We chose this 20 night cruise from Venice to Dubai because of the itinerary-- we had always wanted to go to Venice, and seeing Petra has long been on our bucket list. We booked two balcony rooms through where we were told that if we saw the cruise at a lower price at any time more than 90 days before our cruise, they would match the price. At approx. 93 days out I found the same cruise at a much lower price but more importantly the suite price was now lower than the balcony price we had paid and included the alcohol package, a spa package and a few other perks. One call and we not only were upgraded to the suite category, we received a substantial refund.
We arrived in Venice Nov. 15 to find that there were very few tourists because of all the news about the flooding. Although there were a few puddles around and there were remains of damage done to hotels right on the canals, we did not encounter any problems due to excess water. Instead, we had a wonderful time exploring this amazing city with fabulous shops and restaurants. We stayed 3 days but could have used more time.
Our embarkation on to the Lirica was smooth and easy and our rooms were ready when we arrived with our cards ready for our use. We are seasoned cruisers having been on more than 10 cruises with Carnival, Norwegian and Celebrity cruise lines. This was our first with MSC and I was a bit nervous having read the reviews. We were pleasantly surprised. I think I would best describe the MSC cruise as a "no frills" cruise where all the basics were there but some of the extras were missing. If you are picky picky picky and have to have the very best of everything then MSC might not be for you. We are pretty easy going and as long as the rooms are clean and comfortable and the food and entertainment is adequate we are happy travelers. There were no fancy towel animals on the beds or chocolates on the pillows at night but the rooms were clean and comfortable. Room service was not free-- there was a minimal charge per item ordered and a small delivery charge so we did not use it. The room was somewhat worn with a few cracks in the sink etc. but every thing was fully functional and did not affect our stay at all. The food was very very good, but where you might have 5 appetizer choices and 10 entrée choices on other ships, on the MSC ship you would have 3 appetizer choices and 5 entrée choices. Having said that there was always something appealing and the food and service was excellent--no complaints from us. The price for this cruise was so reasonable that we did not expect the perfection that might come with a very expensive price tag. Where the ship did excel in our opinion was with the entertainment staff-- they were wonderful. We had 4 days on the ship with no ports and were kept busy the whole time with trivia contests, dance lessons, games etc. The shows were OK, but having a ventriloquist having to translate into 7 languages kind of lost the humor by the end. The dance and singing shows were excellent. The activities crew had so much energy-- they were up dancing with everyone, they were so friendly and they made the trip so much fun. We really enjoyed the band that played in the bar at night-- I believe they were called the Midnight Project They were sensational and had everyone either dancing or clapping to the music. We are not young but we stayed up and closed the bar listening to them several nights. I would buy an album featuring them they were that good. The activities and bars were better than any we have experienced on any other ship. Our only complaint was that all announcements had to be made in 6 different languages-- and there were lots of announcements. The shows were usually quite good-- as good as on any ship-- with a few exceptions. One night featured a ventriloquist which sounded good but when everything had to be translated into 6 different languages the jokes fell somewhat flat. It was different though
The ports were for the most part excellent. We usually do not book excursions through the ship simply because we find the numbers mean you are waiting forever for the slowpokes to get back to the bus. We loved Greece-- especially Athens. I had always wanted to see the Acropolis and it was impressive. There were lots of excursion options and we were able to find one that did not require us climbing right up to the Parthenon-- instead we were provided with great photo opportunities and got to see everything we wanted to see. Going through the Suez canal was very interesting. We were somewhat delayed so ended up travelling through during the day instead of at night. It is like a whole other world beyond the canal-- it was like travelling back in time. We booked a smaller tour to Petra and it was great. Petra did not disappoint and is truly one of the great wonders of the world. We were lucky that it was not too crowded when we were there and the weather cooperated so that it was not too hot. Our guides were amazing and there were lots of opportunities to buy things in the local stores. We did take advantage of a couple of hop-on-hop off buses and they allowed us to see most of the ports at a reasonable price. The only problem we had was in Oman where the hop-on-hop off bus was booked through the ship with the promise that they would pick us up on the dock and take us back. They did pick us up, however when it began to rain heavily the driver refused to go back to the ship and dropped us off in the market (which by the way was fabulous) We then had to walk (drenched to the skin) back to the ship (about a 1/2 hour walk through water and mud) and were not impressed. We complained and got our money back. Oman was interesting as we got to watch the smugglers come in from Iran loaded with sheep and leave loaded with electronics-- all under the watchful eye of the port police. They waved at us wearing masks and carrying machine guns. It was quite the show!
Dubai was sensational-- we walked for miles in the huge malls and even enjoyed a Tim Horton's coffee while watching the water show. All over Europe we had trouble finding anywhere that served cream with coffee-- only milk was available-- so we really enjoyed our "Timmy's" that tasted just like home. It was fun to look at all of the designer stores and the corresponding price tags. We did not go into the 7* hotel as you are not allowed in unless you are a registered guest or have a reservation in the restaurant. We thought we might go there for breakfast until we found out that the cost was $129 pp for brunch.
It was an amazing trip-- we saw the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. We saw ancient monuments followed by 7 star modern hotels. We saw fabulous yachts along with masked smugglers racing in small boats We absolutely enjoyed everything. The days flew by and before we knew it we were in Dubai and the trip was over.
I must admit that having read other reviews before we left, I was not expecting much of this ship but we were pleasantly surprised. I think some people are way to picky and all in all we had very few complaints and the price was certainly right. We liked MSC so much we are in the process of booking another cruise with them for next fall and are taking friends and family along with us.
Although the interior was a bit worn and could do with an updating ( a few cracks in sink etc) the room was clean and comfortable with lots of storage space. We travelled with another couple and they were able to open the divider between our rooms on the balcony so that we had more room outside. The staff looking after our rooms was great.
We walked off the ship and explored the lovely markets.
Amazing Amazing Amazing-- a must do experience.