Grosse Momente. Ganz Exklusiv. Great Moments. Truly Exclusive.

On September 20, we'll embark Hapag-Lloyd Cruises EUROPA 2 in Istanbul for a quick jaunt through Turkey and Greece. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

On September 20, we’ll embark Hapag-Lloyd Cruises EUROPA 2 in Istanbul for a quick jaunt through Turkey and Greece. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Grosse Momente. Ganz Exklusiv. It’s German for “Great Moments. Truly Exclusive”, and it’s the motto of Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Istanbul, Turkey for the start of another exciting Live Voyage Report aboard a very special ship: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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Of course, we’re going to take some time to visit some of the amazing sights in this itinerary, like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the stunning ruins of Ephesus near Kusadasi. While we won’t be travelling all the way to Piraeus on this voyage (most guests will), I do have the good fortune to be embarking at the tail end of Voyage 1426, which affords me even more time in Istanbul – and gives me a chance to photograph EUROPA 2 without many guests onboard.

Our journey begins in Istanbul, where we will have the opportunity to visit the famous Blue Mosque. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Our journey begins in Istanbul, where we will have the opportunity to visit the famous Blue Mosque. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

This is also quite a unique Live Voyage Report in that as exciting as Turkey and Greece are, what really interests me is EUROPA 2. Don’t get me wrong – I’m terrifically excited to visit Istanbul for the first time, and to sail to a handful of Turkish and Greek ports that I’ve never been to before. But it’s Hapag-Lloyd’s latest beauty that I’m really going all this way to see.

Christened in Hamburg, Germany just last year, EUROPA 2 is the youngest member of the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet. Her predecessor and fleetmate, EUROPA, is a tough act to follow: since 1999, she’s been the world’s highest-rated cruise ship in the world according to Douglas Ward’s Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. I’ve met Doug Ward on a number of occasions now, and he’s a super-nice guy. But I’ve never seen someone so meticulous at inspecting ships; nothing escapes his watchful eye.

How do you top a five-star ship? You match it: in September of last year, EUROPA 2 joined her fleetmate EUROPA with a Five Star Plus ranking from Ward and Berlitz. It’s the first time in the 29 year history of Berlitz that two ships have claimed top honours, and gives Hapag-Lloyd Cruises a rather prestigious claim to fame.

Elegant dining in the Restaurant Tarragon. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Elegant dining in the Restaurant Tarragon. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Carrying no more than 500 guests, the 739.5-foot long EUROPA 2 is Hapag-Lloyd’s first fully-bilingual cruise ship. All voyages are offered in both English and German, and although it’s a luxury vessel, it’s one that tries hard to appeal to a wide array of people – including those with families and those who can only get a week off of work at a time.

To that end, you’ll see some pretty cool kid’s facilities onboard EUROPA 2. What you won’t see, however, is stuffy, rigid routines: with seven restaurants, six bars, an onboard culinary school, 3D cinema, two golf simulators, a two-story pool area, a two-story theatre featuring acrobatic performances, a full-sized spa, and plenty of open deck space, boredom is not an option here.

EUROPA 2 even features dedicated facilities for kids and teenagers. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

EUROPA 2 even features dedicated facilities for kids and teenagers. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Everything onboard EUROPA 2 is designed to be flexible. That means no assigned seating at meal times and open, ‘come-when-you-want’ dining. What is unexpected, however, is how much diversity there is: EUROPA 2 has restaurants featuring French, Italian, Asian, and casual European fare. There’s even the option of more exclusive dining for large groups in the Grande Reserve, where climate-controlled rooms feature vintage glasses of some of the world’s finest wines.

In short, EUROPA 2 is a vessel designed for younger cruisers – those who love cruising, still hold down a full time job, but who want the very best of everything. Older cruisers who have more time to spare aren’t left out, either: EUROPA 2’s voyages have been designed so that multiple weeklong journeys can be booked back-to-back-to-back with very little overlap in terms of ports of call.

The midship elevator bank aboard EUROPA 2. What could have been a mundane space is a work of art in its own right. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

The midship elevator bank aboard EUROPA 2. What could have been a mundane space is a work of art in its own right. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

What really interests me about EUROPA 2 is her distinctive interior design. It’s bold, vibrant, and entirely unique. Each public room has its own distinctive feel, colour palette and theme. Elevator banks are lined with walls of glass windows and railings made of sea-foam green glass. Some areas look decidedly modern, while others – particularly the raised, overheight windows on Deck 4 – recall the glory days of the great German transatlantic greyhounds.

A massive collection of artwork – 890 original works strong –  is featured throughout the ship’s seven passenger decks, with pieces so diverse that organized art tours are available onboard. Speaking of tours, you don’t have to fly all the way to Istanbul to get a glimpse of this amazing ship – check out Hapag-Lloyd’s supercool virtual tour or have a peek at her webcams.

Curious about EUROPA 2? Have a peek at Hapag-Lloyd's online Virtual Tour.

Curious about EUROPA 2? Have a peek at Hapag-Lloyd’s online Virtual Tour.

EUROPA 2 even boasts a fleet of 12 zodiac rafts onboard that enable her to land passengers in places that many ships simply cannot. These are in addition to the ship’s four standard tender boats.

Hapag-Lloyd’s documentation also impresses the heck out of me. Coming in a vibrant orange pouch, it includes a printed cruise guide that has absolutely everything you could ever want to know about EUROPA 2, including bar and amenity opening hours and features found in your suite. The booklet even includes an in-depth glossary of nautical terms and a guide to the epaulette insignia’s found on the shoulders of crewmember’s uniforms.

In an interesting twist, you also receive your stateroom keycard. Mine has a special barcode on the back that apparently has to stay intact so Istanbul port security can just zap me on through to the ship on Friday.

So come along with us as we experience the highest-rated cruise ship in the world and go cruising through Turkey and Greece with EUROPA 2 and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises!

Join us as we set sail from Istanbul, Turkey aboard one of the highest-rated cruise ships in the world: Hapag-Lloyd's EUROPA 2. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Join us as we set sail from Istanbul, Turkey aboard one of the highest-rated cruise ships in the world: Hapag-Lloyd’s EUROPA 2. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Our Live Voyage Report onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 begins on Friday, September 19 and runs until Wednesday, September 24! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

 

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