as well. I attended this evening's show, a vocalist named Jane Edwards and while she was talented, she just seemed to miss the mark with the group in attendance. She told a few jokes that did not get a response from the audience and that always seems to kill any momentum an entertainers garners. I left a tad early to use the Internet Cafe and then join our group for another spectacular dinner. To give you an idea of what the dining experience was like, here is a recap of this evening's meal. I sat at a table for 7 (I was the odd-man out) and our various bottles of wine were already at the table. Our waiter greeted us with menus and served our first glass of wine. The assistant waiter filled our water glasses, served bread for those that wanted it and generally made sure our table was properly set after each course. We then ordered. I had spring roll for an appetizer, mushroom soup, a mixed green salad, a small taste of pasta with pesto sauce and wahoo, with no dessert. When the appetizers were served, I was treated to 3 huge spring rolls. I only ate one, but could have eaten all three in a heartbeat because they were simply delicious. The mushroom soup was to die for. The salad was OK, but then what can you do to a salad when I had been eating award winning salads in the buffet every day for lunch. The pasta ended up being a full serving and I ate every bit of it. I could not stop myself other than the couple of bites I gave my table mates. It was world class! My entree was again spectacular! Wahoo served with asparagus and boiled baby red potatoes. This was the kind of dining experience I enjoyed every evening, hence the 7-pound weight gain. Everyone's dining experience was the same no matter what they ordered. One guy, who had owned a restaurant, claimed that this evening's prime rib was the best he had ever eaten. Desserts were plentiful and excellent. After a good amount of food and wine, I was off to bed. However, the feedback that I got from the Entertainment Team's 10 pm event "The Election of Mr. Lirica" was simply wonderful. Monday, April 25th, 2005; San Juan, Puerto Rico I love Puerto Rico. It is one of those ports that has a unique flavor, yet is as American as McDonalds. It is a great first international port for those interested in expanding their travel horizons beyond the U.S., as it gives one the feeling that they are in some far-off foreign land while they are still on U.S. territory. I had arranged to spend the day with one of the couples in our group and we had a great time exploring Old San Juan, the forts and walls and the shopping streets. I needed an Internet Cafe in the worse way, so found one and cleaned up a good amount of e-mail. Since we were only in port a few hours, I ended up back on board the ship with too little time in San Juan to satisfy my love for the port. I know, I know...San Juan? But if you go with an open mind, it is truly a wonderful port to visit even though it is a U.S. possession and easily accessed via cruise ship. Back on board the Lirica, I enjoyed a late afternoon Jacuzzi, the waning sunshine and finally made my way to my cabin to get ready for the evening's show, "Witness of the Impossible". Now don't get me wrong. I do not usually like magician acts. I find them artificial and boring. This guy was great! The show got rave reviews. I pulled myself away from the show before it was over as it was the best time to access the Internet all day. The Internet Cafe had unusual pricing ($6.00 for the first 10 minutes and then $.60 per minute thereafter), but it was fast enough to make the value proposition viable. I cleared my e-mail in time to be right on time for dinner. Dinner was another stellar event enjoyed by all. By this point, I had already decided on the content of my follow-up review of the Lirica. It had met or exceeded my every expectation. Tuesday, April 26th, 2005; Fort-de-France, Martinique I was starting to feel lethargic, so I decided to walk as many miles, as I could during this port of call. My wife and I love Martinique (Joanie et moi aiment tout là est au sujet de la France. La culture, la nourriture, le vin et le respect français pour notre environnement sont toutes les choses que San Diegans relient aussi. Je sais que beaucoup d'Américains ne comprennent pas, mais je suspecte qui se produit dans toutes les cultures). I debarked the ship and then walked into town. Once there, I walked in as many directions, as I could find. We usually take the ferry over to the resort area and hit the beach, but today I found walking to be a great outlet. I walked for miles and miles. Finally, I made my way back to the ship and stopped in the Duty Free shop to pick up a bottle of wine, which I had no trouble bringing on board the Lirica. Thank you for the liberal liquor policy! I was dressed and ready to attend the evening's entertainment after spending a good deal of time in the Internet Cafe. I arrived in time to join some of our group members for the production show "Amulet." It was enjoyed by everyone as was the juggler that followed the show. I had never really seen anything like this guy. He juggles 40 pound steel balls about the size of basketballs. His grand finally was catching a 40 pound steel ball that had been shot out of a cannon; very entertaining. Dinner was another fantastic event and our table ended up being the last to leave the restaurant after much laughter and story telling. I decided to tour the various entertainment venues on the ship to see what was going on. To my surprise, the ship was hopping and there was something for everyone. Romantic music was playing in the L'Atmosphere Piano Bar, International music was playing in the Le Cabaret, Dance music in the Beverly Hills Bar, Caribbean music in the Lord Nelson Pub, Big Band dance music in the Lirica Lounge and finally disco music in the Blue Club disco. I don't ever remember seeing so many entertainment venues offering music simultaneously. I returned to the L'Atmmosphere Piano Bar, sat at the main bar for a glass of chardonnay and then made my way to bed tired from all the walking I had done in Martinique Wednesday, April 27th, 2005; Bridgetown, Barbados Up early, I met one of the couples from our group and left the ship to negotiate a taxi tour of Barbados and specifically Harrison's Cave. I had not visited the Cave before, but had heard rave reviews about it. We found a taxi that agreed to take us around the island where ever we wanted and to the caves. He turned out to be a great guy and did an excellent job for us. I would give the cave tram a "must do" when in Barbados. He dropped us off in Bridgetown where we chose to walk back to the ship. It is an easy 15-minute walk and very enjoyable. By now, I had fallen into my usual evening routine. Shower, dress, hit the Internet Cafe, attend the evening's show and then on to dinner. Tonight was no different other than the show (Fantasia Flameca) didn't hold my interest, so about half way through the show I returned to the Internet Cafe and cleaned up all of my e-mail before going to dinner. Even though it was the second formal night of the cruise, I decided to turn in right after dinner. Thursday, April 28th, 2005; St. John, Antigua I had so much fun with the couple that I had explored Barbados with on Wednesday, that we decided to do the same thing on Antigua. Our driver wasn't as good and the sights were anticlimactic. I would suggest that everyone simply hit the beach and then do some shopping in St. John. I walked around St. John quite a bit before heading back to the ship and my usual evening routine. The show (Welcome to America) was downright excellent. Friday, April 29th, 2005; Philipsburg, St. Maarten We had a short visit in St. Maarten, which is too bad as this is one of everyone's favorite ports. It has everything going for it. Great shopping on the Dutch side, casinos, great beaches and lots to do. Add to that a wonderful French side of the island with more beaches, shopping, restaurants and culture and you just can't beat it. I needed some shots for the St. Maarten port review, so I took off in a taxi for a quick island tour to get the photos I needed. I made it back just in time to board the ship before they pulled the gangway and departed at 1 pm. I had some more delicious salads and fresh cooked vegetables in the buffet and then spent the afternoon by the pool in the warm sunshine. I stayed until the sun almost disappeared. It had been a wonderful day. Because I stayed so late, I decided to pass on the evening's show and simply relax in my cabin taking my time to get ready for dinner. I hit the Internet Cafe and then ran into some of the folks from our group and joined them for a cocktail before dinner. Being able to jump from table to table is a very interesting way to get to know folks, This particular cruise had an eclectic bunch or characters that I got to know quite well. I had some very enjoyable dinners, and this evening's was another one of them. Saturday, April 30th, 2005; Day at Sea Ahhhh, another excellent day at sea with perfect weather. We had our last seminar this morning and then I made my way to the pool area to stake out a well located lounge chair. I am not sure where all the people went, but the pool area was not crowded and I was able to partition off the perfect spot. I always bring plenty of work with me on a cruise, so I end up with books, notebooks and the like that takes up quite a bit of space. I spent the entire afternoon with no one around me and got tons of work done (not to mention enjoying the Jacuzzis). This was to be our last formal evening of the cruise and the Captain was throwing a "Farewell Cocktail Party". I haven't seen one of these on a mass-market cruise in years. I was dressed in my tuxedo, finished my e-mail chores in the Internet Cafe and then made my way to the Lirica Lounge for the cocktail party. Once at the party, drinks were flowing freely for the entire time until the party ended. The Captain spoke for just a tiny bit to thank everyone and received a hardy round of applause for his generosity. Now, I am not sure they do this on every cruise, but this is about the time I became very fond of the Lirica and MSC. Compared to the last time I cruised this ship, they had improved 100% and in all the areas that needed improvement. Their generosity was appreciated by every passenger. Dinner followed and it was lobster and Prime Rib on the menu (along with several other entrees) We enjoyed the dinner and wine with lots of conversation and ended up closing the restaurant as the last table. I went to the evening's show (Moulin De Pigalle) but was so tired from the sunshine I had taken during the day, decided to retire. Sunday, May 1st, 2005; Nassau, Bahamas We cruised during the morning and arrived in Nassau around noon. I disembarked and was craving exercise so I decided to take a water taxi over to Paradise Island and then walk the island, back over the bridge and then walk around Nassau itself. It proved to be a good choice. I was one of the last to board the next departing water taxi and the second we pulled away from the wharf this guy started yelling at the top of his lungs. "Hi, I am Bobbie, your tour guide for the ride to Paradise Island." he was yelling so loud, I had to put my finger in my ear. "I am going to point out the sights on the way to Paradise Island" he yelled. Now for those of you that have taken the water taxi, you know that it is only about a 5-minute ride across the channel and there isn't anything of interest to see. Good old Bobbie continued yelling for the next three fo four minutes pointing out a beach that used to be topless, and a house that had been owned by a movie star at one time. The experience was really very annoying. Before the water taxi arrived at the Paradise Island terminal, Bobbie announced "NOW I DON'T WORK FOR THE WATER TAXI BUT I MAKE MY LIVING FROM TIPS. NOW I WILL COME AROUND TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU TO COLLECT MY TIP" he yelled at the top of his lungs. He took his hat off and started approaching people. To my amazement, folks actually dug into their pockets and gave him money. He must have collected $50 or $60 dollars that I saw. When he got to me, I told him to take a hike. So, here is the deal folks. Old Bobbie is in kahoots with the captain of the water taxi. It is nothing more than a bad shakedown and it would be illegal in the U.S. Please don't fall for it. If you are on a water taxi and this scam is pulled on you, be verbal about it and let other people know they are just being shaken down. Don't tip the guy and tell him to sit down and shut up. If enough people do this, the scam will go away. After getting over the irritation of watching what should be intelligent adults give their money away to a scam, I started walking. I walked to Atlantis and decided to walk its grounds, as it had been some time since I stayed there. Atlantis is cool, but at a whopping $29 per person to simply gain entrance, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone at this point. I walked out to Cabbage Beach and down the beach around the point. I then walked back to the bridge, crossed over it and began exploring the area around the bridge itself. I ran into two other adventurous souls who were exploring the same area from our group and thought to myself, "I need to get to know them better". I love people who are not afraid to explore unique areas. I eventually walked back into downtown Nassau and down to the Straw Market. After a while, I got bored with the street hustlers and other urchins in Nassau's tourist area and made my way back to the ship. I guess you can tell that Nassau is not one of my more favorite ports. I spent some time by the pool in the late afternoon and then returned to my cabin to start packing for the morning's debarkation. I attended the evenings "Farewell Show" and then went to the dining room for our group's last dinner together. This had been one of the most fun groups I had the fortune to be with in quite a while....a true cast of unique characters. I was looking forward to cruising with them on future cruises. After dinner, I enjoyed a glass of chardonnay with some of the group members before turning in for the night. May 2nd, 2006; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida I awoke early and was surprised to see that we had already docked. I went up to breakfast, made a ton of telephone calls and then returned to my cabin to finish packing my carry-on luggage. The ship was cleared by 9am and I was at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, checked in for my flight by 9:45 am. I was glad to be going home to San Diego.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean/Panama Canal

Day One: Embarkation – Boarded ship at approximately 2 PM. At the embarkation picture area we requested that our picture be taken with our friends. We were told “No” even though we saw embarkation pictures with 3 – 5 guests in the photo library. We were also told we could not use our personal camera either to record the event with our friends. We were later told by the photography crew that our embarkation pictures were lost

along with about 25 others due to a camera malfunction. Upon arrival in our cabin #12031 we noticed that both 110V electrical outlets at the dressing area did not have plates on them and the wires were dangerously exposed. In addition, the door covering the mini-bar was falling off. We noted these deficiencies to our Cabin Stewart, Alex Noel. He assured us that these items would be seen too and corrected shortly. Upon disembarking the ship the items still had not been attended to. We also noticed that although our friends in the adjoining cabin had been given robes, however, we did not receive any in our cabin. Upon questioning Alex, he made us feel that we may have misplaced or taken the robes. When he did bring us two, they were shrunken, frayed, and too small for even a child to wear. The air conditioning system in the room consistently failed to bring the temperature down to an acceptable level. We brought these issues to the attention of Alex, once again to no avail. It operated in the same condition upon our disembarkation. We finally left port in Fort Lauderdale about 2 1/5 hours late. We were informed by a placard in our cabin that we were assigned to table #75 in the L’Campo dining room at 1st seating which was advertised in the brochure as 7:00 PM but turned out to be 6:00 PM. Table #75 turned out to be two tables seating two each next to each other. Our other friends we were cruising with had been seated at separate tables. We went to speak with the Maitre‘d, Leonardo Moccia regarding this error and were reassigned temporarily to Table #80 at 2nd seating which had now been changed to 8:00 PM from 8:40 PM as the brochure indicated. At dinner that night we were assigned to a waiter by the name of Marcella. Upon sitting down at the table, he “threw” the menus down in front of us, never smiled, failed to introduce himself, and demanded that we make all of our dinner selections including desert on the spot. When the beef entrée arrived it looked like the bottom of an old shoe although we had ordered them rare. He begrudgingly took back the entrées in a huff and replaced them with something that looked somewhat better but now had the consistency of an old shoe with vegetables that looked like they were “Jolly Green Giant” frozen rejects. We could not get tea at dinner, only water which was served in a wine glass without ice. Needless to say dinner was ruined and our appetites quickly disappeared. Our travel agent had requested a seating with the waiter Ciccio, all together. In addition, my wife is allergic to tomatoes and several other vegetables. A special food request was put in by our travel agent, but both requests were not honored by MSC staff. Day Two: At Sea – We paid a visit to the Maite‘d once again to get reassigned to a table with Ciccio so we could all experience our lunches and dinners together. The Maitre‘d was outraged at us and others trying the change their seating arrangements. He outwardly made disparaging remarks about Americans and vowed he would never sail with Americans again. He started swearing in Italian (I understand some) and kept up his negative remarks against Americans. His assistant finally changed our tables. However, the food once again proved to be of extremely poor quality although the service had improved. On another note, all beverages such as soft drinks, lemonade, etc. with the exception of water, tea, and coffee needed to be purchased at additional cost. We also found out that lunch is “open seating” and we cannot enjoy it together at an assigned table. This was not the way the cruise brochure depicted it. We were also surprised upon visiting the “Coffee Corner” that we were charged for our coffees as other ships we had sailed on in the past, these were always included. Activities on board were sorely lacking. No bands around the pool, no music, and a lot of dull entertainment. All lounge chairs, tables, etc. were wrapped up and put away by 5:30 PM and the pool/Jacuzzi facilities were then unavailable. The pizza area by the pool was never open during the duration of the cruise. We also realized at this time that the ship was not taking the navigation itinerary as shown in the brochure. The ship rather than going around Cuba to the West took the Windward Passage to the east. We especially booked our cabins on the port side to take advantage of the passage to the west around Cuba. This did not happen. Day Three: Montego Bay – We arrived in Montego Bay 1 hour late, however, by the time we made it ashore we were over 2 hours late. We had reserved a car for the 12:00 PM arrival so we could tour on our own. We were told that we would be Tendered to port although the itinerary in the brochure never did not suggest this method of debarkation and there were ample docking facilities available for our ship. A Carnival cruise ship was docked at the port. Reasons for not docking at the port were not given and the crew members asked did not now why. We went out on the first tender, thanks to Betty at Reception, although we were told that excursions would go first. As we arrived at the dock the tender pilot was unable to secure the vessel. We bounced around in the docking area, almost turning over once, as the locals laughed at us as we tried to land. The tender pilot came around time and time again until finally several strong locals tied him up. No disembarkation photos were taken as experienced on other ships. Since we had only a 7 hour time slot in port and 2 ½ hours were now gone, our day in Jamaica was ruined. We only had the time to visit one attraction before we had to reboard the vessel. Although we had to be on board by 7:00 PM, we did not leave port until 9:30 PM since the ship lost several passengers and their travel agent. Apparently they left the ship in Jamaica, refusing to return due to their negative experience on board. Day Four: At Sea – Once again the food was poor. The food at the buffet was bordering on uneatable. The joke on board was that whatever you didn’t eat the night before would appear at the buffet the next day, and it did. Once again, the activities on board were the poorest we have ever experienced, napkin folding, learn to speak Italian, etc. Where was the wine tasting and the art shows we experienced on other cruises? Where were the bands around the pool, the excitement of it, and all the games on deck? Nothing at all on this ship! Day Five: Cartegena – We disembarked and proceeded on a tour of the city booked through MSC. There were no disembarkation photos taken as we had experienced on other cruises. We were promptly advised by our tour guide that Cartegena is not visited by many cruise ships lately because of the danger to Americans. As a matter of fact we were told that it has become “a very dangerous kidnapping area” and we must stay close to our tour. My wife was terrified upon learning this and did not enjoy her time on shore. She counted the minutes until the tour was over. These security matters were never explained to us in the MSC brochures or accompanying information. Once again the food was very poor and the buffet got worse (if that was possible). All juices are canned, not fresh; everything on the buffet seems very old and recycled. Day Six: San Blas Islands – Tendered to shore to Provenir Island where the local Cuna Indians sell their “molas”. No disembarkation photos once again. On a high point, this was this first location that the ship set out water and juices for passengers. The experience here left a lot to offer. No tour guides from the ship to help us, dumped us off on an island where we were left to fare for ourselves.Food on board is continues to be the worse we have ever experienced on any cruise ship. Juices are canned, vegetables seem frozen and yesterday’s food becomes today’s salad. Day Seven: Panama Canal – We are told that we can not set foot on Panamanian soil unless we signed up for an excursion. No mention of this in the brochure. Since we booked an excursion to the Changres River, our ability to set foot on land was guaranteed at this point. However, all others had to pay $32 to go ashore. We were later informed that we also paid the $32 each as it was included in the excursion we took. We were at informed at booking the cruise that all port charges were included. If so, why were we charged an additional $32 each to go ashore? Again, food is absolutely terrible; nothing ever changes from the rolls to the desert. All deserts always come with a putrid green liquid on the plate that doesn’t taste like anything. Day Eight: Puerto Limon – Once again ship is late getting into port. Brochures depict ability to travel inland to capital of San Jose. However, no tours or cabs will travel to San Jose and expect to get back to the ship in time for sailing at 5:00 PM. Trips to San Jose were advertised in the MSC brochure but no one could travel there due to the time constraints. Spend most of our time at the dock purchasing local handicrafts and other trivial items. Food hasn’t improved at all. Now we’re getting leftovers from three days ago at the buffet and at dinner. Day Nine: At Sea – Activities at sea once again very limited. This is definitely not a “fun” ship. It seems that MSC has purposely segregated the nationalities on board and the attitude towards Americans is not good. It seems a joke when we wanted to play miniature golf that we had to go down to Deck Six, pay a deposit of $10 to secure a ball and club to play. The hours of operation were so short that it was almost impossible to enjoy a game. Tonight was the “Buffet Magnifique” or the best buffet of the cruise. No ice sculpturing on deck. We were so disappointed having experienced the Grand Buffets on other ships. This buffet was a total “joke”. The food at the buffet and the presentation was terrible. The one ice sculpture presented had already melted into a form that was unrecognizable. Food was a little bit better but not at all what we had experienced on other cruise lines. Day Ten: At Sea – Once again, activities are extremely limited. Food at the buffet has not improved at all. Staff continues to be nasty and not very accommodating. Our cabin steward at this point has made sure he doesn’t interface with us, for what reason we do not know. Food in the dining room has become a ritual rather that an expectation of a culinary experience. This experience has set us up to never sail MSC Italian Line again. Everyone agrees that this ship will never make it in the U.S. Day Eleven: Key West – All 972 Americans on board were compelled to gather at 6;45 AM in the Lirica Lounge to meet Immigration Officials. Arriving at 6:45 AM all available seating was taken. Passengers were pouring outside onto the decks and elevator areas. No refreshments, coffee, etc. were served. Passengers waited until approximately 8:00 AM before the Immigration Official made it on board. Passengers were told that they could board tenders for Key West beginning at 9:00 AM. At 9:00 AM all passengers were informed that the tender could not operate due to the fact that the seas were too rough. Our entire day in Key West was spent aboard the ship anchored off shore. No explanation was ever given as to why we could not dock at Key West. The brochure we relied upon to make our decision to cruise the line never alluded to a tender at Key West. There were two other cruise ships docked at Key West (RCCL) and there was ample room for another ship to dock. Day Twelve: Fort Lauderdale – Thank GOD this experience was finally over. All of us on board have already come to the conclusion that the MSC Lirica is the “Motel Six” of cruise ships. Nothing could have been worse. In conclusion, this ship definitely did not live up to our most conservative expectations. Our expectations were based upon the literature that MSC Lines disseminated as well as our previous cruising experience.

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