Qatar to use cruise ships as floating hotels for FIFA World Cup

The MSC Opera cruise ship will operate as a floating hotel for supporters during the month of the FIFA World Cup.

Desmond Boylan/AP

The MSC Opera cruise ship will operate as a floating hotel for supporters during the month of the FIFA World Cup.

A third cruise ship has been hired by World Cup organizers in Qatar to operate as a football fan hotel moored at Doha Port to add much-needed rooms for the tournament.

Geneva-based MSC Cruises announced the deal just six weeks before the start of the World Cup on November 20. The 1,075-cabin MSC Opera will be available from November 19 to December 19.

Opera prices were posted on the MSC website on Monday starting at 470 Swiss francs ($865) per person per night during the group stage, with a minimum stay of two nights.

Qatar does not have hotel capacity for all World Cup teams, workers, volunteers and fans and is creating camping and cabin sites, renting cruise ships and encouraging fans to stay in the neighboring countries and to fly for matches.

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MSC previously signed a deal with the Qatari government in 2019 to provide two ships with around 4,000 cabins as floating hotels to help house the expected 1.2 million international visitors.

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Cruise ship prices drop during the tournament when half the teams return home. In the round of 16 and quarter-finals, the cheapest rooms at MSC Opera were 320 Swiss francs ($575), then 220 Swiss francs ($395) in the final week.

Base fares include breakfast on board with the option to pay a daily supplement of 90 euros ($157) for all meals.

Alcohol should be available on board, with MSC offering wine and draft beer.

Qatar is a Muslim-majority country that generally restricts alcohol consumption to luxury hotels, but has relaxed its rules for Fifa’s business partners, including the stadium’s corporate hospitality provider and sponsor of the AB World Cup InBev, the brewer of Budweiser.

MSC Opera made her maiden voyage in 2004 and had a rocky sailing season three years ago.

In March 2019, passengers suspected of smuggling 18 kilograms of cocaine concealed in bowls and packets of snacks were arrested when the ship docked on the Portuguese island of Madeira after leaving the Caribbean.

Three months later, the Opera collided with a tourist boat and its dock in Venice, Italy.