Year Started: 1854
Ships in Fleet: 11
Summary: A Europe-based mainstream cruise line owned by Carnival. Ships are structurally identical to Carnival. Recommended for European cruisers who do not speak English - good for bargains in the Caribbean.
Regions:Middle East, The Orient
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Middle East
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, World
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Middle East, Scandinavia/Northern Europe, South America, Transatlantic
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Singles. Families.
Regions:Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe
Good for: Group. Families.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
The good- Beautiful, modern ship, friendly and mostly courteous crew, except matre-de when I asked to be switched back to my ticketed first sitting.
The bad- Ports of call. Key West and Cozumel are always nice even if the jellyfish are running at Cozumel. Progreso is not acceptable as a cruise ship port of call. If you want to spend half the short time of the port call at Chicken-itze, do it by land tour. Could not go ashore at Grand Cayman because of rough boat landing; in 15 kt. wind and 2-3 foot chop offshore at ship mooring area?
Refund of port fee not offered, private island not substituted. Food mediocre, no prime rib, no lobster tails. Changed to 2nd seating after on board.
The ugly- Head (toilet) in our section down for almost 16 hours before repaired.
My Wife myself and my 3 children (Ages 15,8,8) sailed on the Victoria April 13 for a 7 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. My wife and I previously sailed on the Costa Carla C 22 years ago and had high expectations for this cruise, our children's first.
Costa circa 1980: Let me first tell you that our cruise aboard the Carla C was incredible! The food was beyond gourmet, the service impeccable.....we truly felt like royalty. Naturally we figured that it could only get better. Boy were we wrong!!!.....what happened to the Costa of 20 years ago? Read on if you wish to find out!
Embarkation: was average. Port Everglades is in a very bad section of Florida so hold on to your purse and wallet! My wife's was stolen the morning before the cruise in Ft. Lauderdale. It was a little harder for us to board the ship because all of her ID was in her purse. After 2 hours in a detention room and many tears, we were finally able to board the ship but my wife swears someone followed her around secretly for the entire cruise. Securitywas very tight....and that didn't bother me the least bit.
We're OFF: Once on the ship, we went to the buffet on deck 11 rear. It was barely average. Nothing unusual, nothing spectacular, nothing to write home about, and it was the same everyday..... basically pretty boring. The help at the buffet was courteous but half of them didn't understand a word of English, which brings me to another point...English was definitely the minority language on this cruise, both passengers and crew. If you're into ignorant Western Europeans who like to sun topless around the kiddy pool exposing their hairy legs and armpits and who prefer the smell of their BO to Calvin Klein, this is the cruise for you! All announcements were in at least 5 languages and English was not the first. We were told by the crew that there were 2300 passengers on the boat, which was over the 1900 limit.....unsafe and overcrowded. If you did not get a lounge chair by 9:00 am, forget it!
The Ship: simply beautiful!!! Immaculately clean, abundant with rare marble and expensive mosaics. The public rooms were large, albeit overcrowded. This ship must have cost a fortune. I have been on other cruises and this was one of the most beautifully designed ships I have ever seen. Someone was always cleaning something 24 hours a day. One day in port they even painted the anchor after it got dirty from anchoring in Catalina Island the day prior. On the negative side the arcade is in the middle of the casino and kids aren't allowed in the casino, so you had to covertly sneak them in to the arcade. Also the A/C in the public areas was inadequate and many of our non-deodorant using shipmates stunk to high heaven. I always knew when my elevator mates were non-American.
The Food: The food was just average. My prime rib, the first night's dinner was like a steak'um with gravy...gravy on prime rib....Classy!!! The pasta was always excellent. The coffee was great. The food presentation was on par with Shoneys/Eat'n Park. Gourmet is not a word in Costa 's dictionary. Even the salads were boring. The midnight and dessert buffets were spectacular like they were sculpted from shiny plastic...just how they tasted. Looks aren't everything. They bragged that there were 150 different people from 60 different countries in the kitchen staff...you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen. The morning buffets were the same soggy scrambled eggs, cereal and other items that you would typically find on a very skimpy Sunday brunch not equal to Shoneys or Eat'n Park. Even the orange juice was watered down. One morning I asked for an omelet and got the dirtiest look from the man behind the counter that I said "Never mind". The next morning I got up the courage to wait for an omelet and what I got was an overcooked taco shell. Average drinks ran from 4-8 dollars each. Our waiter and busboy were wonderful and they were extremely happy that we were Americans. Tipping on Costa is cash only and they told us the Europeans never leave a tip and since their salary is a measly $50 per month, their tips were their income. Along with our cabin steward they were the nicest people on the ship.
The Itinerary and Ports of Call: The itinerary was great but the time spent at the ports of call was too short. by the time you got off the boat you had to rush to get back on. Although, if you took a paid excursion, you were allowed to leave first and come back last. I would like to elaborate more on these exotic ports but was too rushed to enjoy them. They even had the nerve to dump us in the Dominican Republic one evening at dusk. I don't know about you but the last place I want to be at 1:30am is in the streets of Puerto Rico. I did enjoy St. Thomas and Nassau which we left mid-afternoon.
The Activities: The kid programs were very crowded and I ran into the ship's fairy princess at a market in the Bahamas and she told me most of them are bogus and they are geared to make you buy unlimited drink passes that are not unlimited. She said everything is geared to spending lots of money. Management was rude and they, the non-Italian employees, were underpaid. My teen daughter tried the disco but was propositioned by the many non-American boys that wanted to party or as they said "pawty" with her (whatever that means). I must admit there was always something going on somewhere and if you were bored, it was by your own choosing. The deck activities were generally fun, but the constant announcements in at least 5 languages kind of zapped some of the energy from the deck activities. The on board entertainment was on par with other cruises, magic, comedy, dancing and singing. The Cruise Director Peter was an "idiot". Come on Costa , you can do better. I figured he got the job because he was related to some VP at Costa . His favorite phrase was "Chow for now". I figured he was referring to the dog chow we had for the midnight buffet that was left over from dinner earlier.
The Staff: Most of the executive staff was Italian. I was told by a Slovak casino employee that the Italians get all of the good jobs. Don't get me wrong, I'm Italian American and proud of it. I only saw the Captain once when he was introduced at a show night. He was probably too scared to show his face in public areas because of the large number of disgruntled crowded passengers that wanted a piece of him. The Italian staff members were generally indifferent and not very helpful. An employee explained to me that it was the last Caribbean sailing and they were tired and just wanted to go home. The international staff was generally pleasant. They nodded a lot and smiled...most of them had no clue what I was saying to them. When I inquired on the final day to a young lady in a white uniform as to why the photo place was closed when it was supposed to be opened she kept telling me that orange luggage tags go to the plaza. I finally told her she had no idea what I was saying and that she was "nothing but a total moron". She gave me a bright smile, nodded and said "yes".
Summary: On the final morning, Stefano, the ship's manager, made everything crystal clear. When I was doing my daily security check in because of my wife's untimely purse snatching and ID loss, I arrived with one of my children at breakfast at 7:02 am. I was told by the man at the door to the Fantasia restaurant that I could not go in. When I explained that I just wanted to join the rest of my family, he still resisted. I had an FRS radio and was talking to my family inside the restaurant. Finally the Maitre de who I regretfully tipped the night before told me in a very rude tone that my family had not shown up for breakfast then closed the door. I went to the info desk and demanded to speak to the captain of the ship. I was quickly ushered into Stefano's office. He told me he was in charge of the entire ship. When I complained to him about the treatment and my total disappointment with Costa when compared to my previous Costa experience, he summed it up like this. He asked me what I paid for my last Costa cruise which was by far much more expensive than our vacation aboard the Victoria. He then indicated that you get what you pay for and they have to cut corners to keep the cost down. Sorry, I didn't know that. I've been on less expensive cruises (Carnival for one, but they own Costa ) and have had a great time with great food and service.
Sorry Costa , I'll never be back...."Chow for EVER" Peter and Costa ..........
Excellent cruise for the bargain. Food more than adequate and often outstanding.
Entertainment and staff first rate. Extremely Clean. Thoroughly enjoyable. Worth a repeat.
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: email@example.com and by phone (345-916-DIVE) and he made arrangements for us to be picked up between the North and South terminals by Chris in a speed boat, taken to the platform near Seven Mile Beach. Sunny helped us on the platform and Dave, the pilot, explained the process of submersion and safety procedures. It was all very simple; we were ready to explore the coral reef. The two man sub has a clear glass dome with surround view. No breathing apparatus is necessary, since it holds enough oxygen for approximately 2 hours and the dive lasts only about 30 to 45 minutes. Dave, in scuba outfit, pilots the sub from outside and behind, so the the sea view is unobstructed. Completely calm and free of masks or any other encumbrances, we floated through schools of tropical fish and saw sea turtles, conchs, sea fans and coral formations within feet. For that Jacques Cousteau feeling this is truly phenomenal. The visibility is wonderful. Mary is claustrophobic, but had no problem since the bubble is large enough and breathing is regular not through tubes or tanks. TWO THUMBS 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.
Not for Americans!
We have taken bewteem 25 and 30 cruises, so are not novices to the cruising experience.
The Victoria is a beautiful ship, and never felt crowded. Even with over 1600 passengers we still had an intimiate feeling when walking around the ship or in the lounges.
Peter Hofer, the cruise director, does an excellent job, and there is never a lack of something on the ship to do during the day. There are various trivia games, pool side contests, a wild and wacky Italian wedding, Mr. Pizza Man contest, Mrs. Santa Claus contest on our cruise, etc. That said, the cruise staff is extremely difficult to understand, as nearly all of the staff is from another country and speaks with a very strong accent. Several Americans got upset during the trivia games because the staff could not be understood.
Announcements on the ship are made in 6 languages, so they seem to be endless. There were times we felt like aliens that had been dropped on the ship from another planet, since there were so few Americans. Passengers were either from Italy, France, Germany or South America.
Being an Italian cruise linewe expected the food to be awesome, or at least the Italian food. We were sorely dissapointed. The food tends to be bland, the buffet was one of the smallest we have ever seen on a cruise ship, and the pizza was pitiful.
I never had a problem getting a lounge chair on deck for sea days which is a plus. We tried Costa , but unless the price is a steal would not go Costa again.
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.
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.