Day 1: Australia – – Dubai
Make your way to the airport at the necessary time to catch your Emirates flight to Dubai.
Day 2: Dubai (D)
Welcome to Dubai! This desert city in the United Arab Emirates has exploded in recent years to become a mega-hub of high-rise resorts, mammoth shopping malls, manmade islands and more. It hasn’t lost touch with its traditional culture though, and this means visitors can meander between the old and the new as they explore the city.
Your cruise aboard the MSC Lirica doesn’t embark until tomorrow and you have free time until then. Settle into your cabin on this spectacular ship and choose to stay in to rest up after your flight, or get out into the city to take in some of its most famous landmarks such as Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, and Palm Jumeirah.
Day 3: Dubai (B, L, D)
Continue to have this morning as free time to enjoy Dubai until the cruise’s scheduled departure time of 2pm. Wander through the historic district of Bur Dubai, and head over to the Deira side of Dubai Creek to explore a trio of souks – Gold, Spice and Perfume. Be in awe of the watery pyrotechnics on show with the choreographed sequences at the Dubai Fountain, or arrange for a half-day excursion into the desert that surround Dubai for 4WD or camel back adventures over the sands and dunes.
Be sure to return to the MSC Lirica with plenty of time ahead of embarkation.
Day 4: Muscat (B, L, D)
The ship is scheduled to arrive into Muscat, the capital of Oman, at 9am, and you have until about 6pm to explore however you like. The city is among of the oldest in the Middle East and much of this incredible legacy can still be seen at various points, including the ancient gates in the Old Town and the Al Alam, the official residence of the Oman Sultan. Take in the scale of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (non-Muslims are permitted inside the halls), or explore the gardens of the Royal Opera House Muscat. Some of the other things to do in Muscat include wandering through the Mutrah Souq on the Corniche, visiting the National Museum or the privately-owned Bait Al Zubair, and taking in the various forts (some dating back to the 16th century) dotted around the waterfront.
Day 5: At Sea (B, L, D)
Today is the first at sea day of your voyage and offers an excellent opportunity to become better acquainted with the MSC Lirica and its wealth of dining, leisure and entertainment offerings. This sleek ship is decked out with four main diners – La Bussola Restaurant, Lord Nelson Pub, L’Ippocampo Restaurant, L’Atmosphere – as well as a handful of bars and lounges, a Broadway-inspired theatre, casino, arcade and virtual gaming centre, spa and gym, swimming pool, and more. Use today to familiarise yourself with the ship’s deck plans, make mental notes of any signature cocktails or dishes you want to try, and which sunlounges have prime position for lazy days of soaking up the sun and sea air.
Day 6: Salalah (B, L, D)
Salalah may come as somewhat of a surprise. This city in the Dhofar region of Oman becomes awash with oasis-style greenery and landscapes during the monsoon season, known as Khareef. Those in the city during Khareef can explore Wadi Darbat for amazing waterfalls and boat trips, or head for Al Mughsail Beach to take in the dramatic coastline. There are plenty of other things to see and do in Salalah if your visit doesn’t coincide with the season however, such as a visit to the Al Balid Archaeological Site, the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, Sumhuram Old City and Taqah Castle. There is also a large shopping mall, and a museum chronicling the city’s history with frankincense.
Day 7: Salalah (B, L, D)
Now is the opportunity to delve into the opportunities aboard the MSC Lirica more thoroughly, as the ship plots its course away from the Arabian Sea and into the Red Sea towards Jordan and Israel. Choose which pursuit you want to devote today to. Those with an appetite for Italian and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine will love the range of a la carte and buffet options aboard. All of your meals are included while on-board, so you have ample time to savour all the culinary possibilities. La Bussola and L’Ippocampo are both all-day diners with a more formal sit-down atmosphere. Laidback buffet breakfasts and lunches can be taken in Le Bistrot Cafeteria, and small bites – free pastries when purchasing a coffee – are available from Coffee Corner. Prefer to take this morning as a lie-in? Order a continental breakfast to be delivered to your cabin, room service-style.
Day 8: At Sea (B, L, D)
Where yesterday you explored MSC Lirica’s dining options, you may put today towards moving between the bars and lounges aboard. Embrace an English-inspired atmosphere at Lord Nelson Pub and take a seat at the long wooden bar to watch sporting events or games on the large TVs. Sit down to listen to professional musicians tinkle the ivories at either Beverly Hills or L’Atmosphere. The latter is the more intimate of the two piano bars. Head up to deck 11 to order a sundowner, fresh fruit juice or scoops of ice cream from La Canzone del Mare, the outpost that services both of the swimming pools and outdoor spaces. Plan a trip to Le Cabaret later in the night to make use of its dance floor, or visit during the day to join activities such as language lessons and trivia games. The Blue Club Disco is also a go-to for passengers looking to let their hair down.
Day 9: At Sea (B, L, D)
How will you spend your time aboard when you’re not dining or sipping? Attend one of the nightly shows at the Broadway Theatre. Performances cover singing and classical music concerts, to acrobatics and family-friendly spectacles. Brush up on your moves with a dance class at The Lirica Lounge, or take up a hand in the card room. There are gaming tables and slot machines in the Las Vegas Casino. A fan of more active pursuits? Notch up some laps on the outdoor jogging track, or work up a sweat on one of the machines in the fully-equipped Fitness Centre. Slip into your swimmers for a soak in one of two whirlpools on deck 11, or seek out the restorative steam of the sauna or Turkish baths within the MSC Aurea Spa. There is also an eight-hole mini golf course, table tennis, shuffleboard, a library, and number of shops and boutiques selling snacks, fine jewellery and accessories, high-end cosmetics, and clothing.
Day 10: At Sea (B, L, D)
Continue to enjoy the ship’s amenities and facilities, or spend some downtime in your cabin ahead of a port day tomorrow.
Day 11: Aqaba (B, L, D)
Arrive in Aqaba, a resort city on the shores of the Red Sea in Jordan. Divers flock to Aqaba for the incredible underwater sights in the surrounding waters – there is even a sunken plane! You don’t need to don a full wetsuit to appreciate Aqaba’s marine bounty though, and even a snorkel is enough to see you spot brightly-coloured coral and species of fish. Prefer to stay on dry land? There are a number of beach resorts that offer daybeds and lounges lined-up along the pebbly shores. You might also explore some of Aqaba’s cultural and historical landmarks, including Aqaba Fortress and Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque.
Day 12: Suez Canal (B, L, D)
The next two days are spent transiting through the Suez Canal. This waterway is a feat of mankind engineering and was constructed to be the major connection between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It is one the most direct shipping routes between Asia and Europe. Cruising through the Canal sees you pass by stretches of Egyptian coastline; a great vantage point for gazing out to this landscape is from atop one of the ship’s main decks or from a window-side table at a favourite bar or lounge.
Day 13: Suez Canal (B, L, D)
MSC Lirica continues to move through the Suez Canal today.
Day 14: Haifa (B, L, D)
Haifa is the third-largest city in Israel, located on a point that sees it nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Carmel. One of the sights that Haifa is most well-known for is Baha’I Gardens. These gardens are made up of 19 terraces, all stacked atop one another up one side of Mount Carmel. One of the centrepoints of the garden is the golden-domed Shrine of the Bab. Make sure to see the German Colony on your visit to the Gardens. This neighbourhood is located at the foot of the Gardens and was established by German Templars in the mid-19th century.
Day 15: Haifa (B, L, D)
You have another full day in Haifa to tick off any experiences you didn’t get to yesterday. See the Carmelite Stella Maris Monastery, the Cave of Elijah, or any of the city’s good museums. Also use this Israeli port to dive into local cuisine and tuck into platefuls of creamy hummus, crisp falafel, sweet and crunchy kanafeh, and comforting shakshuka.
Day 16: Limassol (B, L, D)
Limassol sits on the southern coast of Cyprus and happens to be one of the most southernmost towns in all of Europe. It offers an almost quintessential Mediterranean experience thanks to its beautiful sandy beaches, balmy climate, fascinating history and lip-smacking cuisine. See the ruins at the UNESCO-protected archaeology park at Kourion, meander the seafront Molos promenade, and look in at the artefacts displayed at Limassol Castle.
Day 17: Rhodes (B, L, D)
Have a day of ancient Greek ruins and Crusades history upon making port in Rhodes, the largest isle in the Dodecanese group. Uncover more about the island’s heritage with a walk around the Old Town to see the Street of Knights, the Clock Tower and the Palace of the Grandmasters. The latter is now a museum. Rhodes is also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – the Colossus of Rhodes. Visit the site where this gargantuan statue once stood at the harbour, or move inland to the magical Valley of the Butterflies.
Day 18: Mykonos (B, L, D)
There is more to Mykonos than beach clubs and legendary parties. Take in the houses located in Little Venice, and snap an obligatory photo of the island’s windmills (tip: this landmark becomes especially beautiful at night when the mills are illuminated). Get lost in a maze of whitewashed alleys in Hora, the main town on the island. Travel to the Gyzi Castle near Paleokastro, or learn about the Neolithic settlement at Ftelia. There is a great archaeological museum, and the Alefkhandra district is teeming with good galleries, boutiques and bars.
Day 19: At Sea (B, L, D)
This is the last at sea day of your cruise. Make the most of your remaining time on-board to dine on favourite dishes, order another sundowner from the bars, see another performance in the theatre, book in for a treatment at the spa, or simply breathe in the restorative sea air from a spot on deck.
Day 20: Dubrovnik (B, L, D)
Dubrovnik is the jewel in Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Follow in the footsteps of other Dubrovnik visitors by making the lap around the famous city walls, or take up cable car up to the summit of Mount Srd for a spectacular outlook that you’ll want to capture every angle of. Track down some of the locations used in filming HBO’s Game of Thrones, take in the mix of architectural styles of the Franciscan Monastery, or catch a ferry out to Lokrum Island. Return to the ship for the final night cruising.
Day 21: Venice – – Australia (B)
MSC Lirica makes its morning arrival into Venice at about 8.30am. You have breakfast aboard before disembarking and then the rest of the day is yours. Those who have extended their time in Venice thanks to Flexi Flights can head to their next stop and then immediately begin sightseeing around this world-famous city. Marvel at the Rialto Bridge, Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s Basilica, or take a water taxi out to the islands of Murano or Burano. If your holiday ends in Italy, make your way to the airport and begin the return journey back to Australia.
Day 22: Australia
Arrive back in Australia today.