Grosse Momente. Ganz Exklusiv. Great Moments. Truly Exclusive.
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:
|Friday, September 19, 2014||Istanbul, Turkey||International Flight to Turkey; embark EUROPA 2. Evening touring of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia||Overnight onboard ship|
|Saturday, September 20||Istanbul, Turkey||Overnight||EUROPA 2 departs at 24:00|
|Sunday, September 21||Cruising the Dardanelles Strait|
|Monday, September 22||Mitilini /Lesbos, Greece||04:00||18:00|
|Tuesday, September 23||Volos, Greece||07:00||17:30|
|Wednesday, September 24||Kusadasi, Turkey / Izmir, Turkey||Disembark; transfer to Izmir||Overnight stay in Izmir; onward journey home.|
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.
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.
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 al