I am writing this on the eve of an exciting event – tomorrow I am lucky enough to be joining Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager for a segment of its world cruise from Sydney to Beijing. To say I can’t wait to board is a bit of an understatement! As a cruise writer I get to hit the high seas often as you can imagine, but to do so on a ship of this calibre happens infrequently – unless you are great pals with the ship’s owners!
I haven’t cruised on Voyager for a few years, and in my absence she’s had somewhat of a makeover. Although not an old ship by any means, she was introduced to the world eight years ago as the world’s second all suite, all balcony liner. She also has that all-inclusive tag which we all love – gratuities, alcohol, alternative restaurants are all included in the fare, and recently even shore excursions up to a value of $200 each are also thrown in!
My reason for waxing lyrical about Voyager, aside from my unashamed pre-cruise excitement, is to bring a few other ships to the attention of cruise fans which have been making headlines of late. Last week, for example, Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa turned up in Sydney Harbour on a world cruise, and I was one of only a few media to get on board to see what the fuss was all about.
Europa may not be a ship many of you have heard of, even if it has been dubbed “the world’s most beautiful yacht”. For this reason plus a few others, it is also probably one of the industry’s most intriguing ships. Europa isn’t American, British or even Italian in origin, but German. In fact, our guide for the ship’s tour told us that 95 per cent of her clientele are German, but Hapag-Lloyd has been trying to make inroads into new, non-German markets of late, hence the much-publicised visit to Sydney.
So what makes Europa different? I will be writing a full review in a few weeks time so stay tuned for the details, but in the meantime I can let you in on a few of her secrets and curiosities. For one, she has a panoramic top deck lounge called Sansibar, named for a famous watering hole of the same name on the German island of Sylt. What raised a few eyebrows, however, was the revelation that Europa has a private nude sun deck complete with a steward (fully clothed)! Tucked away behind the fitness centre, evidently it’s the place to mingle while getting an all-over tan – or to avoid at all costs!
The ship is undeniably photogenic and has some lovely features, and having some Germany language under your belt wouldn’t go amiss. The exotic, Asian influenced spa is small but one of the most beautifully designed I’ve seen at sea, and the feeling throughout is understated glamour with plenty of space. Calling her “the most beautiful yacht in the world” may be stretching it a bit, but in the company of Seabourn’s yachts and Regent’s mid-sized all-suite hotels Europa can comfortably hold her own.
Earlier this morning two of Cunard’s famous Queens arrived in port; the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth, again causing a significant flurry of activity around the harbour foreshore. When compared with Europa, these two grande dames of the high seas couldn’t be more different – and I’m not just talking about their immense size or distinctive black hulls. Then there’s the Seven Seas Voyager, who arrives tomorrow morning at around 6am, and will sail under the Harbour bridge to dock at wharf 5 (for anyone who’s keen on ship spotting).
Next week I will be reporting from the first part of my cruise on Voyager from North Queensland. Fingers crossed the cyclones will stay away, and there’ll be some nice calm seas and weather for guests to enjoy. Happy cruising!