As we predicted in April 2012 after seeing the artist’s depictions of the public rooms and restaurants, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 has indeed turned out to be a real stunner. Compared to her fleetmate Europa, now fourteen years in service, it is difficult to see how cruise rating aficionados will not be able to give her an even higher rating, which would make her the top-rated ship in the world. With a passenger space ratio in the vicinity of 80 tons per passenger (a world record), this is a ship where everywhere you go the sea is with you.
Along with the great and the good of the cruise and travel press, about sixty top UK cruise agents were invited on a one-night cruise from Southampton along the English Channel towards Cornwall last week. Also on board was Douglas Ward, editor of the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships.
Two of the themes on the new ship are “Relaxed Luxury” and a “Hideaway at Sea.” This is quite different from what is on offer in the rest of today’s cruise market, even from ultra-luxury operators. Europa 2 is aimed squarely at a different audience – the affluent executive and professional classes still in work, younger in age and with growing children. The new ship’s dress code is therefore smart casual, not formal.
To reach this audience, the new ship’s operation is quite different from others. Her summer cruises in the Mediterranean are based on 7-day itineraries that can be extended to 14 or 21 days, with no itinerary repeated before three cruises have elapsed. In addition, nannies will be engaged on a ratio of one for every four children. Because of this and the need to house entertainers, although the ship has been designed to accommodate 516 guests, it is unlikely that her passenger loads will ever exceed 480.
Her shorter routes are ideal for a new audience. With 7-day combinable Mediterranean cruises and 13-to-20 day combination cruises to far-away destinations by winter, Europa 2 meets the requirements of young high-earning professionals and families with limited holiday time. Calling at 123 ports on twenty-six different itineraries this year, her cruises will take guests to the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia and China, and then in 2014/15 to the Americas.
All itineraries are based on ports that have plenty of air service and are easy to get in and out of – for example, Barcelona, Monte Carlo (Nice) and Venice, Dubai in the Middle East, and in the Far East, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The ship’s size is a major advantage – with a length of 739 feet and a draught of 20.7 feet, Europa 2 is capable of calling at small, rarely-visited ports such as Bonifacio and Portofino, where larger ships cannot go. Twelve Zodiacs are also carried to take passengers ashore to lagoons and beaches that other ships cannot reach. The Europa 2 also introduces some new concepts. She has a magrodome, but it is not the usual cover over a pool deck but is two decks high.
The new ship’s accommodations are all Veranda Suites, with balconies each measuring at least 75 square feet. All suites come equipped with a free mini bar, Wi-Fi Internet access (at a charge) and a tablet computer. The ship‘s 251 suites come in seven categories measuring from 301 to 1,066 square feet. The highest categories have whirlpools with ocean view.
Sixteen Spa Suites have whirlpool tubs and rain showers with steam saunas, providing guests with a private oasis of well-being. For families traveling together, there are seven family suites, where parents and children live in two separate areas, connected by a door and a shared balcony. What’s more, children up to the age of eleven are carried free of charge as long as they occupy a suite with their parents.
Important to Europa 2 is that every cruise caters to international passengers who speak English. This is unlike the present practice, which is to nominate international cruises for each ship in the fleet. By this means, it is aimed to increase the number of English-speaking passengers by four- or five-fold, from ten to twenty per internatuonal sailing now to fifty to eighty in three to five years’ time.
There are eight different restaurants to choose from and wines and spirits are sold at prices that are cheaper than onshore, unlike virtually every other cruise line other than the all-inclusive ones. Beer is about €1.40, a cocktail around €4.20 and bottles of wine run from about €14. The usual practice on cruise ships has moved away from such duty free prices to charging full shoreside hotel prices. Hapag-Lloyd’s goal is not to maximise on board revenue but to offer value and a good experience. Also, in the alternative restaurants, it will not be possible to book more than forty-eight hours in advance, giving an opportunity for all to experience them where on some lines old hands have been able to monopolise these spaces.
All in all, some interesting ideas are coming out of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and this ship is a real game changer. The most interesting thing about this ship was that at the end of the voyage many said they did not want to leave her. She was christened in Hamburg on Friday, May 10, 2013.
For further details on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and how to book the Europa 2 please contact Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or Freephone 0800 526 313 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.