We started planning this cruise just six weeks prior to the sailing date. Having looked at two other alternatives, Costa Mediterranea and MSC Armonia, we opted for the Costa Classica, for which we got the best deal. The itinerary of the Armonia was just as interesting, but for the same price as two inside cabins on that ship, we got two outside cabins on the Classica. We already knew the Armonia since we had sailed her two years earlier when it was operating under another name. This was our ninth voyage (with the kids) since we started cruising in 1997. The itinerary was Venice, Ancona (Italy), sea day, Athens, Crete, Corfu, Dubrovnik and back to Venice. We were initially scheduled to sail as a group of six – me and my wife, our daughter of 13, sons 12 and 10, and grandma. Given that the Classica does not have quads as outside cabins, we had booked two triples. Three days before sailing, grandma had a nasty bicycle accident and had to have emergency surgery on her knee, so we left without her.
Just two days before sailing, the cruise agent informedme of a change of cabin numbers. When we booked, we had obtained two adjacent cabins. Now that grandma did not sail with us, the new assignments had the boys in one cabin on starboard side and the rest of us on port side. This was a worry to me as the Costa Classica had a fire a few weeks earlier on the same deck as ours, and I already visions of a similar situation with two boys, possibly in the middle of the night having to evacuate and getting into a state of panic.
We took the night train from Geneva, Switzerland (our home town) to Venice. It went smoothly, and upon arrival we had a nice Sunday morning walking tour of the beautiful Italian city. Costa arranges for a luggage service in the main train station for a small charge, and you do not see your luggage again until it is in your cabin. We got to the terminal around noon and thanks to our Costa club membership, we got to board immediately. When on board we went to reception and explained about the cabin issue. Note was taken of our request and we were told to come back once at sea.We headed to the buffet and got to know the ship quite well between 1 and 5 in the afternoon, the time when we got our luggage. We unpacked our bags but the boys kept their bags packed, hoping some miracle would solve our cabin issue. We went to speak to the hotel manager, Sarah, who told us the ship was full and that the cabin problem had occurred because of the reduced capacity following the fire. She showed us a suite that could accommodate all five of us, but she had to put the request to Costa’s main office in Genoa for approval. So, the first night our cabins were not switched. The next day the hotel manager called to tell us Costa’s main office had found two adjacent cabins on the same deck. We accepted and got cabins 6060 and 6062.
We had sailed previously with Costa (Allegra, Victoria, Riviera and Fortuna) and found this 14-year-old ship to be in excellent shape. It takes around 1,500 passengers (55,000 GRT). There was a refurbishment in 2003 and this showed. The ship has an overall sober decor and a lot of marble combined with soft colors. It is definitely a change from the Costa Fortuna.
The layout is, however, based on Carnival Fantasy class ships or Celebrity Horizon class, meaning the cabins are all in the lower part of the ship and the main decks are in the upper part. I do not like this lay out for several reasons. One is that you have to climb a lot of stories before getting to the main decks, whereas on ships like the Costa Victoria or Fortuna cabins are located between the lounges and restaurants on lower decks and the buffet and pool areas on the higher decks -- always close to everything. Another reason is that the tenders are placed in front of the windows of the lounges and buffet area, blocking the views.
The buffet area on Deck 10 has a wonderful outdoor terrace aft. But given the season, the outside temperatures were rather low (50s and 60s Fahrenheit), so when we were sailing, sitting there was a challenge. The buffet lines were extremely well organized and we never had a wait. Choice was good and food was tasteful. This is the first time I have seen on a ship a barbecue (every lunch, even if rainy) with real charcoal. This seems like a definite plus. Also the teak wood in the buffet area adds a nice touch to this extremely dark and enclosed room with views blocked by the life boats.
The restaurant on Deck 8 has two sittings. We were in the first and shared an eight-person table with two couples, meaning we were nine at the table and a bit squeezed. We did not want to eat late so we had no alternative. Our table mates were nice people. The restaurant is extremely noisy and service was sometimes speedy. We were well cared for by our waiter, but the assistant could do better. Costa sells cards good for 20 sodas for the children, at an advantageous price (about 40 euros). They also sell packages for wine (six bottles, red and white) and mineral water (10 bottles). The layout of the restaurant is not optimal (square) and I would not call it my favorite restaurant at sea. There is no specialty restaurant.
The lounges are nice, especially the ballroom lounge aft on Deck 9; unfortunately you have to walk through the casino (not recommended for children). On Deck 9 you can walk outside under the lifeboats (from the aft of the ship to almost the front), a very unappealing and boring “walkway”. Other ships would typically have this on a lower deck, with a nice teak wooden pathway.
There are many little lounges or rooms (card room, conference rooms) where you can sit and enjoy the inside of the ship; this is because the windows are narrow and do not offer good viewing opportunities.
The cabins are very spacious, offering many drawers and a nicely sized bathroom with real teak wooden floor. Only the sound proofing is not up to date and noises from neighbors and the corridor can be disturbing. It was definitely one of the nicest cabins we had been in (together with those of the Fortuna).
The entertainment was a disappointment except for two major productions. Also the music in the lounges was sometimes not up to what one would expect. But all in all we had a nice time. Bar service is efficient without being pushy.
We did not take any organized tours since we had already been in some of the ports. Ancona (whole day) was a port where passengers from mid and southern Italy could embark or disembark. It is not a very big town and has some nice viewpoints as it is slightly uphill. We just walked from the ship into town (2 minutes).
For Athens (12 to 7 p.m.), the ship docks in Piraeus; we took a taxi to visit Athens’ Acropolis and did some shopping. We paid 25 euro one way (with taxi-meter) for the 20-minute ride.
In Crete (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) we got into a taxi, and as we were driving towards the port exit we negotiated for the driver to take us to Knossos, an ancient palace some 10 km from the port. During hard discussions the driver decreased the offer from 100 euros to 80, but we still found it too much and just got out at the port exit traffic lights. He was furious but we found that he was excessively high-priced. Our assumption was confirmed when we walked to the bus station (3 minutes walk) and saw a notice board with taxi fares -- Knossos was 7 euros! We took the taxi and saved quite a bit of money.
In Corfu (noon to 6 p.m.), the ship was docked at a 25 minute walk from the city center, but we had already booked a bus transfer into town. We visited at own pace and found it a very interesting experience. Corfu has some nice narrow streets full of shops. We walked back to the ship.
Final port of call was Dubrovnik (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.), where we had to tender into the port. There were about six ships in Dubrovnik and it was raining. The dock for the tenders is about 5 miles from the old city center, and we took the shuttle bus (5 euros). We toured on the outer parts of the city walls and got a good impression of the town that way. After that we also walked in the main street but there was no time left to explore the little streets. The time that Costa allows there is a bit too short, especially with the tender ride and wait, etc. We have already planned to revisit it next summer on board the new MSC Musica.
We got back to Venice the next morning and had plenty of time before our train departed (1 p.m.), so we stayed on the ship until the last passengers had debarked.
By the time we left the ship, the luggage in the terminal was cleared. A shuttle bus took us back to the center of Venice and we took one of those bus-boats to the train station. The trip back home was uneventful.
All in all it was another nice cruise. I would not sail the ship again, not only because there are plenty of other ships out there but because of the ship and restaurant layout. If it offered an extremely interesting itinerary, I might consider it. Service was in any case very good.
Our next cruises are already scheduled with MSC Musica to the Eastern Mediterranean early July 2006 and MSC Lirica to the Norwegian fjords late August 2006. We have never been on board MSC ships, but they seem very well appointed and have extremely good deals for families with kids.
South East Asia cruise. Paid for a double cabin and received a small single cabin with a fold up cot as a second bed, the cot was placed at the end of the bed, the cot matress had to be pushed to the side to open the bathroom door, this cabin was classed as an upgrade, no compensation. Cruise was good the cabin was crap.
Background/Itinerary: This was a Total Solar Eclipse cruise round trip from Tianjin, China. In addition to seeing the longest eclipse of the 21st century, we visited Jeju island (South Korea), Kagoshima and Kobe, Japan. There were too many days at sea, especially on this particular vessel, for me. Because it was summer time, the weather was not particularly good (overcast, hot, humid, and rainy) but we had one spectacular day for the eclipse.
Stateroom: The cabin provided good accommodations with adequate storage, a good sized bathroom and nice sink area, a large porthole window, and a very comfortable bed. However, there were cheap leather pulls on the drawers, some of which were broken. The décor was uninspired and furnishings were showing their age.
Ship: Although built in 1991 and supposedly refurbished, the interior of this vessel looked like something out of the 1950's or the Motel 6 of cruise ships. The two elevator areas were distinguished only by color—one yellow and one green—and people were constantly confused as to where they were and which direction they were facing (aft or forward). In addition, the areas had the appearance of something you would find on afreighter.
Chairs in the lounges and other public areas were very uncomfortable and old-fashioned "modern" but the seating in the dining areas was comfortable. Air-conditioning was hit-or-miss with some areas of the ship freezing and other areas unbearably hot.
Dining: The weakest aspect of this cruise was the cuisine, which basically was pretty bad. There was limited variety, freshness was lacking, and although visually appealing the food was often not particularly tasty. Appetizers and deserts were best; hamburgers and French-fries at the grill were good but French fries in the restaurant, which they seemed to serve with everything, were mushy. One positive aspect of the poor food was I did not gain weight on this cruise as I usually do when cruising. One would expect an Italian vessel to serve decent Italian pastas and main courses, but this was not the case here.
Services: A highlight of the cruise was the level of service from most of the staff. Our cabin steward and waitress in the main dining room were both very cordial and efficient. Other staff we encountered were usually friendly and helpful as well. Some of the newer crew in the dining room still need to learn to be more attentive to fill water and wine glasses and to offer and refill coffee cups. But this drawback was minor. Level of English among the crew was adequate for most purposes.
Entertainment & Activities: There were several groups and individuals who provided music aboard ship with great variability in their appeal to us. Yet, we managed to dance nightly for at least an hour. Since one of our favorite activities on cruises is ballroom dancing, we enjoyed this aspect of our cruise. The dance classes, however, provided instruction in dances that could not later be practiced because that type of music was never played and most of the dances were less well-known Latin dances. There were some other classes (napkin folding, and crafts such as making boxes, batik, and bookmarks) as well, which helped pass the time during our 5.5 days at sea out of a 12-day cruise (not counting eclipse day which provided its own entertainment). My husband, who is an amateur astronomer, did not find the eclipse/astronomy-related talks very interesting. Port information was minimal to incorrect.
There were shows nightly but not of particularly good quality. The dancers' routines often looked simply like posing to music and were similar from show to show. I did enjoy the Japanese local production during one of our Japan stops and an evening with a violinist playing mostly classical music.
Children's Activities: There seemed to be some good activities for different ages of children but we do not have children so were unaware of the specifics. Activities were provided by the ship's crew and by passengers related to the eclipse and astronomy. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Boarding the vessel was tedious because of the wait in a hot, crowded environment at the Port of Tianjin. This may have been the fault of the local port authority and facility rather than Costa Cruises, however. Leaving the ship was much easier. Transfers were efficient and on time.
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
Cruising "Italian Style" has to be experienced to be believed. Every announcement was in six languages.
Nothing was ever on time or as advertised. Actually it became quite funny to us. Thats Italian!
Classica have the biggest cabins I have ever seen. This was our first inside cabin. We even had a queen size bed. The ship design was very Italian. Marble everywhere. The decor went from 'Over the top" to very tacky.
Service was excellent. An English speaking staff member was available to us for any problems or help. The entertainment staff went out of their way to make sure we were having a good time. There were only 16 of us (Canadians) on the ship who spoke English.
Entertainment was excellent considering they could not say everything in six languages. So they did not say anything and had some novel and clever ways to communicate to everyone.
The food was everything from blah to excellent. Stangely enough their Italian dishes were not the best. They had the worse pizza I have ever eaten. Any little Mama Papa Italian restaurant in North America could put them to shame.
The shore excursions were much thesame as every other cruise line.
The thing that struck us most was the inconsistences in everthing they did. We enjoyed the experience but would hesitate on cruising with Costa again.
If you want something a little different in a cruise it is worth a try.
After making a comfortable one-hour transfer by bus (provided by Costa ), we arrived at the port of Santos.
Embarkation was defined in one word: chaos. It took more than five hours to get to the ship. We stood three and a half hours in line before reaching the check-in counter. There were only eight Costa attendants for 1.700 passengers!
My accommodations (Individual inside cat. 10 - Genova deck) had soft colors, beautiful wood cabinetry, a desk with mirror, minibar-refrigerator, personal safe, TV set, some amenities and was clean and comfortable. The closets were ample and the cabin had one extra bed, which I asked to be removed from the cabin. The soundproofing is simply non-existent; you can hear everything from the hallways and neighbor cabins.
The room service is limited and has extra charge (US $2.50). The cabin steward Henry, from Guatemala was good, keeping cabin clean and made up. The Tivoli Restaurant is used in two seatings; although well decorated it has white plain ceilings, too close together tables and is extremely noisy (sometimes you cannot hear your tablemate). My table fellows were interesting people and made my dinings nicer. The foodwas completely tasteless, really mediocre and the service was rushed, impersonal (the waiter, Mr. Flores, have did not even introduce himself to us) and lacked finesse. The Buffet LaTratoria used for breakfast and alternative lunch is very informal, but the food is better than in the main restaurant. The Pizza served in the Taverneta is the worst I have ever tried in ships.
Breakfast and Midnight Buffets were good, with lots of fresh fruit. There was an excellent Captain cocktail party with an interesting speech of the master, good music and very good drinks and appetizers. The dress code is very casual and few men wore jack & tie in some occasions. Entertainment was also good with nice music and shows. The boutiques have good selections and the photo-shop is very good. Shore excursions are expensive and limited so I took independent tours in both ports.
This ship has been very well maintained and has an innovative Italian design project, plenty of steel and marbles, but angular and cold in some areas. The high density of this vessel means that there is little room to move about when full. The number of public lounges and rooms is limited. The planned stretching with the insertion of a new mid-section, introducing many new cabins, will make the ship more profitable, but even more uncomfortable when with total capacity.
Debarkation was surprisingly smooth.
Ports of Call:
The small island is very nice and has rain forest, small beaches, bar, restaurant and nautical sports. The small town does not worth the visit.
The highlight of the cruise; this island is great in natural beauty, crowned by steep mountains with rainforest and rimmed with gorgeous beaches - a place as marvelous as its name, which means "beautiful island". To preserve the charm of the island, local law dictates that no building may stand taller than two stories.
The island´s exquisite shorelines beckon you to swim, snorkel, dive in the numerous shipwrecks or just lounge along the water edge. In town you can shop the island´s boutiques, savour a tropical fruit ice cream or a Brazilian coffee in one of the charming cafes.