Luxuriating On The EUROPA 2, Part Two

Peter Knego continues his voyage on Hapag-Lloyd Cruises brand-new, five-plus star MV EUROPA 2 with a visit to the less-traveled port of Trapani, Sicily, an excursion to Erice and meals in two of the ship’s exclusive specialty restaurants.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2013

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MV EUROPA 2 Yacht Club, facing starboard.

The Yacht Club is EUROPA 2’s U-shaped casual buffet eatery on aft Deck 9. Pale blues, light wood tones and full length windows give it an airy, nautical ambiance. The layout is sensible and user-friendly with a large carvery/seafood bar on the starboard side and “action” stations spanning its beam.

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MV EUROPA 2 Yacht Club honeycomb.

On German ships, breakfast is usually my favorite meal and, of course, EUROPA 2 “bested the best” with her selection of baked breads and croissants. Although I was duly impressed with PAUL GAUGUIN’s bee pollen earlier this year, EUROPA 2 ups the apian ante with no less than four types of jarred honey and even some genuine honeycomb to mill from.

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MV EUROPA 2 Yacht Club salmon spread.
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MV EUROPA 2 breakfast salmon with fixings.

High quality salmon and other smoked fish, cold cuts, a great selection of cheeses, muesli, an “eggs to order” station and daily specials like homemade granola made breakfast an event.

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Carrot juice in the Yacht Club.

I was most impressed with the fresh-squeezed juices, including orange, watermelon, pineapple and carrot (!!!). All included in the fare, of course.

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View from Erice to Trapani.

This was my first visit to Trapani, which is located in the northwest corner of Sicily. The cruise terminal is directly across from its pastel stucco-fronted city center, which looked charming enough but the main regional attraction is Erice, where we were headed on our morning excursion. Like many ancient acropoli, Erice is strategically located some 750 meters atop aptly-named Mt. Erice, overlooking Trapani and the distant Egadi Islands.

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Higher and Higher, Baby! Trapani overview.

As the coach wound its way up the switchbacks, we had a chance to take in some fantastic and occasionally harrowing views.

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Erice Belltower and Cathedral.

Originally called Eryx, after the son of Aphrodite (Greek Goddess of Love), the town has been transformed by numerous conquering entities and is layered with evolving architectural forms and purpose.

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Erice Cathedral ceiling.

Probably the most frequented of Erice’s monuments is the medieval Cathedral, which was built in 1314.

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Erice ceramic art.

We roamed the narrow stone streets of the still vibrant town, past apartments, curio shops and cafes.

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Erice Way.

Erice’s network of stone streets were laid out so that they could be easily blocked off to thwart invaders.

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Norman castle.

Eryx’ Temple of Aphrodite was dedicated to fertility and was widely known for its nubile priestesses and animal sacrifices, so the invading Normans sacked it and built a castle on the site.

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The other side of Erice.

From the base of the fortress, there was a gorgeous, east-facing view of the Sicilian coastline and jagged Monte Cofano.

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Pasticerria Maria Grammaticos.

Our last stop in Erice was Pasticerria Maria Grammaticos, where we were welcomed by its eponymous proprietor, a local legend in marzipanerie.

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Maria Grammatico offers an almond tasting.

For 50 years, Maria has been making marzipan and other baked goods. In addition to what she sells in the shop, she oversees a booming mail order business. It all starts with the best almonds, which we sampled before trying some of the finished product.

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MV EUROPA 2 “welcome back smoothies”.

Our return to EUROPA 2 was met with a refreshing wet towel and a smoothie.

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MV EUROPA 2 Elements “hello kitty”.

With the heat hovering at 35 Celsius, in lieu of exploring Trapani, I opted to stay on board and enjoy the supreme, air-conditioned comfort of the EUROPA 2. This would also provide a chance to dine in Elements, the Asian-themed specialty restaurant on starboard Deck 4.

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MV EUROPA 2 Elements, facing aft.

Elements has seating for 48 guests and a rich rose and gold color scheme with some impressive detailing.

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MV EUROPA 2 Table of Elements.

Table settings in Elements are typically opulent and boast linens, custom Dibbern bone china chargers, highly polished silverware and fine stemware.

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MV EUROPA 2 Elements seasonings.

Four seasonings provide a colorful, savory zest to the occasion.

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MV EUROPA 2 Elements tea.

And the Jasmine green tea flows from copper pots.

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MV EUROPA 2 Elements salad service.

My selections included a sweet and spicy cucumber salad with coconut and sesame dressing, Saigon-style duck soup with ginger and mint and green thai fish curry with onions and basil.  In addition to marveling at the art of the food preparation, we were mesmerized by Hapag-Lloyd’s ballet-precise, synchronous service.

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MV EUROPA 2 meat display.

Anyone who reads these blogs on a regular basis probably knows I’m not a meat fancier but it would be remiss to not mention the meat seminar I attended that afternoon. While there are vegetarian options in every dining venue, meat is an integral part of life on German ships and EUROPA 2, in particular. It was nice to learn that Hapag-Lloyd sources only the best cuts from environmentally sustainable farms where the livestock is treated humanely.

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MV EUROPA 2 Chef Otto.

Hosting the meat seminar, Chef Wolfgang Otto (a onetime vegetarian) founded Otto Gourmet some eight years ago after noting that the overall quality of meat in Germany, even in its top restaurants, was below par. Otto and his brothers sourced key farms in the U.S. and Europe for the best cuts, including Kobe beef and Iberico pork. They are now the most celebrated distributor in Germany and supply its finest Michelin-rated restaurants as well as the Hapag-Lloyd fleet.

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EUROPA 2 Culinary School, facing aft.

And by the way, the meat seminar was held in the Culinary School on starboard Deck 9. In addition to its state-of-the-art kitchen hardware, it has a comfy classroom setting with audio/visual equipment.

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MV EUROPA 2 Gym, facing aft.

I paid it forward with a visit to the gorgeous gym, which features a quintet of ellipticals and all sorts of top-notch gear. In addition to bottled water, complimentary fruit juices and natural, unsweetened flavored (ginger and cranberry) waters were abundantly stocked in its fridge.

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MV EUROPA 2 Tarragon, facing aft.
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MV EUROPA 2 Tarragon wine tasting set up.

Dinner in Tarragon, the 44-seat French eatery on port Deck 4, was preceded by a brief wine tasting. The forward portion of the space, also called Grand Reserve due to its proximity to the ship’s wine cellar, was set up banquet style with side tables to host a special wine tasting.

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MV EUROPA 2’s “top” bottle.

Alas, the ship’s most expensive vintage, a 2008 Romanée St. Vivant, was not one of the otherwise fantastic selections we enjoyed.

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MV EUROPA 2 Tarragon table.
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MV EUROPA 2 Tarragon setting.

As with all the specialty dining venues on EUROPA 2, the table settings in Tarragon are an event unto themselves.

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MV EUROPA 2 Tarragon truffles and creamed spinach.

From the menu, I selected a tomato and fennel tart with two olive tapenades and a creamed spinach with truffle and egg. I also ordered a roasted chicken from off the menu.

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MV EUROPA 2 under the Magrodome at night.

Another busy day lay ahead, so I took a brief walk around the balmy, breezy top decks before bidding all a hearty “Guten Nacht!”

End of Luxuriating On The EUROPA 2, Part Two

Much More to Come…

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Moritz Krause, Frau 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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