(9 p.m. EST) -- It's that time again: Brits are planning their summer holidays -- and this year, football fans are bound to be taking into account the monthlong FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which starts on 11 June.
Some cruise lines are going all out to attract and appease sports enthusiasts, but those that are not broadcasting the big matches could lose out -- and many have not yet announced whether they will even be screening those crucial England games.
Here's who's in the game -- and who's not (or at least not yet):
Thomson Cruises and its sister brand, Island Cruises, will be embracing the tournament in the biggest way, allocating special areas of Thomson Dream, Thomson Celebration, Thomson Spirit, Thomson Destiny and Island Escape for match-viewing, complete with a giant screen and, crucially, a bar. All England games will be screened. If the England games aren't exciting enough (or if England gets knocked out early on), Brazil's and Spain's games will be shown, too. For partners and traveling companions who are less smitten by the "beautiful game," special spa promotions will operate during the matches.
"The fact that Thomson Cruises and Island Cruises are showing the World Cup games while at sea shouldn't detract from the great cruise experience passengers will enjoy this summer," David Selby, managing director for Thomson Cruises and Island Cruises, is quoted as saying in a press statement. "It's important to remember that the games will only take up a couple of hours a day once or twice a week on a seven-day itinerary. This means that the rest of the time our passengers can enjoy all that the cruise ships have to offer."
(However, Selby may be overlooking the buildup, the lengthy post-match analysis, the celebrations in the event of a win, the mourning in the event of sporting disaster....)
P&O Cruises will show all the England games, live, as well as the final on 11 July. Ocean Village and Cunard have also confirmed to Cruise Critic that they will be screening the matches.
Norwegian Cruise Line, which does attract a more international audience on its European cruises, will be following Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, U.S.A., Germany, Italy and England through the initial stages, followed by the whole of the rest of the tournament, up to and including the final. This applies to all the line's ships that are in Europe this summer -- Norwegian Gem, Sun and Jade and the brand-new Norwegian Epic (which will be on a series of pre-naming inaugural voyages in June).
But what about the rest? Fred. Olsen has bravely declared its ships football-free zones throughout the tournament. Costa and MSC, which both have massive, football-mad Italian fan bases, will surely show the matches -- we reckon they'd be crazy not to -- but are unable to confirm anything to us at this stage. (Costa has certainly made a point of screening big matches in the past and creating an incredibly exciting atmosphere.) Also short on information at this time are Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, all of which will have a huge presence among British cruisers this June.
We'll keep you posted as more lines announce their plans, of course, but meanwhile, we're intrigued. Will you base your summer cruise decisions on whether World Cup screenings of big matches are guaranteed onboard? Let us know!
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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March 19, 2010