Luxuriating On The EUROPA 2, Part One

Peter Knego begins a short voyage on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises five-plus star MV EUROPA 2 in the gorgeous port of Valletta on the island of Malta. Virtually experience the latest and quite possibly most beautiful luxury cruise ship in the world.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

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All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, July 26, 2013

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Upper Barraka Gardens.

No better place to begin this latest trek than the historic, picturesque haven of Valletta on the island of Malta, in the center of the Mediterranean some 50 miles south of Sicily and 200+ miles north of Libya. Malta was first settled in 5200 BC by the Sicani tribe from Sicily and has been ruled by Phoenecians, Carthaginians, Romans, The Knights of St. John, the Brits and scores of other kingdoms over the past millennia. All seem to have left their mark on its cosmopolitan heritage and striking architecture.

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Lower Barrakka Gardens.

The heat was searing as I explored Valletta, which is sandwiched between twin harbors, Marsamxett (mainly used by yachts and small ferries) and Grand Harbor, which, despite its rugged, scenic beauty, is home to a massive drydock facility, oil refinery and cruise terminal. I roamed the ramparts, from the majestic Upper Barrakka Gardens to the Lower Barrakka Gardens overlooking the breakwater.

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Dual exit from Valletta.

Late that afternoon, I awaited the departures of the massive CELEBRITY SILHOUETTE and COSTA FAVOLOSA before working my way along the shady side of Valletta’s stone walkways back to my digs at the Grand Hotel Excelsior.

Friday, July 27, 2013

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Guards crossing.

Every time I visit Malta, there is something new to behold, such as the palace guards encountered on our morning tour.

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Fountain hopping in Valletta.

Opposing the guards’ rigid march, across the way, a little girl cooled off with a “free form” frolic in the dancing fountains.

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Shipwreck Church, Malta.

This would also be my first visit to the Collegiate Parish Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck, which is cloistered behind a rather modest facade.

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Collegiate Parish Church of St. Paul’s Shipwreck cupola.

Inside, it was another story with a soaring cupola and frescoed, bejeweled surfaces. It is claimed that a portion of the right wrist bone of its namesake apostle resides there.

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First sighting: MV EUROPA 2 at Valletta.

Throughout the rest of our morning tour, I sought out vantages of our home for the next four nights, Hapag-Lloyd’s gorgeous, 42,000 gt MV EUROPA 2. Even though it would be hard for any ship to look ordinary in the luxe German cruise line’s striking orange and blue livery, the EUROPA 2 is quite an apparition. Her owners spared no expense in her construction, allowing the ship’s designers the luxury of elongating her bow and dramatically angling the stern and aft superstructure so that she would not look like a “shoebox”.

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MV EUROPA 2 welcoming committee.

We boarded EUROPA 2 shortly after noon, entering on Deck 4 at the soaring Reception area where staff were lined up to greet us.

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MV EUROPA 2 Reception, facing port.

The Reception area is divided by translucent screens into three alcoves: a sitting area on the starboard side; the purser’s office in the middle and a bar to port. The entire Deck 4 level is devoted to public spaces and dining rooms and was constructed with extra ceiling height.  Hamburg-based Partnership Design has given EUROPA 2 a tasteful opulence that transcends their work with Aida and Carnival Cruise Lines.

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MV EUROPA 2 silver leaf in Reception.

And, speaking of opulence, this whole part of the ship is infused with silver leaf lining the overhead recesses!

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MV EUROPA 2 Serenissima, facing aft.

Before commencing our guided tour, we were treated to lunch in Serenissima, a 56-seat Italian specialty restaurant on the port side of Deck 4.  EUROPA 2 offers no less than eight dining options, most of which we’d have a chance to sample.

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MV EUROPA 2 Dibbern logo.

Each of the dining venues on EUROPA 2 boast their own custom, elegant Dibbern-designed bone china tableware.

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MV EUROPA 2 Serenissima Murano.

But it was Serenissima’s opulent Murano glass chandeliers that both provided and stole the limelight.

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MV EUROPA 2 Serenissima Filet Of Sole.

A full-on Italian gourmet feast ensued, from the first pour of the extra virgin olive oil to accompany the fresh-baked breads to a pungent tomato soup drenched in Parmesan; a tangy insalata mista and a sole filet entrée with thyme potato mash, olive tapenade and basil oil.

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MV EUROPA 2 Pool, facing aft from Deck 9.

I skipped dessert and coffee to get a head start on documenting the upper parts of the ship. All of EUROPA 2’s details will be featured in an upcoming Decked! but the gorgeous Magrodome-covered pool on Deck 9 deserves a nod here.

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MV EUROPA 2 totally random teak shot.

The ship’s luxuriant teak decking looked and felt beautiful underfoot.

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MV EUROPA 2 Spa, facing aft.

The 620-square-meter Spa on aft Deck 5 is equipped with eight treatment rooms and four saunas as well as a large whirlpool. Unlike other ships that charge for access, guests can use its wide range of facilities free-of-charge.

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MV EUROPA 2 Spa ice wall.

Both EUROPA and EUROPA 2 have ice walls in their Spas — so tempting in the Midsummer Maltese scorch!

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MV EUROPA 2 Deck 6 passage, facing forward.

EUROPA 2’s accommodation is traversed by wide central passages, not unlike those of the 1969-built SS HAMBURG, but without the inside cabins. As a matter of fact, all of her suites are outside and feature a spacious verandah.

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MV EUROPA 2 Grand Penthouse Suite 1002 living room, facing port.

The largest, most opulent tier of accommodation, two 99-square-meter Owner’s Suites, were occupied and thus inaccessible. However, we did have a chance to inspect several of the other categories, including the second largest, the 78-square-meter Grand Penthouse Suites on Deck 10.

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MV EUROPA 2 Spa Suite 656 view from tub.

EUROPA 2 has sixteen gorgeous Spa Suites that measure 42-square-meters and are equipped with tubs with a view of the living quarters and the sea.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517, facing starboard.
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“Welcome On Board, Peter Knego”.
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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 welcome fruits.

At 4:00 PM, as the ship began to embark new guests, it was time to head to our own staterooms. I had a standard verandah suite, 517, on the starboard side of Deck 5. While this is the most modest accommodation the EUROPA 2 has to offer, it was one of the most beautifully designed staterooms I have ever occupied.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 closet.

The walk-in closet was fitted with logo’d pants and shirt hangers and well-placed rods to hang them on. The plentiful drawers have a built-in self-closing mechanism that with a tap, gently retracts them inward. No banging or accidental slamming and no popping open in inclement seas…

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 balcony.

There was plenty of space on the teak-covered balcony, even with a cushioned lounger, wooden cocktail table and a pair of chairs.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 bathroom.

The bathroom was nothing short of marvelous with its marble surfacing and a separate tub and glass-enclosed shower featuring hand-held and rainforest dispensers. And for luxuriating in the shower, there was even a ledge to sit on.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 amenities.

Hapag-Lloyd provides more amenities than I can use or even count. It’s a wonderful touch, especially when everything from shower caps to gels, shampoo, moisturizer, toothbrush, emery boards and sewing kits are all color-coded and have the ship’s name on them.

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MV EUROPA 2 “fizzy bath tablet”.

There are even sea fennel bath salts in the form of “fizzy bath tablets/sprudelnde badetablettes” for the full-sized tub.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 living room.

In the living room, an L-shaped sofa provided an optimal social area as well as a great place to stretch out with a book or lay back and watch television.

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MV EUROPA 2 espresso and espresso maker.

Never before have I seen a cabin with so much custom detailing. The vanity cabinet featured an Illy espresso maker with five types of espresso, arranged in strength from decaf to the most potent.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 cup and saucer drawer.

Of course, there is a drawer with cups and saucers of varying size.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 utensil drawer.

Another drawer with chop sticks, coasters, bottle openers and more.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 cutlery drawer.

And yet another with tableware and napkins.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 vanity mirror.

There was even a self-lighting, unfolding vanity mirror. Somehow, the mini-bar fridge evaded documenting but even it was out of the ordinary, stocked with the following:  complimentary still and sparkling waters, soft drinks, beer, four types of fruit juice and a fizzy “bio drink”. Of course, anything consumed was replenished during the twice-daily turndowns.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sansibar, facing port.

After boat drill, we gathered in Sansibar, the chic indoor/outdoor nightclub on aft Deck 8.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sansibar nibbles.

From the terrace, we watched as EUROPA 2 cast her lines and gained momentum on her journey towards the open sea. Savory nibbles include spicy wasabi peanuts, chili potato chips and dry-roasted peanuts.

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Maltese wake.

The sun began to set over the ramparts of Malta just as we headed up a deck to dinner in Sakura, EUROPA 2’s sushi restaurant.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sakura, facing forward.

Sakura is actually located in the starboard wing of the casual Yacht Club buffet eatery on aft Deck 9 and shares identical decor with the rest of the U-shaped space. As with most of the specialty restaurants on the EUROPA 2, Sakura is included in the fare.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sakura sushi chef.

A chef prepares everything fresh to order.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sakura edamame.
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MV EUROPA 2 Sakura miso soup.

I was happy to begin with some steamed edamame and a bowl of miso soup.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sakura sashimi.

Beautifully presented courses were more appealing to my eye than my palette but earned raves from our cabal of seasoned sashimi lovers.

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MV EUROPA 2 Sakura sushi platter.

I found my own joy in the veggie-friendly California rolls and smothered them in ginger and wasabi.

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MV EUROPA 2 “Water” in showroom.

Jet lag was catching up but I did manage to catch the opening bits of “Water” one of EUROPA 2’s gravity-defying mainstage productions featuring Cirque-like acrobatics and an eclectic soundtrack.

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MV EUROPA 2 Suite 517 “do not disturb” light.

Another nice touch was the “do not disturb” switch that lit up my mailbox with a red glow.

End of Luxuriating On The EUROPA 2, Part One. Much more to come…

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Moritz Krause, Cindy Tanenbaum

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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