EUROPA 2: Five-Star-Plus For a Reason

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' EUROPA 2 at her berth in Istanbul today. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 at her berth in Istanbul today. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Can you fall in love with a ship? I think so. Today, despite the over-tired, jet-lagged, caffeine-addled fog that enveloped my mind, everything sharpened to a point when I saw Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 at her berth here in Istanbul, Turkey.

Welcome Aboard! EUROPA 2 is an absolute feast for the senses, with some of the best maritime design I've ever seen. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Welcome Aboard! EUROPA 2 is an absolute feast for the senses, with some of the best maritime design I’ve ever seen. Shown here is the Piano Bar, just off the Reception Desk on Deck 4, facing port. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A ship that inspires the same sense of longing as catching the eye of a beautiful woman, the 739-foot long EUROPA 2 joins a very small group of ships that I personally consider to be among the most striking vessels in the world. EUROPA 2 goes her own way. She does her own thing. She is, to quote the language of her German heritage, wunderbar. Framed by the Bosporus, she glittered in the warmth of the early afternoon at Berth 5 of the Salipazari Cruise Terminal in Istanbul’s Karakoy district.

Ships criss-cross the Bosporus in Istanbul today. The harbour is constantly busy and always entertaining. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Ships criss-cross the Bosporus in Istanbul today. The harbour is constantly busy and always entertaining. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Istanbul, of course, is one of the great cities of the world. Called Byzantum in 660 BC and Constantinople until 1930, over 13 million people call Istanbul home today. The sprawling city also has the distinction of being situated in both Europe and Asia; the Bosporus strait that separates the European and Asian continents literally runs through Istanbul.

There's no disconnect with the sea here! Witness EUROPA 2's massive, four-story high wall of glass that runs between Decks 4 and 8 along the midship staircases. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

There’s no disconnect with the sea here! Witness EUROPA 2’s massive, four-story high wall of glass that runs between Decks 4 and 8 along the midship staircases. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The city was named a European Capital of Culture in 2010, and its historic old town center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Very much in the same vein as New York, London, or Paris, you might be surprised at how much you know about Istanbul or recognize. Films like From Russia with Love, Taken 2, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy have all been shot here. What might surprise you is that Midnight Express – which in reality took place in Turkey – was actually shot in Valletta, Malta.

Don't want to take the stairs? Try one of two elegant glass elevators. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Don’t want to take the stairs? Try one of two elegant glass elevators. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Istanbul also serves as a sort of living backdrop here onboard EUROPA 2. In fact, even after I walked up the gangway and swiped my keycard through security for the first time, Istanbul was never out of sight. Nearly every public space features massive windows that frame Istanbul like a painting come to life. Ships of all shapes and sizes zip across the harbour, from small cross-channel ferries to massive cruise ships, tankers, and cargo vessels.

In an era where many large, mainstream ships would seek to hide the ocean from view, EUROPA 2 bucks this trend, showcasing it at every opportunity. Only in the vessel’s interior passenger corridor is the deep, rich hue of the Mediterranean hidden from sight.

Reception, Deck 4 as seen this evening. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Reception, Deck 4 as seen this evening. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Although Hapag-Lloyd has been offering bilingual voyages for years now aboard their HANSEATIC, EUROPA 2 is the first Hapag-Lloyd vessel to be fully bilingual. All voyages year-round are conducted in both German and English, and all onboard materials are printed in both languages. Germany is one of my favorite European countries, and although my German is far from good, I still take a bit of pride in being able to say ‘Guten Tag’ as I pass the young, eager, and friendly crew here onboard. Of course, when I switch to English, their English is impeccable – and far better than my German.

EUROPA 2 is a masterclass of not only beautiful and elegant maritime design, but also of successful branding as both name and identity. In fact, the attention to detail here onboard is nothing short of breathtaking. I know that sounds lofty, but hear me out.

EUROPA 2 is one of the most elegant ships I've ever sailed aboard - but it's inviting, not stuffy. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

EUROPA 2 is one of the most elegant ships I’ve ever sailed aboard – but it’s inviting, not stuffy. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The branding onboard is the best I have ever seen anywhere on land or sea. Period. EUROPA 2 isn’t just the name of Hapag-Lloyd’s latest beauty; it’s an entity here onboard as much as the passengers and crew themselves. The way they use the ship’s name throughout everything onboard inspires a sense of immense pride from guests and, I would imagine, on behalf of the crew as well. While they may not be well known in North America – yet – within Europe, the Hapag-Lloyd name reflects the kind of cache that brands like Apple or BWM have.

Come with me for a tour of my home for the next five days: one of EUROPA 2's Grand Suites. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Come with me for a tour of my home for the next five days: one of EUROPA 2’s Grand Suites. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Grand Suite Dreams aboard EUROPA 2. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Grand Suite Dreams aboard EUROPA 2. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My home for the next five days is one of EUROPA 2’s Grand Suites – 42 m2 (452 square feet) of soothing room to relax in, paired with one of the deepest balconies I’ve ever seen, clocking in at 10 m2, or 108 square feet. That’s larger than the inside staterooms on some cruise ships! It’s also an important distinction – rather than rolling the balcony into the overall size of the room, as many lines do, Hapag-Lloyd prefers to list them separately. In effect, my Grand Suite is nearly 600 square feet.

A Champagne Welcome! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A Champagne Welcome! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Interestingly, my Grand Suite is in the upper-mid range of accommodations here onboard EUROPA 2. The award for all-out-opulence goes to the ship’s two Owner’s Suites that clock in at 114 m2, or 1,227 square feet. In addition to being welcomed with a bottle of Dom Perignon, Owner’s Suites look like they’d just be damn impossible to leave – not because they’re complicated, but because why would you want to, what with your own private shower with steam sauna, a full-sized whirlpool, separate living and sleeping areas, and a balcony that’s nearly 200 square feet?

Leather EUROPA 2-branded keycard holders. Yours to keep. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Leather EUROPA 2-branded keycard holders. Yours to keep. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Accommodations here onboard EUROPA 2 are all-balcony, all-suite. The average suite onboard is 301 square feet and includes the same oversized balconies found in other suite categories.

My own room is absolutely stunning in terms of its amenities and attention to details. At every turn, clever design has been employed to ensure that the room remains a soothing oasis – as any good luxury suite should be.

Clever storage options abound. Shown here, opened, are the drawers containing glasses, cups, plates, cutlery, corkscrews, coffee pods, podded coffee maker, mini-bar, and a selection of spirits - all complimentary - on the lower right. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Clever storage options abound. Shown here, opened, are the drawers containing glasses, cups, plates, cutlery, corkscrews, coffee pods, podded coffee maker, mini-bar, and a selection of spirits – all complimentary – on the lower right. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Some of the things that I love in my suite: the massive walk-in closet. The desk drawers that are mounted to a spring-loaded system that makes them impossible to slam shut; they roll back in and lock in place with a soft ‘whoosh.’ The mini-bar (complimentary) that’s stocked with nearly everything you could want – including some great German beers. The dresser drawer next to the mini-bar that whooshes open to reveal six full-sized bottles of spirits, also complimentary. The sea-blue EUROPA 2-branded pens that look plastic, but reveal themselves to have a hefty, elegant weight to them when picked up.

Click here to continue reading!

Our Live Voyage Report onboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 continues tomorrow as we spend a full day docked in Istanbul! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

3 Responses to EUROPA 2 Live Voyage Report – Day 1

  1. Kalle Id says:

    I’m at a loss of words with how absolutely stunningly superb the experience sounds. Everything about the ship sounds drop-dead gorgeous. I’m very much looking forward to reading more.

  2. Irene Cramer says:

    I will be visiting EUROPA 2 IN NYC ON DEC 5th and could not be more excited to see this beauty first hand. Thank you for the invite.
    Take care, Irene

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!