MSC Cruises’ newest cruise ship MSC World Europa, as well as two other vessels, MSC Opera and MSC Poesia, provide a unique way to experience the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, according to football fans staying aboard the ships.
Each vessel offers multiple pools, a spa, several dozen restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as daily scheduled activities and entertainment options, so that fans always have something to do between games, but are also close to all eight stadiums at which matches are being played.
MSC World Europa is the newest and largest of the three ships though. In fact, she’s the largest cruise ship that has ever sailed in the Middle East (the ship will cruise roundtrip out of Dubai for the winter season after the FIFA World Cup concludes).
The 200,000-gross ton, 6,700-passenger ship features giant slides, whirlpools, bumper cars, and more in addition to the spa, theatre, multiple lounges, cafes, restaurants and bars found aboard her fleet mates.
Staying aboard the ship is a unique experience according to marketing manager Saptarshi Bandopadhyay, who spent five days aboard MSC World Europa with his young son.
“It’s a different party altogether on the cruise liner,” Bandopadhyay told The National. “The tempo changes at night and everyone congregates on the 18th floor where there are large pools, whirlpools and a huge screen to watch games you don’t have tickets for.”
“When searching for accommodation, the choice was a stand-alone hotel, the fan village or container camps,” he added. “Since I was taking my son, the idea was to find a place we could relax and he could have fun the entire day with 1,001 activities and we could easily get to the games and back.”
All three MSC ships are docked at Doha’s Grand Terminal in West Bay, a short bus ride from all eight of the World Cup stadiums, with dozens of shuttle busses available to take guests to and from the games for which they have tickets.
According to Bandopadhyay, the ship is different to a normal hotel because of the scheduled activities and entertainment between matches (all of which are broadcast on giant screens around the ship), as well as the fact that so many different nationalities are on-board.
For those that want to, there is more time to speak to other fans about their country, football culture, favourite player, and what they think went right or wrong in various matches.
And when the final game of the day is broadcast, the atmosphere up on the pool deck can become quite jovial, an atmosphere that continues on into the night as fans enjoy dinner in one of 13 restaurants or head to one of the ship’s bars or nightclubs.
During the day, the ship’s spiral 11-deck Venom slide — the longest dry slide at sea — is a clear favourite. Itdescends from the 20th Deck to the 8th Deck promenade, a 90-metre outdoor space between the dual-stern superstructures where many of the ship’s restaurants and retail outlets are located.
MSC World Europa is essentially a hotel, resort and mall in one, with six pools, a water park, multiple children’s play areas for babies, toddlers, children, and teens, video game arcades, a theatre, spas, a salon, boutiques and shops.
Prices for a cabin start at US $350 per night for an inside cabin, although there are also outside cabins (identical to inside ones, except they have a window), as well as balcony cabins and various levels of suites.