The 28,890-ton, 408-passenger Europa, Hapag-Lloyd's upmarket flagship, primarily serves Europe's German-speaking travelers, but it's also well known to a more global cruise audience. That's because storied guidebook Berlitz has long ranked Europa as its top-rated cruise ship. In fact, Europa's the only vessel in the guide that has consistently merited a five-plus star ranking (every year for more than a decade). While Crystal and SeaDream have attained the highest marks, other luxury cruise lines, such as Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn, have never managed to snag the elusive five-star-plus.
Is Europa really the best cruise ship in the world?
Certainly, in the burgeoning market for German-language cruises, Hapag-Lloyd's luxurious Europa reigns supreme over other Euro-centric lines like AIDA, Mein Schiff, Deilmann's Deutschland and TUI. It's so German that, without the guidebook's recognition, travelers who do not speak the language fluently never would know it existed. To capitalize on that reputation, Hapag-Lloyd has made an effort to reach out to English-speaking passengers -- North Americans, Brits, Australians, South Africans and Kiwis in particular -- by offering specially designated bilingual voyages in which menus, daily programs, some onboard entertainment and enrichment, and a handful of shore excursions are offered in English, as well as German.