Here’s an interesting way to spice up a cruise:
On Hapag-Lloyd’s five-star-plus ship Europa 2 — considered the finest ship afloat today — the passengers will get to decide most of the itinerary. This should appeal to many baby boomers’ sense of adventure.
The ship will set sail from Istanbul on May 14, 2016, and reach Piraeus, Greece, the port of Athens, 10 days later, but where it goes in-between will be decided by the passengers once the ship has set sail.
The Captain will offer some help by letting those aboard know where the sun will be shining brightest during those days. And lecturers on board will present the highlights of the potential destinations.
While the Europa 2 is a German ship, this “Surprise Cruise” is bilingual with English shore excursions. (You just don’t know where the shore excursions will be.) I sailed on the Europa 2… Continue reading
On board the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s elite new cruise ship, I got a taste of what it might be like to sail the Mediterranean on my own private yacht.
Entering the Sicilian port of Trapani on the first morning, I arrived at the ship’s indoor-outdoor buffet as it opened for breakfast. With no other passengers in sight, I was greeted by a phalanx of servers and a cheery chorus of “Guten Morgens” and “Good mornings” (Hapag-Lloyd is a German line, but Europa 2’s crewmembers are bilingual).
For the next several minutes, I sat alone on deck overlooking the sea and the city, basking both in the early morning sun and the full attentions of the eager-to-please crew, who proffered cappuccinos, freshly squeezed juices, cooked-to-order omelets – anything I wanted.
Later in the cruise, when I went for… Continue reading
Each fall when the Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships guidebook is published, cruise line marketing departments hold their collective breaths until they see how many stars and points their ships have received from author Douglas Ward, dubbed “The World’s Foremost Authority on Cruising” and whose 2014 edition is the 29th in the series.
An extra star from Ward, or deletion of a star from a ship’s ratings, can have something of the effect of a top chef gaining or losing a Michelin star. Ward, who takes 15-20 cruises a year and spends much of the rest of the time checking out ships in port and making shipyard visits, is known for his objectivity, attention to detail, and no-nonsense writing style.
You won’t find fluff, puff or snark in these 752 pages… Continue reading
I’m onboard the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s new luxury cruise ship, sailing from Sicily to Sardinia in the western Mediterranean.
One of the afternoon offerings onboard is a meat seminar featuring Wolfgang Otto, one of three German brothers who recognized a need in Germany and decided to fill it: supplying Germany’s finest Michelin-rated restaurants with top-quality beef and pork.
Otto admitted to me and the other baby boomers onboard that just eight years ago he knew very little about meat, yet today his family’s company, Otto Gourmet, is regarded as the top beef and pork purveyor in Germany. Kobe cattle and Iberico pig are two of the products they distribute to both top restaurants and private customers.
For enlightenment on the subject, he and his brothers first turned to a Nebraska rancher, Dan Morgan, who taught them the finer points of how to… Continue reading
Valletta, Malta – I’m in the capital of Malta before embarking on the Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd’s new luxury cruise ship, for a cruise through the Western Mediterranean.
Valletta is a beautiful walled city, once home to the Knights of St. John — originally formed during the Crusades to bring Christianity back to the Holy Land — who fled here from the island of Rhodes in the 1500s.
When the knights arrived here, they paid a fief to the Spanish king of one falcon per year in order to occupy the island; eventually, the payment evolved into a golden falcon. No one knows what happened to the golden falcons, but the mystery formed the basis of the Dashiell Hammett novel The Maltese Falcon, later made into a… Continue reading