RATING: - I give it 9.5 out of 10. Why.
EMBARKTION: - January 2 - 8/06 sailing. The 4 of us including the 2 girls, 14 and 15 arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day earlier. We left the Marriott Renaissance at 12:30 p.m. and we were in our cabin at 1:00 p.m. There was virtually no one in the terminal when we arrived. It took 10 minutes from dropping off luggage until we got into the cabin.
CABIN/SHIP: - No less than beautiful and spotlessly clean. We headed to our cabin 6315 on deck 6 near midship on the starboard side. There was a card on the desk for access to room as well as 4 personalized cards for each of us.
Cabin - Rommel, our cabin steward explained the cooling system, how to contact him, the workings of recording purchases from the dorm fridge and that he services the cabin twice a day. The room was spotless. We had a balcony, 2 chairs and a table which provided a retreat from the cabin. The 2 beds had already been placed together to make a queen. For the children, there was one bed in the spot where the sofa would be and the upper berth was directly above that. As a Pullman, it could be folded away if there were 3 passengers in the cabin. All of the beds were comfortable and I actually climbed in the upper to test the comfort for an adult. Lots of closet/storage space. Extra blankets in cabin. Mints/chocolate on bed several nights.
Hairdryer in top drawer and only 1 usable 110 circuit at desk/vanity. Bring a European converter if you have it.
Bathroom - Soap and body wash/shampoo only in shower.
Roll of ship - We noticed some motion of the ship, 2 of us used bromine 2 nights, no one was ill. It is wise to bring motion medication.
The ship's layout allows one to find their way around easily on all decks. We did not use the pools, but the girls did, as well as the water slide. The water slide was busy whenever open. Did not visit the gym, no comments. Visited the spa, did not use. Lifeboat drill - Our lifeboat drill took place on day 1 before sailing. Well announced and totally organized with clear instructions. Readily identifiable crewmembers stationed at each junction to direct all to the waiting area. Took 20 minutes.
Washrooms on decks immaculately clean.
Laundry - No self-serve laundry. There is a laundry service at a price. There is a line in the shower for hanging up wet items. On the second last day of the cruise, you could fill a brown paper bag with as much dirty clothes for washing and folding for $19.99 plus 15% gratuity.
CREW: - Extremely pleasant, helpful and courteous. There is an entertainment director, Max with a staff that provides or is the catalyst for the entertainment. No problem communicating with the crew, most of the officers and key personnel on the ship speak 5 - 7 languages. This Italian theme cruise on an Italian ship makes some announcements in 5 languages including English. The shows are virtually all in English.
Information Office/Customer Service - Excellent service. No need to register a credit card. If you need to, this can be done at any time during the cruise. I had an on-board credit, able to check my balance at any time, no line ups. Towards end of cruise I received a written message regarding my credit. The staff was just letting me know that I had available credit that I should use up - That's service.
PAST CRUISER - As a past cruiser, we attended an additional reception with the captain with a picture of him and us - gratis.
KIDS/TEEN CLUB - There were counselors on this cruise for the children. There were 3 age groups: 3 - 7, 8 - 14, and 15 - 18. I guess there were 500 children on the ship. A program was presented for each of the 3 groups. Activities started at 9:00 a.m. and continued till midnight for the older ones. There is evening group childcare while the parent's dine/socialize on the formal nights. Girls attended some of the teen activities and chummed around with some guys and girls they met at the teen club. The girls prime activity was the teen disco until 1:00 a.m. Some 14 year olds suddenly became 15 for the teen club.Kids Drink Card - The Boys and Girls Card and can be used by the big boys and girls also. With 15% tip, this comes in at $56 for 20 drinks - virgin strawberry daiquiris, Shirley Temples, fruit milkshakes and pop. Don't waste the card on pop/soda. Sodas can be had for $2.30 each.
FOOD/DINING ROOM: - The first night, there were shorts/T shirts at dinner, a change from a previous experience with Costa Cruise Lines. Noticed folks showing up at 7:00 p.m. for the 5:30 sitting., doors not locked. Latecomers can always be accommodated on the Lido deck. However at lunch/breakfast, shorts seemed to be ok. Most dressed smart casual for dinner with the exception of 2 formal and one-toga nights. Children looked forward to these dress up events. Ate all meals in the dining room. Not into buffets on a ship when I have a choice.
Food - Food was excellent, service superb. Diego, our waiter and Percy, the assistant provided excellent service in the Portofino DR on the lower level. We had the first dinner sitting at 5:30 p.m., it approximates our regular eating time and allows for an evening of activity. This was our preference. The second sitting was at 8:30 p.m. and in the other DR, it ran 15 minutes later for each sitting.
If we were not sure what to order, the waiters' recommendation came through. Requested through the waiter and Maitre d' and received shrimp cocktails, although not on menu. One girl wanted a four cheese pasta dish she had on a previous Costa cruise and this was made for her each evening - That's looking after your guests. All food was hot, well prepared and beautifully presented with adequate portions. There was an excellent variety with six courses at dinner - appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, entrée and dessert followed by coffee. There were 2-3 choices except for 5 -6 entrees and 6- 7 dessert choices. Caesar salad, spaghetti, salmon and a steak as I recall were always available. We did not have a bad meal. I tried something new to me each lunch and dinner, that's part of cruising, an opportunity to experiment. Coffee comes at the very end of meal unless requested during the meal. The children found comfort in chocolate mousse or ice cream, both with chocolate sauce. While we were looked after, I also feel the girls received special service especially with their dessert requests when not on the menu.
Lunches and breakfast were equally impressive with just about as many courses and variety. Plenty of food stations on Lido deck where there are made-to-order omelets and an excellent variety of breakfast choices. On Gala - formal and toga nights, these become processional and colourful events with the waiters and other staff demonstrating among other things their dance techniques. These evenings provided a welcome change not knowing what to expect.
The maitre'd dropped around every meal; he touched bases with all tables. Our maitre d' was quite personable and was attentive to special requests. The midnight buffets were primarily desserts, meats cheeses and fruits with the artistic creations. One evening there was a fairly elaborate display in one dining room for picture taking, with a tour through the common kitchen to pick up food with seating in the other dining room.
There is a pay restaurant tucked away inside the jogging track on deck 11 or so. Did not use.
Pizza was ok, by the slice or whole one. Coffee was ok, better than some other ships. Lido deck dining, did not use except for lunch day 1 and one of the girls had pancakes there. Hotdogs/hamburgers available for those who want this fare.
DECK/POOL AREA: - There are an adequate number of deck chairs on multi-levels and there were those chairs unoccupied save for a towel.
In addition to English, there are some activities conducted in other languages to which anyone can partake. Watched activities on deck conducted in Italian. One night I got to participate with the belly dancers in their routine.
FELLOW PASSENGERS: - For the most part, similar to your neighbours and work mates and in the 30 -60 age range with exceptions. Lots of large groups, 15, 27, 81 and so on. The majority I think were Canadians and lots from Florida.
PORTS OF CALL: - Nassau and Cozumel - Both interesting places. Grand Cayman was cancelled appropriately due to an earlier rescue/search operation at sea.
NIGHTLIFE: - The Disco - The teen had it until 1 or 2 a.m. and this is where the teens are. If the kids are not in the cabin at night, this is a likely spot to find them.
Urbino Theatre - Generally watched the second show for the early seating. All shows lasted 40 - 50 minutes. Comedian the first night was good, he selected his "Mama" and "Papa". There were variety type acts, singers, the Costa dancers and their own productions which were all good.
Entertainers - There is a variety of singers, piano players, and 3 piece bands throughout the ship. There is sufficient variety and some have a large following with classical, dance, 50's and contemporary music.
Toga night - Bring your toga or try your hand and wrap your own. There were many varieties. Togas do come apart, even with safety pins. Togas are not immune to gravity. Probably half the diners dressed in togas on Saturday night, down to the little folk. Toga show at 10:45 p.m. was good with passenger entertainment and lots 75-80% togas.
Toga night downside - The 4th act. One passenger pulled a quick one on the Costa staff. This chap was from Amsterdam traveling with his wife. I'll refer to him as the pervert from Amsterdam. He removed his toga when entering the stage in favour of his loin cloth and nothing underneath parading around signing. It was like the Janet Jackson episode but for 2 minutes and for the children in the first five rows or so, they were embarrassed/insulted with his exhibitionism when he turned every 5 seconds or so (we were in the front row with many children). His act was suited at best to an adult entertainment parlour. Will be addressed in writing with Costa.
PORT DISEMBARKATION: - Excellent - Off the ship at 8:20 a.m. and waiting for a taxi at 8:45 a.m.
WHY COSTA - We sailed on the Costa Atlantica two years earlier and had an excellent cruise. The price was attractive for a balcony cabin and factoring in the children who sailed for only the $ 43 port taxes, the price was right.
The good - Nothing less than an excellent 6 day cruise with an Italian flavour. Six days was too short. Service and information office staff was excellent and all crew were pleasant/accomodating. The food was excellent, well prepared and attractively presented. Beautiful ship and extremely clean. Many kids on this cruise well behaved.
Getting better - Smoking is prohibited in the dining rooms/areas and the theatre as well as at tables in all the lounges; however, the offset is that there is smoking at the bar and surrounding area. The air is getting better for non-smokers.
The bad - The need to take the passport off the ship to get back on with inspection by Costa personnel. A Costa picture ID card is needed. Other cruise lines do this.
Enjoy your Costa cruise.