[7:15 p.m. GMT] -- MSC Cruises' new cruise ship MSC World Europa was christened in Doha, Qatar, yesterday (Nov. 13) -- seven days before the start of the FIFA World Cup kicks off in the country.
Taking place alongside Doha’s sparkling-new Grand Cruise Terminal, the ceremony featured a dazzling art mapping show projected onto MSC World Europa's bow and futuristic hull, 600 drones and a fireworks display.
The 6,762-passenger mega-ship will first act as a floating hotel for football fans -- and possibly wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of England players -- during the World Cup, before commencing its winter season.
Discussing the line’s decision to base MSC World Europa in Doha and the popularity of the ship’s maiden season, MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato said:
"A ship alone is not enough. We can have the best ship, the best options for entertainment and dining, [but]... a ship experience needs to be completed by a high-quality, sophisticated and glamorous destination, and that is why we are here in Doha.
"We are very proud of the partnership we have with Qatar and for the opportunity we have been given to be here."
In a break from tradition, Qatar Foundation CEO and vice chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani became MSC World Europa’s godmother -- a role typically reserved for Hollywood legend Sophia Loren.
The event was attended by Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, Pierfrancesco Vago, and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive and Qatar Tourism Chairman Akbar Al Baker, further VIPs, and media and trade partners from around the world.
MSC Cruises MD UK & Ireland, Antonio Paradiso, said: "MSC World Europa is our most innovative, environmentally advanced and exciting ship to date. We’re already seeing a surge in bookings on board MSC World Europa and it is proving to be the most popular ship for UK guests following MSC Virtuosa which is based in Southampton year-round.
"Winter cruises in the Middle East have always been a success with our UK guests and in recent years we have expanded our offering in this popular region. We have developed new itineraries that include Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as well as, of course, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and we have also increased the number of ports of embarkation."
The 6,762-passenger mega-ship is the largest LNG-powered vessel in the world, the largest ship in MSC Cruises fleet, and at 205,700 gross tonnes and spanning 21 decks, one of the biggest cruise ships in the world.
In fact, after Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels -- to which it bears a striking resemblance -- it is the seventh-largest ship in the world.
There are seven pools, 33 restaurants, bars and lounges and the kids' club is the largest in the fleet.
New-to-the-line restaurants include Chef’s Garden Kitchen, where some of the micro herbs and greens are grown onboard; Mediterranean restaurant La Pescaderia on the new World Promenade deck; and the 24/7 Luna Park Pizza & Burger in World Galleria.
There’s also a new cafe, Coffee Emporium; Master of the Seas pub with its own microbrewery; Panorama Lounge for live shows; Luna Park Arena for shows and film screenings and Raj Polo Tea House for afternoon tea.
For passengers staying onboard MSC World Europa during the FIFA World Cup, there will be fan zones along with ceremonial events and football matches shown on big screens around the ship.
MSC Cruises will launch its next new ship, MSC Seascape in New York on December 7. The second and final EVO Class vessel -- carrying up to 5,877 passengers -- will sail its first voyage from its Miami homeport on December 12, 2022.