I have just returned from a weeks Cruise on board Costa Atlantica, which commenced on Sunday 18th January, cabin was inside on floor 6. I purchased this cruise as a Christmas present for my sister-in-law. Destinations were Key West, Cozumel, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman.
I am a very keen traveller. I spend at least 7 weeks every year travelling. I have visited over 50 different countries in the last 12 years, and in the last 5 years I have been on 12 different cruises. This was my first experience with Costa .
Unfortunately this has to be my worst travel experience ever.
I would like to share with you my week on board Costa Atlantica. I hope this helps you to make the right decision if you are contemplating a Costa Cruise. I have sailed many times before with Celebrity, RCCL, NCL, and Princess, all of which have been fine.
When we arrived at Port Everglades it was 13:30 and there was already a queue of at least 200 people outside the terminal building. There were no porters ready to take our luggage when we got out of the taxi. We found a Costarepresentative and asked her what to do. She told us to leave our luggage with the big pile of luggage and get in line.
We were approached by a luggage handler who told us that our luggage labels were not correct. I told him that these were supplied directly from Costa . They had the Costa logo and had our cabin number on. He said we would have to join the long queue of people to get new labels. I asked him to check this information with another luggage handler. The other luggage handler said that the labels were ok. Then to our surprise the first luggage handler said "Where is my tip. I usually get a tip?"
We went to stand in the line and after 40 minutes we saw Costa assistants waving immigration forms, saying we must get these and fill them in first. After 40 minutes of queuing, I did not feel like starting again. So we ignored the person who told us to fill them in and waited until we got to the reception desk. The lady at the reception desk said we didn't need to fill in the immigration form because she already had the required information in our registration details. I noticed that when we registered we were not able to leave details of our credit cards. The receptionist told us we had plenty of time to register our card details when we got on board. We later found this to be a huge disadvantage. I wanted to register our credit card on day 1, but the queue was so long we decided to go back the next day. We stayed in the queue for 15 minutes on day 2, but then got fed up with waiting. We eventually registered our credit card details on day 3, after queuing for 20 minutes.
I also noticed that when we registered, we did not have to give our passports in. This also turned out to be a huge disadvantage. We were forced to take our passports with us every time we wanted to get off and on the ship. All other cruise ships I have been on, take a photo-id picture when you first come on board so you don't need your passports. I really do not like walking around everywhere with my passport. It meant we were unable to go jet ski-ing or feel comfortable leaving our beach bags unattended when we were on trips or swimming at beaches.
After we had registered at reception we were told to wait in a large hall area until our number was called. This didn't happen for at least 40 minutes. All other cruise ships offer a complimentary cold soft drink whilst you are waiting to get on board. There were no drinks available, which I found a bit strange.
Some people approached us and asked us where our Jazz badges were. We said we had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Then we discovered that the cruise we had booked was a 'Smooth Cruise Jazz Tour'. No-one from Costa had advised us. Our booking agents hadn't advised us. We were devastated, because we both love jazz, and found we were not included in any of the events. We later discovered that Costa had filled half the ship with Jazz customers. The other 50% seemed to have no idea that they were on a cruise which had devoted 50% of the ship to jazz activities and concerts. We had all booked with different Cruise agents, but not one of them had identified that this was a jazz cruise. I was so angry that I phoned my husband at home and ask him to contact my cruise agent to see why they hadn't advised us. They told him that Costa had not advised them. As with all other cruise ships the photographer was available to take your photo when stepping on board. But there was no way of getting past if you didn't want the photo. This really slowed down the process of getting on board. And I noticed that the first ship photograph featured a picture of yourself plus a long queue of people waiting behind you! Not very personal. In general, the ships photographers created photos of a very poor quality, and they took the photographs in positions where you could see other people in the background, or there could be a shop sign above you, or the photos were not centred properly.
We eventually got on board at 16:00pm. This is two and a half hours after getting out of the taxi. Not a very good start.
We headed immediately for the buffet. There was only one station open. There were some variations on pasta but it looked very dried out and there wasn't much left. But we were hungry so we tried. The pasta was dry and luke-warm so we left it.
We went back to our cabins and discovered that our dining card indicated first sitting. I was absolutely horrified, because I had confirmed 3 times with my booking agency that I was on second sitting, in writing, via email, and verbally. I absolutely hate first sitting and it would be good enough reason for me to cancel a cruise. I immediately went to see the Maitre D. The Maitre D on board this ship has to be the rudest, most arrogant and unhelpful person you could ever come across. He said there was absolutely nothing he could do. I told him that I was absolutely 100% sure that my request for second sitting was confirmed before I left the UK, but he simply would not believe me. He took my name and number but said that he couldn't do anything else until tomorrow.
First seating dining was due to commence at 18:00pm. By 18:15pm our bags had still not arrived. I went out to the corridors to see what was happening. There were probably at least 20 people on every single floor waiting for their bags by the lifts. Most people were absolutely furious and really fed up. After checking every single floor to make sure our bags had not been mis-delivered we decided to go to dinner. We were dressed in shorts and beach shoes. It was very embarrassing.
I don't know what time our bags eventually turned up, but it must have been after 9pm. We heard later that some people didn't get all their bags until midnight.
On day 2, I went to find the Maitre D. I was told he was unavailable so I spoke to his assistant. Another unbelievably rude man. He was dealing with an American couple who wanted to swap from 2nd to 1st sitting. I said I would be more than happy to exchange my card with theirs, but the Maitre D had already torn up their card, and wouldn't let me change with them. I asked him to check the seating change plan to make sure that I was included. He said that my new 2nd sitting card was being prepared at the moment and that he didn't have the lists. He told me to go back to my room and wait for the card to be delivered. I told him that I wanted to see the lists straightaway. After five minutes of begging with him, he simply pointed me in the direction of a staircase and said, "Go upstairs and speak to the Maitre D".
The Maitre D was sitting with all his assistants sorting out the change of seating plan. He lied to me and told me no-one had been swapped. I told him that I knew he was lying because I had just stood downstairs next to an American couple who had swapped about 3 minutes ago. He told me that was not possible. After another long argument he asked me to identify the assistant Maitre D who had made the swap. Eventually they tracked him down and then they both lied saying no swaps had been made. I told the Maitre D that from day 3 onwards I would simply turn up at second sitting and I would expect to be seated. He simply waved his arms in the air and said that if that's what I wanted to do then so be it.
About an hour after this incident I was walking along some corridors to get back to my cabin, and I noticed that some cabins had cards posted in their letterboxes. These cards were for change of dinner seating to second sitting. I was furious. The Maitre D on the Costa Atlantica, together with his assistants are rude, arrogant, liars. They need to go back to school to learn how to handle difficult situations with courtesy and respect, not arrogant superiority and a total disregard for customers needs.
On night 3 we turned up for dinner about ½ hour after the scheduled commencement. There were large notices outside saying that second seating was full. In fact there were many completely empty or half empty tables. We asked the assistant Maitre D to seat us. He said he had a perfect table that we could sit at all week. We were horrified to be seated next to the bus-boy counter. Throughout our first course all we could hear was plates, knives and forks being thrown into the bowls, plates being scraped, waiters continuously bumping into us from behind. The assistant Maitre D asked us how we liked our table. I said I was disgusted. I said how would you like it if you brought your wife on board and you were seated next to the bus boy counter. Then he replied very strangely "Madam, I would not bring my wife on board because the ship is full". We had no idea what he was talking about. I told him that second seating was half empty and there was no reason he needed to seat us where he did. He said "Madam I have tried my very best and there is nothing more I can do". He walked off and so did we. We were too angry to finish our dinner.
On night 4 we turned up late again and he attempted to sit us on our own again. We spotted some newly made friends with some empty spaces so we moved there.
Second sitting was almost always only 2/3rds full for the entire cruise.
After speaking to many people on the cruise it became obvious what had happened and why there was such a mix up with the dining arrangements. There were many people who had confirmed 2nd seating dining before arriving on the Cruise. But in fact what Costa had done was to move all the Jazz participants and the Jewish Kosher party to second seating and put everyone else on first sitting. This was to accommodate the entertainment time slots. There was only one main show per night so if you did not go on first sitting you would miss it. My belief is that if Costa would have told people in advance that this was a jazz cruise with very limited entertainment and first sitting dining only, then people would have chosen another week or another option.
Now on to the quality of the food. It was very poor. The choice was very limited. It was almost always luke - warm and sometimes even cold. The pasta dishes nearly always looked dried up. The vegetables reminded me of school dinners in the 1960's when they served up mixed diced vegetables (carrots, swede and beans). The salad bar was the worst I have ever seen any where in the world. Here are some of the choices : a tray of plain lettuce leaves, a tray of whole raw carrots, a tray of plain raw cauliflower, some plain sliced cucumber.
The buffet area was totally disorganised. No-one ever really knew if the buffet stations contained the same food or if they were different. There were always long queues. The cutlery buckets were regularly empty. Breakfast choice was disgraceful. At lunchtime there was only ever a choice of two deserts. Usually these were sugar free jelly and a horrible square of sponge cake with synthetic cream. The ice cream was watery. The drinks machines were very often out of action. On one occasion I had to try five drinks stations before I could find an orange juice dispenser that worked. One day I had squid from the buffet, but the chef had left razor sharp bones in it. They were like glass.
The description of food in the buffet was terrible. The signs only ever said (for example) Fish, Lamb, Chicken etc, which meant you had no idea how the dish had been prepared or you had no idea what kind of fish you were eating. Even if you asked the assistants didn't always know. The buffet staff all looked very bored and weren't very helpful. Dishes weren't cleared away from tables very quickly.
In the evening main dining the food was slightly better, but still not hot. We had to send two plates of food back on one occasion because the food was actually cold to touch. I am not exaggerating. The waiter simply took the dinner plates away, put them in the microwave and handed them back again. So now everything was piping hot but the herbs and salad had wilted! I noticed that everyone struggled on lobster night. Usually, on other cruise ships, the lobster tail is loosened by the restaurant staff, so that people don't have to struggle. The lobster was served still attached to the shell with no dressing or butter. It is the blandest lobster I have ever tasted in my life. Most other dishes were lacking in flavour.
There was no wine waiter ever available. Once the wine had been served by the assistant waiter, you then had to continue to serve yourself all night.
So to the entertainment. The first day was encouraging. The show (of which there was only one performance) was at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We had an ex member of the Platters (not one of the originals I hasten to add who must all now be long gone) - second generation. He was very good.
Second day was a really bad 3 man circus act. I couldn't watch them again after this performance. My sister-in-law struggled through their second show for a short while but gave up after the juggler kept dropping things and after she heard them try to sing. She said it was awful and walked out long before the end. The dance shows were just average. Not bad, but not good. But the show that really took us by surprise as the worst cruise entertainment we have ever witnessed was the night the poolside steel band were given the prime spot as the main evening entertainment. They didn't say a word. They just performed tune after tune. A plaque was displayed with the song they were currently playing. It was awful. Most people had walked out before the end. I lasted until song number three.
To try and cheer ourselves up we went in for the slots tournament. On my last two cruises with Celebrity and Royal Caribbean I have won both a first and second prize. The whole thing with Costa was a shambles. We had enough people for a single round, which went quite well. Then the original organiser walked off and left us in the hands of a young casino lad who didn't speak hardly any English, and who had NO idea what he was doing. He was letting people play just as and when they pleased. One woman had the top three scores, and couldn't understand why she wouldn't be allowed to play three machines in the final! It wasn't really her fault. This boy hadn't explained any rules. Then we discovered that one of the tournament machines hadn't been set up correctly. It was locking out for about 30 seconds after every major win. So people started screaming that they wanted to take their turn again. We were screaming for this boy to get a technician but he just stood there looking gormless. So we screamed for a manager. In the end I had to call someone over myself. Altogether three different casino personnel got involved. In the end, by general consensus, we allowed the lady with the three top scores to play two machines in the final, and we had to play the final as two separate rounds because two of the machines became faulty. I would have loved the Gaming Board regulators to have witnessed this experience. It was simply dreadful. And the prize money? $200 for one and a half hours of screaming and shouting.
We had a couple of problems with the excursion desk. We had booked a Sea Helmet Diving trip, but had received no confirmation by way of tickets delivered to our room. However we had heard from other people that they too had booked trips where the tickets hadn't arrived. But not to worry, they would have a note of our names. So we turned up at the pierside to be told that the trip was off due to lack of participants. This was the first we had heard of it! I can't believe we weren't notified on the previous evening.
Another trip which appeared to be totally disorganised was the Dolphin encounter & Dunn's River falls. We were walked by a Costa guide to a taxi waiting in the car-park which promptly dropped us off 10 minutes later at Dolphin Cove. When the Dolphin experience was complete we went to find our taxi which had gone. We were told to jump in any taxi, which we found a bit confusing. Then we were taken to Dunns River falls which was also a bit chaotic if you didn't want to climb the falls. We weren't really sure where to go or how we were supposed to get back to the ship. Some pre-information would have been useful.
On the two days at sea we sat by the pool. We sat by the main pool and wanted to have a dip in the hot tub, but decided against when we saw one adult with 5 children all under the age of about 8. What really put me off was that the youngest child had been allowed into the hot tub with a nappy on. YUK!!! There was no control over children in the hot tub, despite the signs saying no children under the age of 12 allowed. Children were also running riot in the Adult Only pool and hot tub. They were also left to play with the life saving rings.
Something else I found very distasteful around the pool is that men were smoking cigars. This is not usually allowed on other cruise ships.
Continuing on the poolside theme, Costa must win the award for the most uncomfortable deckside beds ever. The padding was rock hard, and felt like you were lying on wood. It gave me a really numb backside and made my back ache. I saw some people were trying to make themselves more comfortable by putting two of these rock hard cushions on top of each other, or by laying on four towels at a time. I tried the 4 towel technique myself but it didn't work!
There were a couple of other disturbing incidents which really summed up my Costa experience for me. I was sitting by the pool early in the morning. There was only one other lady looking after three very young children. There were 4 poolside bar staff just standing by the bar with their trays waiting for custom, having a good chat. One of the female bar waitresses went over to the mother and said "Can I get you a drink". The lady said "I would love a drink of water". The waitress pointed to the other side of the deck and said "the water machine is over there". Then she walked back to her bar staff friends and continued to chat. Now how is that for friendly and helpful?
The second incident happened after the captains cocktail party. We were leaving the theatre and there was a mother attempting to get her wheelchair bound daughter down a couple of steps. The ships priest was standing next to this. One of the Entertainment staff rushed to help. She was wearing a very lavish long ball gown and obviously found it difficult to help but she did her best. Some guests close by came to her assistance whilst the priest just stood and watched. I was really shocked at this.
I spoke to many many people about their cruise experience on Costa Atlantica. I am not lying when I say that NOT ONE PERSON was complimentary. For most it was their worst cruise experience ever. We also spoke to a lot of staff who were on their first Costa contract. They were very clear to tell us it would be their last. Most of the jazz people seemed to have a great time. But this was nothing to do with the services provided by Costa . It was because their jazz entertainment was superb. They were in agreement about the poor quality of everything else.
One of the few things which I could not fault was the cabin and the cabin steward. Both were excellent. It would be nicer to get some fancy chocolate laid on your pillow at night (as with most other cruise companies) rather than a boiled sweet. But such is life!
The cabin TV had very limited channels. There was no free film channel as with other cruise companies. There was no CNN. The most hilarious channel was the one with the tour director. He was the most boring lifeless unenthusiastic tour director I have ever seen. He gave his commentary slumped over a desk for the full duration. He made you feel really depressed.
The daily newspaper was lacking in detail. There was no weather forecast, no destination overview, just a map with recommended shopping. It was not that well constructed.
There were always long queues at the Excursions desk and at Guest relations. All times I went to Guest relations I had to queue for just under forty minutes.
And the icing on the cake? Well I just happened to overhear that a family were travelling on the same organised trip as us on the last day after disembarkation, and so they had been sent specially coloured Pink luggage labels, so that their luggage could be outsorted. We had booked the same trip. On the last day I was expecting to see pink luggage labels, but they were purple. I stood for the regular 40 minutes at guest relations to discover (purely by chance) that we had got the wrong luggage labels. On the last night, I passed a couple of other families having discussions with their cabin boys, because they appeared to have the wrong luggage labels too.
We were first in queue to get on to the coach for our final Fort Lauderdale trip. But somehow this seemed to be totally chaotic as well. It took about 15 minutes before we finally got our luggage on board the coach.
My conclusion? Costa cruises are regularly discounted and always seem to be a good deal. I cannot comment on other Costa ships but as far as Costa Atlantica is concerned, avoid it. Pay an extra £100-£200 for another cruise line. You will be grateful in the end. This was certainly my first and last Costa cruise.
We just returned from the Atlantic's December 15, 2002 sailing and it was not good news. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary and my 40th birthday. Our decision to book on Costa was based on the great deals offered and our prior experiences. Even though we had read some bad reviews regarding the food, I thought that some people just did not understand the Italian cuisine. Unfortunately, they were right. This was our 14th cruise, third on Costa . The first two were in the mid 1990's. The food back then was European gourmet.
This time around, the food was un-enjoyable at best. Beef was cheap and tough (similar to a $4.99 buffet). Cream soups (which were most of them) had no cream or milk, rather "cream of corn starch", with the flavor of the day added. Pasta was prepared well in advance and was usually floating in oil. The gala lobster was so dry that even drowning it in butter did not help.
We had our best meal in the pay restaurant, Atlantica Club. Food was outstanding. It was tough to go back to the regular dinners. Thehamburgers and hotdogs were also good. (Hard to screw them up I guess).
We are by no means "foodies" or gourmets we have never been on a cruise where we did not look forward to eating.
Embarkation We arrived at the terminal at 12:45 pm but did not get to our stateroom until 3:46 pm. A tired security guard was the only one greeting us. I am sure the other three hundred or so behind us had the same experience. The holdup was the ONE photographer for all 2000 passengers. Thirty or so people were called every few minutes. We missed the buffet and had to stand for another half and hour for muster drills in five languages.
The Ship The Costa Atlantica is a beautiful ship, well laid out with artwork around every corner. Warning: The back third of the ship vibrates when sailing. It seems to diminish as you reach the rear bank of elevators. Glasses rattle on the tray and there is a low dizzying harmonic rumble.
The passengers About forty percent of the passengers were Italian families. Thirty percent were young seniors, mostly from Florida. Some Italian men had the line cutting to an art. They would pretend to strike up a conversation with someone in line then blend in and then call for their family to join them. One elderly couple went to the front of the line at a buffet and politely asked for a tray and plate and proceeded to get their food. When a fellow passenger asked them what they were doing, they said the line was far too long to wait.
Smoking I have heard that smoking was an issue but we did not find any problem in the bars or common areas. The ship is large and seems to have a good air exchange system. Our stateroom smelled like an ashtray but luckily, we opted for an upgrade.
The Staff We had a great cabin steward and waiter. We had upgraded to a suite and had a great butler that brought us a full breakfast on request. The excursion desk staff where not well trained. We heard of several people complaining that the staff could not describe the details of there trip.
Communications and daily news Besides the chronological order of events, the newspaper had little else. At each port of call, the only information was the preferred shopping destinations that had an affiliation with the ship. No description or history just a map with shopping highlights.
Entertainment and cruise director The Atlantica has 15 bar areas. Many had some form of musical entertainment. All were good some outstanding. The party bands for special occasions were also great. We saw bits and pieces of the shows and they were okay. We missed having a comedian aboard.
The cruise director Ray Rouse was seasoned. He MC'd the talks and affairs well. During the first part of the cruise, there did not seem to be many announcements but maybe we just did not here them. Bingo and other games and events were only in Italian so that some of the passengers were unable to participate.
Disco The disco was state of the art, with lighted floor, smoke machine, and televised wall. On our first visit was a little past midnight. We sat in the dark areas around the dance floor and ordered drinks. A song started that we enjoy and went to dance. The floor filled with dancers less than 5 ft tall. All of the others were young teens (one was leaping across the floor to the beat of the music). Apparently, the teen disco time, which ended at 11:00 pm, was continuing. We left at 12:30 am. On another night, things were normal although the DJ only played 30 seconds of every song throughout the night. (Must be a new fad?)
Pools We spent most of our time at the rear pool for adults and only saw the occasional kid. Someone posted that you might be able to topless sunbath in the adult only pool the only problem it is directly below the waterslide that overlooks the area.
Water slide: It was apparently designed for children. The slide itself is about 75 ft long twisting and turning but at a 10 degree decent. The water flow is not great so consequently I had to push myself along.
Casino The casino was the largest I have seen at sea. There were plenty of dealers and the table limits were reasonable. There were no gambling tournaments such as poker.
Food This was the lowest quality and variety of food that we have ever seen. It was like American food on the Chinese buffet.
For example: Salad bar: The salad bar (if you can call it that) consisted of lettuce, tomato, chickpeas, kidney beans, Italian and French dressing. Fruit: The fruit served on the ship mainly consisted of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and apples and oranges on the side. Occasionally there was a garnish of berries or a strawberry during formal nights. On the fourth day, the fruit salad was soupy and luminescent and needed to be thrown away. Bread: The same round rollers. On special occasions, plan breadsticks.
Cold cuts: The same salami and baloney and two varieties of cheese on all buffets.
Meals The breakfast buffet was good, had very limited items, and the same every day. The omelet station was good. We did not go to the sit-down breakfast. The grill had hamburger and hotdog, grilled chicken, and fish. The hamburgers were excellent. The Items on the buffet reminded me of a cafeteria. Sit-down lunch was nothing special with the minute steak resembling the thickness and size of the sole on my shoes. My wife had a swordfish steak that was a quarter of an inch thick. Dinner had only one choice of pasta and four options. There were no "healthy" choice entries. Fish without some type of red sauce was hard to come by. Meat was cheap. Salad was mostly lettuce and always served with Italian dressing. On the last night, my lettuce was turning brown around the edges. The chef did not use a lot of garlic or oregano, rather preferred to put basil in everything including Chinese food. Vegetables were fresh and not overcooked and the garnishes were very pleasant.
Midnight buffets There were no buffets the first and last night. Two of the nights were mostly pastries. Italian night had the best pasta of the cruise and roasted pig. Gala night was special with a variety of bread, cold cuts, and shrimp (but they were not de- veined) and for the first time, chocolate, which was sparse on any other buffet.
Shopping On board shopping, was par for the course. If you smoke, cigarette prices on board were the cheapest. Booze prices at the St. Thomas Kmart were half the price of the ship.
Ports of Call The ports of call were San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island (private beach), Casa De Campo, and Nassau. Wish we had more time in each port. San Juan and Nassau were half days and Casa Dec Campo would have been fun to explore if we were there during the day.
Debarkation Colored tags were called. We were scheduled to debark at 9:00 am and were not called until 10:30 am.
Conclusion If food is not important to you, then you can have a good time on the Atlantica. I will never go on Costa again unless they are giving away cruises. I feel that even at the discounted fare we paid, that we did not get a good deal.
I thoroughly enjoyed my cruise on the Costa Atlantica! The ship is absolutely gorgeous! I was a little hesitant because all the reviews are either "love it or hate it" and not much middle ground. I found the same to be true of the people I talked to on the ship. Everyone was very vocal in the likes and dislikes and no middle of the road.
I found the Embarkation a little long but I was there at prime time and with all those people, one has to expect a wait. At least there were chairs to sit in and over the years I've been in far worse situations (Southampton, New York, Tahiti). I think it was an hour and I was on board, exploring amd changing my dining room seating and they were very accommodating about that, no questions asked.
Overall, one cannot say enough about the look of the ship. The art, the statues, vases, murals, stairwells, everywhere you looked, the details were unbelievable. I loved the Cafe Florian and the Atrium and judging from the number of pictures being taken in those areas, everyone else did, too! The shipis spectacular! I also liked the Paparazi Lounge where there were fantastic, huge black and white photographs of stars. The ship was ideal for strolling around as many of the lounges were more a walk through situation than a "you have to walk in" situation (which is a good/bad thing). There were ensembles, entertainers in the smaller lounges which I enjoyed as I am not a production show person. The Cafe Florian had a great trio, violin, bass and piano! They were excellent and I never got tired of listening to them. The only thing I did not like (this is my fault in a way for booking in March not the cruise lines totally) was the number of children and teens on board and the lack of conrol. Because of the "walk through style" lounges you could be listening to nice music at the Florian and then a loud group of running children or noisy teens would hang out and ruin the listening. I heard the disco was horrible but I wasn't a nite owl this trip so I didn't witness that first hand. I attribute these problems to spring break/vacation time and the lack of evening activities for these age groups. (Side note: On the plane home I talked to people from other ships and heard some of the same comments and I was under the impression that cruise lines had cracked down on young people being so disruptive but apparently not and I did notice underage drinking which is very wrong)
The dining room was good (for my tastes) but not gourmet. Because I have not been on Celebrity or other more "attentive to food" lines, I am satisfied with good. My meals were on time, properly cooked, what I ordered and all were edible. On par with Princess, NCL, and Royal Caribbean the other lines I have been on. There were people with complaints but I was satisfied. The dining room was more fun than any of the other lines. Where other lines do a parade once or twice, every night is an adventure on Costa . Roses one night for the ladies, Congo lines more than once, champagne toasts, and, of course, the infamous toga night, which is not to be missed. The waiters came out and dance with the ladies on more than one evening. It was a party and very fun, but others may not like that sort of thing, I do. I found the food in the buffet area upstairs to be nomral run of the mill buffet food but I liked the choices. The best organized ever and seldom long lines even on sea days and always enough seats. I liked the fact that there were several omlet stations in the a.m. so you could get hot eggs immediately and I was always never more than 4th in line. The beverage areas were everywhere and away from the buffet lines plus they were always pushing carts of coffee around to serve you. I felt the employees were very conscientious and anxious to help. All the wait staff I dealt with were excellent.
The stateroom was absolutely wonderful. My first balcony cabin and I really liked that. The bathroom and shower were a very pleasant surprise. I also thought it was the quietest room I have ever had in terms of noise from either side of me or from the hall. I had neighbors and I never heard them. In fact, we were on a shore excursion together and they asked if I could hear them. Three young men, their wives, and mom and dad were next to me, across from me and I didn't hear a sound and they weren't quiet people! They loved to party and on our Catamaran tour the operators turned the punch making and entertainment over to them!!!
Speaking of tours, there were alot of choices and a great variety, but I felt that Nassau, St. Thomas were just too crowded for my taste (again, my choice of March is not the right time for me). The Catamaran tour to St. John found lots of sail boats there, other boats and just beach tours, too much! I took the Blue Lagoon tour in Nassau and never would have if I had known we would be on a three decker boat with 2 other cruise lines!!! One plus for Costa , we had six people from the ship with us (probably due to the various nationalities) and the other lines had maybe one for all those people. It was chaotic getting on and off the boat.
Addressing the issue of nationalities, I didn't mind the passenger mix at all and don't feel it is an issue although I have read way too many comments about it. People need to be more tolerant of other nationalities and their personal habits/customs. The smoking issue wasn't as bad as people have described (I have asthma and I am fussy about smoking, candles, excessive perfume, which all can bring on an attack) and I got along just fine. No one smoked in elevators and while there was more smoking than on other lines I didn't see it to be abused to where I couldn't get away from it. The dining room has a totally separate alcove for smokers and I didn't see anyone else smoking anywhere but there in the dining room. The announcements were a pleasure in that they never announced bingo, horse racing, art auctions or anything to their monetary benefit. Yes, the first day there were 5 language announcements but that was to get things started and safety is an important issue. Each day at 9:30, the cruise director made an announcement (not very long) and it was repeated in the languanges and that was it all day unless they needed to page a passenger. The most quiet ship I have ever been on and the least pesty in terms of hawking drinks. They had drink specials but they didn't push them and their bar staff was the most pleasant, low key and unobtrusive I've ever seen. People criticize because they couldn't get drinks by the pool or didn't know what the specials were because they didn't come around with them on trays, I say, oh, well! I never had trouble getting drinks and I checked the program every day to see if my favorite "frozen thingee" was listed! Believe me, I had more than my share of margueritas, my favorite!!! Also, the prices were the best of any ship. I ran into people buying pop to take onboard the Grand because they were tired of paying over 2.00, I told them I was paying 1.75 and 3.95 for wine and drink specials were 3.25. In 99, I paid way more than that for drinks on the Crown Princess.
This is getting rather long, but I did enjoy the ship, the staff, and the overall cruise experience. I wasn't a major participator in late evening activities because this was a mental recuperation trip for me and I needed time to myself (my own personal choice) so I can't talk about the show quality or the late night buffet or theme evenings. I heard people say some were excellent, some were just average which is about normal for most cruise lines, I think. One parting note though I still wouldn't say everyone should try a Costa Cruise simply going by human nature they are not what people expect in comparison to other cruise lines and people do judge things by comparing. I went on knowing that it might be 60, 40 or even 80% international and I didn't care. I work for a foreign, international company and I hear satellite broadcasts in 4 languages all the time and I cannot afford to be opinionated about other nationalities. I'll joke about it up to a point but not to where it is hurtful or insulting to someone. I don't feel anyone has the right to criticize or judge other peoples habits because they are different from yours. I have seen vicious, mean things on the boards about the Costa Cruise experience and I would never stoop to that level but for the same reason I won't say everyone should it try unless they are prepared to keep an open mind and are ready to enjoy a different experience. Again, I apologize for being so wordy!
We first visited the Costa Atlantica on a Sunday early in October of this year in Venice, Italy. Our comments were summarized in a report published here several months ago. Since then, we have visited the ship in Port Everglades on a number of occasions and sailed on her in November and again on February 4th of this year. Both sailings were 7 night voyages to the Eastern Caribbean. As travel agents whose stock in trade is the placing of groups of clients onto ships, we are closely attuned to reactions of these clients to a particular ship.
Our review of the Costa Atlantica is based on both our own experiences and those of the hundreds of people we have embarked on her since her debut in the Caribbean in November of 2000. Our original article described the ship in some detail and there has been ample coverage in the print and electronic media since then on her design and decoration. We concentrate here on our experiences on board during our two voyages and the comments we have received from our group members and leaders.
Costa has clearly put in a lotof effort to make the cruise experience on both the Costa Atlantica and the Costa Victoria (they both sail on Sunday, alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean 7-night itineraries) a seamless, smooth experience. The home pier for the Costa Atlantica in Port Everglades is the new Pier 21. It is nicely laid out and functions well. Embarkation is effected smoothly and with minimum effort and inconvenience to the cruise guest. The pier has a huge, comfortable waiting area and, surprise, surprise… more than ample seating for early arriving passengers. A special desk is set up near the gangway to register children for Costa 's Kids program. If you're traveling with children, be sure to stop by the desk for details. More on this later, but, the kids are in for quite a treat. The pier works well and Costa 's huge check-in staff make embarkation a breeze.
In no time at all embarkation facilities are completed and we walk up the gangway and onto the ship. It is not unusual to see first timers stop dead in their tracks as they are greeted by the grand atrium space… and it is truly spectacular.
On many ships, the Atrium lobby level is an underutilized space, generally the location of the Purser's (Information) Desk and Shore Excursion Office. On the Costa Atlantica, it is one of a number of gathering places… sort of like the central plaza in a Southern European town… except here one is immersed in a fantasy world of silently gliding scenic elevators, 10 deck high atrium, comfortable and unusual seating, music and conversation… it is a throbbing and alive center that continues to attract for the duration of the voyage. Like many venues on the Costa Atlantica, this one is a classic example of the sum being greater than the total of the parts. The space works!!! In fact, the Costa Atlantica "works"… and it is truly something to behold!!!
White gloved attendants escort you to one of the stunning mid ship elevators… (stunning elevators?… yes… like so much of the Costa Atlantica, the elevators themselves are superbly decorated… each with unique glass sculptures… they are something to behold). You reach your deck and are met by another attendant who escorts you to your stateroom and helps you "settle in". Speaking of glass, each stairwell on this ship (there are three main staircases, forward, midship and aft) is home to an exquisite piece of artwork flanked by remarkable examples of original Murano glass. Many people make a special effort to visit every landing in every stairwell to view these absolutely superb original glass works from Murano. They are very special indeed.
The staterooms on the Costa Atlantica are spacious, well designed and attractively decorated… from the minimum inside space to the Grand Suites. Inside staterooms are a commodious 160 square feet and the OceanView's are 175. Suites vary in size and are all spacious and elegant. All staterooms have safes, mini-bars (refrigerators), spacious showers, loads of closet and drawer space and all the other expected amenities. Minimum Inside or Deluxe Veranda… all her cabins are first rate, comfortable and well designed.
The remarkable decor and layout of this vessel has been covered in great detail, in my first post and in numerous other venues. I think I would just like to deal with the on board service, entertainment and food that we and our groups have experienced this season in the Caribbean.
It is a pleasure to watch a ship mature… break in, if you will, and the Costa Atlantica has done just that since she arrived in November. Her service levels are now excellent… in the cabins, the restaurant, the lounges, the buffet areas and the pools. Friendly, accommodating service is the word… and one can experience it throughout the vessel. Food, both in the buffet areas and the main restaurant has been upgraded remarkably. The Tiziano Dining Room… an elegant two level room, beautifully decorated and very functional (a great idea… all the "busing stations" are against the walls throughout most of the restaurant… there ain't a bad table in the place) is purring like a kitten. The room works. Timings, from the kitchen to your table have been trimmed way down (read hot food promptly served). And the food… well… it is basically Continental cuisine with an Italian accent. (You can always get a great pasta dish with lunch or dinner… if you wish). Costa 's menus have been dramatically expanded… lots and lots of choices for each course… and you can always get a Steak, broiled Salmon or Chicken, with Baked Potato's or French Fries (these choices are on every dinner menu). There is always an Italian regional entree and a Vegetarian selection. Regulars on board request "Bruschetta" from their waiter or assistant maitre ‘d early on in the voyage and that wonderful Italian hors d'oeuvre will find its way to your table every night… a sheer delight, but you have to ask for it! There is also a low calorie, low fat selection on every menu. When it comes to food, the Costa Atlantica has really come of age.
The Club Atlantica, Costa 's upscale gourmet alternative dining restaurant features the food of Italy's five star chef Marchesi… it is a beautiful venue, featuring superb service, music with dinner and a very special menu. It's just under $20 per person, including gratuity, and worth a try… if you can get in. I suggest booking the restaurant early on the day of embarkation… the folks at the Information Desk or your Assistant Maitre ‘d in the Restaurant can handle it for you. Inexplicably, the Restaurant is closed on Tuesday on Eastern itineraries (in San Juan).
In addition to regular buffet fare, the Costa Atlantica has an "Ethnic Buffet Station"… just forward of the main buffet on Deck 9, near the mid-ship pool. Each day, during lunch, this station offers a different national specialty menu… French, Mexican, German, Italian and so forth. It is wonderful. Lunch can be a tough choice on this ship… the main Restaurant, the Buffet, the Pizzeria, the Grills or the Specialty Station. We met more than one passenger who sampled more than one lunch!
Costa 's entertainment is quite varied… from the usual LasVegas review type shows in the main theater to the amazing "Lounge Acts" that are everywhere on the ship. There is nothing at sea that comes close. Chanteusse's, comedians, dancers, musicians… they are everywhere, all the time. It is remarkable. Exuberant staff make the deck games, Kareoke and other audience participation activities particularly memorable. This ship is throbbing all evening long… and then, the Disco continues to the wee hours… a two deck affair with remarkable lighting and other special effects. It is a "must see" even for non-Disco types, such as yours truly.
The Costa Atlantica's casino is large, well laid out, with lots of space between tables and a very livable noise level. For Craps shooters, the ship has a great regulation size table with lots of action every night. Roulette Tables, Black Jack, Caribbean Poker share the space. Plenty of slots, too, including some 10 cent machines for the more thrifty (or wise?) among us.
For the kids, the Pinocchio Children's Room and the nearby Arcade are just great. Costa 's children's program is as good as it gets, regardless of age, with activities scheduled for morning, noon and night, with constant professional supervision.
The Spa and Health Club facilities are up there with the best. A huge well equipped exercise room, perched high above the ship's bow is a dramatic exercise facility. All the other accouterments are offered… various massage and other therapy treatments, Sauna and Steam rooms and personal trainers to assist. It is a great facility, busy all day long.
Overall, this is a ship… and a cruise line, for that matter, that have come of age. We have a smoothly functioning, well oiled machine here… providing a high level of Cruise experience. This ship may well be the best kept secret in the Caribbean… but not for long! Word of mouth is catching up and she is being heavily booked, already, for next year. It is extraordinary!
How about the usual Costa myths? You know, the one's that seem to have a life of their own and are repeated over and over. Let's take a look…
*Most frequent: All the announcements on Costa ships are done in five languages, all the time. WRONG. First of all, there are almost no announcements made on the ship during the voyage… it is a very "quiet" ship. You really need to check the daily programs to see what's going on. One exception… the life boat drill… that will be done in several languages and, frankly, I'm glad. I'd hate to have someone who didn't understand the LifeBoat instructions because of language difficulty get in my way in case of a real emergency. For me, this is clearly a non-issue.
*American's are a minority on board Costa ships in the Caribbean… well, no… not really. In point of fact, Costa averages about 80 to 85% American passengers in the Caribbean… quite in line with the other cruise companies. The presence of these upscale international visitors lends a worldly flavor to the ship and the international ambiance can be a welcome change from the usual cookie cutter Caribbean cruise. Occasionally, there may be larger groups of foreign visitors on Costa 's ship… as there are on other lines. Again, it adds to the on board flavor and really can be lots of fun.
*Smoking is pervasive. Well… no… not really… in fact, it is quite in line with other ships… designated smoking areas on the ship, with no smoking in the Caruso Theater and other venues. We have never found this to be a problem on any of Costa 's ships.
Early in this review, I commented that as Travel Agents we are dependent for our very existence in the Industry on the reactions of our groups and our individual clients to the ships we recommend. The Costa Atlantica has performed remarkably well in this regard. Group after group has returned and immediately re-booked the ship again for next year. To us, this is very much the acid test and the test that confirms our own feelings toward this vessel.
It is hard to put into words… but… somehow or other, about 3 days into one's cruise on the Costa Atlantica one gets a very warm feeling… a realization that the ship is something quite special… hard to put your finger on it… the friendly smiles… the food… the shows… the International ambiance… the sheer beauty of this spectacular ship… one gets the feeling that the Costa Atlantica is a unique vessel, standing out from most of the others… and you settle back into the comfortable realization that you have made a wise decision in booking her. She is a ship that has come of age perfectly… the pride of her line and her Italian heritage… a welcome gift to the American cruising public.Ernie Grossman
RATING: - On a scale of 10, I give it a 10.
EMBARKATION: - The 4 of us including the 2 girls, 12 and 13 arrived in Fort Lauderdale 2 days earlier and from the Marriott Marina we could see our ship. We had a car rental for the week and took the shuttle from the car rental agency to the pier - speedy, convenient. The bags were in the hands of the porters; however, it seemed clear to us that the bags were not going anywhere until the $1/bag appeared. This in spite of large signs -"Porters Salaried, No Tipping". One of the porters chatted with one of the girls, it gave her an opportunity to practice her French.
We boarded in 15 minutes having arrived at 4:00 p.m. intentionally for the 7:30 sailing. The big room/hall for formalities was virtually empty.
CABIN/SHIP: - No less than beautiful. There are many statutes, ornate designs and interesting contrasts on the ship. We headed to our cabin 7143, which we knew to be on deck 7 forward and on the right or starboard side. There was a card in the door foraccess as well as 4 personalized cards for each of us.
Cabin - We met Angel, our cabin steward who took the time to explain the cooling system, how to contact him, the workings of recording purchases from the dorm fridge and that he services the cabin twice a day. We had a balcony, 2 chairs and a table. As much as it was to have to retreat to and watch the outside world, many days it was quite humid and the A/C was preferable. The 2 beds had already been placed together to make a queen. For the children, there was one bed in the spot where the sofa would be and the upper berth was directly above that. It could be folded away if there were 3 passengers in the cabin.
Shower controls - Quirky, with 2 valves unlike the on/off taps one is used to; however, we were able to get hot water. Unlike us, the kids had no problem with this.
Roll of ship - We noticed the side to side motion of the ship (4-5 foot seas, small whitecaps), it is wise to bring motion medication. Although, no one was ill, it provided comfort.
The ship's layout allows one to find their way around easily on all decks. We did not use the pools, but the girls did, they know what salt water tastes like. The water slide was busy whenever open, the girls never made it there. There is a 2-level gym with top-notch equipment and lots of it. It is a gym that would impress most users.
Lifeboat drill - Our lifeboat drill took place on day 2 after Key West. Totally organized with clear instructions. Readily identifiable crewmembers stationed at each junction to direct all to the waiting area. All vests were checked and adjusted as necessary by crew. Took 20 minutes. Officer counted passengers in the meeting area and then it was over. (Compared to the Carnival Fascination last year with absolute chaos for 90 minutes and not a waiting area for us initially, this was a welcome relief.)
Washrooms on the decks were kept immaculately clean. The doors were identified with a small lip or a small moustache as well as a series of lights outside and over the door area to signify men/women with some symbol. Many times these lit symbols were reversed. There were times the ladies attempted to enter a facility and retreated.
Laundry - There is no self-serve laundry on board; however, there is a laundry service at a price, did not use. There is a line in the shower for hanging up wet items.
CREW: - Extremely pleasant, helpful and courteous. We had absolutely no concerns. There is an entertainment director, Cassandra with a staff of 80 that provides or is the catalyst for the entertainment. No problem communicating with the crew, most of the officers and key personnel on the ship speak 5 - 7 languages. This Italian theme cruise on an Italian ship makes many announcements in 5 languages including English. The shows are virtually all in English.
KIDS CLUB - There were 5 counselors on this cruise for the children. There were 3 age groups: 3 - 6, 7 - 12, and 13- 18. I would guess there were about 50 children on the ship. A program was presented for each of the 3 groups. The activities started at 9:00 a.m. and continued till midnight for the older ones. As well, there is evening group childcare while the parent's dine/socialize on the formal nights. The 2 girls attended some of the activities and chummed around with a brother and sister they met on the ship.
FOOD/DINING ROOM - It was quite clear the first night, no shorts at dinnertime, either change or go to the Lido deck. However at lunch/breakfast, shorts were ok. Most people dressed smart casual for dinner with the exception of 2 formal and one-toga nights. The 2 girls looked forward to this including the 12 year one who hasn't worn a dress in ages. From what we saw, children liked getting dressed up, as did the grown-ups.
Food - The food was excellent and the service superb. Romeo, our waiter and Erwin, the assistant provided excellent service. We had table 231 on the upper level at rear, next to a window along with our tablemates. This was a table for 8 as requested. We had the first dinner sitting at 6:15 p.m. which for us is preferable as it approximates our regular eating time and allow for an evening of activity. This was our preference.
If we were not sure what to order, the waiters' recommendation came through. We requested and received shrimp cocktails, although not on menu. All food was properly cooked, hot and well prepared, beautifully presented with adequate portions. There was an excellent variety with six courses at dinner - appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, entrée and dessert followed by coffee. There were 2-3 choices except for 5 -6 entrees and 6- 7 dessert choices. Caesar salad, spaghetti and sauce as well as salmon (broiled/baked/fried) were always available. For the 8 of us at the table, 4 adults and 4 children, there was only one dish not to our liking this being a side dish of green pasta with basil, it was heavy to eat. We tried new dishes, after all, this was part of the Italian experience. Coffee comes at the very end of meal and not during as I would have liked. The children found comfort in spaghetti, caesar salad and chocolate mousse or ice cream with chocolate syrup.
Lunches and breakfast were equally impressive with just about as many courses and variety. We ate the first two breakfasts on the Lido deck until we were told how good the breakfast in the dining room was. (On the Fascination last year, dining room breakfasts we found to be inadequate and unfortunately we carried this experience to this ship.) There are plenty of food stations on the Lido deck where we had made-to-order omelets and an excellent variety of breakfast choices. Unless you are selective and restrictive in what you eat, you gain poundage. On formal, toga and tropical nights, these become processional and colourful events with the waiters and other staff demonstrating among other things their dance techniques. These evenings provided a welcome change not knowing what to expect.
The maitre'd dropped around every meal, he touched bases with all tables. These guys kept the dining room running smooth. Then there were the midnight buffets and one night just desserts. Just a note, the food is brought to the dining room by the waiters using escalators to/from the kitchen below.
Club Atlantica Restaurant - We did not use and from walking by many times, it was perhaps 40 - 50% occupied and it did not appear to be as posh as the main dining room, IMO.
Pizza was ok, the girls wanted a slice and got a whole one made to order. Coffee needs improvement and generally there was milk, no cream. On the deck, if a coffee machine was not being used, the sign read, "Technical Service" meaning it was brewing or whatever.
Toga night - Bring your toga or try your hand and wrap your own. There were many varieties. Togas do come apart, even with safety pins. Togas are not immune to gravity. Probably half the diners dressed in togas on Saturday night, down to the little folk.
No engine vibrations felt at table 231, 2nd level at rear of dining room.
DECK/POOL AREA: - There is an adequate number of deck chairs on two levels and there were those chairs unoccupied save for a towel. I would take it that people leave their towel behind expecting someone else to place it in the used towel bin. The girls used the pools a few times, they were introduced to salt water, and they didn't like the taste. They never seem to make it to the water slide, probably too occupied with other activities or off ship, but I understand there were serious line-ups at the slide when open.
In addition to English, there are some activities conducted in other languages to which anyone can partake. Watched activities on deck conducted in Italian. Most activities don't require understanding a language, just participation.
FELLOW PASSENGERS: - For the most part, similar to your neighbours and work mates and in the 30 -60 age range with exceptions. The queue jumpers were on this ship also. In one instance in the lineup to disembark at Grand Cayman, the Costa employee allowed a large group of passengers (40 - 50) to push in at the front of the line for whatever reason. Most in the lineup, which went around a corner, were not aware of this.
PORTS OF CALL: - Key West and Cozumel - Both interesting places and we took our own self-guided walking tour. In Cozumel, the girls had their hair braided, but not a tight braid for $15.
Ocho Rios - The ship sells a $16.50, 2 1/2 hour shop till you drop shopping tour to 2 shopping centres. This is a tour for suckers. The first shopping centre is about 100 yards from the end of the pier and the other is 1/4 mile max. down the street. Just walk to them and spend the $16.50 on the vendors who will hassle you. This is a downside to this port - expect to be hassled by the vendors, your kids will probably feel intimidated and threatened. Recommendation: Take a tour or stay on the ship.
Grand Cayman - A pleasant contrast to Ocho Rios. No hassles here. The residents have an interesting dialect. We booked a tour to Sting Ray City through Sotos Cruises, superb service, near pier pickup and drop off. The price was $19 (but may be going up to $24 and still a bargain.) This is similar to the other tours at $34 - $39 and up. We had 2 stops for snorkeling (equipment provided) and 20 -30 minutes on the sandbar with the stingrays. This was our highlight, highly recommend to all
NIGHTLIFE: - Dante's Disco - The teen club had it until midnight and this is where the children are. We didn't stick around to see how or if the transition is made to allow the adults to take over after 12.
Caruso Theatre/Madame Butterfly Lounge - We always watched the 9:30 show which proved variety and something for all. No smoking in theatre. All shows lasted 40 minutes. Upon exiting the theatre, the entertainment crew is there to direct you to the next events, e.g. in the Madame Butterfly Lounge dance floor - sometimes an audience participation event requiring no dance or language ability and generally entertaining. Downside - This lounge with smoke is hard on eyes, poor air circulation here.
Entertainers - There is a variety of singers, piano players, 3 piece bands throughout the ship. There is sufficient variety and some have a large following.
PORT DISEMBARKATION: - Excellent - Customs is done on the ship and only if you self-identify having made purchases over the exemption. We requested early disembarkation and were in the 3rd group of 6 -7 coloured tags. We were off the ship by 9:00 a.m., retrieved our 4 bags, grouped by the 6 - 7 coloured luggage tags. It is best to tag each piece with an identifiable tag or orange spray paint that no one has to find them quickly. There were 2 immigration officers, the lines moved quickly in spite of the masses of people. We arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport at 9:40 a.m.
WHY Costa - Why did we sail on the Costa Atlantica? The price was attractive for a balcony cabin and factoring in the children, the price was right compared to other ships. There was also the kids club. We read the reviews and yes, there were grumbles but we read between the lines.
SUMMARY: The good - Nothing less than an excellent 7 day cruise with an Italian flavour. Seven days was too short. We plan to do it again on the eastern run with Costa , preferably the Atlantica. The highlight on the ship was the 11:15 p.m. show on toga night - It was a riot, extremely funny with lighthearted humour and with passenger talent. This is a do not miss show. Service staff was excellent and all crew were pleasant. The food was excellent, well prepared and attractively presented. Beautiful ship and extremely clean. Few kids on this cruise, although the kids may not agree this was good.
The bad - Smoke is heavy in the lounges and the attitude of some passengers with their cigs. We did notice the roll of the ship, forward, outside, deck 7. Lower, mid-ship, centre would reduce the roll effect. Lack of world news channel on TV.
My husband, Manny, and I decided to take a cruise in January to escape from winter in Atlanta, GA. We decided on a week long cruise to the Eastern Caribbean aboard the Costa Atlantica. Our decision was based on cost, destination, ship's rating and the length of the cruise. I read the reviews of every cruise we considered before we made our decision. This was not our first cruise.
We always have fun together, so for us our cruise was a riot. The ship was way too Italian for us. Take Italian gaudy decor and multiply it by ten and you have some idea of what I'm talking about but not really until you've seen the photos! Add five foreign languages and a thousand smokers to the mix and you might gather why we feel this was not our most ideal cruise. And that is not to say it wasn't excellent in many ways.
I had not considered that there would be so much smoking, including cigars. I never thought to inquire about the smoking policies. In all fairness there were non-smoking areas, but that makes no difference in a roomwhere half the people are smoking. (Remember being locked in a plane with half the people smoking and the other half gasping for some non-existent fresh air?) The dining room and theater were smoke-free. There was smoking on all outside decks and around all the pools so if was difficult to find a truly smoke-free place. The experience taught me to ask more questions next time.
The quality of the materials in the ships decor was expensive but the harsh colors; red, orange, yellow and gold are not soothing to my soul. The prettiest, calmest lounge was the "Corralle," but we were only allowed in there once because it was booked for most of the week for entertainment for a private tour of about 400 on board. After the cruise, a friend pointed out to me that the mega ships are being decorated more and more like Las Vegas with lots of lights and glitz, and I must say that at least explains it a little.
Although we are fans of open seating, it was not a part of this cruise so Manny and I chose the first dinner seating because we don't enjoy eating late. We requested a table for eight hoping to improve our chances of meeting other people. All our table mates had the same idea and we had that in common from the start. Spending a week eating meals together certainly helps to get to know people. No matter how diverse our lives were we all came to be "family" eventually.
The food aboard ship was what I would describe as "uneven"; some good, some excellent and some ho-hum. It was disappointing that the pasta on board an Italian ship was not exciting and in some cases not even palatable. Most of the pasta was "al dente" which is supposed to mean "to the teeth" or cooked but not soft. Well, actually it was hard and often not chewable at all. Most dishes were fine and as other cruisers have mentioned there was always something acceptable to eat. I personally enjoyed the array of cold soups that appeared each day on our menu. It was so appropriate for cruising the tropics. The desserts, although I tried (unsuccessfully) not to partake, were mostly very good and terribly enticing. On the last night I was forced to choose between Profiterolles (ice cream stuffed cream puffs smothered in chocolate) and Grand Marnier souffle...and I dissolved completely in a total sugar rush and had them both.
We ate a few meals from the assorted buffets in the casual dining area but they were not particularly appealing. Our favorite dining pastime was eating in the dining room. There was open seating in the dining room for breakfast and lunch and we could always get a table by a window and have a leisurely meal served to us by pleasant waiters as we enjoyed the sunny view of the blue and green Caribbean waters.
I must comment on the spectacular "Formal Night" midnight buffet. It was beautifully presented on a table about 60 feet long adorned with chocolate houses, ice sculptures and an awesome array of delicious delicacies. A separate table held bread sculptures of castles, windmills, towers and numerous animals. Although we regretted eating at such a late hour, our dinner table mates had dragged us to see it and the food proved irresistible.
Verbal bulletins were given in five languages; Italian, French, German, Spanish and English. I was charmed by the captain's English..."Ladies and gentlemen, we're now going to docka the shippa. My staffa will help you."
One constant aboard ship was the staff. Crew members came from 39 different countries. Many of the assistant staff persons did not speak sufficient English to communicate and although always polite, would race off to find someone who could understand what we were saying. Our cabin steward was efficient, solicitous and friendly. Our cabin was immaculate at all times and whenever we left we returned to find the bed made or turned down with candy on the pillows, fresh towels and toiletries and everything spiffy clean. In the dining room our wait staff was friendly and efficient. If I raised an eyebrow someone was there asking what I wanted. They always remembered past requests like what drink was preferred or what extras we desired and when we were seated everything was in place for us. (Extra lemon for tea, dried hot peppers for the Italian food.) The dining room service equals the best service in the best restaurants we have frequented. An interesting note: The waiters wear a fresh and different suit of clothes at every meal. That's 21 sparkling clean outfits a seven day cruise.
The stage shows were spectacular and very professional. A pianist and violinist on board performed in the lovely Caffe Florian and were impressive. In most cases the staff spoke Italian more than English and something was missing in the translation of humor. At bingo I could barely understand the caller when he announced the numbers. When he made strange noises with each call I was clueless as to what that meant and why it was supposed to be funny, and I consider myself as having a broad sense of humor. At any rate, if it was humor, most of it sailed right over my head.
Then there was "Toga Night," and to tell the truth, I dreaded it. I thought it would be too "hokey," When we entered our cabins late in the afternoon there were two clean, crisp, folded sheets lying on our bed, two gold (paper) olive branch crowns and an instruction sheet with about twelve different ways to drape a toga, plus encouragement to be inventive. The instructions included a note saying to wear or not wear anything we wanted underneath. We giggled ourselves silly getting all tangled up as we wrapped each other experimenting with toga draping. Even our cabin steward got into the act trying to help. Manny went shirtless, which (every time he moved) left one nipple exposed, but I was a coward and wore a green pants outfit underneath my sheet.
On the way to the dining room, everyone we passed was dressed normally and we began to feel like the man who took off all his clothes before entering the hotel bedroom where everyone yelled, "Surprise! Happy Birthday!" When we walked through the dining room, much to our relief, there were many, many people dressed in togas. And we noticed as the evening wore on that quite a few people had brought their own custom-tailored togas, some in GOLD lame, and all accessorized with jewelry and headdresses! Obviously not first-time cruisers...
After dinner, there was an on-board talent show and to our amazement, the guests were exceptionally talented. Some played instruments and sang and some did comedy routines. It was a most enjoyable evening to have fellow passengers share their talents with us.
Ports of call were the usual melange of stalls and stores all carrying the same wares, (shirts, hats, beach wraps and jewelry) not necessarily made in the Caribbean. But we aren't big on shopping. Our favorite day was spent on the private beach on Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic. A very long boardwalk through the sand enabled us to comfortably stroll the island and was especially helpful for the handicapped. Everything was provided; chairs, umbrellas and dining pavilions. The beach was pristine and a barbecue lunch was served including drinks and dessert. (Like we really needed more food.) The tenders ran every few minutes back and forth to the ship so there was no waiting or frustration. It was one of those perfect days. Floating in the clear, salty, turquoise water on a warm day in January was truly worth the trip. Seeing the fat naked European man change clothes while we ate lunch was not the highlight of the day, but it was worthy of noting.
Before the cruise, on Sunday, January 12, I left Manny on the loading dock with our luggage and parked the car in a huge lot and boarded the Costa Atlantica for a week. Naturally, although I took notes when I left the car, after a week I had no earthly idea where to find it. Fortunately I wasn't the only one, so they have a guy in a little golf cart driving around hauling bewildered people pushing their remote panic alarms until their cars respond. It wasn't exactly fun, but it was silly, time consuming and effective.
As an over-all perspective of the cruise I would say this: The stage entertainment and the musicians were excellent and the cruise staff did an acceptable job entertaining us with their games and contests. The daily newspaper listing all the activities on board and various other information needs to be more organized for a better more easily understood presentation. I also would have liked to have a non-alcoholic tropical drink special offered each day and at a lower price than an alcoholic one. I have no more to say about smoking except that I will definitely consider it in our next cruise decision. The ship was immaculate everywhere and in all ways. No on board illnesses, either. All other criticisms, good and bad, are explained above.
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 returnof 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 descriptions.
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 now!
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 refreshing.
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 herbs..... Complimenti!!!
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 chaise.
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 pier.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 UP!!
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 Cruise Line.
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 simple!
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.
The Costa Atlantica entered service in the year 2000. Double occupancy capacity is 2,114 passengers. Gross tonnage is 85,000. Cruising speed is 24 knots. The ship offers a television, hair dryer, safe deposit box and mini-bar in every stateroom.
Our air arrangements were made by Costa from our home to Houston to Fort Lauderdale. The flight was fine, with prompt departures and arrivals on Continental Airlines. Our return from Fort Lauderdale was by the same route on the same airline. When we arrived in For Lauderdale, embarkation was smooth and without problems. We did notice, however, that we had to tip a baggage handler when the bus left us off at the port, and then had to tip the porter from the ship as he delivered your bags to our stateroom.
Our stateroom was 7345, 7th Deck aft. The stateroom was 210 sq. ft. with a generous amount of closet and drawer space. The veranda was 45 sq. ft., and had two adjustable lounge chairs with table. The entire veranda was constructed of hardwood, which dries quickly after a rain shower. Our room stewardess was from Peru and was fluent inItalian and English. She did a superior job.
We've sailed on 28 cruises with five different cruise lines, but the Atlantica has the most beautiful decor we've ever experienced. The marble used throughout the ship was amazing. In many public rooms, the ceilings were murals of Italian motif, and more than 400 original works of art from the Italian School were everywhere. In addition, Moreno vases lined most stairwells.
In the main dinning room, the glass chandeliers were awesome. The Atrium allows one to view nine decks upward as the two glass-bubble elevators moved up and down without a whisper. The main elevators were quiet and flawless throughout the ship. One thing we especially appreciated: Atlantica is a quiet ship. The safety drill was the only time the public address system was ever used. The room TV had movies in four languages, and provided details of the ship's position and weather conditions.
Most of Deck 9 is devoted to buffet dinning or alternative menus. We used that dining for snacks. The pizza was sorely lacking in quality. We didn't experience the Club Atlantica as we heard that it was not equal to the additional charge of $26 per person; most passengers we talked to seemed to feel that the menu in the main dinning room was adequate.
We were on back-to-back western and eastern Caribbean cruises, a total of 14 days. Western ports were Key West, Cozumel, Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman Island. Eastern ports were San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island (Costa 's private recreation island), Casa de Campo, Santo Domingo and Nassau. I will refrain from discussing these ports, as I am sure that they are common knowledge to all.
I did enjoy my first experience of "Snuba" at Cozumel. We took the raft river float on the Martha Brae in Ocho Rios and the Amphibious River (with Rum & Coke) cruise on the Chavon River (the river was featured in a scene for movie "Apocalypse Now") in the Dominican Republic.
The process was smooth and uneventful. After a regular breakfast, passengers began to leave the ship at 8 a.m. Bus transportation to the airport was efficient.
We'd return to the Costa Atlantic in a heartbeat. The ship was not only beautiful, but spotlessly maintained. Average ship's speed was 21 knots. No adverse affect was ever felt within the ship or in our stateroom. Of course, the Caribbean has mostly calm waters. On this Caribbean itinerary, passengers were mostly Americans and Canadians, although there were a few Europeans and British on board. This was our fourth and fifth cruise with Costa . Previously we sailed transatlantic on the Victoria and took two cruises on the Costa Romantica.
A Costa Cruise is a great value. I rate the Costa Atlantica ship and experience as a 10-plus.
This was our 7th cruise and second time on the Costa Atlantica (which we sailed on in March 2002 through the Eastern Caribbean). Our other previous cruises were: Dawn Princess (Alaska, 7/97), Sea Princess (Panama Canal, 4/99), QE 2 (Transatlantic 10/00), NCL Sun (Canada/New England 10/01), and Carnival Imagination (4-day Caribbean 6/02). At the end of a few topics below, I have made comparisons between the various lines that we have sailed on. It goes without saying that these are simply our opinions. We are by no means experts or gourmands.
EMBARKATION PROCESS - We arrived in Venice after an overnight flight, collected our luggage and checked in at the Costa booth. We were then transported by bus (over land) to the pier. We were in a Suite and so we given priority boarding, bypassing the line and were able to board immediately. Carryon luggage goes through an x-ray machine and each passenger walks through a metal detector. Then the embarkation photos are taken and soon we were on the ship and being escorted to our cabin.
OUR CABIN - We booked a Panorama Suite (#6207) on Amarcord deck. It was a lovelysuite with Queen-size bed, sofa, chair and plenty of storage space. We also had a veranda with a table and two wooden chairs. The bathroom was a reasonable size with lots of shelves, twin sinks and a good size shower with wonderful water pressure. In suites, there is an additional ante-room with a lighted make-up mirror, drawer space, a stool and a long marble vanity counter top to place extra toiletry items. (I recently toured the Carnival Legend which is the twin sister to the Costa Atlantica and they have added a small sink in the middle of the counter top which is a wonderful idea.) The hairdryer is located in the top drawer in the vanity area of the ante-room (NOT in the bathroom itself). It is the kind where you must continually apply pressure to the ON button to use it. My husband hated it and said he'd pack our own travel hairdryer next time.
THE SHIP - We thought the ship was absolutely spectacular! I've heard some people say that the decorating is overdone, but we like that glamorous look in a cruise ship. The Costa Atlantica has many well-designed public rooms and each seemed perfect for their purpose. I noticed that the sound-proofing was very well done because as we walked from one room featuring classical music, and walked into the next room with popular music playing, you could not hear what was going on in the next room. The Atrium lobby is just beautiful and features a piano bar in the center. Caffe Florian, which is an exact replica of the cafe in Venice which dates back to the 1700's, was beautiful and quite unique as far as the usual cruise ship public rooms go. It features classical music from Viennese Waltzes to Opera each night. The Corallo Lounge on the first deck was magnificent and the Madame Butterfly Lounge was also quite beautiful. Each stairwell features Murano glass vases in a display area and there is a separate bENTERTAINMENT- The main shows were in the Caruso Theatre and the smaller shows or other entertainment was usually in the Corallo Lounge, however there was a wide variety of music of all kind in each of the lounges each evening. Entertainment was somewhat weak when compared to other cruise ships with the exception of an incredible steel drum band from Trinidad called Island Magic. They performed show tunes and classical music on steel drums and had the whole audience applauding wildly in several standing ovations. Incredibly enough they are self-taught and do not read music. I enjoyed the "Everything Italian" production show. We didn't care for "Metamorphosis", but several people at our table loved the show, so it's just a matter of personal taste. With so many languages spoken onboard, the shows tend to be very visual in nature so that they can be enjoyed by all. Comparisons: NCL wins hands down with the Jean Ann Ryan singers, dancers and shows. We felt they were Broadway quality. Princess comesDINING- We had a table for 6 in the Tiziano Dining Room (the ONLY dining room onboard). This is a lovely 2-level room and we were lucky once again to have a table by a window. The menus for lunch weren't very exciting so we mostly went up to the Botticelli Buffet for breakfast and lunch. They featured a different ethnic specialty at one of the serving stations each day (which was usually very good), as well as the usual fare at the other stations. There were 4 serving stations and plenty of seating, including tables for 2 by the windows and cozy booths. At 4 p.m. the buffet offered afternoon tea (with sandwiches and cakes) or pizza which was a nice touch. I thought their desserts were very good, especially the Tira Misu and all of their cakes which had a very light quality about them.
ALTERNATIVE DINING- Suite passengers get a complimentary dinner in Club Atlantica (normally $23 per person charge, including tip). This is Costa 's specialty gourmet restaurant and we weren't very impressed the first time we ate there in March, but figured it was a freebie so why not? We find the menu to be lacking - very poor choices in our opinion. Dinner is served on Versace china. Would we go back again if we sail on Costa ? No. My view is that the restaurant is overpriced, the menu is poor and service is much too slow. I realize it's supposed to be fine dining, but it was just entirely too slow for our liking and we missed the company of our table companions. Comparisons: Our only comparison is to NCL's Sun which features 9 different restaurants. Most cost between $10 and $15 per person but were SPECTACULAR and we would go back to them again in a heartbeat if we sailed on NCL again. The Teppanyaki bar (Ginza) and East Meets West restaurants and particularly Le Bistro and Adagio were absolutelSAILAWAY FROM VENICE: We were a bit rushed because we had dinner at 7:00, but couldn't miss the sailaway from Venice. (Since our flight arrived late in the afternoon, we didn't get a chance to see Venice prior to boarding the ship.) It was an amazing experience to sail down the Grand Canal, passing Doge's Palace and other familiar sights. As all of us onboard the ship took photograph after photograph, people in Venice along the canal were snapping away too, taking photographs of the ship sailing by.
PORTS: The tour desk opens right after sailaway. The lifeboat drill took place at 4 p.m. on our second day in Bari, Italy. This was a very port intensive cruise. We are used to a few days at sea to recuperate from long days of sightseeing tours. Because of this, we decided to do a few of the ports on our own in a leisurely way.
Bari Italy- We took the 3-hour Bari Panorama Tour (22 Euros per person). (In the Caribbean the onboard currency is American dollars, but in the Mediterranean, it is the Euro. Luckily it is an almost even exchange, so it's very easy to figure out how much you are spending.) A bus took us into the town of Bari and we had an excellent tour guide. The tours are grouped according to language spoken, so we always had English speaking tour guides, while other buses had French, German, Italian, or Spanish speaking tour guides. Our tour concentrated on the famous St. Nicholas church (where we saw 2 weddings in progress) and a short walking tour of the harbor and town. We decided to do the ship's tour in Bari because several websites warned that pickpockets were a problem there. We were amused to see that we had several policemen on motorcycles who followed our group from place to places, as if to warn any potential pickpockets that they better stay away from the tourists.
Katakolon, Greece- A tour of nearby Olympia was offered here, but we had read conflicting information about how worthwhile the trip was, so we opted to just explore the town on our own. Katakolon is a charming little fishing village of about 3 blocks, featuring lots of souvenir shops and harbor-side restaurants. The souvenir shops had pretty good prices. Colorfully wrapped bars of olive-oil soap decorated with plaster-of-paris Greek statues cost about 1.80 Euros.
Volos, Greece (for Meteora)- This is a tour that we debated about for nearly 6 months -- The Meteora Monasteries Between Heaven and Earth Tour (a 9-hour tour of the mountain-top monasteries of Meteora -- a UNESCO World Heritage site, which was featured in the James Bond movie "For Your Eyes Only"). It takes 2 hours to Meteora by bus and we dreaded spending 4 hours of our precious time traveling by bus over dusty roads, however, we are VERY glad that we decided to do this. The sight of these monasteries perched atop mountain pillars was breathtaking. I also worried that I might not be up to the climb, but the bus was able to drive us most of the way up the mountain and then the difficulty of the climb depended on which monastery your bus visited. We visited the Holy Monastery of St. Stephens's which is now a nunnery. That just had a few steps and a slight incline to walk up - manageable for almost anyone. Shoulders must be covered and women must wear long skirts (they will provide you one to borrow if
Pireus, Greece (Athens)- Our Visit to the Acropolis Tour (52 Euros per person) was another highlight. Our tour guide gave us a short lesson in Greek history and then we had time to explore the site on our own. We had planned to go back later and shop in the Plaka, but it was hot (even in October) and we were tired and ready to get back to the ship.
Corfu, Greece- Internet advice said that Corfu Town was very doable on your own, so we just explored and then did a little shopping. Each town we visited offered inexpensive souvenirs and friendly shop owners. We never felt that people were trying to short-change us.
Dubrovnik, Croatia- Yet another wonderful city to explore on your own. This walled city is often called the Jewel of the Adriatic. We walked all around the center of town with its shops, outdoor cafes, and beautiful architecture. Their gelato is every bit as good as in Italy. Indulge yourself! We also took a walk in a residential area which was quite lovely.
Venice, Italy You can buy tickets for the Vaporetto (water bus) which takes you into Venice inside the ship terminal near where you collect your luggage. They also had a wonderful service where for about 5 Euros a bag, they would deliver your larger luggage to your hotel. We only took our carryon luggage on the Vaporetto and our other bags arrived within a few hours at our hotel. We booked 2 extra nights in Venice so that we would have some time to explore this wonderful city after our cruise. What can I say about Venice, except it was a dream! While walking around, you almost feel you have to pinch yourself! Since our time was limited we made a short "must-do" list so that we would use our time wisely but not feel overwhelmed. We spent lots of time in St. Mark's Square and felt the need to visit the REAL Caffe Florian (est. 1720) where we had cappuccino and scones. (About 20 Euros in their outdoor cafe.) We also had Cicheti (bite size snacks) in Cantina Do Mori (said to be the oldest cantina in V
We took the Secret Itineraries Tour of Doge's Palace which was 12.50 Euros, just 3 Euros more than regular admission, and well worth it. It takes you to special places in the palace which are off limits to other visitors, including Cassanova's jail cell. The guide was so interesting, especially in telling the story of Cassanova and his escape from the prison. After the tour is finished, you are free to tour the rest of Doge's palace on your own.
CAMERAS/FILM AND SECURITY - The photographs of our trips are priceless to me so I purchased one of those lead film bags from Travel Smith prior to the cruise. I got the large bag for $49 and felt it was well worth it. In addition to the airport x-ray (of course NEVER place film in your checked luggage as they x-rays are even more powerful), each time you re-boarded the ship in each port, you went through a similar x-ray scanner. Each time I took the film bag in my backpack when we left the ship and upon our return placed our camera and extra film canisters in the bag prior to putting it through the x-ray scanner.
FELLOW PASSENGERS - There have been negative comments on various cruise boards about the passengers on the Costa ships which in the Caribbean are about 75% American and 25% European. In the Mediterranean on our cruise there were only 27 Americans and Canadians with an additional 160+ English speaking guests (the majority from Great Britain, with a few from South Africa and Australia). The largest percentages of passengers were from Italy and Germany (this was a school holiday period in Germany). There were also French and Spanish speaking passengers rounding out the list. (However, each cruise is different and we were told the previous week had 200 Americans on board as well as hundreds of Italian honeymoon couples as this was a very popular time for weddings in Italy!) Some people have complained that the European passengers are rude. We did not find that to be the case at all. Yes, announcements are made in 5 different languages and in the Mediterranean English is the last language spoken in most
DISEMBARKATION - This was done by color code with each color meeting in a separate lounge area and given the go-ahead when to disembark. You then claimed your luggage which was also color-coded. In the past one of our luggage tags has detached (so we had to look in a ‘lost luggage' section which adds to your stress level when disembarking). Since then I go to the front desk and ask for more tags. I then double tag each bag (in different places) that you place outside your cabin for pickup. I covered the Vaporetto tickets and the luggage delivery service above under Venice.
WHAT MAKES Costa SPECIAL - We loved the beauty of the Costa Atlantica, her art and variety of music. On Italian Night in the Tiziano dining room, Italian music starts to play and the waiters and their assistants dance around the room with the lady passengers. Then a conga line forms and everyone dances around the room. On the last night, the usual parade of Baked Alaska took place, with what might be the very best tasting Baked Alaska afloat.
This was our 26th cruise and our 6th on the Costa Line (3 on the Costa Romantica, 1 on the Costa Victoria and our 2nd on the Costa Atlantica, having sailed on her inaugural Caribbean voyage in December 2000). Our first review on the Atlantica was an overview of its huge art collection, plus a detailed description of its many beautiful public areas. This review will center on "Cruising Italian Style," since we feel that Hotel Director Attilio Sissa and Cruise Director Ray Rouse and staff have given this exquisitely maintained ship an ambiance that celebrates Italian Hospitality, Music, and of course Cuisine. If you want to enjoy pleasant surroundings, excellent service, festive atmosphere and a variety of activities facilitating interaction among passengers, cruise on the Costa Atlantica! FIRST IMPRESSIONS Costa ships are predominately white, elegant in shape and sport their traditional yellow smoke stacks with the navy blue "C" and the Atlantica carries on this tradition. She can be easily located in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, since she is 960 ft. long, 200 ft tall, a beam of 106 ft., and has a gross tonnage of 84,000. Her cruising speed is24 knots, which is quite fast for a cruising ship of this size. Her passenger capacity is 2,112 and crew is 900. She is majestic and her Captain Giorgio Moretti has every right to be proud of her.
EMBARKATION Luggage was handled efficiently curb side, but there were not enough crew to assist all wheelchairs, so Mary pushed Vincent's chair through the terminal and on to the ship. Costa has a separate check-in line for those in suites and handicapped passengers. We arrived at 12:30pm and boarded at 1:00pm; however, our fellow cruisers had a longer wait and boarded at 2:00pm, when most passengers did, even though noon was listed as boarding time. We are not sure why there was an hour delay, but it made some passengers grumpy until they hit the buffet. Credit cards are registered on board later, at the passenger's leisure. SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS This ship is very easy to get around -- there are three sets of elevators, forward, aft and center. All decks are named after Federico Fellini films. On Deck 1 "Luci del Varieta`" forward is the Corallo Lounge with its striking under water motif; then there is a series of cabins and aft is the main galley with its escalator up to the dining rooms. Deck 2 "La Dolce Vita" has forward the first floor of the Caruso Theater, a simple, elegant room with sofa style seating and just two poles supporting the balcony (essentially no seats with limited or obstructed view). Going toward midship are the card rooms, Piazza Madama Butterfly and next the Casino/Bar Fortuna with marble statuary and many tables and slot machines. Centrally located is "La Dolce Vita" Atrium/Bar, ten decks high with wonderful replicas of Pompeian murals and delicately lighted Bird Cage glass elevators. This is a busy, much used hub, often with delightful music at the grand piano by Kelly Monzello. Going aft is Dante's Disco Club and the main floor of the Titian Restaurant, a beautiful room with unforgettable Venetian glass discs, reminiscent of the sun on the ocean, and many gilt framed replicas of Titian's paintings. Deck 3 "La Strada" forward has the first balcony of the Caruso Theater with its high backed individual seats (very comfortable); midship is the stunning Caffe` Florian, three distinct rooms which are replicas of the original Caffe` Florian in Piazza S. Marco, Venice, Italy -- this is the closest thing to Venetian Elegance out side of Italy. Near by is the Library, gentleman's club style with computers. Midship is also "Via della Spiga" shops, which hold various shopping treasures, including Versace dishes, designer clothes and liquors bottled in Venetian glassware. Very nice and not too expensive: good buys! Centrally located is the Conference Center and toward aft the long "Paparazzi Lounge" with its many nostalgic photos of film stars of the 50's and 60's (Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Jayne Mansfield, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner (as a blonde!) etc., etc., etc. In the aft is the balcony of the Titian Restaurant. Deck 4 "Roma" forward has the second balcony of the Caruso Theater and all the way aft are cabins. Deck 5 "Clowns", Deck 6 "Amarcord", Deck 7 "Intervista" and Deck 8 "8 1/2" are all cabins, mostly with balconies. Deck 9 "Ginger & Fred" forward has the gym, midship is the open theater, pools and bars. Towards aft are the Pizzeria Napoli, Botticelli Restaurant and at the stern is the Lido Aurora Bar for outside dining. Deck 10 "E La Nave Va" forward holds the fully equipped gym, the Solarium pool with retractable dome and the Club Atlantica, alternative dining and the suspended crystal staircase down to Deck 9. Anyone subject to vertigo, or with fear of heights, should forgo this glass stairway; however, many love the floating sensation climbing these stairs. Deck 11 "La Voce della Luna" forward holds the jogging track and aft is the Balcony of the Club Atlantica. Deck 12 "Le Notti di Cabiria" is the top open deck where strong, exhilarating winds can be enjoyed when the ship cruises at full speed. Now that specific areas of the ship are defined, they will be referred to throughout this writing. CABINS Our Grand Suite #7223 (360 sq. ft.) was much similar to the Panoramic Suite #6219, we occupied in 2000. Teakwood, brass, granite and leather all abound. When entering on the left is a mirrored wall and the first wardrobe, then a refrigerator, and a desk with many drawers. There is a contoured coral leather sofa bed, two upholstered chairs, a large coffee table and the door to the double long balcony. When entering on the right is a privacy wall, then a lady's vanity with sink and a second wardrobe with complimentary robes and slippers. There is a full bath/jacuzzi, double sinks, shelves and mirrors, a bidet and granite counters with marble, tile and mosaics. Next is the queen bed alcove, two night stands with Venetian glass lamps trimmed with copper and another lady's wardrobe. The far wall is glass with a TV console, private safe and more drawers. The color scheme is beige, coral and navy blue. The walls are decorated with two original art works: one a family of seven figures by Stefano Spagnoli is very geometric, in bold colors and whimsical; the other is a montage of a Venetian Balcony with coral and blue doors with wrought iron -- a propos. FOOD & SERVICE With the vigilance and help of the two Asst. Maitre d's, both named Gianni, and the genial Maitre d' Umberto Iacomino (who is all over the ship overseeing the many different venues) we had table #52 for six, early seating, near a window overlooking the wake of the ship. We had many lovely dinners at sunset, at an excellent table well served by our waiter Ismail Shareef (India via Egypt) whose impeccable service and finesse lead us to believe he may soon be moving up in his career probably to Asst. Maitre d` (perhaps on one of Costa 's many projected new ships), since he is a polyglot whose manners and appearance are impressive. The variety of food presented was enough to please every palate, especially the pasta dishes which were unusually excellent and some magnificent: Pappardelle alla Cacciatora (home made wide flat noodles with wild porcini mushrooms in a cream sauce); Fagottini ai quattro formaggi (beggar's pouches of pasta stuffed with cheese, meat, ricotta and spinach); and Vincent's favorite Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, excellently prepared by the Maitre d`. The appetizers included favorites like Shrimp Cocktail, Prosciutto e Melone or Grana Padano cheese, Carpaccio di Carne (thinly sliced beef marinated and served with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) and many fresh fruit combinations to tantalize the palate. The salads were fresh, crisp and varied: Spinach with bacon and pine nuts; Hearts of lettuce with goat cheese; Mixed greens with arugula, endive, romaine, radicchio etc. Main courses were excellent -- Veal ossobuco with polenta, Filet Mignon, Lobster Tail, Crispy Peking Duckling. Every dinner was an occasion; Mary's sister Elizabeth and her husband Vito with their friends Cynthia and Robert made our table merry with stories of their daily excursions. Shareef made dessert time unique with twin desserts until we outwitted him and only half of us ordered dessert, but still on the last night, we all wore clothes with elasticized waistbands. The Sicilian cannoli, the many flavored ice creams, including rum raisin and pistachio, and the hot souffles were all excellent, as were the sugar free items. But most of all we loved the Pastiera, a delicious Neapolitan cheese cake, especially ordered for us by the Maitre d'. Grazie, Umberto! The Botticelli Buffet was popular, especially Tea Time every afternoon with its many gourmet blended tea varieties plus cookies, sandwiches and cakes. The pizza was nothing to write home about: The Atlantica needs a Neapolitan Pizza Man, who can mix an excellent dough and prepare freshly made pizzas right on the spot, as is done on Princess ships, and not serve warmed up frozen supermarket style pizzas. Room Service was slow, perhaps due to overwhelming demand, since most of the time the phone line was busy. We used the breakfast order forms, placed them on the door handle of our cabin each evening and we had a full American breakfast delivered each morning at 7:45am. The food was good and hot with a bud vase of fresh flowers on our tray. The Gala dinners were just exquisite, and not only for the delicious entrees, but for the joyous atmosphere which permeated throughout the dining room. Our group has several wonderful portraits taken by Patrizio Marras, one of Costa 's photographers. Thank you Patrizio for the memories. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Ray Rouse is a debonair and busy fellow. He and his crew generate an aura of Festa Italiana. The many activities include the following: Bingo, Trivia Quizzes (we won four), Crafts, Line Dancing, Dancing Lessons, Italian Lessons, Cooking Demonstrations, Exercise Classes, etc., etc. and of course the shows in the Caruso theater. The first two days were rough sea days, so the "Metamorphosis" show had to be canceled, but Van Pressley Jr. of the famous Platters did a one man show that brought the crowd to cheers ("Smoke gets in Your Eyes" and "The Great Pretender" and other 50's and 60's melodies were a trip down memory lane). Richard Ianni, the warm Italian tenor brought the audience to its feet with his international favorites: "La Vie en Rose" and "Te Voglio Bene." Ianni's voice is powerful and well schooled -- Bravo! At the Caffe` Florian, we enjoyed Luis Cartin (Spain) accompanied by Marcel Roscovan on violin and Rogut Anatolie on Piano. To sit in this beautiful setting for a Caffe` Concerto Strauss is so delightful: Cartin's voice is splendid and these three are true artists. We also enjoyed performances by Monika and the Coco's Band. Her strong and clear voice is outstanding -- Brava! To sum up, "Cruising Italian Style" is more fun than any other way. The theme nights, the Italian, the Bacchanal and the two Gala dinners had the passengers participating in singing and playing carnival games with the elegantly costumed crew. Needless to say, it was enjoyable to be in a dining room filled with passengers waving their napkins and singing "O Sole Mio" and waiters leading conga lines -- the next day everyone acted like old friends. The horse race was a special event for us since "Phantom Fury" out of Ferrante Stables in Deerfield Beach, FL won the Owner's Sweepstakes for Elizabeth and Vito and a purse of $900 ($5.00 tickets paid $20.00). He just edged out "Rocky" and the crowd roared. Nice job of calling the race by Ray Rouse! There is music everywhere and smiles galore; this could be the closest some may come to life Italian style. PORTS OF CALL San Juan, Puerto Rico: Arrival 3:30pm Departure 1:30am Arrival is a bit too late for the San Juan City Tour ($25); Fort San Cristobal was closing when the group arrived, so they missed this highlight. This is also too late for the rain forest tours, but for San Juan night life the timing is fine, i.e., Latin Tradition Show ($41). St. Thomas, USVI: Arrival 7:30am Departure 5:00pm The 2 hr Skyline Drive ($30) is a very scenic tour, it ascends to the volcanic mountain tops then circles down and ends with shopping at Charlotte Amalie. Shopping in St. Thomas is among the best in the USVI. We always pay a visit to Mr. Tablecloth for the best linens and prices. Catilina Island, Dominican Rep.: Arrival 8:00am Departure 6:00pm Altos Chavon Village Tour, 5 hrs ($31) is a bus ride along the Chavon River and a stop at the replica of a cobblestone paved 17th century Mediterranean Village with an artists colony. There are two other tours with rides on the river at $49, each and for approximately 5 hrs. The ship offers a day on their private beach with BBQ and many prefer swimming and sunning. Tenders are used. Nassau, Bahamas: Arrival 9:15am Departure 6:00pm Best Tour is the Dolphin Encounter 3 1/2 hrs ($88) "Educational and Fun." Then there is the Nassau Island Tour 2 hrs ($24) which is great for first timers and includes a visit to the famous Atlantis Paradise Island . Normally we just go shopping at our favorite places like the "Perfume Bar" and other shops downtown. DISEMBARKATION In order to avoid crowding Costa assigns specific waiting areas to each colored luggage tag. Disembarkation was simple and orderly. Customs were quick and efficient. We were off by 8:30 am and home in less than an hour. SUGGESTIONS We enjoy cruising. We have never had a bad cruise, as matter of fact, we have loved all of our cruises, some more than others. This cruise was among the best ones, since it was our return to this beautiful ship and a visit to our friend Attilio Sissa, Hotel Director, who offered us great hospitality. We also enjoyed the company of our fellow cruisers Cynthia & Robert and Elizabeth & Vito. However, we offer a few suggestions to make a great cruise even greater: 1. The embarkation process was a bit slow. We suggest using a process similar to that adopted by Princess, which utilizes separate check-in windows for each group of cabins (category/deck), thus cutting the length of lines. Moreover, additional wheelchair assistance is needed outside the terminal, near the luggage drop off site. If the ship is not ready for embarkation at noon (the current check-in time), then Costa should slate it for one o'clock. Thus, passengers would not arrive so early and create long waiting lines. The terminal is spacious and the staff is sufficient to speedily process documents and board the passengers quickly. Also credit card registration should be done together with other documents at boarding time and not later on the ship. 2. Room Service is a tad slow and most of the time the telephone was busy in regular cabins as well in suites. This service needs improvement. 3. Pizza is definitely of inferior quality, especially when compared to the freshly made ones on the Grand and Golden Princess. It is important that an Italian Cruise Line like Costa , who has a great tradition of Italian cuisine and advertises "Cruising Italian Style" offers a good pizza Italian style. Frozen pizzas may be tolerable on ships of other nationalities, but not on the Atlantica, Costa 's flagship, who sails the seas under the Italian flag. There is a need to hire a good Pizzaiolo. by the way we congratulate Costa for acting on one of our previous suggestions: The chlorine aftertaste of the water, ice tea and reconstituted juices which we reported in our first Costa Atlantica review is no longer present in any drinks. Water filtration and/or quality control on chlorination has evidently eliminated the problem.