This was our 26th cruise and our 6th on the Costa Line (3 on the Costa Romantica, 1 on the Costa Victoria and our 2nd on the Costa Atlantica, having sailed on her inaugural Caribbean voyage in December 2000). Our first review on the Atlantica was an overview of its huge art collection, plus a detailed description of its many beautiful public areas. This review will center on "Cruising Italian Style," since we feel that Hotel Director Attilio Sissa and Cruise Director Ray Rouse and staff have given this exquisitely maintained ship an ambiance that celebrates Italian Hospitality, Music, and of course Cuisine. If you want to enjoy pleasant surroundings, excellent service, festive atmosphere and a variety of activities facilitating interaction among passengers, cruise on the Costa Atlantica! FIRST IMPRESSIONS Costa ships are predominately white, elegant in shape and sport their traditional yellow smoke stacks with the navy blue "C" and the Atlantica carries on this tradition. She can be easily located in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, since she is 960 ft. long, 200 ft tall, a beam of 106 ft., and has a gross tonnage of 84,000. Her cruising speed is 24 knots, which is quite fast for a cruising ship of this size. Her passenger capacity is 2,112 and crew is 900. She is majestic and her Captain Giorgio Moretti has every right to be proud of her.
EMBARKATION Luggage was handled efficiently curb side, but there were not enough crew to assist all wheelchairs, so Mary pushed Vincent's chair through the terminal and on to the ship. Costa has a separate check-in line for those in suites and handicapped passengers. We arrived at 12:30pm and boarded at 1:00pm; however, our fellow cruisers had a longer wait and boarded at 2:00pm, when most passengers did, even though noon was listed as boarding time. We are not sure why there was an hour delay, but it made some passengers grumpy until they hit the buffet. Credit cards are registered on board later, at the passenger's leisure. SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS This ship is very easy to get around -- there are three sets of elevators, forward, aft and center. All decks are named after Federico Fellini films. On Deck 1 "Luci del Varieta`" forward is the Corallo Lounge with its striking under water motif; then there is a series of cabins and aft is the main galley with its escalator up to the dining rooms. Deck 2 "La Dolce Vita" has forward the first floor of the Caruso Theater, a simple, elegant room with sofa style seating and just two poles supporting the balcony (essentially no seats with limited or obstructed view). Going toward midship are the card rooms, Piazza Madama Butterfly and next the Casino/Bar Fortuna with marble statuary and many tables and slot machines. Centrally located is "La Dolce Vita" Atrium/Bar, ten decks high with wonderful replicas of Pompeian murals and delicately lighted Bird Cage glass elevators. This is a busy, much used hub, often with delightful music at the grand piano by Kelly Monzello. Going aft is Dante's Disco Club and the main floor of the Titian Restaurant, a beautiful room with unforgettable Venetian glass discs, reminiscent of the sun on the ocean, and many gilt framed replicas of Titian's paintings. Deck 3 "La Strada" forward has the first balcony of the Caruso Theater with its high backed individual seats (very comfortable); midship is the stunning Caffe` Florian, three distinct rooms which are replicas of the original Caffe` Florian in Piazza S. Marco, Venice, Italy -- this is the closest thing to Venetian Elegance out side of Italy. Near by is the Library, gentleman's club style with computers. Midship is also "Via della Spiga" shops, which hold various shopping treasures, including Versace dishes, designer clothes and liquors bottled in Venetian glassware. Very nice and not too expensive: good buys! Centrally located is the Conference Center and toward aft the long "Paparazzi Lounge" with its many nostalgic photos of film stars of the 50's and 60's (Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Jayne Mansfield, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner (as a blonde!) etc., etc., etc. In the aft is the balcony of the Titian Restaurant. Deck 4 "Roma" forward has the second balcony of the Caruso Theater and all the way aft are cabins. Deck 5 "Clowns", Deck 6 "Amarcord", Deck 7 "Intervista" and Deck 8 "8 1/2" are all cabins, mostly with balconies. Deck 9 "Ginger & Fred" forward has the gym, midship is the open theater, pools and bars. Towards aft are the Pizzeria Napoli, Botticelli Restaurant and at the stern is the Lido Aurora Bar for outside dining. Deck 10 "E La Nave Va" forward holds the fully equipped gym, the Solarium pool with retractable dome and the Club Atlantica, alternative dining and the suspended crystal staircase down to Deck 9. Anyone subject to vertigo, or with fear of heights, should forgo this glass stairway; however, many love the floating sensation climbing these stairs. Deck 11 "La Voce della Luna" forward holds the jogging track and aft is the Balcony of the Club Atlantica. Deck 12 "Le Notti di Cabiria" is the top open deck where strong, exhilarating winds can be enjoyed when the ship cruises at full speed. Now that specific areas of the ship are defined, they will be referred to throughout this writing. CABINS Our Grand Suite #7223 (360 sq. ft.) was much similar to the Panoramic Suite #6219, we occupied in 2000. Teakwood, brass, granite and leather all abound. When entering on the left is a mirrored wall and the first wardrobe, then a refrigerator, and a desk with many drawers. There is a contoured coral leather sofa bed, two upholstered chairs, a large coffee table and the door to the double long balcony. When entering on the right is a privacy wall, then a lady's vanity with sink and a second wardrobe with complimentary robes and slippers. There is a full bath/jacuzzi, double sinks, shelves and mirrors, a bidet and granite counters with marble, tile and mosaics. Next is the queen bed alcove, two night stands with Venetian glass lamps trimmed with copper and another lady's wardrobe. The far wall is glass with a TV console, private safe and more drawers. The color scheme is beige, coral and navy blue. The walls are decorated with two original art works: one a family of seven figures by Stefano Spagnoli is very geometric, in bold colors and whimsical; the other is a montage of a Venetian Balcony with coral and blue doors with wrought iron -- a propos. FOOD & SERVICE With the vigilance and help of the two Asst. Maitre d's, both named Gianni, and the genial Maitre d' Umberto Iacomino (who is all over the ship overseeing the many different venues) we had table #52 for six, early seating, near a window overlooking the wake of the ship. We had many lovely dinners at sunset, at an excellent table well served by our waiter Ismail Shareef (India via Egypt) whose impeccable service and finesse lead us to believe he may soon be moving up in his career probably to Asst. Maitre d` (perhaps on one of Costa 's many projected new ships), since he is a polyglot whose manners and appearance are impressive. The variety of food presented was enough to please every palate, especially the pasta dishes which were unusually excellent and some magnificent: Pappardelle alla Cacciatora (home made wide flat noodles with wild porcini mushrooms in a cream sauce); Fagottini ai quattro formaggi (beggar's pouches of pasta stuffed with cheese, meat, ricotta and spinach); and Vincent's favorite Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, excellently prepared by the Maitre d`. The appetizers included favorites like Shrimp Cocktail, Prosciutto e Melone or Grana Padano cheese, Carpaccio di Carne (thinly sliced beef marinated and served with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese) and many fresh fruit combinations to tantalize the palate. The salads were fresh, crisp and varied: Spinach with bacon and pine nuts; Hearts of lettuce with goat cheese; Mixed greens with arugula, endive, romaine, radicchio etc. Main courses were excellent -- Veal ossobuco with polenta, Filet Mignon, Lobster Tail, Crispy Peking Duckling. Every dinner was an occasion; Mary's sister Elizabeth and her husband Vito with their friends Cynthia and Robert made our table merry with stories of their daily excursions. Shareef made dessert time unique with twin desserts until we outwitted him and only half of us ordered dessert, but still on the last night, we all wore clothes with elasticized waistbands. The Sicilian cannoli, the many flavored ice creams, including rum raisin and pistachio, and the hot souffles were all excellent, as were the sugar free items. But most of all we loved the Pastiera, a delicious Neapolitan cheese cake, especially ordered for us by the Maitre d'. Grazie, Umberto! The Botticelli Buffet was popular, especially Tea Time every afternoon with its many gourmet blended tea varieties plus cookies, sandwiches and cakes. The pizza was nothing to write home about: The Atlantica needs a Neapolitan Pizza Man, who can mix an excellent dough and prepare freshly made pizzas right on the spot, as is done on Princess ships, and not serve warmed up frozen supermarket style pizzas. Room Service was slow, perhaps due to overwhelming demand, since most of the time the phone line was busy. We used the breakfast order forms, placed them on the door handle of our cabin each evening and we had a full American breakfast delivered each morning at 7:45am. The food was good and hot with a bud vase of fresh flowers on our tray. The Gala dinners were just exquisite, and not only for the delicious entrees, but for the joyous atmosphere which permeated throughout the dining room. Our group has several wonderful portraits taken by Patrizio Marras, one of Costa 's photographers. Thank you Patrizio for the memories. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Ray Rouse is a debonair and busy fellow. He and his crew generate an aura of Festa Italiana. The many activities include the following: Bingo, Trivia Quizzes (we won four), Crafts, Line Dancing, Dancing Lessons, Italian Lessons, Cooking Demonstrations, Exercise Classes, etc., etc. and of course the shows in the Caruso theater. The first two days were rough sea days, so the "Metamorphosis" show had to be canceled, but Van Pressley Jr. of the famous Platters did a one man show that brought the crowd to cheers ("Smoke gets in Your Eyes" and "The Great Pretender" and other 50's and 60's melodies were a trip down memory lane). Richard Ianni, the warm Italian tenor brought the audience to its feet with his international favorites: "La Vie en Rose" and "Te Voglio Bene." Ianni's voice is powerful and well schooled -- Bravo! At the Caffe` Florian, we enjoyed Luis Cartin (Spain) accompanied by Marcel Roscovan on violin and Rogut Anatolie on Piano. To sit in this beautiful setting for a Caffe` Concerto Strauss is so delightful: Cartin's voice is splendid and these three are true artists. We also enjoyed performances by Monika and the Coco's Band. Her strong and clear voice is outstanding -- Brava! To sum up, "Cruising Italian Style" is more fun than any other way. The theme nights, the Italian, the Bacchanal and the two Gala dinners had the passengers participating in singing and playing carnival games with the elegantly costumed crew. Needless to say, it was enjoyable to be in a dining room filled with passengers waving their napkins and singing "O Sole Mio" and waiters leading conga lines -- the next day everyone acted like old friends. The horse race was a special event for us since "Phantom Fury" out of Ferrante Stables in Deerfield Beach, FL won the Owner's Sweepstakes for Elizabeth and Vito and a purse of $900 ($5.00 tickets paid $20.00). He just edged out "Rocky" and the crowd roared. Nice job of calling the race by Ray Rouse! There is music everywhere and smiles galore; this could be the closest some may come to life Italian style. PORTS OF CALL San Juan, Puerto Rico: Arrival 3:30pm Departure 1:30am Arrival is a bit too late for the San Juan City Tour ($25); Fort San Cristobal was closing when the group arrived, so they missed this highlight. This is also too late for the rain forest tours, but for San Juan night life the timing is fine, i.e., Latin Tradition Show ($41). St. Thomas, USVI: Arrival 7:30am Departure 5:00pm The 2 hr Skyline Drive ($30) is a very scenic tour, it ascends to the volcanic mountain tops then circles down and ends with shopping at Charlotte Amalie. Shopping in St. Thomas is among the best in the USVI. We always pay a visit to Mr. Tablecloth for the best linens and prices. Catilina Island, Dominican Rep.: Arrival 8:00am Departure 6:00pm Altos Chavon Village Tour, 5 hrs ($31) is a bus ride along the Chavon River and a stop at the replica of a cobblestone paved 17th century Mediterranean Village with an artists colony. There are two other tours with rides on the river at $49, each and for approximately 5 hrs. The ship offers a day on their private beach with BBQ and many prefer swimming and sunning. Tenders are used. Nassau, Bahamas: Arrival 9:15am Departure 6:00pm Best Tour is the Dolphin Encounter 3 1/2 hrs ($88) "Educational and Fun." Then there is the Nassau Island Tour 2 hrs ($24) which is great for first timers and includes a visit to the famous Atlantis Paradise Island . Normally we just go shopping at our favorite places like the "Perfume Bar" and other shops downtown. DISEMBARKATION In order to avoid crowding Costa assigns specific waiting areas to each colored luggage tag. Disembarkation was simple and orderly. Customs were quick and efficient. We were off by 8:30 am and home in less than an hour. SUGGESTIONS We enjoy cruising. We have never had a bad cruise, as matter of fact, we have loved all of our cruises, some more than others. This cruise was among the best ones, since it was our return to this beautiful ship and a visit to our friend Attilio Sissa, Hotel Director, who offered us great hospitality. We also enjoyed the company of our fellow cruisers Cynthia & Robert and Elizabeth & Vito. However, we offer a few suggestions to make a great cruise even greater: 1. The embarkation process was a bit slow. We suggest using a process similar to that adopted by Princess, which utilizes separate check-in windows for each group of cabins (category/deck), thus cutting the length of lines. Moreover, additional wheelchair assistance is needed outside the terminal, near the luggage drop off site. If the ship is not ready for embarkation at noon (the current check-in time), then Costa should slate it for one o'clock. Thus, passengers would not arrive so early and create long waiting lines. The terminal is spacious and the staff is sufficient to speedily process documents and board the passengers quickly. Also credit card registration should be done together with other documents at boarding time and not later on the ship. 2. Room Service is a tad slow and most of the time the telephone was busy in regular cabins as well in suites. This service needs improvement. 3. Pizza is definitely of inferior quality, especially when compared to the freshly made ones on the Grand and Golden Princess. It is important that an Italian Cruise Line like Costa , who has a great tradition of Italian cuisine and advertises "Cruising Italian Style" offers a good pizza Italian style. Frozen pizzas may be tolerable on ships of other nationalities, but not on the Atlantica, Costa 's flagship, who sails the seas under the Italian flag. There is a need to hire a good Pizzaiolo. : The chlorine aftertaste of the water, ice tea and reconstituted juices which we reported in our first Costa Atlantica review is no longer present in any drinks. Water filtration and/or quality control on chlorination has evidently eliminated the problem.