Every detail on-board Hapag-Lloyd’s MS Europa 2 has been meticulously planned. The vibe is a blend of casual elegance combined with state-of-the-art technology; catering to a sophisticated, international and cosmopolitan audience.
At 40,000-tonnes, MS Europa 2 accommodates 500 luxury cruise passengers who are looked after by a crew of 370. With one of the highest passenger-to-crew ratios in the cruise business – not to mention a passenger/space ratio of an unrivalled 76.5 – Europa 2 is in a class of its own. But statistics aside, what is the X-factor that distinguishes this undisputed paragon?
Where to eat
The credo of ‘relaxed luxury’ is enshrined throughout all eight passenger decks of this ship – nowhere more so than in the restaurants. The Weltmeere Restaurant (‘World Ocean’ in English) has fluted black pillars, windows on three sides and a magnificent Venetian glass rose-coloured chandelier. There are constantly changing menus which offer choices from a cuisine légèr selection to classic options.
For a more intimate fine-dining experience, the speciality restaurants reflect the company’s commitment to catering to guests who appreciate MS Europa 2’s discernible difference between other luxury ships. The French-influenced Tarragon glows softly with a warm light from Art Deco orbs. In Elements, the chefs prepare menus that are inspired by classic dishes from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. With prepossessing lime-green Murano chandeliers and marble flooring, Serenissima offers a cornucopia of authentic Tuscan treats. For a complete change of scene, Sakura is a bright and airy Japanese restaurant.
Whilst the Weltmeere Restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch, the Yacht Club aft on Deck 9 with its alfresco-style seating is hard to resist. The array of gastronomic indulgences at breakfast and lunch is without compare, while in the evening, the buffet selection is beyond tempting – none more so than the seafood buffet. Once every cruise there is a ‘Caviar Night’ when up to 14 kilos of the ‘black gold’ are served in every restaurant.
The Belvedere, with ivory leather banquettes and chairs, boasts a panoramic wall of windows offering outstanding ocean views. This is a great place to relax with a book, but it comes into its own during afternoon tea when the pianist is playing. The Cookery School offers hands-on classes in a state-of-the art demonstration kitchen with individual workstations surrounded by Miele ovens and hobs.
Where to sleep
The 251 all-balcony suites come in seven categories ranging in size from 301 to 1,066 square feet. There are 141 Veranda Suites; 59 Ocean Suites; 24 Grand Suites; 16 Spa Suites; seven Family Apartments; two Grand Penthouse Suites; and two Owner’s Suites. These radiate forward and aft from the central, glass-walled atrium which soars four decks and floods the interior of the ship with natural light. A few suites, including the two Grand Penthouse and Owners Suites are located on Deck 10, just aft of the ship’s navigation bridge.
The décor is a palette of off-white, beige and light brown with dashes of colour. In all but the largest suites, there is a wooden slatted room divider separating sleeping and living areas, which makes each suite appear larger than it is. All suites feature a flat-screen TV, tablet PC, portable telephone, Nespresso coffee machine, mini bar with complimentary soft drinks and beer, plus a bathroom with shower/bath facilities. Butlers are in attendance in higher-grade suites.
What to do
MS Europa 2’s entertainment is eclectic. There are production shows in the two-tier theatre as well as classical music recitals. At the stern on Deck 8, Sansibar is the ship’s late-night venue which epitomises Europa 2’s relaxed yet decadent take on cruising.
The term ‘gin palace’ takes on a whole new meaning with 37 different types available on board MS Europa 2. Once a week, up to 15 guests can join a complimentary gin-tasting afternoon class in the elegant Collins club (formerly Herrenzimmer). There is also Club 2: a jazz club where the beat goes on well into the night. The Piano Bar with its comfortable upholstered sofas is a popular venue for drinks at any time of day.
The swimming pool on Deck 9 is large enough to do laps and ranges from four to six feet deep, plus, there are separate adult and children’s swim times. There is also a retractable clear roof allowing the pool to be used in inclement weather.
The Ocean Spa and Fitness Centre are extremely generous for a small ship. The list of therapies is top-notch and there are multi-treatment options for relaxing, detoxing and anti-aging; while there are also complimentary classes in yoga, spinning, Pilates and power walking. Two golf simulators can be used for swing analysis by a PGA pro for a fee or to ‘play’ games on on-screen replicas of holes at renowned golf courses.
Throughout all luxury cruises the International Hostess ensures all British guests receive documentation and newspapers in English, book them on English-speaking excursions and introduce them to other guests. With gratuities included, the genuine willingness of the bi-lingual crew to be proficient yet personable is omnipresent.
What I loved
On sea days, freshly-made waffles topped with ice cream, whipped cream or cherry compote are served at 3 o’clock in front of the Pool Bar.
Make Sansibar your default venue. A late breakfast is served here with egg dishes cooked to order, while the adjoining terrace is the best place to watch sailaways – with a friendly bar-tender on hand to fix your favourite cocktail.
MS Europa 2 epitomises how luxury cruising has morphed from its function to explore the world to an entirely new canvas of on-board lifestyle. Sailing on-board is a real experience, making the journey as much a part of your holiday as each port you will visit along the way.