BACKGROUND: This was my first post-Covid trip on Hapag Lloyd's small luxury ship the MS Europa. I had sailed on her several times pre-Covid (last time was September 2019) and had very much enjoyed the seamless service and excellent food (both international and German).
The main reason for my booking this particular trip (booked almost three years ago), was for the annual classical music Ocean Sun Festival, which had been canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid. World class artists featured on board this year included the Goldmund string quartet; pianist Alexander Krichel; violinist Sergey Malov; soprano Patricia Petibon performing with La Cetra baroque orchestra (in a Lisbon area special concert at Queluz palace) ; cellist Alexey Stadler performing with clarinetist David Orlowsky and pianist Matan Porat; and violinist Cosima Soulez Lariviere performing with pianist Mario Haering. Although I had my favorites overall, I was not disappointed in the overall quality of the classical artists' up close and personal performances, and that alone made the cruise worthwhile. There were other very good features, though there were a few things I disliked (in particular, my undercooled suite) , so my overall rating is 4/5.
COVID: Some Covid precautions were still in place when I sailed, though most had just loosened. All pax had to be vaxxed and boosted and provide written proof of a negative Covid test prior to boarding (either an antigen test within 24 hours, which did not work for me, or a PCR test within 48 hours -- which for various reasons, cost me 175 Euros for a quick PCR). Other than the requirement for masks in buses, rules and mandated attempts at Covid evasive behaviors were limited (especially when compared with my deserted Silver Moon cruise to central America January 2022, during the height of Omicron, when there were 'outbreaks' and pax, almost always mandatorily masked, looked at each other simply as disease vectors with eyes). There was an area of the ship reserved for quarantine (my suite was originally supposed to be in that area, but I was reassigned a new suite shortly before boarding ,allegedly for that reason). But later I walked and saw no activity there, the area was not sealed off, and I know that someone else landed up in my formerly assigned suite because they gave that suite # at lunch. I do not know if anyone came down with Covid, (if so, likely not many), it was not talked about or announced, and I did not ask. We had mandatory daily wrist temperature checks at a station near reception, (a 2 hour convenient time frame was allowed) but no screening nose, throat, salivary, or other probes were inserted once we were on board.
See the review body for details. Basic very nice veranda suite, well-appointed, like most veranda suites on Silversea, Regeant, and Seabourn, but the AC was underpowered for me (see review). Balcony had 1 chaise lounge, 2 upright chairs and a small table.
Very attractive town for tourists: Guggenheim museum, old town, pedestrian areas, photographic opportunities.
Other than the outside of the opulent mosque, to me this was not a very nice port. The open market stunk, the streets were dirty, sad beggars displayed their physical defects downtown in hope of getting money, and there was also the heartbreaking sight of homeless cats and kittens lying everywhere on the pavement. I do not recommend a journey to "Rick's Bar", even if you saw the movie.
Gijon itself is just a working class city, but it is a good jumping off point for an excursion to the delightful old Asturian town of Oveido for an independent excursion, visiting the cathedral, touring, strolling, shopping, and eating.
Very nice port for a walking tour or just strolling and visiting cafes or the beach.
Fascinating port, from which you can go visit the interesting Caesar Monreque foundation sights. He was native here.
Very scenic beautiful hilly city, to tour by foot, by Tuk-Tuk, or private cab. Great views in many places. If embarking or disembarking here, stay at least 3 days.
Fantastic port, a combined bus/boat guided tour is good if you are short on time. There are many areas for walking and strolling , and cafes. Gaia nearby has port wineries to visit (I was not impressed with a Sandeman tour off a ship)