LIFE ON THE OCEAN WAVE / SPRING/SUMMER 2017 / ISSUE SIX / NOTES MAGAZINE
A Life on the Ocean Wave
- musings of a mid-twenties male.
Like many males in their mid-twenties I have strong opinions on everything - even things I know nothing about. Cruises fall neatly into this latter category. So despite never having been on a cruise I knew they were boring snore-fests for OAPs where the food was bland and the accommodation cramped. In August last year, courtesy of Hapag Lloyd Cruises (HLC), I was given the opportunity to put my beliefs to the test with a short cruise on the distinctly upmarket MS Europa 2, the latest addition to their luxury fleet.
A bit of background on the trip itself:
Day 1 - Depart Hamburg for the island of Sylt
Day 2 - Shore excursion on Sylt. Evening, set sail for Kristiansand, Norway
Day 3 - Shore excursion in Kristiansand. Evening set sail for Hamburg
Day 4 - Day at sea
Day 5 - Arrive in Hamburg
Despite being a relatively short cruise, the carefully planned itinerary, compiled by the experienced HLC team, showcased everything the Europa 2 had to offer. In an attempt to cover everything I have split my experience into the following categories: accommodation, food & drink, excursions and amenities.
Working for a practice of architects and interior designers, one of the first things I notice when travelling is the quality and detailing of the fixtures, fittings and finishes. As soon as you step foot on the MS Europa 2 the quality is evident. The ship’s communal areas manage to be both light and airy whilst also giving the feel of luxury that you would expect from a cruise ship of this calibre. The high standard continues once you get to the bedroom decks where the suites are spacious and superbly detailed. This blew the first of my preconceptions out of the window!
Every cabin on board the Europa 2 has its own balcony and ocean view - particularly stunning when waking up on the day at sea.
Food & Drink
Another area where the Europa 2 quashed my preconceptions. I ‘knew’ there would not be much variety and the main restaurant would require me to dress formally, something I am not used to doing when tucking into a plate of food!
The Europa 2 made me eat (excuse the pun) my words. Variety certainly is king. The Europa 2 boasts no fewer than seven restaurants, each specialising in their own specific cuisine, with all seven open for both lunch and dinner every day. Now variety is one thing, but flavour conquers all, correct? I can happily say that the quality of the food lives up to the high standards set throughout the ship and I went to bed every night a very satisfied guest!
After your evening meal there are a number of different bars for a nightcap and for the gin lovers out there a selection of no fewer than 37 different ones to choose from. One of the only downsides to the trip was insufficient time to indulge in a comprehensive tasting.
During the two shore days, I was treated to two very different but equally fun, excursions by the HLC team.
This first was on Sylt. Sylt is an island off the north coast of Germany where high society spends the summer. Put it this way: property isn’t cheap! Whilst on Sylt we were taken to the Sansibar restaurant, which is famous within Germany (and which has a sister bar on the ship), where we wined and dined before being given a tour of their vast wine cellar. Highly recommended to any guests looking for something to do for the day on Sylt.
Our second shore day, saw us take in the delights of Kritiansand, a small port town on the southern tip of Norway. Here our shore excursion was slightly more adrenalin fuelled! In the morning we were taken on a speedboat ride to an island off the coast where we were shown around by a local guide. The afternoon was rather more relaxed and we made use of the push bikes available on board to explore the town of Kristiansand, a nice feature of the ship for those not fancying organised shore trips.
The full menu of trips on offer (which I reviewed over a post-prandial gin one evening) looked to cater for all tastes and interests: physical, cultural and gastronomic.
4 - 4
Another of my concerns before setting sail was how would I be able to occupy myself whilst on board, particularly on the full day at sea? Then I thought that for one day, which is all we were talking about I, like most people, can happily just chill out without a care in the world. However I actually found the day on board to be my busiest of the entire trip!
Along with the typical evening entertainment I imagine to be available on board most cruise liners, including variety acts and bands in the evenings, it was the entertainment available during the day that particularly appealed. The boat offers an open-air pool on the top deck (with a retractable roof should the weather require!), along with loungers and day beds for anyone hoping to catch a few rays. Being pale, ginger and northern, I passed on this option!
So what to do? The ship boasts a wonderful spa and gym where in the former you can relax and forget about all of the calories you consumed the night before, or alternatively try to work them off in the latter. In addition to this there is also a golf simulator, which provided more than a few laughs to say the least!
One of the things I would have loved to have tried had there been more time, was the cookery school! It’s always useful to pick up a few pointers.
So overall I consider my trip on board the MS Europa 2 to have been an eye opening experience that gave me a wonderful view into a world I didn’t know much about. NOBODY likes being proved wrong, however in this case I am happy to say that my views have been changed! There may be some cruises that fall neatly in line with my preconceived ideas, however I am happy to say this one didn’t. From the quality of service on board to the friendly staff and well planned excursions I can safely say this is a trip I won’t forget in a hurry!
Matthew was the guest of Hapag Lloyd. For further details of Hapag Lloyd Cruises visit the Hapag Lloyd Cruises website: www.hl-cruises.com