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Catlover54

NOT LIVE, MS EUROPA Travemuende-Hamburg, UK, 8/11-8/25/18, blog, PHOTOS

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Day 6, Isle of Mull, gorgeous Tobermary (tender)

 

This town is tucked away in the Inner Hebrides on the northern tip of the Isle of Mull:

 

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Our suite was just above the tender boarding area. I awoke to crew testing out the tenders:

 

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Weather was crazy in this picturesque little port (and beyond), cool rain alternating with hot sun. Umbrellas were essential, as were layers. Jacket on, jacket off, repeat. But it was beautiful:

 

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There are some very nice shops with quality local products including quite a bit of crafts made out of antler horns, as there are abundant red deer on the island.

 

We ate at an old pub near the pier crowded with locals that served fish, where portions were sailor-sized.

Unfortunately taste was minimal on the fish, ( I asked for tartar sauce), but it was worth a try to experience food as locals might eat for a meal out.

 

We were too early for other Scottish or British food restaurants, as they did not open till 12 and we had a garden excursion coming up. This one looked promising, especially the Hagis spring rolls with malt whiskey and honey spring rolls:

 

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There was a church converted into a cafe, and perhaps that explained this sad statue, with a museum donation solicitation sign:

 

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We also checked out the local aquarium:

 

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and so did this little Scot:

 

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Tobermary is a good port to explore if people just want to walk around, hike, and/or look at shops, and have food and drink in a scenic setting with friendly locals, without doing excursions, though we also saw a sign for a local taxi, as another option.

 

We loved Tobermary, but clearly someone did not and decided to share her views on a toilet wall ( am pretty sure the culprits are not Hapag Lloyd cruisers, who were gaga about this town):

 

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Apparently Tobermary has a crime problem, as there was also a sign reminding not to steal the entire toilet paper roll, and that it is a criminal offense to do so.

 

 

 

 

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In the afternoon, we were off on another bumpy ride on another difficult narrow road, (though another potential great GS motorcycle road), to the small but unusual gardens of

Lip Na Cloche on the south coast, in a most unlikely isolated location. There, Lucy Clip, who was also born on the Isle of Mull, showed off the unique hillside plant arrangements she has created over the last 12 years:

 

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Video of Lucy showing her gardens is available here:

 

http://www.lipnacloiche.co.uk/lipnacloichegarden.html

 

 

We were served casual tea and cake in her charming cottage, which also has two B&B rooms, (with private bath and wifi) and then bumped back to the ship for an hour.

 

 

On the way back, I caught a rainbow image through the bus windows, that lasted almost ten minutes as we rode:

 

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That evening after another wonderful dinner, Tri ‘Orange, the classical octet, performed opera excerpts, to finish off a wonderful day.

Edited by Catlover54

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Day 7, Friday August 17

 

Douglas, Isle of Man (tender)

 

Until this cruise I did not know that Isle of Man is an independent country, and it has a fascinating history. I had mostly just heard of it from a couple friends, including a jovial Irishman, who had participated in the annual island motorcycle race.

 

It has only 80,000 residents, very low personal income tax (max 20% personal) , with a low absolute cap, at least compared with U.S., which has no absolute cap on amount you can be forced to pay, and most of Europe, 0% corporate tax, low property taxes, and no national speed limits ( posted numbers are just “suggestions” for sensible speeds) . If not for frequent robust winds, unpredictable weather, and strict personal immigration controls ( we were told you have to be self-supporting for five years before you can officially reside there as a citizen) I suspect more people in financial need would try and come to the Isle, as they allegedly have a comfortable lifestyle, low crime, and excellent social welfare support, (just not paid for with huge national taxes) . Certainly many corporations choose to be based here, and the guide reported finance and on-line gambling are key revenue sources.

 

Residents such as our guide are called Manx, (Manx Gaellic is a dying language) and they like to poke fun at themselves:

 

 

https://www.buzzfeed.com/davidcolby/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-the-isl-au9n

 

Here was an example of fine art in a toilet area:

 

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Of course its military defense comes from UK/NATO, so there were no independent reps from them at the Tattoo :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We were supposed to take a historic Victorian steam train excursion, but it was raining again, so nothing was steaming as the rain caused wet coal.

We were in a compartment with some jolly Bavarians and one of the hosts, a middle-aged man whose hobby is working on model trains, and who dreads the day when someone refers to him as a “grandpa” based on age of appearance. There was also a young hostess whose job is to translate what British guides say for Germans on the cruise who do not understand guide English (about half). It became pretty clear later that when she did not quite understand the English guide either she would just wing it as good enough.

 

After over a 1 hour delay, when we were all wondering if we’d have to get out and start pushing, things finally got going when enough coal dried out to burn and raise the pressure. Fifteen kilometers or so later we reluctantly steamed into our destination, Castletown. In between gusts of cold wind and rain, our small foldable umbrellas repeatedly turning inside out but huge Europa umbrellas holding up, we made best efforts to hastily visit Rushen Castle, one of the best preserved middle age castles in the UK. Unfortunately remote views were mostly greyed out.

 

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Most shops were understandably closed in this intemperate weather.

 

A confused and friendly tuxedo feline who seemed well-fed and had a nice long fur coat, for unclear reasons sat out in the rain instead of crawling into some warm and dry place as she should have. She proved that not all Isle of Man cats have no tails:

 

 

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It was pretty clear that both man and beast on the Isle of Man need to be hale and hardy to put up with all the wind and rain as they enjoy their prosperity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 8, Saturday August 18, Liverpool port ( Chester trip)

 

We traveled on an excursion to the scenic town of Chester where, among other sites, we toured the magnificent, huge, and unusual cathedral, which is easy to get lost in with its multi-chambered layout.

 

A bit from outside:

 

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The inner courtyard was interesting, and the organ massive:

 

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It is a colorful old town, popular with tourists, and of course has extensive British and food options. But I did not want to risk another piece of soggy bland fish for a late lunch, and did not want Asian food as I am inundated with that at home. So I researched on my iphone and then headed for a pleasant French food lunch nearby, Chez Jules on Northgate Street, in an old building:

 

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Prices and service were both good as was the food, , with fast lunch specials, e.g., beef bourgignone, and a colorful light appetizer before it:

 

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Decent wine list, they also offer dinner multicourse pairings.

 

 

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Or we could have skipped the restaurant and had little pies, pasties, cheap:

 

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or cheeses:

 

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or eaten outside:

 

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Ye olde clock:

 

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This man must have lost his iphone:

 

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A very old British house, where you can get one of the British national specialty dishes curry, with a drink, here for 7.95 pounds, and whatever that fried glob on the right is ( fish?)

 

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Back in Liverpool, we had three more hours for a quick walk around the port:

 

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As it was a Saturday and the sun was out, many locals ( local Liverpoolians are referred to as “scousers”) were out with their kids enjoying county fair type raucous rides, excellent fudge, generic snacks, and assorted play areas. The dock area was hopping but not with the kind of activities I am interested in.

 

I also saw this sign and was not quite sure what it meant:

 

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We investigated the rest of the touristy Albert docks area , where we found a Beatles statue, and unsuccessfully tried to get into the general atmosphere.

 

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An art piece of a feline made of recycled milk cartons was probably the most interesting part of our walk:

 

 

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There was a similarly styled piece depicting a rat.

 

Liverpool itself was my least favourite city on this cruise, ( I might feel differently if I were keen on visiting all the Beatles sites and trails).

But in fairness, as I spent so much time this day in Chester instead of Liverpool, I only saw a tiny bit of it, including the nearby bland but bustling multi-level shopping area which had a lot of American and conglomerate chain stores. I definitely understand their value for many people, but do not personally enjoy shopping in them while cruising unless the ship’s laundry monster has eaten all my socks, or my luggage was stolen pre-cruise.

 

I understand there are other things to see here ( e.g., I later enjoyed ship’s video of Stanley Park), including some museums ( which were closed or closing), but as it was, we were ok with sailing away as it started drizzling.

 

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That night after dinner was a pool party with free-flowing Duval- L. champagne and snacks. Around half the pax were out on deck drinking and watching people dance to American and British pop and rock music played by the ship’s band.

 

The band played and sang everything, mostly in English, from Country Western to Rolling Stones until well past midnight. Older Germans who probably could not find West Virginia on a map and would not likely care much for it if they visited, enthusiastically danced and sang along to “Country Road, Take Me Home”. Many younger people, including a few gay and lesbian couples ( HL is very LGB and yes also T friendly, both with pax and hiring, no discrimination), plus a couple bold solos, some geriatrics, and crew, danced enthusiastically for a few hours off the southern coast of the UK as we slowly sailed for the Scilly Islands.

The crew of course see this same predictable dancing scene, more or less, every cruise, on average every two weeks, but they kept up their enthusiasm.

 

Some kids also danced, with very good sense of rhythm, others just hopped around totally out of synch with the beat of the music ( I speculated they would grow up to become silicon valley millionaire computer nerds). But all seemed to be having fun.

 

Fortunately the rain remained just a light mist, so hiding under blankets as we watched from the higher deck was enough to prevent getting wet. With my various health issues, there was no realistic possibility of joining in, and my friend was too chicken to dance solo.

 

The pax on this cruise were definitely livelier, younger on average, less stern, and also a shade friendlier overall ( definite exceptions), than on my Europa cruise in the spring. Perhaps people were more upbeat because there were some kids and teens, (part of multi-generational families), reminders of innocence, and of the future.

 

 

 

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as usual great pics !! many thanks for posting

i never did such a cruise - i always found the cruise tickets on various companies too expensive !

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Catlover54,

 

'the fried glob on the right' looks like fish and chips and mushy peas.

 

 

The humped zebra crossing is a 'right of way' pedestrian crossing on a speed hump.

 

'Belt & braces' to ensure traffic stops for pedestrians.

 

Although given the slang connotation of the adjective I can imagine some of the comments being made.

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I didn't realize Chester has a street that looks like a movie set.

I am glad you were able to go to all the ports. A good while a go, I was following a thread for an Oceania ship that had to skip several because of very stormy weather.

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Vistaman, if you are interested, next August the Europa is doing a similar garden cruise, though a slightly different itinerary ( starts in Kiel instead of Travemuende and the ports around UK are similar but not identical).

It is popular, and worth the price for most as it sells out early ( but as you know, people often cancel during low penalty periods).

We alternated gardens with castles/manor houses, and just being lazy playing tourist. At all but one port there were many alternatives for what to do ( other than enjoying the ship), the time is rarely enough.

 

Floridiana, it does sound like we were lucky not to have had any port cancelled, despite daily rain.

Chester does indeed look a bit like a movie set, and the local council likely knows it is in their financial interest to keep up the charming image that attracts visitors. Isn’t there something like a “best village of the year” contest?

 

EV, LOL, thanks for clarifying the mystery about the mundane definition of “humped zebra crossing.”

As we had just looked at a cat and rats made of milk cartons, and other odd art, plus Liverpool was described to us as a very libertine city, my friend and I were not sure if this was also local stylish humor or art or perhaps locals were making fun of international tourists using local slang. So, we conjured up alternative images of both camel-shaped and humped but black-white striped creatures plodding across the road, or thought perhaps we were near a zoo, and of cruisers in striped seaside clothing bent over either due to carrying shopping bags, or old age , or bith, and of course also of two regular zebras engaged in — you see the problem.

 

You Brits theoretically speak the “same” language as Americans, but not really!

 

In hindsight my German friend, who also speaks English, ( she lived in the U.S. for a year as a student, where she had learned quite a bit of slang, as students often did before they started reading assigned books like Lord of the Flies), should have picked up on it, because “Zebrastreifen” —- zebra stripes — is the German term for crosswalk. But they usually have no humps on the German roads as added security like you do, so I can excuse her confusion. I had also learned that German crosswalk term but I do not use it on a regular basis like she does at home in Germany , so I have an excuse :)

 

 

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Day 9, Sunday August 19, Dublin

 

The morning after the late-running pool party, at 8 AM, the atrium lounge and reception area was empty:

 

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I usually wake up early on cruises and love seeing the empty decks and quiet venues.

 

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We did an excursion to Malahide Castle, so missed out on St. Patricks Cathedral and just wandering around looking for odd and interesting scenes in Dublin ( will have to come back!).

 

Malahide is a very impressive, well-preserved castle and we had a terrific tour guide for the interior who also filled us in on a bit of Ireland’s intrigues and bloody history. It has vast, beautiful lawns, gardens and grounds for walking. There was a sporting tournament going on on one of the lawns.

 

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I had to do a double-take as I passed this fauna setting:

 

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Kids visiting the gardens were more interested in climbing on things like this, than in learning Latin names for plants:

 

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Whenever tourists go on tours of European castles and historic sites, the guides go through the motions of telling guests in great detail when the place was built, who killed whom when over what religious or power dispute, what year it was burned down, and the name of the guy who rebuilt it. We look at portraits of non-smiling lords and ladies, almost all of whom unfortunately look alike in their depictions but certainly were unique in real life, and take pictures of great halls and old libraries. The vast majority of tourists on a quicky tour, myself included, even back when my mind was more like a sponge capable of assimilating most of what I heard, simply cannot remember all the information. But the guides keep doing it, and the tourists keep listening. Good guides bring the stories to life, and we had a great one. She got stuck on finding the German word for beheaded, and as no one else was helping her out even when she ran her hand across her neck ( I don’t think they were listening), as I had been studying my translation app for beheadings the night before, I chimed in with “enthauptet,” and we moved on.

 

I like to be able to look things up on the internet, or get written material summarizing key events and facts, and put them into the perspective of what was going on in the rest of the world at the same time. This, plus photo organizing, keeping a blog, sitting in my bubbke baths, watching people, and generally tiring easily, is why I never get bored on cruises, there is always so much more to do, read, learn, and observe, not to mention eat.

 

But it never hurts to still learn what a bathroom and dressing area for the wealthy looked like over a hundred years ago, before you go back to your ultracomfortable luxury suite on the Europa:

 

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At the cafe, I managed to inadvertently insult the Irish cashier by trying to pay with pound sterling. She politely, though a bit frustrated, reminded me that they only take Euros ( of course, as Ireland is an independent country, not part of Great Britain, and is even staying in the EU).

I would have answered this correctly on a quiz, but there were so many similarities on this garden visit with our prior garden cisit days, including language and next to no border security checks reminding me we were entering a new country, that I forgot, was not paying attention.

Considering Ireland’s long history of oppression by the English in the past, this was probably worse than mistakenly assuming a person from Canada is an American, or trying to pay with U.S. dollars on a Canadian trip, or some Americans confusing a modern Ukrainian with a Russian.

I had no Euros with me, but fortunately my friend did, so we did not have to put back the aromatic sausage pies we had selected.

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Day 10, Monday August 20, beautiful Tresco with Abbie Gardens (tender)

 

As we approached the end of the cruise, we visited the Scilly Island ports of Tresco, Fowey, and Cowes, one day for each.

 

Tresco is a small private island which had the most impressive gardens of the entire tour, near an old abbey. The island flora itself was interesting. I am not a gardener myself as I have a brown rather than green thumb, not to mention arthritis, but I love seeing magnificent plants, both wild and cultivated:

 

First, the tender ( very cool, jacket essential)

 

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After extensively touring the gardens, which included sculptures, we walked another 15-20 minutes on the island's west side for a lunch stop,

The Flying Fish diner in a little town. This place offered decent sandwiches, fish and shellfish dishes (incuding octopus and squid), and personnel were pleasant though a bit understaffed at lunch, e.g., 30 minute wait for a sandwich, so plan accordingly. Many people stay a few days on the island and enjoy the shore, bicycling, and walks without any deadlines to return to a ship.

 

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The island is only 3 km long so the energetic could walk all the way to the end for good exercise, eat lunch, and also see ruins of a castle.

We did not see more of the village, or the castle, as we knew we needed a lot of time to get back as we walk slowly, but we saw some pax and crew, enviably younger, spry and healthy, walked further north.

We encountered our hard-working and slender stewardess wearing short short shorts and a funky hairstyle, enjoying a few precious free hours of shore leave, and then that evening she was back to her HL reserved baseline attire with black stockings, sensible shoes, and more normal hair. The woodwinds octet members were also out for a hike.

 

 

 

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This looks like a real garden tour cruise. I am amazed at the plants they are able to grow so far north on the globe.

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Day 11, Tuesday August 21, wonderful Fowey (Scilly Islands):

 

I awoke to this view from the suite:

 

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As usual, room service with our (my) AM coffee arrived right on time, brought by the same two polite guys each time, along with fresh crispy Broetchen and freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juices. Room service for breakfast based on the door-hanger menu would not start until 7, but you can order 24/7 if you need in room coffee earlier, or get an espressor or two starting at 6 am at the pool, along with small fruit bowls and Danish.

 

Many people had excursions booked to various places, including more gardens, e.g., The Lost Gardens of Heligan are nearby.

 

https://www.heligan.com/explore/estate

 

 

But though I wish I could have seen the Lost Gardens in person rather than just on the ship videos of it ( they ran on the suite TV all day and you could also buy a DVD or stick with an hour of excursion highlights), we just took the shirtest tender ride of the cruise and then wandered around this cute and extraordinarily dog-friendly town checking out the shops and views.

 

A regatta was scheduled this day:

 

 

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My friend could not resist the handmade Cornish booties.

 

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As a gin lover, I was drawn into this shop:

 

 

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and emerged with a few little very tasty samplers for the suite ( all gone now )

 

 

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There is no problem bringing wines or alcohol on board, even though HL charges ( usually with a reasonable mark-up, I know as I frequently checked wines I did not know for internet prices) for ship drinks outside your suite. The suite fridge had free beer, juices, and sodas, no free wine or liquor unless in a higher suite.

 

You never have to pull out your suite card, or sign ( except you can sign for an optional tip in the two specialty restaurants as you sign for wine) .Personnel just verbally ask your suite number if they do not already know it, , e.g. our excellent evening servers Natasha (waitress) and Anna (beverages, wine) at our assigned table for two at dinner never had to ask it.

 

The Swiss bartender Dorian also had a fantasic memory, knew my suite number by heart after the first time I ordered a drink at Gatsby’s, so likely also others’. I wondered if he took notes. I saw a bottle of vinegar and a bottle of oil at the bar and did not know what they could be for, and he cheerfully explained what drink they can go into. He also served a drink when we came late afternoon when the bar was not yet open and he was setting up.

 

Service on board is all included in the fare, and the cruise info said tipping is neither required nor expected, but is welcomed. It is known that many pax give envelopes to their MDR team at the end, and to suite stewardesses, and also cash into a pay jar at reception, and at a humorous auction near the end for the benefit of all crew. Someone paid $1300 for a cruise towel! Crew cheered as the auction price went higher and higher. There was also a raffle benefitting a Philipino children’s charity.

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After checking out the lower town, we also walked up a hill into the area of the church cemetery, and war memorials, plus an upscale residential area where some small inns were.

 

 

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We ate a fresh crab sandwich in the very old Wells Inn, so old you had to stoop in some places you walked. It is not a good place for volleyball players to have lunch.

 

 

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This old fellow kept us company:

 

 

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The lone toilet facility was so narrow that the "person of size" lady inside it ahead of me actually had some difficulty extracting herself from its confines, and apologized through the door for taking so long as she struggled. If your body or prostate is large, or your bladder small, it would be best to go elsewhere after you eat here. As it was, I was glad I had lost a lot of weight before the cruise and fit!

It reminded me of online pictures I have seen of the new American Airlines tiny two-feet wide toilet spaces on the 737 Max jets that came out this year, where you can also only wash one hand at a time, (which allows placements of yet more coach seats on board to maximize airline profit)

 

We followed our upper town walk with wonderful ice cream from the Game of Cones, which is slightly off the main drag but worth the short walk:

 

 

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I 'pledged my loyalty' to luscious lemon and it was indeed quite luscious.

The Europa also has on-board ice cream in the Lido, six flavors, which is very good, and you can put real whipped cream on it ( but no luscious lemon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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