Booze cruise: What it is like at Qatar’s ocean liner-turned-hotel World Cup celebration spots

DOHA, Qatar — The glass door to the La Plage pool deck slides open, I stroll by, and it is as if I’ve been transported into one other world — one that’s hundreds of miles away from Qatar.

It’s slightly after midday, and alcohol is flowing in all method of how. People are sprawled out on lounge chairs, sleeping off hangovers or maybe simply the sport from the earlier night. And there’s extra uncovered pores and skin scorching within the solar than you’d in any other case see in months right here in Doha — sufficient to maintain a dermatologist employed for the remainder of their life.

Yes, that is in Qatar — the small, conservative Muslim nation internet hosting the World Cup — however this isn’t in one in every of its lodges or public areas. Rather, it is the cruise ship MSC World Europa, which is docked at Doha’s newly revamped cruise ship terminal. You do not should e-book a room to benefit from the ship’s facilities, both. For a cool $50, you may get a day go, however for these staying in a single day, it is a type of locations the place the celebration by no means stops.

“This place is like Vegas on water, man. It’s been incredible,” stated Marc Laszcz, 28, an actual property agent from San Diego. “We’ve been here about a week now and just living it up. It’s like you’re walking onto the Strip, you walk into one of the Bellagios. This place never sleeps. It goes 24 hours.

“The Welsh and the British individuals there are up on the bar, simply protecting it going. And then they go to sleep, they get up, they maintain going, go to sleep round 4 or 5 within the morning. We’re up by 7 as a result of the solar’s up and it is simply nonstop. It’s a good time. And we’re right here to cheer on the boys within the pink, white and blue.”

How a cruise ship becomes a World Cup hotel stand-in

When the Qatar Supreme Committee began wondering how it would accommodate upward of 1 million visitors for the 2022 World Cup, hotel space was a big concern in Qatar, a country that could only accommodate a small fraction of that. So, organizers hit upon a novel way to alleviate some of the strain on the city’s hotel industry: turning cruise ships into floating hotels.

The MSC World Europa — one of three MSC ocean liners brought in — fits the bill as a hotel and then some. The ship is gargantuan at over 1,000 feet long and 223 feet high with 22 decks. It accommodates 6,700 passengers, though according to one customer service rep on board, the ship is only about half-full at present. The ship is fully staffed, however, and they’re practically falling all over each other to help — one staff member even insisted on carrying my drink for me as I moved from one table to another. And most pleasing to the Supreme Committee, the ship is fueled by liquid natural gas (LNG), Qatar’s cash crop.

So how is life on the cruise ship?

“It’s been superior,” says Kody, 44, who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, and is taking in the World Cup with her husband, Dean, and their two sons. “It’s Groundhog Day to some extent, buffet-wise, however by way of the spirit, nothing compares. It’s superior to have all people from a complete bunch of various international locations gathered collectively.”

For Cayhan Movaghari and Peter Dethier, both 25 and from the Washington, D.C., area, that opportunity to mingle with a veritable United Nations of fans at close quarters has been the best part of being on the boat. “We’ve gotten to have breakfast with people from Australia,” Movaghari says. “We’ve had drinks with people from Mexico, from Portugal. There’s some superb Iranian individuals on the boat, which has been great. So it is simply been, general, improbable.”

You never know who you might run into, either.

Nawaz Hussain is attending the World Cup with his brother Mohammed Ali — pronounced “just like the boxer,” Ali says with a smile — and his nephew Rian Hossein. He proudly displays a picture he took on the boat with Jorge Burruchaga, scorer of the winning goal for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against Germany. All three hail from Chennai, India, and are here to soak up every minute of this World Cup.

Ali, 58, marvels at the play of the Arab countries so far in the tournament, while Hussain, 30, praised Canada, regardless of the Reds’ defeat to Croatia earlier within the night. “They performed nicely above expectations,” he said. The idea of using a cruise ship as a hotel left an impression on him as well. “Generally they construct infrastructure after which it goes to waste after the match,” Ali says. “So the entire thought of bringing cruise ships, accommodating hundreds of individuals, after which sending them again when it isn’t wanted, I feel that’s good.”

One place where the party isn’t going on at all is the ship’s casino, which is lit up but completely empty as I walk through, save for two lonely bartenders with no one to serve. It seems straight out of “The Shining,” and I half expect one to ask me, “How are issues going, Mr. Torrance?” Instead, one explains that since the ship isn’t in international waters, the casino is shut down. The shakedown of that part of the ship will have to wait until the first official trip to sea, which is set for later in December.

As odd as the idea of staying on a cruise ship for the World Cup sounds, it has its merits beyond just a bed to sleep in. To many visitors, Qatar was a huge unknown, including just how strictly the rules on public consumption of alcohol would be enforced. When the Supreme Committee decided only two days before the tournament that there would be no alcohol sold at stadiums, that clinched it for some. Yet the ship has just about everything one could need.

Both Brian Trott and Mike Andrews had been on the boat for only a few hours, having previously stayed at one of Doha’s hotels. But already they were feeling at home. “We had been proud of our selection as soon as they banned alcohol across the stadiums,” Andrews stated.

The MSC World Europa even boasts its own brewery on board that will “serve a spread of ‘Oceanic’ beers made with desalinated sea water,” according to marketing materials, for those itching to get the full “at sea” experience.

There’s also a security aspect that attracted some tourists to stay aboard this floating hotel, though it appears Doha has lived up to its reputation for being an incredibly safe city.

“When we booked this a few years in the past, we thought it could be worthwhile, particularly with [Qatar’s] method to consuming. It’s a safer choice,” said Mark, a 38-year-old designer of security systems from outside London. “If we do a cruise ship, they’ll have a great deal of bars, they’re going to have a great deal of eating places. If every thing goes horrendously fallacious exterior of [this ship], we’ll have that secure area to return to.

“You don’t have to spend too much time in the sun if you don’t want to. But it’s still weird to have it be so warm in November, especially when you’re talking to friends back home and they’re telling you how bad the weather is.”

The thought of getting so many followers in shut quarters may create some rigidity, particularly with the “liquid courage” so available. But the expertise of friends who spoke to ESPN for this story point out this has been saved to a minimal.

Victor Suarez, 32, who owns an escape room firm in Mexico City, is having fun with lunch on the ship’s sushi restaurant, Kaito, along with his companion, 32-year-old Mabel Guerra, a designer. “This is breakfast,” she stated. He remarks how a lot of the banter has been in good enjoyable, particularly on the bar, Master of the Seas, earlier within the journey. “Everybody was wearing their jerseys from their country, and they started singing their chants,” he stated. “The Brazilians started fighting the Argentinians. Not in a bad way, just with their singing. It was pretty fun.”

The worth of staying on a cruise ship at a World Cup

The ship works even for individuals who aren’t into the nightlife — in spite of everything, this boat is serving as a lodge first.

Later within the night, I run into Joao Silva and Roberta Carmo, who hail from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (“The city of the 7-1,” Silva stated, in reference to Brazil’s defeat to Germany by that rating within the 2014 World Cup semifinal.) They name the expertise of staying on a cruise ship a “nice surprise” given its shut proximity to the town and points of interest, although there may be one drawback.

“There’s no vegan restaurant,” he says. “We are eating in the city.”

Kids are welcome on the boat too. Steven van Hoof, a 36-year-old native of Antwerp, Belgium, who now lives in Cape Town, South Africa, is staying on the boat along with his 12-year-old son.

“My wife doesn’t like soccer, and my son’s turning 12. I promised him we’re going to do one of these boys trips,” he stated. “It ended up from three days to three weeks now. So we’re staying for the whole lot, watching 23 games, which is the only benefit now having the World Cup in Qatar. It’s like all the stadiums, you can run from one to another.”

The value of the journey varies broadly, however it’s nonetheless on the pricier facet. For the ultimate week of the World Cup, rooms are starting from $347 an evening to greater than $2,500. The inside rooms depart barely sufficient area for baggage.

“It is a box,” Mark from London stated about his room.

Then there’s the price of meals and beverage. Some deep, intense analysis performed by this reporter can verify {that a} draft beer does certainly run about $15.

“It’s expensive,” stated Garrett Jones, a 28-year-old accountant from Boise, Idaho. “The accommodations itself actually weren’t bad, but the food has been way more expensive on the boat compared to if you go to Souq Waqif. The food’s a lot cheaper there.” (Souq Waqif is Doha’s oldest souq road market and a preferred attraction within the metropolis.)

Van Hoof added: “The boat hurts, but so would any other holiday. I’m thinking the World Cup is only once every four years and my son only turns 12 once, so there you go. Just took it on the chin.”



Mark Ogden shares his expertise of watching the opening sport of the World Cup from a bar in Doha.

On this night time on the Master of the Seas, the Croatia followers are having fun with the cool of the night that comes with a 4-1 in over Canada, although a German couple are anxiously watching the ultimate moments of Germany’s match in opposition to Spain. As I sidle as much as the bar, I strike up a dialog with a person in a Luka Modric jersey, although it seems he isn’t from Zagreb or Split, however Boise, Idaho.

He introduces me to Kyle DePinna, a 34-year-old artist from Portland, Oregon. DePinna has been getting some mild grief all day — he had tickets to the Germany-Spain sport, however after six consecutive days of going to video games, he hit one thing of a wall and gave up his tickets. A jet snowboarding tour eliminated any sense of him lacking out.

“It was the best time of my life,” he stated. “We thought we were going to be late, and ended up getting there right at sunset. So we rode like 30 minutes as the sun was setting. I got, like, amazing pictures and videos.”

When the whistle blows to finish the Germany-Spain sport, the deck on the La Plage pool, the place individuals had been watching on a large display largely empties. A number of individuals stick round to bounce to “Oye Como Va,” however the others have retreated to the ship’s inside to eat or proceed consuming. The celebration goes on.

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