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!
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Diana Western Caribbean January 2, 2006
I am a 20-year-old college student who went with my parents and 8-year-old brother. We are first time cruisers from the Midwest. I enjoyed the experience and would recommend others to try the Magica. Food-Before boarding, I was prepared to starve for the week since I had read many reviews criticizing costa's food. On the contrary, I gained weight and laughed with joy the first time I went through the Bellagio buffet. I never had a problem with lines, always got my food instantly.I suppose those used to luxury travelling would complain about the dinning and service. My filet mignon wasn't anything special and dinner did seem slow at times.
For kids- My brother had a good time. Just like on any cruise, there are pools, slides, and kid's clubs to preoccupy the time.
Daytime activities- During the day most people just lounged around by the pool because the activities weren't worthwhile. I attended free yoga classes, a cooking demo, and "mini-facial" (product endorsement). Though Costa prides itself in offering Italian, the language class was nothing more than a page out of the dictionary.While the ship is at sea they have dance regimes by the pool deck for sunbathers sick of sitting on their butts all day. The gym is equipped with the latest gizmos. Classes are expensive and not worth your $11 for 20 minutes of spinning. What's nice and free is the Sauna and Turkish bath. Nightlight- Unless you're below the age of 16 or cruising without young children, the night was very limited to college-aged people. Since my friend is 18 and there was nothing better to do, we hung out at the Teen Zone (Discoteca 11pm-?) a few times. The icebreakers were fun and short, which allowed time for the teens to dance and chill.
I consider myself a structured party girl (enjoying costume parties, prom) and the themed nights targeted at everyone weren't all that impressive. Alot of people were enthusiastic about wearing togas for Roman night though. They had several competitions such as electing a Mr.Pizza, Newlyweds Game, or James Dean contest. Entertainment-There wasn't any stand-up comedy or drama because there were too many universal languages on that ship.
I went to all the shows and I can honestly say that highschool productions outshine what Magica offered. However, I have to give them credit for trying, it isn't easy appealing to such a diverse group. There's several lounges/piano bars where musicians perform individually, since I'm not old enough to drink I didn't stick around too long. What I consider the highlight of the trip was to see the waiters dancing at dinner time. For $400 you can may not be entertained 24/7 but the dancing waiters was worth every penny. Fellow cruisers- A large portion of the passengers are French, Spanish, and predominantly Italian-speaking, which means you'll be coming face-to-face with G-strings and Speedos. Unlike the other reviewers who interpret cultural differences as rudeness, remember that this is the #1 EUROPEAN cruiseline. Have some common sense and respect while onboard.
Service- The cruise director and his staff is Italian, they mingle more with the Italians. As for the waiters and stewards, they are English-speaking and very friendly to everyone. Be nice to them because they look after you the whole week and work long hours. I've stayed at 4 star hotels around the world bfore and never has been room been constantly cleaned.
Overall If you want an "Italian" experience, this is the cruise to go on and hence many Italian-Americans do so. With all the Italians from Italy onboard, I felt somewhat immersed in their culture. My biggest complaint is that contemporary dance music was only played at the disco where the teens were. Alot of us young adults just sort of wandered around and went to bed early whereas the teens partied into the morning. A Magica cruise is good for family vacations going together in large groups, retired couples, or Americans thinking they are going to seek their Italian heritage. Though for the party animals out there, the Magica boat doesn't quite cut it.
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Ken Langille Western Caribbean January 2, 2006
RATING: - I give it 9.5 out of 10. Why.
EMBARKTION: - January 2 - 8/06 sailing. The 4 of us including the 2 girls, 14 and 15 arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day earlier. We left the Marriott Renaissance at 12:30 p.m. and we were in our cabin at 1:00 p.m. There was virtually no one in the terminal when we arrived. It took 10 minutes from dropping off luggage until we got into the cabin.
CABIN/SHIP: - No less than beautiful and spotlessly clean. We headed to our cabin 6315 on deck 6 near midship on the starboard side. There was a card on the desk for access to room as well as 4 personalized cards for each of us.
Cabin - Rommel, our cabin steward explained the cooling system, how to contact him, the workings of recording purchases from the dorm fridge and that he services the cabin twice a day. The room was spotless. We had a balcony, 2 chairs and a table which provided a retreat from the cabin. The 2 beds had already beenplaced together to make a queen. For the children, there was one bed in the spot where the sofa would be and the upper berth was directly above that. As a Pullman, it could be folded away if there were 3 passengers in the cabin. All of the beds were comfortable and I actually climbed in the upper to test the comfort for an adult. Lots of closet/storage space. Extra blankets in cabin. Mints/chocolate on bed several nights.
Hairdryer in top drawer and only 1 usable 110 circuit at desk/vanity. Bring a European converter if you have it.
Bathroom - Soap and body wash/shampoo only in shower.
Roll of ship - We noticed some motion of the ship, 2 of us used bromine 2 nights, no one was ill. It is wise to bring motion medication.
The ship's layout allows one to find their way around easily on all decks. We did not use the pools, but the girls did, as well as the water slide. The water slide was busy whenever open. Did not visit the gym, no comments. Visited the spa, did not use. Lifeboat drill - Our lifeboat drill took place on day 1 before sailing. Well announced and totally organized with clear instructions. Readily identifiable crewmembers stationed at each junction to direct all to the waiting area. Took 20 minutes.
Washrooms on decks immaculately clean.
Laundry - No self-serve laundry. There is a laundry service at a price. There is a line in the shower for hanging up wet items. On the second last day of the cruise, you could fill a brown paper bag with as much dirty clothes for washing and folding for $19.99 plus 15% gratuity.
CREW: - Extremely pleasant, helpful and courteous. There is an entertainment director, Max with a staff that provides or is the catalyst for the entertainment. No problem communicating with the crew, most of the officers and key personnel on the ship speak 5 - 7 languages. This Italian theme cruise on an Italian ship makes some announcements in 5 languages including English. The shows are virtually all in English.
Information Office/Customer Service - Excellent service. No need to register a credit card. If you need to, this can be done at any time during the cruise. I had an on-board credit, able to check my balance at any time, no line ups. Towards end of cruise I received a written message regarding my credit. The staff was just letting me know that I had available credit that I should use up - That's service.
PAST CRUISER - As a past cruiser, we attended an additional reception with the captain with a picture of him and us - gratis.
KIDS/TEEN CLUB - There were counselors on this cruise for the children. There were 3 age groups: 3 - 7, 8 - 14, and 15 - 18. I guess there were 500 children on the ship. A program was presented for each of the 3 groups. Activities started at 9:00 a.m. and continued till midnight for the older ones. There is evening group childcare while the parent's dine/socialize on the formal nights. Girls attended some of the teen activities and chummed around with some guys and girls they met at the teen club. The girls prime activity was the teen disco until 1:00 a.m. Some 14 year olds suddenly became 15 for the teen club.Kids Drink Card - The Boys and Girls Card and can be used by the big boys and girls also. With 15% tip, this comes in at $56 for 20 drinks - virgin strawberry daiquiris, Shirley Temples, fruit milkshakes and pop. Don't waste the card on pop/soda. Sodas can be had for $2.30 each.
FOOD/DINING ROOM: - The first night, there were shorts/T shirts at dinner, a change from a previous experience with Costa Cruise Lines. Noticed folks showing up at 7:00 p.m. for the 5:30 sitting., doors not locked. Latecomers can always be accommodated on the Lido deck. However at lunch/breakfast, shorts seemed to be ok. Most dressed smart casual for dinner with the exception of 2 formal and one-toga nights. Children looked forward to these dress up events. Ate all meals in the dining room. Not into buffets on a ship when I have a choice.
Food - Food was excellent, service superb. Diego, our waiter and Percy, the assistant provided excellent service in the Portofino DR on the lower level. We had the first dinner sitting at 5:30 p.m., it approximates our regular eating time and allows for an evening of activity. This was our preference. The second sitting was at 8:30 p.m. and in the other DR, it ran 15 minutes later for each sitting.
If we were not sure what to order, the waiters' recommendation came through. Requested through the waiter and Maitre d' and received shrimp cocktails, although not on menu. One girl wanted a four cheese pasta dish she had on a previous Costa cruise and this was made for her each evening - That's looking after your guests. All food was hot, well prepared and beautifully presented with adequate portions. There was an excellent variety with six courses at dinner - appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, entrÃ©e and dessert followed by coffee. There were 2-3 choices except for 5 -6 entrees and 6- 7 dessert choices. Caesar salad, spaghetti, salmon and a steak as I recall were always available. We did not have a bad meal. I tried something new to me each lunch and dinner, that's part of cruising, an opportunity to experiment. Coffee comes at the very end of meal unless requested during the meal. The children found comfort in chocolate mousse or ice cream, both with chocolate sauce. While we were looked after, I also feel the girls received special service especially with their dessert requests when not on the menu.
Lunches and breakfast were equally impressive with just about as many courses and variety. Plenty of food stations on Lido deck where there are made-to-order omelets and an excellent variety of breakfast choices. On Gala - formal and toga nights, these become processional and colourful events with the waiters and other staff demonstrating among other things their dance techniques. These evenings provided a welcome change not knowing what to expect.
The maitre'd dropped around every meal; he touched bases with all tables. Our maitre d' was quite personable and was attentive to special requests. The midnight buffets were primarily desserts, meats cheeses and fruits with the artistic creations. One evening there was a fairly elaborate display in one dining room for picture taking, with a tour through the common kitchen to pick up food with seating in the other dining room.
There is a pay restaurant tucked away inside the jogging track on deck 11 or so. Did not use.
Pizza was ok, by the slice or whole one. Coffee was ok, better than some other ships. Lido deck dining, did not use except for lunch day 1 and one of the girls had pancakes there. Hotdogs/hamburgers available for those who want this fare.
DECK/POOL AREA: - There are an adequate number of deck chairs on multi-levels and there were those chairs unoccupied save for a towel.
In addition to English, there are some activities conducted in other languages to which anyone can partake. Watched activities on deck conducted in Italian. One night I got to participate with the belly dancers in their routine.
FELLOW PASSENGERS: - For the most part, similar to your neighbours and work mates and in the 30 -60 age range with exceptions. Lots of large groups, 15, 27, 81 and so on. The majority I think were Canadians and lots from Florida.
PORTS OF CALL: - Nassau and Cozumel - Both interesting places. Grand Cayman was cancelled appropriately due to an earlier rescue/search operation at sea.
NIGHTLIFE: - The Disco - The teen had it until 1 or 2 a.m. and this is where the teens are. If the kids are not in the cabin at night, this is a likely spot to find them.
Urbino Theatre - Generally watched the second show for the early seating. All shows lasted 40 - 50 minutes. Comedian the first night was good, he selected his "Mama" and "Papa". There were variety type acts, singers, the Costa dancers and their own productions which were all good.
Entertainers - There is a variety of singers, piano players, and 3 piece bands throughout the ship. There is sufficient variety and some have a large following with classical, dance, 50's and contemporary music.
Toga night - Bring your toga or try your hand and wrap your own. There were many varieties. Togas do come apart, even with safety pins. Togas are not immune to gravity. Probably half the diners dressed in togas on Saturday night, down to the little folk. Toga show at 10:45 p.m. was good with passenger entertainment and lots 75-80% togas.
Toga night downside - The 4th act. One passenger pulled a quick one on the Costa staff. This chap was from Amsterdam traveling with his wife. I'll refer to him as the pervert from Amsterdam. He removed his toga when entering the stage in favour of his loin cloth and nothing underneath parading around signing. It was like the Janet Jackson episode but for 2 minutes and for the children in the first five rows or so, they were embarrassed/insulted with his exhibitionism when he turned every 5 seconds or so (we were in the front row with many children). His act was suited at best to an adult entertainment parlour. Will be addressed in writing with Costa.
PORT DISEMBARKATION: - Excellent - Off the ship at 8:20 a.m. and waiting for a taxi at 8:45 a.m.
WHY COSTA - We sailed on the Costa Atlantica two years earlier and had an excellent cruise. The price was attractive for a balcony cabin and factoring in the children who sailed for only the $ 43 port taxes, the price was right.
The good - Nothing less than an excellent 6 day cruise with an Italian flavour. Six days was too short. Service and information office staff was excellent and all crew were pleasant/accomodating. The food was excellent, well prepared and attractively presented. Beautiful ship and extremely clean. Many kids on this cruise well behaved.
Getting better - Smoking is prohibited in the dining rooms/areas and the theatre as well as at tables in all the lounges; however, the offset is that there is smoking at the bar and surrounding area. The air is getting better for non-smokers.
The bad - The need to take the passport off the ship to get back on with inspection by Costa personnel. A Costa picture ID card is needed. Other cruise lines do this.
Enjoy your Costa cruise.
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Jorge Gomez Western Caribbean January 2, 2006 The Good: Ship is brand new, elegant and well kept. Plenty of space to get a tan on the pool area. The gym area is really beautiful with a sauna, steam room and small pool/jacuzzi area for adults only. There is also a jacuzzi and a pool for adults only on the back on the ship. Plenty of hot tubs. The Bad: It seems like Costa deliberately wants people to be on lines at all times. Unlike most cruises, Costa forces you to register your credit card after you get in the cabin (not during pre-embarkation process) That means that after getting into your cabin (after a long embarkation line) you have to go back and make another LONG LINE to register you credit card. Also, they won’t take your picture to ID you as a passenger of the ship when you first get in. This forces every person who enters the ship after visiting a port of call, to show not only their Costa Card, but also their picture ID. At this point, the security personal checksyour name against the picture ID, and the process is repeated up to three times before you can board again. Lines to get back to the ship just gets longer and longer every time. You won’t get your final bill until 4:00 AM on the day of debarkation. So basically you won’t find out if there is any discrepancy on the bill until you wake up. If by any chance you find out there is a mistake, prepare to wait in line for 1-2 hours, because everybody else with problems is in that line, in addition people who are paying cash for their bill, will be also waiting in the same line. The first night during dinner, Costa sales people comes at your dinner table trying to sell you the “soft drink card”, which unless most other cruises is NOT unlimited. Basically they want you to pay $52.00 for 23 drinks (sodas, coffee, etc). The worse part is the fact that you are tying to eat and here come someone trying to sell you something. The Ugly The Food, the food and the food. was the number one complain I heard over and over again. If you don’t like Italian food, don’t even think that you will enjoy this cruise (then again if you love Italian food, you’ll be in heaven) Also remember that gourmet Italian food like they serve in Costa Magica is not the same Italian food you might eat at Olive Garden, or another Italian restaurant in the U.S. There is not escape from Italian food on Costa Magica (except cheeseburger and hot dogs at the pool’s buffet during lunch) The other major problem is that the food that they are serving in the main restaurant is exactly the same food they have at the buffet, so if you didn’t like the menu on the restaurant, you have no other choice other than go hungry.
Midnight buffets are a joke. Most nights they were limited to desserts only. In addition, there is only orange juice, grapefruit juice and tea in the self serving area. They all tasted horrible. Most days the ice machines were out of ice, so you have to search for an ice cooler they would place nearby if you wanted ice. In addition, they would closed the ice cream machine early in the morning. My wife asked for room service once and she asked for French fries. She was told it was not available for room service; although they had plenty of it at the pool’s buffet. Finally, the entertainment was really bad and very limited. Only one show per day, and they repeat it twice (once at 7:45 PM for late dinner and another at 10:15 for people who had the early dinner) No midnight adult comedy (as a matter of fact there was only one comedian the first night and that was it, he was good though) Pool entertainment was limited to bingo, hula hops competition and a calypso band playing every afternoon. Some exercises also took place at the pool, but only few people attended. Very little organized competition, contests, etc. The music in the bars and clubs were mostly live artists singing in Italian, or playing slow music. Except the teen’s disco where they played loud contemporary music. Many of the people I spoke with during the long lines we were subjected to, told me that this would be their last cruise on Costa. The same goes for me.
Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Marc Crumpton Eastern Caribbean December 26, 2005
My new wife and I, yes, this was our Honeymoon vacation of what was supposed to be a grand ship with lots of Mediter. flare and fancy. The Ship of dreams, or so we thought.... Oh yeah it was a dream, it was a NIGHTMARE! First to shed some perspective, I am 28, (attorney) my wife, Tara (nurse), is 27, and we both have cruised numerous times before on various lines and generally enjoy cruising. We selected Magica basically because of the newness of the ship and the size, expecting lots of space and functioning mechanics without breakdowns, etc.... We could not have been more wrong - cramped spaces and low end A/C syatem!!!!! Seriously, my wife, who is a stubborn, strong willed, "tough" girl was in tears by day three begging the staff to get us tickets to fly home and get off of this horror!
First of all, boarding on Monday the 26th was a complete disorganized mess, with RUDE Costa employees yelling at everyone to get in line, make circles, then reversing the lines, then reversing them again,while they let the Italians, Hispanics, French, and German passengers sneak in line, push people, shove people, kids kicking and hitting other passengers, etc and said nothing. My first complaint was the four hour line getting into embark. process. It was awful. No one knew what was going on.
We finally got on the ship after 4:00, starved, and found nothing but hot dogs and horrible cheeseburgers, and I will say now, the one variety of pizza on this ITALIAN based ship was cheese, and ONLY cheese, all the time cheese pizza and dry foccacia (pizza dough cooked with a couple spices). No pizza bar, no pasta bar, no toppings, no nothing. Tasteless sandwiches, fatty, salty proscuitto ham cold cuts everywhere, and nasty tea and juice "cocktail" sugar saturated drink substances. We decided after realizing there wasn't any real buffet of anykind offered after this long line of hell to skip it and wait for the nighttime dining experience. We headed to our Honeymoon cabin - room # 1007 as Costa had told us they had no balcony rooms when we booked but would try to get us in a room we would like. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!! Room 1007 is one of the smallest on board, a handicap room --- why ----- I have no idea as neither us are handicapped or requested one..... Oh, by the way, room 1007 is not air conditioned. We knew by dinner the A/C was going to be a problem as neither of us could breathe in the room and it was dead stale air coming through the vent. We called and reported it, let's call it request #1. OH, did I mention, by dining time, (2nd seating), 9:00 the Magica had yet to pull out of Lauderdale, as they apparently were waiting on one passenger. So the cruise for the rest of the week was delayed- getting us to Puerto Rico extremely late (after dark) on Tuesday for a mere four hour port of call in San Juan.
Dinner on night one allowed us to experience the only real highlight of our cruise, our dining buddies, Pete and Alison from Chicago. What a totally cool couple. The one thing Costa nailed was hooking us all up as we were the same age and personalities, etc..... So much fun! - So kudos on that one Costa - we have made new friends that will be lifelong I am sure- they got engaged onboard and we got to be part of it, truly touching and romantic! Great people - and from Chicago USA!!!!
Dining in the dining room was an overall decent experience, but probably more from the pre dinner booze and good conversation with our new friends. Pete and I often commented that no matter the variety of meat we were offered, it all tasted the same and joked that it came from the same hunk of whatever it was that we called "mystery meat" - one day pork, one day veal, the next day lobster (all the same flavor and texture, just different shape and color). ;o) The food on a scale of one to ten in the dining room would be a 5 at best on its best night, and probably more like a 3 or 4 on most nights. Dessert choices were awful, as I opted for the sorbet everynight and it was the most watered down, over sweetened sorbet I have ever had. Service was ok, we liked our waiter and his assistant, but overall the major complaint with Costa was the lack of customer SERVICE and special attention to its guests. After dinner we found a note that the A/C was as good as it would get, so I called again. They sent a guy up that told me to turn off all the lights in the cabin and it might be cooler, so forget any reading or planning for the next day, enjoy your dark - hot cabin, honeymooners! aka, the SWEAT BOX!
We didn't sleep very well on the hard as rock beds, the mattresses seriously, no lie, are less than 2 inches think and on metal frames. Horrible, I talked to several guests that slept on the decks as the pool chairs were much more comfortable than the beds. My wife's neck was so sore the first three days she felt as if she had been rear-ended by a bus. My TMJ in my jaw has been bothering me since night one on these Hard Huge over firm pillows and hard as stone beds. Accomodations in the cabin SUCKED to say the least. No shampoo, conditioner, funny things left by the porters each day to keep you amused as we've found on other lines.... We did get a plate of dates and figs for Italian good luck on New Years eve and that was it! Just yumyumeroo! NOT, I won't even tell you what my wife and Alison said those figs looked like!
We continued to complain and ask to switch cabins for 3 days when finally in St. Thomas someone did not get back on the ship and they offered us a DOWNGRADE to a smaller cabin, and, no lie, suggested that one of us should stay in one cabin, and they would let us keep 1007 for the other so we would have more space and maybe be more cooler. Nice idea, Costa, you actually thought you were doing two Honeymooners a FAVOR by offereing them to stay on separate ends of the ship. I blame a lot of that on the LANGUAGE barrier- no one speaks english on this Lauderdale based cruise!!!!! Wake up calls on the phone are in Italian and you can't understand it to program it! Then they want you off on a few ports by 8 AM! I continued to try and explain to these Italian speaking people that this was unacceptable, and was told to go back to my cabin and "you're welcome". NOT a single freebie or comp offered, no chocolate on pillow, no "congrats" or a free bottle (or even a glass) of cheap champagne, which every other cruise would have provided. Not a single ounce of attention that it was our honeymoon. and it was explained and on our reservations, I read it on their computer myself. Captains night offered low budget champagne and an ornage juice concocted "whiskey sour". whateva! ICK!
The shows are ok, the highlight is the last night on board you have toga night. Everyone is supplied a bed sheet and a crown to wear to the dining room and then attend Roman night to "judge" the talent show of passengers on board. That was the best part of the entertainment all week - and they were amateurs - just passengers on board- but they were really very good! NO comedians all week, just the same dancers - ok, I'll admit it, the dancers are pretty good looking, but that is about the only thing I can say good about the shows. The low end Carnival last year we did had MUCH better entertainment and a nice variety. My wife was so pissed the night of the Newlywed Game as we had hoped to participate then at the last minute MAX, the cruise director decided to pick couple that had been married like 50 years! Yeah MAX why call it the NEWLYWED GAME! ??? again no special attention to the newlyweds on board... and we talked to a couple others that felt slighted the same way.
The only place we really enjoyed was the piano bar - the bartender in their - Richard from the Phillipenes - and pianist, Lucky, from South Africa had real customer service skills. They were fun, got to know the four of us, and we all loved it up there. The only two nice staff on the ship were Richard and Lucky. The cruise director, MAxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx!, has a head the size of all of Europe and is very stuck on himself. He basically loves himself so much he speaks all the time, oh and you get him on 5 of the 7 channels giving different talks on the TV all week along if its not enough seeing him all night every night. ( on day 6 they are still running his welcome speech on channel 8) While on that subject, the TV selection is ABC / NBC / and a dozen foreign channels. And for an 8.95 fee you too can see "Meet the Fockers" which has been on DVD for a year! Only reason we wanted to watch the boob tube was to relax because the pool decks FORGET ABOUT IT! There were so many rude Europeans on this ship that took up all the space, smoking, talking VERY loudly, letting their kids go crazy....... It was a panic attack everytime you went to a main deck as there was nowhere to walk, everyone was pushy and shovy, would cut you off getting on elevators, getting in line to get off the ship, buffet lines, etc..... This cruiseline clearly does not like nor cater to the Americans, the crew and staff was not friendly except the two mentioned above. All seem VERY unhappy to be onboard, no smiles, no going out of their way to take care of you. THAT is my main beef, I say again, LACK OF ANY KIND OF CUSTOMER SERVICE, send the Disney Corp. in for a 10 day makeover - this cruise sucked. We paid a premium since it was New Years, very little New Years eve activity, the 11 year olds ran the disco everynight, drinking, smoking, no one saying a thing! Hell, they were playing slots and the casino games at the tables with me all week as well. You feel like a third or fourth rate citizen on this ship as an American. Everyone talks in code even if they can speak English - they purposely don't to leave you out and feel like you are in a tower of babbling tongues.
The ports of call: San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island / Casa De Campo- Domincan Republic, and Nassau were very short stops, two of them being after dark (San Juan & Casa de Campo). We enjoyed the shore excursions we did - they were nighttime activities, and they were nice. Not quite sure how they offered it, but many opted to Kayak in the dark in San Juan. and then by midnight we were back on the ship for more SWEAT BOX.
There was nowhere to relax on this ship. NO WHERE, we wanted to get off and not get back on when we were in port. To sum it up - RUDE people, bad food, lackluster entertainment, big bookoo bucks at this time of year, MEGA bookoo bucks on bar bill and extras, hell they take the tips from you at 8.95 a day per person and take away your ability to tip who you really want! So you end up spending even more on tips -- all said and done, this was over a 6K trip for a week, and we didnt even have an outside cabin. Costa comped us nothing for our troubles with no A/C and the split room on opposite ends of the ship from each other they wanted us to spend our honeymoon in rooms across the ship from each other!!!!! I still can't get over not even one free drink for this s&*t! I must say I will NEVER cruise COSTA again and this week of hell makes me not want to cruise at all again for fear this nightmare could happen again. I'd rather take my money, go to Hawaii, get a NICE suite, with space, and relax and take my time - and eat at 5 * dining and know I am getting a filet or a piece of prime rib when they say it is! Now, we are home, thank God, and back with some space to move, no shovy LOUD smoky Euros (and smelly - deoderant would have gone a LONG way for a lot of these folks on board!) and the A/C in Florida working well. I am off to my nice comfortable bed for the first time is 8 nights and can't wait to flip on the DirecTV -- Trust me people, if you can get out now- DO - DON'T DO THIS ONE!!!!!!!!!!! IT'S SO NOT WORTH IT. Pretty ship, nothing more can I say positive other than Richard the bartender and Lucky the pianist and our new friends Pete and Alison! I would grade this a C- / D overall experience and that is being VERY generous----
Costa - oh yeah, it'll cost ya! Horrible experience.
Feel free to email me for more questions / thoughts / slams on this ship :o) firstname.lastname@example.org
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.