The Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ intimate Europa 2 is arguably one of the best cruise ships to set sail this year. The international brand is known most for cargo shipping, but the cruise line is a completely independent entity, bringing German luxury to the world. The friendly, bilingual crew switches seamlessly between speaking German and English, the official languages spoken on this cruise ship.
The immaculately-maintained, 500-guest Europa 2 features the best passenger space ratio in the cruise industry, which means there’s more room for everyone to roam freely onboard. High ceilings and a pair of glass elevator atriums – lining the ship’s sides – open up the space and draw guests’ attention to the ocean and ports of call. A light color scheme, sleek silver accents and an abundance of premium teak decking make the overall atmosphere more similar to a modern boutique hotel than an over-sized cruise ship.
The pool deck is especially inviting with its wraparound promenade, plush day beds and an afternoon waffle bar. With no casino onboard, Sansibar is a hopping watering hole and club by night and respite by day. It overlooks the stern of the environmentally-friendly ship. The only caveat is that a proliferation of cigarette and cigar smoke is permitted.
All suite and veranda accommodations are uniquely decorated with floating cabinetry mounted off the floor and slatted wood partitions dividing the room. There are even 2 configurations of entry level cabins to choose. All-inclusive amenities include the use of a tablet computer, a soft drink and beer minibar (restocked twice a day) and Nespresso machine. Drinks elsewhere can be enjoyed at cost, but specialty coffees, loose teas, a gin tasting – offered once per sailing – are free.
The ship’s family apartments are complete with 2 bedrooms, 2 sets of split bathrooms, a Sony PlayStation 4 and several Steiff stuffed animals. Facilities and excursions for kids and teens are the icing on the cake, making the Europa 2 the best luxury ship for families. This cruise is astonishingly affordable. Kids under 12 are free, and 12- to 15-year-old cruisers – staying in the same room as 2 paying parents or guardians – get a $60 per day rate.
The Miele cooking school and 7 dining venues – including 3 specialty restaurants (Asian, French and Italian) and a yummy sushi bar – are a true testament that there’s no shortage of culinary options. Fifteen kilos of caviar worth 10,000 euros are served on one evening of each sailing, which is a testament to the top-notched, high quality food options offered on this cruise ship. Don’t miss out on trying the full shellfish buffet, or for lighter fare, room service is equally as good with delicious offerings like classic German wiener schnitzel.
Cruisers should know that the entertainment does skew German. Theatrical entertainment consists of a small cast of wonderful singers in basic but fun shows, and guest entertainers range from a cappella ensembles to performers skilled in comedic pantomime. A jazz club, 3D cinema and a fine arts gallery are other options to keep cruisers occupied.
The most important part about the Europa 2 is that this smaller ship can easily access less common destinations, but makes stops in notable ports of call such as Cape Town, Mauritius, Riga, Bali, Monte Carlo and Capri. In a period of 3 weeks, no repetition of ports are generally made; and once you’re on shore, you can hop into pontoon boats or onto a bike for a more intimate excursion.– By Jason Leppert