Cuisine on Europa 2 runs the gamut from sausage, pricy Iberian ham and roast duck to goat cheese salad, sushi and vegan dishes. No expense is spared. Hapag-Lloyd knows Europa 2 clients are used to the best at home. The ship's restaurants -- including a main dining room, buffet, four specialty eateries and more casual options -- are open to all without surcharge. Reservations at specialty eateries are recommended.
Mealtimes are flexible, and not having assigned seating means you never have to sit with strangers. Nearly half of the tables in Restaurant Weltmeere, the main dining room, are for twosomes.
Restaurant Weltmeere (Deck 4): The dining room, whose name translates to "World Ocean" in English, is open for breakfast and dinner and offers menus that change daily. Weltmeere is smaller than most main restaurants on luxury ships and impressively designed with fluted black pillars, windows on three sides and a magnificent rose-colored chandelier shaped like octopus tentacles made of hand-blown Venetian glass. (It was a feat to get it safely onboard.)
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Breakfasts include a buffet offering yogurt, juices, fresh fruit, cheeses, sausage, muesli and homemade breads, including gluten-free. You can order omelets and Bavarian sausage, as well as specialties that include veal steak and sole filet.
At dinner, menus are divided into two parts. One offers healthful vegetarian "cuisine naturelle," such as a chilled carrot/pumpkin/pear smoothie to start and a lentil ragout. The "Chef's Menu" might begin with an amuse-bouche of pumpkin soup with a stirring stick that's a tiny strip of dried chicken, a starter of herring with apples and sour cream or smoked fish sampler. Main courses could include tournedos of beef with foie grasand truffle sauce, grilled fish or the chef's specialty: melt-in-your-mouth marinated Piedmontese beef tenderloin from Italy with tomato/eggplant compote and truffle-flavored potato foam. A palate cleanser of sorbet with Champagne poured over by your server is offered. Save room for banana-lime parfait with fresh mango, homemade ice cream or apple strudel. Or choose from a cheese trolley wheeled to the table.
Here and around the ship you can order from a selection of 450 reasonably priced wines from around the world. The emphasis is on Old World wines, but you can find South African Syrahs or chardonnay from the USA. Europa 2 has its own private-label pinot blanc from Markus Schneider, priced at 24 euros. Decent wine by the glass (such as a French Crozes-Hermitage Rhone) can be had for about 5 euros.
Restaurant Serenissima (Deck 4): The centerpiece of the upscale and romantic Italian dining option is green Murano glass chandeliers with small shaded lamps. The floor is marble. Chairs are draped in white, and many tables have ocean views.
Serenissima is open for lunch and dinner. Menus showcase Italian regional specialties. On our cruise, the cuisine was uneven compared to that of other restaurants, surprising given the executive chef's Italian heritage. Grilled branzino was fine, but lobster with lemon, artichoke and basil was mushy. Dessert might be Amaretto spongecake or baked fruit with Marsala foam or the outstanding olive oil ice cream. Vegetarian offerings include chickpea soup and pasta without meat sauces. Service was slow when we dined, a rarity on this ship.
Restaurant Elements (Deck 4): Across the corridor, Elements specializes in Asian-fusion dishes in a discreetly elegant setting. Modern takes on Ming Dynasty art (such as blue-and-white porcelain beer cans) adorn the entrance. The ceiling resembles a Japanese tatami mat, and lighting fixtures are large, hanging Asian-style lanterns.
Specialties on the small menu include Vietnam noodle soup, grilled prawns with green chili-curry sauce and vegetarian sweet potato soup with corn. Open for lunch and dinner.
Restaurant Tarragon (Deck 4): Europa 2's French venue simulates a brasserie, with black-and-white checkerboard floors, dark wood columns and tile walls. The menu is upscale, including roast lamb and chateaubriand with bearnaise sauce. Vegetarians can order celery souffle with pea puree and asparagus. The signature dish: beef tartare, prepared tableside. Creme brulee with lavender is a standout dessert. Tarragon is open for lunch and dinner and was pleasantly uncrowded at lunch during our sailing.
Sansibar (Deck 8): An outpost of the legendary-in-Germany beach watering hole on the resort island of Sylt, the casual, partially alfresco restaurant/bar is where late risers can enjoy a light breakfast until 2 p.m. daily (housemade croissants and included espresso drinks are popular) or a snack before dawn. Sansibar Currywurst -- grilled sausage with curry -- is a favorite. Vegetarian options include spaghetti with tomato, garlic, herbs and olive oil and caprese salad with mozzarella, tomato and pesto. Here, you also can order Caesar salad, a smoked salmon plate and club sandwich off the room-service menu at any hour.
Yacht Club Restaurant (Deck 9): The aft buffet, with some tables on deck under heat lamps and table service for drinks and items from the separate grill and pasta bar, is many cruisers' favorite eatery onboard. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and closes between meals (save for the grill, which usually serves lunch until 6 p.m.); it closes for good at 9:30 p.m. The offerings are so lavish and expansive that it would take weeks to sample all the mouthwatering choices. Smoked and marinated fish are standard at every meal.
Breakfasts, which include complimentary serve-yourself Champagne to quaff alone or drink in a Mimosa, are staggering. We counted 16 freshly baked breads and rolls, 12 kinds of pastry, six jams, six kinds of milk and four types of honey, including some in the comb. Every kind of egg is available, including a made-to-order omelet. Servers in navy skirts and cardigans deliver entrees and espresso drinks.
Healthy "Ayurvedic" choices include sauerkraut and beet juices (among 10 fresh varieties offered), muesli and multiple yogurt choices. Ayurvedic buffet offerings at all meals are vegetarian, ranging from lassi yogurt drinks to salads, chickpea mousse and sides of trendy goji berries and chia seeds. Hot and cold dishes are offered.
At every meal, you might find dishes tailored to ports, such as a tapas buffet for Spain and Middle East foods for Dubai.
Dinner offerings include cream of tomato soup with gin cream; a lobster, crab and oyster bar; and changing hot buffet items that might include deer loin with red cabbage, braised beef cheeks, veal loin and roast potatoes with chutney seasoned butter. The crowded cold buffet displays half lobsters, king crab legs, prawns, oysters, shrimp and seafood salad. Much of the 80 kilos of lobster consumed a day On Europa 2 are served here.
The buffet pasta bar has typical toppings and a pasta and pizza of the day -- perhaps tortellini in ham-cream sauce and a calzone. The grill dispenses a changing menu of halibut, cod, salmon and prawns as well as steaks, pork neck and veal.
Desserts include cakes, custard-glazed beignets and the seductive gelato bar offering flavors such as double chocolate, black vanilla, praline and mango. Scoops can be topped with complimentary Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur or Kahlua that you pour yourself.
Pool Bar (Deck 9): The Pool Bar is the ship's hot spot at 3 p.m. on sea days, when passengers and crew start lining up for the fresh-made waffle of the day. Waffles can be topped with cherry compote, ice cream, whipped cream and more. Coffee, tea and pastries also are available here for early risers starting at 6 a.m. Food service stops around 5 p.m.
Sakura (Deck 9): One of the big hits with English-speaking guests is this casual sushi restaurant, tucked away off the Yacht Club buffet. Open only for dinner, it serves high-grade freshly prepared tuna, salmon, eel and more. The fish had to be frozen to withstand the voyage, but doesn't taste it. Star dishes: tuna teriyaki with spicy sour cream, sashimi and rolls including one filled with crunchy prawn, salmon, leeks and spicy mayonnaise. Vegans can get pumpkin tempura. No one minds if diners slip off to the buffet and bring back a heaping bowl of that addictive gelato.
Belvedere (Deck 9): Belvedere is an airy space with ivory leather banquettes and chairs at the front of the ship; its panoramic wall of windows gives outstanding sea views. It's a great place to relax with a book or cup of just-brewed tea before it gets busy around 4 p.m. when the pianist is playing. Choose from tea sandwiches, pastries, chocolate mousse cake and other sweets to accompany one of the three-dozen teas on offer, including a restorative brew made with fresh ginger. Chamber music concerts are also offered here. Open noon to 6 p.m. daily. Tea, pastries and sandwiches are served from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Room Service: Complimentary in-cabin food service is available 24 hours a day. The expansive menu is heavy on Continental fare, though the burger, chicken club and fries are delicious. Choices include several types of smoked salmon with oranges, Kalahari salt, red onion wasabi and toasted rye bread, wiener schnitzel, sausages with potato salad and mustard, rare roast beef with tartar sauce and herbed potatoes. Vegetarian options including caprese salad with pesto and ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta are offered. Ice cream with pumpkin seed oil is among the more unusual desserts.
Worth a special mention is the gargantuan breakfast menu, which offers unusual variety. Choices include healthy fare (muesli, fruit, fruit salad, fresh-squeezed juices, yogurt), feasts of smoked fish, Bavarian sausage and pastries, and every kind of egg dish and Continental options. Lovers of English breakfasts can get them, down to the baked beans. This is the kind of ship that will try to cater to special requests, too. Want a plate of sliced ripe mango? You'll probably get it. Delivery time is generally within 15 minutes.