Reviews

Ship Review: Europa 2

Europa 2 is marketed by Hapag-Lloyd as the most luxurious cruise ship in the world, and while that claim is made by multiple luxury cruise lines, she is certainly one of the most tasteful and elegant.

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Europa 2, the flagship of the luxury Hapag-Lloyd fleet, has received her first major refit and refurbishment, just five years after entering service.

It was the ship’s second dry-dock, but her first refurb to go beyond simple cosmetic touch-ups.

This renovation saw a redesign of the spa area, the addition of a new minimuseum celebrating the heritage of the line, which is one of the oldest in the world alongside Holland America, Cunard and P&O.

Several new lounge and bar areas have also been added.

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The redesigned Ocean Spa aboard Europa 2.

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The changes reflect the fact that Europa 2 is the only ship in the Hapag-Lloyd fleet to be aimed at an international cruise market, rather than the German market, to which Hapag-Lloyd was exclusively dedicated until recently.

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Pool area aboard Europa 2, with retractable glass roof.

The 516-passenger ship now strongly represents Hapag-Lloyd’s desire to diversify beyond its core market in Germany. A total of nine public areas of the US $380-million, 42,830-gross-ton ship were changed, at an undisclosed cost that was likely in the tens of millions.

The line’s policy is to reserve 10 to 15 suites on each cruise for international guests, holding them open until eight to 10 weeks before a cruise if they’re unfilled. German speakers tend to book the ship two years in advance, a spokeswoman said.

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Hapag-Lloyd keeps 10 to 15 staterooms open to international bookings for each cruise itinerary aboard Europa 2.

What’s changed?

The Ocean Spa received perhaps the most work in terms of redevelopment.

The 8,600 sqft space now features a Finnish sauna heated to up to 195 degrees; a revitalizing Deep Ocean sauna heated to 130 degrees; a mineral steam bath heated to 113 degrees and with up to 100% humidity; and an herbal sauna heated to 150 degrees.

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New herbal sauna heated to 150 degrees in the redeveloped Ocean Spa aboard Europa 2.

The ship’s signature gin bar, Herrenzimmer (Den) bar, has also been re-worked.

Now called Collins, it has been deliberately made more ‘international’, which in practise seems to mean Anglicised.

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The new Collins gin bar aboard Europa 2.

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It has the look and feel of a modern gentleman’s club, with dark leather chairs and beige walls, but with the addition of a retro component stereo system, complete with a turntable and a collection of vintage LPs.

The gin element remains strong as ever though, Collins serves 45 varieties, more than any other cruise ship, and throughout every cruise there are complimentary gin tasting sessions.

Another major change for Europa 2 has been the work done to her teens and kids clubs. The two spaces were adjacent one another before, but in a wise move, the cruise line has separated them.

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Children under 8 cruise free aboard Europa 2.

Another major change for Europa 2 has been the work done to her teens and kids clubs. The two spaces were adjacent one another before, but in a wise move, the cruise line has separated them.

The teens’ area has been moved from Deck 8 to Deck 4, displacing what used to be a private restaurant, and features foosball and pingpong tables, upholstered window nooks and wall shelves fashioned out of skateboards for books and videos.

The kids club remains in its place on Deck 8. Hapag-Lloyd offers quarter-fares for children between the ages of 8 and 18, as long as they’re sharing a cabin with full-fare paying passengers, while those below the age of 8 cruise free.

Europa 2 also features seven family apartments and although families can share a select number of standard cabins, there is a soft limit of 20 to 25 for the number of kids on each voyage, according to a Hapag-Lloyd spokesperson.

For couples cruising without kids, whom are the majority on each cruise, this is good news, as kids and luxury rarely go hand-in-hand easily.

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The new Club 2 jazz lounge aboard Europa 2.

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In another change, the former Jazz Club has been renamed Club 2. New seating has also been added to the Italian restaurant Serenissima.

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The Serenissima restaurant has received new seating.

Deck 9 has received a number of changes. Europa 2’s library space has been converted into a future cruise sales centre, complete with museum exhibit, while the library itself has moved to a re-modeled Belvedere room.

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The new Cruise Sales Centre with its own mini-museum.

It now includes a coffee bar with an Italian La Cimbali espresso machine. Where most cruise lines tuck the library away in a dark corner, it is nice to see Hapag-Lloyd giving this room prime real estate on-board.

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The Belvedere Library aboard Europa 2.

Hapag-Lloyd is the result of the merger of Hamburg American Line and Norddeutscher Lloyd during the 20th century.

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The theatre aboard Europa 2.

What used to be the auditorium space is now a multi-use studio for destination workshops, lectures, movies and yoga classes.

That’s all the front-of-house changes, but a lot of technical work was also done to the ship, perhaps the most interesting of which for passengers will be the addition of extra bandwidth capacity.

This will enable Hapag-Lloyd to provide internet access that is free for at least an hour a day to all guests.

What hasn’t changed?

The overall feel of the ship hasn’t changed at all though. She remains one of the most spacious cruise ships in the global fleet, with a guest to gross tonnage ratio that exceeds that of other luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn or Silversea Cruises.

Each guest gets 83 gross tons, and you can feel it when aboard.

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The beautiful Piano Bar aboard Europa 2.

Despite being only one story, the foyer/piano bar area where passengers embark seems larger and corridors in the accommodation areas are wide and high, belying the fact that you’re aboard a cruise ship.

The Weltmeere main dining room aboard Europa 2.

The dining line-up is also relatively unchanged. The Restaurant Weltmeere, the main dining room, remains circular in shape, with tiers of tables arranged around a central well.

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Elements, the specialty Asian restaurant aboard Europa 2.

It is flanked by Serenissima and Elements, an Asian restaurant. Nearby, on Deck 4, is Tarragon, a French bistro.

The Tarragon French bistro aboard Europa 2.

The Yacht Club buffet restaurant on Deck 9 has an expansive outdoor area for seating plus a wing devoted to sushi, reflecting the warm-weather cruising design of the ship, and it’s up-market passenger mix.

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Europa 2 cruises all around the world and does a variety of cruises themed to families, fashion, relaxation, fitness, art and contemporary music.

Themed cruises are a speciality for Hapag-Lloyd, as are novelty on-board activities, such as two golf simulators, complete with on-hand golf pros on the golf-themed cruises. Guests can play any one of 50 top golf courses around the world.

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The 500-passenger Europa 2 then is one of the most lovely and well-designed ships afloat.

Its contemporary good looks, museum-quality art and chic furnishings make it feel more like an exclusive European boutique hotel than a cruise ship.

Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises aimed for a resort ambience with this ship, and they’ve succeeded magnificently.

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