From the moment they step into the Europa II’s posh, light-filled lobby, surrounded by massive windows framing the turquoise blue Mediterranean sea, guests are welcomed warmly into a luxuriously stylish world of casual elegance.
The Europa II, a stunning ship that was launched in 2013 by German upscale cruise company Hapag-Lloyd, accommodates 500 cruisers with the highest ratio of space-per-passenger of any ship in the industry. Staff and crewmembers are friendly and accommodating, with services available 24 hours a day.
As a recent guest of Hapag-Lloyd, I discovered the cruise to truly emit “laid-back” luxury–an exclusive ambience without being formal.
For passengers who wish to escape the everyday and enjoy a stylish vacation, Hapag-Lloyd is the ultimate cruising experience. As a German cruise line, the company has traditionally catered to Europeans and has been virtually unknown to Americans–until recently. Today, it is making a concerted effort to attract U.S.- based passengers, and is rolling out the red carpet for English-speaking guests. All crewmembers are fluent in English, and all announcements are made in both English and German. Although a decidedly “international” crowd, most German passengers I personally encountered also spoke English.
For seasoned cruisers (or those who have experienced the larger ships), Hapag-Lloyd is a dramatic departure from the norm. With no formal dining rooms and no set meal times, Europa II is as untraditional as a cruise can get. On this ship, nothing ever feels crowded or cramped. Buffet lines are practically non-existent. Even at the swimming pool, plenty of cushy lounge chairs are available. And the weather is always perfect, too–really–because the retractable, glass-domed roof encasing the pool deck ensures it’s always an ideal temperature.
From top to bottom, this cruise is refined and luxurious and designed to feel open, airy, and breezy. There are eight categories of suites, and all have large terraces with lounge chairs. Suites are incredibly spacious (the smallest rooms are 300 square feet), well appointed, and accented in creams and grays. The rooms are also adorned with comfortable couches, desks, flat-screen TVs, a large and lovely make-up mirror, complimentary mini bar items, and large bathrooms–some with double sinks, separate tubs, steam showers, and glass walls.
And for even more relaxation, the ship’s upscale spa rivals most luxury resorts. For the ultimate in spa day, the ship even has a private couples massage room featuring a Jacuzzi tub and an outside view overlooking the sea. The ship also has a “Kids club” area and offers childcare for toddlers age two and older. Children ages 11 and under travel free when accompanied by two adults.
And what’s a cruise without a true gastronomic adventure? Food lovers adore the onboard dining experience on the Europa II, which is just as impressive as the ship itself, with seven restaurants and six bars. Whether guests choose to enjoy meals in the chic main dining room or try one of the specialty restaurants, the gourmet experience is unparalleled. Created for cosmopolitan travelers, the ship offers an array of eateries and bistros with any cuisine guests may be craving, whether it be French, Italian, Asian, Sushi, or others. The restaurants themselves feature spectacular yet comfortable designs and showcase intriguing artwork throughout. (Reservations are encouraged in these specialty restaurants, although the main dining room and more casual “Yacht Club” buffet are always open, as well.)
For art enthusiasts, the Europa II is the proverbial candy store. With an art gallery onboard, jaw-dropping modern works are displayed throughout the ship: in stairwells, by the pool, in dining rooms, and even in the most unexpected and delightful places.
Although the ship is the star of the show, the cruise includes a number of ports that encompass mainland and island destinations, including stops in picturesque areas around Italy, Sicily, Greece, Malta, France, and others. When docked, the ship’s passengers can choose to participate in land-focused activities, or just stay onboard and simply enjoy the ship’s amenities and activities (such as cooking classes and wine tastings) at their leisure. The excursions are carefully selected as well, and range from hiking and kayaking to snorkeling and historical walking tours.
Cruise prices: Special summer rates on the Mediterranean start at $4,190 per person for a seven-day cruise.