Gin, Sushi and the Dardanelles

The forward superstructure of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 glistens this evening as we arrived early at Mytilene, Greece. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, September 21, 2014
Pleasant surprises were on the menu today aboard Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2 as we made our way through the scenic (not to mention busy) Dardanelles that separate Istanbul from the Aegean.
The first and most noticeable surprise: we’d be getting in to Mytilene, Greece early – by an entire day. Instead of arriving tomorrow morning, the Officers here onboard EUROPA 2 managed to get us an earlier transit time for the Dardanelles, which in turn allowed us to arrive in Mytilene tonight at 6:30 p.m instead of early tomorrow morning. With only 155 nautical miles to cover between Istanbul and Mytilene, our journey was not a particularly fast one – perhaps 12 knots at best – but it’s one that guests here seem to have approved of.

Do Not Disturb: when the red light is on, crew know to leave you be. It is controlled from inside your suite. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Do Not Disturb: when the red light is on, crew know to leave you be. It is controlled from inside your suite. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

By the way – for what it’s worth, I’ve adopted “Mytilene” as my approved form of spelling for a town that seems to have an enormous number of variations, from Mitiline to Mytiline. Perhaps the standards guy was out having an ouzo…
In many ways, my “evening of sadness” last night has worked out in some unexpected ways. In an attempt to recover the sleep that I just flat-out did not get last night, I popped the “Do Not Disturb” light up on my suite door and slept on and off until 12:30 p.m. After having a 12-hour liquid diet, I felt well enough to join the world again.

This afternoon, I kept my haircut appointment at the Ocean Spa - and wasn't disappointed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I kept my haircut appointment at the Ocean Spa – and wasn’t disappointed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Here’s why I am so impressed with that: I stayed in my suite until well past noon. Given the late hour, I wouldn’t ordinarily expect my suite to be touched until the evening turndown service, yet when I returned to the room just an hour later, it had already been made up, restocked, and cleaned. I was flabbergasted. I expect a good level of service on any luxury line, but that pleasantly surprised me.
At 2:00 p.m., I made my way down to the Ocean Spa on Deck 5. Yesterday afternoon I’d arranged for a haircut, and I felt that keeping my appointment might be just what was needed to rejoin the world, so to speak.

The hair salon in EUROPA 2's Ocean Spa. Banks of large, oversized windows are off-screen to the right. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The hair salon in EUROPA 2’s Ocean Spa. Banks of large, oversized windows are off-screen to the right. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My stylist, Kathrin, was friendly and efficient. She’s only been on the ship for three weeks, but she seems to love working here. In fact, all the crew here onboard seem to be very proud to be working for Hapag-Lloyd.
For €39, my men’s shampoo, cut and blow-dry was exactly what I needed to start looking and feeling human again. It was also one of the nicest shipboard salons I’ve seen, with large oversized picture windows framing the cutting stations. I also loved that, unlike many shipboard spas, there was no ‘hard sell’ for product at the end. T

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