Credit: MSC Cruises

Cruise review: What it's like to be one of the first people onboard MSC World Europa

Author: Dave Monk

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When 6,762-passenger new super ship MSC World Europa made her debut in Doha, Dave Monk went along for the ride.

‘He chutes, he scores!’, I yelled as I plummeted down 11 decks in a stainless steel slide on MSC World Europa moored at World Cup host city Doha.

Being one of the first people on the latest mega-ship was certainly a goal for me. And from the kick-off I was impressed.

As I boarded from Qatar’s new cruise terminal and entered the two-level World Galleria filled with shops, bars and food outlets, I was entranced by projections of dolphins swimming gracefully through clear blue water displayed on a giant LED ceiling.

Instead of the signature sparkling staircase - now only in the private Yacht Club area - an impressive Swarovski chandelier glistens in the light.

World Europa - the largest ship in the 20-strong MSC Cruises fleet with the capacity for 6,762 guests - has features of its forerunners but with a fresh new look.

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The Masters of the Sea pub now has a microbrewery and has grown to two levels, serving its own pils, bitter and wheat beer along more traditional labels such as Newcastle Brown and Murphy’s.

Upstairs a gin parlour serves 70 labels and the champagne bar has added a lounge. Scotch lovers will flock to The Malt Lounge with its display of fine whiskies, while cocktails can be enjoyed inside or out at the Elixir mixology bar.

There are many new places on board to eat, too. Le Pescaderia is a Mediterranean fish restaurant with the freshest catches spread out on ice while a takeaway booth next door sells fried calamari and prawns.

As you enter the Chef’s Garden Kitchen, you’ll see some of your lunch growing around you - so-called ‘microgreens’ are planted on shelves ready to be picked and used in dishes created by Swedish Michelin-starred chef Niklas Ekstedt.

Tea and coffee drinkers have their own venues. The Raj Polo Tea House evokes the style of turn-of-the-century India, while the Coffee Emporium offers a selection of blends from around the world. For a healthy pick-me-up, the Zest bar serves fruit juices.

Regular MSC cruisers will also enjoy familiar favourites such as the Butcher’s Cut steakhouse, Kaito Teppanyaki Grill and Sushi Bar, as well as Hola! Tacos & Cantina for moreish Mexican dishes.

There are also four main dining rooms - Bubbles, Esagono, Hexagon and Les Dunes - that between them can accommodate nearly 2,500 people in one sitting.

Of the three buffets, one stays open 24 hours a day for those midnight cravings. But beware of the Jean-Philippe chocolate shop and cafe, the Sweet Temptations ice cream parlour or the room service pizzas if you’re looking after your waistline!

The Venom Drop is a must-do onboard MSC World Europa. Credit: Ivan Sarfatti

One way to see your weight drop quickly - several storeys in a matter of seconds - is a ride on the ship’s impressive new monster slide, called The Venom Drop. Entering the tube between the fangs of a giant snake on deck 20, you climb into a sack and launch yourself down, seeing glimpses of your surroundings through a clear upper section as you spiral down to deck 8 (MSC Cruises doesn’t have a deck 17 because it’s unlucky in Italy).

The slide - the longest at sea - also makes a great centrepiece in the evening when the promenade suddenly bursts into life for a spectacular light show, with columns several decks high flashing in time to club hits.

Other rides around the ship include a water chute enhanced with virtual reality, while in the Sportplex area you can rollerskate, race drones and ride bumper cars.

Fancy killing a few zombies? Pop down to the 5D cinema - so-called because as well as 3D effects the seats shake and you’re buffeted by wind so you actually feel you are driving off a cliff, for example. There’s also the usual Formula 1 simulator and games arcade.

Kids are well catered for too with four clubs for ages from babies to teenagers, playing with everything from Duplo bricks to PlayStation 5s in seven dedicated rooms.

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Enjoy breathtaking acrobatics in the Panorama Lounge. Credit: MSC Cruises

Entertainment on the ship is very colourful. I saw one theatre show, Eko, where everything - costumes and props - was made from recycled materials. I also popped into a disco party in the new Luna Park Arena, and enjoyed songs and acrobatics in the Panorama Lounge.

Sometimes the performances come to you, as I found out when a procession of puppet animals walked past me, the actors operating them making them appear to gallop, preen or stare. At nights, DJs hold sundowner pool parties - playing the decks, you might say.

One of the coolest places - in all senses - on World Europa is the Botanic Garden Pool. A few steps from the main, large La Plage pool, this green and shaded area has a retractable roof. You can even smell the familiar MSC Cruises Mediterranean scent on entering. A great retreat from the sun beating down on the main deck on those Middle East itineraries.

Other chill zones are a selection of 14 hot tubs, an adult-only Zen area and the Aurea Spa which has saunas, a steam bath and salt cave, alongside massage cubicles.

Pedicures, manicures, hairdressing and a barber shop are on site for that special night on board. You can even top up your tan. Meanwhile, those who want a more physical workout can head to the well-equipped gym.

MSC World Europa features outside, inside and cabins overlooking the promenade. Credit: MSC Cruises

One of the advantages of the design of the new Y-shaped open panorama at the back of the ship is that some cabins that would otherwise be on the inside now have balconies and a view. I stayed in one of these overlooking the slide and it was intriguing to keep an eye on what was going below.

The best accommodation, of course, is in the Yacht Club, a collection of 152 suites with their own restaurant, pool, two-tier sun deck - and butlers.

As well as the distinctive vertical bow, there’s a lot going on below decks as well. World Europa is the first MSC Cruises ship powered by liquefied natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel. That’s just a start, as the aim is to use greener biofuels or hydrogen. Plus the ship can connect to shore power, recycles water and dampens propeller noise to avoid upsetting marine life.

Before its maiden voyage on December 20, World Europa was christened in Doha in a ceremony where 600 drones formed 3D displays of the planet, turtles, planes and, of course, a cruise ship.

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Matteo Bocelli performed at the MSC World Europa naming ceremony. Credit: Anthony Devlin, Getty Images for MSC Cruises

After a performance by singer Matteo Bocelli, the ribbon was cut - not by the usual ‘godmother’, Sophia Loren, but by Qatari royal Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani.

Miss Loren, at 88, was saving herself for the next MSC Cruises naming of MSC Seascape in New York next month.

World Cup fans - including, reportedly, wives and girlfriends of the England players - will be using World Europa as a floating hotel during the tournament. The ship will then sail seven-day itineraries around the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, this winter before transferring to the Mediterranean next year.

MSC World America is due to follow in 2025 and there are options to have two more in the series.

This new friendly giant certainly lives up to its name of being World class. I’m not much of a football fan but I’d bet this one’s going to be a winner.

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