Looking larger than she is, MSC Lirica also offer more public rooms and activities than one might expect, providing the perfect escape for families and the young especially.
Launched in March of 2003, MSC Lirica is a ship that appears bigger than she actually is, because she is not as tall or beamy as her compatriots in the world’s cruise liner fleet, such as the Costa Victoria. MSC Lirica is actually just three feet shorter than Victoria, but displaces 16,942 gross registered tons less than her. This is because of Lirica’s design, which deliberately avoided the gargantuan proportions of many in-build cruise ships at the time she was ordered, so that MSC could remain true to their classic cruising heritage.
The first new-build ship to be ordered by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, MSC Lirica, at 824 feet 4 inches in length (251.25 metres) is a very long ship, yet she has nine passenger decks, rather than 10 like the Costa Victoria and a beam of 94 feet 6 inches (28.8 metres), so is more than ten feet thinner as well. This equates to a gross registered tonnage of just 59,058. Her external appearance also shows MSC’s decision to stay true to the idea of ‘classic’ cruising, as she eschews the modern tendency to stack the sides of ships with balcony cabins, creating an unpleasant apartment-block appearance. In fact, of her 780 cabins, only 132 have a balcony.
Lirica’s reception lobby
Lirica’s smaller size does also result in a lower guest to tonnage ratio (of 37.85) than many similar ships. A guest to tonnage ratio is a very basic way of calculating the GRT occupied by each guest aboard a ship, based on her published double occupancy capacity. For Lirica, it would be 59,058 divided by 1,560. The lower ratio is reflected in the prices for MSC Cruises, which on average, are among the lowest in the industry, making an MSC cruise great value-for-money. However, she does not seem cramped or over-crowded, even when sailing at full capacity. Indeed, many of her public spaces, such as the 8 bars and lounges (one outdoor), only begin to feel well-frequented, let alone full, in the evening when the ship’s diverse entertainment program no longer has guests partaking in various activities and events around the ship.
For those with a penchant for small-ship charm and intimacy, this can make the Lirica feel lonely at times during the day, when it can be hard to find sizeable passenger numbers. However, the Lirica makes up for this with her jam-packed activities program, published every day and slipped under the cabin door in the morning. 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. 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, such as those from Dubai, 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 and will therefore prove well-frequented during the ship’s Dubai sailings, as MSC Lirica will be operating in the Gulf during some of the best months in the region, when it’s usually nice and warm and sunny during the day, but cooler in the evenings. Sunbathers will like MSC Lirica’s comfy and sturdy sun loungers, although the plastic chairs around the La Canzone del Mare Pool Bar don’t lend themselves 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
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. 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 adjacent to the Library and Cards Room, 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.
Lord Nelson’s Pub
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. 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 on over 1000 square metres of floor space toward the back of the ship on Deck 5.
La Bussola main restaurant
L’lppocampo secondary main restaurant
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. 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 Lirica Lounge, directly above on Deck 7, 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, an entertainment spot, 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. This bar is also frequented in the evening before dinner, due to its proximity to the main dining room.
Beverly Hills Cafe
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, such as the Ice Cream Bar and Beer Bar on the port and starboard sides of the Pool Deck (that’s left and right for the land-lubbers).
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.
Blue Club Disco
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 decking on many outdoor areas (the jogging track aside, of course), which is utilitarian in most cases, such as the green asphalt-like decking on the forward outdoor observation areas and the uniform brown floor of Le Pegola, the outdoor restaurant, which, like most other deck areas, would look much nicer with old-school varnished teak decking.
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 three basic types: a suite with a 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. However, 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.
MSC Lirica is the first ship that MSC Cruises ever had built from scratch and is therefore the line’s first purpose-built ship, unconstrained by any of the limitations of buying and converting or upgrading an existing ship, as was the case with MSC Melody, MSC Sinfonia and their various classic ocean liners, such as the MSC Symphony and Monterey, which pioneered the MSC Cruise brand. Lirica then, is MSC Cruises at its finest; modern and innovative and yet providing a sense of tradition and Italian heritage as well. Scoring 61% on popular cruise review site CruiseCritic, she’s an upbeat, family-friendly ship and a busy cruise liner, with destination-focused itineraries and a busy activities program for days at sea, yet she is large enough and filled with enough public rooms and spaces that there is literally something for everyone, even if the phrase is (unlike the ship!) a little worn.
La Atmosphere Bar
The Good –
– The ship is kept exceptionally clean throughout
– The entertainment and activities program every day is great – especially for families
– Many smaller public spaces rather than fewer large areas, making the ship more diverse and catering to different passenger needs
The Bad –
– Tiny shower cubicles in some suites make showering difficult, especially for larger guests
– Compulsory gratuity charge, which can seem obnoxious in the (unlikely) event that you receive bad service
– Service charge on all drinks (15%)
Included in the itinerary: MSC Lirica will be sailing from Dubai on a series of 7-night voyages from the 23rd of November, 2013 until the 22nd of March, 2014, port calls include the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi; the historical city of Muscat, capital of the Sultanate of Oman; Al Fujayrah, the capital of the UAE emirate of the same name and the only major Emirati city on the east coast and Khasab in the Musandam exclave of Oman, one of the most beautiful regions in the Gulf.
MSC Lirica at a Glance:
Refurbished (most recent): 2003
Length: 824’ 4’’ (251.25m)
Beam: 94’ 5’’ (28.8m)
Capacity (double occupancy): 1,560
Deck Plans (click to enlarge)