Once again, we chose this cruise because it was one of the few package deals that departed from the Dominican Republic thus allowing us to stay at an "all-inclusive" resort for a second week. This was our second cruise on the Costa line and although there were a lot of similarities to that of our cruise on Costa Classica, we enjoyed this one even more. The package consisted of flight, cruise and hotel and was offered through Transat Holidays. This was not available on the Costa.com website but rather only found on the Costa.uk site. It's some sort of charter deal that can only be found this way. We departed from Toronto with a direct flight in Air Transat to La Romana DR. Our flight had been rescheduled from the original booking to arrive around 6:00 pm and the Transat staff was waiting to greet us on the tarmac. The drive to the pier was around 20 minutes and there was virtually no line once we got there. This was partially because this cruise had several embarkation ports and this was only a minor one (mostly for Canadians and Americans). The majority of the passengers got on in Guadeloupe, as this was the embarkation port for Europeans and locals. Most of the passengers on Costa ships are European and it is rare to hear much English spoken. This doesn't bother us as we love to travel Europe and we are used to that multi-lingual atmosphere. Costa is not a "mint on the pillow" or "decorative animal towel" type of cruise, but we don't find the need for those incidentals but rather look for service and itinerary as the main attraction. After the customary Bon voyage photo we were quickly on the ship. The ship was clean and tidy and decorated nicely. The first thing we noticed was the full ship center atrium with the birdcage elevators zooming up and down. There were plenty of elevators throughout the ship and we never seemed to have to wait long to get one.
One of the nice features of this ship was that numbering of each floor at the elevators and stairways was printed in the carpeting. You easily knew what floor you were getting off at so you never made a mistake. Because the ship was not leaving until midnight, and most of the passengers were off on excursions, we took advantage of the empty ship to tour around and check it out. The pools were on the small side but plenty large enough to accommodate the busy periods. We found the variety of pools much nicer and more modern than Costa Classica. The multilevel spa and fitness center was exceptional and we used it daily. It's always nice when the treadmills are right at the front of the ship and this made morning entry into each port a panoramic treat.
The theaters were nice, but most shows filled up quickly so you have to give yourself time to finish dinner and get there. After the shows, there was always a lounge where the entertainment team would gather and create some fun with the passengers.
There were four of us traveling so we had two balcony cabins side by side. The divider between the balconies could be opened but only when in port. This was a bit of a disappointment but the configuration of the dividers didn't allow for the door to be completely out of the way. It was mostly designed for staff access rather than having four people sit and be in each other's company. There are cabins however with adjoining doors between them, and you must request these when booking. The cabin was quite spacious and almost as large as a mini suite on Princess ships. There was plenty of storage, a nice desk and a loveseat with a small table. As return guests (and Costa Club members) we were treated to a bowl of fruit and a welcome back note.
The only complaint I would have is that there was a slight but unpleasant odor in our room, for the first half of the cruise. It dissipated gradually each day.
The itinerary for this particular cruise was La Romana DR, Catalina Island DR, Tortola BVI, Castries St Lucia, Pointe-a-pitre Guadeloupe, Saint John's Antigua, and St. Maarten. We mostly took beach days but we also walked around most of the port cities. Catalina Island is normally just a beach day and Costa has the beach to itself. A BBQ is served along with musical entertainment and the beach chairs are included. Catalina Island is one of our very favorite beaches and we look forward to returning one day. Tortola BVI has upgraded the shopping experience since we were last there in 2005 and they now offer many small booths within walking distance from the ship. St Lucia offers shopping at the port and many varied excursions. There are plenty of taxis waiting to take you for much less than a Costa arranged excursion and it's a beautiful island that I would recommend seeing. The beaches are among our favorites in St Lucia as well. Guadeloupe was the only stop where there was very little to do within walking distance of the pier, so we only left the ship for a few minutes and then spent the day by the pool. We chose a 4-hour beach day in Antigua but for 51 Euros each ($150.00 for the 4 of us) we got a 1-hour drive to Half moon bay. A 2-hour stay and another 1-hour drive back to the ship followed. The beach doesn't have facilities and a chair rental was $6.00 each but they only had about 12 chairs so we couldn't get one. This was a complete rip-off by Costa and I've learned greatly about pre-booking excursions. It's best to do it without the ship and just watch your timing so you don't miss the departure.
St. Maarten is of course a great shopping experience. The water taxi takes you directly from the pier to the beach and from there; you can shop till you drop. We spent a little time at one of the casinos down town but were unsuccessful at winning the cruise fare back.
The final day is a half-day at sea and then we returned to the port of La Romana for our hotel stay at the Iberostar Hacienda.
One of the best things about cruising with Costa for us is the food. Every dinner was exceptional and the deserts were wonderful. We would like to see a little more seafood like Princess offers but when cruising Italian style, we have come to expect a superb cuisine all around. Costa Atlantica is a wonderful ship and we found the staff to be friendly and helpful (unlike some of the reviews we have read). I highly recommend you try it for a wonderful cruise experience with great value.