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Article from TNU NOVEMBER 2023


Readers who might have expected a review of P&O’s Arvia will find that TNU is to report on her sister ship Iona in the December issue.  All will be explained at the time.  The Editor-in Chief was unable to test the Starlink wi-fi system on Iona, hence the delay in reporting.  Please see www.travelnewsupdate.co.uk/article/415 

On the news front cruise ships visiting Scotland would be charged a new tax under plans announced by the Scottish Green Party at their annual conference.  

The Greens are a partner of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in government.

More than 800,000 cruise passengers visited Scotland in pre-pandemic 2019 with around 900 calls to port, according to VisitScotland and with the final figures for 2023 yet to be published this could reach towards one million.

In recent years the small communities in the north of Scotland and the islands have become dependent on cruise ship business, although wary of too many visitors on a single day literally overwhelming the little towns.  A new facility at Stornoway (population 6,000) will accommodate vessels up to 360 metres in length, including QM2 and the two ships noted above, each with a total capacity of over 7,000 including the crew.

Look for the last story in the September cruising update regarding Stornoway.

The TNU review of Douglas Ward's Cruising & Cruise Ships, has had an interesting response regarding readers comments.  Do take another look. View here.

Mike Pickup is an award-winning journalist and photographer and was a guest of MSC for the short maiden voyage of the cruise line’s new megaship Euribia.  It is powered by liquid natural gas (LNG) and a fine example of the company’s forward thinking when it comes to the environment.  At 184,000grt she is very big, just over 1,000ft long, with accommodation for up to 6,300 passengers.

“MSC’s latest ship, Euribia, marks the latest step by the cruise industry to reduce carbon emissions and provide a greener cruise environment. I boarded the new ship in Amsterdam during its voyage from the shipbuilders in France to Copenhagen and its naming ceremony by MSC’s perennial Godmother, actress Sophia Loren.

MSC claims this was the first time a ship had completed a net zero greenhouse gas emitting voyage. Fuelled by LNG, the hull and propellers are designed to provide greater fuel efficiency and less disturbance to marine life.

The fuel she runs on is one of the world’s cleanest marine fuels available at scale and is set to play a key role in the decarbonisation of international shipping. It virtually eliminates local air pollutant emissions such as sulphur oxides and reduces nitrogen oxides by up to 85%. LNG also plays an important part in climate change mitigation as it reduces CO2 emissions by 25% and is paving the way for the uptake of sustainable non-fossil fuels including green hydrogen.  

The ship is also taking part in an initiative to gather the DNA of sea creatures so that scientists can better understand how they are faring as ocean temperatures rise. Even the artwork on the hull was specially commissioned to underline the ship’s eco-credentials. So much for saving the planet, but what about the guests?

My balcony cabin contained a queen-size bed and two-seater sofa. There was a small bathroom with a magnifying mirror and a wardrobe with limited space for hanging longer items. Outside, a balcony offered two chairs and a table; it was adequate without being spacious.

Those seeking a luxury experience can book a cabin in the Yacht Club, an exclusive area of ship offering all-inclusive accommodation and butler service.

MSC is renowned for having the largest LED ceilings at sea and Euribia is no exception. The display, situated over the Galleria area, can be changed to suit the mood or location.

The area included shops, bars, a pub, a chocolate shop where you can design your own bar and some speciality restaurants. The central atrium was bright and equipped with MSC’s signature Swarovski Crystal staircases.  There is a theatre and a large lounge with a stage for various acts.

I particularly liked the big band performances, so good to see more than 20 musicians and singers performing live rather than people singing to backing tracks.

The entertainment was certainly top class, my only criticism is that MSC still operates a fixed two-sitting dining arrangement which means that each show has to be performed twice in an evening to cater for first and second sittings. It was such a shame to find that great performances were limited to 35 minutes.  As part of its campaign to reduce waste, all the restaurants and bars had QR codes on tables, inviting people to connect their smartphones to the ship’s wi-fi, scan them and place their orders.

This did not meet with universal approval; some guest would not normally take their phones to meals, let alone use them in this way. However, in the meantime, printed menus are available on request.

Other facilities on the ship include a multi-use sports area, water park with a slide, ropes course and a number of entertainment areas including a two-lane bowling alley, F1 simulated racing and more. However, a number of these activities are subject to extra charges.  MSC has in the past been criticised by some for poor levels of service. Euribia holds up to 6,300 passengers and 1,711 crew, giving it a crew to passenger ratio of 3.7:1. Compare this to one of the huge Royal Caribbean ships where the ratio is 2.3:1, a 50% better ratio. It remains to be seen if customer service levels improve.

During the voyage I had an opportunity to sit down with Antonio Paradiso, MSC Cruises UK & Ireland Managing Director. The son of British and Italian parents, he was aware how much we Brits liked a kettle in our hotel rooms and cabins and he was successful in campaigning for this. Naturally I asked him why there was no Yorkshire Tea in my cabin but he assured me that when Euribia starts the Southampton season all would be well. He also commented that prices will be changed to recognise the fact that a daily gratuities charge added to a passenger’s on-board account did not go down well with the locals. Good to hear that this global company is listening to local requirements.

Equally, not all people are fond of large ships. MSC has recently launched the Explora brand of smaller ships, holding around 970 passengers. Paradiso’s responsibility has been increased to cover that side of the business as well. The first ship, Explora 1, is already operating. I asked him what message he had for the UK market.

His reply naturally covered sustainability, but primarily he wants to encourage people who have not tried cruising before to give it a go, especially using short ‘taster’ cruises. Clearly that’s something in which Euribia has a significant part to play during its stay in Southampton.”

Travel News Update hopes to review MSC Virtuosa, when she is based in Southampton from April 2024 onwards.

Here is the programme until the end of June 2024. MSC Euribia will also operate a number of cruises from Southampton in April one way to European destinations.

See also World Europa review December 2022


MSC Euribia      12 April
11 nights   Northern Europe
MSC Virtuosa   22 April
12 nights   Spain, Portugal and the Canaries
MSC Virtuosa     2 May
  2 nights   Introduction cruise to Cherbourg
MSC Virtuosa    6 May
  3 nights   Introduction cruise Cherbourg and Zeebrugg
MSC Virtuosa  11 May
  7 nights   Lerwick and Norway
MSC Virtuosa  18 May
  7 nights   Lerwick and Norway
MSC Virtuosa  25 May
  2 nights   Introduction cruise to Cherbourg
MSC Virtuosa  27 May
  5 nights   Channel ports
MSC Virtuosa    1 June
  2 nights   Introduction cruise to Cherbourg
MSC Virtuosa    3 June
12 nights   Spain, Portugal and the Canaries
MSC Virtuosa  15 June
  7 nights   Northern Europe
MSC Virtuosa 22 June
  7 nights   France and Spai
MSC Virtuosa  29 June
  5 nights   Channel ports

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