Travel Agent’s Dave Eisen is sailing aboard the MS Europa this week. This is his third report.
With MS Europa readying to clear the port at Tallin, it is with great hurry that I bring you the latest blog installment. Why? Because once we head out to sea, it’s bye-bye worldwide web. They’ve figured out how to put ice-skating rinks in cruise ships, just not reliable Internet.
Today, Wednesday, we hit Tallinn, Estonia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. Twenty years after independence, Tallinn has retained its historical charm while also becoming a vibrant modern city. We spent our day in the Old Town, which is straight out of a fairytale: cobble-stone streets as narrow as a pin, sided by small shops selling anything from souvenirs to amber jewelry, which we quickly found to be a city specialty.
Otherwise, the Old Town is filled with castles and old cathedrals. Of particular note is the Church of St. Nicholas, which originates from the 13th century. It was bombed and wrecked during World War II but then rebuilt and refurbished.
The hot spot is the Town Hall Square, which has an assortment of cafes and bars that mix in well with the older architecture. All of the surrounding shops are unbelievably picturesque and decked in an array of different colors and patterns.
The Old Town itself is easily navigated. Circling the entire area and seeing everything is not a long affair. That is welcomed as our ship docked in the morning, but is headed for St. Petersburg in the afternoon. My friend and I still had a chance to take in all the sites and the views atop the city, which afforded beautiful vistas of the medieval buildings below and the ships at the port in the distance. This town is really something to marvel at. Merely strolling the streets is a welcomed site enough. One truly feels part of a fairytale land.
We also had a quick glimpse of the neighboring “newer” section, which isn’t unlike any major European city. In fact, we stopped into the local mall and found it to be similar to any American mall. More so, when we glimpsed a jean tag we saw prices that were similar to U.S. prices. Yes, $200 for a pair of Diesel jeans. It’s interesting that, in only 20 years time, Estonia has caught up with modern countries in terms of commerce.
Heading back to the ship, we were famished. I want to stress how unbelievable the service is on MS Europa. At the Lido restaurant (I use the term Lido loosely as I’ve never been on a ship that has a better Lido restaurant), I had an urge for some American fare—a cheeseburger. I requested one from the restaurant manager and, though cheeseburgers aren’t readily available at Lido, he put in a special request to have some fresh ground beef prepared and grilled. Voila, one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted.
As I stated before, MS Europa is a German cruise ship through and through, but great service has no specific language. It is there for everyone.
One note that I did forget to mention in my previous blog entry: The spa area may be a bit iffy for Americans. While most cruise ships have co-ed spas, men and women keep covered up in steam rooms, saunas, etc. Not here. Both men and women freely show nudity, which may put Americans off. My opinion is thus: stay covered and avert your eyes, or when in Rome…
Tomorrow we head for St. Petersburg, the city I am most looking forward to. Until next time…
Read about Dave Eisen's impression of the MS Europa on Day 2 of his trip.