A New Ultra-Luxury Cruise, Half Off

by  Jessica Festa | Jun 30, 2014
Silver Spirit
Silver Spirit / Photo courtesy of the cruise line

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which has been operating in Europe since May of 2013, is bringing their luxury ship Europa 2 to the United States this coming December. Accommodating 500 passengers in 251 spacious veranda suites, the ship is billed as one of the most luxurious cruises in the world. It offers the largest space-per-passenger ratio in the industry for a once-in-a-lifetime, intimate cruising experience -- no closet-sized cabins or 45-minute lines to get to shore here.

But what does this opulent experience include? Here's a look at the costs, amenities, perks, and more. And even better, we've included some information about a great deal on this ship's inaugural sailing.

Every stateroom onboard is a suite with a separate living room and a balcony. Passengers have access to 24-hour butler service, and the rooms are outfitted with amenities like flatscreen TVs, portable Samsung tablet PCs, and bathtubs or whirlpools.

Outside of their rooms, guests have 24-hour access to some spa amenities like the sauna and hot tub, the gym, and outdoor cabana beds. All of this can cost extra on other cruises. The ship is also outfitted with a golf simulator, oceanview whirlpools, and one of the most expansive art collections at sea.

As far as prices go, Europa 2’s first U.S.-based itinerary will be a 14-night New York-to-Miami sailing that departs on December 6. A two-for-one deal is available for this specific sailings and starts at from $8,610 per couple ($4,305 per person) for select cabins. As part of this deal, there will be no single supplement for solo travelers. (This offer can only be booked by calling 877-445-7447)Ports of call include St. Barts, St. John, Antigua, and St. Vincent and Grenadines. These prices are roughly comparable to other luxury ocean cruises.

Food & Wine
If specialty dining is your thing, this cruise has plenty to offer. Dining at all restaurants is covered in the price of your trip -- including specialty venues like the Italian, French, Asian, and Sushi Bar eateries that could carry surcharges of up to $75 on other ships. And dining truly goes gourmet here: you might savor an antipasti of Piedmontese veal tartar with olive oil salt and pepper before diving into a homemade macaroni with tomato pesto, or a lamb loin with mixed mushrooms and herbs in the Italian restaurant. For foodies who want to get hands-on, there's also an onboard culinary school that offers cooking classes for $108, or free lectures with tastings.

Stateroom mini bars are re-stocked, free of charge, twice per day. For the lowest cabin category, this includes includes beer, wine, juices, and soft drinks. For higher categories, liquor like Absolut, Beefeater Gin, and Hennessy are also included. Want a taste of the ship's famous gin collection (the largest at sea)? Complimentary tasting classes that include an aperitif and three gins are provided throughout the week. Restaurants and bars,however, do charge extra for beverages, starting at $3 for a beer, $4 for a glass of wine, and $7 for a cocktail.

Gratuities are included in your cruise price. For comparison, many standard cruise lines suggest leaving about $12 per day (and some, annoyingly, automatically add the gratuity to your bill unless you ask for it to be removed).

Excursions & Entertainment
When it comes to shore excursions, your options here are varied. For those who want to explore with a guide or enjoy a structured activity, the MS Europa 2's  excursions generally range in price from about $55 for basic tours to thousands of dollars for private helicopter rides and overnight excursions. Full-day tours will always include a meal, and group sizes are kept to a maximum of 10 guests to ensure an intimate experience.

If you want to explore on your own, the cruise provides complimentary transportation to the nearest town as well as to local beaches, so you don't need to shell out extra for taxi fare. Where allowed, the ship will also have bikes you can use in port, free of charge.

For days at sea (or days when you'd rather take it easy and stay onboard), a diverse array of activities are available and also included in the cruise. Enjoy dance and fitness classes, attend lectures, or enjoy live music, Cirque de Soleil-style shows, and movie screenings.

Cost Comparison with Other Luxury Cruises
Of course, various cruise lines and types all have something different to offer in terms of itineraries, amenities, and vibes. Still, for some context, here's another luxury cruising option for comparison:

Silverseas Cruises offers a 14-night cruise that sails round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale in late December with similar ports of call. While there are vista suites available from $8,150 aboard the luxury Silver Spirit oceanliner, the most similar option are the veranda suites, from $8,750 -- rather similar in price to the Europa 2And like Europa 2, that fee excludes excursions but includes gratuities, lectures, entertainment, and access to some spa facilities. Some differences: All alcoholic beverages are included in Silver Spirit restaurants and bars, while two French and Asian fusion specialty restaurants cost an additional $30 per person.

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