Live from MSC Lirica, Day 4

What a beautiful day, in a beatiful little town (Road Town). I have always loved the Virgin Islands (U.S. and British, I am really not that xenophobic). After a great English breakfast at the buffet, complete with fried tomatoes, beans, mushrooms and limp bacon , We hit the town. Once more, wheelchair accessibility on MSC is a joke. There were two exits from the boat to the dock, one on Deck 5 with about twenty steps, and one of Deck 4 with only four steps...thing is, for a wheelchair ONE is too many, and the difference between 4 and 20 is minimal. However, once again where the Line falls down, the staff made up for it. They would not even let me assist, as four burly seaman grabbed my brother's chair and just carried him on down the four steps. Really, all the staff so far have been extremely helpful, and mostly friendly (the others aren't unfriendly so much as just too serious about their jobs).

So, we cruised up and down the waterfront, looking at all the tourist "stuff", picked up the obligatory refrigerator magnet, sat in a little cafe and had a Ginger Beer (which I also smuggled a few back on the boat, because it just brings back childhood memories - I love Ginger Beer).

After a couple hours I was tired of pushing and Steve was tired of being bounced around (the sidewalks [where there are sidewalks] are less than optimal for wheeling, as is typical in this part of the world), so we headed back to the ship to chill out and have some lunch. A pretty good roasted veal on the menu today. AFterwards we hung out at the pool, and it was warm and calm and fabulous. At the risk of offending anyone, I just want to say I am sometimes reluctant to peel off the shirt this time of year, as I am "winter white"..but I was so far from being the whitest (or belly-havingest) person by the pool I felt totally un-self-conscious about letting it all hang out and getting a start on my 2009 TAN.

Played some goofy game by the pool, mostly because Marika, one of the crew, was just too darn cute to say "no" too, and it was time to rest up for dinner.

Dinner tonite was an appetizer of mozarella and tomatoes, okay - nothing I can't get at home, a cream of asparagus soup that was great, a Seafood Risotto that, like all the other risottos was nicely done, but a bit heavy on the mussels, which are not on my top 10 list seafood wise, and finally a Veal Cordon Bleu that was done to a turn - and I realized something else I really like about MSC...they are not so politically correct that they refuse to kill and eat little lambs and baby cows...I have had veal or lamb nearly every day, in some form and I really love both.

Now, the dessert story...If you remember, MSC prides itself on it's ice cream. Dinner ONE, I ordered the ice cream of the day for dessert and it turned out to be Rum Raisin, one of VERY few ice cream flavors I don't like. And last night, the whole Creme Brulee thing got in the way of the Ice Cream, so tonite I again ordered the Ice Cream of the Day, and GUESS WHAT FLAVOR IT WAS? Yup Rum Raisin again..........Anyway, I traded it out for some chocalate parfait thing that was okay - but I honestly wasn't even hungry by then.

So, after dinner, back to the casino, as I felt realy bad for taking them for $465, after my post last nite. Not to worry though, they got back about half of it. However, it took so long to lose $250, I totally missed the Elvis Tribute show (okay, just kidding, I didn't really miss it, so much as avoid it...sorry, but where I live, two hours from Vegas, there is an oversupply of Elvis Impersonators, I really don't need to see any more) - and there you have it, another day in Paradise.

WE are already tied up at the dock in St Maarten, though we can't get off the ship til morning...Due to the sea conditions the Captain decided to just come straight here and tie up overnite, rather than drive in circles all night as they usually do between ports this close...So up early tomorrow to get into St Maarten and buy some stuff, and I will tell you all about it tomorrow.



Live from the Lirica, Day 3

Finally, some good weather!

About 4 in the morning we got alongside Hispanola, and everything smoother out nicely...then the sun came up, the weather got good, and all in all it feels like a tropical vacation finally.

To backtrack, I wanted to tell everyone, one of the absolute nicest things about MSC so far, is that, for the most part no one has tried to sell me anything....I got on the boat without getting my picture taken, OR having to argue with a phtographer...they were selling soda cards, and wine packages and excursions in the lobby when we got on, but they were just standing politely, and talking to people who wanted to talk to them, rather than attacking everyone as they came on. So far I have had my picture taken ONCE!!! during dinner, and he was very low key and pleasant...no stupid clowns or pirates or any of that, and I have not seen one thing for sale on a table in a hallway. For those of us who remember the days when you had to actually get off the ship to be attacked by third-world street urchins peddling crap (before the cruise lines hired them to work the ships), it really has been a nice change of pace, and a major selling point for MSC. Likewise, every time I sit by the pool, ONE waiter/waitress will walk towards me...I shake my head and smile, they nod in understanding, and we don't have any more trouble. It really is pleasant.Anyway, so, a lovely day...the stop was to short to bother tendering to Cayo Levantado, so I sat by the pool and, because it was warm and sunny, wondered why A: European men think anyone older than 25 can wear a speedo without looking foolish, and B: why they don't have drug stores in Europe like they do here with aisle after aisle of razors, cremes, waxes and depilatories, so women can get rid of unsightly body hair....

After that philosophical rumination, I went to the buffet and had some good lamb roast, and...yes....TUNA PIZZA!!! It's actually a lot better than it sounds. seriously, the pizza was good, and I had five slices so I could try a bit of everything...and it was tasty!!!So, more lolligaging at the pool, then a quick rest up, and off to dinner, where the halibut steak was excellent, and my first real disappointment food-wise...one of my dinner companions confessed to never having had creme brulee...I convinced her that if she ever once had a good creme brulee, she would never order anything else...I am such a salesman, everyone at the table ordered it, and when it came the top was charred... Unbelievable the creme itself was good, but when you over heat the top and it goes from carmelized to "burnt sugar"...yech. And when I asked the waiter if he could bring us some that wasn't burnt, he looked at my like I was the retard...apparently someone at MSC thinks that is how it is supposed to look....oh well, like I said it is the first real disappointment food wise, so I will survive it.

Anyway, after dinner we stopped in the Casino, again, and I turned $100 into $200 pretty quick...so I am only down $100 at this point...maybe I will try again now.

Tomorrow, Tortola, BVI.....All for now


MSC Lirica, Day 2

Rocking and rolling today!

Serious wind and cold all day, made the classes all morning bearable. Not like I wanted to hang out by the pool anyway.

After classes went to the buffet for lunch...pretty good cheeseburger. Not Carnival good, but good.

More classes in the afternoon, then up and dressed for the Gala Dinner, which was good. I had a risotto, not as good as yesterday, but okay, a great cream of onion soup, veal picatta that was VERY good (despite what I have heard, I have had beef, pork or veal several times, and it has always been tender and juicy). Ice cream, which I had to pass on, last nite, was really good, with one problem. Of the 10000 possible flavors of ice cream, I like about 9,995 of them....Rum Raisin is one of the other five. So, guess what tonite's "ice cream of the day" was? Yep...oh, well, I will try again tomorrow.After dinner was the Cap'ts cocktail party, with the usual stuff...not my kind of thing, but I went anyway, to kill time before the show. Oh, and I also took a minute out on the way to drop $50 on the Roulette table. So far the casino has not been good to me, though the dealers, Roberto from Italy, and Varcelia (I think), a new hire from Peru are both a lot of fun.

Finally, I went to the main show tonite...interesting, and mostly good. A combination of magic, juggling, dance, a "cirque" type act with guy in a man-size hula hoop, doing various spins, somersaults, etc, while standing inside the hoop, and the highlight, a beautiful couple doing a cross between interpretive dance and a gymnastic floor exercise, set to Creed's "Arms Wide Open", which, weird as it sounds was actually oddly compelling and sensous, almost erotic.

And with that, I will close for the night...Tomorrow, Cayo Levantado, D.R., and hopefully some warm weather...


LIVE from MSC Lirica!

Okay, we have sailed! On our way, after tomorrow at sea, to CAyo Levantado in the D.R.

First, some housekeeping items. I want to give a shout out to my friends at Special Needs at Sea, they came thru again, and everything was all set to go when we got to our stateroom.

Boarding was as painless as any line I have cruised with. Our party was all together at 1pm, went in, swiped passports and credit cards, and on the boat by 1:15, where a white gloved steward took us to our stateroom. It doesn't get any better than that.

After a little break, we went up to the Buffet for some lunch, and everything was, well, as good as buffets get; which is to say, not exactly haute cuisine, but it was hot, tasty and varied. Tried some ravioli in cream sauce, chicken Romano, pork Milanese and Sheperd's pie...all good.And all better than I expected, based on some of the reviews I have read.Their is a nice outside area to eat - but it got cold and blustery just about the time we were boarding so we ate inside the buffet proper. After lunch, we took a quick tour of the ship, all the usual bars, lounges, shops, blah, blah, blah, and a smallish casino. I will report more, when I actually experience the venues.

By the time we got back all our luggage was in the room waiting for us - again, as quickly as any line I have sailed with lately.

Quick unpacking, while ditching the muster drill, and time for dinner. Left the rest of my party, who were still full from lunch, and went up to the L'Ippocampo dining room. Met up with a couple of TA friends, and were joined by Jean Rice, one of MSC's group dept people. As some of you know, I had a bit of a set to with MSC about my stateroom assignment a couple of weeks ago. Ms. Rice is the lady who fixed it, and she was every bit as interested in discussing the issue, and how to prevent it in the future, as she was when we were actually working through, so props to her...a few more like that, and some of the customer service dings MSC has been getting, will surely lessen.

As far as the ship, I can only say the LIRICA is an example of a great little cruise ship from the 80's...even though it was built in 2000, it is (I think)the third in a series built for the now defunct Festival line, and obviously was designed in the late 80's/early 90's. The hallways are too narrow, as are the elevator, and every threshold on every fire door is a lip at least an inch high, making navigation with a wheelchair nearly impossible. While the stateroom itself is barrier free, and well laid out, the ship as a whole is at least a generation behind. While most people would never notice, slow walkers and wheelchair users should be warned, this may not be the best ship for you.

So, in conclusion, based on first impressions, I think I like MSC, and would recommend them, but I am not sure the Lirica would be on my list for my disabled clients...but it's only the first day...we shall see what we shall see.