OVERVIEW This was our seventh cruise on Costa Cruise Lines and
our third on the Atlantica, its flagship. It is said that the third
time is a "charm" and it's true! The effusive Hotel Director
Attilio Sissa has kept his staff on its toes and the Atlantica
ship-shape. She is a jewel to be appreciated in all her glory of
cinematic memorabilia (Deck names and ship decor revolve around
Fellini films and actors). We have written two highly detailed
reviews on this ship's many wonders and they are still posted on
the internet, so we will refer readers to those reviews for the
ship's layout and decorations. Instead, now we will focus on what
the Costa Atlantica does best: "CRUISING ITALIAN STYLE." The
ambiance and the Italian cuisine are where Costa excels and what
gives a Costa cruise its identity. We did not have the feeling of
". . .been there, done that . . ." when we returned to this ship.
On the contrary, we felt welcomed by the staff we befriended
previously on other Costa cruises, who remembered our names and
greeted us affectionately. It was like the return
of the "prodigal son," especially for Vincent who enjoyed speaking
Italian and, at times, his native Neapolitan dialect. The
atmosphere on board became more festive throughout the cruise. For
us a Costa cruise is the next best thing to actually going to
Italy. It is the music, the continental manners of the crew, the
extraordinary efforts of Cruise Director Ray Rouse, the factotum of
the ship (Figaro qua`, Figaro la`), and finally it is the Italian
cuisine of Executive Chef Purificacion Villardo and our old friend
Chef Antonio De Luca, which all combine to give passengers that
special taste of "la dolce vita."
EMBARKATION Tickets may read 10:30 am --- don't believe it.
Normally embarkation begins at 1:00 pm. This Sunday the ship was
cleared by Immigration Agents unusually late, just before noon.
Only three inspectors were on board to handle 2,400 passengers,
over 400 of whom were non-US citizens. The following Sunday
clearance was quite different: swift and early, by 8:30 am we were
on the pier and ready for our ride home. What a difference a week
makes. For embarkation we received assistance to a waiting area for
wheelchair and handicapped passengers along with the three
relatives in our group (Haydee from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and
Mary and Peggy from Tucson, Arizona). We were on board 1:30pm and
of course went straight to the Welcome Aboard Buffet, a culinary
feast for the eyes and the stomach.
PUBLIC AREAS This floating tribute to Federico Fellini's avant
garde films is both interesting and educative. The many
reproductions of Botticelli, Raphael, Titian etc. works are
evocative of Italian museums, for they are exquisite copies
wonderfully framed. The classic lines of this ship are pure Costa
--- she is more like a huge yacht and her appointments are
luxurious: marble and fine wood are everywhere. The beautiful three
room Caffe` Florian is so highly detailed and presents such a
unique experience that passengers truly feel as if sitting in a
Venetian cafe overlooking St. Mark's Square (We know, since we've
been there and even the coffee smells the same!). Please refer to
our Costa Atlantica 2000 and 2002 reviews for more ship
FOOD & SERVICE Food and service is where Costa excels: Chef
Villardo can be proud of the many offerings on his menus. When it
reads "Prosciutto," diners can be sure it will be the famous
Italian Prosciutto di Parma --- the best cured ham in the world.
Recently Costa has dedicated more money per passenger for food and
it shows. There are selections of cheese available daily which
include the delicious Gorgonzola (Blue of Italy) Ricotta (creamy
imported) and Mozzarella di Bufala, Grana Padano and of course
Parmiggiano Reggiano (inimitable).
The menus are printed in Italian with English, German or Spanish
translations directly underneath. Of course, many Americans enjoy
seeing the Italian while being able to decipher it immediately. We
suggest that these menus along with the daily Italian lessons on
board could be an introduction to traveling in Italy. We dined with
other Americans who said that at first they were ordering as if in
an American restaurant, until they realized that they were missing
a fantastic opportunity to try real Italian food. As the old adage
states: "When in Rome do as the Romans do. . . ." and each night
can be a great dining sensation:
Night I, Bon Voyage Dinner: Try the Antipasto Atlantica, roasted
eggplant, zucchini and peppers with Prosciutto di Parma. For the
Main Course have the Costa ta di Manzo al Forno (a tender and
succulent Prime Rib of Beef).
Night II, Gala Dinner: Try the Escargot Bourguignonne and
Aragosta alla griglia (Broiled Lobster).
Night III, American Dinner: Shrimp cocktail, mixed baby green
salad, Costine di Maiale (Baby back pork spareribs), and what could
be more American than Spaghetti & Meatballs.
Night IV, Italian Dinner: Cioppino (Italian Seafood stew),
Trofie al Pesto (Genovese dumplings with pesto sauce) and Osso Buco
(Braised Veal Shank with polenta).
Night V, Caribbean Dinner: Tortino di granchio (Caribbean Crab
Cakes), Oxtail Bouillon, Linguine con gamberetti (pasta with
shrimp), Sirloin steak with green peppercorns.
Night VI, Farewell Gala: Oysters Rockfeller, Fagottini ai
quattro formaggi (pasta pouches stuffed with beef, ricotta &
spinach in a four cheese sauce), and Filetto di manzo ai funghi
porcini (Grilled beef tenderloin with porcini mushrooms).
Night VII, Bacchanal Dinner: This night is topped off with a
procession of Roman senators, soldiers and lovely ladies
allcavorting to Verdi's "Triumphal March" from Aida. HAIL CAESAR!
Don't fail to order Prosciutto and Melone, Calarmari Fritti,
Minestrone, Penne Putanesca, and Costa ta di Manzo. Translate this
alone --- after all there's been seven days of Italian lessons by
This is only the tip of the iceberg and some of our favorites.
Normally, we never order the same items on the menu, since we like
to sample everything. The one thing we would prefer is the
availability of half portions, because we dislike wasting food and
the food portions are abundant.
The Menu is always extensive and varied. Every night, in
addition to the 4 or 5 main courses, there are 3 or 4 alternative
options, including fish, meat and pasta dishes, such as baked or
grilled fish fillet, grilled meat and sausage, Lasagna or stuffed
Cannelloni. The luncheon menus are equally varied and delicious. We
suggest trying the risotto (rice) whenever it is on the menu,
especially with mushrooms or asparagus. Magnificent!
The dessert menus have three items which are available everyday
-- Tiramisu, Pastiera Napolitana and Zabaione: Don't translate,
just order and savor! However, as a suggestion never miss a
profiterole or a souffle. We always marvel at those people who just
order ice cream every evening, when so many exotics are available.
The Italian pastries rely more on flavor than sweetness and this is
We found the food in the main dining room equally as good as
that in the Ristorante Club Atlantica, the upscale restaurant on
Deck 10 (there is a cover charge of $20 per person, except it is
free for those occupying the suites). The menu for this restaurant
was created by Gualtiero Marchesi, a renown Italian chef. The
atmosphere in the Club Atlantica is more intimate than the main
dining room, the service is impeccable and the Versace dinner ware
is exquisite. However, we felt that it is definitely time for a
change in menu, since it has been the same for the past three
years. Moreover, we had a lovely table in the Tiziano dining room,
where the food, the service and the company were the best
ingredients for wonderful dining experiences.
We enjoyed Chef De Luca's cooking demonstrations in the Piazza
Madama Butterfly and his beautiful daughter and Assistant Carla
(Brava!). After each demonstration we savored the dishes which were
offered that evening in the dining room.
Food Service on the Atlantica is under the direction of the
handsome Maitre d' Hotel Umberto Cardone and his Asst. Tobia Vallo
(whom we have met on many Costa cruises). The constant vigilance of
these two, together with the other Asst. Maitre D's Dante and
Nicola, are the reason that the wait staff is so accomplished. Our
waiter Ronnie Ablog was swift and mindful of our likes and his
assistant Sonny Ribao was helpful, but never hovering. Remember
that with only 162 Kitchen Staff, Chef Villardo served 2,200
passengers and 900 crew over 9,000 meals per day, plus snacks,
formal teas at 4:00 pm, Midnight Buffets, Captain's Cocktails etc.,
etc., etc. It is mind boggling. Especially since every soup is hot,
every salad is crisp and every entree is garnished with fresh
Service is tip top under Hotel Director Attilio Sissa; he is
swift to action, effective and cordial; his sole aim is to please
the passengers. He definitely achieves that goal. Our Butler Juan
Pablo Aguilera was very helpful; he has a way of providing service
before being asked. On the first day Vincent ordered a pitcher of
orange juice with which to take his medicine, and everyday after
that, he placed a fresh picture of juice in our refrigerator
without our prompting. We had to debark early on Friday at George
Town, Grand Cayman to meet a private tour (more later on the
fantastic SEAMOBILE) and Pablo escorted us to the gangway by the
VIP route (we were told that he escorted Robert Redford and a few
other famous people the same way). When it comes to treating
everyone like a VIP Costa and its staff know how to do it.
CABIN Suite #6154 is spacious and well appointed. When entering
on the left, there is an ante room with armoire and lighted
dressing table and past that is the pure Italian bathroom, double
sink, all granite, tile and marble with a Jacuzzi tub. Excellent
thought was given to comfort in this bathroom: towel racks and
handy hooks are in the proper places. There is a granite bar and
entertainment center: TV-VCR; a personal safe, a dresser and
another mirrored armoire. The queen size bed is flanked by night
stands with Murano glass reading lamps.
When entering on the right, there is a mirrored wall bordered by
wooden pillars with ebony capitals and copper trim. The granite
topped desk has another beautiful Murano lamp and below is the
refrigerator. Full American breakfast was served each morning on
the large granite coffee table. There is a peach leather hide-a-bed
sofa with matching draperies and bedspread. The far wall is all
glass with a door to the spacious balcony w/ two chairs, table and
On the walls are two dreamy paintings by Andreescu: One is a
sleeping woman under a starry night with a castle in the background
and a cat with yellow eyes in the foreground. The other is of a
girl with golden hair and stars with a "Mezzaluna" moon and a
bouquet of flowers and masks in the foreground. Unique! Our cabin
attendant Roland was superb, everything was in order, but we hardly
ever saw him.
ENTERTAINMENT The daily program "TODAY" lists many activities,
from organized exercise classes to lessons in tennis, from dancing
and language lessons to bingo and card tournaments, and trivia
quizzes (the formidable Finellis won two). There are also lifestyle
lectures: astrology, self exploration, etc..., and afternoon movies
in the Caruso Theater and several excellent lead performers on
board. A melodic group, "Les Aristocrates," with a spectacular lady
singer Daniela and two other male singers, gave several
performances in the Corallo Lounge and in Piazza Madama Butterfly.
Their repertoire included famous Italian and International songs.
Concert pianist Pierangelo Micciche` and tenor Luis Cartin, an old
acquaintance of ours, performed beautiful classical songs and opera
arias at the Caffe` Florian. The latest show "Made in Italy"
featured Luis Cartin and the new excellent soprano Julie Ann
McLaughlin with whom Vincent was very taken. We particularly
enjoyed the solo performance of Van Pressley Jr. (formerly of "The
Platters") who took us down "memory lane" with the most popular
songs of the fifties and sixties. He got a standing ovation for
songs like "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "The Great Pretender" and "My
way." We had enjoyed his singing during our April 2002 cruise on
the Atlantica, so we were thrilled that he was also performing
during this cruise.
Party Italian Style includes dancing lessons in the "Tarantella"
and the "Quadriglia." by far the most interactive program for the
audience was the "Roman Bacchanal" a guest talent show. The
audience gets a chance to decide contestants' fate by either
"thumbs down," death by lions, or "thumbs up" for freedom. Be
prepared for Italian congeniality everywhere. It's infectious.
PORTS OF CALL Key West, FLorida Monday Arrival: 8:00am
Departure: 5:00pm For first timers take the Conch Train a one hour
tour ($19) which will give a quick overview, so that the rest of
the day can be well spent.
Cozumel, Mexico Tuesday Arrival: 8:00am Departure: 7:00pm We
think the San Gervasio Ruins and the Folklorico Show would be the
best excursion for the money ($55) three and one half hours and
there is still half a day for some of the best snorkeling in the
world. Shopping is good here and just a $5.00 cab ride from the
Wednesday is a sea day.
Ochos Rios, Jamaica Thursday Arrival: 8:00am Departure: 5:30pm
The Ochos Rios Highlights, Coyaba Gardens and Dunn's Falls, four
hours ($44) gives the flavor of Jamaica, plus the exercise of
climbing the falls and still getting in some shopping time.
George Town, Grand Cayman Friday Arrival: 8:00am Departure:
5:00pm Here it is possible to go off the regular tours to the
SEAMOBILE, the submarine experience of a life time (described in
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC). There are only three of these subs in the
world: one is in Grand Cayman, one on the US west coast and the
last is used in research in Turkey. We contacted the Manager Simon
Boxall by E-Mail: email@example.com and by phone (345-916-DIVE) and
he made arrangements for us to be picked up between the North and
South terminals by Chris in a speed boat, taken to the platform
near Seven Mile Beach. Sunny helped us on the platform and Dave,
the pilot, explained the process of submersion and safety
procedures. It was all very simple; we were ready to explore the
coral reef. The two man sub has a clear glass dome with surround
view. No breathing apparatus is necessary, since it holds enough
oxygen for approximately 2 hours and the dive lasts only about 30
to 45 minutes. Dave, in scuba outfit, pilots the sub from outside
and behind, so the the sea view is unobstructed. Completely calm
and free of masks or any other encumbrances, we floated through
schools of tropical fish and saw sea turtles, conchs, sea fans and
coral formations within feet. For that Jacques Cousteau feeling
this is truly phenomenal. The visibility is wonderful. Mary is
claustrophobic, but had no problem since the bubble is large enough
and breathing is regular not through tubes or tanks. TWO THUMBS
SUGGESTIONS 1. Our Seamobile experience was unique. We have
previously done the Submarine Expedition and the Submarine
Adventure in Cozumel and the Caymans, respectively. However, this
personalized dive to the coral reef is something very different and
it merits inclusion in shore excursion offerings of the Costa
2. So much food is wasted on cruises; thus, we feel that
half-portions should be listed on the menu for those who want to
savor the flavor, rather than gorge themselves.
3. There has been improvement in the pizza --- the toppings were
excellent, but the crust did not meet our expectation. We feel that
the crust could be more flavorful if they use the freshly made
bread dough, instead, since their bread is excellent. Very
It is always a great pleasure to visit our friends on Costa
ships. Arrivederci! Until we meet again, maybe on the new Costa
Mediterranea or Costa Fortuna, later this year.