Recapping Our Journey Through History aboard EUROPA 2
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Today, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 arrived at dawn in the Turkish port of Kusadasi. It’s the midway point in Voyage 1428 for most guests but for the small press group I am part of, the time has come to say goodbye.
Before our journey came to a close, we set out on an excursion that many other guests aboard EUROPA 2 were no doubt taking part in: a tour of the ruinous ancient city of Ephesus.
In the same league as Petra in Jordan or the Pyramids of Egypt, Ephesus was once a great hub of civilisation, founded around 10 BC. At one time, nearly 56,000 people resided here, and the city was a major business and trading center, not to mention important port city.
If you’ve been to Ephesus before, you may be wondering about that last sentence. Ephesus today is a good 40-minute drive from the nearest ocean, and the port city of Kusadasi. Things started going wrong for Ephesus around the mid-600’s, when the sea began to retreat from its former harbour. Dredging couldn’t keep up with the sea’s recoil, and Ephesus gradually lost its status as a port city. With the ocean gone, numerous merchants left.
Ephesus struggled on until the 1300’s, when the city was largely abandoned. It wasn’t until 1869 that traces of the city were found, buried over time by sand and dirt. Since then, Ephesus has gradually and painstakingly been excavated and restored, but it is estimated that only between 10 and 15 percent of the city has been uncovered. The remainder still lies hidden in the hills.
I had last been to Ephesus on a trip in High School, some 14 years ago. I was amazed at how much more of the city has been excavated in that time, but I was once again moved by how spectacular this site is, arguably anchored by the breathtaking Library of Celsus and the massive Roman amphitheatre that could have seated 25,000 spectators. A girl in my class 14 years ago was studying opera; she stood at the bottom of the stage and sang for us, while we sat on the highest reaches of the theatre. Her voice echoed and cascaded perfectly over the centuries-old stone with acoustics that rival modern-day theatres.
Everything in Ephesus seems so much more impressive than what we have today. Thousands of years from now, will future generations unearth remnants of our “ancient” civilisation – a Starbucks location? A Burger King? A Wal-Mart?
The drive from Ephesus to Izmir’s Adnan Menderes Airport gave me time to reflect on my brief time aboard EUROPA 2. Our full Live Voyage Report:
I’m sure the question on everyone’s lips revolves around whether EUROPA 2 is worthy of her lofty five-star-plus designation. She is. She’s almost ridiculously well-designed, and the attention to detail that has been put into everything from the chocolates on your pillow to the ship’s technical spaces is nothing short of remarkable.
Is she better than other luxury products? That’s hard to say. She’s really in a class of her own; to compare her with the likes of Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, SeaDream, or Silversea would be difficult because, while all of the aforementioned lines are terrifically luxurious, Hapag-Lloyd is targeting a different type of guest for their bilingual ships that include EUROPA 2 and HANSEATIC.
Sail EUROPA 2 If:
- You’re looking for a one-of-a-kind, international luxury cruising experience.
- Money is no object; this is a good ship to splurge on!
- You simply have to have the best of everything; few things are out of reach onboard EUROPA 2.
- You’re a foodie; cuisine onboard is second-to-none.
- You enjoy active, engaging vacations: this is a good ship to indulge your interests, be they cycling, hiking, or art collecting.
Give Her A Pass If:
- You have to sail with a homogenous (i.e.-North American) passenger base. The majority of your fellow guests will be European.
- You’re looking for an intimate, ultra-small-ship luxury experience. This isn’t it.
- You desire a sedate, unobtrusive cruise experience with little in the way of activities. Socializing is a large part of the draw aboard EUROPA 2.
- You are allergic or sensitive to smoking: EUROPA 2’s smoking policy is one of the most generous at sea, and her guests prefer it that way.
Earlier in the week, I went on (and on – and on) about EUROPA 2’s branding, and I’m going to do so again, just to hammer home my point. What Hapag-Lloyd has done with EUROPA 2 should be used as a master-class in successful branding and design. Most cruise lines just launch a new ship and that’s the end of it. With EUROPA 2, they’ve made the ship’s name synonymous with the experience. If you carry around your take-home beach bag, people know you’re part of a sort of elite club of cruisers when they see the ship’s logo emblazoned on the side. In fact, if there’s a great opportunity missed, it’s in the ship’s Gift Shops, which are curiously lacking in EUROPA 2-branded merchandise save for a few hideous, pre-tattered ball caps and a handful of women’s polo shirts.
While it may sound trivial to the casual observer, the branding cements the ship and the experience and melds them into one. Few cruise lines have done this so successfully, save perhaps for Viking River Cruises with their new Viking Longships, where the vessel has become the brand, and vice-versa.
Should it matter to you? Of course! It matters greatly to EUROPA 2’s present – and future – clientele. The line is extremely well-known in Europe (and is wildly popular in the UK, Denmark and Belgium), and EUROPA 2 is just the ship to introduce the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises brand to North Americans.
Cruising really has come full circle for this Hamburg-based line. It was Hamburg-America Line (a precursor to Hapag-Lloyd) Managing Director Albert Ballin who introduced the idea of purpose-built ships for pleasure cruising in 1900, when he oversaw the construction of the Prinzessin Victoria Luise – the world’s first true cruise ship.
One hundred and fourteen years later, I think Ballin would be pleased with EUROPA 2 – a ship that truly carries on the legacy and vision that he pioneered so many years ago.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 has sadly come to a close, but our next journey begins in just a few days! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
Follow along with our entire journey!
Europa 2, Greece to Turkey
|Friday, September 19, 2014||Istanbul, Turkey||International Flight to Turkey; embark EUROPA 2; evening touring Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia||Overnight onboard ship in Istanbul|
|Saturday, September 20||Istanbul, Turkey||Overnight; official start of Voyage.||24:00|
|Sunday, September 21||Cruising the Dardanelles Strait|
|Monday, September 22||Mitilini /Lesbos, Greece||04:00||18:00|
|Tuesday, September 23||Volos, Greece||07:00||17:30|
|Wednesday, September 24||Kusadasi, Turkey; Izmir, Turkey||Disembark EUROPA 2; afternoon touring||Overnight stay in Izmir, Turkey; onward journey.|