The first in a new mega class of MSC Cruises ships has been named in a spectacular ceremony in Qatar.
A drone display, fireworks and a performance by singer Matteo Bocelli welcomed MSC World Europa as the 20th – and biggest – member of the cruise line’s fleet.
Sophia Loren, the godmother to most MSC Cruises ships, didn’t make it to Doha but the 88-year-old actress is due to name the next new addition, MSC Seascape, in New York next month.
So what’s new about MSC World Europa? Aside from the striking vertical bow and Y-shaped promenade at the stern, she’s the first in the fleet to be powered by liquefied natural gas, which cuts carbon emissions, with plans to eventually replace that with hydrogen or biogas.
The most unusual feature on board is an 11-deck spiral slide called The Venom Drop, which I tried during a three-night visit. Certainly a lot more fun than taking the lift!
I also had a go on the bumper cars but didn’t fancy my chances at roller-skating in the Sportplex area.
New restaurants include La Pescaderia for fresh seafood and Mediterranean mezze, as well as the Chef’s Garden Kitchen, where diners sit beside shelves of growing plants which are used in some of the dishes.
Regular MSC Cruises passengers will recognise the Butcher’s Cut steakhouse, the teppanyaki grill, sushi bar, and Mexican eatery Hola! Tacos & Cantina. One of three buffets will be open around the clock.
The Masters of the Sea pub works on two levels – literally – as a beer house with its own microbrewery downstairs and a gin parlour on the upper deck. A lounge has been added to the champagne bar to give a more relaxed atmosphere and there’s also a specialist cocktail venue called Elixir.
One thing missing from the general public areas is the signature Swarovski staircase – though there is one in the private Yacht Club area. Instead there’s an impressively large crystal chandelier.
Above the World Galleria, where many of the shops, bars and restaurants are based, is a 3,500 square feet LED domed ceiling showing startlingly realistic images, such as dolphins swimming in a sun-drenched sea.
Outside, in the World Promenade, bordered on both sides by soaring decks of inward-looking cabins, there’s a view of the wake, a great spot to either look out to sea or to turn round and admire the stainless steel slide and the tall columns around it which sometimes light up in a mesmerising display set to music.
MSC World Europa not only has a theatre but two other main entertainment venues – the Luna Park Arena and the Panorama Lounge for different-sized shows. On a smaller scale, musicians and performers take part in ‘pop-up’ acts around the ship.
Children are catered for with clubs catering for four age groups between babies and teenagers, so parents can go off and have time by themselves, maybe in the adult Zen area or in one of the seven pools. My favourite was the Botanic Garden Pool in a peaceful indoor setting with a retractable roof.
If you like a little more privacy, you can stay in the Yacht Club area, which has been expanded to have a double-level sun deck, alongside an exclusive restaurant and pool.
During the World Cup, MSC World Europa has been chartered to house fans – including, it’s said, wives and girlfriends of the England team. After that, it will sail around the Middle East for the winter before heading to the Med.
With MSC Cruises, if you’re not so keen on one ship, there will be another new one along soon. After Seascape in December, next year will see the arrival of MSC Euribia.
You certainly can’t complain about a lack of choice…
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