We chose the Europa 2 to celebrate a special occasion. For comparison, we have taken 3 Windstar cruises in the past, and one transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2, in Princess Grill.
The experience was wonderful. The ship is beautiful, designed with clean modern lines and a feeling of spaciousness everywhere. The central elevator space is especially impressive; it has a 4-storey wall of glass on either side so the area is filled with daylight and the sight of the ocean. Restaurants are appointed with elegant and beautiful touches typical of their cuisines. And except for one oddly-shaped chair in the lobby area, all of the seating in bars and restaurants was extremely comfortable. Amazingly, the ship never seemed crowded. It was about 80% full, and there are so many places to go and sit that we rarely felt surrounded by other people.
We had a standard ocean suite with a fancy bathroom and a large window between the bathroom and the rest of the cabin. It turned out that I loved seeing the ocean from the shower; and it was also nice having a bit of natural light in the bathroom. The alternative standard configuration has a smaller bathroom but a larger living space and a walk-in closet; having seen both I can highly recommend the ocean suite. The bed was furnished with individual down comforters, which were luxurious but in truth a bit too warm for the climate. The living area was comfortable and the veranda was spacious. Nespresso machines and a selection of coffee pods are hidden in one of the cabinets, and the mini bar is stocked with juices, waters, sodas, and beer (all complimentary and restocked promptly). The cabin was serviced several times a day and was immaculately clean.
I've mentioned how comfortable all of the sitting areas are. That includes the deck chairs, which are arranged around the pool on two levels inside (the pool area is semi-sheltered and has a retractable roof that was wide open in the daytime) and also around the promenade decks on the outside. The outside chairs are arranged in pairs separated by partitions for privacy, and a crew member drifts by from time to time offering drinks. Oh, so relaxing….
The food was generally excellent, and sometimes superb. We tried all of the specialty restaurants as well as the main restaurant and buffet. We were somewhat disappointed with the sushi restaurant (probably best not to expect authentic sushi here), but the others were great, and deservedly popular. We also loved the main restaurant for its ambience and service; in particular we sometimes liked the quieter atmosphere there at breakfast. But the buffet is also terrific, with an amazing array of delicious choices at all three meals. Portions were small in the restaurants, which we prefer because we can enjoy several courses without getting too full. Wines are not included; but the wine list offered many affordable and delicious choices (mostly European) by the glass, carafe, or bottle. The waitstaff is well-trained, and service was quite good. No dress code, but men are expected to wear long pants in the restaurants. Mostly people were appropriately dressed - no jarring exceptions.
Our itinerary (Singapore to Hong Kong) followed the west coast of Borneo and then north through the Philippines and emphasized natural over cultural sights. We went on three ship excursions and otherwise wandered on our own. The excursions were fine; not better or worse than what we have found ourselves when traveling abroad. If you are resourceful and/or familiar with your destinations, you would probably do just as well finding your own alternatives. We liked the convenience of the excursions we chose, however. None of the ports on this itinerary were spectacular, although seeing the primates in Malaysia fulfilled a lifelong ambition of mine, and we had a great day in Puerta Princesa sightseeing on our own. For us, the trip as as much about enjoying the ship as it was seeing the sights.
A note about the language. Europa 2 is a German ship staffed by a German crew, but Hapag LLoyd is reaching out to English customers and all of the crew members are bilingual. We were only rarely left to wonder about something we heard (I took a yoga class that was given in German, for instance, although I could follow the practice by watching). The ship staffs an English "ambassador" to help with anything that can't be conveniently presented in both languages, and she took good care of her English-speaking passengers. English newspapers are available every day (although not until the afternoon, unfortunately).
Overall, we had a wonderful time. We saw a part of the world we would otherwise never have gotten to, and enjoyed a shipboard experience that was nearly perfection. I will remember small things - the excellent teas and breads, the quiet in all of the sitting areas, the crew waiting with cold towels when we returned from an excursion in the hot and humid climate. And the friendly, helpful, always good-natured crew. Oh, and I should mention caviar night - served with blini and potato latkes and mother of pearl spoons… Yes, I would love to go again.