MS Europa 2: Is this the world’s most luxurious cruise ship?
MS Europa 2 takes luxury cruising to a whole new level, rivalling gold-class standards not only at sea but also across all accommodations. Hilary Doling discovers why.
In my cabin aboard MS Europa 2, I search for my bag. It is not in the lounge area or in the bathroom with its full-sized bath, separate shower and Villeroy & Boch sink, and it isn’t under the queen-sized bed. Eventually, I locate it … in the walk-in wardrobe I didn’t even realise was there. Let me just repeat that: in my entry-level cabin, I have a huge bathroom, lounge area and a walk-in wardrobe. This is a level of space and sophistication many fivestar hotels don’t offer, and are almost unheard of at sea. No wonder this vessel has been crowned the most luxurious ship in the world by the Berlitz Cruise Guide. In fact, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ MS Europa 2 and sister ship, MS Europa, are the only ships classified with Five- Plus stars by the guide in 2018.
Despite this star-studded status, the ships are not well known outside the company’s native Germany or Austria and Switzerland. However, Hapag- Lloyd Cruises is keen to change that and is actively courting the Englishspeaking international market, to which I can only say danke schön, because these ships are worth sharing.
Sophistication at sea
When I first enter the ship’s foyer I am stunned by the sheer beauty of the interior design; this vessel is dropanchor gorgeous. MS Europa 2 has more space per passenger than any other ship and it shows. Wide, airy corridors, spacious atriums and two-deck-high lobby windows let the light and ocean views in. Pale modern interiors whisper style, and bunches of fresh flowers and tasteful sculptures decorate the lounge areas. Original artworks by influential contemporary artists hang everywhere. The Owner’s Suite has a Hockney and a Hirst. On my way to dine at Tarragon restaurant I spot not one, but two works by Gerhard Richter, considered Germany’s greatest living artist.
There are seven restaurants to choose from, including several intimate specialty options. My favourite is Serenissima, with its Murano glass chandeliers and perfect pasta. After dinner, everyone seems to end up at Sansibar. The original Sansibar is a German icon, the country’s most famous beach bar on the island of Sylt, and this onboard version has an equally hip atmosphere. There is also a jazz club, a piano bar and a gin bar with more varieties of boutique gin than any other ship (rumour has it that Cunard’s Queen Victoria once had more, so MS Europa 2 added an extra one).
Entertainment in the two-storey theatre is sophisticated, too; Michael Bublé impersonators should apply to an altogether different kind of cruise ship. Here, we are treated to classical concerts and an avant-garde, poetryinspired cabaret that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in 1930s Berlin.
On our cruise from Hong Kong to Manila, there is a coterie of Englishspeakers and we’re deemed important enough to warrant our own cocktail party, presided over by an International host – a blonde and bubbly Australian from the Gold Coast – here to help navigate the sometimes tricky waters between German efficiency and more laid-back nations. It is a good idea because, although announcements are bilingual and wait staff and crew seem fluent in English, the nuances are sometimes lost. For example, at one memorable meal, our excellent sommelier reveals his partiality to order when my neighbour from the Netherlands refuses the rosé intended to complement the first dish, preferring instead the Riesling recommended for the following course.
“I would like the white,” she says.
“Yes, presently,” comes the reply, “but first you will try the rosé.”
There are, of course, adaptions to be made on both sides. A startling glimpse of a naked and beefy German in the sauna reminds me that although they may be attached to formality and structure in the dining room, Germanic and Nordic nations are less squeamish about public nudity.
Precision is perfection
All this Teutonic efficiency ultimately means that MS Europa 2 is the very definition of the phrase ‘ship shape’; you are unlikely to find a more wellrun vessel anywhere on the high seas. Shore excursions leave exactly on time, wine is chilled to precisely the right temperature and the crew members never have an epaulette out of place. When it comes to customer care, Hapag-Lloyd has thought of everything. Even the cabin air circulating on board is special; it is 100 per cent fresh, compared to the 20 per cent recycled that is usual in hotels and at sea.
All of which makes leaving the ship in smoggy Manila even more difficult. As I descend the gangway I am still dreaming of pure air, great food, uncrowded decks and lazy days at sea relaxing on a sun-lounger that I never have to fight for. On reflection, I can’t help but feel that even five-plus stars may not be quite enough for this ship.
This article originally appeared in volume 30 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
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