In the parade of new mega-ships that arrived last year, the brand
new MSC Lirica got lost in the crowd.
Literally built in the shadow of the Queen Mary 2 at France’s
Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard, the Lirica emerged eight months
ahead of that well-publicized ocean liner.
Fortunately for its parent company, Mediterranean Shipping
Company, a growing number of American travelers are discovering
this gem of a ship. They’re finding it combines up-to-date
amenities with a classic atmosphere of elegant service that reminds
passengers of what they once enjoyed in a cruise experience, before
all the glitz, neon and hairy legs contests took over.
MSC, which is the second largest cargo shipping line in the
world with over 200 vessels, calls its five-ship cruise line MSC
Italian Cruises. The Lirica is its first newly built ship.
What sets this ship apart is perhaps best exemplified in what
you won’t find aboard, rather than what you will. You won’t find
flashing lights and bright colors to jar the senses. You won’t find
waiters pushing high-priced drinks at every turn. You will not hear
an endless stream of announcements over the public address
In fact, all of the things you won’t find add up to the best
thing you will, which is a relaxing, stress-free cruise
So, while there may not be off-key, singing waiters in the
dining room, there is a gracious Italian staff, well-trained in
professional service but also able to show passengers a very good
time. For those who fondly remember such great Italian cruise lines
as Sitmar Cruises or Home Lines, that environment is recaptured
At 58,600 gross tons, the Lirica is considered a midsize ship.
The 1,580 passengers may come from a large variety of countries. On
a recent Caribbean sailing, 22 different nationalities were
represented, with the vast majority being from the U.S. followed by
Great Britain, France and Germany.
The cruise director would introduce shows in five languages in
rapid-fire succession, which in itself was quite entertaining.
Each year, the ship spends the summer and fall seasons in Europe
cruising the Mediterranean from Italy. Winter sailings are from Ft.
Lauderdale on alternating 11-night Caribbean itineraries.
The quality and look of the ship is firmly aimed at the premium
cruise passenger but with pricing comparable to mass-market
companies. Most of the American passengers were experienced
cruisers, primarily couples, however quite a few of the European
guests were first-time cruisers, who tended to be younger and
single. Families would also feel at home here because the ship has
excellent children’s facilities.
The Lirica’s main foyer is decorated with marble flooring and
brass railings, giving passengers a very high-class first
impression as they board the ship. The ship is decorated in soft
colors primarily pink and peach tones or blue and green for a
soothing environment. Indirect lighting adds to the effect. For a
ship of its size, there is a huge amount of space devoted to public
areas for the passengers; the equivalent of four full decks. The
majority of the public rooms are situated below on the two lowest
passenger decks, 5 and 6. The Broadway Theatre actually spans both
levels and is the main show lounge. The entertainment was
outstanding and, unlike most ships, there was a full production
show nearly every evening featuring the large cast of dancers,
singers, magicians, jugglers even a weight lifter and a
contortionist. I’ll go out on a limb and say this was overall the
best entertainment I have ever seen on a ship.
Another thing you won’t find on the Lirica is a restaurant with
an extra service fee like those found on most mass-market and
premium ships these days. As might be expected, the Italian cuisine
is outstanding but nearly every meal in the main dining room
arrived beautifully prepared. Seafood in particular was
There are three types of staterooms 272 standard insides, 387
outsides and 132 suites with balcony. All have twin beds that
convert to queen size.
At first glance, cabins may seem a little basic; however, they
are very cleverly designed and comfortable. Bathrooms have showers
except the balcony rooms that include bathtubs. Suites with
balconies, while very nice, are more the size of mini-suites on
other lines. Besides the bedroom area, they have a small sitting
room next to the floor-to-ceiling windows.
One of the great pleasures for both travel agents and their
clients is the way MSC Italian Cruises prices its cruise vacations.
The rate quoted is the total price. There is no nonsense regarding
non-commissionable fees or port charges or any other taxes for that
matter. The client pays the price quoted and the agent receives
commission on the total amount. It is simple, straightforward and,
for the agent, results in a higher overall commission.
The same system can be found onboard in the ship’s bars. While
most companies add a 15 percent gratuity, MSC quotes the price on
the bar list, including a 10 percent gratuity in the already
reasonable drink prices. There is never the feeling that the
company is trying to squeeze every last penny out of the passenger
in onboard revenue.
Cruising on the Lirica is like a breath of fresh air. It is so
different from your typical cruise in so many ways, all of them
good. The Lirica proves that a contemporary cruise ship can be an