(1 p.m. EST) -- One of the fastest-growing cruise lines in the world, MSC Cruises continued its rapid expansion with the debut of MSC Euribia this year. With 22 cruise ships, the cruise line, which has Italian roots and a reputation for drawing international passengers, has the ability to positions ships around the world.
The newest ship in the fleet is currently sailing in northern Europe, cruising roundtrip from Kiel, Germany, with stops in Copenhagen and several ports in Norway. The itinerary is a staple for the line and popular with European travelers, especially those from Spain and Italy, the ship’s hotel director Antonio Castellano tells Cruise Critic.
The 4,838-passenger ship, which can hold as many as 6,237 guests, is visiting Copenhagen, Maloy and Flam; it’s also making its maiden voyage to the breathtakingly beautiful Nordfjordeid. We’re onboard Euribia as a guest of MSC to see what this new ship and northern European itinerary have to offer.
While many North Americans are familiar with MSC Cruises because of its ships cruising in the Caribbean, there are a number of differences in the line’s approach in Europe, and this sailing on Euribia demonstrates of one of the biggest: few Americans and Canadians are onboard. The highest percentage of guests sailing are from Germany, followed by Italy, Spain and France.
MSC prides itself on sailing with an international mix of passengers, and, indeed, you’ll notice it on Caribbean sailings. But for this itinerary, native English speakers are few and far between. (We were onboard for two days before hearing another American accent.)
This manifests itself in fascinating ways. For starters, while all crewmembers speak English, we have been amazed at how well they can jump between languages. Our cruise director introduces the shows each night in Delphi Theatre in five languages, sounding perfectly fluent in all of them.
Waiters communicate with guests mostly in English, but they also clearly know enough German or Italian, for example, to work though orders seamlessly. Menus and daily planners also are available in multiple languages, and you can set your language preferences on the MSC for Me app.
The mix of nationalities also means you’ll meet new friends from other countries, but only if you want to. We have found that people generally are friendly but not eager to make new friends. Conversation is polite but never particularly long. Language might be a barrier, but it’s also simply a sign of cultural differences, where not everyone is interested socializing outside of their circles.
Menus onboard and venue hours are also set in part based on the prevailing passenger base. With so many Germans on our sailing, for example, we’ve noticed pretzels available as a bread choice for our lunch buffet.
The itinerary on this cruise, which is similar to what has been offered all season, has introduced us to several “new to me” ports. While Copenhagen is probably familiar to many cruisers, as it’s a mainstay on a lot of European itineraries, Maloy is visited by only a handful of lines, including Hurtigruten and Costa, while Nordfjordeid sees traffic mostly from European and luxury lines.
The ports have been absolutely stunning, with sail-ins that show off the region’s spectacular fjords. Typical for the region, it’s rained every day, but the sun also has been out at the same time, so rainbows galore have surrounded the ship and highlighted the landscape.
We did an excellent and thrilling ship-sponsored excursion that took us around the fjord in a speedboat in Maloy and opted to go on our own in the other Norwegian ports.
MSC Euribia is the brand’s second liquified natural gas ship, a fuel the company says makes the ship more sustainable by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 20%. In fact, MSC is touting Euribia as the epitome of the company’s commitment to the marine ecosystem.
The ship also features a hull design that is a playful take on the underwater world yet has the urgent message – displaying the hashtag #SaveTheSea – that preserving our oceans for future generations is important. It’s impossible to ignore. The hull is painted with a special paint that reduces the growth of organisms, reducing the drag and increasing efficiency. Other changes include an advanced wastewater treatment onboard as well as smart heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Most guests probably won’t notice the green efforts the ship is making, but Castellano told us it’s important both as a world citizen and for ports the ship visits, especially in northern Europe, where many of the countries have a reputation for being ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to sustainable efforts.
“It’s a big plus,” said Castellano, a 23-year MSC employee who is also a resident of Flam when not onboard the ship.
On this itinerary, our weather has ranged from pleasant in Kiel, where it was in the mid-70s Fahrenheit and sunny when we left, to low-50s and rainy. The rain is typical of the region, and temperatures, which are always cooler here, have begun to drop as fall approaches and as we sail farther north.
It doesn’t deter passengers from getting out and exploring ports, but onboard, only a few hardy souls of the 5,100 people sailing are committed enough to still jump into the pools and hot tubs outdoors, weather be damned.
Many of the activities onboard MSC Euribia are scheduled for outdoors – things like dance lessons, stretching classes, cornhole and even trivia. But everything also has a backup spot inside in case of poor weather.
The good: It means activities take place mostly without hiccups, and there’s often plenty going on at any time onboard.
The bad: Activities that usually are spread out throughout the ship are instead condensed, and you often feel the crowding. For example, the ship’s Marketplace buffet features ample outdoor seating at the aft and other parts of the restaurant, but with weather a bit unpredictable, guests are dining inside, so the space feels crowded. The lines at the food stations can make it frustrating at times waiting to get a meal, and people simply standing around or wandering clog pathways.
However, on Euribia, the Carousel Lounge is transformed. The theater is moved to the back of the room, against the windows, and bright natural light floods the space. It operates all day long, even offering light snacks as well as a pool table and games. It reminds us a bit of one of our favorite Royal Caribbean spaces, Two70. During the day, it can hold nearly 400 people, so it’s helped with some of the crowding issues, offering a large gathering space that’s out of the way.
When we do get glimpses of decent weather, passengers are quick to flock to the outdoor venues, including the family waterpark, waterslides and ropes course, or, more often, napping on lounge chairs under the sun.
MSC Euribia is built for families. Even in the “offseason” for family travel, our sailing has a lot of families onboard, be it couples with children or groups with grandparents, parents and kids.
MSC proudly positions itself as a family cruise line, and Euribia has many options for keeping kids and families busy. Euribia has a massive space carved out for its kids clubs, and the activities they offer range from learning about the environment in the ship’s MSC Foundation Lab to competing in MasterChef at Sea Juniors and participating in soccer tournaments.
The ship also has an extensive arcade, which includes virtual-reality experiences and games, a Formula 1 race simulator, arcade games and bowling. Everything in the arcade comes with a fee, but all are fun for kids and adults, and the space has been busy every time we’ve visited it.
Additionally, Euribia offers a fun and colorful waterpark for children, three water slides (open to adults and older children) and a ropes course. The weather has meant these have been little used or completely closed during our sailing. When the ship sails in warm weather, it will be a different experience for families.
MSC Euribia is continuing to sail from Kiel through the end of the month, then it’s switching to departing from nearby Hamburg. The change is notable for a couple of reasons.
First, it removes Norway from the schedule, as it’s getting cooler so far north. Instead, it will visit ports in France, Belgium, The Netherlands and the U.K.
Castellano said the new itinerary will attract a different passenger base: mostly Germans and Brits.
He also said with this itinerary, every port is an embarkation port, meaning guests can board in any stop along the way. This is different than cruises that start from North America but not unusual in Europe.
Because of this, guests probably will be on slightly different schedules. It also means a muster drill will take place every day, which can be a bit of an inconvenience to passengers who already have boarded and gone through the safety procedure; services close during every muster drill, and announcements in multiple languages are ongoing for about 90 minutes.
After Euribia completes its season from Hamburg, it will redeploy to Southampton, where it will homeport from late October through the spring, when it will return to Germany for the same Northern Europe itineraries.
The ship sails its maiden Middle East itineraries beginning in fall 2024, when it will homeport in Abu Dhabi.