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Make It A Double, EUROPA!

Posted on Thursday, April 7, 2011 by

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.

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California is a mere spin away on the EUROPA's Library globe...

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.

MV EUROPA at Los Angeles.

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…

Sebastian Ahrens with the details.

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.

Clipper Bar, facing aft.

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.

EUROPA 2 Power Point points.

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.

MV EUROPA 2. Courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

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.

MV COLUMBUS at Sydney. Courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

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.

Artist rendering of COLUMBUS 2. Courtesy Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

MV COLUMBUS 2 pool deck area. Courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

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.

Oncoming HANSEATIC in Misty Fjords. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.

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.

EUROPA Cruise Director Alexander Thurein.

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.

Europa Lounge, facing forward.

A long overdue “Decked!” will feature comprehensive images of the deck areas, public spaces and accommodation, so please stay tuned…

Bronze lady with gold star writer, Geoff Edwards.

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.

Reclining bronze.

Pensive bronze.

Poolside bronze.

A statue for every occasion and emotion. What pictures can never convey is the clubby, elegant mood of EUROPA.

Europa Restaurant, facing aft.

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.

Spicy fish salad with roasted garlic bread.

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.

Paprika cream soup with nut bread croutons.

Soups were a beef consommé with profiteroles or paprika cream soup with nut bread croutons.

Fillet for the soul.

I had the sole fillet with champagne mousse, young leek and butter potatoes main course…and the saffron!

Dake's steak.

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.

Chocolate mousse.

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 David”

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

9 Responses to Make It A Double, EUROPA!

  1. Kalle Id

    April 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    A delightful report Peter. I can’t wait to see the EUROPA decked too, she’s definately a ship I would like to visit myself one day.

    Perhaps it’s just my North European sensibilities, but the to me it’s often the German cruise lines that seem to offer the most interesting products – AIDA, TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises all at least seem to offer more appealing products than just about any other company. And the EUROPA 2, if she will indeed be a luxurious yet casual ship, sounds very close to the perfect cruise ship.

    Also interesting to hear about the HANSEATIC getting a refit, I was unaware anything like that was in the books.

  2. Martin Cox

    April 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    It just about killed me to miss a tour of this ship and lunch in LA, it looks truly fantastic. Thanks for the write up -Martin

  3. Glenn L.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Nice ship, great report! I’m upset for you on the ticket. Make it a double indeed. 10 yrs now for me being ticket free. hope you go another 15!

  4. Last Mate

    April 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Am sorry to see the COLUMBUS leave the fleet. Enjoyed a fabulous Great Lakes cruise on her years ago. Though not too luxurious her cabapility of navigating the Great Lakes and associated canals made her unique.

  5. Kenneth Eden

    April 8, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Very nice piece Peter, very, indeed.

    The Europa Lounge, vintage European, could fit well with the likes of VISTAFJORD, SAGAFJORD, and the four Royal Viking ships, typically, wonderfully, European. An interior ships look I love and miss.

    Europa Reastaurant, serene, crsip, understated in blue and white. Even the china, Rosenthal, I presume, was presented properly, with M S EUOROPA at the twelve o;clock position, I noted MS, not MV, on the china.

    The statues, feh! Can’t wait for blue boy to jump into the pool.

    Lovely ship, and so very Ocania like in its comfy interiors, and more importantly, in the food, the offerings and the presentation. Just wish Hapag would be more solicitous to the American market.

  6. Mage Bailey

    April 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I was very surprised to see her in San Diego, and very embarrassed not to have my camera to hand. Thanks so much for this.

  7. Kenneth Eden

    April 9, 2011 at 3:50 am

    Well, if you get all excited about the EUROPA visiting San Diego, as well you should, I would too!!! Well, this Tuesday, April 12, we have a major shocker for this tiny back water of Virginia I call home:

    The REGATTA will actually dock at Yorktown – just 15 minutes drive to Colonial Williamsburg, and 10 minutes from my house, the comely REGATTA shall call the York River home but for a day.

    Normaly, the closest to a real ship that calls are the small American Cruise Line ships, and once, the CLELIA called. I am excited to have the ship call, wish more would do so, even though there is nothing to resemble a cruise facility.

  8. jay caulk

    April 9, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Morning Peter..have been reading your reviews for years. As a former COO of a major luxury cruise line, and not at all happy with these gigantic ships being built, its refreshing to see HL is staying small..150% true..a cruise on a smaller ship is better and always has positive results. Plus who has time to meet 5000+ passengers, when a smaller, 300+ is more conducive to human interaction.

  9. Gregg

    April 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    My favourite ship in terms of exterior. I wish this ship would do a few Alaska cruises. Awesome ship…shes a beauty..no wonder she always gets 5 stars.

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