CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Costa Cruises Costa Atlantica Caribbean March, 2001

We first visited the Costa Atlantica on a Sunday early in October of this year in Venice, Italy. Our comments were summarized in a report published here several months ago. Since then, we have visited the ship in Port Everglades on a number of occasions and sailed on her in November and again on February 4th of this year. Both sailings were 7 night voyages to the Eastern Caribbean. As travel agents whose stock in trade is the placing of groups of clients onto ships, we are closely attuned to reactions of these clients to a particular ship.

Our review of the Costa Atlantica is based on both our own experiences and those of the hundreds of people we have embarked on her since her debut in the Caribbean in November of 2000. Our original article described the ship in some detail and there has been ample coverage in the print and electronic media since then on her design and decoration. We concentrate here on our experiences on board during our two voyages and the comments we have received from our group members and leaders.

Costa has clearly put in a lot of effort to make the cruise experience on both the Costa Atlantica and the Costa Victoria (they both sail on Sunday, alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean 7-night itineraries) a seamless, smooth experience. The home pier for the Costa Atlantica in Port Everglades is the new Pier 21. It is nicely laid out and functions well. Embarkation is effected smoothly and with minimum effort and inconvenience to the cruise guest. The pier has a huge, comfortable waiting area and, surprise, surprise… more than ample seating for early arriving passengers. A special desk is set up near the gangway to register children for Costa 's Kids program. If you're traveling with children, be sure to stop by the desk for details. More on this later, but, the kids are in for quite a treat. The pier works well and Costa 's huge check-in staff make embarkation a breeze.

In no time at all embarkation facilities are completed and we walk up the gangway and onto the ship. It is not unusual to see first timers stop dead in their tracks as they are greeted by the grand atrium space… and it is truly spectacular.

On many ships, the Atrium lobby level is an underutilized space, generally the location of the Purser's (Information) Desk and Shore Excursion Office. On the Costa Atlantica, it is one of a number of gathering places… sort of like the central plaza in a Southern European town… except here one is immersed in a fantasy world of silently gliding scenic elevators, 10 deck high atrium, comfortable and unusual seating, music and conversation… it is a throbbing and alive center that continues to attract for the duration of the voyage. Like many venues on the Costa Atlantica, this one is a classic example of the sum being greater than the total of the parts. The space works!!! In fact, the Costa Atlantica "works"… and it is truly something to behold!!!

White gloved attendants escort you to one of the stunning mid ship elevators… (stunning elevators?… yes… like so much of the Costa Atlantica, the elevators themselves are superbly decorated… each with unique glass sculptures… they are something to behold). You reach your deck and are met by another attendant who escorts you to your stateroom and helps you "settle in". Speaking of glass, each stairwell on this ship (there are three main staircases, forward, midship and aft) is home to an exquisite piece of artwork flanked by remarkable examples of original Murano glass. Many people make a special effort to visit every landing in every stairwell to view these absolutely superb original glass works from Murano. They are very special indeed.

The staterooms on the Costa Atlantica are spacious, well designed and attractively decorated… from the minimum inside space to the Grand Suites. Inside staterooms are a commodious 160 square feet and the OceanView's are 175. Suites vary in size and are all spacious and elegant. All staterooms have safes, mini-bars (refrigerators), spacious showers, loads of closet and drawer space and all the other expected amenities. Minimum Inside or Deluxe Veranda… all her cabins are first rate, comfortable and well designed.

The remarkable decor and layout of this vessel has been covered in great detail, in my first post and in numerous other venues. I think I would just like to deal with the on board service, entertainment and food that we and our groups have experienced this season in the Caribbean.

It is a pleasure to watch a ship mature… break in, if you will, and the Costa Atlantica has done just that since she arrived in November. Her service levels are now excellent… in the cabins, the restaurant, the lounges, the buffet areas and the pools. Friendly, accommodating service is the word… and one can experience it throughout the vessel. Food, both in the buffet areas and the main restaurant has been upgraded remarkably. The Tiziano Dining Room… an elegant two level room, beautifully decorated and very functional (a great idea… all the "busing stations" are against the walls throughout most of the restaurant… there ain't a bad table in the place) is purring like a kitten. The room works. Timings, from the kitchen to your table have been trimmed way down (read hot food promptly served). And the food… well… it is basically Continental cuisine with an Italian accent. (You can always get a great pasta dish with lunch or dinner… if you wish). Costa 's menus have been dramatically expanded… lots and lots of choices for each course… and you can always get a Steak, broiled Salmon or Chicken, with Baked Potato's or French Fries (these choices are on every dinner menu). There is always an Italian regional entree and a Vegetarian selection. Regulars on board request "Bruschetta" from their waiter or assistant maitre ‘d early on in the voyage and that wonderful Italian hors d'oeuvre will find its way to your table every night… a sheer delight, but you have to ask for it! There is also a low calorie, low fat selection on every menu. When it comes to food, the Costa Atlantica has really come of age.

The Club Atlantica, Costa 's upscale gourmet alternative dining restaurant features the food of Italy's five star chef Marchesi… it is a beautiful venue, featuring superb service, music with dinner and a very special menu. It's just under $20 per person, including gratuity, and worth a try… if you can get in. I suggest booking the restaurant early on the day of embarkation… the folks at the Information Desk or your Assistant Maitre ‘d in the Restaurant can handle it for you. Inexplicably, the Restaurant is closed on Tuesday on Eastern itineraries (in San Juan).

In addition to regular buffet fare, the Costa Atlantica has an "Ethnic Buffet Station"… just forward of the main buffet on Deck 9, near the mid-ship pool. Each day, during lunch, this station offers a different national specialty menu… French, Mexican, German, Italian and so forth. It is wonderful. Lunch can be a tough choice on this ship… the main Restaurant, the Buffet, the Pizzeria, the Grills or the Specialty Station. We met more than one passenger who sampled more than one lunch!

Costa 's entertainment is quite varied… from the usual LasVegas review type shows in the main theater to the amazing "Lounge Acts" that are everywhere on the ship. There is nothing at sea that comes close. Chanteusse's, comedians, dancers, musicians… they are everywhere, all the time. It is remarkable. Exuberant staff make the deck games, Kareoke and other audience participation activities particularly memorable. This ship is throbbing all evening long… and then, the Disco continues to the wee hours… a two deck affair with remarkable lighting and other special effects. It is a "must see" even for non-Disco types, such as yours truly.

The Costa Atlantica's casino is large, well laid out, with lots of space between tables and a very livable noise level. For Craps shooters, the ship has a great regulation size table with lots of action every night. Roulette Tables, Black Jack, Caribbean Poker share the space. Plenty of slots, too, including some 10 cent machines for the more thrifty (or wise?) among us.

For the kids, the Pinocchio Children's Room and the nearby Arcade are just great. Costa 's children's program is as good as it gets, regardless of age, with activities scheduled for morning, noon and night, with constant professional supervision.

The Spa and Health Club facilities are up there with the best. A huge well equipped exercise room, perched high above the ship's bow is a dramatic exercise facility. All the other accouterments are offered… various massage and other therapy treatments, Sauna and Steam rooms and personal trainers to assist. It is a great facility, busy all day long.

Overall, this is a ship… and a cruise line, for that matter, that have come of age. We have a smoothly functioning, well oiled machine here… providing a high level of Cruise experience. This ship may well be the best kept secret in the Caribbean… but not for long! Word of mouth is catching up and she is being heavily booked, already, for next year. It is extraordinary!

How about the usual Costa myths? You know, the one's that seem to have a life of their own and are repeated over and over. Let's take a look…

*Most frequent: All the announcements on Costa ships are done in five languages, all the time. WRONG. First of all, there are almost no announcements made on the ship during the voyage… it is a very "quiet" ship. You really need to check the daily programs to see what's going on. One exception… the life boat drill… that will be done in several languages and, frankly, I'm glad. I'd hate to have someone who didn't understand the LifeBoat instructions because of language difficulty get in my way in case of a real emergency. For me, this is clearly a non-issue.

*American's are a minority on board Costa ships in the Caribbean… well, no… not really. In point of fact, Costa averages about 80 to 85% American passengers in the Caribbean… quite in line with the other cruise companies. The presence of these upscale international visitors lends a worldly flavor to the ship and the international ambiance can be a welcome change from the usual cookie cutter Caribbean cruise. Occasionally, there may be larger groups of foreign visitors on Costa 's ship… as there are on other lines. Again, it adds to the on board flavor and really can be lots of fun.

*Smoking is pervasive. Well… no… not really… in fact, it is quite in line with other ships… designated smoking areas on the ship, with no smoking in the Caruso Theater and other venues. We have never found this to be a problem on any of Costa 's ships.

Early in this review, I commented that as Travel Agents we are dependent for our very existence in the Industry on the reactions of our groups and our individual clients to the ships we recommend. The Costa Atlantica has performed remarkably well in this regard. Group after group has returned and immediately re-booked the ship again for next year. To us, this is very much the acid test and the test that confirms our own feelings toward this vessel.

It is hard to put into words… but… somehow or other, about 3 days into one's cruise on the Costa Atlantica one gets a very warm feeling… a realization that the ship is something quite special… hard to put your finger on it… the friendly smiles… the food… the shows… the International ambiance… the sheer beauty of this spectacular ship… one gets the feeling that the Costa Atlantica is a unique vessel, standing out from most of the others… and you settle back into the comfortable realization that you have made a wise decision in booking her. She is a ship that has come of age perfectly… the pride of her line and her Italian heritage… a welcome gift to the American cruising public.

Ernie Grossman

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