Lirica was MSC’s first new-build cruise ship and the last of the Lirica class to undergo a renovation adding a splash park, new child and teen areas, new lounge, enhanced buffet and extended restaurant.
The four Lirica class ships were built between 2003 and 2005 at the STX yards in Saint-Nazaire, France at 251 meters long, weighing 60,000 tons and carrying 2,069 travelers. After the renaissance programme where the ships were cut in half and had a pre-fab 79-foot section inserted they grew to 275 meters long, weighing 65,000 tons and carrying 2,680 travelers, with 194 additional passenger cabins plus 59 new crew cabins, among the other upgrades and enhancements.
The MSC Lirica was built in 2003 for USD 270 million, and it cost just a bit more than that at 273 million to lengthen the 4 Lirica class ships. Lirica’s lengthening in 2015 completed the 4-ship renovations. Walking through the hallway in the passenger cabin area, there’s a slight rise where the new portion was inserted. You walk up a slight ramp in the hallway floor entering that section, and back down again at the end. However the public areas have a smooth transition with no noticeable differences between the new and old sections. MSC stands for Mediterranean Shipping Company. They have container ships as well as cruise ships.
The ship’s theater is small, but nice. There is no separate balcony section. All seats are accessible from deck 6. Most of the theater’s seats offer a good view of the show, though there are a few undesireable seats in the back, especially those behind the person manning the lights, who blocks the view. Also the second row has no rise over the first row making the view from those seats easily obscured by anyone sitting in the first row. From the third row up each row is above the one ahead of it except at the very back.
MSC’s Website said shows were by reservation only on this ship, and there were screens outside the theater for reserving seats, but they were disabled for our cruise because for all the shows there we could actually just walk in like on any other ship. Getting to the theater early was always a good plan as the best seats always filled at least 15 minutes before the start of the show, with the ones everyone likes best at the ends of the aisles where escape is easy filling 30-45 minutes before the start of the show, and often all or most seats were full by the time the show started.
Shows during our cruise were generally of high quality with talented performers. They had a large cast who performed a variety of production shows during our 20-day cruise, with just a few guest performances to give them a night off here and there. The cast included gymnasts, acrobats, an aerialist, and a juggler as well as singers and dancers. There were 2 performances of the same show each night. Besides generally being good shows, they were hugely popular because with no movies or secondary theater on this ship there’s not a lot of other alternatives.
Other evening entertainment on the ship came in the form of several music venues and frequent deck parties. A couple of the music venues have dance floors. One had a band playing music more likely to appeal to younger cruisers, while the other had a piano, a singer, and music more geared toward older folks. There’s also a piano bar with no dancing for people who just want to relax and listen to the music. For late night entertainment there’s a disco in a different lounge. The shops and casino were also open.
There’s not a huge variety of daytime activities either. For self-entertainment the ship has a couple pools and a couple hot tubs, mini golf, ping-pong, foosball, shuffleboard, and for the little ones a splash park. Of course all those are outside and subject to weather. Anything requiring equipment like balls, clubs, paddles, etc was only available when the entertainment staff was on duty at the outdoor stage because all items had to be checked out with them, carried to the venue, and then returned rather than just being available at all times next to the place it would be used like on most ships. The outside portion of the promenade deck just runs along each side and not through the bow or stern so walking or jogging around the promenade deck isn’t an option.
Because the newsletter goes out in multiple languages, and the events listed in each one take place in that language there’s not a whole lot of activities throughout the day as time has to be scheduled for each language so something like a 1 hour port talk will need that space for an hour for each and every language it is offered in. Other daytime activities include dance lessons, trivia, bingo (which of course costs money), exercise type activities, and games. On port days it was mainly just dance lessons and a few exercise classes, but on sea days they had more things with deck games, trivia, and sometimes port talks. Overall there was not a lot to do on sea days, but our itinerary had a lot of ports.
A lot of the people spend a good portion the day in a deck chair. And a lot more towels do. Some people put their towels in a deck chair first thing in the morning and the towels stay there all day long regardless of what the people are doing. Often there are a whole lot more towels in empty chairs than there are people actually using them. Some towels will sit in a chair for hours untouched in spite of the fact that there are signs saying if they are left longer than 30 minutes the crew will pick them up, something they never actually do on any ship even though all of them say they will. Not even if the towels sit there all day while the person who left them is off in port. Which of course rewards the rule-breakers with their reserved chair at the expense of those who follow the rules and aren’t likely to find one available. Same as any cruise line, but to a greater degree because there are more people doing it.
We didn’t see anyone tossing the towels aside and using the chairs anyway as is sometimes done on some other lines when people get tired of the same people leaving towels on the prime chairs all day every day when they aren’t actually using them. Then again we didn’t hang out on the main deck, preferring a back balcony when we wanted to sit outside. Even there the chairs generally had towels on them, but there was always a stack of chairs available to set out a new one. The ship had public back balconies on several decks with stairways between them so we always found space to set up a deck chair somewhere.
MSC is behind the times as far as gluten free food goes, at least on the Lirica. There are no specific gluten free items in the buffet, and in the dining room what’s available for asking on the spot is just packaged breadstuffs that they thaw out. They did have gluten free croissants and muffins as well as breads, but if you asked for one thing like a muffin or croissant at breakfast you got a plate of 3 (a muffin, a croissant, and a roll) and they’re heated to thaw out so if you don’t eat them fairly soon they dry out and go to waste.
No gluten free pancakes or anything else that would be made fresh on the ship are available anywhere, not even in the dining room. Anyone on a strict diet would need to make sure they gave advance notification and made meal arrangements with the dining room staff.
There’s not much for pay-extra restaurants, just a sushi place, a coffee bar that isn’t even open in the morning, a smoothie bar and a gelato place. The gelato place did have several sorbets so there was something dairy-free available there. The buffet is open for meals and late night snacks, and on the outskirts next to the pool area there is a grill on one side that has omelets at breakfast and burgers later (no gluten free buns), and on the other side waffles in the morning and pizza later. There’s always pasta at the buffet, and they had a pasta stand by the pizza with someone making it right there, but never offered any gluten free pastas in spite of the fact that chick pea and lentil pastas are readily available in grocery stores these days in the regular pasta section. At least in the USA they are. They did not have pizza with gluten free crust either. Tea and coffee are available 24 hours, as is room service, but room service comes with a price, nothing free.
The dining room at breakfast and lunch has a little buffet set up, or you can order from the limited menu, or both. At dinner it is all from the menu and the service is far from speedy. They do not have pitchers of water to go around filling glasses with like on American lines. You have to get bottled water if you want any in the dining room. If you book through MSC USA you get the bottled water for free, but if you book through their European site you have to pay for it. The bottles they brought were big enough that we had plenty to share with our European table mates. Everyone can get tea or coffee free, and as usual on any ship beer, wine, or bar drinks cost extra. You are not allowed to bring any alcohol or bottled water with you at boarding time, but they rarely confiscate it if you bring it back with you from a port stop.
Food portions in the dining room are smaller than on American lines, which is fine by us, less wasted food. Vegetables are kind of lacking in most of the dinners, but that is par for the course with cruise ships and there was always the option of ordering a side of vegetables, which we often did. The food was neither the best nor the worst in comparison to other ships we have sailed on.
Their internet packages are outdated compared to American lines as you still have your internet limited to whatever amount of GB you paid for rather than having a package for the duration of the cruise. This could help keep the internet less congested as there would not be so many people on it at once assuming they log out when not using it, though not everyone did since it was by data usage rather than by minutes like cruise ship internet packages were originally. We had the premium package and did not use the full amount of data we had available, but did use more than half so a lesser package would have meant restricting our internet usage or running out before the cruise ended. Internet on ships is always slow, but there were times when it worked pretty well. There were also other times when it didn’t work at all or was so slow it may just as well have not been working.
The thermal suite on this ship is cheap compared to thermal packages on other lines, but that’s because there’s not much there. Just a sauna and steam room, seperate ones for men and women because apparently European men like to go in naked, and a few of the women too in spite of the sign at the entrance to the women’s sauna and steam room that says appropriate swimwear must be worn. There’s also 2 relaxation areas with ocean view loungers, a larger forward facing one next to the gym and a smaller one by the men’s area with a view out the side. The smaller one has coffee. There’s no pool or heated ceramic chairs that are the prime places people want to go in most thermal suites.
Massages at their spa are also a lower price than on a lot of other ships. It’s best to book spa treatments like massages pre-cruise because you get a 30% discount, and if you decide to book another onboard that discount carries over. Bring cash if you want to leave a tip because you can’t put it on your card when you have already paid for the massage before you have it.
The room is nice with relaxing peaceful music, unless the captain or cruise director decides to make an announcement, which breaks the mood and goes on forever as they repeat it in about 7 different languages. At the end when you’re nice and relaxed after enjoying your massage they try to upsell you with more treatments or get you to buy lotions, which quickly breaks the mood. You have the option for soft, medium, or hard pressure during the massage. The masseuse asked which was preferred. She also did my massage barefoot.
There were not many kids on our cruise, being a long one while school is in session, but they do have kid’s club areas, a teen hang-out, and a small arcade.
Working in the casino would be a boring job on the Lirica, at least during our cruise anyway. It’s pretty small with just a few table games and slot machines, no poker or craps. Generally there was nobody at any of the table games other than late at night and maybe 2 or 3 people at the slots. The shops were often empty of customers as well.
While we did smell a bit of cigarette smoke in various places around the ship now and then, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it might be on a European ship. There was a very stinky pub that allowed smoking at the foot of the closest stairway to our room, from which smoke would waft up the stairs any time someone was smoking in there. Keeping the door to the pub closed would have helped a lot in keeping the smoke contained, but they never shut it. That was the worst place on board as far as smoke goes.
Décor on the Lirica is not memorable. It’s neither overly fancy nor overly plain and there’s nothing that really stands out. The open stairway down to the front desk is probably the most memorable feature, which isn’t saying much.
Passenger cabins are pretty standard on the Lirica compared to other ships.
This is the sort of ship you book for the price and itinerary, not for the ship itself as there isn’t nearly as much to do onboard as some ships have, but it does go to some interesting places at an affordable price. Which is exactly why we booked this cruise.