MSC Cruises is doubling up in Dubai for the 2021/22 cruise season, with MSC Opera set to join MSC Virtuosa, one of the cruise line’s largest and newest cruise ships.
MSC Virtuosa will homeport in Dubai for the 2021/22 winter cruise season in the Arabian Gulf, alongside her smaller fleet mate MSC Opera.
The two cruise ships mark a continuation of MSC Cruises’ steady expansion in emerging markets such as the Middle East and South Africa (where it planned to homeport two cruise ships in Cape Town and Durban in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck).
MSC Cruises has been increasing its berth capacity in Dubai for several years. Back in 2013, MSC Lirica, a sister ship to Opera, homeported in the city on its own. She was replaced with ever-larger cruise ships over the years, until MSC Virtuosa.
MSC Virtuosa is a Meraviglia-Plus class cruise ship, making her the largest in the fleet (at least until the even bigger MSC World Europa is launched in 2022).
But, in another example of this ongoing trend by MSC Cruises, Virtuosa will herself be replaced next year in Dubai by MSC World Europa when she is launched in 2022.
MSC Opera, carrying just 2,150 passengers is a small to mid-size cruise ship at just 65,500-gross tons. She offers a more laid-back cruise experience with just four restaurants and 8 bars and cafes, as well as two pools, a kids splash park and a theatre for evening production shows.
She’ll cruise roundtrip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Muscat in Oman and back to Dubai, staying overnight in the city on the first and last nights of the voyage to maximize exploration time ashore.
MSC Virtuosa, meanwhile, is huge in comparison at 181,000-gross tons and carrying 4,888 passengers. She boasts 12 restaurants, many of them located along the indoor promenade, which is also home to many of her retail outlets and dozens of cafes and bars.
Up top, she features massive waterparks, swimming pools, adventure zones for children, a spa, and even a LEGO play centre, F1 race car simulator and bowling alley. Most exciting of all is the humanoid robot bartender in the Starlink Lounge, the first of its kind at sea.
MSC Virtuosa will cruise roundtrip from Dubai visiting Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Doha in Qatar and in another first for any cruise line, Dammam in Saudi Arabia.