Seven Reasons Why Europa 2 Can Command The Luxury Cruise Segment’s Highest Prices — For Now

24 hours

This past Monday, my bags were packed and ready to go on board Europa 2 in Southampton — for 24 hours only. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

With average per diems of 600 euros per person, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ new Europa 2 is attempting to command some of the industry’s highest cruise fares. Its cruises will cost an American couple — the U.S. is one of Europa 2′s target audiences — around US$12,000 for the privilege of spending six nights/seven days in a 301-square-foot Veranda Suite on the industry’s newest luxury cruise ship.

The pricing is largely unprecedented, although some luxury expedition ships as well as barge vacations in Europe can cost even more than Europa 2. Read about two of my best luxury cruise experiences on French Country Waterways and Silversea Cruises Silver Explorer.

For those who can afford it, is the cost of cruising Europa 2 justified?

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ executives are emphasizing a few unique features that certainly will pique the interests of sophisticated, well-heeled travelers.

1. Europa 2 Boasts The Industry’s Highest Space Ratio

Europa 2 has the highest space ratio of all cruise ships. At a press conference on the new luxury vessel this past Monday, company executives displayed a slide showing a space ratio of 76.5. We calculated, and confirmed, even higher, 83. Space enhances the elegance of Europa 2 and reduces the potential for claustrophobia. Nearly all other luxury cruise ships have similar space ratios, but Europa 2 currently leads the pack. By contrast, the world’s largest cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas and its sister Allure of the Seas, have space ratios of around 40. Confused about space ratio? See Nautical Nomenclature: How Space Ratio Affects Your Cruise

Reception Area On Europa 2

Boasting tall ceilings and lots of space, the reception area and lobby on Europa 2. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

2. Serving You: European Food & Beverage Staff

It would be hard to fault Asian servers, the backbone of the food & beverage departments on nearly all cruise lines. They are hard-working, friendly and eager to please. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, however, believes sophisticated travelers will pay more to be served by European, English-speaking food & beverage staff. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. Some luxury cruise lines have shifted from European staff to Asian dining room and lounge staff with great success. What was apparent during my 24 hours on Europa 2 was that servers were friendly, professional and able to anticipate needs before being asked. About 60 percent of the crew was sourced from other ships within Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. The remaining 40 percent were sourced from other cruise lines and hospitality segments.

Europa 2's food & beverage service staff are mostly bilingual Germans. Hapag-Lloyd's Managing Director Wolfgang Flagel says that the European f&b staff is essential to the brand. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Europa 2′s food & beverage service staff are mostly bilingual Germans. Hapag-Lloyd’s Managing Director Wolfgang Flagel says that the European f&b staff is essential to the brand. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

3. Cruise The Industry’s Newest Luxury Ship

Simply, some cruisers will pay to cruise on the industry’s newest luxury ship. Europa 2′s first booking, in fact, originated eight years ago. In 2005, a passenger on Europa said that if the company ever built a new ship, he wanted to book the largest suite. Eight years later, his wish was granted. There probably are quite a few cruisers who will help Hapag-Lloyd sustain its price point for as long as the ship remains a novelty. Only time will tell whether such pricing can continue.

Wrap-Around Promenade Europa 2

Europa 2 features a wrap-around promenade on deck 9. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

4. Seven-Day Luxury Cruises Will Appeal To Some

For those who have the money and are squeezed for time, seven-day cruises can be more practical than longer itineraries. Europa 2′s itineraries are designed so that they can be combined, however. Up to three itineraries can be put together with no repeating ports of call.

Europa 2's Bilingual Cruises

Europa 2′s brochures feature seven-day cruises that can be combined, up to three with no repeating ports of call. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

5. Experience Eight Restaurants

Foodies who want choice will appreciate the fact that they can dine in a different restaurant every night — and they’ll need to combine two seven-day voyages to experience all eight dining venues. See Photo Tour: Europa 2′s Restaurants.

One of eight dining venues on Europa 2, Restaurant Serenissima features Italian cuisine. Guests are encouraged to make reservations at the smaller restaurants, such as Serenissima. Reservations can be made only for the next 48 hours. Dining throughout Europa 2 comes at no extra charge, except in Speisezimmer, a private dining venue that can be booked for up to 16 people for €1,500. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

One of eight dining venues on Europa 2, Restaurant Serenissima features Italian cuisine. Guests are encouraged to make reservations at the speciality restaurants, such as Serenissima. Reservations can be made only for the next 48 hours. Dining throughout Europa 2 comes at no extra charge, except in Speisezimmer, a private dining venue that can be booked for up to 16 people for €1,500. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

6. Bathrooms With A View

The two Owner’s suites and the two Grand Penthouse suites are gorgeous, but it was the bathrooms that caused jaws to drop during our tour of Europa 2 this week. All four feature ocean views, with huge whirlpool tubs and daybeds against floor-to-ceiling windows.

Bath with a view, Europa 2

Bathrooms in the Owner’s suites feature whirlpools with ocean views, showers with steam saunas and day beds against floor-to-ceiling windows. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

7. German Engineered, French Built

Europa 2 is German-engineered and French built. In some ways, it is an unlikely marriage, and indeed, we were told that the French could become frustrated when confronted time and again with the German penchant for punctuality and perfection. The end result, however: Europa 2 exudes high quality throughout, evident in the public rooms, staterooms (which the company refers to as suites) and service.

Not included in the cruise fares on Europa 2 are soft drinks, bottled water and alcohol. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Europa 2 aspires to be an international cruise, inspired by Germany. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Why Some May Not Cruise On Europa 2

Some prospective cruisers may put off by Europa 2′s non-inclusive alcohol packaging, its pricing, its lack of a casino and its smoking policy. Smoking is allowed on verandas and in designated areas, including some in public rooms and lounges. With only 24 hours on board, I was not able to assess the impact of smoking on other travelers.

Who Will Cruise Europa 2

Europa 2 may appeal to cruisers for other reasons that are not exclusive to Hapag-Lloyd: Europa 2′s relaxed dress code (in Germany the company advertises “21 knots without a tie” — SeaDream Yacht Club also has a relaxed dress code); its catering to children with dedicated kids’ activity centers and shore excursions (Crystal Cruises also caters to children); and the on-board international ambience (nearly all luxury cruises have an international ambience; however Europa 2′s is German-inspired).

Initially, the new ship is aiming to attract passengers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands. The company is currently analyzing the market potential in Scandinavia.

The largest ship in Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ fleet, Europa 2 needs 516 passengers each week to sail at full capacity. That alone may create future pricing.

The ship will sail on 26 routes with 123 ports of call in four regions of the world — Western and Eastern Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and Southeast Asia. Up to three itineraries can be combined with no repeating ports.

How Will Europa 2 Handle The Bilingual Element?

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises seems to have thought through every element of the bilingual component, and after hearing details in a press conference, I’m confident that the bilingual aspect will be handled well. On board, German staff spoke and understood English at a high level during my sailing. Only once did I utter a few words that presented a challenge for a German-speaking crew-member (when I ordered whole wheat pasta), but we worked it out with good humor and by pointing. Overall, my 24 hours on board was what you might expect: smooth sailing on Europa 2.

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  • theavidcruiser

    Hi Daniel, I don’t know if you will see this message, but how did your September voyage on Europa 2 go?

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  • theavidcruiser

    Thanks for sharing this info Reggie.

  • Reggie Theisen

    In June the internet was slow.

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  • theavidcruiser

    Terence, You are correct that the move away from European staff is about cost savings. In fact, in my discussions with cruise execs, I believe that is the only motivation. I think that, as you point out, there is a European standard for service that some people appreciate, and all luxury cruise lines possibly would opt to keep European staff – if they could afford them.

    Interesting about Europe’s oldest restaurant. Thanks for sharing.

  • Terence Maurice

    There is far more to the quality of service than the ability to speak English, for example the depth, and extent, of training, and experience gained not only from within the Cruise Line, but also outside sources.

    It is my understanding that Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has a rigorous exam for applicants wishing to join the Company in it’s service sector.

    Do the other luxury Cruise Lines?

    Europe’s cultural heritage in the hospitality sector is rich, and long standing.

    For example, Europe’s oldest restaurant is the St. Peters in Salzburg founded in 803 AD, and many 5* hotels date back to the mid 19th century.

    The move by other luxury Cruise Lines away from European staff is more than likely motivated by a desire to cut costs by contracts being signed in overseas countries thereby circumventing any minimum wage laws operating in the Cruise Line’s country of origin.

    It is about seven years since we had a cruise, so things may well have changed, but it was noticeable then that in the speciality restaurants, which required a higher level of service, the wait staff were European.

    Asking if racial bias is possibly being employed by Hapag-Lloyd is, to say the least, contentious.

  • theavidcruiser

    Thanks for chiming in Ann. Good points. I too feel that Silversea successfully made the shift from European to Asian (and other nationalities). One luxury cruise exec asked me if I thought there was a “marketable” difference in European over Asian staff. Your answers confirms there is not – and that possibly it is the other way around for some.

  • Ann G.

    “Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, however, believes sophisticated travelers will pay more to be served by European, English-speaking food & beverage staff.”

    Gee, and all this time I thought I WAS a “sophisticated traveler” because one of the reasons I like to travel is to meet people who aren’t like me and interact with people of all kinds.

    Hapag-Lloyd’s European cultural standards for wait persons surely can’t stem from service issues at other luxury lines, since every Asian or Latin American or African waitperson I’ve ever been served by on Silversea ships (or anywhere else, for that matter) have all spoken English sufficient to my needs. Most of them are incredibly facile in English.
    I do have to wonder how far Hapag-Lloyd’s Europeans-only cultural standards for wait staff extend? Do they exclude wait persons with certain skin colors? Certain hair textures? Certain eye colors? Would they permit a British person of Indian descent or Kenyan descent to serve me?

    In short, without further clarification from H-L regarding all the benefits of being served only by Europeans, I’m a bit put off by Hapag-Lloyd’s assumptions about what constitutes “sophistication.” I’m also not sure that I would want to socialize very much with people of whom H-L’s assumptions are true.
    My two cents’ worth,
    Ann G.

  • theavidcruiser

    We had trouble with the internet, but this was a shake-down cruise. When it worked, it worked well — and was fast. But it’s hard to assess properly when there aren’t 500 others competing for bandwidth. Pricing, too, is something that I did not clarify during my visit. I agree, however, that the cruise lines need to make this an increasing priority. The technology is there, at a cost of course, but the first cruise line to be able to offer reliable internet at a reasonable cost will distinguish itself — at least to the two of us!

  • theavidcruiser

    These are good points. The pricing for alcohol is attractive on Europa 2. We did not have access to pricing (our cruise was open bar for the media and travel agents on the overnight preview), but we did ask about the price of beverages: €1.40 for a beer; beginning at €4.20 for a gin and tonic (depending on which one of the 35 brands of gin you choose); and €48 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. And I have heard from other readers that solo-cruiser rates are especially attractive — at least for now.

  • theavidcruiser

    Thanks Daniel. Hope you’re having a nice time on Crystal Symphony. I cruised her through the Canal also a few years ago. I’ll look forward to what ou have to say in September. I’ll move up to answer your other questions below your comments now.

  • Daniel Ginzburg

    One more question: How is Europa 2′s interest access and speed? As much as I love Symphony I find their bandwidth narrower than a fishing line. Internet access and speed needs to become an increasing priority and mark of distinction. Some of us need to stay well and easily connected and others, may want regular and easy access to their children or grandchildren.

  • Terence Maurice

    Thanks Ralph for both your detailed report on your visit, and for answering my specific questions.

    I would query if the pricing of the Europa 2′s cruises is really unattractive compared to the main luxury cruise lines.
    All inclusive does not come for free, and some of the lead in prices for cruises with the main luxury lines can be quite staggering, especially for a solo traveller.
    In addition, certainly as far as the UK is concerned, Hapag-Lloyd use a far more generous exchange rate in converting the Euro to the Pound (Sterling ).

    Does one really expect (demand) an all inclusive price?
    One doesn’t in a luxury hotel, so why should one in a luxury cruise ship?
    Other factors come into play, such as the quality of the cuisine, the standard of service, and the ambience of one’s surroundings.
    If these are higher on Europa 2 compared to it’s luxury competitors then the loss of free drinks is of minimal concern.
    In any event, I have been advised that drinks are reasonably priced due to Hapag-Lloyd operating a genuine ‘duty free’ policy.

    As for the smoking policy, if Hapag-Lloyd felt it would prove detrimental to attracting passengers they would not permit it even in the very restricted areas in which it is allowed.
    They are hardly likely run the risk of jeopardising their investment in the Europa 2.

    I look forward to finding out for myself in September.

  • Daniel Ginzburg

    Thanks Ralph great review. Greetings from Crystal Symphony where I am aboard cruising the Panama Canal. Always good to be back aboard Symphony. However, I am one of the American Luxury cruise travelers that is eager to try Europa 2 having long been a fan of Europa. I enjoy the European style and service. However, I am doing Hapag Lloyd backwards. In July I will be aboard Europa with my wife and young daughter for their Norway cruise and then in September I will be aboard Europa 2 with my wife for their 7 day Black Sea cruise. I will let you know what I think along the way. Thanks again for your front line feedback. Warm regards, Daniel

  • theavidcruiser

    I knew the Avid Cruiser community could count on insightful comments from you Wes. Thank you! Europa 2′s gym may have been the best I have seen on a small ship. I will be posting photos in Sunday’s newsletter. No dedicated jogging track but a wrap-around promenade, which means you may need to weave through walkers. One thing I appreciated healthwise: chia and other healthy seeds at The Yacht Club breakfast buffet.

  • Wes

    Thanks Ralph. Firmly believe the vast majority of seasoned luxury cruisers (i.e., Crystal, Silversea, Seabourn, Regent) will have very, very, little interest in this new line. First, these lux cruisers absolutely expect (demand) all inclusive price (why do you think Crystal became AI this year). Second, with their liberal smoking policy no way we would sail Europa or Europa2 and do not believe with most lux lines tightening their smoking policies, the majority of lux cruisers would book the Europa2. Nice looking ship tho.

    Did it have a jogging track? How was the Gym?