It is no small thing to be on board for the ‘shakedown’ of a new Hapag-Lloyd ship. Europa 2, the most recent vessel in the German operator’s fleet, visited Southampton last Monday with guests invited to take an overnight mini-cruise towards Land’s End and back.
Europa 2 is a very different proposition from the line’s previous ship, Europa. Clean, modern and relaxed are how the company is describing its new offering as opposed to its traditional predecessor. According to Douglas Ward, of Berlitz Guide to Cruising, Europa class ships are the best in the world, top in the industry, the crème de la crème. I will be interested to see if I feel the ‘wow’ factor as well.
My first impression as I board is the vast amount of space and sheer whiteness of the vessel’s interior. Several of the vast number of artworks (890 in total) are completely white to match their background. I heard some guests using the word ‘clinical’, though I think the analogy is a little harsh. What I would say is that there is so much space, glass and light that, on a sunny day, the effect is translucence.
Walking through the ship to Deck 4’s reception, the area has tall ceilings and a comfortable, expansive seating area; there is also a low slung bar and a grand piano strategically placed before you even see the reception desk. This ship has clearly been well thought out from conception through to delivery and it shows in details like this.
The next obvious feature is that the sea is visible from almost everywhere onboard. Even if the inside of the vessel looks like a modernist hotel, you never forget that you are on the ocean.
Overall there are eight restaurants and six bars onboard the Europa 2. There is no casino but the pool deck is beautifully laid out and has a retractable roof. The spacious spa and gym are all muted colours and wood interiors. Fitness is certainly a focus here, a telling sign of who Hapag expects to be sailing.
You can’t help but notice the level of attention given by the staff. Quietly waiting to serve you a glass of champagne or assisting with your luggage, this is the service that Hapag-Lloyd has built its brand reputation on. It is very intuitive, slightly cool, not ‘in your face’ but every bit as friendly as staff on other ships. Attention to details such as hand-made carpets, strawberries in your suite on arrival (and every cabin is a suite with a balcony) and a free mini bar stocked twice a day are all par for the course.
The Spa Suite was actually my favourite cabin as far as lay out. It is 42sqm, the living room has a modular sofa and is separated from the bedroom by open wooden slats. The bed is enormous and there is a flat screen TV as well as espresso machine. Each level of accommodation onboard has a bathtub and, nearly all, have a window between the bathroom and bedroom. So when you pull up the blinds, again, you have a view of the sea. I am getting the theme here!
Food is also at the forefront of the Hapag-Lloyd ‘mission to please’. The breakfast buffet at The Yacht Club was full of surprises and variety. You could have everything from an English fry up, to curry or fancy yoghurts. And virtually everything inbetween. The Weltmeere (World Seas) restaurant is the main dining room and the food is excellent though the service a little slow. Note that wine is not included with meals and there are some very expensive offerings on the menu.
Extraordinary ship, but also an extraordinary price. As a result the great deal of the British population would be priced out of this product.