At the Inspiring Travel Company one of the things we love most about small-ship luxury cruising is that it’s a holiday experience that almost always exceeds expectations. No company exemplifies this more than Hapag-Lloyd, a German cruise line that has been in the business for a staggering 126 years. In 1891 founder Albert Ballin decided to use a transatlantic liner, which was lying idle over winter, to take guests on a pleasure trip to the Mediterranean; an unprecedented idea at the time.
Over the decades cruising has changed a lot, and so has Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, in particular by branching out into the international market with Europa 2, a staggeringly impressive cruise ship on which all staff speak impeccable English (as well as German) and all activities are conducted bilingually. Rated the ‘World’s Best Cruise Ship’ by Berlitz Cruise Guide for four years in a row (2014-2017) and described by travel presenter Sue Lawley as ‘as good as cruising gets’ in a recent Telegraph article, there’s no doubt that a journey aboard Europa 2 is a very special travel experience indeed.
The luxury cruise industry is thriving today and there are many ships with high staff to guest ratios, exciting international itineraries and gourmet restaurants galore, so what sets Europa 2 apart in this growing industry? We’ve put together five things that have ‘wowed’ us about this small luxury cruising vessel; some unexpected touches to inspire you.
1. The Wimbledon-style roof
On the Europa 2’s top deck you’ll find a 15-metre swimming pool. Generously sized and filled with saltwater, the smell of chlorine won’t linger on your skin after you have a dip. You have to look up, though, to see its most unusual feature: a retractable roof, reminiscent of the one we’ll be seeing plenty of on Centre Court over the next two weeks. This means, as we’re sure you can guess, that wherever you are in the world, come rain or shine, you can enjoy a few leisurely laps of the pool in complete comfort.
2. The ship’s bicycles
No, you won’t have to avoid cyclists promenading down the deck after dinner, but the Europa 2 does have its own bikes that guests can borrow at any port (terrain permitting). Intrepid travellers are free to set off on their own adventure or there’s always the option of taking a cycling tour with resident guide, Hansi.
Incidentally, on sea days Hansi also leads yoga classes in the impressive Ocean Spa area; just one of the many and varied onboard activities. Some lectures and debates in the programme take place in German, but all are perfectly translated into English via a headset.
3. The Original Artworks
No expense has been spared on any aspect of this ship, a fact that is underlined by the original works by Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter and David Hockney. In fact, there are over 890 original artworks on board, a fact which has led to Europa 2 being described as ‘a floating art gallery’.
4. The Family Apartments
Yes, you read that right, such is the provision for families aboard this luxury small ship that there are dedicated Family Apartments. Two inter-connecting rooms, one with a double bed, one with bunks and each with an en suite, provide the perfect space for a travelling clan. The children’s room is stocked with age-appropriate toys and amenities and even has a bath tub, which any parent will know is a godsend when travelling with tots. Children up to the age of 11 travel for free when staying in the same suite as their parents/guardians, there’s a dedicated programmes for kids and teens, and a free welcome package with essentials such as nappies for under 3’s completes the impressively family-friendly picture.
5. The climatised wine tasting rooms
For something a little more grown-up, a trip to the Grand Réserve will do nicely. Although it has become the norm for luxury cruise ships to have a pleasing selection of fine wines on offer, it is much more unusual for there to be two temperature-controlled rooms in which to sample from an extensive list under the guidance of an expert sommelier; Europa 2 has just that. And if gin rather than wine is your tipple of choice, rest assured you’ll be well served because Europa 2 has the largest selection of gin at sea and offers guests free tastings!
We could go on of course - Europa 2 boasts so many inspiring features. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a veteran of the seas, we’re sure you’ll find something ‘wow’ on this exceptional luxury cruise ship.