Looking larger than she is after her 2015 ‘Renaissance refit’, MSC Lirica also offers more public rooms and activities than one might expect, providing the perfect escape for families and the young especially.
Totally refurbished in 2015 as part of MSC Cruises’ €200 million Renaissance Programme, MSC Lirica represents the height of style and comfort at sea.
The 2015 refit involved the ship being cut in half and a 29m mid-section inserted. This has resulted in more than 190 new cabins, as well as an expanded Bussola Restaurant, a much larger shopping arcade and an all-new children’s splash park on the sun deck.
There are plenty of lounges and bars to enjoy a pre-dinner or pre-theatre drink including the stylish Beverly Hills Bar and traditional English-style Lord Nelson Pub while the Broadway Theatre plays host to set entertainment shows 6 nights a week.
Spacious new cabins with balconies offering superb panoramic views and four restaurants and a large buffet serve up a variety of culinary treats.
With the help of prestigious partners like Chicco, LEGO and Namco, the ship offers play areas for families with children of all ages, starting with an exciting spray park packed with fun water features and five dedicated kids’ rooms.
Lirica’s guest relations lobby.
At any one time onboard, there are several different forms of entertainment taking place around the ship, including a separate entertainment program for children during school holidays.
Combining these elements of space, entertainment and activities with sound service is what has made MSC a leading cruise brand in Europe.
The line offers service that often goes beyond what you pay for, “that means white-glove service, being greeted at embarkation and escorted to your stateroom, fresh food onboard everyday and warm Italian service and hospitality,” says MSC president, Rick Sasso.
MSC Lirica, like all MSC Cruises ships and especially her fellow Mistral-class liners, is extremely family-oriented with a children’s play room for younger cruisers (on Deck 11 just aft of the sauna and steam rooms in the Lirica Health Centre) and a video arcade for teens, aft on Deck 12, forward of the Blue Club Disco.
Top left – Young Teens Lounge, Top right – Games Arcade, Middle left – the new splash park following the refit and lengthening, middle right – the new Chico kids club. Bottom – the on-board Baby Club.
This is seen in the cabins as well, with much of her twin bed accommodation also offering pull down berths for the kids – although these cabins are also popular with groups of friends looking for a getaway on the cheap.
There is so much on offer during a cruise on MSC Lirica, in fact, that it can seem overwhelming to first-time cruisers. On a typical 7-night voyage, there are games of bingo, ballroom dancing, general dancing, deck/pool games, arts and crafts, lessons in Italian, fruit carving, cocktail making classes, cooking demonstrations, meringue making lessons, talent shows, themed parties, magic tricks and a host of sports activities, from table tennis and football tournaments to mini golf.
These outdoor activities will, of course, take place on the Pool Deck and Sun Deck (although the Pool Deck and Sun Deck are officially called Le Piscine when aboard ship).
Lirica’s pool deck
The pool area is extremely popular when the ship is in warm weather climates. Sunbathers will like MSC Lirica’s comfy and sturdy sun loungers, and following the 2015 refit the plastic chairs around the La Canzone del Mare Pool Bar have been replaced with a darker and more sturdy chair that lends itself to the elegant theme that prevails throughout much of the ship.
Out here on deck there is also a jogging track that circles the top of the ship and just forward there is another sunbathing spot above the bow, this will be popular with guests who want to get some sun without being part of the rowdy pool games and dancing on the pool deck.
La Canzone del Mare Pool Bar, before refit left, after refit right.
There is always music playing somewhere aboard Lirica, which is great for young revellers, but can become tiresome for older crowds, although the various public spaces cater to different passenger needs.
Top left- Lord Nelson Pub, Top right- Broadway Theatre, Bottom left- Blue Club Disco and Bottom right – Beverly Hills Lounge.
The Lord Nelson Pub on Deck 5, in-between Reception and the Broadway Theatre, for example, is a great English pub-type bar that only gets loud in the evenings, while Le Cabaret on Deck 6, between the Casino and Coffee Corner, as the name suggests, is more of a party venue.
On the other hand, L’Atomsphere, also on Deck 5 aft of the Las Vegas Casino, and the Beverley Hills Bar on Deck 5 adjacent the Rodeo Drive Shopping Arcade, are more tranquil piano bars where afternoon drinks can be savoured in peace.
On Deck 7, Lirica Lounge to forward is a games and activities venue during the day (great for people-watching, if you’re not taking part) and a cabaret and karaoke/dance venue in the evenings.
The shopping space aboard Lirica has been doubled to more than 500sqm.
In addition to the ship’s bars and public lounges, located around the ship to provide different views and unique experiences, there are the facilities and amenities one would expect from a contemporary four-star cruise ship.
Internet access is available at the very bright and colourful Internet Cafe on Deck 6, while Deck 11 is home to a spa, hair salon and beauty salon, as well as the Health Centre.
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Compared to other ships of her size, the Lirica’s library is a little compact, but her 128-seat casino and shopping area, on Decks 5 and 6, are huge. The shopping area, which includes boutiques, cosmetics, jewellery and a Rodeo Drive Arcade, is larger in terms of floor space than the La Bussola Restaurant, the ship’s huge main dining room, which seats 618 people toward the back of the ship on Deck 5.
Bussola main dining room (left), L’Ippocampo Restaurant (right).
Lirica’s secondary main dining room is the L’Ippocampo Restaurant, located on Deck 6 above La Bussola. On any cruise when dining times and places are assigned, Bussola will be filled first and L’Ippocampo after. In our opinion, Le Bussola is the better of the two as L’Ippocampo is in a broad U-shape with long marble arcades lined with tables and booths at either entrance, which somewhat compromises the ambiance.
Both come into their own at night for dinner, although breakfast and lunch are also served. Le Bistrot Cafeteria and the outdoor Le Pergola, both located on Deck 11 are the ship’s two come-as-you-please dining areas, the only real difference between them being that Le Pergola is outdoor near the pool area, forward of Le Bistrot, and serves guests in swimming costumes.
Pergola (left) and Bistrot (right).
Both these restaurants also feature awesome Midnight Buffets, with fantastic fruit and ice sculptures. Le Bistrot and Le Pergola also offer complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day, as does the room service menu.
Dinner in the main dining rooms is served in two sittings, as is traditional on most cruise liners so that early diners can eat and enjoy a show after dinner, while late diners will head to Lirica’s Broadway Theatre first and have dinner afterwards.
The Broadway Theatre is a sixties-inspired room that slopes down to the stage across Decks 5 and 6 at the very front of the ship. The seating is a bit close, with cinema-style rows, making cocktail tables impossible although all 713 seats in the house have excellent sight-lines. Smaller scale, more intimate shows are performed in the Beverly Hills Lounge, further aft on Deck 6, where drinks are also available from the semi-circle bar at the back and the seating is more open.
Returning to the shopping area for a moment, the blending of the Beverly Hills Cafe, with the shopping area, is a particularly nice touch to our minds, as it prevents the boutique areas from seeming cut off and separate and gives the area a mini-mall feel, which will find favour with teenagers – shopping and sitting in restaurants being popular pursuits among teens in the UAE.
Reflecting MSC Cruises’ attempt to occupy the middle ground between the classic cruising experience of yesteryear and the carnival craziness of ultra-modern lines like Carnival Cruises, MSC Lirica is an upbeat cruise liner that provides many public areas for a myriad of entertainment options, along with a plethora of smaller spaces for specialist pursuits.
MSC Cruises’ loyalty to tradition is also reflected in Lirica’s interior decor, which is by and large muted and flows from one public space to the next. A Turkish-inspired carpet design flows throughout the ship, while marbles and veneered wood predominate, with stainless steel, brass and resin added in daring combinations in some public rooms.
Some might call it bland, but we prefer to think of it as unassuming, blending exuberance with subtlety and elegance, without over-whelming the senses. In fact, the only public room we thought wasn’t elegant was the Blue Club Disco on Deck 12. In this space, the interior designers have allowed themselves to play with Vegas-type themes, although at night the lighting, music (and a few drinks) help this room come alive as the venue of choice for the young and young at heart.
Le Cabaret on Deck 6 is another space with daring decor, although MSC Cruises haven’t gone for too bold an approach, instead laying down a neutral dark blue carpet with wilder rug-like inlays that compliment the orange chairs and sofas.
Another note on the decor is the post-refit introduction of the Top 13 Exclusive Solarium on Deck 13, replacing the utilitarian green asphalt-like decking of what was before just a forward outdoor observation area. Also, the uniform brown floor of Le Pegola, the outdoor restaurant, has been replaced with a more natural looking wood.
In keeping with MSC’s loyalty to simplicity, Lirica’s staterooms are comfortable and practical without being too pretentious, although we feel a greater effort could have been made at elegance.
The chequered pattern on the duvets in all cabins, for instance, is a little too similar to something you might find in the guest bedroom at your gran’s house. The suites come in four basic types: a suite with a balcony, a normal balcony, an outside cabin with two lower beds (convertible to a double bed) and an inside cabin with two lower beds that are also convertible.
Top left – suite, top right – normal balcony cabin, bottom left – outside cabin, bottom right – inside cabin.
The normal balcony cabin class was introduced during the ship’s 2015 refit and stretching, and it would have been nice to see all the cabins get a similar modern look to them as the new staterooms.
There are also staterooms that MSC calls ‘family cabins’ as they are a little larger with separate sleeping and sitting areas, while other cabins inter-connect for families. All twin beds in the staterooms can be connected to make a double, except in the handful of staterooms for disabled access.
Like all other cruise lines, MSC also differentiate cabins by their location onboard Lirica, so potential guests will be able to choose from 11 different categories (an outside two bed on Deck 10, for example, costing more than an outside two bed on Deck 9). The usual expectations of room service and daily cleaning are met, while drinks can also be ordered at bar list prices.
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