Luxury cruising is a huge market with a lot of options to choose from, but German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd is a smaller company with big ambitions. Its recently built ship Europa 2 made its first visit to the United States in December and is capturing huge attention for its deluxe offering.
Until now, its passenger base has been largely European, but Hapag-Lloyd is growing quickly with international travelers, especially Americans. It comes as no surprise given the small ship size (516 passengers) and a nearly 1-to-1 staff to guest ratio. Nonstop pampering (with butler service) and a half-dozen restaurants to choose from make this a popular vacation option. What’s most unique is that the ship does not repeat regular itineraries over and over. Instead, it circles the globe with creative itineraries that travelers can select based upon their travel preferences. The ability to combine itineraries allows people to see numerous corners of the globe easily and without the fuss of packing and unpacking.
The ship’s spacious lobby is bright with a long reception desk, numerous seating areas and high ceilings. To one side is a lively bar with a well-stocked boutique on the other side behind reception. Numerous languages are spoken on board with German and English being the official languages for announcements, signage and menus.
Two glass elevators rise from reception, and floor-to-ceiling windows bring in plentiful sunlight and scenery. Immediately, guests will notice the classy artwork that hangs throughout the ship. Alternating exhibitions feature international artists and designers, and many travelers enjoy visiting the art gallery and chatting with the ship’s own curator. The ship’s curator places an emphasis on young, budding artists from Germany and across Europe.
Dining is a highlight onboard the Europa 2. All meals are included, although drinks do carry a surcharge. The main dining room, Weltmeere, serves a luxurious buffet breakfast and set menus for lunch and dinner. Servers are impeccably dressed and eager to assist with any necessary dietary requirements. There’s no official dress code on board, but most tend to dress for dinner—with jackets for men. Unlike sister ship Europa, the Europa 2 is not as formal, which is why many travelers prefer it for its relaxed, yet classy, vibe.
Other restaurants on the ship (there are eight in total) include a popular French bistro known for its fine cuts of meat, baked-on-board bread and creative presentations. A huge wine cellar includes thousands of bottles and plenty of champagne, one of the most popular drinks aboard. Six bars provide ample opportunity for refreshment.
More casual dining, at the Yacht Club, takes place three times/meals a day in a beautiful dining room and an al fresco terrace at the back of the ship. Meals are served buffet-style with numerous stations including an impressive salad bar, a duo of fresh soups, a butcher’s carving station, an ice cream bar, and an enormous dessert station. This is the most popular restaurant on the ship because here, diners can prepare their own plates. The quality and variety of the buffet is miles ahead of what’s offered on other cruise lines.
On one side of the restaurant is a full bar with servers roaming the dining area to take drink orders, and on the other side is a popular dinner-only sushi station.
The Italian restaurant Serenissima and the Asian fusion restaurant Elements are open for lunch and dinner most days, and reservations are helpful (although not always necessary). It’s hard to go hungry on the ship. Room service is available 24 hours a day and delivered with exacting attention to detail by the butlers. Bar fare at Sansibar and afternoon snacks like Belgian waffles and ice cream sundaes poolside add to the culinary entertainment. During the day, guests can participate in the ship’s cooking school to learn how to roll sushi or prepare sweet treats.
The cabins, known as suites aboard Europa 2, are all spacious and come in various categories, from standard rooms to large suites; the top two suites have enormous bedrooms and bathrooms with windows to the sea. All suites aboard the ship feature furnished balconies, and they have separate living areas. Spacious desks have built-in make-up mirrors, high-tech phones, fresh fruit bowls replenished daily, and complimentary minibars with large bottles of liquor (in suites) and Evian water plus Nespresso machines.
Tablets on the desk are great for those that don’t bring their own devices for checking email or surfing the internet ensuite. Butlers restock the free fridges twice a day. The beds have cozy duvets and thickly cushioned mattresses. Bedside charging outlets, iPhone chargers and nightly turndown service treats were a nice surprise. Electronic “do not disturb” signs by the door preserve privacy for those that want it.
Bathrooms have large vanities with stylish above-counter sinks, deep soaking tubs and powerful rainfall showers. Built into the mirror is a TV with remote control, and the stash of toiletries on the vanity was extensive and included everything from dental floss to eyeglass cleaners.
Heavy packers will have no problem aboard Europa 2; the spacious walk-in closets have numerous shelves, drawers, hangars, robes, slippers, and beach and shoe bags. The full-length mirrors are great for a quick once-over before heading to dinner.
The top two suites are some of the most exotic accommodations on the high seas and feature amenities like oversized flat-screen TVs that rise electronically from armoires and whirlpool tubs with sea views.
Would be nice to shower with this view!
Entertainment around the ship is a hallmark aboard Europa 2, especially during days at sea. Nightly performances include everything from musical performances to guest lecturers. Classical music makes afternoon tea an elegant affair, and evening performances by the string quartet pack the lounge with music lovers. Like other cruise ships, varying entertainers board at different ports providing plenty of variety for repeat cruisers (of which there are many!).
Cigar aficionados can light up in the cigar lounge (smoking is not permitted anywhere on the ship except for guest balconies) or partake in one of the numerous events like a craft gin tasting. By the pool, bar service is open all day and evening, and live music is part of the welcome aboard cocktail party held each cruise.
Fitness center and sports
To work off the calories from all of the delicious eating aboard the ship, a full fitness center with full windows is available for guests. A refrigerator is stocked with bottled water and energy drinks, and fresh fruit sits in a basket.
The golf simulator next door is free of charge and a great way to practice your swing. Spa services include massage and beauty treatments in one of eight treatment rooms and are busiest on sea days.
The ship also has a fleet of bicycles that guests can borrow when in port to explore a destination. These are especially popular when the ship docks in cities like New York or Hamburg.
A library and game room provide internet-equipped computers, but the ship’s wireless internet system is available throughout public areas and suites. It carries an extra fee. Newspapers are delivered each morning, and international magazines and newspapers are also on offer in the library. There’s also a cinema that shows first-rate movies on a regular basis. Children, and there are usually several on each sailing, have a kids and teens club to entertain them. One of the Europa 2‘s best features is that children under 12 travel for free.
The main swimming pool features a retractable roof that can open in warmer weather, and cushioned lounge chairs ring the pool and outdoor decks.
Guests booking the highest category of suites have reserved cabanas by the pool, but some are also available for everyone else to use (the ones at the back of the ship are particularly relaxing).
All gratuities are included, which means that the price package carries even more value. The beautiful decor and majestic views from the ship are impressive. When Europa 2 made its maiden visit to New York, it docked right in the heart of midtown Manhattan, affording amazing views and a beautiful sail-away experience. Europa 2 just returned to the US for a March 18 Miami-to-New York sailing through the Caribbean and will return again for an April 1 transatlantic voyage from New York to Hamburg.
Many are familiar with the Hapag-Lloyd name for the shipping and logistics company, but the cruise line (no longer affiliated with the shipping company) is a well-kept secret that’s starting to get out. Sail the world on this luxurious ship and come prepared for top-notch service, innovative cuisine and the ability to visit smaller, unique ports that are not possible to experience on larger ships.