As Europa 2 approached the Peloponnese peninsula, I woke up with sunrise, which according to the daily program delivered each evening to my suite, was at 6:19 this morning. Sunlight filtered into the room through the sheer curtains pulled across the sliding glass door that leads out onto the spacious veranda. There are heavier curtains should I wish to shut out the light altogether, but I enjoy as much exposure as possible to the elements, which is why I also enjoy having the veranda.
I walked out onto the veranda and surveyed the approach. At 8 a.m. we would drop anchor just off Nafplio. I had been here before, with my son, who was 16 years old at the time. We climbed the 999 steps to the top of Fortress Palamidi, where the views were spectacular. From the look of the morning, the views would be no less impressive today.
First, however, I needed to fortify myself with breakfast at The Yacht Club, aft on deck 10. It’s one of the most beautiful buffet-style dining areas afloat, primarily because of the light woods and the fact that it is so open. As is the case on many ships, Europa 2 features outside space for dining, but The Yacht Club’s interior space also opens onto the aft terrace, weather-permitting, creating the sense of an al fresco dining room.
When I sauntered up to The Yacht Club at 7 a.m., sunlight was streaming in. Indeed, morning had broken, and I could smell the freshness of the sea breeze and feel the warmth of the golden sunlight. I was the only guest in The Yacht Club at this early hour. Staff was making the area ready for breakfast, artfully aligning the selection of fresh-baked breads, arranging the bowls of exotic and not-so-exotic fruits and putting everything in order.
Europa 2 features one of the best breakfast selections I’ve ever seen on a ship. I loaded a bowl with fruits and berries to get me started. From a waitress who approached my table, I ordered a latte machiatto and a freshly made carrot juice, something that I have discovered I enjoy. With my comfort foods before me, I picked up today’s International New York Times, which had been delivered to my suite before breakfast, and browsed the headlines.
“New York Looks To Sweden For Road Safety” caught my eye. The front-page article was about how Sweden is striving to reduce to zero the number of people “permitted to die in a Swedish traffic,” and how New York City has similar aspirations and is looking to Sweden for clues on how to achieve zero fatalities.
Last year, the article read, 264 people were killed in road accidents in Sweden, less than half the number in 1997. The road fatality rate in Stockholm is 1.1 deaths per 100,000 people, less than one-third of New York City’s rate.
The reporter cited many reasons for Sweden’s success — driver awareness, speed-regulating devices, lower speed limits in surburban areas — but failed to mention one of the biggest reasons for fewer fatalities in Sweden than in the United States: Nearly zero tolerance for drinking and driving. In Sweden, I can drink one beer in one hour and drive legally. In North Carolina, I can consume six in one hour and drive legally, according to online calculators that indicate blood-alcohol levels.
Hardly anyone in Sweden would drive while impaired. It simply isn’t socially permissible — in addition to being against the law. And if you are stopped, you blow into a breathalyzer. No matter who you are or how old. Driving while impaired is not worth the risk in Sweden, but the nation of rule-followers would not do it anyway. If Mother Sweden says no drinking and driving, its children obey. Obeying the rules a good thing when it comes to driving, as indicated by fewer deaths on the highways in Sweden.
I flipped through the paper, and after finishing the berries and fruit, ordered an omelette. Slowly, others began to stream into the restaurant, and at 7:30, breakfast was bustling.
The first tender would depart Europa 2 at 8:40, and the last tender would return to the ship at 20:40. My plan: I would take the 10 a.m. tour to see the 3,500-year-old ruins at Mycenae, less than 30 minutes away.
I’d return to the ship for lunch, get some work done, then head out again to climb the 999 stairs to Fortress Palamidi, as I had done with my son. Sunset would be at 20:25. I knew I would be able to get some gorgeous photographs.
The ship would sail at 21:00. Missing the last tender was not an option I relished, as tomorrow would be a sea day.
The weather forecast called for a high of 28?C/82?F, and our small group was comfortable as we toured Mycenae. Our tour guide, Thanos, was not only well-informed and knowledgeable but also capable of conveying information in a way in which we could all relate. He used metaphors of contemporary events to give us a better understanding of historical ones.
He told the story of the Greek King Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. In both of Pyrrhus’s victories, the Romans suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. The Romans, however, had a much larger supply of men from which to draw soldiers, and their casualties did less damage to their war effort than Pyrrhus’s casualties did to his. Thus, a Pyrrhic victory became a victory with such a devastating cost that it was tantamount to defeat. It is like falling on one’s sword.
To add insult to injury, King Pyrrhus died comically, according to Thanos. Having survived battles with the Romans, he returned to Greece to succumb to an injury sustained when a mother hurled a flower pot toward the king, who was in pursuit of her son. The flower pot cracked the head of the great general. I’m not sure if that is a true story or not, but I enjoyed the way that Thanos told it.
We returned to town, and I tendered back to Europa 2 for lunch. I figured why not dine at the best restaurant in town, even though lunch was included in my tour?
Following lunch at Elements, an Asian restaurant on Europa 2, I spent a few hours on board catching up on work, using internet that functioned well and at a cost of only €19 per 100 minutes (or around US$15 per hour). I ran the numbers, and the cost of internet on Europa 2 works out to be less than on other luxury lines I have cruised, though some, like Regent and Crystal are now (or soon will be) including internet at no charge.
At around 19:00, I, along with a few others, tendered back to town and found our way to the stairs leading up to Fortress Palamidi. We were nearly the top when we came upon a closed door. The fortress was closed for the day. No matter, the view from where we stood was gorgeous, a golden sunset cast over the shimmering sea, with Europa 2 anchored down below.
I thought of my son and our walk up here a couple of years ago. He practically sprinted. We were all breathless, and not only because of the climb but also because of the view.
I snapped a few dozen photos, looking for the right angles and hoping that Europa 2 would drift so that either her port or starboard side would be exposed to the sunlight. Just before it was time to leave, she turned, her starboard side bathed in the golden sun.
We descended the stairs and made it back to the tender five minutes before departure. The walk up and back had been well worth it, and we were all elated.
I stepped back on Europa 2, showered and went for sushi at Sakura, situated adjacent to The Yacht Club. The sushi comes at no extra charge, and it was delicious.
A party, where complimentary champagne and other beverages were served, had attracted what seemed to be the entire ship’s complement on the Pool Deck. Couples were dancing, small groups of people were engaged in conversation. It was a completely different scene than this morning, when the pool was awash in the morning sun, a tranquil and serene place where I began what turned out to be a memorable day. It was nearing midnight and time for me to turn in. Tomorrow, a sea day ahead and lots to explore on Europa 2.
I think I’ll start with breakfast again, the best meal of the day, some say. With a setting like the one I have on Europa 2, breakfast certainly is the meal I look forward to most. See you tomorrow, at The Yacht Club on Europa 2.
|May 13, 2014||Athens (Piraeus), Greece||Embark EUROPA 2||22:00|
|May 14||Nauplia, Peloponnese, Greece||07:00||21:00|
|May 15||Relaxation at Sea|
|May 16||Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece||08:00||17:00|
|May 17||Syracuse, Sicily, Italy||13:00||22:00|