For most british travellers, the name Hapag-Lloyd is probably most familiar from orange and blue containers moving up and down the country on trains and trucks, however, the company has a storied history in passenger shipping and a much lauded contemporary cruise operation.
Hapag-Lloyd was formed in 1970 through the merger of two major Hamburg shipping lines - Hamburg America Line, otherwise known as Hamburg-Amerikanische Paketfahrt-Aktien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG) and Norddeutsher Lloyd. Today, their small cruise operation consists of two luxury vessels (Europa and Europa 2) as well as a few expedition vessels. More, custom-built, expedition vessels are on order to replace the ragtag current fleet.
Europa and Europa 2 are, consistently, rated by the Berlitz Cruise Guide as the two finest vessels afloat. While Europa offers a formal environment and is aimed only at German speaking guests, Europa 2 tends to be rated even higher and is marketed to international guests, with all onboard activities, in theory, taking place in both English and German. The atmosphere aboard Europa 2 is also more laid-back - there are no formal nights and the dress code is fairly relaxed at dinner. Europa 2, at just over 500 passengers, is also slightly larger than the 400-passenger Europa.
By our reckoning, if anything was to overcome our scepticism about cruising, such a highly regarded ship would be it.
Given that it would be easy to spot who we were amongst such a small number of guests, we didn’t live-blog this sailing, so we’re starting the review immediately upon returning.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks to see if we were won over.