Europa is the flagship of the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet. Built in Helsinki in 1999, Europa, which carries 408 guests when sailing at maximum capacity, has received the highest ranking in the world by the Berlitz Cruise Guide. Despite being more than a decade old, the well-maintained and continually updated Europa is in exceptional condition.
Europa features four restaurants, a fitness loft with sea view, a large swimming pool, a 38-course golf simulator, and the Ocean Spa with four exclusive Spa suites. Prominent experts accompany themed cruises to talk on culinary delights, music, gardening and culture.
Europa is among the first all- suite ships, with staterooms that are never less than 290 square feet (27 square meters). Four out of five of those staterooms feature their own verandas.
The ship features 156 Veranda Suites measuring 291 square feet, with some of the most attractive (teak deck) balconies I’ve seen at sea. In addition, there are 36 non-Veranda Suites measuring the 291 square feet; 10 Penthouse Deluxe Suites, measuring 484 square feet; and two Penthouse Grand Suites, sprawling 915 square feet.
Europa features four restaurants: Oriental, serving sushi, sashimi and Asian foods; Venezia, serving Italian; the main dining room (single, assigned seating); and the Lido Cafe, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cuisine is international with, as you might expect, some German-inspired dishes, such as sausages and Wienerschnitzel with potatoes.
Europa has seven bars and three lounges, including an attractive cigar lounge called the Havana Bar. Smoking is permitted in public areas and on verandas. Suites are equipped with something rarely seen on ships these days: ashtrays.
Also on Europa: fitness center; wrap-around promenade deck; golf simulator; putting green; children and teen facilities; ironing room; business center; boutique; Zodiacs for spontaneous excursions; gallery instead of casino; and more. On board currency is the Euro, not necessarily the preferred currency of North American travelers.
Europa also features internet at reasonable rates — in room, using ethernet, or through wifi offered in public areas. Dress is casual during the day; during the evening, suits for gentlemen and corresponding dress for ladies.
Is Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa the world’s best cruise ship, as some guide books have proclaimed?
There’s no question that Hapag-Lloyd’s flagship has the makings of a best-in-category ship. As noted before on Avid Cruiser, Europa is ranked 5 Stars Plus by the Berlitz Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships, a distinction no other ship can boast.
Europa, however, has some challenging competition. Certainly, Seabourn’s Sojourn-class vessels are a force to be reckoned with. How do those two compare? Read our thoughts here The Verdict: Is Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa The World’s Best?
I’ve cruised both Europa and the newer Europa 2, launched in the spring of 2013. Both ships represent the highest standards in luxury cruising. For North Americans and English-speaking travelers, Europa 2 is likely to be the better choice due to itineraries spanning as few as seven days and a casual on-board ambience that will appeal to many travelers. The itineraries can be combined with no repeating ports for those who want to do longer cruises on Europa 2.
Families are welcomed on Europa 2, and kids have plenty of quality care to keep them busy and happy on their voyages. The older Europa has a stronger German — and formal — ambience than Europa 2, as well as guests who may have less tolerance for children than do guests on Europa 2, many of whom travel on this vessel with their families.
Both ships command among the industry’s highest per diems (as much as 600 euros per person — about $1,600 per day per couple). Alcohol, soft drinks, bottled water and more are not included in the fare, unlike on all other luxury cruise lines. Hapag-Lloyd’s luxury vessels are pricey products, right up there with barge cruises (which can run as much as $2,000 per day per couple – read more about barge cruises on French Country Waterways and European Waterways).
I enjoyed the attractiveness of both vessels but especially of Europa 2. It is, along with Seabourn’s Sojourn-class ships, one of the most beautiful vessels afloat and with a higher space-ratio than any other cruise ship.
Staterooms on Europa 2, which Hapag-Lloyd calls suites, are spacious, well-thought out, functional and gorgeous. The use of light woods, attractive fabrics, stylish furniture and thoughtful lighting makes for a pleasant living space. The large balcony with comfortable lounge chairs add to the joy of cruising on Europa 2.
Europa 2 features six restaurants, all without surcharges (unlike a few other luxury lines). Europeans staff the dining rooms (with few exceptions) and most public rooms. Service standards are impeccable.
The spa and fitness centers are among the most attractive — and varied — at sea. Spa services are reasonably priced, and neither it nor the fitness center were ever overly crowded during my two voyages on Europa 2.
Europa 2 does a good job at catering to North American and English-speaking guests. Language and culture should seldom be a problem for anyone cruising this vessel. Shore excursions are handled well and reasonably priced, with plenty of variety. Internet, including WiFi, performed well and was reasonably priced at 19 euro cents per minute. Most would be hard-pressed to exceed 50 euros for internet charges, which would give you just over four hours of connectivity.
Potential drawbacks for some luxury cruisers: 1) the cost of the cruise (you could do two luxury cruises for the price on one Hapag-Lloyd cruise); 2) the non-inclusion of soft drinks and bottled water in restaurants (and perhaps the non-inclusion of wine, spirits and beer as well); 3) some small pet peeves such as laundry service requiring two days, even on seven-day cruises; and 4) the European/German ambience for those who don’t mix well with other cultures.