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4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2017
I recently completed a 13-day cruise on the Hapag-Lloyd (HL) highly rated small luxury ship the Europa 2 ( E2), 516 maximum passengers. Our route started in New York City with two weekend overnights, then went down the east coast of the ... Read More
I recently completed a 13-day cruise on the Hapag-Lloyd (HL) highly rated small luxury ship the Europa 2 ( E2), 516 maximum passengers. Our route started in New York City with two weekend overnights, then went down the east coast of the U.S. to Baltimore, Charleston, Miami for another overnight, Key West, Harbour Island (tender), and ended in Nassau. I had done one prior 16-day E2 cruise over the Christmas holidays 2015-2016 around South Africa and Namibia in a PH suite with my husband, and a 14-day classical music focussed cruise ( Ocean Sun Festival) on its sister ship the MS Europa September 2016 in the Mediterranean in a veranda suite, solo. I am comparing this experience with the two prior with HL. My travel partner this cruise was an old German friend. We were in a veranda suite a bit towards the bow. I rated the two prior cruises with HL 5/5, and have compared features of HL on those cruises with other small ship luxury cruises on SS and SB. Overall, though I enjoyed this cruise and absolutely do not regret doing it, there were periodic service issues, and (less frequently) also some food and beverage problems, that prevent me from rating it 5/5 again. So I can only give it a strong 4/5. GENERAL ATMOSPHERE AND PASSENGERS: The ship is beautiful, comfortable, and contemporary, and the overall atmosphere is unpretentious and elegant. Passengers ranged in age from a handful of small children to a lady who seemed to be pushing triple digits, averaged around 60-65, with wide variance. There were few extremely old people, less than we have seen on SS and SB cruises. The ship was immaculately maintained and had just finished a dry dock refurbishing. The only sign of wear and tear I saw was washed out faded text on the high tech light switches near the night stands in our suite, which made it difficult to tell what button did what until I had memorized the grid. There were no formal nights. Dress code was casual during the day (most people dressed elegant casual) and no tie or jacket was required at any venue event at night. At dinner, however, many men voluntarily chose to wear jackets to dinner in the Weltmeere (MDR) and four smaller dining rooms, but not in the most casual indoor/outdoor Yacht Club (YC) eating venue. Even there no one dressed like a slob, though one of the performers fancied jeans that intentionally had more holes than cloth. Most of the passengers were polite and stuck to themselves and their friends as is the German way, (Germans are not prone to chit chat with strangers, as is common on English language lines). There were a few rude and pushy characters (the types of which I have also seen on SB and SS, though with a different style of rudeness). Passengers always arrived early or at least punctually for talks, performances and excursions, as is still typical for Germans, they take pride in punctuality which also suits my style just fine. Most seemed to be reasonably fit, some were very fit. All but 22 of the pax were from German-speaking countries. At the gathering for international pax, I learned that even some of the latter had German relatives with them, or understood and/or spoke at least some German for various reasons. The international crew members that interact with passengers officially speak both German and English, but some (officers and front line administrative personnel) speak English much better than others. The lower position Filipino and other Asian crew, which includes some housekeepers and food servers in the YC who dish out food, typically spoke English better than German, which made it easy for English pax. All official announcements, menus, and programs were available in both German and English, and there was a friendly international hostess available. BOARDING We boarded at the Pier 90 NY cruise terminal, exactly at 16:00, as is the case for all HL cruises, there is no early boarding for any pax even in higher suites. The cruise director personally greeted all new pax. We showed our boarding cards that we had received a couple weeks before departure, boarded and then a photographer offered to take our picture with the traditional welcoming large stuffed bear, Captain Knopf. We each were offered a handywipe and a glass of Duval-Leroy champagne in the reception area, plus we found a half bottle of the same waiting for us chilled in the suite. Assorted tasty boarding appetizers were available at reception. Friendly and welcoming crew checked our passports after boarding. We did not have to produce a credit card, we just paid at the end of the cruise with credit or cash. Suites were not ready for another hour due to U.S. port authority inspection delays, not HL’s fault, so we explored the ship and had tea in the 9th deck upper Belvedere lounge in the bow during that time, looking out at NYC. When we got the call to go to our suites, we found the luggage piled up nearby in the hall and dragged it in. We did not see our stewardess at all the first day, much less before the 19:00 muster on the pool deck. I later learned many crew were busy dealing with U.S. Coast Guard members who were on board checking for terrorism risks, or at least filling out paperwork indicating they were doing so. We had to wear the life jacket to and at the pool muster, which lasted 20 minutes. There was a separate English language muster offered in a different area. The Grill at the aft 9th deck YC was open when we boarded, as it typically is between 12 and 5 (both during the lunch hours of 12:30-2, and after), and the bow 9th deck Belvedere coffee and tea lounge was also open in case you needed more than boarding appetizer., A pianist played soft tunes, then and on each day 4-5, at other times he played in the reception bar area. PUBLIC AREAS — the ship is stunningly beautiful, comfortable, uncrowded, and spacious. It has the highest reported space per passenger ratio on cruise ships, and it shows. It is easy to find a lounge chair, and the cushions are comfortable. I especially liked that dozens of the chairs on the pool deck 9 and the deck above it deck 10 face out towards the ocean where you are separate from any noise at the pool and can focus on the sounds of the sea. Other loungers faced the 15-meter pool, even more are on the roof deck lounges and outside the spa on deck 5 aft. You can also sit on a series of cozy covered day beds aft on Deck 10. The pool deck has a retractable roof, (Magradome) which got closed on cold days so people could still swim and lounge and hear bands in comfort. One thing I did not like is that the ambient temperature in the indoor public areas runs at least a couple degrees higher than on other luxury lines, because Germans fear air that is as cool as Americans and Brits usually like. There is still wide-spread belief, especially amongst older Germans, science notwithstanding, that AC and breezes lead to respiratory infections. Also, the indoor part of the YC, which is air-conditioned, was constructively often only partially air-conditioned, as crew typically left the door wide open to the outdoor part of the YC during lunch and dinner, thereby diminishing the power of the indoor AC. At lunch, unless weather outside was cool and a space was available under an umbrella, I therefore avoided the YC on hot days and went to a specialty restaurant, which had full AC and still had ocean views. The GYM and SPA are well-equipped and have ocean views. There is a 6-8 person capacity Jacuzzi tub (not very hot) in the front of the spa indoors that anyone can use 12 am to 6am, it looks out at the sea, and there are several saunas at different temperatures. Beware that some Germans choose to use the spa facilities naked so you may need to 'overt your eyes' if this bothers you and you happen to be there when they are there (when I was there I was alone, in a suit, though when my friend went, also in a swimsuit, she told me she encountered both an overweight naked old lady and two naked and definitely not overweight young performers getting in and out of the spa and open showers, they all ignored each other. Two bilingual personal trainers were on board, and offered misc. free fitness sessions, plus individual training options for a fee. There was also a bilingual bicycling expert who led biking excursions at ports. The outdoor jacuzzi, on the highest lounging deck on the roof, unfortunately, though in a magnificent location in the bow, is set to 28 degrees C, so it is not really a "hot” tub per se. The pool, which you can conveniently use any time you want including evenings or the middle of the night, is pleasant and warm, and has a reserved adults only hour in the morning and afternoon, plus a dedicated kids’ time hour each half-day, other times everyone is welcome. There are instructions daily in the program that at all times "respect should be shown to all.” The mostly German pax followed the rules, but if there are kids on board, I would not recommend attempting lap swimming during the one morning and one PM hour dedicated to kids having exuberant aquatic fun. LAUNDRY: there is no self-service laundry, but laundry fees are very cheap (e.g., 1 Euro for underwear, 2 Euros for a casual T shirt) and services provided were professional and per international laundry standards. You get laundry back the day after giving it out, 50% extra charge for same-day. There is also a clothesline over the bathtub for hand laundry. I had the seamstress repair a pair of trousers, she did very good work. ANNOUNCEMENTS — these were very limited as is typical of luxury lines, only twice a day, in both English and German, and you could turn the volume off in your suite. PHOTOGRAPHY — though photographers were available on board to chronicle the journey on a DVD, and occasionally offered to take pax pictures while pax entered the theatre, on boarding with the stuffed bear, etc., they were inobtrusive. You could hire a photographer to photograph you on your journey, if you liked, e.g., on excursions, etc. FOOD AND BEVERAGES were usually, though not always, good to very good in all venues except, surprisingly, Serenissima, the small Italian restaurant, where after two visits and attempts at six dishes between us, the only dish I thought outstanding this time was the porcini mushroom soup. However, tastes may vary. There was a wide variety of food offered in the casual YC buffet for lunch and dinner, a good choice for food adventure if you do not mind the buffet style of dining and dodging people carrying plates around, usually without easy access to assistance . We could see the menus for restaurants on the TV in advance each day, so if we were not going to a specialty restaurant we could decide whether to eat at the YC or the MDR. In the YC there were many different offerings of fresh salads, daily shellfish including lobster and crab, meats with and without sauces, fish with our without sauce (the ship did a good job with various fish varieties at the YC), grill options, many cheeses, and made-to-order pasta from a list of ingredients you can select (though heavy on tomato, eggplant, and olives), plus a couple daily pasta specials were offered if you could not decide. There is also an Italian ice cream bar, you can order with or without freshly whipped cream, usually six flavors available. The MDR had a more limited daily menu, with typically one or two special daily appetizers, entrees and dessert specials, plus the base a la carte menu which included lobster, fish, beef, duck, and vegetarian dishes, with various adorning sides and preparations, about 10 international entrees to choose from total each day not counting the 4 vegetarian options that seemed to remain the same most days. The MDR is closed at lunch, but three small dining venues (the Italian Serenissima, the French Taragon, and the Asian Elements, though not the Japanese Sakura) are open at lunch without reservation, never for an extra fee, and provide easy seating and good service because they are typically uncrowded at lunch. Most people are either on the go, skipping lunch, or grabbing a bite in the YC. Wine and beverages outside the suite besides coffees (including fancy coffees), iced teas, pool punches and special alcoholic offerings (which are quite frequent) are not included in the base fare, and even water has a small fee in dining rooms ( some English veteran luxury cruisers could find this troubling, even though prices are very reasonable and no signing or paperwork is required). We had a 400 Euro beverage credit for our suite (routine) to help take care of this. There are several hundred wines from various countries to choose from, many offered by the glass, or "Karaffe" which is 250cc, so you can get exactly what you want, or explore. You do not have to present your room card to order, or sign anything, unless you want to so you can add a tip (none is required, expected, or requested) or want to keep precise track of what you ordered on paper (I tracked my account on the TV and it was consistently accurate). The suite has a fridge with complimentary beer, juices, waters and soft drinks, (but no free wine, or free spirits as we had in the PH suite ), and can be customized to accommodate your tastes. There are many cocktail options available, (the usual and specialty) and many spirit selections (including several dozen gins), plus there was a complimentary gin tasting session. There are several bars. You can often order wine by the glass portions as small as 0.1 liters on many wines to assist with experimentation. You can also bring alcohol of your choice on board if you like, no fee, no cover, or order reasonably priced ship liquors delivered to your room, e.g., I paid 25 euros for a full bottle of Baileys, (compared with Oceania, where they wanted $100 for the same sized bottle). As it took over a half hour to get the Baileys delivered to the suite by a tired-appearing waiter, who did not bring ice with it, I tended not to order any drinks to the suite. At breakfast, orange and grapefruit juices were fresh-squeezed, not frozen. Eggs benedict made to order in the MDR were very good, best of any cruise ship. You could also get American style made to order waffles, bacon, eggs, and ham, or even goose liver pate at your MDR very civilized sit-down breakfast, (this was my favorite dining time and venue), on top of the extensive buffet. Breads at breakfast were abundant, and included everything from crispy little white breads (Broetchen) to hearty pumpernickel, though genuine baguette pieces were only offered in Taragon, the French restaurant. There were multiple cheeses and cold meats to choose from (though this cruise the meats centered around cruise-durable salami and prosciutto and after the second day my favorite style “gekochter Schinken” ham had disappeared) , smoked salmon, creamed herring, liverwurst, teewurst, veggies, fresh fruits, cereals and yoghurts were all at the breakfast buffet . Unfortunately, croissants were not the real thing, and though they were buttery enough, they were not fluffy and were probably thawed from a freezer sack rather than freshly baked (they were better on SB on our spring 2017 cruise in France, and on Oceania in Alaska). The steak at a “surf and turf” meal in the MDR was perfectly prepared, with prime juicy and tender meat. The kitchen also did amazing things with salmon, it was tender and flavorful, not dried out like we repeatedly experienced on Oceania on our Alaska cruise. The salmon offering in the YC early and late in the cruise could stand up to any upscale San Francisco or New York restaurant (we had eaten at The Modern in NYC prior to the cruise, for reference). The one meal we were able to eat in the "reservations required" Japanese dinner restaurant Sakura was phenomenal, frankly the best Japanese meal I ever had (and I live in an Asian neighborhood loaded with Japanese restaurants). The duck dish in Tarragon was excellent. I tried multiple cream soups in various venues which varied daily, all were very good, and I usually had to restrain myself from crudely tipping the bowl and loudly scraping out the last bits ( or I could have just ordered another bowl). New tuna steaks were picked up in Miami and new orders of salmon, prepare in different ways in Key West. One night near Charleston on our cruise, southern fare was offered with jambalaya, fried chicken, ribs, and a roasted pig. Waffles or strudel with fruit sauce was offered at the pool 3-5PM, popular with the younger and thinner set.. Cheeses were very good, but If you order a cheese plate at room service remember to also ask for crackers or bread, as they will not come automatically with the cheese, and if you want ice with your ordered beverages, specifically ask for it, or have your stewardess set it up daily, it is not routine. Nor is it routine to have iced waters at meals unless you ask for them. Goose liver pate is available to preorder to your room for room service breakfast every day, if you like. Neither the MDR nor the French Tarragon restaurants officially offered beef tartar except on one day, but you could ask for it. I did, it was fine though not as good as last time. Veal cutlet in Tarragon at lunch was juicy, flavorful. Oysters were available every day. Desserts were luxurious and often rich, e.g., Valrhona chocolate with orange zest was luscious, and appropriately small because by the time you got that far in your meal, you were full from eating good food. Lighter fares, vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options were available though more limited, but I would say much of the food here was not designed to help you live to 100, but rather to remember why life at any age on a luxury cruise is a celebration of good fortune and peace. Coffee was usually good (and I am fussy about it). There is a Nespresso machine in the suites with an offering of different strengths, to allow for early pre-breakfast caffeination prior to encounters with civilization. The Belvedere lounge also offers a couple dozen different loose leaf teas and a couple different strengths of coffees throughout the day (the captain’s coffee is robust and rich). Fresh fruit was brought to the suite daily and could be customized. For early risers and the restless who did not want to use their Nespresso machines, between 6 and 7AM there were Danish, juices, coffee and tea at the empty pool bar area. Unfortunately, though overall food was good, there were more misses on food items this trip than there were on my first E2 trip. I tried risotto twice, two different venues, both times it was tasteless. The pasta carbonara in Serenissima fell flat, compared with the spectacular carbonara I had on the MS Europa last year, and on the E2 the year before, which I frankly could have eaten daily. The escargots, tried twice two different ways, lacked flavor and proper decadence in the sauce, what I had on SB last spring was way better. Vegetarian options other than soups, which I greatly enjoyed on SB last spring as lighter fare, were not very interesting, a few exceptions. Tomatoes lacked flavor, as did asparagus, and too many dishes involved tomatoes or tomato based sauces in some way. Elements, the misc. Asian restaurant, had very good appetizers and soup, but our main dishes were either too hot (though marked with only 1 pepper on a scale of 0-3) or not very good. Breakfast pastries were ok for a ship, but always the same basic units. Caviar was on the menu one day in the MDR was a big blob placed on your dinner plate set next to a bit of beef tartar and spicy sausage. The waiter offered what were supposed to be white toastettes to go with it, but they were soggy, (I tried two different sets to rule out having gotten a bad batch, no luck). They had apparently absorbed moisture sitting out all day. No other accompaniments to the caviar were offered, e.g., no chopped egg, onion, blini, sour cream, special spoon, etc., as we had had our last E2 cruise. A couple mornings when coffee was poured in the MDR it was clear it had been sitting out a while and came from the bottom of a pot, so I sent it back. A red wine I liked and was fond of ordering by the Karaffe arrived one evening tasting as if it had been sitting out uncorked or unpreserved for a day or two. None of the pre-meal little “greetings from the kitchen” a la amuse-bouche at dinner this trip were memorable except a bite of quail. To be sure you secure specialty restaurant reservations for dinner, be sure and head straight to the restaurants after boarding to make your bookings, as annoyingly you cannot book them online before the cruise, and they can quickly fill up (highest level suites get priority though in theory everyone is entitled to dine at least once in each specialty restaurant at dinner). Fortunately specialty dining is unlimited at lunch, though with more limited menus, and unfortunately the wonderful Sakura is closed at lunch, so no mid-day Tempura for me. There are no extra fees for specialty dining, once you secure your reservation. I also recommend you be careful about the YC closing times — e.g., at lunch it is typically listed as open 12:30-2, but at 1:45 things start disappearing from the buffet, i.e., they start “abbauen”, and they may or may not give you warning, so you must unfortunately either watch the clock or grab what you can in advance if you start eating later in the window. I had similar experiences on SB last spring. What is nice, however, is that even though 12:30 may be the official opening time, unlike on SB and SS where the doors are locked, the doors are usually already open, so you can come early and find a nice seat before crowds come, there just won’t be any service until the official opening time. Dining hours varied a bit, but were generally: 6-7 AM pool juices, coffees, tea, and pastries; breakfast 7-9:30 or 10 in the YC and MDR (Weltmeere); and 10:30-2 late risers can get some smaller breakfast options in the Sansibar (including white sausages, quite tasty). Lunch in all venues was usually 12:30-2, the Grill at the YC was open 12-5 with fish, meat, vegetable, or sausage; afternoon tea had cakes and mini sandwiches in the Belvedere, dinner in YC was 6:30-9 and MDR 7-9:30, Sansibar offered late night snacks, and of course room service 24/7 had a limited menu of basics. So there was always a venue where you could get food other than at room service, even at odd late morning or mid-afternoon hours. SERVICE: In the beautiful and immaculate suite, service was thankfully respectful of privacy and do not disturb signs. No one charged into the room when I had the sign on, as they not uncommonly did on SB recently and on SS 2 years ago. Most days (not always, especially at the end) the room was cleaned within 2 hours of our putting out the “please clean room” sign. Our stewardess Katharina required a little guidance at first as to what we wanted, but she caught on quickly. We could tell when her assistant, Jacqueline, whom we never saw, was covering, as then things would be done oddly and required reminders. The lever to switch between bathtub and shower mode in the tub was extremely stiff when we arrived, (even with two hands I could not lift it while sitting in the tub) and it required a couple reminders to Katharina to call someone to fix it. This was followed by a debate with an Asian crew repairman who spoke poor English and even worse German and who initially tried to pass the stiffness off as “normal” to us two presumptively tech-ignorant women, to convince him it was not functioning as intended. I told him I had bathed in hundreds of bathtubs around the world during my travels and I was confident it was not working as smoothly as it should. Finally, we got it fixed ( i.e., he reluctantly replaced the unit). Room service for a couple pre-excursion breakfasts arrived close to the requested time, and was fine, though with cold but still crisp bacon once, and no salt/pepper or butter were on the tray when we had ordered an egg dish and a bread basket which was supposed to include butter. I had requested foam toppers for the beds before the cruise, and they were there. I had requested extra bath towels always be there, which required periodic reminders when a couple would disappear after cleaning back to the base of 3, or hand towels would not appear at all, but generally with persistence we got things set up as we wanted. Toilet paper was in the German style (a bit rough, but always ready). A troubling negative was that the crew appeared understaffed at the lower levels, a trend now possibly extending from SB, SS and Crystal to HL. Many (certainly not all) maids, bar personnel, and dining area workers looked tired, disinterested and overworked in the warm weather, and this was new since my last E2 cruise. In the MDR and YC , unless you came right at opening, getting drink orders or wine refills could often take longer than ideal. Once we waited 30 minutes before a friendly though busy waitress in the YC came over to take our drink order, as staff were so busy running around they did not think to look around to be able to see us trying to wave to them to order, average wait until wine got ordered and came was 15 minutes. This is one downside to the absence of all-inclusive wines, e.g., there are no waiters immediately coming up to you to offer the generic white or red of the day so you have something to sip immediately. There is no hostess to greet you when you come into the YC to help you find a seat and acknowledge you have come, which compounds the initial drink ordering difficulty (unlike on other luxury lines’ most casual venues where staff help you find a seat during crowded times). We also saw more delays in the clearing of dirty plates than previously, a minor problem to us, but some people care about this. Once a waitress spilled water she was pouring into my glass onto the tablecloth. After checking if I’d gotten wet, (no) instead of replacing the tablecloth, she took a rag and dabbed up the excess water, apparently to save time, then ran off. YC and MDR staff more frequently abruptly interrupted conversations than they did on prior cruises (when busy, just interrupting talking pax rather than waiting for an appropriate pause saves them time) and there were more “plate-snatching” or close call encounters than before, due to rushing and busy staff, though staff usually asked if we were done before removing plates. They definitely need more staff people at peak hours in the dining venues, and based on the tired faces, also in the housekeeping department. Even in the small Serenissima, at peak dinner dining time it took 25 minutes from the time I sat down until I received a sip of wine, due to wine service delays, (a separate person takes your wine order, another does your food, and sometimes others did delivery, so there was some confusion), e.g., appetizers were not uncommonly already on the table, but we still had no wine. I started having negatively conditioned Pavlovian responses to the idea of ordering wine and getting refills, more often than not an ongoing battle at the rate I initially consume my first bits of mealtime wine (my friend was a slow sipper so it did not bother her). I would have preferred if they had just left the wine bottles on the tables for self-service refills rather than make me get aggravated trying to locate the wine girl each time I wanted a refill, but staff tend to resist that idea as it is not considered luxury and makes them look bad (to whom, I am not sure, though a couple times I insisted on keeping the bottle on the table as they looked very busy and I was tired of delays). Things were a bit better the two nights we came for an early dinner, and if I were routinely an early diner and sat in the same place, problems might be less apparent. The bartenders also often looked tired, at least the few times when I came, and were very slow and casual with their mixing. They also answered phones, talked to other staff, talked to passersby pax they knew (and who perhaps tipped?) and did other things while our drink orders were pending for 15-25 minutes. After initial delivery, except in the Sansibar, they rarely came and asked if I wanted another drink. When we came into Club2 one evening during a performance and sat near the front, the two Filipino bartenders in back just ignored us the whole hour, chatting amongst themselves, and no one came around either to offer drinks toour empty table. At the end my friend, new to HL and not a demanding person, quipped to me, “For a bar, this sure is a pretty dry place.” The topper was the last day of the cruise, when at 4:15 PM my friend and I went to the reception area bar for a farewell cocktail. There were two bartenders behind the counter, and no pax. One had a bucket on the counter with dirty rags he was washing and wringing out, and the “oh no” scowl on his face when he saw us coming was indescribable. He said nothing, glaring at us while wring out a rage, and we paused a bit, but he ignored us, so we turned to the other reluctant bartender who was lining up champagne bottles. We ordered, and he brought the drink 15 minutes later. We saw him reading up on it in a book (it is one of the E2’s featured cocktails), answered phones, etc. He did not ask if we wanted refills. I would likely have spent twice as much as I did on various alcohols on this cruise in various venues if it were not such a battle to secure orders and refills. The worst two incidents of non-luxury service were in the MDR at dinner. One evening at 8:15 the greeting host waiter was overtly hostile and sarcastic and uninterested in trying to find us a suitable table when the dining room was full ( part of it was closed off, which did not help with availability). The wonderful hotel manager, Katja Klar, stepped in to easily resolve the problem, because she was customer oriented, and she did not look or act tired even if she might have been. Another evening a young German waiter (Philip) was physically literally pulling on a plate of soup he was trying to take away from me after an initial order mixup when two dishes arrived (the wrong one and the right one), and I had then said I would prefer to just eat both. He firmly insisted that I was only allowed to have one appetizer, not two, and *had to choose* (!), so that is why he tried to pull one plate away from my hand (BTW it is not correct that you are only allowed one appetizer — you can eat five or six or more, if you like). I was too tired to go complain about him, he probably came from service in a German hotel where it was his job to make sure guests did not get more than they were entitled to, and HL did not properly educate him. I did comment on the understaffing and inadequate training in my final written commentaries about the cruise. Once early in the cruise when I went for tea and asked for the tea menu, the tired-looking waitress did not see one handy to grab, so she instead just asked what general kind I wanted, apparently uninterested in going to find the menu so I could choose from the array, she just wanted to be done with it. On afternoons, there is a dead zone between 12 and 5 when you cannot book excursions, book private cars, complete photo orders, or do much of anything else related to ports because no one is on duty for those functions. Reception often doesn’t answer the phone during that time even though they are physically there 24/7 because they are busy dealing with walk-ups, and there was no reception answering machine for messages, the phone just rings and rings if no one answers. It is “off” time for crew who work on excursions booking. Restaurant booking is also shut after 2PM (bookings must be done at each restaurant separately), and unless you are in a higher suite with a butler who can take care of restaurant booking for you (like we had on our first E2 cruise), you have to resume your pursuits later even though afternoons is when you have time to conveniently do things. Reception, if you reach it, will just politely tell you you have to wait until they open 5-8 to book your excursion or a private car for a port, they will not pass on messages, i.e., they tell you to check at the Touristik center, which takes no messages either. Predictably, people then line up right at opening as they want to finish so they can get ready for dinner and the evening. Fortunately, I had pre-booked most of my excursions before the cruise, on-line, but for unclear reasons you cannot pre-book specialty restaurants or spa appointments until you are on board, perhaps to allow flexibility for higher suite pax, or to avoid having to deal with multiple cancellations. In my opinion SB did a better job by having SB Square personnel available all day, where people could go with a variety of problems and crew would be there almost all hours to deal with issues. Dining room crew and others do not typically address you by your name, as they often did on SS or SB. They also do not offer their arms to guide you to the tables. I did not care at all about this (and actually dislike arm-offering except on stormy sea days), though some used to being greeted on luxury lines may miss it if they cruise on HL. If one always went to the same area of the dining room, at the same time, staff might get to know you and recognize you, but we tended to vary our times of dining depending on the ports, and usually just cared about getting our wines, refills, and food as ordered at a table that was not at one of the uncomfortable upright seating options they have near the front of the MDR. The night before disembarkation, we had received information in the program that our suites should be vacated by 9AM, and planned accordingly. At 6:20 AM, while my friend was still sleeping, I left the suite with the Do Not Disturb sign still on to go to reception to clarify a minor error, with intent to return and then get ready for breakfast. As I left the suite with just my room key in hand, a very young Asian housekeeper I had never seen immediately approached me in the hall and said, “Can we make beds?” I said “no, we are still using the suite and are not yet ready to leave”. She persisted, “But can we make the beds now?” I replied, “No, because my friend is still *in* the bed!” She seemed very disappointed, apparently keen on changing the beds up for the next guests, but relented. When I returned at 6:30, she and other housekeepers were hovering in the hallways outside suites, some were vacuuming and chatting, and on the deck two guys were already aggressively mopping our veranda with soap and water splashed all over the place, so you could forget about a goodbye cup of coffee on your balcony prior to disembarkation. When we then went to breakfast in the MDR at 8 (the program indicated open hours of 7-9 that day), the waiter at the entryway had a look of great horror and disgust on his face as we arrived, though he quickly got a grip and then assumed a professional manner. We already had our hot dish and drink orders in mind, anticipating we would need to keep things moving on the last day, and he seemed relieved to get them over with. I noticed some favoritism towards known pax (or perhaps expensive suite pax , as with one couple I frequently saw and whose high suite status I knew) e.g., more time spent by staff talking and interacting, more details given about specials, more attentive service at dinner, etc., providing them with window seating even if they came later than us where it is supposed to be first come first serve, etc., but I have seen this on all luxury lines I have cruised with to varying degrees so it is not unique to HL. Owners suite pax can also reserve tables in the YC and daybeds at the pool, and of course pay very high suite fares. There was a raffle held on behalf of the crew at the end of the cruise, 5 Euro a ticket, the equivalent of a crew fund on other lines. Prizes were an E2 construction digit, a pocketknife, or a towel that said E2. You signed a log at reception after purchase of your tickets indicating how many you had bought. I was among the first 10 to sign on, and noticed one man had bought 300 tickets. Before me on the list, most people had bought 5 or 10, and let’s just say I bought more. The final result of the auction was 2800 Euro, so if you subtract the exuberant 300 ticket guy, it appears most people either gave nothing in extra tips (as service is officially all “included”), tiny amounts, or just tipped individual crew, unknown. In sum, overall service on the cruise was still very good, but there were not infrequent non-luxury experiences. I think they are understaffed and also have some inadequately trained personnel. INTERNET This was slow, and cost 0.19 Euro a minute, with no unlimited plan. I understand ship internet will be slow, but when it is often very slow, there should be an unlimited plan available for purchase, as SB had for $399 for the cruise, otherwise you are paying 0.19/minute for not much yield as you watch the gears grind. It did at least actually work in our suite, unlike on SB on our last cruise in the spring where it only worked at SB Square (we were in suite 625 on the Quest, Barcelona to Dover). I therefore used it very sparingly and as we were in American ports most days, I just used my unlimited cellular service in port for surfing and major downloads and uploads. HL does, however, offer tablets in the suites for basic free email functions, games, and ship info, I did not use the HL tablet. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES There was a nicely done get-together for English speakers with champagne with refills in Sansibar and high quality appetizers including caviar on crackers. An international hostess and other staff were there to make English speaking guests feel welcome. There was a get-together of doctor passengers who met with the ship’s doctor for an hour for friendly chats and story-telling, e.g., one passenger had to be removed on the first day due to acute pancreatitis. The 24/7 doc sees 30 people/day, half of whom are crew. There is one nurse. If you want dialysis while cruising, HL will secure services of a nephrologist on board. Bridge tours were offered on two days, AM and PM sessions, They were informative, and casual (come and go as you please) with both the captain and an officer there. Of course they speak English, as do most nautical officers. There was an artist on board showing his paintings of NY, and there were sessions where you could be taught to paint, I did not go but saw it in the program. I saw space for a cooking school, but no offer for a cooking class. There is no trivia playing in any language, but the daily program suggested you try and contact reception if you were interested in finding a chess or bridge partner. There were free gin tasting sessions (though staff mixed up the date I had initially ordered, then again pushed it back, twice), and for a high fee wine tasting of CA wine was offered (I skipped that as I live surrounded by CA wineries) , and for a high fee tasting of French champagne was also available. There was a lecturer who talked in German a few times about the history of the areas we were visiting and also about excursion options. He had a few of his facts wrong, e.g., claimed U.S., Prohibition started in 1912 when it actually started in 1920, claimed the Emancipation Proclamation was written at the end of the Civil War when it was actually written earlier, claimed the Bahamians are the most educated people in the Americas including the U.S. and Canada when that is not at all the case, and even claimed that since George Washington the U.S. never had a president who was elected more than two times (I guess he forgot about FDR). I was worried that correcting a German speaker who was presented as an expert, even privately, e.g., that it would be considered rude so I said nothing, and I doubt the captivated German pax cared about these inaccuracies. There were also a couple lectures for English pax which I saw a few English speakers attended, one topic was the last election. The topic of Trump popped up not infrequently on the ship and on excursions. Once I did not hear the entire talk, just a little bit while hovering at the door, when the speaker lectured that the last presidential election was not about blacks vs. whites but he opined that what separated voters was that some people see racism as a problem, and others or both races do not (sic). Theatre entertainment consisted of "The Tap Factor” (two talented women and two men doing complex tap dancing), which was fun, but they gave only two performances. We also had "Vintage Vegas”, which consisted of an odd trio, a German-raised Pole, Italian, and Brasilian in tuxedos and shiny shoes doing energetic but, to me, exhausting Sinatra old style music, and some original songs e.g., one called "I have a hangover” but most popular covers like “All of me” and “The Lady is a Tramp” plus a few of their own, almost all in English. They did two theatre shows plus a pool party. The crowd loved them, and for what they were trying to do they did a good job, but it was not my favorite style. There were other politically oriented talks by a couple Germans, both afternoons, and in the evening as the major “entertainment” event. I attended one with my friend, the content of which sounded like articles from the NYT and Washington Post. There was also a retired news guy and author who had once lived in Greenwich village, who fancied himself an expert on American culture, and who read excerpts from his book. Even most of the excursion guides inserted the most popular and expected political commentary about current American politics during their discourses in German, perhaps they thought such comments would endear them to Europeans. One night we also had a guest talented American singer doing blues songs in the small nightclub venue Club2, wearing a flapper dresser, accompanied by the ship’s talented band. The band had a woman on drums and another with muscular arms on sax, and half were from France. Many evenings there was no separate show in the theatre, either just the welcome, goodbye, political talk about US or Germany, or nothing at all e.g., the nights after boarding when we had two nights in NY, and nothing when we had an overnighter in Miami. But there was the lobby piano player, and little bands at the pool or Sansibar. It was opportunity for crew to see the cities, so was understandable.. So all in, there were only four nights with formal music or dance shows in the theatre, two with tap and two with Vintage Vegas, neither of which used Iive orchestras, but there was always music at night available somewhere, either in the Pool Bar, Sansibar, or Club2, and both lady singers (Brigitte Guggenbichler in particular) in the bands were talented and expressive as they sang English language popular songs to tiny audiences. There are in-suite movies on TV, both German and English, but no BBC, CNN or any English language TV news, you just get the ship USA Times delivered for news, or connect to the Internet. A limited selection of music was available (not much classical, surprisingly) to pipe in. The TV remote broke once, but the handy Katharina reset it, we had service most of the trip. SMOKING I do not recommend this ship for people who are extremely smoke sensitive. Though smoking is restricted to certain venues, some smoke periodically leaks out so you will likely experience some smoke here and there at some time on the cruise. Smoke from the Collins indoor smoking lounge often drifted out to the area near the theatre, as people often left the door open to the hall, and on the Vintage Las Vegas night it drifted into the theatre, which also had the door open (it crossed my mind it may have been deliberate, to create an old Vegas aura, but it was not). Smoke from the pool bar smoking area also wafts into non-smoking areas near the pool especially when the Magrodome is closed, and some drifts from outside smoking tables in the outdoor YC smoking area to non-smoking areas even though it is outside, especially if the ship is stationary. Our suite neighbors were smokers, as I learned when I briefly smelled their veranda smoke, three times the whole trip, and care more about their loud voices than their smoke. The only time smoke bothered me was when it came into the stuffy theatre one night, but I know others are more sensitive. Most of the time smoke was not apparent as the ship is mostly non-smoking. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS Some were offered in German only, one in English in each port, some were offered in both languages. It may be best for English-speakers to book an "only English" tour, or on your own if a tour is dubbed bilingual, to avoid hearing everything in two languages. Another consideration is that the Germans fear they will get sick if the AC on buses is running the way Americans expect AC to run, so they are prone to indignantly getting out of their seats to go tell the tour guide to demand the driver turn off the AC or at least turn it way, way down. My friend and I were the only ones who declared we liked it just as it was, cool, when the guide asked if we were comfortable, but no one else agreed, so we were overridden and resigned to sweat a bit on what were fortunately short drives. Two days later we heard one of the most indignant anti-AC Germans from the bus (one of several who liked to wear stylish brightly colored red or orange trousers during the day) still complaining at dinner to a dining companion about the time of the bus ride with the AC that was so cold, declaring “for heaven’s sake, people could have gotten sick!” , so it must have been very traumatic for him. Most Germans also fear breezes, even if they are warm breezes, e.g. “es zieht” (it is drafty) is a common complaint. We did excursions in Baltimore (to Mt. Vernon and DC, though I had been there before it was interesting seeing more from a new tourist perspective), Port Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center, an amazing place, highly recommended), and two in Miami (city tour plus a wild speedboat ride, great fun — there really was a huge breeze when the boat driver opened it up, so perhaps these were special Germans who never say “es zieht”) . We also toured the fantastic Villa Vizcaya (which has AC)). The excursions ran smoothly, and were well-organized by the E2 staff, though most of the port-based guides could not resist inserting political or other commentary which was either factually incorrect or inappropriate for a tour guide. However, what the guides say is not HL’s fault, e.g., they cannot help it if a Hungarian born guide complained to pax about how awful life has been for him in the U.S. since he immigrated there in 1991, or if a German-born guide in Miami who lived in the U.S. conveyed misinformation that in Florida up through the 1990’s state government still officially sponsored and sanctioned Jim Crow style school apartheid DISEMBARKATION Flawlessy organized and easy, no problems whatsoever. SUMMARY I enjoyed the cruise, and would sail with the E2 again on the right itinerary if I can get a reservation. Given my preference for cooler public areas than Germans like, I will definitely avoid the E2 in hot parts of the world. New cruisers to HL, if they can afford it, might prefer to book a higher level suite, e.g., PH, to have the butler available to help with table booking and deal with other bumps on the cruising road. I rated the cruise 4/5 instead of 5/5 as before because I am a little concerned about the service and food differences between this cruise and the holiday cruise 2015-2016 where there was nothing significant to complain about, specifics noted above. I provided relevant feedback in my cruise commentary at the end of the cruise (no mid-cruise questionairre was offered) and though I did speak up as appropriate as incidents came up, staff are very busy and the cruise was short. I did not want to spend what little free time I had setting up official complaint appointments like I did on SB last spring after an egregious incident. I hope the service changes I noted are not a sign of an ongoing downward trend. I also hope the MS Europa sister ship, which I am scheduled to sail on for my next cruise and which was absolutely wonderful September 2016, has not had similar declines in service quality. Ultimately one has to compare with what other luxury lines offer in the modern era, e.g., SB, SS, Crystal, Le Ponant, and soon also Scenic. Also, given the limited number of English country pax on this “international” ship and HL’s ability to fill their ships in advance with mostly Germans, (who per my friend and my experience tend not to be as discerning about what real luxury is supposed to be and are more willing to take things as they come — other than when it comes to AC), things may not change for the better until HL crew become unwilling to continue working as hard as they do for the wages they currently get. Other than the possible explanation that service is indeed on a slightly downward trend at HL, other variables that might explain the difference between now and before are: 1. On my first E2 cruise I was in a higher level suite, a PH suite with my husband. So overall, as the staff know your suite number as soon as you order drinks if they do not already remember you, low suite status may have created some negative bias when things were busy. Also, the butler can relieve you from having to deal with working to properly secure and time excursion, dining room, and spa reservations, and is more available for dealing with service issues. 2. my first cruise was a holiday cruise, so maybe the crew were on their best behavior as a result, plus extra money was spent per diem on food and entertainment then 3. I was cruising with my husband on my first E2 cruise, rather than a female friend, and in my experience traveling it never hurts as far as getting better service goes for a woman to have a man with her, especially when there are complaints. The E2 provides an alternative small ship luxury experience, with beautiful facilities, usually excellent food, interesting itineraries including overnights, and tremendous amounts of space per passenger. I hope she maintains her standards, and improves in the areas noted. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We were on the Europa2 from Curacao to Havana Suite 669. This is a relatively small ship, beautifully designed with open spaces and many artworks decorating the walls. Cabins are spacious and include a dressing room and/or a separate ... Read More
We were on the Europa2 from Curacao to Havana Suite 669. This is a relatively small ship, beautifully designed with open spaces and many artworks decorating the walls. Cabins are spacious and include a dressing room and/or a separate toilet and all come with a balcony. The ship offers a culinary experience with 7 top class restaurants to choose from, ranging from Japanese, Asian, French to Italian. Most personnel is quite young, extremely friendly and helpful and bilingual German/English. The atmosphere is relaxed: no formal nights and only a jacket is desirable for gentlemen at dinner. There is no daily service charge and there is an opportunity given to visit the bridge. Embarkation went very smoothly and the welcome included a well-staged reception with champagne. Medical service was excellent. For all these cruising aspects I would rate it 5+. Where it faltered a bit, at least on this trip, is the entertainment section that was nearly exclusively musical (although it included a well appreciated classical concert) and the lectures which were well below par for the English speaking passengers because they were given in Gerglish and lacked inspiration. As we were on a group tour with its own shore excursions I cannot really comment on those, although other non-German speaking passengers complained about the language and the price/quality of the tours (perhaps partly due to the generally limited highlights in the islands visited – Cuba excepted). Overall I would rate it a solid 5 if you are German, Austrian or Swiss and a 4.5 for those not so Goethe minded. Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
This was my first cruise with Hapag-Lloyd’s “most beautiful yacht in the world,” the MS Europa, 13 nights, Lisbon to Nice. I had previously cruised with my husband on the more modern, and advertised as bilingual, HL ... Read More
This was my first cruise with Hapag-Lloyd’s “most beautiful yacht in the world,” the MS Europa, 13 nights, Lisbon to Nice. I had previously cruised with my husband on the more modern, and advertised as bilingual, HL Europa 2 on a Christmas/New Years cruise December 2015 (see my CC review, Cape Town to Cape Town) and had greatly enjoyed that, which led to my interest in the Europa. I am comparing this cruise with the dozen or so other mostly luxury cruises I have been on, including with Silversea, Regent, Seabourn, and (briefly) Crystal. I did this cruise solo. I also wrote a detailed “live" thread about this cruise on CC, with pictures of accommodations and ports and commentary. Below is the link to it, though if it does not work as a link, you can just cut and paste it into google. You can also find the review on CC under the “special interest cruising” forum, subforum “luxury cruising”, “Hapag Lloyd MS Europa”, then go to where the thread is called “Live from the MS Europa Lisbon to Nice September 2016” http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2399633 CLASSICAL MUSIC: This was a special classical music cruise, the annual Ocean Sun Festival, with renowned classical musicians on board, which is why I picked it. However, my understanding from staff on-board is that classical music is also offered on almost every MS Europa cruise, though not generally as part of a festival. There was a one-hour long classical music performance almost every day (different artists at varying times, opera voices, piano, cello, string quartet). It was an exceptional pleasure to be able to hear these outstanding musicians in such a small venue, up close and personal, with very good acoustics in the Europa Lounge, the main entertainment venue, and just hearing them in such an intimate venue was worth the price of the cruise to me. The excellent Spanish ballet flamenco dancers, Istacion, also performed. For those not classically inclined, “Mr. Rod”, a Rod Stewart tribute singer, also did two shows (not my thing so I will not comment). GERMAN: NOTE THIS IS A GERMAN LANGUAGE SMALL LUXURY SHIP, but with appropriate expectations, pax can comfortably get by if they speak no German other than “ja,” “nein” , “danke”, and “bier”. The ship holds 400 passengers, and we were about 80% full, 44 solos. The solos were overwhelmingly women, and like the rest of the pax, were mostly over 70, and spoke either no or very limited English. Pax demographics were overwhelmingly people from German-speaking countries, with varying apparent educational backgrounds, with only a handful of children, who mostly belonged to on-board performers. Staff informed me there may be more children during summer and holidays but the sister ship, Europa 2, tends to target families and on average younger people more than the Europa . German was the only official language on board, but key information is also available in English. Only very important safety and “must know now” information was announced on the overhead in both German and English. Muster was offered in both German and English, (held separately). All ship organized shore excursions were only in German, though always accompanied by a crew member from the tourist office who could if needed, translate into English key information (like where and when to meet back at the bus, if all you wanted to do is use the ship’s excursion bus to get to and from a venue with guaranteed return time and then explore on your own). I would probably not recommend that non-German speakers who are not at least partial German understanders go on the excursions that involve guided walking tours or tours that involve a lot of standing around listening to the local guide say things in German if you want to get the full benefit of the excursion. The commentary, sometimes long, prior to the playing of the musical numbers and other organized ship events was also only in German, but of course music can speak for itself. Menus are translated into English by the international hostess if she knows English-speakers are on board, and customized help is available for excursion planning from the English-speaking international hostess or from the tourist/excursion personnel. Note that sometimes the menus may be awkwardly translated (e.g., "rabbit meatball" written in German got translated into “balls of rabbits” which conjures up some odd images) but generally looked fine. There was also one more serious glitch I heard about from the 3 Brits on board, who did not timely get disembarkation information and their color-coded luggage tags, (though they still safely got off on time with their luggage, no near-miss) so if you book this ship, you should be proactive and periodically check in with the international hostess or other staff to always make sure you have what you need. Pre-boarding ABC’s of the ship and travel documents are mailed out in English and your travel agent can work with Hapag Lloyd to assure smooth sailing and communication. The front-line staff including waiters also spoke English, as did the ship’s doctor, though to varying degrees, but frankly better than many of the staff I encountered on Silversea in the dining rooms and suites. If you book, you can also ask in advance to be seated where the assigned waiter is particularly proficient in dining room English (there is one named David who is outstanding), and you can also ask for a table for just you and your English-speaking party. 2 Brits were initially misasigned a table for 6, which meant they would almost certainly be sitting with other Germans, but when they complained the first day, it was immediately changed to a two-top. My trip documents, information about the ship, information in my suite when I embarked, and the TV station in the suite were also in English or set to English language information, (though when I toggled back and forth between the German and English TV menus to anticipate what I would eat that night, I noticed the English menus were often out of date, though never in the dining room at dinner — the Brits told me they never looked at the TV menus so had not noticed). The current entertainment host Randall Cooper is an American ex-pat for 30 years, a native of San Francisco , though I am not sure how long his commitment is to that position. The many Filipino basic staff on board for the most part not surprisingly seemed to speak better English than German, and the officers and upper level staff also speak very good English. My stewardesses were from Ukraine and Philippines and spoke better English than German. However, despite the ease of English communication with staff and the fact that as noted one can more than get by as an English-speaker, there were only 4 people on board registered from English-speaking countries, so if you think you will need a lot of English-speaking company besides whoever you will be traveling with to be happy while cruising, you might get lonely on this ship. On the Europa 2, held out as an international bilingual ship, there were only 12 guests from non-German countries, out of 516 pax. One issue that could be important to English-speaking pax is the fact that the general nature of most Germans (which they themselves openly acknowledge, even in a HL promo-film about the Europa 2) is to be relatively reserved with strangers, even among other Germans, and mind their own business. It generally takes more than the duration of a cruise to get familiar without being rude. Though some may be curious about strangers (especially foreigners) most simply do not show curiosity, and thus will not pry into questions about who you are, or your life, and you should not pry too much into questions about theirs, especially not straight off. There is of course a spectrum of behavior. Roughly generalizing, but confirmed by my native German friends when I ran my theories by them, is that friendliness with strangers depends to some degree on age (less so with older people), region of origin in Germany (more friendly if from the southern areas) and alcohol intake, but the mean of behavior clearly gravitates more to a stick-to-yourself style, especially with only casual contact such as occurs on cruises. Both here and even on the Europa 2, the pax generally did not search out others to talk to, or even expect to introduce themselves at venues. For example, at the get-together for solos I went to where roughly 20 people showed up (already a pre-selected more social group), though all sat in a circle of sorts drinking free champagne and eating caviar snacks, the moderator did not ask people to introduce themselves, much less where they were from. It was just suggested that the purpose of the get-together was that if you see someone in the hall later in the cruise whom you met that day, you would know it is a fellow solo when you say hello, and then after that and more champagne a few people did indeed talk amongst themselves a little about themselves. If you do try to socialize with them, e.g., if you know some German or are trying to find out if they speak any English, I would suggest you not try and go first-name straight off, i.e., do not introduce yourself with your first name only, which would imply you want to know their first name and that could be perceived as rude. On the cruises at the tables both crew and most pax addressed each other as “Herr ___ “ and “Frau __” or “Frau Doctor ___” or “Herr Professor ____” etc. and used the third person formal “Sie” instead of the familiar “Du” even after two weeks (you need permission to use “Du” so be careful), At my wetlands and paella-eating excursion I got seated with 5 Germans who at first asked nothing about each other, much less about me though I stuck out in several ways, and only vaguely talked about the nice surroundings and the food, and it was not until after about 45 minutes of sangria-drinking that we found out one couple was from Bavaria, but not much else. Then at the 1.25 hour mark during dessert and the third pitcher someone asked me where I had come from (probably because it was clear I was not from anywhere near Bavaria), and I told them. This led the Bavarians to describe how they had done a Holland America cruise a few years ago out of Los Angeles as the only Germans on board and they were appalled at how American cruiser women they saw wore so many shiny rings (I guiltily glanced at my ruby-based wedding ring), were always curious asking where people were from (I was happy I had not been the first to ask), smiled all the time (this was perceived as bad and fake) were too familiar by using first names (I knew better than to say my first name, or any name), and how awful it was that within less than 30 minutes of conversation they heard about the Americans’ jobs, diseases, etc. In short, I would say to be safe, if you are going to try and socialize with other pax, especially the older ones (which is most on this ship) go slow, give the alcohol time to get absorbed, and ask permission to ask something before you ask. In addition, there were a few (definitely not most) pax who were more than reserved but actually rude, e.g., one pushed himself ahead of me at the reception desk, another snatched away the cheese plate at an excursion sit-down that had been set in front of me by waiters because I was sitting at the end to then pass around, before I had a chance to take my piece, and did the same thing when the sausage plate came, when the wine came, etc. But of course we have also seen rude pax on other luxury lines (see e.g., my SB Norway cruise review from July regarding some of the pax with intrusive selfie sticks, price arguers, etc). The overall personality difference with Americans, Brits, and Aussies, at least of older Germans, not just the language, is likely a factor in deterring some English pax, but if you are fine with sticking to yourselves anyway even on an English language ship, or dislike excessive cruise ship intra-pax familiarity, or bounce back quickly from minor insults, there would be no problem. When English-speaking pax went ashore, they either explored the towns on their own, or booked private tours. I should add, however, that with one exception all the crew were very pleasant with the Brits and me, more so than on Europa 2, though this cruise was not 100% booked so they likely had more time. LUXURY, SPACIOUS FACILITIES AND EXCELLENT SERVICE. Service, in suites and in dining venues, was, in short, next to flawless. Reception desk, tourist desk, captain and his staff, the doctor, all key staff were, with one exception, outgoing people. Even the one exception was not surly, just vaguely disinterested. My suite (a Veranda 4 on deck 5) was spacious and comfortable with a soft bed, comfortable couch and muted beige themed decor, walk-in closet, comparable in size to current base suites on the Seabourn Odyssey or Silver Spirit. However, the beds are in the German style, which is 2 separate, close together individual single mattresses with separate bedding, they are not fused in the middle, this of course has pros and cons. The spacious balcony had one adjustable lounger, a table, and two upright chairs, all with cushions, and a glass barrier. The mini-bar had free soft drinks, juices and beer which were replenished to your specifications daily. No free wine, no free hard liquor, no coffee machine like the Europa 2 had (I ordered coffee room service, which arrived within 15 minutes of calling on all but one day, or at a set time I ordered the night before). All wine and hard liquor and cocktails, and even bottled water in the dining rooms at lunch and dinner, except on special event days, is charged for extra, but with only modest mark-ups. There are literally several hundred bottles of quality international wines on board, a few dozen available in 0.1 liter and 0.25 liter portions, for sampling or lighter drinkers. I prefer this to the somewhat disingenuous “all-inclusive” approach of SS and SB and Regent, where of course none of these things are really free and you land up paying up front and then have battles over whether the included wines are good enough. I had fun exploring many new and wonderful wines. Staff will save leftover wine for you for the next day (I found this less and less likely to happen as the cruise went on), with proper recorking procedures, if you want, or reliably deliver leftovers to your suite ( as opposed to having it disappear, as happened to me on SS a few times). You do not have to sign for anything or show a card when you order drinks. You just verbally tell the barman what you want, give your suite number, and the barman or waiter takes care of the rest, simple honor system (they know who you are). If you want a receipt then and there, or want to add a tip (not required but not rejected either and absolutely not solicited), you can ask for a written bill. Otherwise your verbal orders will just appear on your on-TV account (set it to the English station), very simple, and I found only one error on my composite overall on-board account during my cruise which was immediately and courteously fixed. Boarding was flawless, but precisely at 4, with welcoming champagne and snacks, and we sailed at 6, so there was no lunch option on the somewhat hectic embarkation day. HL provides pre-cruise and post-cruise holding areas at a hotel. There was more than ample space for pax in all venues, the main and Lido dining rooms, pool area even on hot days, lounge chairs, and entertainment venues. Most bars were sparsely populated most of the day, including the new, non-smoking beautiful Gatsby’s bar and lounge. Bartenders are friendly and competent in two (or more) languages. Late at night, even though the lounge pianist and the on-board lounge band with skilled musicians (including a terrific saxophonist) played, the bars were mostly deserted as people went to bed early, except for way on top of the ship some people hung out in the small Sansibar and seemed to debate politics a lot, I preferred Gatsby. But if you wanted to dance, the floors were yours, as most just did not dance, some like me with musculoskeletal problems were happy to just be able to stroll around, and others were in wheelchairs (the ship BTW is very disability friendly, I saw great attention given to the pax in wheelchairs or using crutches, including help at tea-time to get cakes from the wonderful pastry display. And if you need dialysis, even that can be arranged, they bring in a nephrologist, for a fee of course). Also, very important to me, the “do not disturb” sign was invariably honored and the phone at reception was answered in less than a minute if not at once. SMOKING: There is a separate dedicated smoking lounge, the Havana bar, and there are limited designated smoking areas, but note it is also allowed on outside balconies and a section of the atrium bar, so if you are super sensitive about smoke anywhere at any time, this ship is not for you. Not many people smoked, but I did catch a whiff of smoke here and there when I passed if the door to Havana was left open (not sure why it was), which did not bother me as it was minimal and transient, I am not presently asthmatic, and based on my ongoing review of the literature relating to second-hand smoke and other information, I am quite confident I am going to die of illnesses unrelated to minuscule exposures to second-hand smoke. I encountered more smoke from people in the ports than on the ship, e.g., France bothered even me a bit at some of the cafes. But if you are afraid of, or intolerant of, even small amounts of smoke exposure on board, I would not recommend this ship. FITNESS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES There is a beautiful exercise and gym room overlooking the sea, plus there are exercise classes and a custom trainer who can speak English. There is no “trivia” playing in any language. Of course there is a boutique and the personnel in there were actually helpful sales persons, I even bought something which I rarely do. The Ocean Spa is nice, as are the people working there, I had an interesting and frank conversation with a lively Russian-born childhood immigrant to Germany who (after the initial caution and topic permission-seeking) expressed concern about how the immigrant problem has changed her beloved northern German town. The pool is heated, but not used much despite great weather, not crowded, had a few lap swimmers off and on. The hot tub next to it is unfortunately below body temperature, not ideal for American tastes (DH likes it hot). FOOD: A very strong point! Best food overall I’ve had on any cruise ship including the Europa 2 (by a hair). There are four dining venues not counting room service: the MDR (open breakfast, lunch and dinner, very pleasant, calm atmosphere, terrific waiters and food presentation style, international cuisine with occasional German flares); the Lido (indoor/outdoor casual extensive buffet dining and grill to order); Venetia, a small Italian venue (fantastic food and service with Italian waiters, I went for a lovely open-seating lunch); and the Dieter Mueller dining room (Michelin-rated chef) where small-plates series are served with pairing options (this was my least favorite of the venues, though good, but I only ate there once on an Asian evening, the menu did not change after that). MDR always had vegetarian options (I tried some for lighter dining, quite creative) and meats or fishes as entrees, creative appetizers, cream or clear soups (clear soups are only B+ to me), many fresh salad options too, daily fruit in the suite (I could not keep up). Lido had a big salad bar, fish and meat grill offerings with sides, and some theme evenings with regional, e.g., Portugese food, Spanish food, American (with American steaks and burgers), Mediterranean, seafood and shellfish, and the terrific Bavarian food luncheon not to miss with fun traditional German music and costumes (the same waiter wearing a tuxedo in the Dieter Mueller venue just a night or two before was then in Lederhosen, beer and Schnapps were free and refilled more than I needed). It took a week before I ordered something I did not like and did not try to finish (lamb ragout, was too spicy, probably more my problem than the food’s) and I only had two other taste misses (a beet terrine appetizer was uninspired, and one vegetarian fancy salad I got fell flat). Mostly I cleaned my plate and then some on this cruise (unfortunately gained 5 lb in 13 days). Reservations are only required in the two little restaurants, Venetia and Dieter Mueller, or Lido for dinner, were not hard to get, ask when you get on board. In MDR you have your assigned table with others unless you need a two-top because of English, but any of you at a table can show up between 7 and 9:30 and start your dinner, you do not all have to start, or leave, or dine, together. If you dislike your tablemate you can ask to be rerouted. I had initially requested a table for myself but landed at a table with 3 Germans which turned out fine so I practiced my German, they were 2 old ladies traveling together and a solo older gent, they were all very nice. No lunch venue requires reservations, I favored the calm MDR at lunch. My waiter at dinner also knew I like to have a back pillow, so he always had it ready for me. On most cruises I am keen to dine in port, for variety, but on this cruise, I preferred exploring the foods on board with the fine service, instead of dining in ports even when there was time to do so, I looked forward to getting on board for lunch. Usually in land luxury hotel restaurants I have had better service than on ships at dinner, but for comparison at the Four Seasons in Lisbon at 2 of 3 dinners I was ignored for almost an hour after the entree was brought, as they were understaffed, whereas on this ship there almost always seemed to be “hoverers”, wait staff looking around to make sure you had everything you wanted as you wanted it. Poor service can kill appetites for even the best foods, and that did not happen here. ITINERARY: HL likes to mix up its annual itineraries, instead of doing mostly the same thing back and forth each year like some lines do. The itinerary was very good, Lisbon, Portimaio, Sevilla (2 nights docked right in town), Almeira, Cartagena, Valencia, Barcelona, Marseilles, Calvi, St. Tropez, Nice. Excursions were well-organized, and used luxury buses with AC, but, as noted, were only in German. Some of the walking excursions which were rated as “moderate” in exertion level had too many people for my taste (16-24), and the guides twice walked too fast for me and a man with a cane, though the guide politely waited for us to catch up. If you come as someone who speaks only English and wants to do port excursions, for the best experience, unless you are with someone at least semi-competent in understanding key German, I recommend you either book your own in English in advance, or through the tourist office (they will help you, in English). Although you can get by on the excursions, you may not get the full benefit of the excursion if you really care about what the guides are saying as opposed to just about being guided through town so as not to get lost. IN SUM, although the MS Europa caters primarily to Germans, select English-speaking passengers, with appropriate expectations, can be comfortable on this luxury ship. It provides a refreshing alternative opportunity for English-speaking pax who may be dissatisfied with other small ship luxury lines and who are interested in excellent service, fine dining with formal options, and classical music in an uncrowded and relaxing atmosphere. It is, per diem, a bit more expensive than the other luxury lines, when you factor in all the costs, but worth every penny, and I have therefore booked another cruise, the next one will be with DH (Australia). We plan to get either a table for two or a table with other English-speakers, and to book mostly private shore excursions in English through our TA. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
8.-18.Jul 2016 Arctic cruise around Spitzbergen in 10 days leaving Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen and ending 10 days later in Tromso Norway. Perfect location of the room (#317). One floor above the door to board the Zodiacs (and where we ... Read More
8.-18.Jul 2016 Arctic cruise around Spitzbergen in 10 days leaving Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen and ending 10 days later in Tromso Norway. Perfect location of the room (#317). One floor above the door to board the Zodiacs (and where we had our Zodiac life west as well as our boots), same floor for main Marco Polo Dining room (free seating) and small shop, one floor up to the Explorer Lounge (Dance room and presentations) as well as to the self-service Restaurant Lemaire and 3 floors up for the Observation desk Bar. 2 Elevators (seldomly used). Small cosy ship with max 175 People and 120 staff. Extremely helpful and friendly staff. Dining: Marco Polo: Set choice Menue for lunch and dinner (separate Manue available of offered choices did not convene) Lemaire is a buffet style Restaurant for Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Excellent Food in both Restaurants. Alcohol in all Restaurants and Bars was included in our tour package since it was entirely chartered by a Swiss travel agency. Special flights organized as well from Zurich to Longyearbyen (almost 5 hrs) and back from Tromso to Zurich (almost 4 hrs). Entertainment: 2 piano players (the nature and the excursions were the Entertainment we were looking for) Service: Very helpfull and professional. The staff knew our coffee and water wishes as from the 3 day on. Daily rooms cleaning was fast end efficient (during breakfast). Ports: Left in Longyearbyen (a village with approx 2'500 inhabitants) but with an Airport with a runway of 2500 meters capable to accept Airbus A-321 aircraft). Did many Zodiac excursions and landings but except for Ny Alesund (a village of approx 150 People) no real ports to stop). Tromso was choosen to refill the ship, since it was easier and cheaper to bring new Food on boad from the Norwegian coast than flying it up to the arctic Island). on main deck there was a heated Swimming pool and a jacuzi. The pool had carrebian water temperatures, so it was fun have have a swimm next to the arctic glaciers. We also had a picnic on one of the Islands where table, food, drinks etc was brought ashore and where they served a barbeque for 170 People at its finest. Compliments!!! Would we go again: ANYTIME!!!!! Read Less
31 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
The cruise commenced in Kiel, and, given the absence of direct flights from London, I decided to spend two days in Hamburg prior to embarkation. Arrangements for Hotel accommodation, and all transfers, were made through Hapag-Lloyd. ... Read More
The cruise commenced in Kiel, and, given the absence of direct flights from London, I decided to spend two days in Hamburg prior to embarkation. Arrangements for Hotel accommodation, and all transfers, were made through Hapag-Lloyd. Two days before I was due to fly to Hamburg, the Four Seasons Hotel notified Hapag-Lloyd that it was overbooked. The latter's response was to book me into the Atlantic Kempinski Hotel, refund me the cost of the Four Seasons, and pay for the Atlantic Kempinski. Excellent customer service! All transfers were via Blacklane Limousines, and were excellent. For the past three years the Europa 2 has been my cruise ship of choice, and many of the things that have made it so remain unchanged and excellent. However, during the back to back cruises this year, there were noticeable signs of a shortfall in Europa 2's usual high standards which were mainly evident in the Weltmeere main restaurant. There was insufficient wait staff even to service a markedly less than full restaurant. The Maitre d', the assistant Maitre d', and on one evening even the Sommelier were delivering and/or serving food. The cumulative effect on the wait staff over the course of the cruises was that they looked absolutely exhausted but still managed to provide excellent and cheerful service. One hopes that Hapag-Lloyd will take steps to rectify the situation, thus ensuring that there is not a rapid loss of competent, hard working, and cheerful staff. Added to the staffing situation in the Weltmeere there were intermittent problems in the Kitchen which resulted in items being served undercooked, or barely warm. However, overall, the quality, and variety of the food in the Weltmeere was excellent. On one evening I enquired if they had any Norwegian cheeses, and in due course I was served with a plate containing a beautifully presented selection of five different cheeses. I dined twice in both the Tarragon, and Serenissima restaurants, and the food, and service, in each was first class. For July, the weather during this cruise was disappointing, being generally overcast with temperatures ranging between 12 degrees C- 18 degrees C. Despite this, the scenery was magnificent, and on more than one occasion we were the only ship in port--- even in Flam, which on my previous visits has resembled a gigantic rugby scrum. The ship being too large to enter the Troll Fjord, zodiacs were used to enter the fjord where one was met by further zodiacs containing staff serving champagne. All in all, my cruise on the Europa 2 was very enjoyable, and despite the noted shortcomings, it still remains my cruise ship of choice. Read Less
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
15 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
My husband and I just completed our first Europa 2 trip, Capetown to Capetown 12/19/15 to 1/3/16, with port stops along the way in Luederitz and Walvis Bay, Namibia, and then on to Mossel Bay, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. We had six sea or ... Read More
My husband and I just completed our first Europa 2 trip, Capetown to Capetown 12/19/15 to 1/3/16, with port stops along the way in Luederitz and Walvis Bay, Namibia, and then on to Mossel Bay, Durban, and Port Elizabeth. We had six sea or mostly sea days on this 15 day cruise, so we had opportunities to test most of the offered services on the ship. We have done several other luxury cruises in the recent past, including on Silver Sea, Regent, Seabourn, and AMA Waterways, for comparison, plus I have done two Holland America trips to Alaska. Below is a summary of key points for English-speaking cruisers considering this ship, and at the end is a link to the Cruise Critic subforum I wrote about it as I cruised, if a reader wishes much greater detail ( or wants to ask questions). On the link you can see my day-to-day blog as the cruise progressed, as well as links to Photobucket pictures my husband took of the ship, its food, atmosphere, and ports on the itinerary. In case the link breaks, it can also be found on CC entitled "Out of Africa, Live from the Europa 2, Cape Town-Cape Town” and is in the “luxury cruising” subforum of the “special interest cruising” forum. We were in a penthouse suite, with a butler (unexpectedly upgraded), so it is possible experiences in a base suite without a butler might be different. Note neither I nor my husband have any relationship with Hapag-Lloyd, receive no compensation for writing reviews, and am not employed, directly or indirectly in the travel industry. My comments are thus independent. Overall, we had a terrific time and I rate the experience, which must be judged relative to other luxury lines, as 5/5 overall based on both the experience on the ship and the itinerary. South Africa and Namibia are very interesting, scenic places to visit with a fascinating history and generally friendly people, though the countries have problems, and visiting it on the Europa 2 was a pleasure. My husband would have rated the cruise 4/5, if he were writing the review, rather than 5/5, primarily because he missed serious socializing with other English-speaking cruisers (see below), as we were in a tiny minority. This ship had the best food I have ever had on a cruise and some of the best I have even had on land in the San Francisco Bay area, and elsewhere in our travels. Service was also excellent overall, though there is some room for improvement in a few areas ( see below). Everything seemed competently managed, and I could relax, recuperate, explore, feel taken pampered, and not worry about things going wrong. GENERAL ATMOSPHERE AND PASSENGERS: The ship is new, beautiful, comfortable, and contemporary, like an "elegant resort” , though unpretentious in overall atmosphere. Passengers ranged in age from small children to 80’s, averaging around 50, wide variance. There were reportedly 60 kids on board, an unusually high number, as this was a holiday cruise, but the next one was scheduled to have only 7. There were not too many extremely old people, definitely less than we have seen on Silver Sea cruises, and there were very few people in wheelchairs, though they can be accommodated. The ship was immaculate, and nothing we dealt with was broken. There were no formal nights, or tuxedos, but people dressed up smartly on Christmas and New Years, and most men chose to wear jackets to dinner in the main dining room and smaller dining rooms, but not in the most casual indoor/outdoor Yacht Club venue, (and even there no one dressed like a slob). Quiet elegance (except on New Year’s Eve) best describes the general ambience. The ship is also LGBT-friendly. Almost all of the 516 passengers on this full cruise were polite , and arrived early or at least punctually for performances and excursions, as is common for Germans in general. Most seemed to be reasonably fit, some were very fit, and almost all were from German-speaking countries. The international crew members that interact with passengers speak both German and English, but some speak English much better than others. EMBARKATION: everyone embarked at 16:00, the same time, took about 30-40 minutes to go through procedures. FOOD AND WINE, very important to us, was excellent, and there were only rare misses on minor things I tried at breakfast and the most casual though extensive and excellent Yacht Club buffet. Wine and other beverages are not included in the base fare, which some veteran luxury cruisers could find troubling, but there are literally hundreds of wines from many countries to choose from with fair markups so you can get exactly what you want, or explore, and you do not have to present your room card to order. There was a knowledgable sommelier who supervised an interesting formal wine tasting, there are good cocktails, many spirit selections (including a couple dozen gins) and several bars with friendly, pleasant and creative bartenders. There are many good wines by the glass, and you can often order portions as small as 0.1 liters. Food and wine quality are by far this ship's strongest feature. Not much expense was spared on this ship for special events food either, e.g., for the New Years Eve festivities, we had excellent caviar, jumbo prawns, Moet & Chandon, and the Dinner in the Desert complimentary event was fantastic, inspiring, and beautifully done. Goose liver pate is available to order to your room for room service every day, if you like, and both the main dining room Weltmeere and French Tarragon restaurants had beef tartar. (See my link for various menus I posted, and the food on them indeed tasted as good as it sounds). SERVICE in the suite was consistent, unobtrusive, and respectful of privacy. Room service arrived on time and properly prepared. Various fresh and juicy fruits, flowers, and canapes were routinely presented to us. Our complementary mini-bar contents, (plus the PH included hard liquor options), bedding and bath were customized as desired ( e.g., when I requested a foam topper for the bed a few days into the cruise, because I found the bed too hard, the topper arrived the same night). The bed adjusts at the head, feet, and center, a very nice option. Dialysis is supposed to be available, though I have no need for it and cannot comment on any potential problems there. Front desk personnel are on call 24/7 and are responsive. Food in all restaurants is available in two languages. Negative is that around 8 PM, the busiest time, with this full cruise, getting drink orders could take longer than ideal. The table drink ordering service in the Yacht Club casual venue at peak hours was also a little slow on this full cruise, and as there is no hostess greeting you when you come in, unlike on other luxury lines’ most casual venues, on busy evenings (at least until we learned the routine) at first it could be a little disorienting and stressful trying to figure out how to find a spot to sit, where to go, where what food is, etc. We quickly learned there always is a spot to sit, and a waitress to help, though it may not be clear the first night of embarkation, so ask when you come in to get oriented and make sure they know you speak English. Buffet items are labelled in both German and English. We saw a few delays in the clearing of dirty plates in the Yacht Club and I think at peak hours they could use another staff person or two there. The best routine, at least on a full ship, is to either go to dining venues for dinner either early when they open, or go late, or have a reservation at one of the smaller dining venues, where your table is guaranteed from 7 PM -9:30, as there is only one seating. It is most crowded, with service slowest around 8 pm, a phenomenon I have also seen on other lines. Small dining venues are also open at lunch without reservation, easy seating. PUBLIC AREAS — stunningly beautiful, comfortable, spacious. I read that this ship has the highest space per passenger ratio, and it shows. There was only one sunny day on which everyone was on board and almost all (but not all) outdoor deck chairs were taken, and it is not necessary to reserve” deck chairs. My one personal issue is that the ambient temperature in the air-conditioned public areas runs at least a couple degrees higher than on other lines, as Germans do not like air too cool, so I wished I’d brought more short-sleeved day and evening tops than I had. The GYM and SPA are well-equipped and have ocean views, personal trainers, frequent fitness sessions, and a bicycling excursion expert who leads biking excursions at appropriate ports. One negative is that the jacuzzi, on the highest deck, unfortunately, is set to under 30 degrees C, so it is not really a "hot” tub per se. The POOL, which you can conveniently use any time it is open (though closed during sea swells) is pleasant, warm, and has a reserved adults only hour in the morning and afternoon, and a KIDS time hour each half-day, other times everyone is welcome, but there are instructions daily in the program that at all times there should be no jumping into the pool, and "respect should be shown to all.” The other negative is that the music in the spa was overly peppy, rather than soft. KIDS: The Europa 2 is trying to be family-friendly, despite its high prices. It has some family suites with adjoining rooms, and has special areas for small kids play, a teen area, a kids dining area, and it offers nanny care and family-oriented excursion options. This cruise was a holiday cruise, so it had more kids on board than usual, Well-off parents who want to take a multigenerational trip and still have some luxury down time would likely find this ship to their liking. The assigned adults/kids pool times almost always worked well, and at other “all ages” times access was usually fine for adults (unlike what I have seen on Holland America, where kids take over the pool). However, there was one exceptional incident when two boys and their father continued to play with a ball in the pool after the kids afternoon hour ended, interfering with a lap swimmer's enjoyment (she had come after the kids hour ended, expecting peace). She was unhappy and complained to a hapless nearby bartender whose German was weak and who at first was unsure what to do (but within a half hour, the kids were somehow gone, so apparently he, or she, did something). At the risk of stereotyping, Germans are generally keen on keeping their kids well-behaved, though of course exceptions can occur on a holiday time cruise. Personally I am very sensitive to the noises of loud kids, and was surprisingly almost never bothered by them here. I would not hesitate to book another holiday cruise on the Europa 2 (possibly Australia next year) even if it has kids. ENTERTAINMENT: this was very good for a small ship, and there was something for varied tastes. I greatly enjoyed four of the five major performance style offerings. There were three extremely talented and known classical musicians on board who typically performed together (a concert soprano, concert violinist, and pianist); a charming female A Capella group; a flamboyant and talented pianist who did very nice, energetic Elton John tributes; and a dramatic Spanish flamenco ballet/dance group. The fifth was not at all to my taste, a German DJ and British pop singer who collaborated on performing old hard disco beat and (to me) somewhat crude and uninspiring hits from twenty or more years ago, including, unfortunately, on New Year's Eve. Each day there is a pianist at teatime, there is a jazz bar, a more energetic bar, and a beautiful bar at the reception area. Movies are also shown, English and/or German, in the movie room, or on your in-room TV. Suites are equipped with Samsung tablets with some games, ship email access, but we did not use them as we have our own iPADs and laptops. INTERNET was spotty, usually slow in this African location, and 0.19 Euro per minute, with no unlimited plan, unfortunately, though basic free ship email for messaging was offered to stay in touch with home for those who just need that (extra charge for bigger attachments, surfing, etc.) ENRICHMENT lecturers: two speakers were on board, each did several competent talks about the regions we visited and its flora and fauna, with slides in both English and German at separate times, no matter how few people there were to listen. EXCURSIONS: We did several, most were good (4x4 into the desert and Cango Caves and Ostrich Farm tour were very good), with comfortable seating, though bus AC on the excursions (and for that matter on the ship) is generally set to the warmer level Germans prefer. Some scheduled toilet and food stops could be earlier than they happened (especially when one is not allowed to take food off board in Africa), but unfortunately this is true for many excursions I have done through other lines, too, that have to use local contractors. One excursion turned out not as represented in the literature , and I politely complained to reception, but unfortunately it was on the last day so I do not yet know how the management will deal with my verbal and written complaints about it (I expect some reversal of charges). This was the only formal complaint I made on the ship as there was not much else to complain about! DISEMBARKATION -- quick, flawless, no problems, in Cape Town. Potential NEGATIVES for English based people specifically, depending on their orientations: 1. GERMANS: All major announcements, menus, enrichment lectures, and safety drills were available in English, crew speak English, and there is an international hostess you can call for help, but people who do not speak or understand any German at all, or are not with someone who does, *and* who also wish to extensively socialize might feel lonely or feel they are missing out if surrounded by so many Germans, many of whom speak either no or only weak English. Right now, this is not the ship on which to have complicated incidental discussions about local geopolitical issues or economics with fellow travelers, as sometimes evolved on Silver Sea, Regent, or Seabourn, in English after a bottle of wine. Indeed, a minority of benefits and entertainment can only be appreciated by German speakers, such as a few readings and humor sessions. Also, explanations of the details of most musical and performance numbers were only in German, other than the basics in the program (and, of course, music mostly speaks for itself in most cases, as does dance). Although there is a spectrum of personalities amongst all nationalities, as others have noted in their reviews I think it is fair to say that German travelers are in general more personally reserved and less likely to be keen on starting or being receptive to conversations with strangers, even if they speak English, or even amongst themselves in German, unlike on English-language lines where infectious sociability is typically routine. My husband missed having the easy spontaneity of talking in English that he liked on Silver Sea, and the approachability of most people there and on other luxury cruises. 2.SMOKING is allowed only in designated outdoor areas, and in the smoking lounge (Herrenzimmer), but beware that an occasional undesired encounter with small amounts of smoke may occur if someone does not fully close the door to the lounge, or at the outdoor bar, just like on Seabourn. The one time I saw specific smoking area rules violated was New Year’s Eve, when a few passengers lit up under the Magrodome after midnight where the pool party was and no crew told them to stop (but I’m not sure if anyone asked them to -- I certainly did not). It was not a problem for us, but though we are non-smokers, we are not allergic or vehemently anti-smoking. NON-INCLUSIVE — as noted, even base wines and beverages are extra charge, unlike on other luxury lines; so are excursions. IN SUM: The Europa 2 is a beautiful ship with fantastic food and wine, overall excellent service (with some room for improvement as noted), and extensive space per passenger. Though marketed to both German and English speaking passengers, right now almost everyone on board is German, which may not suit everybody, especially passengers who do not mostly just stick to themselves anyway on a cruise. I plan to sail on this ship again on the right itinerary, though her close competition is still Seabourn, as my husband prefers passengers to be primarily English speakers. It would be nice if more English speaking groups would try the Europa 2. Link to the more detailed thread about this trip: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2290219 Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
Recently my husband and I took a cruise on bi -lingual Europa 2 from Limassol to Dubai. Our interest was two-fold: we wanted to see Petra and transit the Suez Canal, and we wanted to experience the ship. We flew to Larnaca, Cyprus where ... Read More
Recently my husband and I took a cruise on bi -lingual Europa 2 from Limassol to Dubai. Our interest was two-fold: we wanted to see Petra and transit the Suez Canal, and we wanted to experience the ship. We flew to Larnaca, Cyprus where we rented an apartment for a few days, and then caught a cab to Limassol, our embarkation port. We arrived just before the posted embarkation time of 4PM, handed over our luggage, boarded, downed a fast glass of bubbly and went to our cabin. We were shocked (and pleased)to see that all our luggage was there — within 15 minutes of boarding. Our cabin was an entry level one. We had booked a guarantee and ended up on deck 7 in an ocean suite. This consisted of a room of 301 square feet, with a balcony of 75 square ft. I believe that about 80% of the cabins are this size. The bathroom had a tub and a separate shower (with built-in bench) and one sink. The walk-in closet had double hung bars and multiple drawers and shelves. In the cabin there was also additional storage space, a Nespresso machine, and a clever split door covering the make-up mirror, which lit up when opened. There was a complicated lighting/dimming system that required a booklet to explain — we did not attempt to learn this. Ditto with the phone system. The bed linens are top quality and changed every 3 days. Before dinner we took a stroll around the ship and were struck by how spacious it all felt. The 2 forward elevators are glass and the the elevator landings have large windows, which adds to the expansive feeling. Although the ship was not full (350 out of a possible 510), I could tell that this ship would never be crowded and there would never be jostling for deck chairs. The ship is decorated in muted shades of beige, cream and gray — quite a modern feel, yet soothing. Well, time for a pre-dinner glass of wine! And here we hit our first snag. The first bar we found was in the lobby. The is not the best location as the space is brightly lit, and offers an overly enthusiastic piano player. We wanted to sit at the bar, but found it too noisy so moved to the far side of the room. We wanted to order a bottle of wine, which we would then have had taken to our dinner table. Although we never got the full story, it seems that the only wine bottle storage is in the main dining, on deck 4. This means that a server has to physically retrieve your chosen (or partially consumed) bottle. This took a long time which is not the fault of the server but a design flaw in the ship. In fairness, I believe most Europeans have an aperitif or cocktail before dinner and this would not have been a service issue. Let’s go into dinner. We chose the main dining room, which is a stunning room with blown glass chandeliers. It was surprisingly quiet and I think that was because there are a variety of noise barriers — varying raised levels of seating and varying ceiling levels. What a pleasant evening! The next day we continued our exploration of the ship. There is a large area devoted to the beauty parlor, exercise room, steam room and massage rooms. We didn’t sample any of these. There is a library split into 2 — one side books, one side computers. Internet was not free. I was surprised at the excellent selection of English language books. There is an art gallery, complete with curator who gave tours of the extensive art collection on the ship. There is a teaching kitchen for passengers, although classes are only in German. However, Hapag-Lloyd has done a clever thing in that each voyage has an international hostess who is fluent in German and English and is available to translate in the kitchen, and anywhere else that is required. Ours was Angela Hidde, who was a gem. There is also a movie theatre where the English enrichment lectures (there were 3) were held. There are numerous bars, our favorite being the Sansibar. However, with the exception of the uninviting lobby bar, none of them had a bar and barstools — rather they were set up as cocktail lounges. So there was little chance to socialize with other passengers. Let’s talk about the food. In a word — spectacular -- from presentation to service to taste. In the morning you could eat in the partially open air Yacht Club, the main dining room, or have room service. Breakfast was similar to that of other luxury lines,but offered more cured meats, cheeses and smoked fish. One morning I asked for Eggs Benedict and was told I could not get them until 8am — I don’t know why. When the main breakfast was over you could have late riser’s breakfast in Sansibar. Then at about 11am it was time for bouillon by the pool. Lunch could be taken in the main dining room, selected specialty restaurants or the Yacht Club. We always ate at the Yacht Club since the weather was so nice. Here, I was knocked out by the selection, beginning with 8 kinds of lettuce for salad, a whole prosciutto plus other cured meats, numerous hot dishes and aterrific selection of cheeses. The Food and Beverage Manager told me they had 80kinds of cheese, and 40 kinds of fish (not counting shellfish). Then it’s waffles by the pool and/or tea in the Belvedere lounge. At dinner the specialty restaurants required reservations for the evening, but no stated time — your table was yours for the evening. The main dining room and the Yacht Club did not required reservations. The menu selections in all the restaurants was not large, but quite variedand I always found more things to order than I could possible consume. The Yacht Clubhad an amazing array of cold lobster, oysters, mussels and shrimp every evening. Next is entertainment. First — the theater. It is on 2 levels with about 2 feet between each row of swivel chairs — very comfy. We were lucky to have aboard a classical music group called Ensemble Mini who put on three shows. Another night there was a acrobatic show and one we missed that featured performers on roller skates. There was also a 2 part tribute to Simon and Garfunkel. We thought the entertainment was terrific — and we are people who generally skip the entertainment on other ships. In the Jazz Club I caught a good trio and I heard there was a great Sinatra impersonator. The was not a port intensive trip, but for each port there was at least one tour in English. The tours were good and priced similarly to other luxury lines. On our last day we had to disembark very early in the morning, as did other passengers. I was stunned to see that the main dining room was open for a full breakfast at 4:30am. There was also a continental breakfast in the lobby. As we reluctantly walked down the gangway we saw all the officers bidding farewell to the passengers. Regarding costs, we paid for the trip in Euros and it cost us about the equivalent of $12,000. Drinks are not included, but when you order anything alcoholic you just give the server your cabin number -- no need to show your room card. In fact, you do not even give the ship your credit card until a day or so before the end of the cruise. Final thoughts. This is not a ship where you will make new friends. Although most of the German speaking passengers speak English and were cordial, they were not very outgoing. They did not seem outgoing even among themselves. The bars do not lend themselves to socializing and I assume this is a cultural preference. I think that once Europa 2 attracts more English speaking passengers this will change. On our cruise there were 14 English speaking guests; we were the only Americans. Would I go back? In a Hamburg minute! Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
Other reviews on the Europa 2 provide a detailed description of the ship's amenities. My previous cruise on the Europa 2 was in July 2014, with embarkation in Southampton, and cruising through Portugal, and Spain. This year I had ... Read More
Other reviews on the Europa 2 provide a detailed description of the ship's amenities. My previous cruise on the Europa 2 was in July 2014, with embarkation in Southampton, and cruising through Portugal, and Spain. This year I had combined a 7 day cruise from Athens to Istanbul, with a 12 day cruise from Istanbul to Athens which called at Turkish Ports, and different Greek Islands. Prior to embarkation, I had elected to stay 2 nights in Athens at a hotel, Hotel Herodion, recommended by my Cruise Agent, but with reservation, and all transfers, which were as smooth as silk, arranged by Hapag-Lloyd. CRUISE 14-21 SEPTEMBER 2015: Embarkation: Embarkation is not permitted before 16.00. It is a very civilised affair. The combination boarding/key card is provided prior to departure. Check-In is arranged by Deck Number, one's photograph is taken, one is offered champagne, and then one is then at liberty to chat with fellow guests, or be escorted to one's suite. Safety Drill: English speaking guests are provided with the mandatory Safety Drill separated from the bulk of the German speaking passengers. On this cruise, about 12 guests were led to the Cinema for a briefing. Reservations for Speciality Restaurants: Reservations are permitted during the normal opening hours of the 4 Speciality Restaurants. They can accommodate 210 guests, and on this cruise,with the total number of guests amounting to 412, there was no rush, having embarked, to make a reservation. Entertainment: The poor quality, and variety, of the Theatre Shows on this seven day cruise was my major source of complaint, a situation highlighted by the complete turnaround on the following 12 day cruise. Hapag-Lloyd do need to consistency from one cruise to another. Excursions: Unfortunately, my ability to participate in all of my booked ship's excursions was severely restricted by recurring bouts of ill health, but of those I was able to undertake they were up to Hapag-Lloyd's usual high standards. II must register a word of praise for all the staff in the Shore Excursions Office for their exemplary service, and kindness, in dealing with my short notice cancellations of booked excursions. CRUISE 21 SEPTEMBER-3 OCTOBER: This cruise was fully booked with the full complement of 500 guests being on board. Of the Speciality Restaurants, the 'Tarragon' French Restaurant having been recently voted the best at sea resulted in there being a 'wait list' of 50 suites for an evening reservation. Apart from the 'Sakura' Sushi Restaurant, the Speciality Restaurants are open for lunch without the need for a reservation, so anyone faced with difficulty in obtaining an evening reservation should consider opting for lunch. Entertainment: Compared to my first cruise, the Theatre Entertainment was in a completely different league in terms of quality, and variety, being comprised of a classical sextet, an old style variety show comprised of several acts, an amazing magician, a South American singer with her accompanying musicians, and an American singer, living in Germany, whose rendition of songs from Hollywood Musicals, and The Great American Song Book was stunning. Disembarkation: Having Hapag-Lloyd make my transfer arrangements resulted in a disembarkation that was totally stress free. I entered the Terminal to find my luggage had been retrieved, placed on a trolley ,with both a porter, and the driver standing by. SUMMING UP: The title of this review has been chosen to reflect the friendly, and relaxed , atmosphere on the Europa 2. This was particularly evident during the second cruise when I was the only English speaking guest on board. All the services normally provided to English speaking guests were made available, even down to the Captain's announcement in English from the Bridge. Two officers invited me to dinner. The Shore Excursion Office offered to provide me with someone to translate a German guided Excursion. Both staff, and German/Swiss guests made great efforts to make my cruise so enjoyable. Little wonder that Hapag-Lloyd's Europa 2 is my favourite ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2015
What a beautiful ship that is! Due to the fact that it is new the outside of the 225 metres ship is off course top notch - once entered things are even more impressive. The Lobby is comparable with a Dubai 5 Star Suite Hotel and the ... Read More
What a beautiful ship that is! Due to the fact that it is new the outside of the 225 metres ship is off course top notch - once entered things are even more impressive. The Lobby is comparable with a Dubai 5 Star Suite Hotel and the glas-elevators going from deck 4 to 10 are stunning. You are actually not really feeling like you are on a ship at all the first minutes. They do have a max of 500 guests - with the tour now there were about 470 = more or less fully booked but on a ship of that size you could carry twice more and that advantage of just beeing with 470 you can feel every minute onboard - it never feels loaded and crowded there. 7 restaurants are onboard - i am totally surprised about the level of quality they can serve on that stunning ship - its almost like you would eat in a 1 star Michelin Restaurant. All restaurants are a la carte except the Yachtclub (Buffet) and the Sansibar (Bar with Snacks). Have eaten Italian, French and also in the Asian Restaurant as well as in the Sushi place where food is just awesome. Portions are a bit smaller but very fine made with just really good ingredients (where do they get that that fresh?) - the wine and champagne lists are complete and top wines they serve by glass as well. The prices are astonishing low, for a bottle of "normal" champagne 40 Euros, Dom Perignon or Roederer Cristal for a 160 Euros a bottle - you wont find that elsewhere. Longdrinks and other cocktails for about 5/6 Euros - glasses of wine and softdrinks about 3 Euros etc = that has been a nice surprise. Acutally you can eat fine dinners which are all inclusive (even a la carte restaurants) and drink the choice of your favourite drink for almost no fee. The Spa and the Fitness Center are situated on deck 5 - with a full 200 squaremetres balcony for the spa and large windows for the Fitness - equippment is top notch as well as the service - quite rooms with marble warmed beds, large hottub etc etc and different saunas - again i was surprised what they are able to offer - never thought a ship could do that + it stays exclusive and you never have to search for machine to use in the Fitness area since they have plenty. Spinning room is availbale as well with about 15 bikes. The Service is then off course fine as well since 370 crew members are serving 400/500 guests - you always find someone to serve whatever your needs are - i noiced in the Sansibar restaurant that a kid asked for mashed potatos which was not on the card but after checking they made it fresh for this boy - this kind of service i just can imagine must be difficult on larger ships... also the waffle service at the pool with fresh fruit is "hit" for the travellers and surely for the kids onboard - they do have btw a 10 percent max kid policy which makes it not too loud ;-) I did not really use the tours offered - just the tender service every 20 minutes for each port, just programs like champagne and gin tastings which were offered on the ship i attended and were fully happy with that... i think they do have 37 gins onboard ;-) so you can try some of them... During the day when many are visiting places and attending tours the staff is cleaning the ship from A to Z - they do have one employee just cleaning the wooden railing all year long ! never thought about that a ship needs that much of attention. Anyway - will go there again and made actually the next booking - since the waters from Barcelona to Rome were that calm and the temperatures that high this summer i took the Northern Europe Tour for next year - sure i will enjoy it ! Read Less
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