Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
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: Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe
Good for: Group. Families.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
"Con te Partiro'...," once again we are cruising "Italian Style" on the Costa Mediterranea --- our third trip on this excellent ship. Naturally, if we return to the same ship, we must have enjoyed ourselves immensely on previous cruises --- and we did! So, this poses the question, what is so good about Costa that we find ourselves returning twelve times in all?
Let's start with the crew. Captain Massimo Garbarino, we have considered a friend since he commanded the Costa Romantica where our son was married on February 14th several years ago. He always takes a personal interest in passengers' views of cruising. Costa Mediterranea Hotel Director Ann Ryan, whom we had previously met on the Costa Atlantica, is dedicated to following up on any inquiry by a passenger. She ensures that each passenger has the most enjoyable trip possible. When speaking with her, she proudly noted that recently the Mediterranea in the last two sanitation inspections by CDC (Center for Disease Control) has received two perfect scores of 100. This is a nearly improbable feat, denoting that the ship is impeccably run.
There are many countries represented among the crew and passengersleading to a wonderful international feeling on board. The Mediterranea was built in Kvaerna Masa Shipyards in Finland and Captain Garbarino oversaw the entire construction. She was outfitted in Italy and many crew members were on site studying and practicing their Italian, and then each summer the Mediterranea returns to her home port in Savona, Italy and cruises the Mediterranean Sea. From the moment passengers board, the air is full of the melodic Italian language. A very nostalgic sound to Vincent's ears since he was born in Italy. There are many languages spoken among the passengers from USA, Europe, S. America, and Asia. Our butler Ronald delivered the morning papers in both English and Italian, making us feel at home (where we normally listen to CNN and the BBC while Vincent reads the local US and Italian papers on line). It seems that old academic habits die hard! We are both retired teachers. The continental influence and the opportunities for speaking a foreign language always draw us back to Costa. Then, of course, the food on board is deliciously incessant. Thus, when you can't afford to go to Europe, but want a taste of the Continent --- Sail Costa.
EMBARKATION Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades is easily accessed off I-95, just beyond the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Security is well organized and Pier numbers and Ship names are clearly posted. Embarkation was set for 1:30pm, but boarding began shortly before noon. We arrived at 12:30pm and went straight on with wheelchair assistance. We were in our suite before 1:00pm, where champagne, fresh fruit and canapés greeted us. This suite was all the way aft on Deck 6 with a large balcony. We checked on our dinner reservations: early seating (5:45pm) a table for two near the entrance to the restaurant --- excellent! We were off to the buffet of rare roast beef, fresh salads, pastas, fruits, fine cheeses and desserts --- very nice.
SHIP We have reported in detail on this ship before (see 2004 and 2005 reviews), so here we want to draw more on how the ship's layout is conducive to creating an Italian atmosphere. The Costa Mediterranea was launched in 2003 and is registered in Italy; she is 86,000 gross tons and 960 ft. long with 12 decks and 1,057 cabins of which 678 have balconies. Double occupancy is 2,114 passengers with a crew of 920. Her cruising speed is 22 knots and a top speed of 24 knots. Her design is based on Carnival's Spirit Class and the Costa Atlantica is her sister ship. She has 2 Azipods and 6 diesel electric generators. According to Captain Garbarino, she can do one mile on eighty-five gallons of fuel.
The flow of the promenade on Deck 3 Bacco is reminiscent of the classic liners of yesteryear where the passenger could walk all around the ship on the promenade deck. The Winter Terrace Walk is accessed from the outside promenade forward or the doors adjacent the theatre. This lovely indoor promenade has large porthole shaped windows overlooking the sea. There are many tables and seats by each window, which are great for conversations, doing puzzles, playing cards, reading, or just relaxing and sea watching. This is an example of excellent flow, since this walk way goes all around the prow of the ship, back to the promenade. Toward midship on Deck 3 is the immense Oriental Lounge with its huge curving bar and piano strains of music. Continuing toward midship are the Via Condotti Shops. When leaving the Osiris Theatre on Deck 2 Tersicore, passengers pass the Piazza Casanova (with its multitude of "putti": white cherubs), a spacious room which has constant activities throughout the day and evening --- trivia, games, dancing lessons and live music. Going aft from Piazza Casanova on Deck 2, passengers pass through the Grand Canal Casino, one of the most spacious casinos afloat, no crowded aisles here.
The same flow is also evident on Deck 9 Armonia with the two Pools forming open spaces. When passengers leave the Ischia Spa they pass the pools and on into the Perla del Lago Buffet, then toward aft to the Apollo Spa and pool with its fine Apollo statue by Rigamonti. From the moment passengers enter the ship they are surrounded by artifacts and motifs of that inimitable Mediterranean area: Venetian Characters, Egyptian Obelisks, Grecian statuary, all contributing to a fantastic cruise atmosphere.
FOOD & SERVICE Guest Relations Manager Daniele Puma is very visible and easily accessed through the Passenger Services Desk. He is very capable of answering and solving passenger needs, not to mention handsome and with delightful continental manners. Each morning our Butler Ronald, in white gloves, delivered our full American breakfast punctually at 7:15am: eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, rolls, and fruit marmalades, including Mary's favorite apricot. Ronald set the table with a white linen cloth and a floral bud vase, which we collected daily, so that by the end of the cruise, there were six on our shelf, but, with the mirror behind them, they gave the optical illusion of twelve vases..., lovely.
The Buffet on Deck 9 is abundant with many stations, so lines are short. Salad Bars, fresh fruit displays, hot entrees and made to order sandwiches are all available; the perfect touch is the Pizzeria and ice cream/dessert area. We had lunch there on the first day. However, we prefer lunch in the main dining room, Restaurant degli Argentieri, with its walls lined with vitrines displaying copies of famous silver pieces (vases, candle sticks, pitchers, etc.) and murals depicting Italian pastoral scenes. We enjoyed the special attention of Maitre D' Fernando Sanna (quite elegant in his tails) and the two 2nd Maitres D' Luigi Cuomo and Leonardo Moccia. They are all very observant and make sure every passenger feels special at every meal.
Dinner each evening at Table #90 was enjoyable with our Waiter Valerio Olano and his assistant Victor D'Sousa. They were perfect and anticipated our every needs. Prosciutto and Grana Padana, Mozzarella di Bufala or Bruschetta magically appear as antipasto in addition to the menu's long lists of appetizers, soups, salads, pasta dishes, entrees, desserts, cheese plates and fresh fruit. If one cannot find a preference in these lists, there are the "Always Available" items: Caesar Salad; Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce or with meat balls and basil; Fillet of Salmon poached, broiled or grilled; Skinless Chicken Breast, also prepared as one likes it; and many side dishes of vegetable and potatoes, fried or baked with butter or sour cream, bacon bits and chives or anything also available upon request.
Some of our favorite appetizers are the following: Beef Carpaccio with shaved Parmigiano and black olive tapenade, Escargots Bourguignon, Bresaola with tomato, arugula and Parmigiano, Vitello tonnato (thin sliced veal with tuna sauce), etc. Favorite soups: Cream of forest mushrooms, Pasta e Fagioli, French Onion Soup, Consommé Stracciatella, etc. Favorite salads: Tossed Spinach Salad (with bacon bits, chopped hard boiled eggs and croutons), Seasonal Tender Leaves (Belgian endive and Radicchio) and other mixed salads (i.e. water cress, spinach and pine nuts, etc.). Favorite pasta dishes: Bucatini alla Amatriciana (long pasta with pancetta and onion in a piquant tomato sauce), Tagliolini alla Bolognese with Porcini mushrooms, Penne all'arrabbiata (with a piquant tomato sauce), etc. Some of our favorite Entrees: Roasted Rack of Lamb, Ossobuco alla Milanese (veal shank in a special sauce), Fillet Mignon grilled to perfection, Mahi Mahi filets, Veal Liver with onions, etc. Everything was "delizioso!" Compliments to the Chef.
The Gala Dinners are especially enjoyable with candles and flowers on the tables and complimentary champagne for all. Desserts included Cannoli, Italian cheese cake, Baba', Tiramisu and the typical pies: apple, cherry, pecan, lemon meringue, and all sorts of freshly made ice creams and sherbets, or International cheeses and fresh fruits, etc. The wait staff are on their toes and they greet passengers in many languages. Quite a number of the staff are budding polyglots!
The festive atmosphere in the dining room includes many types of Italian music from Opera (Aida's Triumphal March), to Neapolitan Classics to Modern music. Passengers will most likely find themselves dancing the Tarantella with a waiter. Food is great, the atmosphere is fine, a taste of Italy is wonderful. We especially enjoyed 2nd Maitre D' Leonardo from Bari, Italy whose kind attentions we very much appreciated. The Club Medusa is the upscale Italian restaurant, reservations required ($20 per person). It features menus by Gaultiero Marchesi which have been improved and diversified from the earlier ones we had on previous Costa cruises. Dining is on Versace plates and service is top notch. We can report that service and food on this ship are excellent.
CABIN Suite #6260 is on Deck 6 Narciso. Costa's suites are standardized: wide ceiling moldings of fine woods, granite tops on all furnishings and warm monochromatic colors of peaches, oranges and reds. Very sumptuous. On entering the suite, on the left there is an anteroom with a large lighted vanity, with a double armoire across from it. There is a door that leads to the bathroom with a full jacuzzi tub/shower. The room is tile and marble and has twin sinks and ample shelves for toiletries. The suite opens to the left with a large bar with TV, Personal safe and built in bureau and another double armoire. There is a king bed with copper and Murano blown glass lamps on the night stands. Opposite there is a desk with columns and mirrors, a refrigerator, a coffee table and a peach colored leather sofa. An arm chair completes the furnishings. The glassed far wall leads to the large balcony which holds two recliners and a table.
Our suite had a picture of King Tut's golden mask and wall paintings from a pyramid, in keeping with the Mediterranean theme. There was another picture of a lady in summer attire. Our Stewardess Leonor, who is wonderful and has a sweet nature, kept the suite spotless. Thanks!
ENTERTAINMENT The suave Cruise Director Paul Rutter leads the Costa Animation Team in the multitude of activities on board, which include Bingo, Casino Tournaments, Italian and Dance Lessons, Trivia Quizzes, Crafts, etc.... The shows nightly in the Osiris Theatre were entertaining. We especially liked the "Time Machine" on formal night and John Ciotta on Italian night. Most of all we enjoyed the Italian joy of life which pervades the Costa Mediterranea. On "Notte Mediterranea" each passenger is given a "passport," which they take to four different lounges set up featuring the cultures (food, music, games and customs) of Greece, France, Spain and Egypt. The passengers collect four "visas" and then turn in the passport to Passenger Services, and they will get a $100 discount valid for a Transatlantic or European Costa Cruise. Costa works hard to make cruises entertaining.
DEBARKATION Sunday at 8:30am, a crew member came to our suite to help with the wheelchair. We had green tags, which were the third ones called. We were through the passport check, luggage pick up and customs in less than 30 minutes. We were on our way home by 9:00am. This was simple and rapid.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Sail Away 7:00pm
Day 2. Key West, Florida Arrive 8:00am Depart 1:00pm Take the Conch Train or the Trolley Tour ($26) for a good overview. See the Little White House of Pres. Harry Truman and muse on how complicated life has become in the US in the last fifty years.
Day 3. 3-7-06 Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 7:00pm Cozumel was hit hard by Hurricane Wilma Oct. 2005. It lost the new pier, but with tendering the tourists are returning. See the local San Gervasio Ruins and the Folkloric Show ($72). Snorkeling is great here, but for those who cannot swim go to the Sea Trek Helmet Diving tour ($88).
Day 4. At sea
Day 5. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Dunns River Falls is the highlight to see; climbing them is a must for those with able bodies.
Day 6. Georgetown, Grand Caymans Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Once again there is tendering in order to go ashore. Here among the favorite tours are those which include swimming with the Stingrays.
Day 7. At sea
Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrival 8:00am
CONCLUSION It is always pleasant to return to a ship we have already sailed on before, where most probably we'll be welcomed by some of the crew and officers we had befriended on earlier cruises. This was true on this cruise, where we encountered Captain Garbarino, Hotel Director Ann Ryan and Maitre d' Luigi Cuomo, all of whom we had met on previous cruises on the Mediterranea and other Costa ships. Needless to say, they welcomed us as old, special friends and made our cruise a great one. We have cruised on about three dozen ships of nine cruise lines, but we tend to cruise more frequently on those lines that offer special perks to "frequent floaters," such as occasional upgrades, Champagne, fruit basket, a Concierge, VIP treatment, etc. Costa is one of our favorite lines. We'll be cruising on Costa again, but our next cruises will be on Carnival Triumph, May 13th, on the Caribbean Princess, Sept. 23rd and on the new Freedom of the Seas, Oct. 15th. However, we'll keep our eyes open for special sales during the summer for a last minute booking. Happy Cruising!
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Sherri Betz Eastern Caribbean March 5, 2006
First of all, we are veteran cruisers. As a former marketing manager for a Fortune 500 company, I have booked group cruises for 200+ people as part of our sales incentive programs. I have also cruised for pleasure with my family on several lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess.
My husband and I decided to try a Costa cruise for our vacation March 5-12 aboard the Magica because of its Italian flair, its reputed reputation for being among the best lines, and its port of embarkation (Ft. Lauderdale). We were so looking forward to another wonderful cruise experience.
Our Costa cruise experience was extremely disappointing from the moment of arrival at the port to disembarkation. By day three, I was in tears with frustration from dealing with an unresponsive and, many times, outwardly rude crew and poor service.
Embarkation at the port was extremely disorganized with an unreasonable delay in boarding the ship. I have never experienced such a lengthy delay in all my times cruising. It took us well over two hours to board, only to find luggage thrown ina huge, unorganized pile halfway up to the ceiling by the central elevators. Fortunately, there was not an emergency or fire, because passengers would not have been able to make their way around the luggage.
After dinner that night, we still did not have two of our suitcases, so we checked with Guest Services. I had been in my traveling clothes since 4 am that morning and it was now past 9 pm. Guest Services told us to wait for it to show up, and told us letters were sent to all cabins asking passengers to report luggage that was not theirs. Our cabins had been reassigned, so we repeatedly asked Guest Services to check our previously assigned cabin for misdelivered luggage. We were told they could not enter as it was occupied.
Only after our insistence did Guest Services have a steward open the cabin that we suspected our bags were in. Sure enough, there was our luggage sitting on a bed that the steward had already turned down. There was no evidence that the cabin was occupied, and obviously no one to read the letter concerning misdelivered luggage. No apologies, no free drinks, nothing. Oops. Too bad.
Overall, the crew seemed very unhappy; no smiles, few greetings. In fact, I can't recall having any conversation with any of the crew. The pool crew was very unhelpful in helping us find towel or lounges. The dining staff's only function seemed to be clearing tables because when we asked for a clean spoon to stir our tea, the crew would simply point to another area for us to go and fetch whatever it was we needed.
Here's another example of poor service. In the casino one night, my wallet fell out of my purse and I immediately went to the casino cashier to report this. The cashier, who had a long line of customers, simply looked up and said, "You want me to help you? Now?" I could not believe my ears. Of course I needed help, now! I had more than $400 cash in that wallet for the casino. No one from security was called to help, and my husband and I simply had to search the floors to find where it would have dropped. Thank God, we found my wallet on the floor with the money still there. But it was no thanks to Costa's unhelpful staff.
While our cabin accommodations were fine, we found there was no complimentary shampoo, conditioner, razor or other personal items. Even 3 star hotels provide these modest effects. No chocolates on our pillow, except for one night, and then after that we received Lifesavers. Not exactly top shelf. We also found the towels to be excessively rough and scratchy - very hard on the sunburn. So we asked our steward to bring us soft towels and never got them. Here in America have something called fabric softener. I suggest Costa use it on their linens for the comfort of their guests.
The food was mediocre at best and clearly catered to European tastes. The buffet's "salad bar" often consisted of tomato wedges, a big bowl of olives, onions and lettuce wedges. There was no grilled seafood to my knowledge, and fresh tuna was never served. Many of the entrees were batter dipped and fried. Even the desserts at the Midnight Dessert Buffet were disappointing. They looked scrumptious, but didn't have much taste.
Another problem was getting good port information. While we've been to many Caribbean ports, some were new to us - such as the Dominican Republic -- but useful information was hard to find. When we arrived in the Dominican Republic at 7 pm, we decided to venture into port to see the city and have dinner. No one advised us that it was not safe for tourists to go into town in the evening at this port. We only learned this from the waiter at the local Shish Kabob restaurant after we had paid a taxi $20 to drive us one way into town to see the port. Thankfully, the waiter spoke English and arranged for a "safe" driver to take us back to the ship.
The itinerary also didn't allow for adequate time to experience the ports. In both San Juan and Nassau, we had only a few hours in port before we sailed. Costa needs to alter its Eastern Caribbean itinerary to give passengers more time in these wonderful ports. In Nassau, for example, we were extremely rushed to visit Atlantis and walk the Straw Market.
During the entire week, there was a putrid smell of sewage or garbage on several floors near the mid-elevators. We overheard many passengers making the same comment.
All night long, we heard banging the floor above us. Apparently our cabin (#2391) was directly below the kitchen or laundry room. Needless to say, all this noise did not allow us a restful night's sleep.
Another very irritable thing about the ship was its passengers. The majority were very loud, pushy Europeans who don't know common courtesy, "sorry" or "excuse me" (apparently even in Italian they don't know these words!) We would be trying to relax on the deck and a whole swarm of them would gather around our lounges and burst into loud conversation. Talk about fraying the nerves day after day. Don't care if I ever hear another lick of Italian in my life. Kids were playing in the casino, people smoked wherever they wanted, and I actually had crew and passengers push me out of their way when we were in a crowded area! And they say Americans are rude, go figure.
Finally - and this is a very small thing - but on other cruises we've had the opportunity to purchase beautiful glassware with the purchase of cocktails of the day. I acquired a set of unique martini and shot glasses while aboard a Princess cruise last year, and had hoped to do so again this year aboard Costa. All that was offered were plastic souvenir cups with daily drink specials.
Look, I know that Costa is new to sailing the Caribbean and is very eager to capture a share of the American cruise market there. But this will never happen if Costa doesn't address the basics of customer service.
American passengers will not tolerate poor service, and negative experiences about Costa shared with others will jeopardize Costa's opportunity to earn new and repeat cruisers. Americans expect a high level of service from a cheerful and helpful crew when aboard a luxury cruise ship. Although the ship itself was stunningly beautiful and clean, there were so many other issues that we did not have a pleasurable experience and are highly unlikely to ever cruise Costa again. We did fill out our questionnaires, but in all sincerity, we are doubtful our specific concerns will ever be addressed.
In sum, it was by far the worst cruise experience we ever have had. I've been on much smaller ships (Sovereign of the Seas-RCCL) puttering around the Western Caribbean that were far more enjoyable simply because of the cheerful staff and excellent service. Chio, Costa! Never again.
Ok here goes my first attempt at a trip report.
I have chosen to break it up into sections, as I didn't take notes (hey I'm on vacation) it's all from memory.
Embarkation/Debarkation- When I got to the port I checked my one bag with the porter and went and found a wheelchair. The employee that pushed me in the chair took me to the front of the line and I was the second person on the ship. I really don't like to cut in line but this is how they do it and nobody seemed to get upset. Once onboard I went to the Show Lounge and waited for the buffet to open. I'll discuss the food in a later section.
Debarkation went very smoothly as I went to the top deck and waited near the pool, I was one of the last to get off of the ship. Try as I might I couldn't find a good hiding spot that would allow me to stowaway for the next cruise.
Cabin- I had a balconey cabin towards the aft of the ship on the starboard side. It was verynice having a balconey which allowed me to go out and watch us we pulled into or out of port. As other reviews stated the beds were pretty hard but to me not unbearable. There was also plenty of storage and the shower was big enough.
Food- I have heard negative reviews about the food on Costa but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the food served in the dining room and the buffet. One night however I didn't see an entre that I liked so I just had pasta as an entre.
Service- I found that the service in the dining room was outstanding, my waiter Jose Torres and his asst. waiter (can't remember his name) were great. My stewardess was good also and cleaned my cabin twice a day, the only thing I missed were towel animals. It's not a big deal but I kind of like them. The service on the rest of the ship left a lot to be desired, especially the photo shop. They weren't rude neccesarily just indiferent.
Entertainment- The shows were exellent. The props and costumes were great and stage changes were unbelievable during the Time travel show. I only went to two lounges, but the singers were great. The guy in the Talia lounge was a very talented singer and the Blue Note in the Casanova lounge were very good.
Ports- I did not get off in St Martin so I don't have a review of that port. Catalina Island was the most beautiful beach that I have ever been to. The only drawback is the merchants that almost drag you into their shops. (I know that is common in a lot of ports, I just don't like it). La Romana, Dominica, I went to the Kandela show and it was worth the $36 that I spent, very high energy and I like seeing other culture's dancing and music. Nassau, went snorkling and had a great time. This was my first time to swim in the Caribbean and I was surprised by the fact that the water was cold. I thought it was supposed to be warm down there. But then again I am a wimp when it comes to cold water.
So there it is, my review. I had a wonderful time and can't wait until my cruise in Sept. Will I go on another Costa ship? Sure!!! It was a beautiful ship.
While sceptical of this liner as we knew only one person who had cruised with the Mediterranea/COSTA line and the reviews went from low average to OK, this was the best cruise I have ever been on. I picked it especially because of its cultural diversity although most of the Caribbbean cruisers were from North America with a good dose of passengers from over 50 other countries.
Cruise staff was excellent-the Italian atmosphere was fun and I loved having 5 languages spoken altho its primarily Italian and English used with a dose of Spanish and French now and then. Food was wonderful and delicious and plentiful. Loved the Dining Room where we ate almost all our meals. We ate vegetarian and there was no lack of choice or imagination. The ship is filled with Italian artifacts-all interesting and some garrish but we got used to that early on. Staff was personable, ship was immaculate, loved the balcony and room size, excellent value for the price, outstanding ice sculptures, pools were fine and available, lots of quiet space to read, be on your own, great Casino. Over 400 kids on board and verywell behaved.
We loved it.
Thanks COSTA. We'll sail with you again.
M & J--OTTAWA, CANADA
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Lance Cohen Eastern Caribbean February 19, 2006
On the plus side, the Costa Magica is a beautifully appointed ship. The Veranda cabins are adequate with sufficient closet and draw space. That being said, the amenities in the cabins are less than you would expect at a Days Inn. We were given a sliver of soap for a 7 day cruise, there was no shampoo although the shower had a bath gel dispenser, and the turndown service did not include a chocolate or a truffle - it was a lifesaver mint.
The kitchen can best be described as hit or miss. The service in the main dining room was lackluster and so poor that after the initial on-board dinner, my wife and I did not return. We ate all other meals either in the specialty restaurant, Vincenza, or in Port.
This cruise was our first experience with Costa. We have been on over 20 cruises from luxury lines such as Silver Seas and Radisson to mass marketed cruise lines such as Princess and Norweigan. We do not believe that you receive value for your dollar with Costa. On theother hand, if you are looking for a stock to invest in, we recommend Carnival, because Costa leaves no stone unturned in its efforts to make money while at the same offering just the bare minimum to its passengers unless they are willing to pay extra.
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Ron Bos Eastern Caribbean February 5, 2006
This cruise overall was very good. Everything about the ship was good to excellent. The meals were excellent, the staff friendly and there was always something to see or do.
You have to go with the mind-set that the ship is a floating resort, not just a vehicle to get you to island destinations. Security is very tight on these ships. You need to have your passport and ship ID card every time you get on or off. They'll take a credit card number when you first board, then give you a ship ID card so everything you buy on the ship goes on the card. As with a credit card, they give you a receipt for everything you buy and have you sign their copy. There are no cash or credit card transactions on the ship. You can tip in cash if you think someone's service was exceptional but you don't have to. Ours was supposedly included in the fare.
We flew in to Miami and were bused to Ft. Lauderdale. When we arrived at the ship terminal, everybodylined up in a warehouse-type building. The line was very long but we went through very quickly. They are only checking passports and ID at this stop. Our ship ID card was in the next room, along with all the information you needed to know about the ship, like meal seating times and table numbers, etc .
There is a mandatory lifeboat drill on all cruises, and ours was on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. You have to meet at a specified spot on a lower deck with your life jacket on. The life jackets are in all the cabins. We were on Deck 10, so we had to go to zero deck without using the elevators. It goes smoothly and is over in about 15 minutes.
Getting on or off the ship is time consuming because everyone has to have their ID card swiped by security at the exit and you have to show your passport. It's the same thing when you get back on. My only complaint is that at every port we visited, there were at least six other ships at the dock, each with two to three thousand passengers. That makes for a very crowded town, with 10-15 thousand tourists converging on the same place. All the ships arrive early in the morning and leave by 6 p.m. the same day.
The excursions were OK but not exceptional other than the dolphin swim, but that was very expensive. They are well organized, though; everyone who signs up gets a colored sticker with a number corresponding to the excursion, and is told to meet in a specific spot on the ship before the excursion. When everyone was there, the excursion guide led everyone to the waiting buses.
The ship had something going in the theater all the time. There were Las Vegas-type shows with lots of glitz. They had a newlywed game on stage one night with some of the passengers as contestants. It was hysterical because they take one couple married less than a year, one with five years, one with 10 years, and one with more than 20. They videotape the whole thing and broadcast it over and over again on the in-cabin TVs.
There was also something going on at the central pool area all day as well (bingo games, etc.). It was always packed there, and it is designed like a theater with the lounge chairs on different levels for people to watch the show as they sunbathed.
Because the ship is always moving unless it's in port, it is very windy on the top outside decks. You can feel the ship moving from side to side sometimes but you get used to it. At night when you are lying in bed you can feel the ship moving with the waves but it rocks you to sleep. We never had any problem with motion sickness, but your legs feel spongy when you go ashore sometimes, since you have been adjusting to the ship's movements when you are on board.
Meals are at assigned tables of two, four, six or eight. You have a choice of what time and size of table you prefer, but even then, if you get seated with someone you can't stand, you can ask to be changed. There were two mealtimes, 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. We took the later one. Food is available all day in the cafeterias, and at lunch they have a huge variety of things. The food was excellent.
We had two formal dinners, a toga night, and a Caribbean night at the sit-down dinners. The staff members were great, and they did lots of dressing up themselves for the themes; they also danced, sang and organized conga lines through the restaurant.
There is always someone around taking pictures of the passengers, which they of course sell to you. Just smile and let them take pictures. It's a waste of time to argue with them and you don't have to buy anything.
On the last day you have to have your luggage outside your cabin door by 1 a.m. They pick it up and leave forms and information in your room as to where you will meet in the morning to disembark. They gave us colored labels to put on the luggage and that determined where you went in the morning to meet. Ours was green and we assembled in one of the lounges. The disembarkation is staggered, with people who have early flights getting off first. Disembarkation was very smooth. During the last night they drop off an itemized list of all the things you bought on board and charged to your ship ID card. If you don't dispute the charges, you don't have to do anything and can just leave it on your credit card. If you want to dispute a charge, or want to pay cash, you have to go to the front desk by 6 a.m. (good luck!).
Once you get off the ship, you go into another big warehouse-type building where all the luggage is waiting, separated into different bunches by the colored tags. Ours was easy to find.
We were bused back to Miami Airport and after some delays at the check in, the plane home left on time.
by roger holstein - January 23, 2006 Text in English first then in French
The Black River Rafting experience.
One of our life's most romantic experience took place last week, on top of the Jamaica Mountains, gliding on a rafter entirely built of bamboo branches on the river, when we stopped in the port of Montego Bay, Jamaica, January 23 2006.
Notre aventure sur le radeau de la Riviere noire.
Un des événements des plus romantiques de notre vie prenait place la semaine dernière, en haut des montagnes de la Jamaíque, glissant sur une rivière abord d'un radeau entièrement construit de branches de bambou, lors de notre arrivée á Montego Bay, en Jamaíque, le 23 janvier 2006. Notre petit bateau était le seul décoré de merveilleuses fleurs, comme si les Dieux du Ciel voulaient nous rendre un hommage spécial.
The weather was absolutely perfect! A shy sun was bathing the area with its ardent rays but the majestic trees lovingly and protectively embraced amorously the area shading the mountain stream. It was neither too cold nor too hot. There was no wind; the air was totally still.
Our particular little ship was the only one, fullydecorated with gorgeous flowers; it was as though the Gods of Heaven wanted to pay us a special tribute.
Basically I presume, it is similar to a gondola trip in Venice; but probably much, MUCH better, because here you are, just the two of you, with a single guide and in total communion with nature, navigating in the magnificent tropical jungles of Jamaica in primordial simplicity.
There was no modern noise to spoil the effect of this magical moment – outside of course of the natural music of slow stream's waters and the voice of the guides, as well as the occasional screams of delight all the participants.
This event was so totally mystical in nature for my wife Flavia and I that we shall never forget the feeling of complete well being we had on this path of Eden. I wish to every one of you at least one similar moment of total joy as we had at that moment in your life.
Le temps était absolument parfait! Le soleil timide montrait son nez mais les arbres amoureux étreignaient avec grande protection de leurs ombrages ce chemin du Bonheur. Il ne fessait ni trop chaud ni trop froid. L'air ne bougeait que très peu.
Je présume que cette expérience est similaire a une randonnée sur les Gondoles de Venise mais probablement beaucoup, BEAUCOUP mieux, car soudainement, vous vous trouvez avec un seul guide et en communion parfaite avec la nature, navigant dans les jungles tropicales de la Jamaïque dans une simplicité primordiale.
Il n'y avait aucun bruit pour ruiner l'effet magique du moment - a part bien sur, la musique naturelle de l'eau du ruisseau qui coulait lentement, et la voix des guides et quelques cris enchantés des participants.
Cette occasion était d'une nature totalement mystique pour mon épouse et pour moi et nous n'oublierons jamais cette promenade sur ce chemin magique du paradis. Je souhaite à chacun d'entre vous, au moins un moment de joie suprême similaire à la notre, à ce moment la de votre vie.
Roger holstein Copyright 2006 Copyright Roger Holstein 2006
by roger holstein - January 23, 2006 Text in English first then in French
Earlier this week we returned from our cruise aboard the 28,500 tons Costa Allegra – if we lived in the 1912 period this size would still have been somewhat impressive since The Titanic – the biggest ship ever to this day - was only 46,000 tons. But we live in the year 2006 and the latest ship creations, which are now approaching around 160,000 tons.
With a passenger load of only about 800 people, I was seriously concerned about the stability of the vessel when I booked this cruise. And my worries were fully justified!
Cette semaine plutôt, nous retournions de notre croisière abord du Costa Allegra – un bateau de 28,500 tons. Si le calendrier avait indiqué une date de 1912, ce tonnage aurait encore été assez impressionnant puisque le Titanique – le plus grand bateau construit jusqu'à date n'était que de 46,000 tons.
J'étais préalablement inquiet de la stabilité du ce paquebot en particulier qui ne peut accommoder que 800 passagers lorsque j‘ai commandé les billets pour notre passage. Actuellement, mes inquiétudes étaient totalement justifiées !
The two first days theship was reasonably stable but everything went completely downhill from that point. For 8 of the 11 days as we traveled aboard this ship we were physically bounced around like some poor lost souls in the purgatory.
Towards the end of the trip, at one point, as we were perusing at the liquor store offerings, suddenly all hell broke loose around us. Hundreds of liquor bottles started to fall off the shelves all around us, many of them breaking in the process spreading their expensive and smelly spirits on the floor. The sight was dismaying, it was like a scene from the sinking of the Titanic.
My wife Flavia panicked and totally unnerved urged me to get out of the premises quickly. I could read terror even in the eyes of the clerk who himself rushed outside. It seems as though we were just hit by one of those rogue waves that causes havoc on ships.
I asked several of the ship's employees if this situation was a permanent one aboard and they several confided that it was, but this particular trip was one of their worse.
Still if we had a hard time standing up to dance, the crew was fantastically pleasant and nice. As reported before, we were completely charmed by the great spirit of love and friendship emanating from the Italians in charge of activities.
Our conclusions would have to be, avoid the small ships but continue travelling on Costa!
Les deux premiers jours, le bateau était raisonnablement stable, mais à partir de ce point la, les choses devenaient de pire en pire. Pour 8 des 11 jours de notre croisière nous étions physiquement secoués dans tous les sens comme si on payait au purgatoire pour tous nos péchés.
Vers la fin du voyage, a un certain moment lorsque nous visitions le magasin des liqueurs, soudainement c'était le débâcle lorsque des centaines de bouteilles d'alcool tombaient des étagères a nos pieds, beaucoup d'entre elles se brisant dans cet événement des plus surprenant, répandant leur contenu arômé et dispendieux. C'était quasiment comme si nous étions sur le Titanique.
Mon épouse s'affola et me demanda tout de suite de quitter ses lieux dangereux. D'ailleurs il était évident que les sentiments d'anxiété de mon épouse était partagé par le jeune vendeur qui opérait la place puisqu'il courait à l'extérieur du magasin pour se protéger. Il semblerait que nous venions à l'instant même d'éprouver la puissance d'une de ces rares vagues immenses qui font parfois couler des bateaux.
J'ai demandé à plusieurs reprises aux employés de ce bateau si c'était toujours comme ca, et ils m'ont assuré que oui, mais que cette fois c'était encore pire.
C'était difficile de se tenir debout même pour danser, mais heureusement les employés de ce navire étaient des plus gentils. Comme je vous l'ai rapporté dans une communication précédente, nous avons été charmés par l'affection et la gentillesse extrême des Italiens en charge des activités.
En conclusion j'ajouterai : évitez les petits bateaux mais continuez à voyager avec Costa.
Roger holstein Copyright 2006 Copyright Roger Holstein 2006
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Gone Italian Western Caribbean January 15, 2006
First and foremost: This is an ITALIAN Cruise. Go to your local LITTLE ITALY and spend a day there. If you find yourself bored with the culture, you will not like this cruise. While cruising the Caribbean, this cruise will still attract more Europeans than others due to their multilingual staff. FOOD: BE PREPARED FOR ITALIAN FOOD. If you don't like salami, cheese, and pasta, you will not like this cruise. If you're Italian, eh, you'll feel right at home.
This is not a Royal Caribbean Continental American Fare. As an Italian-American, I can appreciate both and usually prefer the latter. But as a traveler, I appreciate the authenticity of international foods. It was like boxing up Italian Culture and Authentic Food and shipping it to a US port where I could experiment with foods, some I know, some I did not, including the Greek fare,...it was authentic alright, I couldn't make it out. But with Italian always available, I could always find something I liked. As noted in Cruise Critic, deck 9 front and back are Italian, always fresh pasta infront, the rear has Italian entrees and Pizza...sometimes without sauce, remember: NOT always American style. The sides of the buffet would alternate each day, one day Greek, one day Spanish, etc.
The main dinners, well, rib eye was great, lobster is lobster, and prime rib is prime rib. I had surf and turf on the waiter's tip and he had no problem combining the plates and later asking us all if we would like seconds of lobster. Each night they feature a different city in Italy, Rome, Naples, Palermo, etc. and the foods associated with those regions. We even took home a menu as a souvenir. This is the authentic cuisine, be prepared for an Italian Experience wrapped into a Beach and Excursion Cruise. Perhaps you should not mix these two since either one on their own is exciting. Then again, its like getting two cruises in one. If you just want fast food, beer, and beach, this is not the cruise for you. They do serve burgers, fries, and beer $3.50-4.25, $5.00 pina coladas for daily special drinks, but this is not their specialty.
They always have cold cuts and cheese...such as provolone, always hard-parmesan, and different types of very good hard salami and other varieties...not Oscar Meyer. If you have ever made fresh pasta, cooked it alta dente, and created a mild tomato or cream sauce, you will enjoy this cruise. If you like tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, bruschetta, minestrone, veal, pork, eggplant, beef, duck, cornish game hen, risotto, beef carpaccio, and six course meals, you will like this cruise. We read some negative food reviews and maybe they just cleaned their act up a bit. I still had to workout just to avoid gaining too much weight. This is not about quantity; I was extremely choosy on what I would eat! Even with my microscopic portions, I gained weight and enjoyed the food.
SIX COURSE DINNERS (ALL SEPARATE and SEQUENTIAL: appet., soup, salad, pasta, main, dessert): They start out with 3 choices of appetizers, 3 choices of soup (1 chilled), 2 choices of salads (yes, they serve soup first then salad, plus, Caesar salad also available), 2 choices of pasta, six main courses to choose from, and finally about 5 desserts to choose from. If you're not impressed, have them send you another. They also always have a vegetarian menu in the front and always have another menu available throughout the cruise as an alternative.
Entertainment: I was impressed again, with some Broadway bits mixed with numbers about movies, like Austin Powers and the Matrix. The toga night is different too with the show that night outrageous. They do sing at dinner quite a bit more and turn a timid crowd into a party train. I was two tables away and couldn't wedge myself back to my table to grab my camera. Standing room only!
Homogenous Carnival (owns Costa). The thing that I was quite amazed at is how homogenous the cruise experience is. There is still more food than you can eat, more entertainment than you can attend, and more activities to celebrate your vacation. That said, I could still see myself getting mad if something was changed without our knowledge. For example, a post-cruise excursion that was not properly documented on their website of which airport it takes you to and the staff not knowing until two days before the cruise ends. The biggest problem with any adventure is uncertainty. The certainty and homogenous nature of cruising in general can be reassuring and comforting. Go to Carnival, check out their liberty, and you'll see how similar the Magica is! Excursions all depend on what you choose. Very satisfied.
Check-in was no line at 1 pm, 4 minutes max! More reps than boarding passengers.
By day 3 and without cell phone, I had completely washed away concerns of home. It certainly draws you into a relaxed environment. All you have to do is relax and allow yourself to be pampered...and don't feel guilty if you have to ask what the course is or that you prefer a different plate.
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Mary & Vincent Finelli Eastern Caribbean January 8, 2006
It was magical to return to Costa Cruises on board the Costa Magica. Even before boarding at Pier 21, we encountered our old friend 2nd Maitre D' Francesco Frasca, who warmly greeted us like long lost relatives. We were happy to see that the Commandant was the personable Captain Giuseppe Russo, with whom we sailed last year on the Costa Atlantica. Then we saw Hotel Manager Walter German, with whom we had also sailed twice on the Costa Mediterranea. How wonderful, we already felt at home. January 8, 2006 was a cold day in Ft. Lauderdale and the tourists were eager to board, and so were we!
EMBARKATION Boarding time is scheduled for 1:00pm. This day we arrived at 1:30pm and avoided long lines, since in that first half hour many of the passengers were already boarded. We went quickly through security and check-in. We then were assisted on board with the wheelchair --- all in twenty minutes. Costa reduces embarkation time by having passengers register their credit cards on board later. Next we headed to the Card Room,Deck 5 Leonardo, to check our dining arrangements. We had been placed in the Costa Smeralda Restaurant which is all the way aft. Hilton Marinos, Supervisor of Wait Staff, graciously transferred us to the Portofino Restaurant midship. Since our stateroom was all the way forward, he understood that with a wheelchair the distance created a problem. This was a big help in cutting the distance during the entire cruise!
SHIP The Costa Magica is the new flagship of Costa Cruises. She was launched November 2004 and has been in service just a bit over one year. She, like all new Costa ships, is a clone of Carnival ships. Costa and Princess have joined the Carnival group and have brought with them a distinct Italian influence. The venerable Fincantieri Shipyards of Italy has built many of these new ships and the Costa Magica bears a brass plaque as the 6087th Fincantieri ship launched.
The Magica, like other recent Costa ships (since 2000) bears the mark of Carnival designer Joseph Farcus. It has classical exterior lines. Yet, it is the interiors that abound in repetitive details based on a specific theme: in this case the figurative and literal magic of Italy. Although built with American influence, the Costa Magica still retains the power of magical Italian Art and scenery.
The Costa Magica is 892 ft. in length; beam is 115 ft.; height at the funnel is 216 ft; her gross tonnage is 105,000 and her maximum speed is 22 knots. There are 1,358 staterooms (her full capacity is 3,470 passengers), crew and staff number 1,023, which is an acceptable ratio of crew to passenger. The Magica is rich in art with 5,652 pieces, of which 360 are originals. Her listed 12 decks are actually thirteen, if one counts Deck 0, all of which are named after famous Italian painters.
Deck 0 Guercino is used for debarkation and also has the Emergency Medical Facility. We visited it since Vincent lost his cane. He was provided with one to use until we purchased another on St. Thomas, USVI. The staff was very helpful and efficient: there was a $20 deposit refunded upon return.
Deck 1 Giorgione is all staterooms.
Deck 2 Tintoretto is all staterooms.
Deck 3 Raffaello is all public areas. Forward is the main level of the Urbino Theater with seats for 1,300: its excellent design (amphitheater style) allows for a sense of intimacy with the performers. It is named for the artistic and cultural city of Urbino in the Italy. It features a cupola with a stunning Murano crystal chandelier. The style is Renaissance, the seating is rich brocade in warm ivory and brandy tones. Midship is the Italia Magica Atrium; continuing toward aft is the Portofino Restaurant, next is the galley, and finally all the way aft is the Costa Smeralda Restaurant with a set of majestic terra-cotta sculpture group "Between Memories and Dreams" by Bruno Lucchi, at the entrance.
Deck 4 Michelangelo forward holds the first balcony of the Urbino Theater. Toward midship is the Photo Area and the second floor of the Portofino Restaurant connected to Deck 3 by a staircase. Going toward aft on portside is the Chapel decorated with murals of "Via Crucis" (The Way of the Cross) by Artist Karl Demetz. Starboard here is the Internet Cafe ($0.50 per minute of use) and portside is the Disco Grado. All the way aft is the balcony of the Costa Smeralda Restaurant.
Deck 5 Leonardo forward is the third tier of the Urbino Theater, and toward midship are the Galleria Shops, L'Aquila Bar and the Salento Grand Bar with its marvelous collection of silver pieces (Pampaloni Argentieri). Next is the Casino Sicilia with the 65 classic Sicilian marionettes (Teatro dei Pupi) displayed in glass cases. These individual pieces have been made by the artist Emanuele Salamanca of Catania, Sicily, with the cooperation of several other artists, who developed the initial idea of Joseph Farcus. These simply wonderful two to three feet tall marionettes have been appropriately located in the Casino Sicilia, since the tradition of the "Teatro dei Pupi" (the Marionette Theatre) evolved mainly in Sicily; even though, this phenomenon of popular culture and tradition has been encountered at different times throughout Europe. The figures depicted here are the characters from the epic works of "Orlando Innamorato" by Boiardo and "Orlando Furioso" by Ariosto, which are based on the French Carolingian "Chansons de Geste" (the Song of Roland). They are magnificent in facial expressions, clothing and armor, with exquisite design and detail. All the way aft is the beautiful Capri Lounge inspired by the grottos of Capri (especially the Grotta Azzurra). The extensive use of marble flooring throughout the public decks makes for easy gliding with a wheelchair.
Deck 6 Caravaggio, Deck 7 Perugino and Deck 8 Veronese are all staterooms.
Deck 9 Giotto forward has staterooms, midship the Maratea Pool, Bellagio Buffet, and aft the Positano Pool with removable cover. Here, by the Maratea Pool are the beautiful bronze sculptures of a bathing lady, and a boy and a girl each seated on dolphins, all by the artist Giovanni Smeraldi. By the Positano Pool is the bronze statue of Poseidon by Bruno Lucchi.
Deck 10 Tiziano forward again is staterooms, then midship is the Palinuro Pool with a long water slide from the deck above. Aft is the balcony of the Bellagio cafe. This is a very nice area for dining.
Deck 11 Tiepolo has a jogging track and the upscale restaurant Club Vicenza, which is a must see and dine opportunity. Its decor is inspired by the famous architect Palladio. On the stairways there is a large bas-relief representing the facade of the Venetian church S. Giorgio Maggiore and on the walls, surrounding the ceiling, there are many and many models of the most famous Palladian villa "La Rotonda" (interesting, but a bit overdone, a la Farcus!). We very much enjoyed dining one evening in this elegant restaurant, especially listening to the beautiful piano music of Vincenzo Silvestris, whose marvelous repertoire included both classic and modern melodies.
This was a night of heavenly music and a feast fit for the gods. The very young Chef Luca Agnorelli dazzled us with the following: Carpaccio of veal with shavings of parmigiano cheese on a bed of wild greens and arugula, trofiette (hand made pasta shaped like cavatelli) in a pesto sauce with tomatoes, a tender and succulent Veal Chop, and for dessert a delicious Tiramisu. The Versace tableware, the impeccable woven cloth linens and the recipes from the famous Belloni & Belloni (B&B) Restaurant made this dinner a special event. The Belloni family from Modena has a long tradition in culinary arts with 5 Star restaurants world wide (even in Las Vegas). We were most aptly served by Rahul Upadhyay and MaryClaire Calimlim.
Deck 12 Mantegna has the tennis and basketball courts and the children's room Squok Club.
This ship is gorgeous in its details and pleasant to the eye. The forward staircases, at each deck, are graced with pairs of bronze sculptures by Giovanni Smeraldi which continue a magical theme and within the murals of floral art by Casagrande and Recalcati there are winged horses (pegasus), fairies and mermaids, so beautiful and ethereal. Much of this art unfortunately goes unnoticed by some of the passengers. There is an abundance of exquisite artwork on the Magica, another floating museum by Costa Crociere.
One of the most apparent faults of this ship design is the location of wheelchair accessible cabins, which makes it more arduous for passengers with limited mobility. The wheelchair accessible staterooms, 10 of them with ocean view and 2 with balcony, are located the farthest possible from the elevators, all the way forward. The only ones near the elevators are 8 inside wheelchair accessible staterooms. This is also true for the Costa Fortuna and all the Carnival Conquest class ships, as we have recently cruised on the Carnival Glory and experienced the same difficulty. On this cruise, since the wind is the strongest at the prow, Vincent could only use the balcony when the ship was in port. We have observed that Royal Caribbean International and Princess lines cleverly cluster wheelchair accessible cabins near the elevators. Moreover, we see on board increasing numbers of passengers with wheelchairs, thus we feel that cruise lines should be more accommodating to the needs of these passengers. Just because people are physically challenged, it does not follow that they don't like to have a window or balcony from which to view the sea. In fact, it seems that, due to their limited mobility, they would spend more time in their cabins and on the balconies enjoying the view and breathing fresh air.
FOOD & SERVICE We are happy to report that food and service were excellent under Hotel Director Walter German. We encountered many back-to-back cruisers, especially Canadians, who were on board for a whole month. We dined each evening in the Portofino Restaurant at table #338 with terrific waiters: Nelson Tiamzon and his assistant Roger. Maitre D' Bartolomeo Vitiello and his Assistant Maitre D' Marcantonio de Candia make sure that all passengers feel special. The two formal meals on board are made unique with blue ribbon tied menus, candles on the table and complimentary champagne served with dessert (to be accurate, not champagne, but Prosecco, an excellent sparkling Italian wine).
Every morning at 7:00am breakfast was delivered to our stateroom: Cappuccino, Hot chocolate, fresh fruit and juice, sweet rolls or full American breakfast. Or, if you prefer, all of this and more is available at the Bellagio Buffet on Deck 9 from 7:00am on until 11:00am and full breakfast served in the Portofino and Costa Smeralda dining rooms continuously from 7:30 until 9:30.
For lunch we usually went to the Costa Smeralda on Deck 3 and saw our friends Asst. Maitre D' Francesco Frasca and Chef Antonio DeLuca and these two made our lunches fun, and were pleasantly served by Waiter Viktor Bankov. We had wonderful meals. Asst. Maitre D' Raffaele Bailo provided music and enjoyment to the diners. These were a truly international group of passengers judging by their response to much of the music and entertainment in the dining rooms.
Each night in the Portofino, we had exquisite meals served with particular attention, starting with the freshly made bread sticks and crunchy crusted rolls. Appetizers included the following: Vitello tonnato, Terrine of gorgonzola cheese, bruschetta, fruit cocktail, shrimp cocktail etc. Soups were quite varied and included: Cream of asparagus, Oxtail, Chicken consomme with egg, etc. Salads were from fresh Belgian Endive, Arugula, Romaine, Iceberg, Watercress, Radicchio, etc.
In the Italian tradition there is a pasta course which included the following: Fusilli with lamb ragout, Linguine Pasta with sea food, Penne a la Norma with smoked Provolone and eggplant, etc. Entrees included: Grilled swordfish, Baked cod, Veal Ossobucco a la Romana, Filet Mignon, Roast Rack of Lamb, Lobster tails, etc. Finally, desserts were excellent and not overly sweet. There were Cannoli, Baba au rum, Italian style cheese cake, fresh fruits, international cheeses, freshly made ice cream and sorbets, pies and cakes. These are all delicious because our old friend Executive Chef Villardo Purificacion has everything running smoothly.
Chef De Luca did a cooking demonstration along with his daughter Emma (Rigatoni with capers, olives, and tomatoes... delicious). Asst. Pastry Chef Susanne Fritz supervised a demonstration of Vincent's favorite dessert "Pastiera Napolitana" (a Neapolitan Cheese cake traditionally made at Easter time). Susanne is great and her desserts are perfectly balanced, not too overly sweet, just right. At the same show Assistant Maitre D' Nello Scala assisted with the preparation of Scallopine a la Marsala and it was tender and delicious.
Finally, Bar service is great under our old friend Sanzio Riccardi, imagine overseeing 11 bars! He does it excellently. The Costa Magica has the two main restaurants, Costa Smeralda and Portofino, the buffet restaurant Bellagio, the upscale Club Vicenza restaurant, eleven bars, a three deck theater, Casino, Library, four pools, a spa/gym, jacuzzi, a jogging track, a chapel, a cyber cafe` and a disco and sundry other venues. Yet, we feel the service and food all over the ship are excellent and the facilities are spotless. The most recent CDC Sanitary Inspection (Dec. 12, 2005) yielded a near perfect score of 99/100.
CABIN Wheelchair Accessible Stateroom #6208 is all the way forward at the prow of the ship, too far from the elevators for those with mobility difficulties. Unfortunately, there are several sister ships of the Magica which have the same problem (Costa Fortuna and Carnival Conquest class ships, the Glory and Liberty). The decor is simple with maple wood, salmon colored ceiling moldings and draperies of woven turquoise and salmon matching fabrics. When entering, straight ahead is the large bath with safety rails and a huge 5'x5' shower and a sink with mirrors and shelving. In the corner there is a single armoire and to the right is a double armoire. There is a lighted vanity/desk with stool, a TV, refrigerator, a coffee table and an upholstered barrel chair. There is a a queen bed and finally a glass wall and door to the balcony. The tiny balcony holds only a set of two chairs and a small table all attached, there is no room for a chaise lounge or recliner chair. This is a warning to all who book these cabins: Do not open the balcony door when the ship is traveling fast or when it is windy. During this cruise we had three high seas days. Two days were at the beginning and one at the end of the cruise. This is something we have not encountered much on our 57 cruises. Our wonderful Cabin Steward was Roger Eulalio, who was a perfect attendant. Thanks!
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Max Bertolotto is smooth and his rendition of "Just A Gigolo" is great. The ship is well designed so that passenger traffic movement flows nicely from the Atrium to the Casino, to the bars, lounges, Grand ballroom and to the Disco. The cruise staff is friendly and conducts many activities including the following: Trivia games, Bingo, dance lessons, Italian lessons, singles parties, fitness classes, ping pong, tennis and volleyball tournaments, Horse Racing, etc. Since Costa is "Cruising Italian Style," most of the entertainment has a distinctly Italian flavor with tenors like Edmondo Rahme and "Roman Nights" and Toga parties. Actually, most nights we caught the early shows, but many other passengers told us the club entertainment was great.
DEBARKATION With the help of the pleasant and courteous Flavia Esposito from the passenger service desk, who has also given us information on the art work aboard, we arranged the wheelchair assistance for debarkation. At 8:00am a crew member came to our cabin and accompanied us through passport control, baggage pick up and custom, all the way to curb side where we met our son with the car. By 9:00am we were on our way home. Excellent.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1 Ft. Lauderdale boarding 1:00pm, sailing 4:30pm.
Day 2 At Sea
Day 3 San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 5:00pm Depart next day 1:30am
Day 4 St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 7:30am Depart 5:00pm
Day 5 Catalina Island, Dominican Rep. Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm La Romana Arrive 6:00pm Depart 11:00pm
Day 6 At Sea
Day 7 Nassau, Bahamas, canceled due to high seas and wind. It is better safe than sorry.
Day 8 Ft. Lauderdale Debarkation 8:00am
CONCLUSION This was our 11th cruise on Costa ships and as usual another great cruise, if we disregard the cabin location and the lack of opportunity to use the balcony. The most positive aspect of this cruise was meeting again so many people among the ship officers and staff whom we had befriended on previous cruises. It is like going back to your own home town, where people recognize you and greet you with a pleasant smile and who are genuinely happy to see you again. It surely made us feel good, as good as any homecoming! That is the main reason why Costa remains among one of our favorite cruise lines, not mentioning Italian cuisine that Costa chefs do so well and the festive atmosphere that is often found throughout the ship. These are the ingredients for a pleasurable cruise. On the other hand, Vincent usually enjoys relaxing on the balcony, which is why we rarely book only an ocean view cabin without balcony, and never an inside cabin. When economically possible, we book a suite, but cruising as frequently as we do, we cannot always afford a suite, thus we try to book early to select the appropriate cabin that fits our taste, needs and pocket.
Due to Vincent's limited mobility, we usually book a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony near the central elevators of the ship. However, this has not been possible on this ship nor on any other Costa or Carnival ships, since the Costa Atlantica and Mediterranea and their Carnival sisters, the Spirit and Conquest class ships also do not have wheelchair accessible cabins that meet our needs. The Spirit class ships, including the Atlantica and the Mediterranea, do not have any wheelchair accessible cabins with balcony, thus people with limited mobility may have to book either inside or obstructed view cabins. And as for the Magica and the Fortuna, as well as for the Carnival Conquest class ships, the location of the only two wheelchair accessible cabins with balcony is all the way in front of the ship, as we have described earlier in this review. Two of our other favorite cruise lines that do more for the disabled passengers in regard to the location and quality of the wheelchair accessible cabins are Princess and RCI.
Yes, we enjoyed this cruise and we'll cruise on Costa again and again, but on these ships we'll try to book a suite next time. We hope that Joseph Farcus will read our criticism and in designing the new Costa and Carnival ships will be seriously looking at the designs of recent Princess and RCI ships in order to make his ships more user friendly to those with disabilities.
Guess what? We are sailing this Sunday, Jan. 29th, on Carnival Liberty on which we had booked the exact same balcony cabin prior to sailing on the Glory and Magica. Recently, we tried paying for an upgrade to a suite, but the price was too high for this cruise, so we'll be in the same situation as before. Naturally, once on board, the first thing we'll do is to ask the Maitre D' to moved us to the more centrally located Golden Olympian Restaurant rather than dining in the Silver Olympian which is located all the way aft.
One reason to travel several times on the same cruise line is the repeater advantage. Now on Costa Lines we are Costa Club Pearl members which give passengers concrete advantages: Free Champagne in the stateroom, a lovely tropical bouquet of flowers, fresh fruit bowl daily, a free dinner in the upscale specialty restaurant (Club Vicenza) and finally a nice model of the ship. Not bad! Happy Sailing!