Posted on Thursday, April 7, 2011 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego heads to Los Angeles harbor for a lovely day on board his recently trekked, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises five-plus star MV EUROPA. The luxury line’s managing director, Sebastian Ahrens gave a press presentation on all the latest developments with the expanding company, including new details about the EUROPA 2, COLUMBUS 2 and HANSEATIC.
All images by and copyright Peter Knego unless otherwise noted. Please click on photo to view a larger version.
I was late for a very important date, thanks to my first traffic violation in some fifteen years. An hour after signing a subpoena on a street near my home in Moorpark, I was exchanging my freshly tainted driver license for a visitor’s pass at the Los Angeles World Cruise Center and rushing to board Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA.
Half way up the gangway, Kai Schmidt, the maitre’d from the ship’s exclusive Dieter Meier restaurant, greeted me like an old friend. “So nice to see you again, Mr. Knego. Welcome back home!” I was gobsmackered. I had spent a mere five days on the ship last October on a cruise from Piraeus to Trabzon, Turkey and this wonderful man remembered me? OK, I guess being a semi-veggie American on a German ship does make one stand out, but still…
My tardy entrance momentarily interrupted Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ managing director Sebastian Ahrens’ press conference detailing all the latest developments with the rapidly-growing German luxury cruise line.
Before I could dig out notepad and digital camera, a glass of champagne was discretely inserted into my hand. I was, after all, in the Clipper Bar of the EUROPA, Berlitz’s Guide to Cruises’ eleven year winner of “best ship in the world/five plus star” distinction. For an eleven year old vessel, this is quite the distinction.
Hapag-Lloyd revealed its planned fleet expansion this past January but since that announcement, more details have emerged. Instead of replacing the 28,890 ton, 1999-built current EUROPA, the line’s newly-contracted ship will be named EUROPA 2 and sail in tandem with the EUROPA but in an amended, albeit equally luxurious “five star” manner.
Externally, EUROPA 2 will resemble a longer, leaner EUROPA. She will measure approximately 39,500 gross tons and carry 516 passengers. The new all-suite-with-balconies ship will have a slightly lower but still very high passenger space ratio of 74 (versus 76 on the current ship) and will be priced at similar rates. But unlike the traditional, globe-trotting EUROPA, her future running mate will cater to a more casual, younger family demographic. Welcome and farewell parties, captain’s table dinners and low key evenings will give way to big stage entertainment, an expanded spa, more dining options (a formal restaurant, Lido, Italian, Asian, Brasserie, Sushi, Wine Bistro, Dieter Muller) and family-oriented activities. EUROPA 2 will also be sailing on a regular series of 7 day Mediterranean and Red Sea itineraries that can be combined with with other departures for those with more time.
Although the design and preparation are well underway, the first steel will not be cut until this September and completion at the STX shipyard in St. Nazaire (ex Chantiers de l’Atlantique) is planned for April of 2013. EUROPA 2 will be 740 by 87.5 feet with a draft of 20.7 feet, will have 11 decks, 258 suites and 360 staff.
But the new Hapag-Lloyd details are not limited solely to the two EUROPAs. The line’s three star, 14,903, 1997-built COLUMBUS will leave the fleet in 2012 and begin a new career as the HAMBURG for Plantours, another German operator.
COLUMBUS will be replaced by the 30,277 gt, 1998-built COLUMBUS 2 (ex R ONE), which is currently sailing as Oceania Cruises’ INSIGNIA. The charter of INSIGNIA will be for at least two years with an option for a third. After that, the charter may be extended or another ship could be ordered. For more details on INSIGNIA, please click here for our comprehensive Decked! tour of the ship.
And there is still more on tap for Hapag-Lloyd. The line’s five star expedition ship HANSEATIC will go into drydock this June (at Blohm and Voss in Hamburg or Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven). The two week refurbishment will see all cabins on Decks 5 and 6 completely redone with new paneling and soft fittings, lighting and furniture. For more on the HANSEATIC, please click here for a MaritimeMatters Sea Treks report aboard the ship on an Alaskan cruise in 2009. Four star expedition ship BREMEN has already undergone an extensive renewal of all fittings and decor.
Cruise Director Alexander Thurein (who began his career on the MV DELPHIN and later the MAXIM GORKIY, before joining Hapag-Lloyd) next led the press group on a short but thorough tour of the ship.
A long overdue “Decked!” will feature comprehensive images of the deck areas, public spaces and accommodation, so please stay tuned…
Paintings and sculptures seem to fill every corner of the ship. Fellow blogger Geoff Edwards was minding his own business when one bronze lady stopped by to pose with him in the Europa Deck passageway.
A statue for every occasion and emotion. What pictures can never convey is the clubby, elegant mood of EUROPA.
During the tour, someone radioed Alexander to let him know the ship had just received a remarkable 98 score (out of 100 possible) from the CDC during their inspection that day. Before long, we were gathering at the Europa Restaurant for lunch under a canopy of crystal.
Special English menus were printed for the day — even if there is just one English speaking passenger on board, English programs and menus are printed. And the service? Nothing beats the synchronized grace of the waiters and waitresses on EUROPA. With ballet precision, the staff approach, make eye contact and deliver each course with MS EUROPA logo at the top of the plate in a set noon position. No 12:05s here!
Starter choices were a goose liver terrine with fig compote and brioche or spicy fish salad with roasted garlic bread.
Soups were a beef consommé with profiteroles or paprika cream soup with nut bread croutons.
I had the sole fillet with champagne mousse, young leek and butter potatoes main course…and the saffron!
Fellow MaritimeMatters contributor Shawn Dake went with the beef fillet with pepper cream sauce, beans and potatoes au gratin. Fresh steamed vegetables were served separately.
Lunch concluded with an arty chocolate mousse and a sprinkling of marinated fruits.
Disembarking EUROPA is never easy but on this rare occasion, at least, I was a mere freeway commute away.
After my return, I received an e-mail from Shawn Dake. A staff member had given him an envelope with my name on it. A note inside read:
“Dear Mr. Knego,
Welcome back aboard the MV EUROPA!
I was glad to see your name on the visitor list! Time passed quickly since you last stayed with us on the cruise from Piraeus to Istanbul. How are you doing? I am very sad that I cannot be on board today to guide you on your tour across the ship since I agreed to accompany a group of passengers on an excursion in LA. I wish you a wonderful day on board and hope to see you again sometime in the future. My best regards to Mr. Masino.
Your International Hostess
Susann was, as the letter says, our International Hostess during our short cruise last October. She took beautiful care of her English and other non-German speaking passengers and made us feel most welcome. Yet another reason why the EUROPA is beyond being a “mere” five star ship!
Very special thanks: Sebastian Ahrens, Martin Cox, Shawn Dake, Kai Schmidt, Cindy Tanenbaum, Alexander Thurein