Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Europa 2 is rated as the best cruise ship in the world, according to the "2017 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships," scoring 1,860 points out of a possible 2,000. So, what makes it so special?
Europa 2 has the highest passenger-space ratio of any cruise ship; the highest cabin ceilings; the largest spa-fitness facility for a 516-passenger ship; free fine-dining restaurants and a huge art collection (890 pieces) including works by acclaimed English artists David Hockney and Damien Hirst.
In fact, all Hapag-Lloyd ships are non-homeported gypsies. Europa 2 and Europa follow the sun; the line's expedition ships (Hanseatic, Bremen and Columbus 2) follow the ice.
Children under 11 can sail with their parents for no extra charge; teens aged 12 to 15 years cost only 60 euros per day (about US$63/AU$85). The kids' sections of the ship's seven interconnecting family cabins are adorable -- beautifully decorated, stocked with toys, and with smaller bathtubs and toilets.
Aside from being 14 years younger than the "old" Europa, Europa 2 carries around 100 more passengers, who also tend to be younger. No announcements are made; there are no Captain's dinners or farewell drinks. It's more like a "floating boutique hotel" than a traditional cruise ship.
This is one of the few luxury lines that aren't all-inclusive. However, the soft drinks and beer in your minibar are free and replenished daily. ("Beer is considered a soft drink in Germany," quipped Gerd Wilmer, of Landmark Travel, which represents Hapag-Lloyd in Australia.) Bar prices are reasonable: about 1.60 Euros (US$1.69/AU$2.30) for a beer, five Euros ($US5.28/AU$7.15 for a cocktail. A welcome bottle of Champagne is placed in your cabin when you board, too.
Europa 2 sells 37 varieties of gin in the Herrenzimmer Bar, which also permits cigar smoking all day.
Although it's a German ship, the crew and most German passengers can speak English.
Passengers need to book about two years in advance. Europa 2 is generally sold out at least a year in advance.