|The new Europa 2 // All photos courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises|
Upscale clients will soon have a new luxury ship to consider for a cruise vacation. Next month, the 516-passenger, five-star Europa 2 will set sail as the newest flagship for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a European cruise line working to attract more English-speaking customers from the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Nearing completion at the STX France shipyard in St. Nazaire, the 42,830-ton Europa 2 will be christened May 10 in Hamburg, Germany. With a crew of 370, this ship’s passenger-crew ratio is a pampering 1.4 to 1. Official languages spoken onboard are English and German.
Hapag-Lloyd’s strategy for growth is to focus solely on luxury and expedition cruising. Europa 2 and Europa operate in the five-star luxury arena, while Hanseatic and Bremen are the line’s expedition vessels. The company also operates Columbus 2, but does not sell that product within North America.
The Insider’s Viewpoint
Travel Agent interviewed Julian Pfitzner, director of product development for Europa 2. He’s the key Hapag-Lloyd point person handling the Europa 2 project. Akin to being a proud papa, he says with pride: “She’s a beauty!”
Architecturally, “the idea of this vessel is classical luxury architecture but you open the window and you let the fresh air in,” Pfitzner says. What he means is that this ship shakes things up a bit in its design.
“Everything which was brass or copper is now stainless steel," says Pfitzner. "Everything which was gold is now silver. Everything that had rounded shapes is now very straight and rectangular.”
He also says you won’t find the widespread use of dark woods or marble that characterized luxury of the past, but rather limestone and fresh wall treatments, much as guests would expect to find in a new luxury hotel.
What can your clients expect if they book a cruise on Europa 2? From Pfitzner’s perspective, you can count on personal service, a high gastronomic standard, individual travel programs and excellent furnishings and interior appointments.
Most of all, he says, guests will discover a significant amount of personal space – both in public areas and in their private accommodations. So guests can easily relax and escape the pressures of everyday life.
Pfitzner believes Europa 2 represents “a new way that luxury cruise ships will be built in the future,” and that the ship will become a role model of sorts - "giving people back the freedom of travel," so they can cruise the way they want, rather than be forced into the cuise rituals of the past.
It’s easy to see the difference this new ship will make, even within Hapag-Lloyd’s own fleet. Clearly the line is looking at the new ship as a flagship that will create a new era for a new generation of cruise guests.
For example, those cruisers wanting to experience traditions and what Pfitnzer calls “cruise rituals” in their onboard experience, should continue to book the line’s current flagship Europa.
For example, while Europa has a captain’s dinner, Europa 2 doesn't. And while Europa will operate long voyages such as World Cruises, Europa 2 offers shorter routes, designed specifically for working professionals and families.
|Ocean Suite |
On a normal cruise, Pfitzner says guests typically have breakfast, go ashore, in the evening have dinner, go to a show, and then go to bed, starting with the same routine all over again the next day.
But he says it's simply not true anymore that guests simply want to enjoy amazing public spaces and don’t really care about what’s in their stateroom or about spending time there.
Hapag-Lloyd is aiming for a bit younger guest, people who are still working.“To recover from work, if they come onboard they want to rest and relax,” he says, noting that the accommodations are just as important as the public spaces. “It’s a new concept.”
Europa 2's 251 suites – eight types in all – will have at least 301 square feet of space and as much as 1,066 square feet.
All accommodations will offer private verandas of at least 75 square feet; the higher level suites will have a whirlpool on those balconies.
Suite types will include two Owner’s Suites, two Grand Penthouse Suites, 16 Spa Suites with whirlpool showers and steam saunas, 24 Grand Suites, 59 Ocean Suites and 141 Veranda Suites. In addition, Europa 2 will have seven family apartments; parents and kids can live in two separate areas, connected by a door and a shared balcony.
For a snapshot look at all suite types and features, visit: http://www.hl-cruises.com/ships/ms-europa-2/on-board/suites
On Deck 6, Deck 7 and Deck 8, agents will discover 19 Veranda Suites that can be connected to a neighboring suite for families or couples traveling together. Europa 2 also has two accessible suites: Suites 811 and 813 on Deck 8.
Butler service will be pampering perk for all Owner’s Suites, the Grand Penthouse Suites, the Spa Suites and the Grand Suites.
All suites will have two permanently adjoined beds; the sofa can also be converted into a bed and used by a third person.
Suites will have flat screen televisions, portable telephones, a Nespresso machine, mini-bars, personal safe, Internet access via Wi-Fi (for an added fee) and tablet PCs for guest use.
“I’m a big believer that people will more and more enjoy their privacy in their suites," says Pfitzner. "You want to make sure that people really enjoy the architecture of their suites and that they enjoy being in there."
Stateroom and suite décor will reflect what guests would expect in a luxury boutique hotel, including high-quality furnishings and outfitting. Look for lots of limestone in the bathrooms.
“We don’t have much marble,” he says, noting that’s more comparable to what’s happening in many new luxury hotels.
|The Restaurant Tarragon |
Dine Around for Choice
Pfitzner says no one books a luxury hotel stay ashore and then says, “oh, by the way, I want to have fixed table for seven nights.” He says choice is what today's luxury travelers expect.
So while Europa 2 will serve just 516 guests, the ship will have six bars and an amazing array of dining options – eight different restaurants, “so guests can truly dine around when they want,” Pfitzner says.
The largest restaurant is the spacious Restaurant Weltmeere, a circular styled room located at the ship’s stern. It serves international cuisine and vegetarian dishes.
With dark pillars and green upholstered benches, Restaurant Tarragon will resemble a Parisian brasserie, while Restaurant Elements will serve Asian cuisine.
Restaurant Serenissima will offer Italian cuisine, and the Sushi Restaurant Sakura will serve nigiris, makis, sashimis, Californian-style inside-out rolls and fish specialities.
The open-air Yacht Club Restaurant will have open cooking stations, grilled specialties and a buffet. And, Europa 2 will offer 24-hour room service.
All restaurants will be open seating and complimentary for guests. Menus will describe dishes in both English and German.
“Whatever you do [onboard] is bi-lingual,” says Pfitzner, referring to menus, announcements on the PA system, in-suite entertainment systems and so on.
While Europa 2 won’t have a specific dress code, Pfitzner says guests should aim for smart casual attire. At dinner no tie is required on Europa 2 for gentlemen, but “we do want to see long trousers and a jacket,” he says, noting “you can be very elegant without wearing a tie.”
He adds that there will be only a few formal events during the year on Europa 2, such as the New Year’s Eve celebration.
|The Jazz Club on Europa 2 |
Around the New Europa 2
Activity hot spots on Europa 2 will include a 19,764-square-foot theater with state-of-the-art stage technology and a large, two-story LED wall, a bit surprising for a relatively small ship.
Here clients will enjoy production shows, performances and light shows that reflect music and artistry - helping to bridge any potential language issues and create a show that appeals to a diverse audience speaking multiple languages. “I believe someone from the U.S. or Canada can feel comfortable,” Pfitzner says.
Two different shows per week will be offered, and passengers who spend 14 days on board will see four different shows.
Guests may book classes at the ship’s Culinary School, which features equipment by Miele; culinary classes carry an additional fee.
For spa enthusiasts, the 6,674-square-foot Ocean Spa will field four saunas, eight spa treatment rooms, a whirlpool, Kneipp pool and ice fountain, along with a beauty salon, and even a traditional hamman.
Treatments will span everything from massages to facials and Thalasso therapy. Passengers who book a “Personal SPA experience” will have access to the private sauna, whirlpool facilities, massage beds and relaxation furnishings, with pricing by the hour or by the day.
Fitness buffs will work out in a 2,660-square foot fitness center with state-of-the-art training equipment by Technogym and a separate room for Pilates and spinning.
Upon request, a personal trainer will counsel guests about their work-out and fitness goals. Sports hosts will organize requested shore excursions, such as Nordic Walking or biking tours.
Europa 2’s outdoor pool has a glass magradome that can be closed during bad weather, so guests can still relax poolside in loungers and day beds (subject to availability). Guests staying in Owner’s Suites and Grand Penthouse Suites will have daybeds reserved for their use.
After sunset, the pool deck will become an event site for parties and evening activities. Golfers might finetune their game in the 700-square-foot golf area, which boasts two simulators with video analysis. Other venues include a 3D Cinema, boutique and jewelry store.
For clients in search of culture, Hapag-Lloyd will bring onboard lecturers, varying by region. Here’s a look at a few of those experts: http://www.hl-cruises.com/ships/ms-europa-2/on-board/lecturers
Why would Americans book his line over another more well-known luxury line that already serves much of the U.S. market? How does Hapag-Lloyd differentiate itself?
“If you look at hotel market worldwide, you will find that most of the hotel directors worldwide come from either Switzerland, Austria or Germany," emphasizes Pfitzner. "The reason for this is that there is something special about this way of western European hospitality that people like and is luxurious." So look for that onboard Europa 2.
“We can offer a fully trained western European crew and [there is] nothing but that facing the customer,” Pfitzner says. “So we are able to have this 'specific way of hospitality' and to offer it to passengers.” He says the hotel crew is predominantly – 99.9 percent – western European. The line has just a few Asian crew members onboard to converse with any Asian guests onboard.
Hapag-Lloyd also makes it clear in its promotions that Europa 2 will welcome families onboard, something many other small luxury lines don’t do. Childcare will be available for children 2 and older. Children 11 and under also will travel free of charge when accompanied by two full-fare cruise guests.
A Kids and Teens Club will be staffed by child care specialists. A special infants’ area, called the “Knopf Club,” will feature cots, changing tables and a lounge furnished with cuddly toys by Steiff, a well-known, German-based plush toy company.
Children 4-10 will play in an adjacent Kids Club, while kids 11-15 years will have a Teens Club, with video game consoles, table football and a disco.
Shore excursions for children, teenagers, or the entire family will be offered on all Europa 2 family cruises.
|Europa 2 |
Sailing the Ocean Blue
This year, the new Europa 2 will call at 123 ports on 26 different itineraries. Through November it will sail the Mediterranean, then in November 2013 and again in April 2014, it will operate Arabian Peninsula voyages.
From December 2013 to April 2014, it will ply Asian waters.
Europa 2’s voyages will be shorter, mostly seven-day voyages. But the itineraries will be offered on different dates for flexibility in choosing a vacation voyage. Up to three separate week-long voyages also can be combined to form longer voyages with no repeating ports.
The 739-foot-long ship is capable of calling at some smaller ports that aren’t an option for larger ships. Europa 2 will carry 12 Zodiacs for nature viewing or beach landings at some calls at off-the-beaten path Asian ports, where docking isn’t feasible.
From Pfitzner's perspective, one factor sets Europa 2 apart from other luxury vessels. “Most importantly, it has a higher ratio of space per passenger,” says Pfitzner. “Guests like this idea of having freedom of space. There’s no question.”
For more information, visit www.hl-cruises.com. For bookings, inquiries or to request a brochure please contact: Euro Lloyd Travel Group, Inc. 800-782-3924 or Kartagener Associates, Inc. 877-445-7447.