Grosse Momente. Ganz Exklusiv. Great Moments. Truly Exclusive.

On September 20, we’ll embark Hapag-Lloyd Cruises EUROPA 2 in Istanbul for a quick jaunt through Turkey and Greece. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Grosse Momente. Ganz Exklusiv. It’s German for “Great Moments. Truly Exclusive”, and it’s the motto of Hamburg-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Istanbul, Turkey for the start of another exciting Live Voyage Report aboard a very special ship: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2.
The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

DAY PORT ARRIVE DEPART
Friday, September 19, 2014 Istanbul, Turkey International Flight to Turkey; embark EUROPA 2. Evening touring of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia Overnight onboard ship
Saturday, September 20 Istanbul, Turkey Overnight EUROPA 2 departs at 24:00
Sunday, September 21 Cruising the Dardanelles Strait
Monday, September 22 Mitilini /Lesbos, Greece 04:00 18:00
Tuesday, September 23 Volos, Greece 07:00 17:30
Wednesday, September 24 Kusadasi, Turkey / Izmir, Turkey Disembark; transfer to Izmir Overnight stay in Izmir; onward journey home.

Of course, we’re going to take some time to visit some of the amazing sights in this itinerary, like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the stunning ruins of Ephesus near Kusadasi. While we won’t be travelling all the way to Piraeus on this voyage (most guests will), I do have the good fortune to be embarking at the tail end of Voyage 1426, which affords me even more time in Istanbul – and gives me a chance to photograph EUROPA 2 without many guests onboard.

Our journey begins in Istanbul, where we will have the opportunity to visit the famous Blue Mosque. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Our journey begins in Istanbul, where we will have the opportunity to visit the famous Blue Mosque. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

This is also quite a unique Live Voyage Report in that as exciting as Turkey and Greece are, what really interests me is EUROPA 2. Don’t get me wrong – I’m terrifically excited to visit Istanbul for the first time, and to sail to a handful of Turkish and Greek ports that I’ve never been to before. But it’s Hapag-Lloyd’s latest beauty that I’m really going all this way to see.
Christened in Hamburg, Germany just last year, EUROPA 2 is the youngest member of the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises fleet. Her predecessor and fleetmate, EUROPA, is a tough act to follow: since 1999, she’s been the world’s highest-rated cruise ship in the world according to Douglas Ward’s Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. I’ve met Doug Ward on a number of occasions now, and he’s a super-nice guy. But I’ve never seen someone so meticulous at inspecting ships; nothing escapes his watchful eye.
How do you top a five-star ship? You match it: in September of last year, EUROPA 2 joined her fleetmate EUROPA with a Five Star Plus ranking from Ward and Berlitz. It’s the first time in the 29 year history of Berlitz that two ships have claimed top honours, and gives Hapag-Lloyd Cruises a rather prestigious claim to fame.

Elegant dining in the Restaurant Tarragon. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Elegant dining in the Restaurant Tarragon. Photo courtesy of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Carrying no more than 500 guests, the 739.5-foot long EUROPA 2 is Hapag-Lloyd’s first fully-bilingual cruise ship. All voyages are offered in both English and German, and al

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