AS a very spoilt regular cruiser, I was certainly intrigued about my planned sojourn aboard MSC Euribia. This gigantic newbuild launched just a couple of months ago and is undertaking her first season in Northern Europe, visiting the Norwegian fjords as well as ports in Denmark and Germany on a series of back-to-back weeklong itineraries.
MSC has made great pains to showcase the ship’s environmental credentials, but I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised that the company is certainly paying much, much more than lip service to sustainability. She is certainly a big ship – the fifth in the cruise line’s popular Meraviglia class – measuring 184,011 gross tons and with 2,419 cabins. However, flexible configurations within those cabins gives her a maximum capacity of 6,327 passengers, and on our cruise all those extra “upper berths” certainly seemed to be getting a workout.
Sustainability at the forefront
How can a ship of this size possibly minimise its environmental footprint? Not without a huge effort and that’s definitely been the case for MSC Euribia, which proudly boasts a massive artwork on its hull titled #SaveTheSea courtesy of German graphic artist Alix Flaming who won a competition to create the impressive mural which evokes the trademark turquoise of the MSC Foundation to “share the ship’s message as she travels the world”.
Embarking the ship I noticed the bars all offer plastic bottles of water – aha, I thought, so much for all those anti-pollution claims. However closer examination showed that these bottles are all made from recycled plastic – MSC is helping to reuse one of the world’s most persistent pollutants, rather than adding to the problem. Incredibly there is no single-use plastic used on board at all – despite the challenges of producing and preserving literally tens of thousands of meals each day. And those little water bottles also feature a unique trick – the plastic lids remain attached to the bottle when unscrewed, meaning they can be easily resealed and more importantly the lids don’t become pesky rubbish items and are recycled along with the rest of the bottle.
Access to some of the main dining restaurants is through a corridor decorated with unique artworks made from – you guessed it – those same plastic bottles. MSC is rightly being loud and proud about its leadership in this area, which has involved environmental considerations from top to bottom in terms of Euribia’s design.
Of course many of the sustainability features are behind the scenes, not least the decision to equip the ship for LNG (liquefied natural gas) propulsion. While many cruise lines rightly have been hesitant about the adoption of LNG because it’s not yet widely available worldwide for bunkering, MSC’s plans for Euribia will see her always operating in places where this fuel source is available, most notably Europe where Finnish supplier Gasum is increasingly supplying ships through its special Kairos LNG bunker vessel. LNG is “the cleanest fuel currently available at scale” and burns without any particulate emissions, lower carbon output and 85% less NOx pollutants – which are further reduced via a Selective Catalytic Reduction System (SCR).
Combined with power saving measures such as energy-efficient LED lighting throughout, MSC Euribia will emit 44% less greenhouse gas emissions per guest per day than ships built ten years ago – another consideration where size does matter in terms of passenger numbers. When in port the vessel can connect to local power grids to power its hotel systems, and a growing array of destinations across Europe have sealed agreements with MSC to power Euribia including Kiel in Germany which inaugurated a new facility at the same time as the newbuild’s maiden visit last month.
Euribia features advanced wastewater treatment – said to be of a better standard than many shoreside municipal wastewater treatment systems around the world, and also treats its ballast water to prevent the transport of invasive species. Garbage is closely managed on board, with all staff trained to reduce, reuse and recycle as much waste as possible, while heat produced by the engines is recovered to warm the ship’s many pools and also create fresh water on board.
Euribia‘s wide appeal
Her size provides the ability for MSC Euribia to offer something for everyone, and the wide appeal of this diverse cruise product was very much on display during our voyage from Copenhagen north to Norway. MSC is very proud of its European heritage, and the mix of guests on board was reflective of the wide variety of source markets targeted by the company. Every single customer-facing team member on board speaks at least four languages, and the safety briefing announcements are made in English, French, German and Spanish.
Like other large cruise ships, Euribia boasts landmark features such as “the largest shopping area at sea”, extensive internet connectivity, comprehensive programs for children of all ages – even the tiniest of babies – and a huge array of dining and entertainment options. There are 21 bars and lounges (and yes it was our duty to test each one out), and an array of specialty restaurants offering Mexican, Japanese, French, Italian (and chocolate!) cuisine and more; certainly more than coule be sampled during our week-long voyage. All guests have an allocated seat during a meal session in one of the main dining restaurants, but can of course choose to dine wherever and whenever they like. Fare add-ons include various levels of drinks packages and specialty dining, giving guests the opportunity to enhance their holiday while on board.
And for those who may be a little put off by the prospect of thousands of people enjoying themselves in the huge array of venues on board, there’s always the exclusive MSC Yacht Club. This “ship within a ship” is truly an oasis of serenity, with keycard access to about 100 special staterooms each with butler service plus a concierge desk, private restaurant and lounge plus the opportunity to access all the excitement of the ship beyond the private doors.
A holiday accessible to all
Euribia‘s flexible cabin configuration options clearly makes it a popular option for families. On our cruise there were lots of them enjoying time together as well as having the flexibility for the kids to be separately entertained in the wide array of kids clubs on board. A multiplicity of strollers parked outside staterooms was a testament to the popularity of a Euribia cruise as a holiday option, with parents also able to feed their hungry hordes in a separate dedicated area of the buffet which was open at hours conducive to energetic kids.
From professionally qualified child minders for the littlest ones through to teen clubs and everything in between, the children certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves in the very large Do-Re-Mi Land area on the upper decks, which comes complete with a full sized indoor basketball court. There’s also a huge water park and ropes area outside, and while Norway in autumn was perhaps a little chilly for this to be widely utilised I was quite surprised to see even some adventurous adults braving the waterslides on a cloudy, rainy day at sea. Innovations such as a “drone academy”, a giant LEGO model of the ship, a bowling alley and even full-sized Formula 1 racecar simulators seemed to provide plenty of all-day stimulation.
Another thing I noticed was the number of passengers getting around in wheelchairs. Euribia has a total of 58 accessible cabins – 25 inside, 32 with balconies and one deluxe suite – while the buffet restaurant also has an area dedicated to wheelchair-bound passengers so they can dine easily and conviently with their family and friends. The ability to holiday at sea like this, as well as experience the various destinations visited on each itinerary, is clearly something valued by this cohort and MSC should be lauded for its clear dedication to accessibility and inclusion.
And what about that coffee?
Aussies and Kiwis are often concerned about the ability to get a decent coffee when travelling the world. Fortunately that is not a worry whatsoever aboard Euribia which is a genuine reflection of its European heritage. Every single one of those 21 bars and lounges has an espresso machine, and the staff are very well versed in producing authentic brews up to even the highest standard of a Melbourne hipster.
My experience aboard this ship definitely opened my eyes to what is different about MSC. The privately owned company has been free to innovate the cruise experience, and has heavily invested in new technologies – both behind the scenes and customer-facing – making Euribia a clear step change in the ongoing evolution of cruising.