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CruiseReportHapag-Lloyd MS Europa 25A cruise review of Hapag-Lloyd MS Europa 2 in Caribbean
by John & Sandra Nowlan
Journalist  25
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  MS Europa 2
New York to Antigua Europa 2
December 2014
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
Day 1

Sophisticated. That's the best way to describe both our pre-boarding New York hotel stay and our first impressions of Hapag-Lloyd's stunning new cruise ship, Europa 2.

The New York Hilton Midtown is a huge, bustling hotel located just a block from the glamorous shops of 5th Avenue and a 10 minute walk from the vibrancy of Times Square. Our newly decorated room on the 40th floor was an ideal comfort zone from the rush of Manhattan below. A highlight was the massive 50 inch LCD TV on the wall facing the comfortable bed.

New York Hilton

After an excellent breakfast in the Herb 'n Kitchen restaurant we did some final shopping and caught a cab ($10) to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal where the 500 passenger Europa 2 berthed proudly on its first U.S. visit.

Both the lobby (New Art Deco style with lots of stainless steel and glass) and our suite (cream and tan color scheme with intelligent lighting and loads of storage space) spoke of an elegance that's rare in cruise ships. But the Germany-based Europa 2, and its older sister Europa, have achieved the highest-ever scores in the respected Berlitz Guide to Cruising. In coming days, as we head south towards Antigua, we look forward to seeing why it works so well.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 lobby
The elegant lobby on Europa 2

Day 2

Still in New York awaiting many guests on a charter flight from Germany, we had time to explore the ship and the special features that make it unique. All suites on Europa 2 have balconies and are large by industry standards (the smallest is 375 square feet). The rooms have a complementary mini-bar with glasses in five sizes for any occasion and a new-generation coffee maker with many flavor choices. The lighting has a broad range of bedside options that control brightness and location. All bathrooms have two sinks, a Jacuzzi tub and a shower. There's a separate toilet room with a third sink. The beds have lush, goose feather duvets and can be inclined making them more comfortable than any we've had on a cruise ship. Robes and slippers (even XL for big feet) are standard.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 Suite
Our suite on Europa 2

Europa 2 boasts more space per passenger than any other cruise ship and this is evident in the wide hallways and generous public spaces with the tallest ceilings in the industry. The windows are unusually large making rooms bright and cheery. There's a large library, a separate games room, a culinary school, a spa and gym with a golf simulator, an art gallery, a special space for kids, comfortable, well-stocked bars and seven separate dining areas (all at no extra charge). Deck 9 contains a large, covered pool (with retractable roof), an excellent front observation lounge and the main, informal restaurant, The Yacht Club. There is no casino.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 Pool
Covered pool on Deck 9

For lunch, we ate at Weltmeere, the main restaurant on deck 4 with Murano glass lighting and a silver leaf ceiling. Both the appetizer (shrimp) and the main course (turbot) were perfectly prepared and presented with imagination. Service by the young wait staff (mainly Germans who spoke perfect English) was efficient and very professional. Staff training is clearly a priority.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 Dining Room
Weltmeere Dining Room

In the evening, as we prepared to depart New York for points south we enjoyed Sushi and tempura shrimp in Europa 2's Japanese restaurant, Sakura (who knew a German ship could produce such excellent sushi?).

After dinner it was sail-away time as we left the bright lights of Manhattan, sailed past the Statue of Liberty, under the massive Verrazano Narrows Bridge and into the stormy North Atlantic.

Day 3

We awoke as Europa 2 was shaken by high winds, pounding rain and 20 foot high seas. But the ship's stabilizers were out and discomfort was minimized. At the buffet breakfast in the Yacht Club on Deck 9, the high level of service and attention to detail was evident. Excellent coffee was served in individual silver pots and the orange juice was fresh squeezed. As expected on a German ship, the array of sausages, smoked meats and cheeses was outstanding but equally impressive were the cereal condiments. To our porridge we could add flax, chia seeds, amaranth, wheat bran or spelt plus, if we wished, sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. We've never been on a ship with so many choices.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 Breakfast
Getting ready for breakfast service

After breakfast we ran into a New Jersey couple who were veterans of more than 30 cruises but on their first with Hapag-Lloyd. They loved the attentive service, generous spaces and excellent cuisine options but were frustrated by the few TV channels available (only a couple of Asian English services but no CNN, MSNBC or BBC). They also didn't understand why there was complementary beer, soda and bottled water in their mini-fridge but at lunch or dinner, these were extra cost. A number of American guests echoed this concern to us over the next few days and we never did get a satisfactory answer (the hotel manager turned down our request for an interview). It's very strange because the ship is trying hard to attract more English speaking guests.

For our first full day at sea we chose dinner at the Italian restaurant, Serenissima. The roasted tomato soup and the risotto were outstanding. The main course, sea bass, was also excellent but the portion size was much smaller than one would get on American based ships (but, as on all cruise ships, you could order more if you wished).

Europa 2 has a large, two story main theatre with state-of-the-art technology but the scheduled entertainment had to be cancelled this evening because of rough seas. Unfortunately it was never re-scheduled (as happens routinely on other ships) so we never got to see the marvelous LED lighting and language-free acrobatics that we were told are hallmarks of this ship. A major disappointment.

Day 4

Bright skies. Calm seas. We're nearing Caribbean waters at last. After breakfast on the open deck of the Yacht Club, the Art Gallery Director gave us a tour of the ship and its hundreds of valuable paintings, sculptures and other artistic gems found in public spaces, stairs and hallways.

It was a day to relax, enjoy a fine lunch at Tarragon, the French restaurant (the chateaubriand was amazing), and savor a good book from the library on our spacious balcony.

In the evening, a gin tasting seminar (with the largest gin selection at sea) featured some unusual and exotic choices from the 37 brands stocked on Europa 2. This was followed by dinner at Elements, an Asian fusion restaurant with some of the best cuisine so far including rambutan salad and sweet potato soup. Afterwards, a talented string quartet with piano accompaniment entertained in the Belvedere Lounge.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 Gin
Unusual gin selection

Day 5

Another fine day at sea highlighted by a sushi making class headed by the chief sushi maker (interestingly, he was from India where sushi is very popular). It was a roll-up-the-sleeves effort and all of us got to enjoy the rice, tuna, salmon and mango creations we produced.

In the early evening we joined other guests in the Grand Reserve, a special room for fine wine tasting (the ship stocks 19,000 bottles of wine in 450 varieties ranging in price between 15 and 1030 Euros) followed by an excellent dinner at Tarragon. The evening service was efficient but formal with silver domes over many of the dishes and uncovered in unison. Later in the evening the Captain introduced his officers on the pool deck (delayed because of earlier bad weather) and the excellent house band provided music for dancing.

Sandra Nowlan
Silver dome service

Day 6

We were greeted by the cries of Northern Gannets outside our balcony, meaning land was nearby. Before we anchored in St. Barts we ordered a room service breakfast. It was lavish and featured pate de fois gras and shrimp cocktail as well as the usual breakfast items. It came precisely on time and was served by two efficient butlers.

A tour of the Galley (spotless, as expected, but surprisingly large for a ship of this size) was followed by another meal at Elements, the Asian Fusion restaurant that has become a favorite for us (the menu rates the 'heat' of each dish with red chili peppers - between zero and three).

Being seabound for almost four days, there was a long line for the afternoon tender service into Gustavia, the principal city of Saint Barthelemy (better known as St. Barts). This a very upscale French island with many high end shops along the main street. We enjoyed an upscale dinner at the Hotel Guanahani where the refined service and excellent food matched the quality of Europa 2.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 Review
Europa 2 in St. Bart's harbour

Day 7

Disembarkation. A number of guests, including us, left Europa 2 in Antigua (most guests stayed on for the remainder of the cruise to Miami). Our disappointment at having to leave this floating haven of hospitality was tempered by an overnight stay at the Sandals Grand Antigua Resort. We've become Sandals fans over the years and this beachside resort seemed especially well run.

Sandal's Antigua
Sandals Antigua

Looking back at our days at sea, we know we had high expectations for Europa 2 and we're pleased that, with few exceptions, they were met and exceeded. Douglas Ward, author of the authoritative Berlitz Guide to Cruising, said that Hapag-Lloyd ships excelled because of their attention to detail. That certainly proved to be accurate with Europa 2. Combined with the sophistication of the food, service and décor, a cruise on Europa 2 is ideal for the upscale traveler who demands the highest standard in modern cruising.

John Nowlan and Sandra Nowlan

John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their website is




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