MSC Cruises Reviews

Year Started: 1987
Ships in Fleet: 12
Category: Mainstream

Summary: A pan-European mainstream cruise line that competes with Costa. New, massive ships with decent food and entertainment, Look for bargains in Caribbean.


MSC Cruise Ships

3 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.

11 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Group. Families. Value for Money.

3 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Foodies.

28 Reviews


Good for: Foodies. Families. Group.

4 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.

6 Reviews

Regions:Southern Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America

Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.

21 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.

15 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. First-time Cruisers. Families.

16 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Value for Money. Foodies. Group.

0 Reviews


Good for: Foodies. Children`s Programs. Families.

6 Reviews

Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.

6 Reviews


Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
from 119 reviews


Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms


Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities


Shore Tours


Alternative Dining

User Reviews

119 User Reviews of MSC Ships
Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: December 7, 2006

This was our 4th cruise all taken within 2 years. Previous cruise were all on Princess.

We booked this cruise in early July and booked an inside guarantee. We were pleasantly surprised when we were checking in and found we had been upgraded to a balcony, which they call a suite. We have been in either a balcony or suite and from what I understand no other line would have called this cabin a suite. The bathroom had a tub, which was very nice but a bit hard to get out of as it was very tall.

Our ports were: San Juan, St. Maarten, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Tortola and Cayo Levantado. We took ship excursions in San Juan, St Maarten and Grenada. They were handled very well. MSC worked at making sure that people who spoke different languages had their own tour bus and guide. We took our own tours in Barbados, St. Lucia and Tortola. We had very good drivers/guides on these.

As for Cayo Levantado there was supposed to be a $19 pp charge for the tender to the island but MSC did drop this, most likely because very few

had signed up. There was still a charge for the buffet on Cayo Levantado but I believe this was due to the ship not doing the buffet but having the hotel on the island providing it. We only saw one couple actually eating.

The passengers were a mix of Americans, Canadians, Britons, Germans, French and Italians. And while it is true that announcements are made in 5 languages the announcement are few and far between.

MSC has instituted the Art auction and the Inch of Gold but neither intruded on the impact of the cruise. They only have one deck that has the shops and the sales people are not pushing you to buy.

The one thing that really stood out for as being different on MSC was the entertainment and animation group.

While MSC is trying to bring in Americans the entertainment was very Italian, not even European (according to the British friends we made). I think they need to make some changes there. They could also do with turning down the volume on the music.

Also the animation group was all Italian and most times it was very hard to understand what they were saying in English. It would not hurt if they had a couple of these people whom English is their first language.

We heard many people complain about the food but really the only complaint we had about the food was that in a lot of items did not have much taste, very bland. It seems that the only items with a lot of flavor were the seafood salads and the soups. But we definitely did not starve.

The ship was very pretty and the Christmas decoration they put up were very nice and not over done. Most lounges and the dining rooms all had a Christmas tree and each was decorated a bit different from the next.

There were a few children on board and did not see any problems with any even though the hours of the children’s club were very short.

The dress code for the cruise was 3 formal nights and the rest casual. Most passengers followed but of course some did not. This definitely did not detour for from our enjoyment.

Over all we enjoyed the cruise and most likely would cruise with MSC again.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: October 13, 2006

We were very disappointed. The majority of the staff were borderline-rude and there seemed to be a bias against Americans. We would never use, nor recommend, MSC to anyone.

The food was limited and the quality hit-or-miss. The only way we got any satisfaction was to bring our complaints to the managers.

It all started the first day when we entered our room. It was filled with paint fumes. The woman at the reception desk was not receptive to our concerns and told us there were no fumes, even though she did not go there to see for herself. The safe would not open so they sent someone, who did notice the fumes. When we returned to the reception desk, the same woman was still unreceptive to our concerns and had a take-it-or-leave it attitude. Very similar to the young man in the Four Eyes commercial. After we talked to her manager, the room was ventillated so that the fumes disappeared and the same woman could not be nice enough to us.

A similar situation concerned the dining room. The waiter was indifferent to our requests. Although we had notified the cruiseline that

I was a vegetarian, we had problems. The vegetarian meals that were available were ladened with creams -- something I try to avoid because of high cholesterol. When I asked for a salad with the dressing on the side, I got a soup bowl half-full of lettuce with oil-and-vinegar dressing (actually my favorite). It was an interesting evening. Even our table mates -- all four from Norway -- commented at how mediocre (at best) the food was. So it wasn't just our tastebuds.

When my husband requested that spaghetti be served with his eggplant parmisan, the waiter didn't want to do it. Eventually the waiter got his way.

We spent a lot of money and were very disappointed. Never again! We will only go Royal Caribbean in the future. I didn't want to go to Europe in the first place and plan to never to return again.

Save yourself a lot of money and disappointment by avoiding MSC cruise lines -- especially if you are an American. The only time the staff will act friendly is the day before you disembark. It made no difference -- we only tipped our cabin crew because they kept it clean -- even though they never brought any ice, was was noted in the cruise line materials.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: September 9, 2006

The ship was beautiful, the rooms and the balconies are the smallest I have ever sailed on. The announcements are in about 5 languages before English. There were lots of noisy kids on our cruise (kids sail free) and out of 3000 pasgeners, only 50 of us spoke English. The food was horrible. We finally found out that the pastas come in frozen (which would explain why they were not any good) THe ports were great, the entertainment was good. I would not take another cruise on MSC cruise line. THere was no food after 10:00, the coffee machine was shut down after that also. You could not get iced tea all day.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: July 8, 2006

We just came back of our first cruise expirence on msc musica. It was crowdy but allright for younger people. Food was plenty and allright. (At dinner you can ask free drinking water at the table.) Waiters and housekeeping were very good but they had to work up to 18 hours a day. This was not acceptable to me.

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Transatlantic Crossing
Publication Date: June 3, 2006

This was the first cruise that I went on, and I couldn't have asked for anything more.

The service was impeccable, the cleanliness excellent and the food was, being Italian Canadian, sometimes as good as our home cooking. Never better though:) One reviewer was complaining that they had to buy ice cream. We found that if we went to the sit down restaurant for lunch, ice cream came with the meal, and therefore was free. We also found the prices at the stores on the ship to be exceptionally reasonable, sometimes much less than the price at a duty free store on land.

There were a few complaints that we had which we also mentioned to the cruise company and which hopefully, if other readers notice, will also tell the cruise ship company.

The tours organized by the ship tended to be very expensive and we found that many times, it was easier and cheaper to hire a taxi or walk in the various ports of call. The price of alcohol on the ship was also prohibitive, although many guests appeared to have somehow procured their own drinks (nudge nudge, wink wink).

This may only be with our table, but we found the snobbishness of the Maitre'D and the table manager to be quite offensive, although the rest of the restaurant staff went out of their way to make our meals enjoyable.

In addition, if you are a younger traveller (under 30), you may find that, atleast on our cruise, there are not a lot of young people, although a lot of the staff are young and fun to talk with.

Finally, if you are like us and like to enjoy peace and quiet, head to the back of the ship to the Blue Lounge and the deck behind there. Although there are activities going on constantly near the pool, the back of the ship is quiet and you can enjoy the beautiful view and take in the rays of the sun. The fact that the rooms were a little small was actually nice, as we were forced to leave the rooms and meet many of our fellow passengers


We did hear some of the other passengers complaining, but they, as the stereotype goes, appeared to be consistently cut of a certain stripe, and I am sure they would probably never be fully satisfied with anything.

I would definitelty recommend this cruise to anyone especially if you enjoy a more meditteranean atmosphere.

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Southern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 31, 2006

I recently was able to join a friend, last minute, on an 11 day cruise aboard the MSC CROCIERE Italian cruise ship. After reading some pretty negative reviews (after booking) I was a bit concerned. I am not sure if those folks were aboard the same ship but my experience overall was 5 star. The crew, from the director (Andreas) to our cabin attendant (Thierry) to the wonderful hostess in the Lord Nelson (Maria)were all exceptional.

The dining room was fabulous with decent food, lots of choices, including a great selection of healthy items and the servers were awesome. Each evening there was really good entertainment The ports were all gorgeous and the time allotted was just perfect. The only complaint I would offer is the price of the ship tours, of which we took none. We just hired privately and it was about 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost. I would highly recommend this cruise line.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: March 22, 2006

Background/Itinerary: The itinerary was intriguing and very rewarding. We sailed from Genoa, Italy, visiting many ruins of the ancient world from Egypt to Greek to Roman ruins. Malta was a wonderful stop but way too short to even sample what this island country has to offer. Other ports of call included Naples (for Pompeii); Syracuse (Sicily) with a charming old town and ancient Greek ruins; Alexandria, Egypt (for pyramids at Giza & Sakkara plus Memphis); Tobruk (for the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse which was fantastic); Tripoli, Libya, where we visited the fabulous Roman ruins at Leptis Magna; Valetta, Malta; Salerno for the well-preserved Doric temples of the ancient Greek/Roman city of Poseidiana/Paestum; and back to Genoa. Weather was cool in Genoa becoming more pleasant and warm as we ventured southward.

Travel to point of departure and hotel: We booked our air ourselves, flying Air France from San Francisco non-stop to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport (what a nightmare to negotiate). Then we flew to Genoa on an Air France small plane operated by regional carrier Brit Air. Unfortunately, one of our bags did not arrive for 2 days but was finally delivered to

our stateroom the second evening of our cruise. Fortunately, my husband and I had divided our clothing so we had something to wear; some passengers were not so lucky. Up to 30 passengers experienced luggage delays from a variety of airlines and airports.

Stateroom: The cabin was well appointed with more than enough space for all we brought, including formal attire and a small telescope, tripod and camera gear for the eclipse, which was the reason we booked this cruise. Our cabin had two single beds which could be made into a king plus two bunks folded up on the walls. There was a minibar, television, make-up dresser and safe. A fruit bowl was filled on our arrival.

Ship: The ship was immaculate, if not a particularly attractive ship in the classic sense. Because a mid-section had been added to this ship, getting around was confusing. One could not reach all venues from each deck.

Dining: Dining itself was also a disappointment. Being on an Italian ship for the first time, we were looking forward to the cuisine which turned out to mediocre at best. Meat was tough, fish was "fishy," soups were bland and most dishes were uninspired. For dinner there were no options except the main dining room at one's assigned table. The breakfast buffet was run-of-the-mill but there was an ample amount of food. The best lunches were had at the Caffee del Mare grill where we ate delicious hamburgers and french fries (pizza was edible but nothing special). We actually ate one of the best pizzas ever while ashore in Valetta, Malta.

Services: For first timers or less experienced cruisers, this ship may have been adequate or better but for experienced cruisers this ship was a big disappointment. It seemed that they were unprepared for the number of English-speaking passengers. Previous reviews by such individuals seemed to indicate that there were only a very few English speakers cruising with MSC. The majority of crew did not speak much English making it difficult to communicate our desires or even have an amiable conversation. For example, our cabin steward was from Madacasgar and seemed more fluent in French.

The crew member who escorted us to our cabin simply left us there, showing us nothing in the cabin including the location of our life jackets. Most announcements could not be heard inside the cabins–one had to open the door to listen. And the one and only (mandatory) life boat drill was a joke. Not all passengers even attended and no roll was taken. Instead it was used as an photo opportunity by the ever-present paparazzi who intruded on us during dinner, followed us on shore excursions and frightened young children with their clown and pirate costumes. The ship's photographers were truly shameless in their pursuit of money.

It seemed that we had to pay for everything. On the Marco Polo (Orient Lines), ice cream was served daily for free. On the MSC Sinfonia the Gelateria was never open but occasionally ice cream out of a cart was served on the pool deck–at a cost. On arrival there were two bottles of water in the cabin but again, they were not gratis. As we left the ship for our excursions, water at a cost was offered. Most cruises we have taken provided water bottles for free.

In the dining room we had requested a table for two and were located was in a back corner with servers who hailed from Bali. When we ordered off the menu printed in English our waiter often could not understand what we said unless we pointed to the menu.

Service was probably the worst we have experienced for dining but perhaps we were assigned servers with less experience or training. We had to repeatedly ask for water, or even get it ourselves and our primary waiter never seemed to learn that my husband wanted coffee after his meal (The bus boy actually learned that by the end of our cruise and brought it himself.). Other passengers were satisfied with the service they received in the dining room so our experience may not be representative of the entire dining staff. However, no maitre'd ever spoke with us. Often the servers would shout and argue among themselves which was very annoying.

The crew had not anticipated dealing with such a large contingent of English speakers, most of whom were American. The Travel Quest/Sky and Telescope group for the eclipse accounted for more than 70% of the passengers who numbered between 1500 and 2000. In the past we have cruised on large vessels with much better organization than this one run by Italians.

Entertainment & Activities: These were very limited for individuals with our interests. Fortunately, there were regular astronomy-related lectures which were informative, interesting, and quite entertaining. The lecturers had a good sense of humor which the crew seemed to lack.

My husband and I particularly enjoy ballroom dancing and we were looking forward to an opportunity to dance on the MSC Sinfonia. However, the quality of music was lacking and one of the best bands on the ship refused to play if only one or two couples were in the Sinfonia lounge. The program would list the times they were to play in the daily program, we would appear, and the group would sit in their corner chatting for 45 minutes or more of that scheduled time. The best dancing music was available in the Buddha Bar provided by one Gianni Dale and his piano. Unfortunately, there was no dance floor in this bar but we danced on the carpet anyway, often joined by one or two other couples.

Children's Club: There were a number of planned activities and events for children, however, and this ship may be more enjoyed by families.

Embarkation/Disembarkation: Embarkation was long and tedious, taking about 2 hours to actually arrive at our cabin. There was much disorganization aboard the MSC Sinfonia from embarkation, shore excursions, collecting passports, and disembarkation. Rarely did anything begin on time (except for meals) and we had to wait for everything.

Summary: Bottom-line: Fabulous itinerary with a chance to visit Libya and see our 5th Total Solar Eclipse. However, we will never cruise with MSC again and would not recommend their ships to any experienced or English-speaking passengers.

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Other (Specified in Review)
Publication Date: March 20, 2006

This was a cruise in the central Mediterranean, Naples, Salerno, Sicily, Malta, Alexandria, and Libya, for 12 days.

Get used to everything being late - and don't expect to be warned so you can do something with your wait time.

Of 30 plus cruises, this was near the bottom.

Biggest Disappointments

1. Service was uniformly poor - in the cabin, in the dining areas, on the excursions, in the show rooms.

2. Food was minimally adequate to awful.

3. Excursions were cancelled in Libya - the reason we booked the cruise.

4. Americans are not really welcome here.

5. The bed was hard as a rock - reactivated an old shoulder injury.


In the cabin, we never figured out the names of the people handling our room. One never spoke, and the other was unintelligible. Immediately we noticed no ice in the cabin, and virtually always had to either ask or get it ourselves. Early in the cruise, we found our evening turn down service had occurred prior to 5 pm, though we had late seating. We informed the crew we did not want turndown before we left for dinner. To their credit, this never happened

again. Crew would enter either without knocking or after a very brief interval. (Our neighbor was highly offended that a male crew member walked in on his teen age daughters without knocking). Do not disturb signs disappeared or were ignored.

In the dining room, our waiter meant well, but could not get orders right and had no help from the assistant. We got a new assistant after complaining, but this did not improve order taking, pace of the dinner or quality. Our table mates seemed happy with the service, but we attributed this somewhat to the waiter's penchant for bringing extra deserts.

We rarely found anyone informed or helpful at the excursion desk or the reception desk.

When meeting any crew member, be sure to step aside and make way as they surely do not ever give way to a passenger.

3. As to food, we looked forward to having 12 days of Italian experience, but were sorely disappointed. The pastas were good, as were the bread sticks. Also, salads were always fresh and tasty. Even here, however, the waiter was never sure whether she had the dressing described on the menu, and usually just offered 1000 islands. Deserts were tasty, but not a great selection. The safest bet was the good ice creams, though some nights chocolate sauce was inexplicably unavailable.

At dinner, choices were limited, fish was usually full of bones, and ordering beef was a crap shoot whether you would get it cooked right - and the dice were loaded against you.

Soups were unusual, often served (unintentionally) cold. Of the two intentionally cold ones, gazpacho was excellent, but the vichysoisse was really just some cold potato soup that had never seen a drop of cream.

Lunch was okay, both in the dining room and the buffet.

NOTE: No evening buffet for those who like casual dining. This was strickly for the kids.

Breakfast was okay at best. The selections were limited. However, you could get an omelette cooked to order - but only after the chef had prepared as many sunny side up eggs as he thought necessary to fill the buffet tray - though in 12 days I saw one person eating them prepared this way.

In the dining room there were no pancakes, French toast, eggs Benedicts, or other goodies on the menu. There was a chef special, never volunteered by the waiter. When I asked, two days the special was chicken meatballs, another it was scrambled eggs and toast! What is special about that?

Condiments were often served from jars - with signs of great age from less popular ones.

Excursions in general on any cruise are a disappointment attendant to large groups. However, when there is a place you don't want to miss, the excursion booked on ship can be the safest alternative.

Not on this ship. Our Libya excursion to Leptis Magna was cancelled - the buses did not show up. Some were put in mini-vans (for a 1 1/2 hour ride over, and similar one back) and never got their box lunches or a guide. After the cancellation, an announcement was made that there would be more buses, a full 3 hours after the planned departure, leaving inadequate time for the entire itinerary. My basis for booking this cruise was because of the Libya stop. We salvaged the day by going into Tripoli on our own. The ship did offer a free shuttle into town. There, we found the Libyans to be friendly, willing to help, and so the day turned out okay.

We still do not have a refund for the prepaid excursions!

Americans were told we complain too much. There is apparently something wrong with expecting to get what you paid for.

Many announcements were in Italian, but not in English. Every afternoon there was something done only in Italian. Still not sure what that was. One evening after the show, the cruise director came on stage and spoke in Italian for nearly 15 minutes - we never did learn what he said.

On the day of the Libya excursion fiasco, the cruise director came out and yelled at the passengers who refused to accept that the cruise ship had a responsibility for the problem (though excursion staff indicated they knew there would be as there always is in that port). He ended up telling the Americans it was because they had a problem with Libya - he of course did not, as he is Portuguese!

Other issues were a lack of activities. Bridge was offered only once; there was no wine tasting; no special dinners (French night or Greek night). There was no pre-dinner dancing. Dance class was often during our dinner hour. Shops' merchandise was limited and expensive.

There were no port talks, no port maps offered.

Disembarkation was awful. EVERYONE was told at 8 am to line up in the lounge. An hour later, still in line, we learned that the passports had not even been returned from port authorities.

At the same time the passports were released to the crew, they began announcing the colors to disembark. The people with the first colors were not the people first to get passports.

I suggested to a crew member that it would have been a better plan if they had told everyone to stay put until passports had been released by the authorities. Then when they were released, they could have told the first color group to proceed to get their passports and disembark the ship. Then the next color group could be called.

It was like a light bulb went off in her head! Unfortunately, her response was for me to find someone important to make such a rational suggestion. When I suggested that she could make the suggestion to someone important, her answer was that "No one listens to me."

Why was I not surprised?

This is the only cruise we have ever been on where all dishes were clean, all of the time. This and a very pretty ship are not enough to redeem the experience.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 18, 2006

With a name such as Opera, Italian MSC cruise line seems to promise a lot of impressive entertainment; and in fact - it actually delivers completely and then some. We had the privilege to travel on that ship from February 18th to the 25th, 2006

The excellence of entertainment is true of the magnificent and unusual stage shows we saw and the ongoing on board dynamic activities, animated (brought to life if you will) by an especially dedicated clownish crew called the "Animatores".

Contrary to other cruise companies - that only offer two major stage productions - MSC Opera offers nearly every night an exceptional production and most of them feature the dancing cast made up of 6 gorgeously shaped and physically matched young ladies and 3 very handsome young men.

One of their most impressive productions was called "Le Cirque Imaginaire"; it has great similarity with the productions of "Le Cirque Du Soleil" without the ridiculous high associated price tag. Indeed "Le Cirque Du Soleil" does not own the exclusivity to this style of shows no more than it does not owns le denomination of cirque, or circus in English. I am

only surprised to see that no one else thought of doing this before.

In addition the dance team presented a couple of shows outside the theater, on the top bridge – by "le piscine" area - dancing an exquisite tango, presenting an extract of the play Cabaret and offering a delightful fashion show. In the theatre a 26-year-old tenor from Romania called Adrian Mocanu deeply moved us with his wonderful operatic renditions of very famous Italian songs.

The "Animatores" drafted with genteel insistence the participation of all hesitant guests to their numerous games and rewarded them with a multitude of various gifts. Unfortunately the Animatores are so continuously working that they barely sleep 5 hours a night and they are actually exhausted, several of them confided this to me. We got very close to these individuals because we love people in general and are always willing contestants. By the end of the trip they all knew our names.

I was NOT particularly impressed with the selection nor the quality of the food served on board; in fact, even though I can eat nearly anything, I usually found very little interesting food choices.

However the way I see it, we - as a society - eat way too much! So I did not regard the lack of food choices as necessarily a negative in this particular instance; one must eat to live not to live to eat. Still we were served lobster on the second formal night, a selection that we did not get on the Costa Allegra cruise last month.

One of the most serious weaknesses of the cabins was the shower compartment! Imagine a square of 2 ½ feet on two sides cut in two diagonally by the shower curtain and this is your shower area – I AM NOT KIDDING!

Needless to say that if you drop anything onto the floor, with the shower curtain closed, you are facing a serious dilemma. Ad to that fact that the shower controls are round and you don’t have much of a grip on them, after you soap up, it is extremely difficult to open or turn off those valves.

A rather large man explained to me that he was taking his showers with the curtain opened and afterwards was wiping the excess water that fell outside the shower area. However, he also pointed out that because of his size, not that much water passed by him outside the shower compartment.

We found the personnel courteous and seemingly anxious to resolve a couple of negative issues we experienced.

The selected ports of calls were most interesting, especially in the new stops of the Dominican Republic - that other cruise companies seem to constantly bypass.

There, we stopped in La Romana where we visited Altos De Chavon – A gorgeous 16th century, Mediterranean artist village replica created by Italian cinematographer Roberto Copa who spent 6 years of his life building this little town, which is perched high on a cliff above the Chavon River.

This faithfully executed historically styled architecture village, is decorated with mosaics of River Black pebbles and built with coral and terracotta bricks. We also stopped on a paradisiacal private island called Cayo Levantado; nearby, we actually got to see for the first time in all our cruising years, several large whales.

As usual and probably more so with each new cruise we take, we received lots of compliments from others - on board guests, and Animatores - regarding my wife and my own innovative dancing techniques.

Should you experience the MSC Opera? Without the shadow of a doubt I answer a resounding YES! I am now anxious to try the other ships of this wonderful Italian Company.

I think that it would be marvelous to have other theme-type vessels presenting an ambiance of other foreign countries, like France, Greece Russian, Polish, Spanish, possibly even Canadians Eh? It would be a pleasant change to have the MAIN onboard language in something other than English and only use it as a means of secondary communication. This way I could learn and constantly improve on my knowledge of other tongues.

Copyrights Roger Holstein 2006.

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Eastern Caribbean
Publication Date: March 9, 2006

What a great time we had on this beautiful two-year-old ship! MSC was a different experience for us and we loved it. Everything I had read prior to sailing on the Lirica was mixed, so I want to give you a good feel for our experience -- albeit from our perspective.

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

The Cabin After researching MSC we decided that the international flavor of the line, the size of the ship and its

age would all be pluses. We booked about two months out, an inside guaranteed 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, but an upgrade from what we booked and a handicapped-accessible 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 cabin was on Deck 9 forward, perfect for going up or down.

Cabin 9052's 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, body gel and bubble bath were in the bath, and so was a hair dryer that was good for short hair. There were not many electrical outlets, so bring a strip if you need to plug in battery chargers, etc. This was a very quiet cabin, and we got fresh fruit daily.

The Ship MSC Lirica is a two-year-old ship and the maximum passenger capacity using all berths is 2,065. Double-occupancy capacity is 1,560 passengers. The line is the second largest shipping company in the world; since it branched out into the passenger cruise business it now has seven cruise ships, with two more to come. The Lirica was designed for international sailing and I believe this is her second season in the Caribbean, along with her sister ship, the Opera. Reviews from passengers have been mixed but all agree that the ship is beautiful and clean, with a true mix of passengers from many countries.

The officers are all Italian; so are the upper echelon staff 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 staffers are multilingual. The few announcements are in five languages, and so is the entertainment. The passengers on this cruise were from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Canada, USA, Great Britain, and other countries. Menus in the dining room are in different languages to accommodate passengers who do not speak English.

Embarkation After we arrived at Fort Lauderdale Airport, we took our time, got some coffee, and then took 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, so 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 11:45 a.m., left our bags with the porters and got a number for boarding. The check-in lines opened at noon and we were among the first to be processed. The person checking us in was doing it for the first time, but it went very smoothly and we were on board in about 15 minutes. We were greeted by a staff member to lead us to our cabin and were settling in quickly. A welcome-aboard lunch was 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.)

The Layout 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, so we worked our way down. Deck 13 is for sunning forward, and aft is a miniature golf course. Deck 12 is an additional sunning deck and also is the walking/running track -- with eight times around to a mile (by my calculations). Deck 11 has the buffet restaurant all the way aft, with a grill on the port side and a pizzeria 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 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, restaurants and shops as well as reception etc. With the exception of Caya Levantado, we disembarked in each port from Deck 5 forward.

Itinerary The itinerary for this cruise was: two days at sea, San Juan, 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 -- a small island off the coast of the Dominican Republic -- and the seas were gently rolling. The day was beautiful -- a great beach day. Since we have been to all these islands, we were familiar with them. In the past we explored each of them and found places we like to return to. We like to shop and enjoyed each port thoroughly. We always walk into the town; it's great exercise and usually an easy walk. Our weather was exceptional each day except the day we were in Grenada, where it rained and we didn't care; we were only off the ship for about 15 minutes anyway. A number of excursions were offered in each port but we haven't done those for many years so I can't comment on them.

There were three formal nights; the others were a combination of informal and casual. The captain had a welcome aboard party for the first formal night and another party on 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.

Dining 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 and his assistant was Agus, both from Indonesia. Our table supervisor was Salvatore. The supervisors and the maitre d' and his assistants were very visible all the time, and service in the dining room was excellent. It was also leisurely since it was late seating, and that suited us very well.

There were certain menu items 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 (a pot roast -- the meat was not acceptable) but other than that, we had no problems. 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 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 nationalities. The maitre d' and his assistants and most of the table supervisors were Italian. First seating for dinner was at 5:45 p.m. and second seating was at 8 p.m. Breakfast in the dining room was served from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch from noon to 2 p.m. On deck the hours were a little longer, and there was afternoon tea from 4 to 5 p.m. each day.

Continental breakfast was offered via cabin service, and there was a small room service menu available 24 hours a day. Our overall assessment is that the food is good: Breakfast was great, lunch very good, and dinner was very good. We found the pasta dishes to be somewhat bland, but the beef was always prepared to our order and very tender; the lobster was excellent, as were the soups. Desserts were good (some great); the baked alaska was some of the best I ever had.

The Staff We found the crew and officers to be exceptionally friendly. They always had a smile in greeting you. The entertainment team was exceptional too. We didn't attend all the shows so we 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, Italian language classes, dance music for every taste, some Bingo, an art auction (not well attended), 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 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.

Miscellaneous 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. Wine packages can be purchased and glasses of wine were reasonably priced. On board Internet costs $6 for the first 10 minutes and 60 cents a minute after that. If you travel with a laptop, you can buy prepaid packages, and the ship also has three laptops equipped with Wi-Fi that you can rent. The library was on the honor system -- you could walk in, take a book and return it when finished -- and there were books in multiple languages.

Please feel free to contact me at if 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. And taking a cruise longer than seven days was so nice. Embarkation and debarkation were a breeze. I tried to learn some basic Italian prior to cruising, and that was always received well. All in all, it was a perfect vacation for us.

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