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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2016
The quality of Hapag Lloyd is exceptional since the booking process. Highly motivated staff from reservations to boarding and deboarding deserve a specific applause! Onboard staff are more than friendly and meticulously trained, they ... Read More
The quality of Hapag Lloyd is exceptional since the booking process. Highly motivated staff from reservations to boarding and deboarding deserve a specific applause! Onboard staff are more than friendly and meticulously trained, they are very professional, yet warm in attitude. I will not mention staff in particular, because starting with the Capitain - honorable mention to the quality person He is - each person on board of the staff is a valuable person. A waiter can only serve immaculate meals if the cook prepares them; The cook can only prepare them if the storeholder stocks properly; The storeholder can stock only if the logistics team arrange adequately. And so on! In short, a perfect team!! Each day my wife+son+myself were surprised with something new to have our cruise a full positive memory forever. Thank you Hapag Lloyd Europa 2 Staff, thank you Hapag Lloyd groundstaff too, for the quality offered - and delivered! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2015
Best ship ever! Stunning, amazing, there are no words to describe the infrastructure. It is clear that it concerns a German cruise line, but that is also the Unique selling point of this product. Food, service, ports, it was all ... Read More
Best ship ever! Stunning, amazing, there are no words to describe the infrastructure. It is clear that it concerns a German cruise line, but that is also the Unique selling point of this product. Food, service, ports, it was all just perfect. The WOW-effect is in all the details. Kids for free, welcome packages for the kids. For the baby we just ordered in advance all pampers, milk solutions, drinks, food, ... and it stood all prepared with toys in the suite. The cruise line also has 2 expedition vessels, that experience they also use on tis luxury vessel. They have scientists on board giving lections, but they also have zodiacs. When we were in Corsica the captain gave order to put the zodiacs in the water. We were able to do a very surprising trips through the hidden bays of Calvi. 7 restaurants, 6 bars, biggest gin collection on board of a ship, highest ratio passenger/staff that exist, biggest basix cabins (suites) that exist. And this ship is more like a boutique hotel, it can not be compared with any other vessel so far. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2014
Background: My wife and I are both in our 60s, have taken 30+ cruises on most mainstream lines and some premium/luxury lines, live in New York City and this was our first trip on a European Line. Ship: This is a German ship, owned by a ... Read More
Background: My wife and I are both in our 60s, have taken 30+ cruises on most mainstream lines and some premium/luxury lines, live in New York City and this was our first trip on a European Line. Ship: This is a German ship, owned by a German company that caters to German passengers. The first language of the ship is German however most signage is also in English, the daily program is translated into English along with any other documents delivered to your room. The crew you will deal with are all from Germany and Austria and speak English to some degree. They will greet you in German but switch when they see you speak English. The Officers are German. All announcements are in English and German. The currency onboard is the Euro. The ship is really beautiful, laid out very well and built and furnished with very high quality material. It does not feel like a cruise ship but rather a contemporary hotel. The space is really amazing for a ship, never a line, always a seat where and when you want it, no chair hogs by the pool or seat savers in the show lounge. The pool area is really great with a monster pool and two decks of lounge chairs all covered with a retractable dome. Show lounge is also great, two stories with seats around small tables and a good size state of the art stage. Boarding: Boarding time for all is 16:00 as they want the whole ship ready to go for the new passengers. In NYC the ship personal had the check in counter on the pier, the pier is fixed up like a lounge and you can have cocktails as you check in and chat with you fellow new friends at a table if you like. They send you your ship ID card ahead of time so all you do is get your picture taken, passport checked and board. The crew is there to take your carry on and guide you to your cabin. Our luggage was already there. Wine on ice and snacks waiting. Best boarding process I have ever seen. Cabin: We started out with a standard cabin on deck 6 aft. Very large with a large veranda. Very clean, in great shape and very functional. Walk in closed with lots of hangers and storage. Easy place to hand out in. Bed is great, just like home and made so luggage all fits under it. I do not think it can be made into two twins. We had a small issue a few days into the trip. I was amazed how easy it was to talk to all levels of management on the ship. No endless days of stalling by the front desk. All was resolved in a few hours and for our trouble we were moved to a suite on deck ten. Same décor as the other cabin except a lot bigger with sitting area, two bath etc.. Had a butler also. If you check Hapag-Lloyds web site the room pictures and descriptions are very accurate. Best room I ever had on both decks and never had a problem addressed so seamlessly. Food: Food is geared toward the German palate. You can see only the best ingredients are used. There are 4 specialty restaurants, a main dinning room and a buffet. The specialty restaurants require a reservation which can only be made onboard. On the first night the Restaurant Manger found us and made all of them for us and sent a letter to our room to confirm. Very easy. You can go as often as you want with no charge. All of them except the sushi bar are open for lunch with no reservation required. The main restaurant is open sitting and open for breakfast and dinner with a different menu each day. Plenty of tables for two, four and six. The Buffet is open for all three meals with late day service at the grill. Both indoor and outdoor sitting. Service in all the restaurants is excellent, a white glove affair. All food came hot and cooked to perfection. Services work in teams so food is served course by course to all people at the table at the same time. The Main Dinning Room will do special orders with a days notice. All restaurants are designed for one sitting so there is no table turning. Your specialty reservations are for the night, arrive when you want. Dinner time is 19:00 to 21:30. Activities: This is the part that was a little disappointing for me. There really are none compared to a North American Line. What they have are some daily fitness classes, a lecture in English on some days, a show at 10pm in the lounge 4 or 5 times and music in the different bars and jazz clubs at night. On this trip they had a “Christmas Market” and a beach party also. During the day, even sea days, the ship seemed dead. I would of liked some music by the pool at least. I asked about it and was told this is how Germans like it. There are also no announcements except a report by the captain once a day. I have to say when they do something it is really top shelf. For the beach party they had tables set with silver and china from the ship and endless drinks. Great food almost like transporting the buffet to the beach for the day. Tipping: Tips are not expected, encouraged or added to anything. You can give them if you want however they had two events where all the money you spent went to the crew fund. I like this better than the system on North American Ships. Disembarkation: Very easy, no lines or mass hysteria. You got a colored tag for your bags, it was called and you left. The Captain and offers were at the gangway saying goodbye. Would I go again?: I really do not know. This was like taking a vacation in Germany however it was moving around the Caribbean. As a side note the info on the Europa 2 web site along with the pictures is very accurate.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2014
WRANGEL ISLAND, Russia – The announcement came over the ship’s PA system at 3:35am: “There’s a polar bear dead ahead of us.” Within minutes passengers appeared up on deck, some still in their PJs, looking at the polar bear ... Read More
WRANGEL ISLAND, Russia – The announcement came over the ship’s PA system at 3:35am: “There’s a polar bear dead ahead of us.” Within minutes passengers appeared up on deck, some still in their PJs, looking at the polar bear swimming near the ship just off Wrangel Island, in the eastern Russian Arctic. It was a bright, sunny day (the sun had risen at 1:44am), and this was our first polar bear sighting of several to come. We were 500km north of the Arctic Circle and the ocean was unusually calm; we could see the bear’s head reflected in the water as he turned to look at us. What an experience – and only one of so many during this 16-day cruise on board Hapag-Lloyd’s Hanseatic, the first non-Russian ship to be allowed to visit Wrangel Island. Indeed, we saw no other tourists during the entire trip. This was truly an expedition adventure once we had donned parkas and rubber boots and left the ship in the rubber Zodiacs. Guided by a team of specialists, we were off to navigate through the sea ice on a sightseeing excursion, or to go ashore to discover abundant flowers and wildlife in the bleak landscape. But back on board the 180-passenger “world’s only five-star expedition cruise ship” (according to Berlitz, the global education company of language training fame) we lived in luxury, in comfortable staterooms with gourmet meals served on Rosenthal china – including 27 varieties of bread and rolls baked freshly every day for breakfast Antarctica receives much of the travel publicity these days. But while the Arctic has no penguins, it certainly has a wealth of other life as we discovered – from the 48 bird varieties (some in flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands) and 18 land and sea mammals to the Eskimos and other Russians. It was fascinating enough to explore the Arctic tundra most of us had hitherto only read about in school. But we could add to that the experience of being with the people who live far north of Siberia, with their Russian/post-Soviet or Eskimo heritage. So please come along to sample some of the highlights on what turned out to be a most unusual and interesting cruise adventure. TUESDAY: After a Miami Air charter flight from Vancouver we joined the ship in the remote Alaskan town of Nome, a port during its brief ice-free summer. While most of the passengers were from German-speaking countries, this was considered an international cruise so all communication was bilingual. WEDNESDAY: We paused offshore in the Bering Sea to look at a deserted settlement site on King Island, where Inupiat Eskimos had lived for thousands of years. The last villagers moved to Nome in 1970, leaving behind houses built on stilts on impossibly steep slopes The abandoned wooden structures were now collapsing, and stared eerily back at us with eye sockets where windows used to be. FRIDAY: We lost Thursday as we crossed the dateline. Provideniya, a former Soviet military port and our first contact with Russia, lay ahead. We’d heard Russia was angry with Europe, North America and Australia over international sanctions, and could have cancelled its permission for us – a German ship – to travel in Russian waters. But all went well and we were allowed ashore to explore this bleak outpost. Many of the buildings had been abandoned, some had been painted in bright colours but the town still had a dreary appearance. “We get about three days of sunshine a year,” said one resident. With mists hanging low over the town, this wasn’t one of them. We saw a folklore show - Russian dancers in traditional costumes gliding on to the stage or kick-dancing with arms crossed, and also Eskimo story-telling dances. Then we cruised 8km to Bukhta Slawyanka (Plover Cove) for our first exploration of the tundra. This was also the first of many wet landings, so we were wearing the boots and parkas lent to all passengers as the Zodiacs ran up on the beach and we jumped out at the water’s edge. This time the mists wreathing the hills and sitting low over the ocean, the patches of blue (but poisonous) monkshood flowers on land, the abandoned boats and buildings – all created a scene of wonder and beauty. SATURDAY: We visited Lorino where traditionally costumed local Eskimo dancers sang and danced the stories of their Chukchi ancestors for us. We sampled local food: a delicious fish soup made from Arctic char, gray whale and walrus muktuk (blubber and skin), reindeer meat. The temperature was an unusually warm 20 degrees, the ocean completely flat. SUNDAY: The small village of Neshkan welcomed us with another folklore show; dogs tore at the remains of a recently slaughtered gray whale on the beach. “The village was created by the Soviet government in the 1950s as a collective farm, to bring together the reindeer herders of the area,” Sylvia Stevens, one of our expert guides and lecturers, told us. The village of 700 still had six reindeer herds and supplemented its economy with fishing. It was so remote only pensioners were paid in cash, while others used barter or coupons. The district centre of Lavrentiya was a weekly 250km flight away, or four to five days of off-road travel. MONDAY: Today brought a birder’s delight as we cruised along the cliffs of Kolyuchin Island, home to hundreds of thousands of guillemots, kittiwakes, cormorants and puffins. “The guillemots lay a single egg on the narrow ledges,” said Stevens. “At two weeks, the chick has to jump down to the sea where its father takes care of it until it can fly, often paddling as much as 40km in a day until it is independent.” TUESDAY-FRIDAY: Wrangel Island came into view and thankfully the sea ice had broken up enough for us to pick up the two rangers and a biologist who would stay with us during our visit to one of Russia’s most restricted nature reserves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. And what a surprisingly fascinating place it was – given its location astride longitude 180 degrees in such a remote and inhospitable part of the planet. “Wrangel and nearby Herald Islands were untouched by glaciers of the last ice age,” Stevens said, “so they look much as they did in the Pleistocene era when wolly mammoths roamed the land until they became extinct around 2000 BC. Wrangel is best known today as having the greatest concentration of polar bear dens in the world.” Wrangel was also the home of 417 plant species - at least 23 of which grew nowhere else. Considering that the summer temperature hovered just above zero, we were amazed to see so many plants and flowers like the forget-me-nots when we went ashore on Komsomol Beach. On the other hand, as one of the largest walrus “haul out” sites in the world, Cape Blossom had far more walrus bones than blossoms. A couple of teenage boys decided it was time for a quick dip – a very quick dip as they rushed and staggered back out of the zero-degree ocean far more quickly than they had gone in. But the little brown woolly bear caterpillar which Stevens spotted didn’t mind the cold. These creatures live for 14 years (normal caterpillar life is three weeks), completely freezing every winter and thawing out every short summer until they spin a cocoon and turn into Isabella tiger moths. Arctic ground squirrels were busily collecting food for the long winter, pausing every so often to sit up in a meerkat-like pose. Now it was polar bear time. We spotted them swimming and walking on ice floes, including a mother with cub – but were glad not to see them when we went ashore, guarded by one of the guides armed with a rifle. SATURDAY-WEDNESDAY (including two Tuesdays as we crossed the dateline again): Winds whipped up five-metre waves in the Chukchi Sea, our only patch of stormy weather. Later, we watched seven orca (killer) whales following an injured gray whale in Bering Strait. Then we spotted about 100 walrus males hauled out on the beach of Big Diomede Island and swimming nearby, and went out in the Zodiacs for a closer look at these tusked creatures which can weigh up to 2,000kg. On Yittigran Island we walked in the long grass of Whalebone Alley, named for its carefully arranged whale skulls and other bones, especially ribs, and stones. And so back to Nome we sailed, grateful for the mostly good weather and lack of mosquitoes, treasuring our memories of the eastern Russian Arctic tundra in summer with its amazingly varied wildlife and vegetation, its inhabitants and their history. And that 3:35am wakeup call: “There’s a polar bear dead ahead of us.” Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2009
It was with some trepidation that we embarked on this cruise aboard MS Europa, a ship primarily designed for German speaking passengers. Not that the language concerned us as the cruise was "Bilingual" and my wife and I have a ... Read More
It was with some trepidation that we embarked on this cruise aboard MS Europa, a ship primarily designed for German speaking passengers. Not that the language concerned us as the cruise was "Bilingual" and my wife and I have a reasonable working knowledge of German. Rather I had read a fellow member's review shortly before we left and it was lukewarm at best. On the other hand Douglas Ward (a somewhat better known and renowned cruise critic) had just awarded the ship "Best in the World" for the umpteenth year running. With open minds we set off for Rome and soon had no difficulty in forming our own view. Read on to find out with whom we were inclined to agree! We had spent a few days in a lovely old town near Rome before joining the ship and our hotel had organised a taxi to take us to Civitavecchia. We were told to expect embarkation at 4 pm and we arrived exactly on time. With no fuss, we were checked in very swiftly (having already received our cruise cards in advance) and offered fruit juice and canapes whilst we walked the few steps to security. No requests for credit cards nor any queues in sight. Almost immediately we were greeted by a selection of crew members and personally escorted on board by a delightful English speaking stewardess who helped with our baggage and made us feel very welcome. Once on board we were offered complimentary champagne and escorted via glass lift (operated by a piccolo) to our suite conveniently situated on deck 7 (one below the lido deck). We were given information about the suite's facilities and as we had sent our luggage in advance (we were travelling with two children, one a seven month old baby so "Carry M Luggage.com" was a godsend!) we were soon unpacked and ready to enjoy yet more complimentary champagne for our sail away. A welcome bottle of champagne, strawberries, chocolates and treats for the children had also been placed in our suite awaiting our arrival. These were all delicious. A mini-bar had also been stocked with complimentary juices and beer. Other drinks were charged to one's account though it was never necessary to sign as the crew knew us and always greeted us with our name. The suite was of a good size for a family and comprised bathroom (with bath and separate shower), dressing room (with credit card operated safe), bedroom and (separated by a curtain) lounge where the children slept. The furnishings were of good quality and the carpeting looked new. The floor on entering is wood. Our stewardess was first rate and serviced our suite twice a day with plentiful towels and handsome size toiletries. Although Europa celebrated its 10th birthday shortly before we joined, it is well maintained and had been freshly painted from bow to stern. No vibration could be felt when the ship was at sea and we seldom realised we were on a ship. However, the situation of our accommodation up front meant that we did hear the anchor being lowered in tender ports and the bow thrusters being used frequently. This could be quite noisy and usually early in the morning! The public rooms are delightful and not in any way glitzy as are found on many ships these days. Very understated but comfortable and spacious. I believe that Europa has one of the highest space per passenger ratios (70 plus) and even though the ship was full we rarely felt part of a crowd. Soon after embarking we were given an English safety demonstration in the Clipper Lounge and we quickly realised that we were the only 4 English speaking passengers on board! Nonetheless we were afforded the services of an international hostess who looked after us impeccably and was always available. Our fellow passengers were mainly from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and unfailingly polite and eager to engage in conversation (especially about our baby daughter!). The crew spoke excellent English and all menus were available in English in the dining rooms and on our in suite TV system (called cruise net). Cruise net also featured free e-mail and a good selection of English films and music. Entertainment in the main lounge was provided by an excellent 8 piece band comprising talented musicians (especially the pianist)and two vocalists who sang a variety of musical styles. The "international" flavour of the cabaret artists was limited but as this was a classical music cruise, there was always a good variety of concerts available. These were held in the Europa lounge (where the Steinway was somewhat inferior to the Bosendorfer in the Club Belvedere) and also on shore at 2 venues in Malta and Split. The classical musicians were from the German Music Foundation and though most of them were not (yet) professional artists, they certainly made up for their lack of personality with their considerable musical talent and virtuosity. I particularly enjoyed the young tenor whose rendition of "Caro Mio Ben" at the concert in Split I will never forget. He also sang some delightful Scottish songs by Haydn with almost brought a tear to our Scottish eyes! The young pianists, cellist and violinists were also stunningly good. It was very appropriate that Hapag-Lloyd donated the proceeds of the auction of the cruise chart to the Foundation giving their coffers a well deserved boost. Hapag-Lloyd always went the extra mile and "no" was never an answer. If a port of call could not be reached because of weather (twice on our port intensive cruise) they would try (and succeed) to find an alternative. Our hostess even arranged for English movies to be shown in the small cinema with pop corn and drinks on the house. These touches were appreciated and enjoyed. An overnight stay was arranged in Split so that the aforementioned classical concert could be arranged. As for dining, once again nothing was spared. We had our own table in the lovely Europa restaurant for the entire cruise and could dine there whenever we wished. The service was exemplary both by the waiters and sommelier (who succeeded in converting us to German and Swiss wines). The menus were extensive, the food presentation excellent and the choice incredible. From foie gras, caviar, lobster, oyster to suckling pig, truffles, every type of food was available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. All beautifully served and extremely tasty. We tried both all of the alternative restaurants and the Oriental and Venezia restauarants (situated near the Europa main restaurant) featured extensive menus which changed on a regular basis. The food and service were first class and there was never a supplementary charge. The Lido cafe too served an excellent breakfast buffet until 11am (with hot food as well as an excellent choice of fruit, bread, German sausages, cheese etc). At lunch it provided a stunning buffet as well as grills cooked to order. We also ate at the Lido several evenings when the theme of the cooking matched the ports - eg Sicily and Greece. Other nice touches were canapes on deck when leaving port, ice creams and drinks sailing up the Grand Canal in Venice and of course Waffles by the pool in the afternoon. Sadly these proved very popular and could take some time to order! Otherwise there were very few lines even for self-service buffets with a full complement of passengers. In the evenings there were also lovely canapes availale and (after our concert in Split) a fantastic gala buffet. The childrens program was well organised (though not used by our children) and we counted at least another twenty or so children on what was billed a family cruise. Shore excursions were good value for money and included a varied selection in English. In Libya the company also arranged for our visas with no fuss, something which had proved an obstacle in the UK before departure. Even after disembarking Europa, Hapag-Lloyd transferred us to a nice hotel to awit our transfer to the Airport on the way home. Their hospitality was again well received and it was refreshing to travel with a cruise line who did not see their responsibility ending up at the gangway. Were there any minus points? Very few. Contrary to Douglas Ward's book, there were far too many announcements on our cruise. Certainly the ship will require to be upgraded as it ages but that is missing the point in my view. It is the people aboard Europa which make it such a highly valued product. They try their best all the time and succeed in making the cruise experience what it used to be with some other lines. If they build another ship, they should also cnsider an indoor pool. This is missed by many passengers of the old Europa (which still sails and passed us in the Med). Will we return? Most certainly. We have booked to return next October from Monaco to Greece and (God willing) we look forwar to seeing some familiar faces on board. Would it suit everyone? Obviously not but, then again, there is no accounting for taste! Happy cruising. Read Less
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