Europa 2, which debuted in 2013, marks a radical departure for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. The ship is less formal, more family-oriented and definitely more contemporary than Europa, the company's flagship luxury vessel. Europa 2 is also aiming to attract cruise travelers from beyond its German-speaking base. As such, Hapag-Lloyd has pledged that all voyages on Europa 2 will be bilingual, with everyone from cabin stewards to enrichment lecturers offering English-language services; Europa offers just a handful of bilingual cruises each year.
No question, 40,000-ton, 516-passenger Europa 2 is one of the most beautiful ships afloat. It feels more like a chic boutique hotel on the French Riviera than it does a cruise ship. It's sleek, with Hapag-Lloyd's trademark high ceilings on the main level. Aside from a sprawling lobby bar/reception area, spaces are more intimate and cozy than grand. Hapag-Lloyd spared little expense: Colors are subtle, and steel and limestone are used throughout. The ship features silver leaf ceilings and halogen lighting, along with the odd splash of bright color, such as granny smith-green Murano glass chandeliers in the Serenissima restaurant, the only place where marble is used.
All the art is original and includes pieces by Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter in addition to works designed just for Europa 2.
Ship highlights include spacious, well-designed standard cabins (all with seating areas and balconies) and a handful of family-friendly connecting cabins. The Ocean Spa is a destination unto itself, with numerous steam rooms, relaxation areas, a beauty salon, a gym, workout rooms and a lovely outdoor lounge area off the aft.
Hapag-Lloyd hopes English-speaking luxury travelers will make up some 25 percent of Europa 2's passenger base, while the other 75 percent probably will hail from German-language countries like Austria, Switzerland and Germany. It must be noted that although smoking is limited onboard, there still is plenty of it, particularly in lounges like Sansibar and Jazzclub.
If you're familiar with the venerable Europa and longing for a more laid-back experience amidst edgier surrounds, Europa 2 offers a superb cruise experience. It's not traditional luxury, but with its emphasis on food and service, its industry-highest space ratio in public spaces, intriguing itineraries, family-friendly programs and staterooms, and a genuine commitment to offering English-speaking travelers the same experience as its core German passengers, Europa 2 is a gorgeous addition to the industry's global luxury lineup.