I have not looked forward to explaining my feelings about what Douglas Ward (Berlitz Cruising & Cruise ships) has promoted as "this years star performer". Indeed Mr Ward was on board my cruise for the first few days inspecting, and I spoke with him.
I and my New York taxi driver found the Manhattan terminal a poor start.
We passengers had to pass before the ship's doctor to be asked if we were fever free, and, paperwork complete and drink offered, we were escorted aboard.
The Europa2 appears to have had no financial limit to the interior design budget. It felt to me like a perfect show home which was resentful of intrusion.
Our Balcony Suite on deck 5 was well positioned mid ships for the stormy seas on departing NY, although I had a feeling that the ship does tend to roll given half a chance but I know nothing of hull design.
Despite the magnificent cabin/bathroom fit out it was a surprise that the double bed is made of two singles, with single mattresses and single top quilt things, which we hate, and had changed.
The sound proofing in the cabin walls was not good enough, and the hi tech light switches will remain unexplainable. The couch was superb but only one gets a leg rest inside (or on the balcony) at a time so to speak!
The housekeeping for the suite was fine without being perfect. Small items were not always restocked. The balcony cushions were often stored in the suite at night or during a storm and the balcony glass was not cleaned during the voyage. However the mini bar was kept full of beer and soft drinks. The room service menu was very limited choice and the food delivered was poor.
Generally I found boarding and leaving the ship (including the tendering) poorly managed, nor did I like the choice of ports and beaches. New York in December is foul as were the next three days and the sea state.
The final disembark onto packed coaches with bags rammed in to the hold to take us to a very poor Miami hotel "arrivals lounge" was not a good final memory.
Entertainers were on board for many days before single shows were put on. For the big show seats in the theater ran out. Stage introductions were often read from cards by the overly formal and uniformed Cruise Director. The cinema was used to store Christmas decorations for many days and then the odd children's film was shown. The magnificent Jazz Bar was little used. During a classical concert the ship's horn was sounded three times and the Tannoy used in the room!
However the bar service and the bar list were superb with low prices and NO service charge.
In the restaurants wine lists were more confused and harder to understand. In frustration we asked if there was a senior sommelier and he appeared but without a wine list we could have discussed.
Restaurant dinners commonly took two and a half hours and many small courses, so in effect you could not arrive at just any time, you needed to arrive early. One early reservation made via phone call to reception did not appear on the restaurant list and we were sent away. The restaurant manager then made all our bookings for the week himself.
Some food was of course good,(Caviar night, & sorbet served with Vodka or Champagne poured over it), but time and again I was disappointed. I even disliked the lobster that was offered. As I say above room service food was worse. German cake baking is not French (obviously) and more the pity. Table settings were perfect as was table service. The young staff were charming and spoke enough English after they rattled off German first. English speakers were not identifiable to the staff until they spoke.
One of the specialty restaurants, Sakura needed to be entered through the buffet (Yacht Club).
Smoking areas (of which there are many) often were next to non-smoking seats and this could be unpleasant.
Lectures were high quality and included a Nobel Laureate but were aimed at the German clientele. The superb simultaneous translation was just like one imagines is on offer at the UN.
Coffee Nespresso pods in the cabin were great but the milk used in hot drinks was unpleasant.
As usual I regret never seeing the gym/spa area. The pool was fairly standard.
I must stop but, considering there were less than 400 passengers on this cruise and the Captain and junior German staff worked hard, I was not impressed enough to make it likely that I would return.