Today, one of my favorite days on any cruise: a sea day.
Europa 2 is making its way from Nafplio, where we enjoyed a tour to antiquity and a beautiful golden sunset yesterday, to Corfu.
With no ports of call today, there are fewer decisions to make: to tender ashore or to stay on board, to tour or not to tour? That’s not to say that the day is devoid of activity. In fact, a reader emailed me to ask about the activities available on Europa 2. They are plentiful and varied.
Though a sea day may not be typical of what’s offered each day, here’s a breakdown of what’s happening on Europa 2 during our day at sea.
Keep in mind that this is only the scheduled activities for those who want to participate. There are also shops, a fitness center and spa, a golf simulator with tips from a golf pro, an art gallery, a library, movies on demand in staterooms and suites, and much more. Or you can soak up some sun on the Sun Deck, avoid the sun in shaded day beds, or hang out (or in) the pool.
My day began with the International New York Times, delivered to my suite this morning and every morning of the cruise. To accompany the day’s news, I made an espresso with the push of a button using the Nespresso machine in my suite. I’ve used the coffee machine quite a lot, and I find that it is convenient having it along with the mini-bar, stocked with juices, sodas, water and beer (all replenished daily), as part of my suite package. I also received a welcome bottle of champagne, which is still uncorked in my refrigerator, and five bottles of spirits — all complimentary for suite guests.
At around 8 a.m., I headed up for breakfast, enjoyable as it was yesterday in the open ocean air and sunlight at The Yacht Club — a good way to begin a sea day.
It amuses me to discover that as I grow older, and perhaps more health aware, that I find myself eating seeds and nuts rather than eggs and bacon. My dear grandmother, who ladled gravy on buttermilk biscuits for her grandsons, would turn over in her grave if she saw what I was having for breakfast on Europa 2. Granola with pumpkin seeds, linseed, chia seeds, walnuts, a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt on top, honey drizzled on the yogurt and topped with blueberries and blackberries, and with a little digging, a stray raspberry or two in the berry bowl at The Yacht Club. Fresh-squeezed carrot juice to wash it all down. I hear carrot juice is healthy, and I’ve developed an addiction to the taste.
No matter what your preferences, you’ll find plenty of selection at The Yacht Club. There are also a few other dining venues for breakfast, as well as room service should you desire to enjoy the morning meal in the privacy of your suite — or on the veranda, one of my favorite spots for dining.
About an hour after breakfast, I found myself in the Ocean Spa. I worked out for about 45 minutes, using the Kinesis machines and riding a stationary bicycle. I was tempted to use the sauna, which has large floor-to-ceiling windows looking aft, but I’ve not done so. All of the facilities in the Ocean Spa are free for guests to use.
Around 11 a.m., I went up to deck 10 to relax on the day beds for awhile. Situated aft, the day beds were never fully occupied during my cruise, and had they been, there is a Sun Deck situated forward on deck 11 with covered chairs for lounging. Finding private space is without challenge on Europa 2, which boasts the largest space ratio of any cruise ship, and even when sailing full, as it is on this cruise, feels uncrowded.
When it was time to head back to my suite, I took some time to explore the ship. Europa 2 is a beautiful vessel. That she features a lot of teak decking is apparent. What I did not know, however, was that the teakwood took a few years to procure. I was told the acquisition of teak for Europa 2 (more than 30,000 square feet) was the largest of its kind since the building of the Queen Mary 2 more than a decade ago — and that ship is a lot larger than Europa 2.
For those who prefer to be indoors, the pool is situated on deck 9, beneath a retractable roof. The light streaming in makes it one of the most attractive pool areas I’ve seen on a ship, similar to what you might find on Celebrity’s Solstice-class vessels.
I looked at my watch. It was coming on 1 a.m. Time for lunch.
With seven dining venues, plus 24-hour room service, making a decision about where to eat takes a bit of consideration. There are three specialty restaurants — Elements, serving Asian cuisine; Restaurant Tarragon, French-inspired dining; and Serenissma, serving up a taste of Italy. There’s also The Yacht Club with its tantalizing buffet; Sakura, a sushi bar right next door to The Yacht Club; Restaurant Weltmeere, the main dining room; and Speisezimmer, a private dining venue that can be booked for up to 16 people. Some of these venues are open only for dinner.
I wrote about the restaurants and other aspects of the vessel in my Europa 2 ship review. Yes, there are many choices for lunch, but I’m a creature of habit, and I found myself back at The Yacht Club. I enjoy the excellent buffet. There’s a pasta station and a grill outdoors. I ordered whole wheat pasta with pesto sauce, along with a salad, which, of course, justified the two scoops of gelato on a waffle cone afterward.
Following lunch, I returned to deck six and my suite, number 646. Categorized as a Spa Suite, this gorgeous living space spans 560 square feet, which is immense by cruise ship standards.
About 20 percent of the space is dedicated to outdoor living, meaning my veranda, which measures 108 square feet. I’ve spent a lot of time on the veranda, whether to have breakfast or dinner, or to relax during the day — or to admire the sea and stars at night. As I noted in a previous post, my veranda is a veranda designed for living. My perch on the sea is large enough that I want to spend time using it — and I do so.
The 452 square feet that accounts for the inside of my stateroom is attractive and highly functional. Perhaps it is the German penchant for orderliness that resulted in such functional living spaces on Europa 2.
The Spa Suite is accented by light woods, with comfortable furniture, an L-shaped couch and a chair, a large writing desk with a Samsung tablet for use during my cruise — and plenty of storage space. In fact, there is a place and a space for everything it seems. The Nespresso machine slides out of a cabinet, hidden away when not in use. There is a drawer to hold the Nespresso capsules, all orderly placed in their designated spaces, from decaffeinated to Ristretto, the strongest intensity.
Other drawers hold cutlery, with sections for knives, forks and spoons. There are drawers with cubicles for cups and glasses, and another for plates. One drawer is designed to hold bottles of spirits or wine. As I write these words, I am struck by the number of drawers. I counted 22 drawers in my living and bedroom space. Amazing.
There are also five closets, some of those with drawers also. Order. A place for everything. There is a Germaness about Europa 2, a sense of orderliness. Everything is done according to a system — and executed with punctuality.
I ordered room service one morning to be delivered at 6:45 a.m. At 6:44 a.m., as a test of sorts, I walked to my suite door, waited for one minute, and opened it. Andreas, my butler, had just wheeled up with breakfast, at precisely 6:45 a.m. I laughed and told him that I was impressed with his punctuality. “It is the German way,” he said with a mirthful smile.
As he set up breakfast inside my suite, Andreas told me he once lived in New Zealand and that he found the Kiwis to be a bit messy, so he was forever organizing things, putting things in order. The Kiwis found that peculiar, he said. But in Germany, it is the norm.
The North Americans on board (there are perhaps a dozen of us) are notably different from the Germans. For starters, we speak English. We also order room service more often than the Europeans, according to the hotel manager. We’re probably louder, and more outgoing. There is a reservedness in the Germans. Remember, this is a country where you have to be invited to begin addressing someone with the familiar form of “you.” (There are two forms of you in Germany: the formal Sie and the familiar — or personal — Du.)
Culturally different, the citizens of two continents are learning from one another, and more than just a few phrases from our respective languages. At dinner one night, a waitress was standing in the wrong position to perform the plate choreography, which involves the timed lifting of lids that reveal the plates, one lid in each hand and lifted straight up.
Before lifting the lids, she realized her error, and with a smile, she quickly flipped herself around to the proper position so that she could grasp two. The Americans at the table laughed as she maneuvered in as graceful a manner as possible. “That’s the difference between Americans and Germans,” a German colleague sitting across from me said. “The Americans laugh. The Germans would be like, ‘Oh, she wasn’t standing in the right place. That’s not correct.’ ”
With such attention to detail, luxury cruisers can, of course, count on dependability when cruising on Europa 2. Your breakfast will be delivered on time. The tour will run on time. Everything will run like clockwork. I asked if the rigidity of the German lifestyle wasn’t oppressive. “No,” my colleague replied. “We feel free — and a sense of security.”
The Germaneness of Europa 2 works for me. Maybe that is because nine generations ago, my grandfather lived on the French-German border, in Alsace. He came to America in 1722, a young man named John Grissel. No doubt that Europa 2 is much nicer than the ship that took him across the Atlantic. I’m sure he too would have enjoyed not only the luxury but also the predicability of the Europa 2 experience.
That’s not the say that Europa 2 is devoid of spontaneity. On one evening during my last cruise, guests were treated to complimentary Zodiac excursions of a particularly beautiful harbor while Europa 2 was anchored off La Savina (Formentera), Spain. Zipping around on the Zodiacs with the hotel manager Frank Neumann was elating, but the surprise came at the end, when we rounded a rock to be treated to glasses of champagne. Frank had arranged for a bar to be set up on another Zodiac.
As on other luxury cruises, a welcome bottle of champagne was in my suite when I boarded. I talked to someone who said they enjoyed a glass of champagne while in their whirlpool tub. Another person, a women originally from Connecticut but living in Germany for the past 15 years with her husband and toddler, said she appreciated the window in the Spa Suite bathroom. “It makes the bathroom feel not so closed in,” she told me. There is a shade that can be lowered for privacy.
The bathroom facilities in the Spa Suite are separated, with the tub and shower (which doubles as a steamroom) in one area and the toilet in a separate room.
The bathrooms in the larger suites are spectacular, with large, round whirlpool tubs, day beds and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the sea. The Owner’s Suite bathroom is larger than the lower-category staterooms on some cruise ships.
At around 7:30 p.m., I headed out for dinner. Tonight, I would dine at Restaurant Tarragon, specializing in French-inspired cuisine. The Signature dish here is Beef Tartar.
Good Night, Gute Nacht
At around 10 p.m., I headed back to my suite. I appreciated how the nightly turndown made the room look so cozy and inviting, the fluffy white duvet peeled back, inviting me into bed — and a healthy treat on the pillow.
The veranda was calling my name, however, and I stepped out onto it once again. A big and bright moon was casting moonbeams on the sea. It was soul-stirring to behold and a perfect ending to a perfect day at sea.
|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|