We just returned from the Atlantic's December 15, 2002 sailing and it was not good news. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary and my 40th birthday. Our decision to book on Costa was based on the great deals offered and our prior experiences. Even though we had read some bad reviews regarding the food, I thought that some people just did not understand the Italian cuisine. Unfortunately, they were right. This was our 14th cruise, third on Costa . The first two were in the mid 1990's. The food back then was European gourmet.
This time around, the food was un-enjoyable at best. Beef was cheap and tough (similar to a $4.99 buffet). Cream soups (which were most of them) had no cream or milk, rather "cream of corn starch", with the flavor of the day added. Pasta was prepared well in advance and was usually floating in oil. The gala lobster was so dry that even drowning it in butter did not help.
We had our best meal in the pay restaurant, Atlantica Club. Food was outstanding. It was tough to go back to the regular dinners. The hamburgers and hotdogs were also good. (Hard to screw them up I guess).
We are by no means "foodies" or gourmets we have never been on a cruise where we did not look forward to eating.
Embarkation We arrived at the terminal at 12:45 pm but did not get to our stateroom until 3:46 pm. A tired security guard was the only one greeting us. I am sure the other three hundred or so behind us had the same experience. The holdup was the ONE photographer for all 2000 passengers. Thirty or so people were called every few minutes. We missed the buffet and had to stand for another half and hour for muster drills in five languages.
The Ship The Costa Atlantica is a beautiful ship, well laid out with artwork around every corner. Warning: The back third of the ship vibrates when sailing. It seems to diminish as you reach the rear bank of elevators. Glasses rattle on the tray and there is a low dizzying harmonic rumble.
The passengers About forty percent of the passengers were Italian families. Thirty percent were young seniors, mostly from Florida. Some Italian men had the line cutting to an art. They would pretend to strike up a conversation with someone in line then blend in and then call for their family to join them. One elderly couple went to the front of the line at a buffet and politely asked for a tray and plate and proceeded to get their food. When a fellow passenger asked them what they were doing, they said the line was far too long to wait.
Smoking I have heard that smoking was an issue but we did not find any problem in the bars or common areas. The ship is large and seems to have a good air exchange system. Our stateroom smelled like an ashtray but luckily, we opted for an upgrade.
The Staff We had a great cabin steward and waiter. We had upgraded to a suite and had a great butler that brought us a full breakfast on request. The excursion desk staff where not well trained. We heard of several people complaining that the staff could not describe the details of there trip.
Communications and daily news Besides the chronological order of events, the newspaper had little else. At each port of call, the only information was the preferred shopping destinations that had an affiliation with the ship. No description or history just a map with shopping highlights.
Entertainment and cruise director The Atlantica has 15 bar areas. Many had some form of musical entertainment. All were good some outstanding. The party bands for special occasions were also great. We saw bits and pieces of the shows and they were okay. We missed having a comedian aboard.
The cruise director Ray Rouse was seasoned. He MC'd the talks and affairs well. During the first part of the cruise, there did not seem to be many announcements but maybe we just did not here them. Bingo and other games and events were only in Italian so that some of the passengers were unable to participate.
Disco The disco was state of the art, with lighted floor, smoke machine, and televised wall. On our first visit was a little past midnight. We sat in the dark areas around the dance floor and ordered drinks. A song started that we enjoy and went to dance. The floor filled with dancers less than 5 ft tall. All of the others were young teens (one was leaping across the floor to the beat of the music). Apparently, the teen disco time, which ended at 11:00 pm, was continuing. We left at 12:30 am. On another night, things were normal although the DJ only played 30 seconds of every song throughout the night. (Must be a new fad?)
Pools We spent most of our time at the rear pool for adults and only saw the occasional kid. Someone posted that you might be able to topless sunbath in the adult only pool the only problem it is directly below the waterslide that overlooks the area.
Water slide: It was apparently designed for children. The slide itself is about 75 ft long twisting and turning but at a 10 degree decent. The water flow is not great so consequently I had to push myself along.
Casino The casino was the largest I have seen at sea. There were plenty of dealers and the table limits were reasonable. There were no gambling tournaments such as poker.
Food This was the lowest quality and variety of food that we have ever seen. It was like American food on the Chinese buffet.
For example: Salad bar: The salad bar (if you can call it that) consisted of lettuce, tomato, chickpeas, kidney beans, Italian and French dressing. Fruit: The fruit served on the ship mainly consisted of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple and apples and oranges on the side. Occasionally there was a garnish of berries or a strawberry during formal nights. On the fourth day, the fruit salad was soupy and luminescent and needed to be thrown away. Bread: The same round rollers. On special occasions, plan breadsticks.
Cold cuts: The same salami and baloney and two varieties of cheese on all buffets.
Meals The breakfast buffet was good, had very limited items, and the same every day. The omelet station was good. We did not go to the sit-down breakfast. The grill had hamburger and hotdog, grilled chicken, and fish. The hamburgers were excellent. The Items on the buffet reminded me of a cafeteria. Sit-down lunch was nothing special with the minute steak resembling the thickness and size of the sole on my shoes. My wife had a swordfish steak that was a quarter of an inch thick. Dinner had only one choice of pasta and four options. There were no "healthy" choice entries. Fish without some type of red sauce was hard to come by. Meat was cheap. Salad was mostly lettuce and always served with Italian dressing. On the last night, my lettuce was turning brown around the edges. The chef did not use a lot of garlic or oregano, rather preferred to put basil in everything including Chinese food. Vegetables were fresh and not overcooked and the garnishes were very pleasant.
Midnight buffets There were no buffets the first and last night. Two of the nights were mostly pastries. Italian night had the best pasta of the cruise and roasted pig. Gala night was special with a variety of bread, cold cuts, and shrimp (but they were not de- veined) and for the first time, chocolate, which was sparse on any other buffet.
Shopping On board shopping, was par for the course. If you smoke, cigarette prices on board were the cheapest. Booze prices at the St. Thomas Kmart were half the price of the ship.
Ports of Call The ports of call were San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island (private beach), Casa De Campo, and Nassau. Wish we had more time in each port. San Juan and Nassau were half days and Casa Dec Campo would have been fun to explore if we were there during the day.
Debarkation Colored tags were called. We were scheduled to debark at 9:00 am and were not called until 10:30 am.
Conclusion If food is not important to you, then you can have a good time on the Atlantica. I will never go on Costa again unless they are giving away cruises. I feel that even at the discounted fare we paid, that we did not get a good deal.