Bumper cars are just one of the many activities on offer for guests onboard MSC World Europa
MSC World Europa is the new giant of the MSC Cruises fleet – the ship is 333.3 metres long, 22 decks high, 215,863gt and has capacity for almost 7,000 passengers. Yet despite its size, the vessel elicits the undoubtedly intended illusion of a much smaller ship.
MSC World Europa’s architectural lines represent a notable step away from existing MSC Cruises stock – together the Y-bow, duck tail and wave-inspired profile deliver a striking and distinctive shape. While old folk like me may prefer the aesthetic of a bulbous bow, the efficiency gains achieved with the increasingly popular vertical bow is ample justification to sway a stubborn view.
The differences continue inside the ship, too. The colour palette now favours earthy tones, the glitzy flamboyance has been somewhat muted and public areas appear more intimate. The colourways are largely an improvement, although I did miss the previously dominant MSC navy interiors within the MSC Yacht Club. Interior bling may be missed by those who are holidaying to escape into a glamorous world away from the humdrum of their home lives but the new emphasis on subtle quality yields a delightful elegance. And while the intimate configuration of many of the public rooms was immediately appealing, the real trial will come when the ship sails at capacity – and it’s very likely that it will pass this test with honours.
Many of the headlines that MSC World Europa will earn will be due to its sustainability credentials. It is the first ship in MSC Cruises’ fleet to be powered by LNG fuel and is equipped with shore-to-ship power, ready to connect to the national grid in port wherever it is available. Energy efficiency gains have been achieved across the ship, resulting in total expected savings of 28 per cent fuel and 255 kilograms of carbon dioxide, per guest per cruise compared to MSC Cruises’ Fantasia-class ships.
Many proven technologies have been deployed on MSC World Europa, including smart heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, advanced wastewater treatment, anti-fouling paints, a selective catalytic reduction system, a ballast water treatment system, underwater radiated noise control, trim optimisation and LED lighting. But the installation of a small solid oxide fuel cell system may become the most important of all – and not just for MSC Cruises. The test system can only contribute 150 kilowatts of power towards a total requirement of 8-10 megawatts, but if successful, it will be scaled. And it will be transformational.
Across the ship, it is easy to identify three strengths. MSC World Europa is inherently social, the volume and variety of entertainment and activities is immense, and the retail offering is huge – even for a ship of this magnitude.
With over 33 restaurants, bars and lounges, the ship is built for socialising with family, travel companions and new acquaintances. The eclectic mix of styles in distinctly different districts will draw like-minded people into venues that best suit their taste, giving them an opportunity to strengthen bonds and forge new friendships.
There is ample seating and plenty of secluded spots for guests to pause and consider their next adventure as they wander around the ship. And there are limitless striking talking points everywhere to make starting a conversation with someone an entirely pleasurable pastime.
The venues include old favourites like Butcher’s Cut and Masters of the Sea, as well as a selection of new concepts. Of the 13 dining venues there are six speciality restaurants but having sampled them all I expect the new Chef’s Garden Kitchen to be the biggest hit. Michelin-starred chef Niklas Ekstedt was in the kitchen during my visit and the fare was first class. If standards are sustained when he’s not there it’ll be hard to get a table. While the design was appealing, somehow the almost café-style tables and chairs didn’t quite seem luxurious enough for such a high-quality dining experience.
The onboard entertainment options are seemingly endless, spectacular and full of surprises for all ages. The 300-seat multifunctional Luna Park Arena will host a variety of activities including movies, themed parties, the VR Drone Academy, dance classes, interactive games shows and Guinness World Record attempts. There are five large-scale productions in the World Theatre, which are focused on exploration, travel, the sea, theatre and sustainability. Bohemian street theatre will provide surprising moments for passengers as performers pop-up unannounced throughout the ship.
Elsewhere, The Venom Drop @ The Spiral is more than a 11-deck slide; it is also an artistic installation, as appealing to see as it is to ride. Rollerskating, bumper cars, seven pools, 13 hot tubs, a spa, a fitness centre and a large waterpark are among the countless other compelling options to amuse and entertain guests.
MSC Cruises has made a significant investment in 3,500-metres-squared of onboard retail space (almost 10 per cent of the total public space), including the company’s first ‘department store’ at sea. There are three primary shopping areas on the ship: the Shopping Gallery on deck 6 in World Galleria, MSC Cruises-branded stores on deck 7 and the ship’s luxury collection is outside in World Promenade on deck 6. Perhaps the greatest risk in this offer is the volume of space given to luxury brands – while it will certainly attract dreamy browsers, it will be interesting to see if high footfall turns into on-target revenue.
Happily, the ship’s sustainability priorities are evident in the retail selection with a significant range of environmentally kind products, particularly in the MSC-branded stores which once again include the laudable MSC Foundation merchandise shop, conceived to raise funds for worthy causes.
MSC World Europa is a triumphant celebration of shipbuilding prowess, design imagination and technological ingenuity. But even the high bar achieved with this launch was not enough for Pierfrancesco Vago, chairman, MSC Cruises. While enjoying an informal chat with him over coffee in the sumptuous MSC Yacht Club lounge, he mentioned that he could only see what the brand could have done better. Yet these are details that no one else will spot or consider. Such is his burden in the impossible pursuit of perfection, but that is how he became the extraordinary leader of an astonishing cruise brand.