You will find MSC very different to P&O. I have travelled on Musica (not Lirica) overall it was good value for money and great as a second holiday - would not be my first choice. Main differences:- Dining is not 24hrs. Buffett opens and closes at certain times and in the evening becomes a chargable Bistro. Main Dining Rooms is only evening option. Tea/Coffee and Water has to be dispensed by the waiters - you cannot go up to the servery and help yourself and is only available at Breakfast/Lunch/Evening. At all other times Tea/Coffee is available at a charge from the bars. They will also try to ply you with purchasing bottled water in the evening - do not be afraid to ask for a jug of iced water foc. Announcements are made in a multitude of languages and shows are of the mime /circus type so that all can enjoy. Other europeans do not know how and what an orderly queue is, so be prepared for a lot of pushing and shoving. Transfers if arranged by MSC are a farce/ total disorganisation and lots of waiting around. If you are travel savvy and arrange your own flights and can get a good deal try it.
It is MSC not MSN....! The MSC Lirica is the first of two new medium-sized cruise vessels for the privately owned MSC Cruises. A seasoned European cruise traveler might recognize the 58,600-ton and 1,560-passenger MSC Lirica. She is actually a sister ship to three ships already operated by First European Cruises (Festival Cruises in Europe).
The sleek and traditional looking MSC Lirica is tastefully designed and decorated with Italian flair. Forget about Costa-style neon, however; the ship's famed Italian architect Giuseppe de Jorio is known for creating more traditional, as opposed to flashy decor, relying on marble and brass. Most of the public rooms are small and intimate.
During the summer season MSC Lirica entertains mainly Europeans with multiple languages used onboard, so prepare to learn some Italian, German, French and Spanish if you want to communicate with your fellow passengers.
In winter, when the ship sails 10-night cruises from Ft Lauderdale, the company expects to carry Americans and Europeans on a fifty-fifty ratio. MSC Cruises says that around half of its crew is Italian, while the rest of the hotel crew comes from Eastern European countries and a few from the Far East.
Ultimately, Lirica, which was christened at its spring 2003 launch in Naples by Sophia Loren, offers a genuine Italian-style cruise experience (particularly in the Mediterranean).
MSC Italian Cruises believes in a traditional dining concept, so forget any thoughts of "freestyle" when-and-with-whom-you-please options. Cuisine mostly focuses on Italian fare (banish thoughts you may have of more Americanized "Olive Garden" style interpretations) with specialties that include risotto-made-tableside, fresh fish, such as cuttlefish, veal stew, and penne al 'arrabiatta (to name a few).
There are four different dining areas onboard: Both La Bussola Restaurant on deck 5 and L'Ippocampo on deck 6 serve sit-down meals, although the latter is used only for overflow. Le Bistrot Cafeteria on deck 11 is the spot for informal buffet breakfasts and lunches. The fourth dining venue, La Pergola Restaurant, is adjacent and offers outdoor dining -- including casual fare, such as pizza, pasta and burgers. Tables are tucked under a large canvas and well protected from the sun, rain and winds.
The meal times are rather short and are designed more according to European tastes than to American. Buffet-style breakfast and lunch are served at the Le Bistrot Cafeteria from 6:30 to 10 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. respectively. The more formal La Bussola is open for breakfast from 7 - 9:30 a.m.; lunch is served from 12:30 - 2 p.m. There are two seatings at dinner (6:45 and 8:45 p.m.). There is no casual alternative dining during evenings. MSC Italian Cruises, however, seems to be among the last lines to feature the midnight buffet - it varies each night, from a fruit-themed spread to a gala anything-goes repast.
Room service is rather limited. The menu includes only cold sandwiches, and there is in-cabin continental breakfast available. MSC no longer charges for room service on any of its ships.
A hint: If you miss breakfast and don't want to use room service, there are croissants available at the Coffee Corner, which surrounds the atrium on deck 6. But be prepared to pay for your coffee: an espresso costs 1.50 pounds.
Plan to tip about what you'd tip on an American-based ship -- $10 per person per day. Tips are paid at cruise-end.
P&O, NCL, MSC. That would be my order of merit. If I had to make a compliment to MSC they are the cleanest, sparlkiest ships I've been on in the last few years, but food is the most unremarkable I can remember, so, as long as your paying less than P&O & NCL, then expect less. As Bradbury said, as a second cruise of the year, it's OK. As a main event in your cruise calendar.......Mmm?