Just back from MS Europa

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Is it a state of mind?
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#1
Germany
67 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
We returned home yesterday after a 13 night trip to the Baltic. We were very disappointed with the Europa this time (in comparison to our trip with her 2 years ago to Norway). Because there are things we don't especially like (being charged for water and the smoking policy), food and service is extremely important to us, in addition to itinerary. And last time, the Europa was absolutely outstanding in those two categories.

But food and service, unfortunately, were the big letdowns on this cruise, an opinion that was shared with just about every repeat cruiser we spoke with. Interestingly enough (and most unusual for this ship), there were 179 newbies out of 400 guests. The newbies mostly thought it was fine.

For breakfast and lunch, we ate mostly in Lido. This was same as last time, so we're talking 'apples to apples'. Some examples: Breakfast buffet (Lido Cafe): Fruit quality and selection, cold cuts, breads, cheeses and pastries were very limited compared to last cruise. Last time, there was a really wonderful selection of breads and pastries, freshly prepared by the team headed by their Austrian pastry chef. This time, it looked like they warmed up the same 3 pastries over and over and the bread selection (mostly white) did not vary. Rolls were burnt. Fruit was hard. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Oceania Marina was way better.

Also, there was no card at the table describing what you could order separately. The server would ask (sometimes, sometimes not) if we wanted an egg dish or fresh pressed juice. The last day, I saw a lady with fresh hot oatmeal. I didn't realize you could get it in the Lido. I am sure if I had asked, I would have gotten some, but just didn't know to do that.

Food for lunch in Lido same story - same old lettuce and toppings every day - globby potato salad, cucumbers in sour cream, under-ripe tomatoes and plus a couple items of whatever was leftover from dinner (like corn or beets). There used to be a very nice selection of delicious cold 'bites' in shot glasses on the buffet - this time, there about 30 pieces of 1 or 2 things, not particularly wow. Warm dishes from buffet were okay but nothing to write home about: Again, Seabourn and Marina far better. Grill was okay (I had fresh fish a couple times and it was properly done.)

Sushi and Sashimi lunch - something that we really looked forward to - was a disaster. Rice was hard and gummy in the sushi and the sashimi was improperly cut - extremely thick, big pieces. We couldn't eat it and when we mentioned it to the server, she said "well, we don't have a Japanese chef on board". Well, they didn't have one the last time either, and it was great.

Servers in general are very young and inexperienced: nice but clueless (with notable exception of Eva - she was wonderful). It's the little things: Every morning, we ordered the same coffee. Since standard coffee is very weak, we asked for 2 shots of expresso added to the regular coffee in the canister. Unless we got Eva as a server, we had to explain the same thing each time. Twice, it was done right, the rest of the time not. 3 times we got just the expresso in the canister by itself; other times no expresso was in there. The last day took the cake: We said what we wanted and the server said: "But two shots of expresso won't fit in the canister if there is already coffee in there." So I told her: Put the two shots in first, then fill the canister with coffee. Duh.
(All this ordering took place in fluent German, BTW, so it was not a translation problem.)

Weather was not great (no surprise, it's the Baltic) but when you took away the outside seating, there not enough seats inside. For Bayrischer Frühschoppen, (very popular), we arrived 10 minutes early. But, others had arrived 30 minutes early and there was not a single seat to be had. The outdoor area close to the Cafe was also full (wind protected) and it was so extremely windy out, we ended up going to the main Europa restaurant. They had a mini Frühschoppen plus other lunch items. So we had the mini version (and it was very mini). In Lido, they were also serving complimentary beer. Guess what? In the dining room, we were charged (7 Euros, 2 beers). We knew before we ordered because they said so, but talk about nickel and diming!

We brought up all these things with the Host at a lunch with him and he said the reason was that TUI bought H-L cruises and they are having a hard time finding and keeping good help. I guess food sourcing also has changed, being part of a big cruise group. We also spoke to the Maitre d' and the Restaurant Manager about our disappointment. Apologies but no remedies.

Dinners were hit and miss. We were only able to secure 1 reservation each for Venezia and Dieter Müller at embarkation so we ate mostly in the Europa restaurant. Gala Abend in Europa was really not good; I guess kitchen and servers were overwhelmed: 1 hour between appetizer and 2nd course; 1 hour between 2nd course and main course. Lobster was completely overcooked and dry, sauce was all dried out. Looked like it had been sitting in the kitchen for quite some time. We skipped cheese and dessert to go to the show.

Venezia was another big disappointment. It is a very small restaurant, but we waited 20 minutes before we got water, then waited another 15 min. to get the wine list. (Wine list is still great, by the way.) Appetizer was lovely (Tonno e Verdura). So far, so good. Ordered their special as our main (duck breast). Really bad. Duck was overdone, sauce was thick and salty and tasted like it came from a cube or a can. (This theme with sauces carried out the whole cruise.). We only ate a couple bites but were never asked if we wanted something else. Again, very long wait between courses - 2-1/2 hours for 3 courses (appetizer, main and dessert) for the two of us. Cheeses were limited and not appealing so we skipped. Somm asked us if we wanted a second bottle of water, then never brought it. Sigh.

Europa continued hit and miss. Beef Tartar night and the Russian themed evening were very good.

We ate dinner in Lido 2 times. We had the Erlebnisküche Klassiker. That was really good: appetizers in tapas size, 2 each, of 4 different bites. Chateaubriand as main. Only problem of the evening was a wine served that was way over the hill (I think they were trying to clear out old stock) but they solved it right away - took it to the Somm, he agreed, and they brought the wine with the year listed in the wine list, which was fine.

Second Erlebnisküche (Schweden) was pretty bad, food but especially service. And dangerous for me - I have a severe shrimp allergy and after inquiring if the bisque (advertised as having snow crab) had any shrimp at all, the server said no. The first spoonful unearthed lots of lovely little North Sea shrimps! The substitute soup, beef broth, was almost black and extremely salty. Certainly not freshly made. I could go on....

Dieter Müller was the highlight of the culinary experience. Top notch quality, beautifully presented, marvelous tastes and wonderful service. We got lucky and were able to eat there a second time: We were called at the last minute to see if we wanted to eat there the last Gala evening. We said yes, and it was fabulous. (Much better than the main dining room, according to our table mates, whom we spoke to later.)

Before this trip, we had already booked a long (43 day) cruise with Europa from Acapulco to Melbourne because of the itinerary. Now, I am really not looking forward to it so much. (The one piece of good news: I didn't gain an ounce on this cruise. Last time, I gained over a kilo!) My only hope is that my fellow passengers wrote down what they expressed verbally and improvements will be made for future cruises.
#5
Germany
13,119 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
I´m a little confused. TUI Group is involved with H-L since 1998. When they splitted up the cruise and container business in 2008 H-L Kreuzfahrten became a 100% daughter of TUI AG. In 2016 H-L Kreuzfahrten renamed in H-L Cruises. In 2013 Karl J. Pojer took over as CEO of H-L Cruises and since then the company started to make money.

Back in October 2016 we had a great variety of pastries and bread in the Lido (see photos here). Food wise I did not encounter any of the mentioned problems. We had menus for breakfast.

You can discuss the policy regarding the drink costs. I too think that basic beverages (sodas, juices, beer, water, some wine) should be included. I don´t have a problem paying for bottles of wine or fancy cocktails.

steamboats
#6
Shanghai
251 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
I am also confused what is the difference between kreuzfahrten(German) and cruises(English) for the so-called rename ? Last month I paid our cruise fare and the company is still called H-L kreuzfahrten on the bank account.
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#7
antwerpen
1,043 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
i did a 4 day cruise on MS Europa last week from Hamburg to Kiel with the sailaway parade as a highlight of the cruisedays in Hamburg.
I am not a TA , I simply do travel a lot on HL ships - before I used to cruise a lot on Crystal.
I read the comments of MsSommelier very carefully - and the only item what I immediately admit is that there is a lot of new staff on board .
For the sailaway the guests did have the choice of a gala menu ( with all the delicacies ranging from caviar gooseliver lobster up to premium cheeses ) or a very nice buffet upstairs. The drinks and the selected wines were for free during that evening , however i did prefer to order a rather special wine ( what could cost me more as double when ordered in a belgian starred restaurant )
There was still a variety of 3-4 fresh juices , fruits and i found the breads still very good. I had a lunch in the Italian restaurant what was full , and i did not go to Dieter Muller .
If i really have to find something : the sliced papaya's for breakfast were not good at all...
The opinions about all inclusive are very mixed :
i prefer to pay for a decent mineral water - instead of "something out of a bottle" for free
before all inclusive Crystal did offer Pellegrino , Perrier and Evian for free what was very OK - after all inclusive they moved to cheaper brands - during my last cruise on Crystal the above were not available .
and all those special tonic waters involved in the gin tonic hype are far more expensive as the well known brand ...
one of the strong points on Hapag Lloyd are the very pleasant prices for wines - the only wines that are a little more expensive are US wines ...there were open wines available at 8 € for 25 cl
with the comments of MsSommelier in mind, i will look -and taste - very carefully on my next ms Europa cruise in November
#8
antwerpen
1,043 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
Originally posted by steamboats
I´m a little confused. TUI Group is involved with H-L since 1998. When they splitted up the cruise and container business in 2008 H-L Kreuzfahrten became a 100% daughter of TUI AG. In 2016 H-L Kreuzfahrten renamed in H-L Cruises. In 2013 Karl J. Pojer took over as CEO of H-L Cruises and since then the company started to make money.

Back in October 2016 we had a great variety of pastries and bread in the Lido (see photos here). Food wise I did not encounter any of the mentioned problems. We had menus for breakfast.

You can discuss the policy regarding the drink costs. I too think that basic beverages (sodas, juices, beer, water, some wine) should be included. I don´t have a problem paying for bottles of wine or fancy cocktails.

steamboats
some German business people i spoke with during a cruise on the ms Europa 2 in May told me it was very urgent time the actual CEO K.J. Pojer took over.
HL cruises did do too various items in the cruise industry , a 3 starred ship, a 4 starred ship (both finished ) and the Ms Europa and the Ms Europa 2 both luxurious but very different and of course the expedition ships.
Also the very expensive leasing of the Europa 2 was a financial problem. The ship was bought by TUI.
#9
1,253 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by scandun
I am also confused what is the difference between kreuzfahrten(German) and cruises(English) for the so-called rename ? Last month I paid our cruise fare and the company is still called H-L kreuzfahrten on the bank account.
Here is an article, published in January 2016, in which is given the rationale for the rebranding, and name change.

https://www.marinelink.com/news/hapa...ogo403850.aspx


For banking purposes, one would expect a German title to be retained.
#10
Germany
13,119 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
scandun,

Yes, the name change was just to make it sound a bit more "international" so you can sell it better to non German speaking guests. The Europa 2 is supposed to be bilingual, the Hanseatic inspiration will be the bilingual ship.

vistaman,

I´m happy with cheap brands. I usually drink still water (and at home tap water - Munich has excellent tap water fresh from the Alps in a mineral water quality). But I don´t like Evian. The cheap water offered by H-L is usually Gerolsteiner which is also not really my favorite.

I remember a cruise on the Norwegian Epic. The premium brand was of course Evian (along with San Pellegrino). The cheap brand was San Benedetto - which sells for 25 cents per 1.5 l bottle at Aldi.

steamboats
#11
antwerpen
1,043 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
Originally posted by steamboats
scandun,

Yes, the name change was just to make it sound a bit more "international" so you can sell it better to non German speaking guests. The Europa 2 is supposed to be bilingual, the Hanseatic inspiration will be the bilingual ship.

vistaman,

I´m happy with cheap brands. I usually drink still water (and at home tap water - Munich has excellent tap water fresh from the Alps in a mineral water quality). But I don´t like Evian. The cheap water offered by H-L is usually Gerolsteiner which is also not really my favorite.

I remember a cruise on the Norwegian Epic. The premium brand was of course Evian (along with San Pellegrino). The cheap brand was San Benedetto - which sells for 25 cents per 1.5 l bottle at Aldi.

steamboats
i like sparkling with a lot of bubbles Evian is during diets - ice cold.

Most of the time i drink Gerolsteiner on HL, or Perrier -
in Belgium we do have Spa ( a big company located in the village ) and Chaudfontaine - what is owned by Coca Cola .
I think the cheapest available in Belgium is Cristalline.
#12
Germany
67 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
For those interested, there are some related comments on service in the thread "Hapag Lloyd Europa 2" (last page).

Vistaman, I will be interested to hear feedback from your November cruise, since our next Europa cruise (43 days) is coming up in January.
#13
Charlotte, NC
731 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Originally posted by MsSommelier
our next Europa cruise (43 days) is coming up in January.
Wishing you the best.
I hope to hear this last experience was an aberration and you are able to completely enjoy your next Europa voyage.