TravelPulse On Board: EUROPA 2 Review
Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd. All other photos by Jason Leppert.
At a Glance
By the Numbers
Take a Bow (What to Like)
Pain in the Aft (What to Dislike)
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ bilingual German and English EUROPA 2 is a very nice ship geared to young families. In fact, some consider it to be the best cruise ship in the world. The incredibly high passenger/space ratio (more space onboard for each guest) contributes. However, I honestly can’t agree that the ship is the best in all areas.
The ship’s modern design is certainly a highlight. Attention to detail is found throughout every speck of the hardware, heightened ceilings included, and EUROPA 2 branding is applied to nearly everything, a nice touch at times but overkill at others. The heart of the ship features a different approach to a foyer. Rather than one central multi-deck atrium, two side atriums surround the glass elevator lobby with openings to expansive windows across most of the ship’s height, pleasantly emphasizing the views outside more than the the ship’s interiors.
Another interesting design is the ship’s promenade placement. It’s not situated mid-height but instead wrapped around the pool and sun decks – nicely outfitted with teak floors – up higher. The consolidated effect makes perfect sense for the most part, except that it insets the Belvedere observation lounge back from the scenic vistas along the edge that are most important to such a venue. Still, the two-deck magrodome-covered or opened pool area is one of the most aesthetically pleasing at sea.
Overall, the hardware is just beautifully designed, and the German engineering is tops, especially with surprisingly little vibration and noise generated by the engines, even in the Weltmeere restaurant right above the stern. It’s just too bad that the aft facing windows here look directly upon the mooring deck.
All-veranda suites are wonderful onboard, and there are even two entry-level configurations, priced the same, to choose from. Both are above average in size and encompass equally ample bathrooms. A number of welcome inclusions are the use of a tablet computer while aboard and a twice-daily restocked minibar with beer and soft drinks (but no wine). Cabinets are stylishly floated above the floor for ease of cleaning as well, and the many light dimming settings and buttons are at once helpful and daunting to understand.
Aside from other top tier suites, the best accommodations on the EUROPA 2 are the family apartments featuring a double-wide veranda and two separate bedroom compartments, each with their own split bathrooms for privacy. Both sides have a toilet and sink isolated from another sink and tub/shower. The kids compartment even features perfect bunk beds and a population of playful Steiff-brand stuffed animals.
Like on most luxury lines, activities tend to be more sparse beyond the spa. As expected, there are no waterslides or rock climbing walls here, but there is a fleet of zodiacs for expedition-style excursions while in port, which is quite a perk for a ship of this size, really. Similarly for a more active demographic, there are even bikes available to ride ashore. One venue entirely omitted from the list of traditional cruise ship attractions is a casino, but it is not missed. The wafting fumes of the Herrenzimmer cigar lounge, like those also at the otherwise lovely Sansibar and pool bar, however, are unfortunate.
The kids and teens clubs are once again great options for families, particularly because such facilities are either smaller or missing altogether on other luxury liners. There are even adventures just for youngsters available to book in port, and other activities are dedicated to them onboard such as scavenger hunts and exclusive pool hours. Plus, family pricing is very reasonable.
There is an incredible amount of dining options on the EUROPA 2, and every one of them is included in the cruise fare. Weltmeere in size is the closest to a main dining room and features tasty dishes but menus with a very confusing course hierarchy. Next door are three smaller specialty restaurants – Elements for Asian, Serenissima for Italian and Tarragon for French cuisine. There’s also the Sakura sushi restaurant upstairs and just off from the buffet. All showcase delicious fare, but service, although friendly, is generally much slower than on other ships.
Alternatively, the Yacht Club buffet offers casual breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and the attached outdoor grill serves pizza and pasta. Food including premium shellfish on occasion and caviar once per cruise is very good, but it does skew a bit more towards German tastes here.
Around the pool, the afternoon fresh waffle bar is not to be missed, nor is tea time for excellent loose teas and an abundance of treats. Even room service offers a fine selection of dishes, and there’s a complimentary gin tasting available once per sailing. Otherwise, drinks outside of specialty coffees and suite minibars are not all-inclusive, very curious for a luxury line.
Entertainment is primarily hosted in three venues: the theatre, 3D cinema and jazz club. The standout is the jazz club with its excellent combo and vocalist, and the cinema is mostly a basic conference room capable of screening films. Also, the art onboard, including a dedicated gallery, is extensive and quite nice.
Bilingual shows (mostly German) in the main theatre range from variety acts like a preeminent German a capella group to basic but great production shows. The cast is small, but the singers are very talented. A salute to classic hollywood, for instance, was very entertaining and creatively featured the stage’s state-of-the-art video wall.
The EUROPA 2 staff are very friendly and switch between German and English with remarkable ease. Suite stewards are also attentive and efficient, and the officers are nicely approachable. Really the only caveat here is that the dining service is super slow.
The orchestration of simultaneously serving everyone at the table their courses is great in concept, but, as it brings the pace of the meal to a halt, it’s best to just do away with it. Otherwise, kudos to a wonderful staff.
More by Jason Leppert
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