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Cruise Diva's CRUISE DIARY

A bit of sea-going whimsy

Part Three

A day at sea... my favorite way to spend time on a cruise. Sunlight streamed into my suite; only the wet teak on my balcony gave any indication it had rained for most of the night. Plus, it was getting warmer by the minute as Europa sailed off the coast of North Carolina. A perfect morning to SHOP.

The boutique on board was naturally closed while we were in ports and this was my first opportunity to really shop. European styles, designer items, logo goods, perfume, and high end watches and jewelry were only some of the boutique contents. Silver flatware and china could be ordered for delivery at home. Bvlgari perfume! My favorite and not widely sold at home, how could I resist?

Havana Club

A delightful 'winter garden' nook suitable for coffee and conversation is located between the boutique and Havana Club and that's where Douglas Ward and I crossed paths. We chatted a bit about the 20th anniversary edition of his book, Berlitz Ocean Cruising & Cruise Ships 2005. At 650 pages, it's the authoritative volume for cruise ship information. Douglas personally sails on 14 to 17 ships a year to review new vessels and update ship profiles if major changes have been made to on board features. In the 2005 book he shares some insight into his method of rating ships. In addition to noting details including maintenance, noise level, and cleanliness, he uses what he calls the oatmeal factor for evaluations. By concentrating on oatmeal, he illustrates the standards of preparing a common food item. I must admit I had no idea there were so many different ways to cook a humble breakfast cereal.

Children's Playroom

There are seldom large numbers of children on board, but Europa has a nicely outfitted playroom and small video game room. When enough children are sailing with their parents, nannies are provided and even take the little ones ashore on special excursions.

Douglas pointed to an ironic European touch in the Havana Club. While the humidor is stocked with an impressive selection of fine cigars and the furnishings and decor are definitely masculine—not terribly unique—the huge photo mural of Che Guevara would be quite politically incorrect on a ship styled for Americans.

After lunching on King Crab Legs, leek and egg salad, and two servings of a Black Forest chocolate-y cake pudding with vanilla sauce my self-induced greed prompted me to join a friend for a yoga session and relaxation on the heated loungers in the spa's tranquil thermal suite. 

The day passed all too quickly and before we knew it, the time had come to prepare for the formal Captain's Reception. I hadn't seen Captain Damaschke, but all the women I met who had were swooning. With good reason, I might report. Formal really meant formal on Europa... only two men at the reception were not wearing a tuxedo.

Champagne and a small plate of canapés in hand, I searched for a spot to set them down. The couple I joined told me they enjoy cruises on Europa so much that they have accumulated 385 days on board. Not surprising, particularly with the exquisite service and food. Formal dinner featured lobster. Some things are universal.

While I peeked in during lectures and evening entertainments, there was that little matter of not understanding much German. However, the Europa Welcome Ball required no translation. Featured artist was cellist Julien Lloyd Webber (yes, Andrew's brother) and his Bossa Nova Band. An unexpected treat! Later, Sansibar proved to be the late-night hot spot. With aft-facing glass doors retracted, it's an ideal indoor/outdoor spot for warm weather cruising.

Europa docked in Charleston


Practically in my back yard, I know Charleston fairly well and it was fun to take first-timer visitors ashore and show them through the old city market and Edmondston-Alston House, a stately mansion built in 1825 that still faces the Battery. My recommendation to try lunch at Hyman's for seafood was met with approval. I pointed my charges in the right direction and headed back to Europa and a delicious choice... hot waffles served poolside or afternoon tea. What the heck, do both.

Clipper Bar

Too soon it was time to pack for home, relatively simple with just a carry-on suitcase. For a last-night dinner we tried to get a reservation for the Sushi & Sashimi dinner in Oriental, but waited until too late to make our request. No problem, though—it was possible to make selections from both specialty restaurant menus even though we dined in the Europa Restaurant.

A well-attended show in the atrium featured Charleston's "Plantation Singers" and then it was time to sail at 11pm. 

We heard so much about the German sausages served in the Clipper Bar that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try them. Hapag-Lloyd may seem to be a familiar name even though it is more often associated with container ships and cargo movement than cruise travel. Had I spent any more time on board Europa, they would have had to roll me off as cargo!

Have I mentioned the nightly turn-down service? Luxury touches that meant so much included a small 'reading' pillow and bedside mat. Europa staff members were uniformly cheerful and their attention to detail provided a peek into German hospitality. 

Debarkation & Reflections

Docked only a few blocks from Savannah's historic district, I left Europa mid-morning at my leisure. I anticipated that my short sailing would be unique and wondered what it would be like. It was their first bi-lingual cruise and the Europa staff went out of their way to make American passengers feel at home. Daily schedules and newspapers were provided in English and an antenna was hooked up while in port so we could watch local television programs. Whenever ten or more English-speaking passengers are sailing, more entertainment features and announcements in English are planned.

Overall, it was a most satisfying experience on a sophisticated, yet friendly, ship to which I would add simply, 

Sehr Gut, Europa!

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