This is the first time that the FIFA World Cup is being held in the Middle East, and MSC World Europa is the largest cruise ship to ever dock in the region.
In late December, she’ll reposition to Dubai to sail a winter season of roundtrip cruises in the Arabian Gulf, but for the next month she’ll be hosting up to 6,700 football fans per night in Doha.
The Grand Cruise Terminal in Doha is located within the Mina District in West Bay, a large peninsula extending from the city that hosts not only cruise ships, but also a range of hotels, apartments, shops, and restaurants.
Just outside the port there is the Museum of Islamic Art, a corniche overlooking the city and adjacent marina, and MIA Park, home to a range of cafes and restaurants with views of West Bay.
Aboard the ship, there are a range of activities and entertainment options throughout the day and night, as well as a host of cafes, restaurants and lounges available to guests, much as there is during an actual cruise, although some programming has been curtailed to some extent.
A live band plays in the afternoons on the stern promenade between the split superstructures that create a vast indoor/outdoor entertainment and retail space, dominated by the ship’s 11-deck dry slide, the largest at sea.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available in the ship’s main buffet, while dinner is also served every night in one of the ship’s four main dining rooms, depending on which cabin type guests have booked.
Aurea guests enjoy exclusive access to their own dining venue, called Les Dunes Restaurant.
A wide variety of bars and cafes are also available, such as the Masters of the Sea Pub, which is split across two decks and brews craft beer specially on board for the first time.
Other concepts include the Elixir – Mixology Bar with elaborate cocktails, a South Asian-style tea room, an authentic Emporium coffee bar with selections from around the world, a widely stocked The Gin Project inspired by a real distillery, a zesty juice bar made from fresh ingredients, and a gelateria with a multitude of flavours.
The ship opened as a floating hotel in Qatar after a naming ceremony on Sunday, hosted by her Captain Marco Massa with distinguished guests from around the world, capped by a huge drone lights show and fireworks display.
“We are fully booked for the first two weeks of the World Cup,” Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive, MSC Cruises, told The National. “After that, we will see as it will depend on what countries go forward to the next stage of the tournament.”
“These vessels will be the perfect environment for people to use as a base to then visit Doha and its cultural sites,” he added. “We are working together to manage the flow of fans and support them when they need it while they are enjoying games.”
According to Onorato, FIFA matches will be broadcast aboard the ship on large screens, both indoors and outdoors on the pool deck, creating fan zones within the ship.
When not enjoying FIFA matches, guests on the ship can swim in seven different pools and 13 whirlpools, play in the onboard water park, ride bumper cars, and even go ice skating.