Jim Byers Charts an In-Depth Review of MSC World Europa

The MSC World Europa on the high seas. Photo courtesy MSC Cruises

Choosing a cruise for yourself or a client is a very personal experience. Some customers crave serenity, others want non-stop action. Some people like dinners in tuxedos and ball gowns, others want their most casual Jimmy Buffett attire. Some clients want quirky ports of call in southeast Asia, some want to see the great cities of Europe.

Your Open Jaw correspondent recently finished a one-week cruise around the Mediterranean on the posh MSC World Europa, and found it quite amazing. It’s a ship that’s a little tricky to categorize, as it really does offer something for everyone.

If I wanted to, and I did (well, sort of), I could dress up for a formal night. When I wanted a casual lunch, I strolled into one of the buffets in my shorts and a well-worn t-shirt.

The galleria on the MSC World Europa. MSC Cruises Photo

When I wanted to enjoy a vibrant Broadway show or a rock and roll act at night, I could do that. When I wanted to hear a tinkling piano in the tea room or a glass of fine Champagne in the Fizz Bar, the option was there.

I dined on local seafood, juicy steaks, tacos with barbequed beef and black beans, and fresh sushi. I sipped Sazeracs, French 75’s and Manhattans, as well as wonderful Italian and California wine and fabulous juices from the ZEST juice bar.

Over the course of a week in the western Mediterranean I zipped down a dark water slide, gambled in the casino, strolled the historic streets of Palermo, watched grown women swoon over an Elvis impersonator, fetched fabulous cappuccinos from the lovely Emporium coffee shop, drank in the majesty of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and listened to a wonderful jazz band in a secret Speakeasy on board the ship.

If you’re bored on MSC World Europa, you’ve got a problem. If you love the sound of it for you or your clients, be sure to check out MSC World America, her sister ship, which launches trips to the Caribbean next April.

Here’s a look at the Europa, as well as information about how MSC deals with the travel advisor community.

The galleria shopping and restaurant area on the MSC World Europa. Jim Byers Photo

WORKING WITH ADVISORS

“At MSC Cruises Canada we understand that our trade partners are the cornerstone of our success, and we demonstrate our commitment to them through a number of initiatives,” officials said. “Our dedicated trade website, MSCBOOK, serves as a hub for agents to stay updated on current promotions and initiatives for both FIT bookings and groups.

MSC recently expanded its Field Sales team and Inside Sales department, and will soon announce a new training program for partners. They also host agents onboard many ships that are in port; visits that can be set up by the Inside Sales team. Agents should also be on the lookout in MSCBOOK for Agent rates and invitations to Seminars at Sea, tailored for the Canadian trade.

“We’re proud to be the leader in offering commission on pre-paid services as agents can earn of up to 5% on prepaid shore excursions for groups,” officials said.

“We also offer aggressive commission levels to our partners and, from time to time throughout the year, provide bonus commission to travel agencies,” said Ian Patterson, Country Manager at MSC Cruises Canada.

ONBOARD FOOD

A chef at the Kaito Teppanyaki restaurant on the MSC World Europa. Jim Byers Photo

I found the cuisine on board MSC World Europa to be quite good and tremendously varied. The ship has 13 restaurants, six of them specialty dining spots, and three buffets. Because MSC appeals to international customers, you’ll find menus that highlight everything from roast turkey to Asian noodles, and from Moroccan-spiced chicken and couscous to Swiss birchermuesli. I thought the tacos and guacamole were very good at Hola! Tacos & Cantina, the specialty Mexican restaurant, and we enjoyed excellent food and a tremendously entertaining show at the Kaito Teppanyaki restaurant. The pizza bar had good pizza but just okay burgers. Butcher’s Cut serves an excellent filet mignon.

We had a tremendous server for our dinners at Les Dunes, one of the included restaurants. The food was good, but not quite as nice as at the specialty places. Breakfasts were top-notch at the sit-down Hexagon restaurant, as well as at the busy Il Mercato buffet. I thought the Il Mercato lunches were quite good. We had a fine dinner at Chef’s Garden Kitchen, run by Michelin-starred Chef Niklas Ekstedt and featuring a menu focusing on natural ingredients and a farm-to-table approach. MSC has six dining packages available for guests to choose from to dine at the specialty restaurants onboard. If you pre-book, MSC Cruises offers a savings on these specialty dining packages of up to 40% versus onboard prices. Click HERE for descriptions and details.

BARS AND DRINKS

The Masters of the Sea pub on the MSC World Europa. MSC Cruises Photo

MSC World Europa boasts a remarkable 20 bars and lounges. I don’t think I hit all of them, but I tried my best. Dolce Vita had solid entertainment, and the bartender made me a pretty good bourbon mule one night. Elixir Mixology Bar had a DJ mixing REM and Nirvana tunes with thumping beats and served a good Manhattan, although they called it a “Tender is the Night.” The ZEST Juice Bar features outstanding smoothies and juice mixes. I somehow missed The Gin Experience bar, where they have their own distillery. But I enjoyed the brewed-on-board beers at Masters of the Sea, and I loved the Champagne at Fizz Bar (roughly $24 CAD for a glass of Laurent-Perrier if you don’t have the drinks package). The Coffee Emporium was never busy at 7 a.m., when I went for daily cappuccinos and mini croissants to tide us over until breakfast.

I also enjoyed the tea and the talented piano player in the afternoon at the Raj Polo Tea House, an elegant, super-quiet spot that also has an outdoor seating area. The on-board speakeasy bar is the piece de resistance on MSC World Europa. You have to get lucky and have someone slip you a secret coin to get in, but if you’re nice to your bartenders it might just work out. For our experience we were escorted down some stairs to one of the busy crew levels (deck four) and met by a woman in kind of a flapper/1920’s costume. The bar was small but attractive, and there were a handful of tables. A jazzy Italian band played some great tunes and chatted with the audience. Then came a very good lounge singer doing classic tunes such as Que Sera Sera. The drinks are both terrific and potent. It’s a great concept for a cruise ship, and one I would expect other cruise lines to adopt. There are five different drinks packages that guests can choose from. Packages include Easy, Easy Plus, Premium Extra, Alcohol Free and Minors Package. Click HERE for descriptions and details.

CABINS

The MSC Yacht Club owner's suite on the MSC World Europa. MSC Cruises Photo

Cruise Critic last year gave MSC Cruises an award for best cabin suite complex. There’s an immense variety of rooms to choose from, so you need to do your homework. We had a deluxe balcony cabin on the 10th floor that was a nice 17 square meters, with a 3 sq balcony. I’ve been in plenty of hotel rooms that were smaller than our cabin on the Europa. It was, as most cruise ship cabins are, thoughtfully laid out, with a queen bed, a good-sized desk with tons of storage, solid closet space with drawers and hangers, and a sofa that was handy for relaxing (and laying out clothes on). The shower and bathroom also were reasonable in size. Our room had a couple of North American electrical outlets as well as some two prong European models. There were USB charging ports by the bed but I couldn’t find an electrical outlet in that part of the room.

A balcony cabin on the MSC World Europa. Jim Byers Photo

THE SPA

My wife and I each enjoyed very good massages on board at the Aurea Spa; a firm hot rocks treatment and massage and a gentle Balinese massage. If you book a massage or other spa treatment you get access to the wonderful Thermal Suite, where you’ll find a large hot tub with recliners, a dry sauna with large windows looking out to the sea, a steam room with eucalyptus, a snow room, hot and cold pools, and relaxation areas with varying degrees of heat and humidity. It’s an outstanding feature. You also can book the area separately, without a massage.

ENTERTAINMENT AND POOLS

The La Plage pool on the MSC World Europa. MSC Cruises Photo

MSC last year was awarded by Cruise Critic for best cruise nightlife. I enjoyed a good, live band at the Dolce Vita bar one night. They had a good Elvis Presley impersonator at the World Lounge, who had grown women swooning and begging for one of his scarves. Even better was the Broadway experience, with dancing and music from several Broadway plays, including West Side Story and Moulin Rouge. The music was excellent and the dancing and choreography just as impressive. The staging was terrific, with a background screen that changed into the streets of New York or Paris at the drop of a top hat.

Other listed shows include disco nights, a diva extravaganza, and more. MSC World Europa has six pools and 14 hot tubs. The outdoor pool is quite pretty, but it was cool on our Mediterranean trip so we mostly stuck to the indoor area, which has a good-sized pool and four hot tubs. I snuck up to the top levels to check out the kids’ pool and the water slides, which are quite fast and zippy and feature LED lighting. I didn’t get a chance to try the Venom Drop slide, which drops 11 stories into the ship’s open promenade, or the bumper cars, or the salsa dance lessons, or the karaoke, or the pilates class, or the foot analysis, or the beer mug game. I also missed roller skating, ring toss, the ping pong tournament and the “Guess the City” game. What was I thinking?

EXCURSIONS

MSC has excursions that focus on culture and history, scenic routes, active adventures, natural wonders and more. They also have accessible tours and MSC Bike Adventours on select itineraries. Excursions again vary in price based on the excursion chosen. When guests book their excursion(s) online in advance of their cruise departure, MSC offers savings of up to 20%. For a look at the places we visited on our trip, see the Excursions sidebar.

DESIGN AND PUBLIC SPACES

The futuristic main galleria on the MSC World Europa. Jim Byers Photo

I haven’t been on a lot of big cruise ships lately, but I was quite taken with the galleria and outdoor/indoor promenade features on the MSC World Europa. The galleria is a futuristic, multi-storey affair with an LED roof that changes shapes and colours during the day. It might be a shimmering silver pattern one minute, and then it shows what looks like a diver under the water the next. The balconies and staircases featured cool curves and shimmering lights for a very dramatic, modern effect. The 104-meter-long promenade is a lovely feature that’s open to the sky and features shops and restaurants.

ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES

MSC World Europa is the first LNG-propelled ship in the MSC Cruises fleet and features a new generation wastewater treatment system. It also cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, uses LED lighting, and has an underwater noise control system. MSC is committed to a net-zero future.

HELPFUL HINTS AND QUIET CORNERS

The galleria area and the Hola! Tacos restaurant on the MSC World Europa. MSC Cruises Photo

I’d strongly recommend buying one of the exclusive dining packages. The unlimited drinks package is a nice way to enjoy a cruise without worrying about each glass of wine or cocktail. There are five different drinks packages that guests can choose from. Packages include Easy, Easy Plus, Premium Extra, Alcohol Free and Minors Package. Click HERE for descriptions and details. Most people seemed to head to the buffet at Il Mercato on the 18th floor. One floor above is the buffet at La Brasserie. It’s smaller but seemed less crowded on our trip, so I’d suggest giving it a try. The in-room TV’s have programs in several langagues, with TV shows, news and children’s programming and trip information, such as maps and a station where you can see the view from the bridge. The Wi-Fi (packages are available) was very good on board.

The Raj Polo Tea Room on the MSC World Europa. MSC Cruises Photo

I’d suggest using the free MSC for Me app to keep track of schedules and navigate the ship. There are tons of programs and entertainment options for kids, including special clubs for children, a Lego play area and the TEENS LAB, an immersive, tech-filled, modern room just for teens.

It’s a busy ship, but when I craved quiet I enjoyed the Tea Room and the Coffee Emporium, You can buy a coffee or use your package, but there’s no charge to access the space and enjoy the quiet. The Champagne Fizz Bar also was a restful spot at night, possibly due to the extra charges (about $24 CAD for a glass of Laurent-Perrier if you don’t have the drinks package).

MSC YACHT CLUB

The ultimate hidden spot is undoubtedly the MSC Yacht Club, which has a dedicated restaurant and bar, its own, private sun deck with a pool, solarium and whirlpool baths, dedicated massage rooms and full access to the Thermal Suite. Passengers also get on and off the ship first, receive free Internet, enjoy 24-hour butler service, receive the premium drinks package, and other perks.

MSC WORLD EUROPA BY THE NUMBERS

Number of cabins: 2,626

Maximum passengers: 6,762

Crew members: 2,138

Maximum speed: 22 knots

Gross tonnage: 215.863

MSC WORLD AMERICA COMING NEXT YEAR

The MSC World America will launch in April, 2025 and will cruise the Caribbean, giving North Americans a taste of Europe close to home and providing Europeans with a familiar brand in a great part of the world for cruising. MSC World America is the second of the line’s groundbreaking World Class ships and is specially designed with the North American guest in mind, featuring unique restaurants, bars and experiences that seamlessly blend European design with American comfort, cruise company officials said. The World America will feature more American faves at its restaurants, as well as a sports bar and comedy club.

CLICK HERE FOR A VIRTUAL SHIP TOUR.

Click here (link needed) to read our interview with the cruise director, and click here (link needed) for a look at the MSC World Europa ports of call from my trip.

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