Planning the maiden season for MSC World Europa

Elisabetta De Nardo explains why MSC Cruises has based its first World Class ship in the Middle East
Planning the maiden season for MSC World Europa

MSC CRuises

MSC World Europa will be the biggest ship that MSC Cruises has ever operated in the Middle East

By Rebecca Gibson |

Built to push the boundaries of what is possible at sea, MSC Cruises’ newest ship MSC World Europa will be an “ultra-modern metropolis” that will be “unlike anything” else in the cruise industry when it debuts in December 2022. The vessel, which will be the brand’s first LNG-powered ship, will boast game-changing environmental technology and onboard innovations that will transform the cruise experience.

To develop a diverse and innovative itinerary that would befit such a transformative ship, MSC Cruises and the brand’s vice president of port development Elisabetta De Nardo began the process in the same way as they do for every other newbuild joining the fleet: by putting themselves in the shoes of their loyal guests.

“Our fundamental starting point is always to consider itineraries from the perspective of the customers who sail with us frequently and are extremely knowledgeable about both our ships and what we have to offer,” says De Nardo. “They are very excited when we launch a new vessel and often plan their cruise holidays so they can be part of the celebrations associated with a maiden season, so we want to give them a wonderful holiday at sea.

“However, MSC World Europa is more than just a new ship; it is the first vessel in our World Class series and boasts a very different design to previous classes of vessels. That has added to guest anticipation, so we wanted to create the best possible maiden season.”

Impressed by the growing success of its voyages in the Middle East, MSC Cruises opted to homeport MSC World Europa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for its maiden winter season. De Nardo explains the rationale.

“Our voyages in the Middle East have become popular over the past few years and we now have the largest market share in the region,” she says. “The UAE is a particularly important country for us because it has real drive and ambition and is also home to highly respected major airlines and excellent airports. We want to recognise its ever-growing status as a tourist destination, especially in the cruise sector, and also visit other parts of the Gulf region too.”

Set to homeport in Dubai for six months, MSC World Europa will sail seven-night roundtrips to popular destinations including Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Dammam in Saudi Arabia, and Doha in Qatar.

“The seven-night itinerary offers guests the chance to experience both culture and traditions that date back thousands of years, and incredible modern cities, pristine beaches and fabulous weather – these are all rich ingredients for a perfect cruise holiday,” says De Nardo. “In a perfect world, we ideally want to have a new destination port for a newbuild’s maiden season and that’s what MSC World Europa has. Dammam is a first for us and we think the ship’s guests will really enjoy what this remarkable city has to offer."

Guests will be able to choose from a diverse array of shore excursion options in each destination. “Our main objective was to provide guests with a range of choices to look forward to,” says De Nardo. “We’ve planned an incredible 66 separate shore excursions – there’s something for everyone, no matter their age or nationality. Some of the highlights include visits to theme parks, modern metropolises, museums, waterparks, Unesco World Heritage sites, pristine beaches, traditional souks and mosques, as well as activities like dining in the desert and taking a helicopter ride.”

Although MSC Cruises is familiar with the ports and destinations in the Middle East region, the company experienced several logistical challenges while planning MSC World Europa’s inaugural itineraries. “The vessel will be the largest we’ve ever operated in the region, so we had to consider everything from berths to bollards, tugs, vessel traffic control, other marine services, and onshore logistics,” explains De Nardo. “For example, because the ship has capacity for 6,762 passengers, we’ve had to develop a phased disembarkation and embarkation process so we can distribute people efficiently and effectively. It will also ensure we don’t overstretch any ports of call and the local infrastructure.”

Bunkering was another key challenge. “MSC World Europa is our first LNG-powered vessel, and we planned well in advance to ensure we can refuel it in Dubai,” says De Nardo. “We entered dialogues with ports, immigration, pilots and tour operators well in advance to discuss the ship and our requirements in detail before finalising everything.”

MSC Cruises’ commitment to delivering a diverse itinerary and shore excursion programme for MSC World Europa is paying off, with high numbers of guests booking its inaugural itineraries. “The demand for MSC World Europa’s inaugural Arabian Gulf itineraries have been terrific due to the amazing ports of call and the fact this new and innovative vessel will be a wonderful destination in its own right,” says De Nardo. “We expect the ship will attract many international passengers from around the world, particularly from Europe. We also hope to see strong interest from holidaymakers who live in the Gulf Cooperation Council, especially the UAE. The ship will bring real benefits for the UAE’s tourism industry.”

This article was first published in the 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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