He is known as the father of modern cruise ship travel, and today's team at Hapag-Lloyd Cruises are proud to be building on the foundations he laid. If Albert Ballin knew a thing or two about innovation, so too do the current management team at Hapag-Lloyd, and regular readers will know of our enthusiasm for the magnificent Europa 2.
Launched in May 2013, this 500-guest ship took the cruise world by storm, with its high ceilings, wide corridors, huge open areas and light flooding in from everywhere. It feels like a super-modern Nordic hip hotel. What's lovely is that you can always see the sea - this ship is outward rather than inward looking, with spacious outside teak decking and a bank of centrally located glass lifts which enable you to look straight out to the ocean.
Pale woods and zinc finishings, ultra-modern artwork (even a couple of Damien Hirsts in the Owners Suite), fresh floor coverings in cream and coffee, interspersed with plenty of wood and creamy matt marbles, all create a look and feel which is very contemporary northern European.
The ship boasts an exceptionally spacious spa area, and an enormous dining choice with no fewer than eight dining options, all operating on a completely open seating basis. Indeed the idea is that no pre-booking will be necessary whatsoever, so you can always decide on the spur of the moment where you would like to eat that evening. She offers just that little bit more - more space in the cabins, more public places to go, more restaurants, more facilities, more spa choices, more crew per passenger.
Introducing this lovely ship to our clients has carried its own challenges: the ship is beautiful, the accommodation spacious and airy, the dining choices outstanding, and the service from the fully bilingual staff both attentive and intuitive.
The fact remains, however, that whilst Hapag-Lloyd is totally committed to operating Europa 2 as an international ship, the passenger mix is predominantly German speaking. For some this is a delight, and for others a challenge.
Solo travellers who are not inclined to socialise, or groups of friends travelling together, report back with glowing descriptions of every aspect of their cruise experience. And whilst some regular cruisers welcome the freedom of paying for drinks as you go (with a spectacular and well-priced German wine list), others prefer to stick with the all-inclusive offering of other luxury ships in the market.
It's not just the wine list that is extensive. Europa 2 also carries the world's largest gin collection at sea, and to help you enjoy it, gin tastings on board are quite an eye opener, featuring not only different gins, but also an extraordinary range of flavourings and enhancements as you sip and sniff your way through the masterclass.
Find out more: Request a Hapag-Lloyd Cruises brochure