Costa Cruises Costa Magica Eastern Caribbean February 5, 2006
This cruise overall was very good. Everything about the ship was good to excellent. The meals were excellent, the staff friendly and there was always something to see or do.
You have to go with the mind-set that the ship is a floating resort, not just a vehicle to get you to island destinations. Security is very tight on these ships. You need to have your passport and ship ID card every time you get on or off. They'll take a credit card number when you first board, then give you a ship ID card so everything you buy on the ship goes on the card. As with a credit card, they give you a receipt for everything you buy and have you sign their copy. There are no cash or credit card transactions on the ship. You can tip in cash if you think someone's service was exceptional but you don't have to. Ours was supposedly included in the fare.
We flew in to Miami and were bused to Ft. Lauderdale. When we arrived at the ship terminal, everybody lined up in a warehouse-type building. The line was very long but we went through very quickly. They are only checking passports and ID at this stop. Our ship ID card was in the next room, along with all the information you needed to know about the ship, like meal seating times and table numbers, etc .
There is a mandatory lifeboat drill on all cruises, and ours was on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. You have to meet at a specified spot on a lower deck with your life jacket on. The life jackets are in all the cabins. We were on Deck 10, so we had to go to zero deck without using the elevators. It goes smoothly and is over in about 15 minutes.
Getting on or off the ship is time consuming because everyone has to have their ID card swiped by security at the exit and you have to show your passport. It's the same thing when you get back on. My only complaint is that at every port we visited, there were at least six other ships at the dock, each with two to three thousand passengers. That makes for a very crowded town, with 10-15 thousand tourists converging on the same place. All the ships arrive early in the morning and leave by 6 p.m. the same day.
The excursions were OK but not exceptional other than the dolphin swim, but that was very expensive. They are well organized, though; everyone who signs up gets a colored sticker with a number corresponding to the excursion, and is told to meet in a specific spot on the ship before the excursion. When everyone was there, the excursion guide led everyone to the waiting buses.
The ship had something going in the theater all the time. There were Las Vegas-type shows with lots of glitz. They had a newlywed game on stage one night with some of the passengers as contestants. It was hysterical because they take one couple married less than a year, one with five years, one with 10 years, and one with more than 20. They videotape the whole thing and broadcast it over and over again on the in-cabin TVs.
There was also something going on at the central pool area all day as well (bingo games, etc.). It was always packed there, and it is designed like a theater with the lounge chairs on different levels for people to watch the show as they sunbathed.
Because the ship is always moving unless it's in port, it is very windy on the top outside decks. You can feel the ship moving from side to side sometimes but you get used to it. At night when you are lying in bed you can feel the ship moving with the waves but it rocks you to sleep. We never had any problem with motion sickness, but your legs feel spongy when you go ashore sometimes, since you have been adjusting to the ship's movements when you are on board.
Meals are at assigned tables of two, four, six or eight. You have a choice of what time and size of table you prefer, but even then, if you get seated with someone you can't stand, you can ask to be changed. There were two mealtimes, 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. We took the later one. Food is available all day in the cafeterias, and at lunch they have a huge variety of things. The food was excellent.
We had two formal dinners, a toga night, and a Caribbean night at the sit-down dinners. The staff members were great, and they did lots of dressing up themselves for the themes; they also danced, sang and organized conga lines through the restaurant.
There is always someone around taking pictures of the passengers, which they of course sell to you. Just smile and let them take pictures. It's a waste of time to argue with them and you don't have to buy anything.
On the last day you have to have your luggage outside your cabin door by 1 a.m. They pick it up and leave forms and information in your room as to where you will meet in the morning to disembark. They gave us colored labels to put on the luggage and that determined where you went in the morning to meet. Ours was green and we assembled in one of the lounges. The disembarkation is staggered, with people who have early flights getting off first. Disembarkation was very smooth. During the last night they drop off an itemized list of all the things you bought on board and charged to your ship ID card. If you don't dispute the charges, you don't have to do anything and can just leave it on your credit card. If you want to dispute a charge, or want to pay cash, you have to go to the front desk by 6 a.m. (good luck!).
Once you get off the ship, you go into another big warehouse-type building where all the luggage is waiting, separated into different bunches by the colored tags. Ours was easy to find.
We were bused back to Miami Airport and after some delays at the check in, the plane home left on time.