Walnut Creek, CA
CruiseClout score: 20.0
Europa 2 ship review: Eye-catching choice for active travelers
Don’t be fooled by ms Europa 2’s reputation as a looker. “World’s most beautiful cruise ship,” an accolade bestowed by some members of the media, can give you the wrong idea about this 565-passenger ship from Hapag-Lloyd launched in 2013. The ship’s good looks are not about fussy elegance. In fact, traipsing through reception in a sweaty T-shirt and hiking boots won’t attract a glance. Active travelers are welcome aboard.
Europa 2’s beauty is really architectural. It’s more about what isn’t there than what is. There isn’t a ceiling anywhere near your head — ceilings soar. There isn’t much to block your view of the sea with giant sweeps of window drawing natural light and showcasing the sea. With minimal decor, amid neutral colors, there isn’t a lot to distract. The reception area feels like a contemporary art gallery. And that’s ideal given this ship’s collection, original works by contemporary artists such as David Hockney, Damian Hirst and Gerard Richter.
Who will enjoy sailing on Europa 2
Europa 2 is on a par with luxury lines that offer a high level of service. The ship should appeal to people who have taken a lot of cruises, want to try something different, and are attracted by a beautiful vessel with an international flair that sails to ports where U.S.-marketed ships won’t. It also should attract guests worried about seasickness because of its state-of-the-art stabilizer technology.
Surprisingly, Europa 2 is also right for parents traveling with small children. It offers more infant services, including nannies willing to change diapers (most U.S.-marketed ships don’t allow it). Plus a video-monitor connecting parents with a sleeping infant.
Europa 2 is not right for some budgets. A one-week double-occupancy sail costs more than many small cars. However, be on the lookout for specials, especially solo travelers, who are occasionally offered booking without paying a single supplement — an extraordinary bargain.
Where Europa 2 sails
Destinations: Does sailing around South America on a 76-day cruise appeal to you? Or perhaps a 13-day cruise called Eternal Spring in the Atlantic? Europa 2 lets you have a relaxed cruise experience a little off the beaten path, but luxurious all the same.
Active travelers welcomed
You’ll be forgiven if you haven’t heard of Hapag-Lloyd until now. The German cruise line is best known for its built-for-the-job Arctic and Antarctic expedition ships. But in 1999, it launched the luxury cruise ship Europa 1, which follows classic lines of luxury cruising with formal evenings, dressing for dinner and the like.
With Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd seemed to draw from its expedition experience: Arctic and Antarctic itineraries aboard the spiffy ship book up a year in advance with passengers eagerly committing $20,000. Mediterranean sailings also fill up well in advance.
Given that adventure and activity define vacation for many, Europa 2 encourages active travelers to come aboard. And many are attracted by its sophisticated styling — Berlitz reports that the ship cost $360 million — and its impressive list of destinations.
Diverse & imaginative itineraries
For Americans, a persuasive reason to sail Europa 2 is its set of itineraries. Like other European lines, Europa 2 will call on North African ports such as Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and ports of Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan. Want to head to most of these places on a U.S.-marketed ship? Good luck!
Europa 2’s summer sails scoot around the Mediterranean, including classic ports such as Athens, Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona and Venice, as well as small ports Europa 2 can tuck into, such as Nauplia, Greece, on the Peloponnesian Coast.
Passengers can choose to sail on a voyage from three to seven days; breaking trips into smaller units is unusual for Americans used to one-size-fits-all itineraries.
Go European: A chance to broaden horizons
Europa 2 may be a pretty ship, but it’s her smarts that will take this girl places. The ship is bilingual, with every crew member from the captain on down speaking both English and German.
How does that work? You might be offered a “feather pillow” by your room steward, who then delivers a federkissen to your German neighbor. And the bartender knows his way around both whiskey sours and whiskey mit zitrone and zucker.
It’s very comfortable and a bilingual ship only makes sense in a global world. Plus many well-traveled Americans, including myself, put a high value on a chance to chat with people from elsewhere.
I was sailing on this cruise as a journalist/guest of Hapag-Lloyd, so I was talking to people to see what they thought of the cruise.
No formalwear, but decked out for dinner
Europa 2’s literature suggests that “dressing for dinner” is not the way of this ship, and that “smart casual” is the suggested attire. But you should know that European “smart casual” has a significantly higher IQ than the American version. It still amounts to spiffing up for dinner.
There is also no set time for dinner on Europa 2. But different dining constraints are in place. You need a reservation at the restaurants Elements (Asian), Tarragon (French), Serenissima (Italian) and Sakura (sushi bar). All are excellent and included in the price of the cruise, so why not? Reservations are recommended.
The constraints lie in the difference between European and American dining. While it’s a lovely idea to spend three to four hours over an event that’s more about the social than the sustenance, the reality is that a few nights of long dining will send most Americans to lesser dining venues. A long languid meal is greatly appreciated but every night it gets tiring.
The good news on Europa 2 is that the dining room Weltmeere serves tasty food and the informal Yacht Club serves far better meals than casual dining usually offers. A lot of people on my Mediterranean sail seemed to enjoy drifting into the Yacht Club when they pleased and then dining al fresco in the balmy Mediterranean air.
Sophisticated entertainment on board
Europa 2 has the best entertainment I’ve seen on a ship: It’s very sophisticated and shows change nightly. A performance troupe out of Berlin used the theater’s built-in LED panel for an imaginative multimedia show. An excellent jazz duet and a small opera gala took place on other nights.
Handling swells in stride
Europa 2 has its own fleet of Zodiacs, which can be launched to watch the sun set or to go exploring when seas are calm. Lots of passengers make use of the zippy little boats for water activities, like the German couple that disembarked for Malta with scuba gear. They would be diving among the island’s famed sunken ships in the company of a guide.
Back on the mother ship, the seas rise and fall, but Europa 2 handles it in stride. I don’t know what mermaid pods are, but Europa 2 has those as well as a custom Rolls Royce engine and state-of-the-art stabilizers. Whether mermaids or Rolls Royce engineers soothed the swell when waves reached 12-13 feet one evening, we’ll never know. But there was very little movement, something many passengers noted.
Staterooms that really are stately
In staterooms aboard Europa 2, ceilings are at least 9 feet high and large windows add to the feeling of spaciousness. The standard veranda suite clocks in at 301 square feet with a 75-square-foot veranda; all staterooms have verandas (balconies).
That 301 square feet ranks among the largest standard cabin size on luxury cruises, with Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas ships also offering staterooms that size. Europa 2’s high ceilings just make her cabins seem larger, and they are, if you consider three dimensions.
- European “smart casual” is a dozen IQ points smarter than American smart casual. Beautifully draping French linen slacks, gorgeous featherweight merino jackets are what European passengers will wear. Rachet your look up a notch.
- Good European wines are served at lunch and dinner. Prices are reasonable if you stick with what the maitre d is offering as “pour” wine. Wine is not complimentary on Europa 2 because passengers like to purchase in their own preferred price range.
What I loved most about Europa 2
The ship’s architecture is unlike any other. The high ceilings and intermittent views of the sea made me realize some cruise ships do feel a bit claustrophobic. High ceilings convey a sense of expansiveness.
Another thing I loved: Sailing with quiet, polite German passengers. They all greeted me in the hallway with a friendly “Guten Morgen.” It was easy to chat. I even made some German friends for the long term.
It’s a big departure from Europa 1, a ship noted for upscale formalities.
But there’s been no talk of pulling back the glamour act on Europa 1 anytime soon. So take your pick. My preference is for Europa 2’s welcome mat set out for active travelers, for family travel (toddlers two years and older can get nannies and kids' programs run through the teen years), for relatively informal dinner dress — and for meeting our European neighbors.
Anne Chalfant sailed on Europa 2 as a guest of Hapag Lloyd Cruises. See Cruiseable's Ethics & disclosure policy.
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Top highlights on this ship
- Goodbye, formal nights. Goodbye, rigid dining. Hello, eat dinner anytime, anywhere, with anyone.
- Onboard dining is very good to excellent. Fresh local products are often used.
- 8 restaurants, ranging from the main dining room, Weltmeere, to informal Yacht Club restaurant, plus no-charge specialty restaurants from French to pan-Asian.
- Swimming pool has retractable roof and is big enough to swim laps.
- Six bars keep things lively. Jazz club, piano bar, Sansibar lounge indoor and out — my favorite on a moonlit Mediterranean night.
- Afternoon tea in the Belvedere, a panoramic aft lounge where the pianist plays “It’s a Wonderful World” and the windows look out upon the sea, serving German pastries; this all combines to induce an altered state.
- Largest passenger space ratio at sea. Europa 2’s smallest stateroom, the Ocean Suite, runs 301 square feet. Veranda Suites accommodate table and chairs on the balcony.
- Active travelers can hike, mountain bike, dive and sea kayak. Some active-travel shore excursions are offered, but local outfitters booked ahead may better match passenger interests and skill levels.
- Attention fashionistas. Walk-in closets at sea!
- High-caliber entertainment. These shows are <em>good</em> – light years beyond typical cruise fare
- Well-trained staff all speak English and German. High staff to passenger ratio is 1:1.5.
Top dining options on board
“We showed up at the sushi restaurant for dinner after spending the day pedaling the ship's free-to-rent bicycles around Pisa and Lucca. Too tired to pore over the menu, we asked the waiter and chef to surprise us. That they did, delivering the freshest sashimi, tastiest maki, and crispiest tempura I've had outside of Tokyo.”