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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2018
SHORT VERSION: I greatly enjoyed the outstanding food, service, and classical music on this luxury small ship cruise and plan to return soon. Details: I am an American who did this two-week luxury small ship cruise solo from Nice ... Read More
SHORT VERSION: I greatly enjoyed the outstanding food, service, and classical music on this luxury small ship cruise and plan to return soon. Details: I am an American who did this two-week luxury small ship cruise solo from Nice to Bilbao. I chose it primarily for the intimate classical music experience it offered with its Ocean Sun Festival. To compare, I have done various other mostly small ship luxury cruises with cruise lines solo, with my husband, and with a friend. The cruise was outstanding, the best luxury ship experience overall, by far, despite the oddity of being an American woman traveling solo (probably the only one) on a ship where the official on board language is German. EMBARKATION in NICE : There was no actual embarkation terminal in Nice at the Quay de Commerce, so waiting to board was slightly uncomfortable, no fault of HL. The port authority did not allow HL to serve any beverages in the warm outdoor waiting area before 4PM, when crew started serving Duval-Leroy champagne. Embarkation commenced precisely on time at 16:00, as all HL cruises do, and between starting boarding and getting to my suite only 15 minutes passed. Unlike on my three prior HL cruises, I did not see any hors d’oeuvres offered in the atrium reception area, though the next evening canapés were offered at a captain’s gala. I was still full from my decadent truffle pasta lunch in Nice so it did not matter. After a very short check-in period during which my picture was taken and passport confiscated (room keys were distributed before the cruise) a crew member escorted me to my suite, where a half bottle of champagne and 4 chocolate-covered large strawberries waited for me. My cases appeared 1-2 hours later (2 cases, separately). MUSTER: orientation was on the pool deck at my actual muster station, with pax required to wear their new-fangled style life jackets. Then pax moved on to more safety lecturing in the Europa Lounge. A separate English muster was available. Muster took longer than expected, about 40 minutes, with a lot of time spent on exactly what to do when someone goes overboard (bottomline: yell, throw things, and point). ATMOSPHERE: This is a contemporary-styled ship with cool, calm colors. It is fresh, well-maintained, uncrowded and comfortable, with an atmosphere of quiet luxury and elegance in the decor and amongst most crew and pax. There are plenty of deck chairs in various locations so there is no need for pushiness or lines. It is a very German-oriented ship, with almost all pax affluent, very affluent, or relatively affluent seniors and their family and friends from German speaking countries. There were only a few, mostly invisible, children. The only official on-board language was German, though frontline crew spoke basic English with the few people on board who do not speak much, or any, German (e.g., primarily some entertainers) . If there were any other Americans or Brits on board, I never heard them. Many of the Filipino crew spoke better English than German. However, this ship did offer many luxury international menu options daily, (definitely not just wienerschnitzel and sausages, though they had those available too). There was also quite a bit of English language popular music in venues as an alternative to the festival classical music presentations. The MS Europa is more formal than its sister ship Europa 2, which caters to a somewhat younger and more casual crowd and which is officially German and English, and markets to international audiences (though very few non-German speakers travel on her) and has both German and English are on-board languages. Here on the MS Europa, HL has made a deliberate choice to only have German as the language on board (which should satisfy the few older Germans who, per comments overheard and read on the internet, previously resented having what rare announcements there were translated into English, and also saves the line translator money). HL can fill the ship just with German speakers well in advance. Getting a booking on any desirable itinerary HL cruise is a competitive process requiring advance planning if you are not retired and very flexible, so they do not really need to market to English speakers to fill their ships. Announcements (other than safety-related), menus, and daily printed guides and tours were only in German, as warned, but announcements were very rare (twice a day a brief captain report about speed, latitude and longitude and perhaps a highlight of a key performance). Even the couple excursions I went on that were billed to be conducted in English by local guides landed up being given in German, e.g., with a museum guide or accompanying crew member talking in the local language to our German-speaking guide instead of English who then translated into German because half the people on the excursions could not understand English. I received essential pre-cruise vital information and a ship guide through my travel agent printed in English, and then while on board used the opportunity to refresh my German by looking up a few menu items and other things I did not know on my iPhone translation app or on the internnet. Average age was around 70, with quite a few pax over 80. Pax were mostly quite mobile. There were a few other solo pax on board (mostly elderly German women) and I heard from the ship’s doctor, and nephrologist brought on, that there were two dialysis patients. We had 344 total pax on board plus a few dozen entertainers and speakers came and went, to fill the ship’s cabins to 400 or so. As is the older German style, whether solo or not, German or not, pax and on board entertainers mostly stuck to themselves and their known groups and made few attempts to socialize with strangers other than about very simple things, or (usually after alcohol) to talk about their local and international politics, e.g., rants about a well-known American political figure. There was also an (expected) style of lack of curiosity about strangers with most pax, and, unlike most luxury world cruising Americans, pax appeared to be of the attitude that other people’s lives and histories are mostly none of their business and asking personal details without special permission is considered prying. Gratuitous smiling (except by crew) is frowned upon by pax, as is too much jewelry. Mostly I was just ignored by other pax, as if I was not there at all (other than getting a few obviously disapproving and a couple envious glances relating to a little personal fan I carried), and was left alone, neither socially engaged nor negatively bothered. There were, however, a couple solo travelers' get-togethers announced that were not convenient for me to go to this trip (on my prior trip when I went 2 years ago, even there people were still very closed and stiff), and I also had an invitation to go join the cruise director and other "women only" for a Lido dinner which I also skipped as I had a small dining venue reservation the same day. I was fine with this “leave you alone” attitude of German pax, and expected it, (I cruised this ship before and know Germans from before, and have German friends, so I understand the roots of the reservedness. I was here primarily for the classical music festival, and secondarily for the pampered dining and peace and quiet rather than to acquire new BFF (if interested, see my previous MS Europe review from 2016 where I comment on older German personality styles). Many would not be, or would feel lonely without others to talk to in their home language for two weeks, (crew are not supposed to waste too much time chit-chatting long periods with pax, German or English, though a little is ok, as that distracts them from their jobs to serve everyone), but I did not. Much as I love traveling with my DH and would enjoy sharing experiences with him, I often enjoy the enhanced powers of observation and concentration solo traveling offers. Just in case, I had an iPad and iPhone (on mute) and ear buds with me for reading books or listening to music if there were longer periods of waiting involved anywhere, e.g., on bus excursions when guides were not talking. The DRESS CODE for days and evenings was casual elegant, and people really complied with it. Many people wore understated designer clothing, and what jewelry they wore was not garish. After 6 PM, the code was for men to wear jackets in all dining venues other than the indoor/outdoor buffet Lido. Ties were not required at dinner, but many men wore them anyway. There were also two formal nights (ballgown optional but not required or common, tux or dark suit and tie required for men, and something a little dressy or shiny for women seemed adequate, as on other luxury lines on formal night. As has been popular a couple years in Europe now, several men wore crisp brightly colored expensive trousers, e.g., red, bright green, or blue, both during the day (without a jacket) or in the evening (with a jacket), which is considered casual elegant. White trousers in the evening were also popular on men and women with varying tops (jackets on men in most venues) and these came in handy on the pool party night, when the suggestion was made for people to dress in white out on deck. No one I saw challenged the dress code by showing up with hoodies or untucked T shirts with logos, and I saw no blue jeans (not even the stylish pre-torn ones) at night on the MDR and entertainment deck 4. I did see an elderly balding gent with a red-orange blazer with black suede elbow patches, black capris, and no sox, with his bared feet slipped into very expensive black suede loafers, and similar other displays of Euro-chic that were great fun to see. As on my 2016 trip, one thing I did not like is that most of the venues ran ambient temperatures that were subjectively too warm for me (though most of the pax liked it that way, as Germans generally greatly fear cold air and drafts and often say “es zieht"). I had my suite temperature on maximum cooling most of this Mediterranean trip and would have liked it to be even cooler during the day (temp was not indicated but it felt like around 73 in the suite on hot days with AC on max and at least 75 in the restaurants, so I was glad I had brought loose and linen clothing). However, I am very sensitive to heat due to some of my medication and anticipated this, so came equipped with assorted unobtrusive cooling tools that worked well for me. FOOD AND BEVERAGE: This cruise I had an assigned dinner table to myself in the MDR (per my advance request) as opposed to an assignment with others like I had last time (though I had requested a solo table then, my prior assigned dining companions had worked out ok for me ). I could have requested to be seated at a communal table assignment for dinner in MDR but did not want to risk getting stuck with a couple old and cranky married German couples who might have felt uncomfortable with me as a fifth and foreign wheel (there are some people like that). Dinner starts at your table anytime you like between 7 and 9:30, it is yours the whole evening. Breakfast and lunch are open seating everywhere (breakfast 7-9 in the MDR, 7-10:30 in the Lido indoor/outdoor venue, and there is also a 9-12 option for late risers in Dieter Mueller, plus there is 12:30-2 for lunch in MDR, Lido, and Venezia). Poolside waffles are 3-5. An elegant afternoon tea with cakes etc. (real whipped cream, “Sahne”, optional) was served 4-5PM, accompanied by soothing piano music, with pax who were thankfully respectful and not rowdy. Restaurants were uncrowded, and as I had a guaranteed table in the MDR at dinner, there was no need to line up anywhere for food except for the day of the popular Lido Bavarian lunch, “Bayrischer Fruehschoppen”, which offered traditional rich German food, spirits and beer, and a whole roasted suckling pig. Some regular MDR menu items appeared daily as “classics", and then there were daily specials which did not repeat for the whole 2-week cruise. There were four different “international” vegetarian main courses each day, changed weekly (a green bean dish was particular tasty). The buffet had both daily specials and grill options for steak, fish, and sausages, and pasta. Lobster and shellfish were abundant in various presentations, and I had caviar and steak tatar in different forms 4 times each. Reservations were only needed for dinner for the small venue gourmet Dieter Mueller dining experience and Venezia, the small Italian venue, (no extra charges) and for the Lido in the evening, though there is usually room in the latter even without reservation. There is 24-hour room service of certain items (including steak tatar) which I only used for a few breakfasts. Reservations should be made right on boarding to secure your choice, as should spa reservations ( no option for advance booking). 90% of my lunch and dinner dishes were outstanding, 10% were ok but I would not order again (e.g., a cauliflower soup that fell flat, as did the snails, there was a so-so fish course in Dieter Mueller and the “Boston clam chowder” was an odd greenish substance) . Breads were crisp and fresh (there were no rubbery rolls so many cruise ships, even luxury ones, seem to be specializing in lately), with rye and pumpernickel bread options. Fresh fruits and veggies were plentiful. I did not see a single brown lettuce leaf. My wine pourer at dinner knew wines well enough to make intelligent suggestions (several hundred different wines are on board to choose from, many in 0.1 liter or 0.250 liter portions, with only a handful from U.S.). I enjoyed trying different kinds I do not get at home near wine country in California. Unlike on other luxury lines, my morning room service tray, when I got it, always had what I had ordered, not once did they forget any item, and they customized as I requested. After the first day or two, staff addressed me by my name almost everywhere on board. The colorful Swiss bartender in the Gatsby’s lounge (who also spoke English) already knew who I was and what I would likely want to drink without my saying anything after the first night. The food was so good and comfort level so high that I preferred dining on board to dining in port (which I cannot say for other luxury cruise lines including my favorite SB). Minor negatives were that morning room service coffee was not strong enough for me, but still always arrived hot and at the requested time (espresso and cappuccino were available in the dining rooms). . Unlike on the sister ship Europa 2, there was no in-room coffee in the base suite. Note that beverages in dining rooms other than coffees, milk, teas and juices are subject to fees unless at special events (which are frequent) around the pool, or on return to the ship, including bottled water (other than that distributed on excursions), so technically the ship is not “all inclusive”. But the plus is you can pick exactly the wine you want, and what size, with a very fair mark-up, and there is no fussing about getting stuck with bad “included” wines. I never had to produce my room card, and only signed for beverages in the two smaller venues at the end of the meal, no service charge, though I added paper tips there anyway. I just verbally gave my suite #, on an honor system (they know who you are). SERVICE: in short, outstanding. If anyone was in training, with one exception, I could not tell (compared and contrasted with my cruise on Seabourn in spring 2017). The Do Not Disturb sign was thankfully very strictly respected, always. Laundry fees were cheap (e.g., 1 Euro for underwear) and results terrific, usually same-day even without extra charge. All service is officially included in the cruise fare, but unlike on English language luxury lines, the tipping policy is that none are required or expected, but are welcomed so a few pax quietly gave envelopes with tips to certain crew at the end of the cruise, in addition to contributing to the crew auction and end of cruise tip pot. No hands were ever extended expecting tips. Crew did not appear exhausted or overworked, (only one appeared cynical and resentful of his job), and at least conveyed a pleasant and relaxed unstressed manner. There were no service comedies and no activities I dreaded due to anticipation of service problems, as it seems is increasingly the case even on luxury cruises. I did not have to be an important person, be pushy, or have an “in” to get luxury service, as is often the case on other luxury ships. With very rare exceptions, the crew were smart, polite, helpful, attentive, bilingual, and eager to help, and ran a finely tuned service machine. In the MDR they worked in efficient coordinated teams, with one key person assigned to beverages, another assigned to food, and a couple lower level staff hovered to offer more bread and whisk away dirty plates and be alert if you were waving for any need. Service personnel at my table were always the same and anticipated my needs. My wine glass was readily refilled without having to fight for it like I did on SB last year, and oddly also on the Europa 2 last fall (not sure why there is such a difference for the same cruise line now). Dining room staff were there when you needed them without being intrusive and there was no premature snatching of plates. Waiters checked to make sure your meals were satisfactory shortly after you started eating. There were no awkward delays or irritating mess-ups that can sour a luxury experience. There were only a couple minor service glitches (e.g., once the waiter did not send the rest of my wine to my suite as I had requested but instead saved it for the next day; once a waitress got confused on my wine order, e.g., thought I had drunk a whole Karaffe where I had only had a glass, yet charged me for the whole; once crew showed up with the wrong appetizer, promptly rectified, and a pair of sox was lost after sending to the laundry, but then was found; and on the final gala night I waited all of ten minutes for a wine refill -- once, usually I never waited). The only minor service disappointment I had was that the crew member in charge of individual itineraries was not proactive in following up on my request to secure ship to airport transportation for my flight to Munich, and seemed a bit cavalier about its importance to me ( I had the last connection to the U.S. that day booked and missing my first flight was to be avoided at all costs), so I had to keep reminding him every day for almost a week to keep me posted, until resolution. But it all worked out fine anyway just as he said it would so I was needlessly anxious. PORTS NICE — anyone reading this review has probably already been to sunny and luxurious Nice. It was Formula One weekend in nearby Monaco, so the place was hopping, and even more expensive than usual. I sought dining refuge in a little side street restaurant near the opera, Le Frog, and at a pleasant drink, snack and people-watching place called Balthazar on the main drag, which had surprisingly good service and comfortable chairs despite catering to tourists. I also ate at truffle specialty restaurant. As noted above, it did not have a cruise terminal building where we embarked. BASTIA (northeast Corsica). This was a pleasant walkable little old town, easy to do on your own. BONAFACIO (southern Corsica), tender. Tender crew were mostly skilled and experienced Filipinos. I did an excursion involving a combination of a boat ride to a grotto and a town walkabout, though it could easily be done individually. ALGHERO (Sardinia), tender. A typical, walkable seaside town in the Med. Shoreside, MS Europa had a station set up with cold drinks and shade to wait for tenders, or just to rehydrate while touring the town independently on foot. MAHAN (Minorca) — formerly under British influence, a gin haven, and home of Cardinal Richelieu’s original “mayonnaise" discovery! A side trip to Ciutadella, a cute seaside market town 30 miles away by road, with a sheep mascot, was worthwhile. BARCELONA, overnight — the Catalonian center many cruises start and end at; this was my fourth time to this wonderful city, where many banners favoring independence were still visible. There are many well-known things to see and do here centered around Gaudi, see other abundant CC reviews for that. I did something more unusual this time, i.e., journied to the beautiful Palau de la Musica with its fantastic organ, and former Hospital de la Santa Pau (now a museum), with absolutely stunning architecture (not Gaudi, but Lluis Domenech i Montaner). The ship also organized a brilliant, private classical Spanish music land concert for us with the Cadaques Orchestra and assorted classical soloists, and I had an awesome front row seat, was immersed in the orchestra. VALENCIA I went on an interesting walking tour of the opera house and the very expensive (and over budget crazy modern architecture in the city. This is worth doing at least once, tours are available in English. MALAGA I did not spend time in town, but went on a trip to the old, walkable town of Mijas about 40 minutes away, with a wine and tapas tasting excursion. The captain’s pleasant wife (a former East German of a privileged class) co-hosted. This could realistically be done with a private tour. CADIZ (substituted for Portimaio, due to an anticipated port strike). Cadiz is a couple hours from Seville, but is a nice port for tourists in its own right. I did a city walking tour in the rain, and hiked up 156 steps on a tower with a Camera Obscura. LISBON, overnight, something for everyone here, a wonderful tourist city, there are many reviews. I did a spontaneous private tour with a colorful old native who showed me nooks and alleyways and told interesting stories, and one to the Gulbenkian museum, which has some fantastic collections from antiquity to 20th century, and some gardens. There was a sea day half way through the cruise, and just before the end, with music and talks and of course more eating and exercise options to keep you busy. No trivia in any language. ENTERTAINMENT As noted above, the main reason for my doing this cruise was the classical music Ocean Sun Festival, which I had been very impressed with in 2017, and it was equally exquisite this year. World-class artists were brought on board, and/or we were brought to them in Barcelona for a private evening concert. We had harpist soloist Xavier de Maistre and the Cadaques Orchestra; soprano Sara Blanch; tenor Marc Sala; senior lady castagnettist Lucero Tena (a crowd favorite, as she was in top form despite her age, thus giving us all hope); the Munich Philharmonic String Quartet which did a stirring rendition of the Felix Mendelssohn string quartet in F minor; brilliant young Australian violinist Ray Chen; pianist Ohad Ben-Ari; clarinetist David Orlowsky; a string quartet from Vienna; and pianist brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen. Additional performers included the Spanish tango and flamenco dancers group Ispacion (this was my third time seeing them, their beauty and drama never gets old, plus they are also easy on the eyes in between performances); vintage English/German descent pop singer Ireen Sheer (not my style but some liked her); an electrical engineer turned magician Dr. Alexander Mabros (a bit long-winded, German only), a cabaret comedian (in German only) Robert Griess, ocean lounge pianist Wolfgang Kick, and a very talented on-board 9 man Austrian band called “Impulse" that played oldies, jazz and dance music in English and German. It was also great fun watching German grey-haired grandmas well into their 70’s doing the twist, a couple wearing their orthopedic shoes, along with the few usual regular pax dancers in elegant clothing going through taught ballroom dancing moves with few smiles. An enrichment speaker (about architecture and art) named Stephan Boerries was also on board (he was knowledgable but a bit arrogant, e.g., constantly corrected the Valencia opera guide’s German grammar, and he made a few elitist politically snide remarks). Last but not least, a clergyman was on board to take care of any souls that might be feeling lost at sea, and was available for regular sessions at tea time and as needed. There was a bilingual personal trainer on board, there were various exercise classes offered I did not attend, there was a good-sized uncrowded pool heated to 28 degrees C for laps, one jacuzzi near the pool that was unfortunately only warm but not hot, and there was a pool party with a dance floor and international pop thumping music, (where I spent most of my time watching the off-duty colorful Ispacion dancers improvise to the music — a free unofficial performance!). I did not ask for it, but the NYT international version appeared in my cabin each day, (it got tossed) as did a bowl of fresh fruit (mostly eaten). There was a fun parade of chefs (a surprising number of Filipinos were in charge of various food creations, under the direction of young main gourmet chef Tillman Fischer) farewell performance followed by distribution of little marzipan men. On the last gala night, crew sang sea classics, including the captain, Olaf Hartmann, who has an excellent voice. INTERNET One free hour per day was included and you could buy more data at reasonable prices. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, i.e., a typical cruise experience. I thus maximized use of my cellular service and hot-spots. SMOKING Most of the indoor areas on the ship were non-smoking and there was a designated smoking area indoors, Havana Club. Smoking is allowed on balconies and in outdoor areas in most places (only designated areas in the Lido). However, even though few pax smoked, as it was allowed at the indoor piano bar near the atrium, even a couple smoking Spanish dancers could fill that room with whiffs of smoke. Asthmatics or militant smokophobics would be unhappy there. On the gala evening when sailors’ songs were sung in the atrium by a few dozen pax, the smoke from a few lit cigarettes accumulating was too much even for me so I retreated after 15 minutes, and usually I do not care. DISEMBARKATION: no problems, no lines, you could stay in cabin until 9, had to be off ship by 10, luggage retrieval in Bilbao was easy, and the concierge had indeed arranged a taxi for me as requested. Suggestions for improvement (minor): 1. Earlier boarding would be a nice, the way other luxury lines allow boarding around noon with pax then eating lunch in the Lido type area while waiting for suites to be readied. Then one could come straight from hotel checkout with luggage to the ship. 2. It would be good to either have the Touristik/excursion office open in the afternoon, when many pax have down time, or have reception take messages to pass on to them, rather than just the limited morning and evening hours they currently have (which are often unclear or not posted). A Seabourn Square type arrangement would improve ease of communication. 3. Walking excursion tours had too many people to be ideal for me (typically mid 20’s) but were cheap and an easy lazy way to be safely and reliably taken to the sites. 4. Raise the jacuzzi temperature to above body temperature, so it would be a true "hot tub" 5. The atrium should be a no smoking zone. OVERALL, this was an outstanding ship, crew, and cruise. It provided the best overall food, service, and comfort I have had on well over a dozen luxury cruises, and the close-up music and dance were fantastic. However, you would have to be a bit adventuresome to travel on this ship if you are not from a German-speaking country or with someone who can read and understand at least basic German. I am not German, (parents were born in Eastern Europe), but for various reasons I can speak quite a bit and understand even more if people speak high German instead of dialects, so that was helpful for eavesdropping in conversations or hearing off the cuff jokes crew and pax told and for listening to enrichment speakers and comedians. But I do not think it would be essential to speak any German at all to enjoy the food and service and music on this ship (see my previous MS Europa review from September 2016, wherein I commented about some British pax who spoke no German at all but who preferred cruising here for many years). Just a little planning and accommodation and perhaps an iPhone app and polite requests would do the trick (e.g., pre-reviewing MDR menus and port info on TV or with English-speaking crew when they have time). But if you are someone who feels uncomfortable having crew translate daily menus for you even if the menus are short and it only takes a few minutes, (the “classics" on the menu can be pre-translated after boarding) this is not for you. Also, if you need to have large varying English-speaking social circles on board, old or new, and thus must have open seating in the MDR at dinner, the Europa is also not for you. If you crave attention from other pax, you would be unhappy here, as you will likely just be ignored and treated as an invisible foreigner, though politely, by fellow pax, some of whom will tolerate you but frankly would prefer you not be there as they are old enough to have memories of growing up after World War 2, when Germany was in rubbles from allied bombing. You would still be given full and friendly luxury attention by mostly young and professional crew. There were also occasional whiffs of smoke here and there could also make a few people very unhappy if they are sensitive. An English-only couple who is neutral or favorable to smoking whiffs and that puts a priority on excellent food and seamless service, usually dines alone anyway, does not need to socialize with other pax to have a good time, and organizes its own tours, would do fine, especially if the pax work with their TA to secure an advance "table for two" assignment in the MDR. Also, note all of this wonderful high end music, food and service comes at a higher per diem cost, all in, than other luxury lines, but despite the cost, bookings are hard to get. I hope to post pictures soon after I have sorted them, either here or on the CC subforum of "special interest travel", "luxury cruising", as HL does not have its own subforum. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2018
Spending twenty days in the Antarctic and South Georgia Island, I am happy to say that the entire experience was beyond our expectations. Hapag Lloyd is genious at marrying bold expedition cruising with a top rate hotel experience. Their ... Read More
Spending twenty days in the Antarctic and South Georgia Island, I am happy to say that the entire experience was beyond our expectations. Hapag Lloyd is genious at marrying bold expedition cruising with a top rate hotel experience. Their ships have the highest ice class hull rating available, knowledgeable bridge officers who are experts in these regions, and a first class hotel staff. Hapag Lloyd’s commitment to the polar regions is such that there will be three out of five of their ships in the region at any one time. Our captain was adept at making changes as needed, and ventured far into the ice fields. In my cabin, I could hear the ice scraping against the hull as the ship navigated it’s way into the Weddel sea (famous for its ice, which Earnest Shackleton got stuck). As our landing site was not accessible, the captain sent out an exploration party to find a suitable ice flow, for us to visit via the zodiacs. Once there we were greeted with champagne in flute glasses with a proper bar set up! Later in the cruise, we had a cocktail party where if harvested from the Berg was chipped away for cocktails. This was the very last cruise of the Hanseatic in the Antarctic, so I will not go into details of the ship. The good news for anyone planning a trip, ie, you my dear readers, is that the new bilingual expedition ship, the Inspiration, being built specifically for Polar cruising will be coming online in October 2019. This leaves a gap, with no expedition sailings for a year. This is an unfortunate but unavoidable problem, as the Hanseatic is leased, and the owner is recalling the ship this fall. We had 160 passengers on our sailing, with ample time ashore. The system of our landings was well organized. Boots and parkas were fitted on a sea day. There are two proper boot rooms (one for odd cabins the other for even) where we would store our boots and life preservers in cubbies marked for our cabin after each outing. There were several boot washers so never a wait. I can’t imagine having to store boots in my cabin, as some other lines require. Or having to rent them! The crew found landing areas that did not require us to step in deep water, as I have sometimes read. The waterproof, insulated boots were perfect. The dining room staff learned our preferences right away. The menu never repeated in twenty days. Plenty of variety offered at our six course dinners. Breakfast featured the cold items on a buffet, a dozen types of bread, juices, champagne, fruit, meats and fish, yogurts, cereal. The hot menu went from all the egg dishes to lamb chops, eggs Benedict, waffles, and many other items. Lunch was in two venues, with heat lamps on the outside aft deck, allowing al fresco dining in cold weather. Also, hot boullion every day at 11, afternoon tea (sometimes special items like a waffle buffet), before dinner bites in the observation lounge as well as late night snacks were offered. Service and programming was upbeat and enthusiastic and site specific,The staff was always available to offer a blanket, a drink, tea, an item from the buffet, and so on, Around the pool as soon as the weather got hot, there was ice tea. When it was cold, there was a hot tea (from an extensive menu). When we arrived in Rio, it was the local cocktail. In fact they had a special dance troupe onboard for our last night. At South Georgia Island, there were rum shots offered at Sir Earnest’s grave as well as a theme night dinner. Tea was brought ashore along with mulled cider and cookies as well. There was a Pool party with a Danish theme on a sail away from Antartica. A Baviarian themed lunch, a king crab theme lunch, etc. we had caviar and vodka shots one night at dinner. Our Ice flow champagne party, and more. We had an open bridge most of the time, unless there was a red sign in the door. Very interesting. I could check what the seas were forecasted at or sea how they were plotting routes through weather systems, we were even offered a tour of the engine room, which was very extensive and very interesting, One afternoon we had a science fair with microscopes and our experts to see things in a new way. Everyday had science lectures with our team of experts. These were also on tv and could be viewed in or cabin. A surprise offerince were the three to four exercise classes lasting thirty minutes which I loved, We even did cardio outside in Antartica in our parkas. Read Less
17 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
20 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 Europa 2 on a ... 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
6 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
12 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
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