A Dozen Ways To Make Your Luxury Cruise Ship Family Friendly - My Family Travels

It’s not often we get excited about a new cruise ship, especially a luxury one coming from Hapag-Lloyd, better known for their bright orange freight containers stacked at most of the world’s ports. But at a recent press conference announcing the MS Europa 2, their 39,500-tonne luxury ship launching in May 2013, her design and execution caught our fancy. 

We like smart ideas and we heard a dozen from the Europa 2 team that appeal:

  1. Caters to a defined audience
  2. Special guest services
  3. Environmental initiatives
  4. State-of-the-art ship design
  5. Family suites
  6. Choice of casula, gourmet dining options
  7. Wellness for all ages
  8. Kids programs
  9. Baby amenities
  10. Lie-In Service
  11. Learning at sea
  12. Interesting itineraries

They’re not necessarily new ideas nor unique ones at sea, but the combination is a blueprint for a  luxury cruise ship designed for successful kids and family vacations.

1. Europa 2 has a defined audience. 

After finding success with the luxurious MS Europa and the three-star MS Columbus 2, Hapag-Lloyd has commissioned an equally upscale but totally modern sister ship to appeal to a younger affluent international crowd. Their casual luxury concept means limestone replaces marble, stainless steel replaces copper and sleek lines sweep out the curlicues, giving Europa 2 a more contemporary style than on other Hapag-Lloyd ships.

The concept seems to be working.  According to a spokesperson, more than a year before her inaugural sailing, a Swiss grandfather booked a 15-passenger, three-generation reunion for ages 4 and up to celebrate his 90th birthday. Claiming, “I want the best ship in the world,” he has already paid €250,000 for his party.

2. Europa 2 promises special guest services.

Although MS Europa 2 can carry 516 passengers, we heard she is designed to operate at maximum luxury when about 470 passengers are served by a crew of 370 Germans and Austrians. The company is devoted to fine service; crew spend six weeks at sea in training to remember things like guest’s pillow preferences and where they like their pool chaises. Butler and concierge services are also available on some decks and a videographer can be hired to record your adventures.

3. Environmental initiatives are part of the smart design.

For efficiency, the 11-deck hull has been designed to use 15% less fuel than her sister ship. To meet the latest environmental protocols, Europa 2 uses Selective Catalytic Reduction to filters out 95% of the nitrogen oxide from her smokestack, and filters ballast water before it’s dumped.

4. A small and nimble ship can call at unusual ports.

She is small enough to sail into exotic ports, but there’s a lot of ship to enjoy; in fact, the concept of providing the most available space per passenger drove many of the design decisions on the sleek Europa 2. Even on the two-level pool deck — typically a cramped area on many ships — the seating area includes full-size day beds.

5. Europa 2 has large cabins and designated Family Suites.

When she departs Hamburg in May, the ship will have 251 suites in eight categories, with the smallest being 300 square feet (28m square). Each of Europa 2’s cabins has two fixed beds and a sofabed, room service available 24/7, plus its own TV, tablet computer, stocked minibar and WiFi; two cabins are accessible and ADA compliant.  The seven two-bedroom, two-bathroom Family Apartments are comprised of connecting double cabins without sofa beds but with adjoining verandahs, totaling 430 square feet inside and 150 square feet outside.

6. Variety and choice mark casual gourmet dining options.

This segment of the 1% focuses on food and drink. There are six bars and eight restaurants on board, with a total of 30% more chairs than passsengers so it never feels crowded. The largest, the Yacht Club (pictured above with other CGI renderings), has both indoor and outdoor seating with a varied menu. There are also smaller rooms for Asian, French and Italian fare, as well as a sushi bar.  A company spokesman adds that the finest wines at the best prices are paired with their Michelin-star-calibre cuisine. To keep it casual aboard Europa 2, there are no fixed meal times.

7. Europa 2 makes relaxation and wellness available to all ages.

Among other a la carte amenities is the Ocean Spa which has four saunas, eight treatment rooms, a hammam or Turkish style steam bath and a Jacuzzi.  Wellness treatments range from shiatsu to ayurveda, with a teen sampler spa menu for older kids. The gym with personal trainers and a 3D HD Golf Simulator allow guests to stay in shape.

8. Age-appropriate kids programs on Europa 2 and on land.

On board, there are three children’s programs organized by age:  Knopf Club for ages 2-3; the Kids Club for ages 4-10 and the Teens Club for 11-15. Imagine the three club rooms done in stylish blond wood and colorful mats, packed with Steiff stuffed toys like those famous bears. Knopf Club has a ball pit, cots for naps and plenty of arts n’crafts for tiny travelers. It’s open daily 9am-noon, 2pm-5pm and again from 6:30pm-10pm so parents can have a night out. Kids facilities include a children’s cinema, “cuddle lounge,” costume shop and mini stage. Kids and teens clubs are open the same hours as Knopf Club, but close at 9pm. Treasure hunts, science experiments and discovery games are part of the programming. When it’s time to chilll there is a foosball table, wii setup and iPod chairs for listening to music. Counselors are professional nannies and maintain a staff to child ratio of 1:5 or 1:5 depending on age.

9. Baby is welcome aboard Europa 2.

Baby is coddled, too. The Baby Welcome Package includes baby essentials and groceries you specify before departure, so that whatever you need, plus a few extras and a crib, are awaiting your arrival. New parents in this income bracket typically bring their own nanny, but the Europa 2 will have babysitters available for in-cabin care for a fee.  

10. Europa 2 gets parents’ needs.

Among the thoughtful family services, we love the Lie-In Service which allows parents to request that ship’s staff pick up lively kids at 8am so that parents can sleep in later. In fact, breakfast is served all day to accommodate any sleepyheads.

11. Entertainment and learning on board Europa 2.

Families with older kids and adults will have fun at the Miele Culinary Center, where they can learn cooking on stylish Italian home kitchen appliances. Chefs share recipes for the specialities of every cruise port. 

To appeal to a more international crowd, all the cruise announcements and lectures at sea are bi-lingual, and exclusively English shore excursions are offered on 10 – 12 selected cruises each year. For the evenings, Hapag-Lloyd is producing 16 of their own shows ranging from dance to musicals to acrobatics that don’t rely on language skills.

12. Europa 2 has interesting, shorter itineraries.

For the Europa 2, 26 different itineraries will call on 123 ports in four proven regions: western Mediterranean, eastern Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula and Asia. To attract young professionals and families who are working, most are seven-day voyages. Those with time to spare can combine different routes back to back to form longer stays on board.

On special “family” sailings, the ship’s staff organizes on board group activities and kids-only shore excursions at an additional fee. On any cruise, guests can inquire about individual shore arrangements or book private guides — this goes for family groups who want to explore special interests. And, on top of the supervised programming, the ship can provide free childcare on any day at sea or in port for ages 2 and up.

Special Deals for Europa 2’s First Year

Europa 2’s inaugural 14-night voyage is scheduled for May 11–25 May, 2013 sailing from Hamburg to Lisbon.

The 14 designated family cruises during MS Europa 2’s first year of operation run from May to October 2013, over the Christmas-New Year break, and again during the April 2014 school holidays.  Destinations include major ports in Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia. Note that 12 months is the minimum sailing age on most routes and that on Asian itineraries, the company requests that all children be at least 2 years old.

Special offers apply to two of her Mediterranean cruises following shortly afterwards in summer.  On these sailings, all bookings for a category 1 suite will be upgraded to category 3 accommodation in either a Veranda or Ocean Suite on deck 7; and receive an on board Connoisseur package of €150 per person towards beverages and spa treatments.

The two Mediterranean voyages to which the special offer applies are:

  • Departing Barcelona on 22 June 2013 sailing for 7 nights to Monte Carlo – cruise-only fares from €4,458 per person
  • Departing Malta on 27 July 2013 sailing for 7 nights to Barcelona – cruise-only fares from €4,858 per person

Trip Planning Information for a Europa 2 Family Cruise

Note that cruise-only fares include accommodation in the category booked; full board on the ship; mini-bar in the suite; a different entertainment program each day; port fees; travel cancellation insurance; all gratuities on board; bankruptcy insurance; and share of ship fuel costs.  Shore excursions, WiFi, spa treatments, alcohol, childcare and programs for passengers under age 3 and other personal items are billed separately.  Children age 11 and under on the day of departure travel free of charge if sharing parents’ cabin. Children ages 12-15 only have to pay €50  each per night to share parents’ cabin.

Hapag-Lloyd also runs the MS Hanseatic and MS Bremen luxury expedition ships which carry fewer than 200 explorers to both Poles and the Amazon, as well as the custom-outfitted private jet Albert Ballin. For bookings, inquiries, or to request a brochure for sailings which average $4,000 to US$5,000 per adult per week, please contact travel agents Euro Lloyd Travel Group (800/782-3924) or Kartagener Associates (877/445-7447) or visit the Hapag-Lloyd company site.

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