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Home > Virtual Cruises > Middle East Virtual
Middle East Virtual
Day 1: Dubai
Day 2: Muscat
Day 3: Embarkation in Muscat
Day 4: At Sea
Day 5: Salalah
Day 6: Aden
Day 7: Aqaba
Day 8: Suez Canal
Day 9: Crete, Heading Home from Piraeus
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Europa ship review
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Day 4: Friday, At Sea
At SeaOn our itinerary, today is listed as a "day of recuperation at sea," and boy is that ever appreciated!

As has been usual all week (it's the jet lag), I awoke at 5 a.m., in time for the sunrise. The landscape of the Indian Ocean all around us is flat -- just sea -- and by the time most folks are stirring, I've finished a book on the balcony (it's the coolest time of the day to be there), swam in the ship's lap-friendly saltwater pool, warmed up in the Jacuzzi, sipped a coffee and toured Europa quite thoroughly.

It didn't take long. The ship's size is, in my book, perfect. It is big enough to offer all the amenities: a selection of lounges, restaurants, two theaters and ancillary areas such as the library; a full-service spa and a splendid fitness center (with a deck for nude sunbathing!); a small-but-nice kids' facility (we've only seen a handful of youngsters); and a craft room -- for adults!

This is not a ship that offers a jam-packed entertainment schedule on sea days and that's a lovely invitation to simply relax. Breakfast in Europa, the main dining room, was elegant in one way and strangely casual in another; there's a buffet that seems out of place here. But on sea days you can also order from a menu -- think tuna carpaccio or shrimp or Belgian waffles -- and Champagne is poured. Good incentive to linger! At one point the captain came on the blow horn to announce that dolphins could be spied portside, and indeed, there were schools and schools arching and diving.

Europa's restaurants deserve a mention. Beyond Europa -- its main eatery, a tall, elegant space with gorgeous picture windows -- there is Venezia, which is Italian (obviously), and Oriental, which features a range of Asian cuisines. Reservations are encouraged though there is no service fee; what's interesting is that they only turn a table once -- so you can arrive as you please anytime between 7 and 9:30 p.m. The main dining room, in contrast, is an assigned-table, assigned-tablemate venue -- not our favorite way to sup on cruise ships -- but the table ownership situation (you can show up anytime between 7 and 9:30 p.m. here as well) at least affords some flexibility. Interestingly, though, we learned it was possible to avoid the assigned dining experience.

At the suggestion of the maitre d' -- and in large part because we were just one of six English speaking passengers onboard this trip -- he devised a plan for us. Knowing in advance which nights featured special themes in the various restaurants, including the Lido, the ship's buffet-but-not venue, he arranged two-tops throughout our two week cruise at the entire range of eateries. A part of me balked at over-committing ourselves (what if we felt like Asian when we were slated for Italian?) but the other part appreciated the fact that I didn't have to think about where to dine. And matching up the dates with the itineraries -- after a busy day at Jordan's Petra, no doubt the buffet would be a marvelous choice -- it seemed a good idea. He'll create such a dining scheme for any passenger; just ask.

Tonight was formal night -- and every man on the ship donned black (or red or blue) tie. One nice touch: Passengers mingled in the atrium, with drinks and hors d'oeuvres, before being introduced to the captain. The ship's master actually spent a lovely few minutes chatting with every passenger who wished, and a photo was taken before heading into the Europa Theater, for what then constituted the usual "welcome" reception. His speech was lengthy (and in German, but once you've heard one you've heard 'em all), and the introduction of officers brief and to the point.

After a strange dinner at Venezia -- the food was delicious but I'm still not used to the formal rhythm of service (it's slower than I'm used to, as well) -- the fog-of-sleep closed in. It was an early night.
Day 3: Embarkation in Muscat red arrow Day 5: Salalah

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