Cruise Director Christian Bertram tells me that Europa 2 is attracting more and more families, and family suites with interconnecting doors are available. Children aged two to three are entertained in sessions throughout the day in the Knopf Club, including a sleep session from 6.30pm to 10pm if you wish to dine alone. Staff also offer an inspired ‘lie in’ service, collecting children from your suite and taking them to breakfast so you can go back to bed. There’s the Kids’ Club for four to 10-year-olds including fashion shows, craft sessions and even excursions, plus a Teen Club open in sessions between 9am and 9pm with 3D films, parties and fully supervised excursions. The ship has several small Zodiac rib craft on board for whisking guests around straight off the ship.
Europa 2 also boasts a fully fitted cookery school where we take part in a sushi and sashimi course (€80 charge applies). The chefs are endlessly patient and good-humoured as we learn how to make teriyaki sauce and fiddle with sticky rice (it gets everywhere – when I change later I find grains stuck to my chest) and get to grips with California rolls and sheets of seaweed. At the end of the lesson we sit down at a beautifully laid table and dine on our own creations with a perfectly matched, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The classes are in German or English and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon on a sea day.
On port days there are plenty of options. The ship arranges port shuttles or has its own city bikes that can be rented, and also provides guided bike tours. A large range of port adventures are available, or ship’s staff can tailor excursions around your personal preferences, and again I was surprised at the reasonable prices. We join a tour of Casablanca (around €40), coincidentally on Moroccan Independence Day. From the admittedly unattractive port, the tour takes us around the Royal Palace esplanade and to a bustling market in the Quartier des Habous where we face a sensory onslaught, dazzled by piles of brightly coloured Moroccan slippers and glittering displays of silver tea pots, and slightly overwhelmed in the highly aromatic olive market.
The highlight of the tour, however, is a visit to the Hassan II Mosque. With its minaret dominating the skyline (it’s the world’s tallest, soaring 200m over the city), it took thousands of artisans over six years to complete the fabulous sea green and cobalt mosaics and awe-inspiring 1,100-tonne carved cedar ceiling that opens to allow light to flood in. The mosque, which can accommodate 25,000 worshippers, opens between prayer sessions and guided tours are available (shoes must be removed and shoulders and knees covered). We finish our trip with a visit to Rick’s Café, where we meet owner Kathy Kriger, adorned in a Kaftan, who talks us through the incredible story of how, inspired by the film, she left her job as US commercial attaché and set about lovingly recreating Rick’s in Casablanca.
Back at the ship, we’re welcomed with a smile, cold towels and a drink, and as Europa 2 slips out of port headed for Agadir into a setting sun, I sip a glass of Champagne and reflect upon that ‘most luxurious cruise ship in the world’ label. It seems pretty perfect to me. In fact, I’m starting to think that maybe those dolphins weren’t a coincidence after all.
A seven-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise, Cultural Radiance in the Aegean, departing Piraeus (Athens) Greece on 3 October 2015 and sailing to Kusadasi, Turkey on board Europa 2 starts from £3,140pp, cruise only, based on two people sharing. For more info or to book visit
hl-cruises.com or call 0800 542 0858.
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