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.
We traveled the beautiful Mediterranean on the Costa Fortuna in July, 2005.
Embarkation was like other cruise lines. Hurry up and wait but manageable. Our suitcases were already in our cabin when we got on the ship! That was great!
Cabins are like other cruise lines. We had two balcony cabins (6330 and 6334). Good sized rooms with nice sized balcony. Two deck chairs and table. The only problem was it was located over the grand bar room which had loud events on every night until 2:30 a.m. Very annoying and disturbing. Glad I had my ear plugs. Room steward was good. Didn't see him much but rooms were well taken care of. Royal Caribbean line has room stewards that make animals out of towels and we even got chocolates on our beds! Much better service with Royal Caribbean. Those extra touches are nice!
If you are a smoker, than this cruise will suit you fine. Smoking apparently was restricted to certain areas on the ship, however we saw many people smoking in elevators, hallways, outside the dining rooms and bathrooms. By the end of the week, my throat was sore and myeyes were burning due to all the smoke. Sorry to offend any smokers, but it was difficult and unpleasant to endure.
Announcements were heard in four or five different languages which was annoying in the end. It took a long time to get through all the languages.
Food on the Fortuna was mediocre at best. I did not have a truly hot meal the whole week. Entrees arrived sporatically with half the table almost finished their meal and half the table having not received their meal yet. Waiters seemed to be on automatic pilot with no personality or desire to get to know our likes and dislikes over the week. Language barriers were a problem with a lot of the staff not speaking the basic english. The chef cannot cook beef properly. It was always overdone and the prawns were like mush. BUT...the desserts were wonderful!
We called room service TWICE one evening with a staff member answering and not understanding what we were saying. On the third call, we said, "COULD YOU PUT US THROUGH TO SOMEONE WHO CAN UNDERSTAND US???".
Entertainment was like other lines. Kind of hokey and high school'ish. Although the caribbean drummers were good!
Kids arcade is located in the casino yet, the ship doesn't allow kids in the casino. It made it hard to control that. Plus the smoking in the casino was dreadful and the kids were all exposed to that.
We were the minority on this ship. Being canadians we were amongst a small group with the majority of passengers being of european descent. I am european born and was shocked to witness the behavior of some of the children on this ship! In the dining room, many children ran around unsupervised, jumping and sliding off window sills, throwing napkins around and just being very annoying and disrespectful. I had heard that there were even children found sleeping on the booths in the buffet at 6:00 a.m. in the morning!! I have two children and I was proud that my kids didn't behave like a lot of these children did. My kids had a few problems with kids in the arcade begging for game tokens and butting in trying to play games they were on.
The buffet area was not clean. Waiters would come and clear a table of dishes and cutlery, but not wipe down and sanitize the table. I saw a child sneeze all over the table and it was not wiped down.
The buffet needs an omelette bar. The omelette chef is located in the main buffet area so if you want an omelette you have to wait in the long line up with all the others that are getting other items of breakfast food.
So, to summarize, this trip was all about the ports as we rode this glorified ferry called the Fortuna to each destination. The ports of Sicily, Majorca, Barcelona, Tunis, Marseille and Naples were stunning and amazing! Truly worth seeing and a trip of a lifetime, but it would have been way better on another cruise line.
We will be sticking to the American cruise lines, as we find the service on the Royal Caribbean to be more personalized, more professional and just better overall.
There were 17 of us going on this cruise as part of a family reunion. Our group included several parties of 2, a single, and 2 families of 4. Overall, I'd say our experience was very good (less so for the 2 families).
The cabins were much larger than I had expected based on my 1 previous cruise. The cabins set up for the families of 4 were much, much larger than those on our previous cruise. Unfortunately, the particular cabins our 2 families had were situated on deck 2 in the middle of the ship, directly under the ship's kitchen. This meant that the families were awoken between 3am and 4am every morning by loud banging and other noises. The noises rarely subsided before 7am. Complaining to ship's services didn't help. By day 3 they were able to sleep through all but the worst of the noise, due to extreme fatigue. There are other 4-person cabins available. Avoid deck 2, center of the ship.
We all enjoyed the dinners in Smerelda. Our American bellies couldn't have handled waiting until 8:45 for dinner. We had the 7:15 seating. The waiters for ourtwo tables seemed a bit overworked with since they also had 3 other tables to serve. We really liked that we could eat at those exact same tables with the exact same waiters at breakfast and lunch as well.
The picky eaters had some problems finding food they liked. The 2nd day during lunch we asked if fettuchini alfredo (aka fancy macoroni and cheese) could be offered to them. The pickiest eaters ended up having that every lunch and dinner for the rest of the cruise, even though it was never offered on the menu. Just because they don't offer it, doesn't mean they won't make it for you.
I wouldn't suggest ordering anything from the "standard" menu. Order from the "Chef's Recommendations" menu. As our waiter said: "if you don't like it, I'll take it back and get you something else!" There were a few unusual items, but all were good. I did miss chicken by the end of the cruise. The meals were very beef/fish oriented, the fish generally being the better choice. The cream soups were wonderful, but skip the cucumber one.
Desserts were OK. Few chocolate offerings, but the chocolate gelato was heavenly. If offered, always order the fresh fruit (in addition to whatever "naughty" dessert you want). All of the fruit was 'the best fruit I've ever had', excluding the canned pineapple rings at breakfast. Hint: fresh pineapple could be found in the fruit cocktail. Beware of seeds in the grapes!
Entertainment: The "local acts" were good, but the shows put on by the ship's crew were laughable (although several adult members of my family thought all were quite good). The one standout was the show put on the night we left Sicily. Where were these people the rest of the time?! They were good!!
We only took 1 guided tour: in Tunis. I would recommend that. It was rushed, but I think we wouldn't have escaped the souk to see anything else, if we had gone on our own.
The Savona, Barcelona, Malta, and Palermo stops were all about 2 hours too short. We could have used another 4 hours in Palma. Malta was my favorite, with Barcelona and Savona tied for 2nd. In all 3, you could easily walk off the ship and wander the city on your own (you needed a city bus to safely leave the pier in Barcelona).
Be prepared to have people cut in front of you in line, getting on and off the ship. With 17 of us, we could fan out and block the sides of the line from cutters. When there were only a few of us, we learned to use elbows to good measure.
We had 2 days in Rome before our cruise, but spent most of that time recovering from jet lag. So we were glad we still had 3 days in Rome after the cruise.
We took this cruise primarily for the benefit of enjoying tour stops in some exotic places. We did expect the traditional "great food", "fun entertainment" and social experience that we so often hear people talk about. The FOOD: two days prior to departure I learned about CruiseMates and thus read the one and only review of the Costa Magica and it was very negative regarding food. This cruise was six months later and I believe they have improved their act . but only a little. Here are my tips and avoids. The chilled soups are amazing, in fact, the appetizers and soups are excellent. The two GALA dinners are very satisfying in total. The ice creams (gelatos) receive raves, but . the entrees are ordinary and the steaks poor (except beef filet at galas). Buy the internet offered wine packages - a wonderful bargain of excellent wines for about $120 USD (6 wines). Three of us bought two packages and were delighted. Save money and enjoy extra drinks by ordering their "drink special of the day" for about $5.50 USD. The wait staff was above average and, given late tour returns,the first seating is preferred (7:15) over the late. There were no fancy midnight buffet dinners and we found breakfast and lunch were best in your assigned dining room instead of going to the buffet. We preferred Smeralda dining room over Portofino and request a 10-top at the very rear by the massive windows.
The shows were fair to poor but the Urbino Theater was wonderful. The teens seemed to have a well orchestrated evening but kids 12 years old were returning to cabins at 2 am. There is plenty of deck space and chairs for sunning. I must admit, an outside balcony is almost a must and a center of the ship location a great benefit - even though more money. The ship is new so the fixtures gleam. Expect few amenities however - like video replay - but every room has a bar/refrigerator and that is the best amenity I can imagine. I brought mini bottles of liquors and Baileys along plus crackers and cheese spreads for cocktail time.
The stops briefly: Savonna tours are great. Portofino was disappointing but we loved Santa Margarita (where we took a boat from to Portofino). Barcelona city, caves and such are great, preferred over Sitges. Myorca was wonderful. Tunisia was . well I would suggest a taxi orchestrated tour vs. having the Souks aggressively sell 50 people at a time (not a pleasant experience). Malta was a highlight for everyone - great exposure to a unique culture. Palermo caves and such were a treat. We went to Monreale and the cathederal and trip were fascinating. The only thing I might buy in advance would be Barcelona and Malta.
I suggest adding two days to end of trip for Rome and the Vatican. Memorable.
The ship was excellent and the crew on cabin duties,table duties etc. were good. There was only 6 Brits on board the rest were made up of Italian, Spanish, French, German etc.The noise was terrific as they all had large families that took over the 3 pools the jacuzzis, they were in the casino under the legal age. They ran up and down the corridor yelling till 4a.m in the a.m.with their parents shouting after them!
In the complaint we have put in to the travel company we described it as a Blackpool cruise for families. We have been on numerous cruises but this is the first where passengers embarked and disembarked at every stop.
7 Day/Night Eastern Caribbean
The vacation was great, the cruise was fine. The fact that we departed from La Romana, Dominican Republic, allowed us to stay for a second all-inclusive week there. This was the reason we took Costa in the first place. Cruises departing in the Caribbean are difficult to find.
For our first cruise, we expected a lot. Costa came up a bit short but did manage to turn us on to cruising. The ship was nice but somewhat plain in appearance. We expected what we had seen in all of the cruise ship magazines but it was not like this at all. The modern decor was nice but simple.
The food was very good; however, it got a a bit repetative on the buffet by mid week. These Italians certainly knew how to make great pasta and seafood dishes. All meals were truly enjoyed. The sevice was good with the exception of our seating request not being followed. Instead of the requested table for four, we received a table for 12 without any English speaking guests at it. This made it difficult (rather impossible) to have dinner conversation. Within acouple of days, we were reseated as requested. Second seating was very late. We expected 8:00 pm and it was 9:15 pm. This meant we usually had food in front of us by 10:00 pm or later and were not finished until 11:00 pm or later. Lesson learned...Try to get flexible dining option on the next cruise. After all who wants to go to a midnight buffet (and it was beautiful) after you just finished dinner?
The shows were good although we didn't attend many due to the late dinners. Bingo was fun, but at 20 euros for one card it seemed a little silly. I think they could come up with more than one game. The service on the ship was excellent and our room steward looked after everything we needed. He even dropped off a bottle of champagne when he knew one of our party was celebrating a birthday that day. The casino was nice and not very busy. (We did well there and covered our week long bar bill entirely.)
All in all, it was a great vacation and we look forward to our next cruise. We're booked on the Coral Princess heading for the Panama Canal in April 2007
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Mario sebastiani Eastern Caribbean March 5, 2005
Arrival. We arrived at about 12 noon and were a little suprised to see a line up about 1000 feet long, slightly longer than the ship itself. Later found out it was because The Magica was at full sailing, 2900 passengers. We decided to make the best of it and took our place in line. We were on the ship with our luggage in front of our cabin door in about an hour. Talk about magic!
The Ship. As soon as we boarded I was impressed with the color selection as well as the general layout of the ship. The first colour that hits the eye is gold. Let me tell you it make for some good eye candy. The main floor on the ship is deck 5. The entire deck is a just one big promenade running from front to back with the Atrium in the middle reaching all the way to the top allowing the sun to shine in. The only confusion about the deck plans was that in order to get to the Costa Smereldadinning room one had to go all the way to the back of deck 5 and then go down to deck 3 in order to enter the dinning room. Why not have an entrance on deck 5 is beyond me!
The Buffet and Dining Room. Like so many other passengers as soon as we arrived we headed for the buffet and were pleasantly suprised. The 2 pool grills had the always available hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, salades and grilled veggies. The inside buffet had salades, steamed veggies, seafood salades, lasagna, filet of sole, beef stew,pizzas, breads,icecreams, salmon,chicken roastand countless other selections. Everything that was supposed to be hot was hot and everything that was supposed to be cold was cold. Dinning room fare we tried......filet mignion 10/10...beef wellington 9/10.....roast beef 10/10 it was so tender the butter knife was enough to cut right thru.....lobster tail 10/10 it was fresh cooked just right not rubbery at all.......seafood rice first time was 4/10 but second time was 8/10.....gniocchi 8/10....double duck consume......9/10 I liked it so much i had 2.
Entertainment. 2nd cruise with Max "CIAO" the cruise director and his wife Manuela. 2 great show with C'EST MAGIQUE being awesome. Manuela really kept evryone on their feet with the countless contests, dance lessons and never ending things to do.
Room. Nice and roomy comfortable and well thought out. Typical Carnival Legend, Valor, Liberty, The Med and Atlantica. ONly drawback was that the shower was very small.
In general very nice cruise, not to many chair hogs, not to many kids in the whirlpools. The thing that suprised me was that although this was a full ship I did not see to many line ups in the buffets or crowded pool areas. Toga night about 40% of the passengers were dressed in togas with many trying to have a wardrobe malfunction a la Janet Jackson. Saw many sexy body parts. This year the biggest difference was that the age difference was really big. Many young families with young children and many people with walkers wheelchairs and canes.The only thing that I wish they would change is that they should alot more space for the pools. Although the ship had 3 pools there really wasn't any one big pool. Can't wait till next year for another cruise.
Of all the Costa Cruises we took so far, in order of preference 1.Costa Atlantic 2.Costa Victoria 3.Costa Magica 4. Costa Med
A cruise is what you make of it and just go with the flow. TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!
Cruising Italian Style is a unique and interesting one.
This is my third time on Costa so I feel real confident sailing with them.
Embarkation was organized for the most part; the set up is similar to an airport except everyone is getting on the same ship. Once I arrived on the ship the interior decoration immediately stood out, there is Italian art work and furniture everywhere, beautiful to the eye. The crew are very nice people that are always eager to help you. I stayed in a category 10 which is an ocean view with a balcony; it was very nice and spacious. The dining was exceptionally good; I enjoyed the different types of foods they had to offer.
I know when you think Italian Cruise Line you think of Italian food, but they did have other choices that cater to your American taste. I don't gamble too much but if I was a high roller the casino would be more than adequate for me, they had almost every game you could imagine. The ports of calls were your usual Eastern Caribbean ports. However, I did make the very best ofit by taking shore excursions and having a good time with my wife (we were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary). To sum it up, our trip with Costa was exciting as always and I cannot wait until our next cruise this summer when we go to the Greek Islands on the Costa Victoria. I would recommend this cruise line any day; they provide you with a European style of cruising which is a wonderful way to get away from your typical American lifestyle.
This was my 14th cruise. It was the most disapointing cruise yet. In my opinion a cruise is the way to go on vacation. We take at least one cruise a year. This year we decided to try Costa Cruise Line. The travel agent said it was normally a European line for the majority of the year, In my opinion it could have stayed in Europe. We boarded and went to our cabin which was very nice. A large window and pleasent motif a nice size bathroom it looked like we were in for a wonderful week. When I used the bathroom the toilet would not flush. When we spoke to the front desk a person there told us "that happens but all would be fine after we were away from the dock". I questioned this and was told not to worry that it was normal. I have never had this happen before but took their word for it. After dinner when we returned to our cabin to check and see if we had received our luggage the bathroom was still not working. I mentioned this to a passingcabin steward and he told me to call in . I called and a very unconcerned person told me that they would get to it in a few hours. Now I was getting upset. I did not want to spend the evening in the cabin waiting for it to be fixed. It was finally fixed.
The next night was our first formal night. This is normally a dinner that is wonderful and sort of sets the standard for the week. Well I should have known when the escargot was served cold that we were in for trouble. I sent it back and then the second one was served not much warmer I gave up on that. The pasta was also not hot and the meat was over cooked. I ordered medium rare and got a well done piece of shoe leather. Desert was wonderful.
Our table of 7 asked if we could have cheese on the table when we arrived for dinner each night. Well it was never there despite our repeated requests. I gave up on the pasta after the 3rd night. I also requested iced tea be on the table each night it was never there when we arrived for dinner. On my past cruises the waiter and busboy made a point to learn our name, This also never happened on this cruise. Maybe the fact that they add the tip on the bill is the reason that the service was so bad, Sort of a why bother attitude.
The onboard entertainment was a suprise. The cruise director was a joke. Normally the after dinner shows are on a par with vegas shows. there was only one show that not perocial. I have seen more professional work done at the high school level.
The service in the lounges was poor. If you were not sitting at the bar you should go to the bar and get your own drink because the wait for a waiter was much to long.
We took a tour on each island and we were suprised to see that european passangers were given preferential treatment. Seperate locations to meet Special buses They were boarded first and from a seperate gang plank.
The ship itself is beautiful. The lounges are gorgeous. Too bad the service is not comparable. Needless to say I will never cruise Costa again.
We just returned from our first with Costa. My husband and I absolutely love to cruise and were looking forward to trying a new cruise line.
We booked the largest cabin, the Grand Suite for our 1 week Western Caribbean adventure. We prefer to book better cabins because of the service and amenities that it usually entails.
The embarkation was simple, but when we found out that we had to wait in another line onboard to register our credit card, we knew why the embarkation lines were shorter than other cruise lines.
Our cabin was on the 8 1/2 deck, on the stern and it was fabulous. The bedroom was totally separate from the rest of the cabin. There was a large walk-in closet, dressing area, bathroom with jacuzzi tub, living room, TV in both bedroom and living area and the balcony was a large wraparound and we loved it. The bedding, toiletries, etc. were only mediocre compared to suites on other lines. We were very happy with our butler, Chris, who was very attentive. He helped to make our cruise more pleasurable.
The dining room was less-than satisfactory. Our 2nd nightwe waited an hour and 10 minutes and had only been served our appetizer. All the guests who were seated around us were already beginning dessert and we arrived before all of them. We complained and were assigned a new wait staff that were much better. The food is terrific. Lots of variety; not all Italian.
The room service was efficient and accurate.
The entertainment was so-so, but the classical music in Caffe Florian was divine. The cafe is an exact replica of the one in Venice. We spent many evenings enjoying cappuccinos (only $3 each) in Florian.
The ship is beautiful (Vegas-style) and was clean. It was the most stable cruise ship we had sailed on. The service was great.
All the announcements were in several different languages..after awhile it got annoying; especially during the lifeboat drill when we had to wait through the instructions in each language. There were many non-Americans onboard, but we enjoyed the mixed cultures. The toga night was a blast. We loved walking around and seeing that about 85% of the guests participated.
The ports of call were great, but in Key West & Jamaica, Costa had bad docks. The other cruises in port that day had the better docking locations.
For the price of this cruise, it was a terrific value. I would probably sail with Costa again, but only in a suite. Our butler really made the cruise for us; without him, we would have been disappointed. Don't expect a lot of special privileges as a Suite guest either.
IN A NUTSHELL
On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate:
Cabin and service: 5 Food and service: 1 Itinerary: 4 Ship activities: 2 Entertainment: 3
Overall experience: 3
* The itinerary was wonderful; Egypt was the highlight, and there were many more nice surprises such as Rhodes. * We met some wonderful people on the cruise, and we enjoyed the international crowd. * Because the ship is so new, it's very clean, and it is well kept. * There is a well-defined smoking side on the ship, and other than in the casino, you aren't really bothered by smoke. There are no ashtrays near elevators, which is a good deterrent. * Tea service in the Bellagio buffet restaurant has a good selection of high-quality, whole-leaf teas that they put in a sachet. You also get real porcelain cups, a nice contrast from the plastic mug you usually get at the buffet. As for the food, it was not great, and the desserts were the same every day.
* No more chocolate on your pillows. It's not essential, but a nice touch. * No more bathrobes. Had I known,I would have brought one. * No more toiletries.
* The food: It's the worst food we've ever had on a cruise. I'm sure this will change soon, since everyone was complaining. * There's no real dining option other than the restaurant. They say the buffet is open, but for all 12 nights, there was only a plate of iceberg lettuce, one with radicchio, olives, cold cooked cauliflower and carrots, one type of cold cuts, and one variety of cheese. They also have pizza available until 1 a.m. * Embarkation in ports was a nightmare. I took up to an hour to get back on the ship when we returned from excursions -- especially in Egypt, when seven buses all returned at once. People were upset, yelling and pushing.
In 2004, Costa opened its new cruise ship terminal in Savona. It's a beautiful building, well-designed to wait for embarkation. It has a great outdoor patio where you can sip a beer or cocktail and watch the harbor activity while waiting for your number to be called. Since most passengers come with Costa transfers from the Nice or Genoa airports, a Costa rep comes onboard the buses and gives everyone a number. The luggage is automatically transferred from the bus to the terminal. Then we proceeded to the terminal, where there are many comfortable seats. The wait to board was a bit long – more than an hour and a half -- but at least it was comfortable. We cleared security fairly rapidly and boarded. Everyone was asked to go to the theater first to hand in their passports. They keep them for Egyptian immigration processing.
Then we went to our stateroom where we found our Costa Cards on the desk (no need to wait in line to get your card). Also, the luggage was already in the cabin when we got there, which is always a great relief!
The buffet was only open until 4 p.m., which was a bit tight. We had not eaten lunch so we ran upstairs, and just managed to put a few things on our plates before they closed off all the lines.
Overall, the process was very smooth even if it was a bit lengthy.
We had reserved cabin 7401, a category 8 balcony cabin. It was very spacious. It had a three-door wardrobe with two separate hanging closets, and one with shelves with a full length mirror. The vanity has three drawers and a small cabinet unit. There is a small refrigerator and a safe that uses a magnetic card for locking (any card with a magnetic strip works).
The bed was comfortable. There is also a very wide couch that can probably transform into a bed - it's not a pull-out couch, but the width of the couch is the length of a bed. There is also a small, adjustable table that can be used as a dining table or coffee table. The bathroom is large enough, with the usual amenities, but no toiletries. There is one bar of soap, and for the 12 days we were there, we never got another one! There was no shampoo or lotion. You can get lotion and shower caps on request only. Also, there are no bathrobes available.
Our cabin steward was extremely discreet and polite but very efficient. He did not speak much Italian or French (which is what 80 percent of the people on the ship spoke) but we managed to communicate in English. The room was promptly done as soon as we left in the morning. The cabin service was great.
DINING ROOM SERVICE/FOOD
We had a table for six on the upper section of the Portofino restaurant, situated at midship. The ship has two dining rooms and the galley is in between. Because of that, you cannot go to the front of the ship on Deck 3 and 4. Since our room was aft, we always had to go down to Deck 5, then walk forward, and down again to Deck 3 or 4 from there. Not a big issue, but it is confusing at first.
For the first time, we dined at the first sitting which was at 6:30 p.m. This was a bit early since we were gone on excursions most days, and didn't return until 5 or 5:30. That didn't leave us enough time to unwind and get ready for dinner. We were always rushed to shower and get down to the dining room. The second sitting was at 8:45 or 9 p.m., depending on the night. Knowing what I know now, I would choose the second sitting just to have more time after returning from excursions.
The food was definitely sub-standard. The menu offered a variety of dishes, but the preparation was not good. Meats were never cooked properly; they were tough and flavorless. The fish was often fishy-tasting. We never once had a baked potato; we mostly had boiled potatoes, and once we had mashed potatoes that were so gluey they had to be cut with a knife. The vegetables were always frozen. We had shrimp once (at the first gala dinner as a shrimp cocktail), and on the last gala menu there was a langouste thermidor, which was not good at all, very tough. Filet mignon was never to be seen.
On the first night, we asked for dressing for our salad. We were offered four kinds, and asked for blue cheese. The dressing we receive tasted really odd. Every other night, the only dressing available was Thousand Island. This was odd. I must add that the pasta dishes were always tasty, and our server told me that many people ordered two pasta plates as dinner instead of the meat dishes. So I did that a couple times and was happy with my decision.
Our server Paolo was Colombian and his assistant George was from the Philippines. They were both very friendly. We communicated with them in English, which was a problem for many passengers as most spoke either Italian or French. The Maitre D', Dario, was friendly and helpful. On many nights the dining room was extremely hot, and as soon as I mentioned it to him he got on the phone with the engineers and we immediately felt the AC turned on. One night we requested a table at the second sitting and he obliged us gracefully. The service was slightly chaotic on the first two or three nights, and we had to wait more than 45 minutes between our appetizer and soup, but after the first gala dinner, the service became more organized.
We had lunch in the dining room once, and the nice thing is that you can sit wherever you want. They don't 'fill' tables. The menu was limited, but the service was efficient.
Breakfast in the dining room only had a cold offering – a continental breakfast with breads, cold cereals and juice. If you're longing for eggs Benedict, fill up before you leave.
Breakfast in the buffet was the same every morning. We had a variety of freshly baked goods, croissants, chocolatine, brioche, Danishes etc. that were very good. Fresh fruits, berries and cream, muesli, cold cereals and yogurt completed the cold buffet. The hot buffet had hard-boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, beans, waffles and French toast. There was also a selection of marinated fish, cold cuts and cheese. This was fine even if the selection became boring after a while.
Lunch was served at two central sections that had a more conventional offer, and on two side stations that had a theme menu everyday. The food was average at best. It was always very crowded; the best bet was to find a seat on the mezzanine level, which was usually a bit quieter. The grills by the pools offered hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and lamb chops.
After 2:30, the only food available was the salad bar, which consisted of iceberg lettuce, radicchio, quartered tomatoes, olives, a mix of cold cooked cauliflower and carrots, one cold cut, one cheese and buns. There is also pizza available until late in the evening. If you didn't feel like going to the dining room, you really had no options.
Tea was the highlight of our food (or beverage) experience. They had a nice selection of whole-leaf teas of good quality that they put into a sachet. The cherry tea and the blackcurrant were particularly good. You also get real porcelain cups. The sandwiches were always dried, and the few pastries served were the same everyday. Soft-serve ice cream was available almost all the time, depending on the days; sometimes the machine was on, sometimes it was off.
Naples: We didn't take a ship's excursion as we had been to Naples three times already. We wanted to go to the Museum of Archaeology, but since we were there on a Tuesday, it was closed. So we opted to go on our own. We walked from the ship to the Castel Nuovo, just across the street - a five minute walk from the cruise ship terminal. Since it was raining, we took a city tour bus. Then we went to visit the Castel Nuovo. There were a few exhibits of 16-19th century paintings.
Alexandria: This was to be the highlight of the trip and it was. We chose the Pyramid, Saqqara and Memphis tour and really enjoyed it. All the other tours included a meal in a restaurant, but we had a lunch bag that we picked up as we left the ship. It was not a gastronomical feast, but it allowed us to spend more time at the various sites.
The excursion started with a three-hour bus ride to Cairo. Our guide talked about the ancient Egyptian civilizations, the most important pharaohs, etc. Because of our limited time in the city, and very little shopping opportunities, she offered to take orders for cartouche jewelry and t-shirts. Upon our arrival in Cairo, she called in the orders, and we were able to pick them up at the end of the day.
Our first stop was the Pyramids. We first went to the high plateau where we had a view of all three pyramids. We had about 15 minutes to take a few pictures. At this stop, several merchants were selling statuettes, pyramids, brass plates, post cards etc. This is one of the better shopping opportunities - so if you want some souvenirs, get them there. We bought three small pyramids in engraved brass for 1 Euro. Be wary of camel drivers. They will let you hop on their camel for free, but will charge you whatever they want to let you off. This happened to one of our friends. They also charge you just to take a picture, so pretend you shoot something else! And watch out for camel pooh.
Then we drove to a parking lot between the Kheops and Kephren pyramids, where we had about 30 minutes to walk around. Those who wanted could go inside the Kephren pyramid. Those who went said it was not worth it, as you walked in a very small and dark tunnel that is about 5 feet tall, and ended in a room that was completely bare. All objects and wall paintings were removed. You also have the opportunity to go visit the royal barque, but again time is very limited, if you choose to do this, you have to run. We chose to walk up to the pyramid and just sink in its magnitude.
Our next stop was at the Sphinx. We had some time to wander on our own, and then we were able to eat our lunch at the restaurant terrace. We were given a coupon for a drink. The view was spectacular. We had 90 minutes to walk around and take in the sights. This was great.
Then, it was on to Saqqara. As we got there the wind started to blow and we witnessed a sand storm! We went into a mastaba, which was the tomb of Mererouka. There we saw several rooms with unbelievable wall drawings and hieroglyphs. Once we got out, the storm had receded and we went on to the pyramid of Djoser, the step pyramid. We had about 30 minutes to walk around.
Next stop was in the ancient site of Memphis. The ancient city is no longer there. Palm trees cover most of what was once the capital of Egypt. But there is a small outdoor museum with the famous alabaster sphinx, a few sarcophagi, and the colossal statue of Ramses II. Even if there isn't much to see there, it was a nice addition to the trip.
Last stop was the Papyrus Institute. This is the last stop of all tours. They show you how papyrus is made in a five-minute demonstration. Then you have time to shop for papyrus, and you can walk up to the jewelry store, where you can pick up your cartouche and shop for other jewelry. The papyrus items are relatively inexpensive. We didn't think we could or should barter in a shop like this, but I guess you could.
Limassol (Cyprus): We did not book a ship excursion here, and I wished we had. We were in Limassol on a Saturday, and most stores were closed. Also, we were in town only for a few hours. We took the ship's shuttle into town and walked around. We went to the Castle which dates to the 12th c. and served as a prison until 1950. It has a good exhibition of household potteries and ceramics from the 4th-18th century, as well as some weapons and many interesting engraved tombs covers. There is also a rooftop terrace with a great view of the city, and of the ship in port! Other than the castle, there isn't much to see in Limassol.
Rhodes: The Rhodes City Tour was a half-day tour that started with a short drive up to the ancient acropolis. There isn't much left of the temple that once stood there except for three columns. Then we went to the ancient stadium, still in very good shape. After that stop the bus took us to one of the gates to the medieval city, and we did the rest of the tour by foot. We walked to the Grand Master Palace, which we visited with the guide. Even if this former house of the Head of the Knights was completely redone in the last century, it contained well preserved mosaics from the island of Kos, and the restoration work was interesting to see. We walked down the streets of Knights, and the tour ended in the old city, near the port. Then we had an hour to walk around, shop etc. At 12:30, we could go back to the ship with the bus, or stay in town and walk to the ship - a 15 minute walk at the most. We truly enjoyed this day in Rhodes. Most shops were opened in the walled city, as well as bars and restaurant.
Those who chose the full-day excursion went to Lindos in the morning, ate in a hotel (buffet style) and then did the Rhodes tour in the afternoon. Some of our friends did that tour and enjoyed it. However, some people found the 300 steps to the top of the Lindos acropolis a bit strenuous. One guy hired a cab to get up there. From what I understand, if you have lots of energy, do the full day tour, and if you have to choose one of the half-day tours, stay in Rhodes; it would be a shame to not at least walk through the old city.
Marmaris (Turkey): There were only two choices of excursion here and both see the same sights. The difference is that the full day tour includes lunch at a local fish restaurant. We opted for the 'express tour' in order to have some time in Marmaris for shopping. The excursion was very pleasant. We had an amazing guide, Bekir, from Istanbul. The drive to Dalyan was just over an hour. There, we embarked on tarp-covered boats to go along the river and view the temple-tombs of ancient kings carved into the rocky cliffs. Then we arrived at the archaeological site of Caunos with the Roman Theatre, the Roman Bath and the streets of this city, founded in the 5th Century B.C. After the visit, the boat takes you back to the village and to the bus. We were dropped off at the pier at around 2:15 p.m. We could either take the ship shuttle into town, or cabs were waiting there also. We went into town. I was expecting a typical 'Turkish' market, but found an outdoor mall. In fact it's a labyrinth of streets covered with a glass roof, with all kinds of shops selling jewelry, ceramics, leather goods, and clothing. Some are nice, some are shadier. I've never seen so many fake Louis Vuittons and Guccis in my life!! But contrary to what we often see, most of these were really good copies, made of good leather with good finish. You can get purses and shoes at very good prices. They will cut the prices by 75 percent from their original asking price.
Athens: By the time we got to Athens, we were tired, and everyone had a cold... We had to be back on the ship by 4:30, which is early. So we took a half-day tour to the Acropolis and the Archaeological Museum. After touring the main monuments and buildings of the city, we stopped at the Museum. Our guide brought us to the most significant pieces of the museum, giving us detailed information on Greek history, architecture and art. We saw the gold mask of Agamemnon, the bronze Poseidon and Young Jockey of Artemision, and the statue of Athena Nike, just to name a few. After the museum, we drove past the parliament house and saw the guards dressed in their traditional costumes. Then we stopped at the original Olympic stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. Finally we arrived at the Acropolis. We slowly went up to the top with our guide.
We stopped by the theatre. The temple of Athena Nike was gone! I couldn't believe it. When we got to the entrance, there was a sign saying that the temple had become unstable, and it was dismantled piece by piece. 'The aim of the current restoration project, in process since 2000, is to correct the inadequacies of all the previous restoration projects and to reinstate the building's original geometry,' a sign said. The Propylaia is also under restoration. The wind was blowing so cold at the top, it was incredible! But the magnificence of the Parthenon made it very endurable. We had about 30 minutes to explore the Acropolis, Parthenon, Erechtheum and its caryatides. We all met back on the bus and went straight to Piraeus. It was a good tour, but they won't let you off the bus in town. You have to go back to Piraeus, then take your own transport back into town. We were too exhausted, and we got back to the pier at 2 p.m., which didn't give us enough time to go back into the city. The only full day tour is the Acropolis and Cap Sounion.
Katakolon: I didn't have too much expectation for the Olympia and Museum tour, but I was positively surprised. It was a cold but sunny day. We first drove to the site of Olympia - about a 30-40 minute drive. Our guide Katia was extremely interesting. We walked the site with her in about one hour. We saw the temple of Hera, the place where they light the Olympic flame, the stadium, the temple of Zeus, the palestra and gymnasium. We had about 30 minutes free time; then we walked to the museum nearby. We had a guided tour of the museum. We saw the Hermes of Praxiteles and the Nike of Paionios. Then, we returned to the ship, just in time for sail-away at 1:30. The small town of Katakolon is not too far, maybe a 15-20 minute walk from the pier. Some excursions stopped there to allow people to shop. One other excursion combined the site of Olympia and a stop in a restaurant in Katakolon where they were served tapas, ouzo and a local band entertained them. Apparently this was lots of fun.
Our last day was at sea, and allowed us to pack our bags without too much stress.
DEBARKATION was very smooth. Our meeting point was at 9:15 in the theatre. Then we quickly proceeded outside the new terminal, and were able to quickly recover our luggage. Buses were waiting, and were clearly identified for the various transfers available. By 10 a.m., our bus was en route to Nice, where we had a one-night post-cruise stay before returning to Montreal!