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Bali and Beyond with Hapag Lloyd's Europa 2
BY STEVEN STERN MONDAY MAY 13, 2019 11:23:37 AM  
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                          The Europa 2








Imagine a business class flight on Singapore Airlines, luxuriating in a romantic villa with a swimming pool on a cliff overlooking the sea, 14 nights on a 6+star cruise traveling throughout Southeast Asia, visiting historical cities, and serious shopping in Singapore and Hong Kong. Does this conjure up a dream vacation? Well, read on!

       Our Singapore Airlines flight arrived in Bali late morning and we proceeded to check in to our incredible villa at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay.

Descending down 35 acres of terraced hillside and tropical landscaped gardens to a wide expanse of sandy beach overlooking Jimbaran Bay is this uniquely beautiful resort. The 147 luxuriously appointed villas, each with its own private plunge pool and floral gardens, are built into the hillside to afford incomparable views and total privacy.

       Our deluxe 2,152 square-foot villa was fully air-conditioned, with marble floors, vaulted ceilings with ceiling fans, an outdoor garden, and private 85 square-foot plunge pool.  Additional features included a separate, open-air, semi-protected living/dining area with a refrigerated mini-bar; a wardrobe-dressing area with a private wall safe; a romantic bedroom with a canopied king-size bed, writing desk, oversized TV and DVD player; and a bathing pavilion with a soaking tub, indoor and outdoor showers, a

. private toilet compartment, robes and slippers and numerous other amenities.

       In addition to the variety of restaurants serving Indonesian and Western cuisine, available to guests were tennis courts, equipment for snorkeling, windsurfing and sailing, an infinity swimming pool and a health club with exercise and weight equipment, spa treatments aerobic classes and beauty services.

       Food and service were exceptional. Although you could call for a driver and buggy to drive you from place to place, the abundance of steep stairs and paths with no railings makes this resort a questionable choice for those with disabilities or problems getting around.







       Our Villa at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay


A must for visitors to Bali is a visit to artist colonies for wood carvings, as well as attending a Balinese dance performance. We fit in these typical Balinese attractions prior to our transfer to our next two nights at the Conrad Hilton, a large, full facility hotel-resort located on Nusa Dua beach. Two days here were part of the pre-cruise  add-on for passengers traveling on the Europa 2.


       The four days we had in Bali gave us ample time to explore the beauty and culture of the island. Now, it was time to board ship and commence our fifteen night cruise through Southeast Asia.

       The 500-passenger, 42,350-ton Europa 2, debuted in 2013, destined to be one of the most beautiful and luxurious ships at sea.  This all-suite ship has the largest space per passenger ratio in the industry. The seven categories of accommodations range from 301 to 1,006 square feet.*  All have large verandas and free -of -charge mini bars (stocked with soft drinks, water and beer) and are tastefully furnished with a great deal of storage and every possible facility and amenity one finds on ultra-luxury cruise ship. Spirits are only in the mini-bars of the more expensive suites, and there is a charge for all drinks taken outside of your suite (a bit surprising for a luxury ship);  however, champagne was served throughout the ship to all passengers on numerous occasions.







  Our Grand Ocean Suite with veranda



       Although most passengers are German speaking, many cruises, including ours, are multi-lingual. Announcements and written material are offered in both German and English. The entire staff speaks English as do most of the passengers.

       We were delighted with our 560 square-foot Grand Ocean Suite with its separate lounging area, whirlpool tub and rain shower with steam, free spirits and soft drinks, 24-hour butler service and an hour of free Internet daily.

After unpacking, we toured the ship  with our hostess who was designated to assist English-speaking passengers.. We learned that guests could choose among eight restaurants offering Continental, German, French, Italian and Asian cuisine, as well as the indoor/outdoor Yacht Club, an amazing buffet-style restaurant featuring literally hundreds of selections. 



                Outdoor area in Yacht Club


          The French cuisine at Tarragon was our favorite and the venue we chose for our first evening aboard. After the imaginative amuse bouche, we chose escargot, steak tartar, and oysters Rockefeller for starters, a pallet cleaner of mixed berry sorbet sprinkled with champagne and vodka, a main course of dover sole covered with chunks of lobster, a main course of dover sole covered with chunks of lobster, and a lemon tart with a mixture of pastries for dessert. A bottle of premier cru Chablis made a perfect accompaniment.

The main dining room, Weltmeer offers a daily changing menu including vegetarian dishes. The dress code is casual during the day; however in the evenings jackets (not ties) are suggested for men in all restaurants other than the Yacht Club.



          Tarragon  Restaurant on Europa 2


The 10,000-square-foot wellness center included the Ocean Spa with eight treatment rooms offering numerous massage, beauty and relaxation treatments, three varieties of saunas, a relaxation room, whirlpool, an ice room and specialty showers.


        The spa areas is very impressive and open to both genders—clothing optional. Needless to say, we were among those passengers that elected to keep our clothes on.  In general, the Germans are less hung up about nudity than the Americans. Also there is  a well-equipped fitness area with cardio and fitness equipment, as well as a room for palates and spinning.

The over sized swimming pool has a retractable roof and is surrounded by both indoor lounges and outdoor lounges facing the sea. The ship carries twelve Zodiacs, and a fleet of bicycles used for a variety of tours.  For golfers, there are two simulators, allowing guests to play various famous courses, along with supervision by a golf pro.




                           Swimming pool








                                Deck Lounges





On our cruise there were many children of all ages. The cruise line encourages families providing seven family suites, programs designed for children and teens including cooking lessons and special excursions. 

 There are numerous lounges and bars with dance music in the evenings, a theater for performances and lectures, but no casino. Entertainment on German ships is a bit different from that found on vessels mostly frequented by English-speaking countries.

On two evenings there was a performance by the famous German Roncalli Circus, which was greatly appreciated by the German audience, however not so much to our taste.

There were no American or English TV stations and only two movies were in English. We kept abreast of the news with the US and International papers delivered daily to our suite.

Having been on the go for four days in Bali, we appreciated a relaxing day at sea. For breakfast at the buffet-style Yacht Club, we could order a variety of egg and specialty dishes in addition to the elaborate buffet of cold and warm offerings. During the day, we made use of the fitness center, the golf simulator and the pool and spa. We were  pleased to be able to retrieve our e-mails on the tablet that was provided in our suite. Information about  the upcoming tours was provided by the personnel at the tour desk. Lectures were in German, however the excellent on board lecturer met with the English-speaking guests for a private session (all eight of us).

The following day we arrived in Semarang, Java at 7 a.m. and stayed until midnight. The ship offered tours to the Borobudur Temple complex along with a typical Indonesian lunch and a visit to Mendut temple (129eu); to Yogyakarta and the impressive 9th century  Prambanan temple complex in the valley of the kings with lunch(139eu); a tour of Semarang with a visit to the Kwan Im Pagoda(75eu); and to the  Railway museum and train ride(144eu). Only the latter tour was in English.  Exploring Semarang on our own, we found the city crowded and dirty.

Our last stop in Indonesia was Menyawakan Island where all passengers enjoyed a day  at the Kura Kura beach resort. The ship orchestrated an amazing barbeque lunch bringing everything needed ashore. This may have been the most participated and enjoyed event during the cruise.

Since we now had a two day visit to Singapore, we checked into the Singapore Hilton for an overnight stay. This gave us more time to explore this interesting and beautiful city, the cleanest in Southeast Asia.

There were a plethora of attractions and not enough time to visit them all. The most popular were the Sky Park atop the Marina Sands Hotel and the near-by Gardens by the Sea.

The Sky Park is noticeable from afar since its roof looks like there is a giant canoe sitting across and connecting two buildings. This architectural marvel provides 360 degree views over Singapore. There is an infinity swimming pool atop the hotel and upscale shopping at the lower levels. At night there is a 13-minute sound and light extravaganza that transforms the bay into a spectacle of dancing colors and fountains. Unfortunately non-hotel guests must pay $20 just to go up the elevator to the top of the small observation point and are not allowed to tour the entire rooftop.


                        Marina Sands Hotel


       From the hotel it is a short walk to the Gardens By The Bay, a beautiful 250-acre futuristic nature park. The park is filled with 200 species of plants and flowers, observatories and  unusual super trees. There are two music and light performances each evening casting a glow over the park. During the afternoon we took an audio tour on an open air bus around the park.






Image result for Gardens by the sea Singapore photos

Photo wallpaper sea, trees, garden, Singapore, Gardens By The Bay



                               Gardens by the Bay


       Another evening attraction is the Night Safari located next to the zoo. Here there is a tram that takes you around the park with the option to do a walking tour. For bird lovers, there is the Jurong Bird Park and an additional attraction is China Town.

       We enjoyed taking the cable car from atop Mount Faber over to Sentosa Island, a unique adult play ground. One can stay on the island in one of the various hotels, several on lovely man-made beaches. Here we visited numerous attractions including a reproduction of   Orlando’s Universal City, an aquarium and a monorail ride around the island.

       Time had to be allowed for the marvelous shopping along Orchard Road and for a Singapore Sling at the iconic Raffles Hotel. That evening we had  a spectacular  meal at Cosmo, an upscale restaurant with French  and international cuisine on Orchid Road near our hotel.

       While we were ashore exploring the city on our own, the ship offered passengers a plethora of tours covering the above sites and many more. The ship’s tours ranged in price from 35eu to 135eu with most under 100eu.

       After another relaxing day at sea, we arrived at Ho Chi Min City in Viet Nam (formerly Saigon) for another overnight visit. Most of tours were in German. Those in English included:

a speedboat ride along the Saigon River and the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels, a long network of underground tunnels used by the Vietnamese resistance fighters during the Viet Nam War (145eu); a late afternoon speedboat ride on the Saigon River viewing the canals and city at sunset(85eu); an excursion of the city at night on your own Vespa with visits to a café for a cocktail, to the street food stalls and to a café with music and regional coffee specialties (199er); a trip to a local market and to a culinary school where you could prepare lunch under the guidance of the chef (79 eu).

       We took the free shuttle bus into town and picked up a local guide who orchestrated our day of sightseeing and shopping. Most important, he helped us avoid the thousands of motorcycles when  attempting to cross the streets. Traffic is a serious danger in this city.






                       HoChiMinh City



We also visited two other ports in Viet Nam, Da Nang and Halong Bay with sea days in between each stop.

Again in Da Nang and nearby HoiAn,

 many of the tours were in German. Those also in English were: an all day tour of the city including lunch and a visit to the former imperial city of Hue and the Thien Mu Pagoda(109eu); a bicycle and walking tour of the city of Hue(89eu); a day of snuba and snorkel at Cham Island (169eu); a visit to the Ba Na Hill amusement park with a cable car ride in the mountains, lunch and time to explore the amusements (109eu); a visit to the old town of HoiAn on your own (39eu);  and an excursion to HoAn at night (30 eu).

       Having navigated Ho Chi Minh so well on our own, we elected to try again in HoiAn. Again we lucked out when our taxi driver proved to be a wonderful guide.  HoiAn  was a town inundated with souvenir shops and tourists. Local paintings and other art forms were available  at very low prices.

We were excited to visit beautiful Halong Bay, one of the  most spectacular seascapes in the world,  with its interesting rock formations, islands and caves. Two tours were offered, one cruising across the bay with a visit to a cave, and the other just cruising  around the bay (67eu).




                                         Halong Bay


       Also offered  during the cruise were special tours for children, teens, and families, as well as several bike excursions.

       On the fifteenth day of our voyage, we disembarked in Hong Kong early in the morning.  For passengers having afternoon or evening flights, the ship offered  a day room at the Marco Polo Hotel which was located very close to the cruise terminal and a giant shopping mall.  

We proceeded to check in to the Conrad Hotel on Hong Kong Island for a three day, two nights visit.  Like typical tourists, our main activity was shopping in some of the  thousands of stores spread  throughout  the city. Having been to Hong Kong  many times over the years, we knew pretty much what sites and activities we wished to take in during our stay.

If you have never been to Hong Kong before, I can make the following recommendations as to what to see and do.  First, you should take one of the dozens of organized tours offered in order to become more familiar with the city and where things are located. Those wishing to do this on their own can take the “Hop On and Off” bus tour.  It makes 20 stops covering diverse attractions spread throughout the city.  You just get off at those that interest you and then hop on the next bus that passes.

       Some major attractions include: the tram ride up to the sky terrace on Victoria Peak (the world’s most iconic funicular);  a night cruise on the Aqua Luna, a red-sail junk boat in Victoria Harbor located next to the cultural center; a stroll through Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park with their gardens, ponds and pagodas;  the Kowloon  street food tour; tasting the Chinese specialty, dim sum at one of the dim sum restaurants; bargain hunting for just about everything at the Stanley Market; and, of course,  some serious shopping in one of the hundreds of shopping areas and malls. There are dozens of other possibilities you will find in the guide books.


            Hong Kong Island and Kowloon





                            Red Sail Junk Boat


On our flight home, we had time to reflect on our extraordinary trip. Often when you are traveling from one place to another, there is no time to truly appreciate what you are experiencing.  In Bali, we were enchanted with the beauty and culture of the island, as well as our luxurious accommodations.  We loved the sightseeing and shopping  in Singapore and Hong Kong,  and the cultural excursions in Vietnam.

The only disappointment was our business class flights on Singapore Airlines. After reading so many glowing reports and their high ratings, we were surprised to find  seat configurations uncomfortable, much of the food not palatable, and the service not up to what we have found in business class on other airlines.

The highlight of the trip, without a doubt,  was cruising on Europa 2, the most  beautiful ship afloat with superb accommodations and exceptional service and dining. This is why, since her inception, I have given Europa 2  Six+Stars in Stern’s Guide to the Cruise Vacation.


Steven B. Stern

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