Cruise Ship Tour: Europa 2

Europa 2 guests will find uncrowded public areas and spacious suites.
Europa 2 guests will find uncrowded public areas and spacious suites.

So what’s it like to sail on the 500-passenger Europa 2, a luxury cruise ship built in 2013 by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises of Hamburg, Germany? The ship was built in 2013, refurbished in 2015 and designed with an onboard product to attract more English-speaking guests. Here are our “take-aways” from a September sailing.

Space, Glorious Space and Pampering Suites: For experienced, well-traveled, internationally minded people, this modern, contemporary ship has 251 suites that deliver guests into the lap of luxury. Clients will find uncrowded public areas and spacious suites. Our Veranda Suite #701 had living and sleeping areas separated by an open slatted divider; incredible storage both in the living space and walk-in closet; a stocked minibar refilled twice daily; high-tech phone, lighting and entertainment systems; high-quality bedding; and 24-hour room service.

Plenty of small “touches” graced our accommodations, including champagne and fruit upon boarding; a jewelry-holding container to use during the cruise; a gorgeous beach bag to take home; and bath amenities that even included dental floss. Germans are renowned for their engineering so we weren’t surprised to find a brochure about how to adjust the complex suite lighting — amazing once we figured it out. Visit www.travelagentcentral.com and search for Europa 2 to see more ship photos.

Other suites? In the family apartments, kids have their own bedroom complete with bunk beds; a kid-sized bath with step stools and flip flops; and stuffed animals, games, toys and space to play. The ship’s ultimate suite? The 1,227-square-foot Owner’s Suite boasts a huge living room and dining area, private verandah, guest bathroom, large bedroom and a huge master bathroom; we loved that bath’s round interior whirlpool and huge daybed that looked out to the destination via an expanse of floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Europa 2 welcomes families with such facilities as this supervised children’s club.
Europa 2 welcomes families with such facilities as this supervised
children’s club.

Public Areas: If your clients are maritime buffs for whom the ship’s design, style and “look,” are highly important, Europa 2 is a stunning beauty with a sleek bow and stern. Design-wise, I felt it couldn’t be matched for its size. Onboard, clients will find an elegant, attractive reception area with gray, ivory and black décor, comfortable upholstered chairs, a piano and a sunken bar.

Of the six onboard lounges, we most liked the Belvedere Lounge with a sumptuous afternoon tea service; Herenzimmer, a cigar bar with the world’s largest collection of gins, a cozy faux fireplace and a gin-tasting program for guests; and Sansibar, the evening hot spot with outdoor seating, a DJ and dance floor. The lovely pool deck had a magradome, dark aqua lounge chairs and artistic décor; it was one of the prettiest such areas we’ve seen on any ship. For a snack, visit the pool area’s waffle station, across from the Pool Bar, which offers Grand Cru by the glass.

With light, warm décor, Ocean Spa has treatment rooms, a sauna, beauty salon, exercise facility, pedicure stations, a whirlpool and more. Just keep in mind that this is a European ship attracting many Europeans for whom nudity is no big deal. So you may see some guests lounging in the nude within the spa. Recommended? Couples might book a spacious, private, personal spa room with windows; these boast a sauna, whirlpool and massage beds. They can be rented for a few hours or the entire day. Adjacent to the spa are two, high-tech golf simulators.

Unlike most luxury ships, Europa 2 really seeks families including kids as guests. It has a supervised children’s club and a separate teen club. Elsewhere on the ship, you’ll find creative artwork, including a funky sculpture collection of three blue men using binoculars (no, not the Blue Man Group, but we did hear quips from guests about that). The two-level theater had comfortable seating and prompt service at its seats for those wanting a drink.

Don’t expect extravagant Broadway-style production shows. Well received was the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” show with a male singer, female singer and one musician, covering 1920s and 1930s classics, some sung in English, others in German. The ship also has a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes; a library with books in various languages; and several public-space computers for guest use.

A spacious, private, personal spa room boasts a sauna, a whirlpool and massage beds.
A spacious, private, personal spa room boasts a sauna, a whirlpool and
massage beds.

Dining Choice and Style: The ship’s overall style is elegant but also laid-back and casual. You won’t find assigned dinner times, formal nights requiring a tuxedo or ball gown, neither set tables nor captain’s dinners; there is a captain’s pool party one evening. That doesn’t mean the dining venues aren’t upscale, gorgeously decorated and themed. Weltmeere, the main dining room, and Yacht Club, the buffet restaurant, had very good cuisine as well as English menus (ask for both the daily and à la carte menus in Weltmeere).

We loved the Yacht Club’s seafood specialties (lobster, snow crab and shrimp), offered one night per cruise. Plus, that buffet restaurant has yummy pretzel breads and soft pretzels. We dined at most of the ship’s specialty restaurants; clients will find savory Italian, French, Asian and sushi venues. All were excellent and we liked the Asian restaurant so much we dined there a second time. Hapag-Lloyd says reservations are suggested for specialty restaurants, but not always needed.

Service and Communications: A crew of 370 professionals serves 500 passengers. Without exception, the crew spoke excellent English. Sometimes they would speak first in German, but quickly switch to English upon learning I was an American. Stateroom stewards spoke superb English and were extremely service-focused.The suite’s phone system could use a bit of tweaking, though; several buttons on the English screen still showed as German words. But the in-suite entertainment system offered a decent selection of English language news stations and movies. Certain shore trips also were offered in English but others were not. The shore desk will book private cars and English-speaking drivers for luxury guests seeking a customized experience.

I encountered one United Kingdom guest at tea time, but didn’t see other English-speaking guests onboard, beyond our own group. German-speaking guests were friendly, launching into very good English and smiling if I said “hello.” I also heard French being spoken by a few guests.

Inclusivity varies by culture. Germans prefer to pay for drinks individually, while North American luxury travelers tend to like inclusivity. So Hapag-Lloyd provides all guests with a minibar refilled twice daily with complimentary juices, sodas, bottled water and beer; wine and spirits are also included for those in the high-end suites. Guests still pay for any drinks ordered (including bottled water) around the ship but an onboard credit provided to Northern Americans helps compensate them.

This ultra-luxury ship serves a dual audience — German- and English-speaking guests. So the experience is different from that on other luxury lines. It’s not for everyone. Best clients? They are well-traveled, well-heeled, and love international travel and experiences; are comfortable interacting with guests who may speak another language, predominantly German, and not bothered by hearing other languages around the ship. They also love a casual onboard aura, hate fixed dining times and dislike assigned seating. Most of all, they love luxury and are self-reliant without needing a large contingency of fellow English-speaking guests.

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