CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Ralph Eastern Caribbean November 26, 2006

This was the eighth cruise that my wife and I have taken. We have cruised previously with Carnival, RCI and NCL. We were looking forward to the “European touch” that this ship was touted to have. I don't think that we are picky cruisers and certainly don't expect perfection but quickly found out that we were in for an interesting week.

Embarkation: We arrived at the port in Ft. Lauderdale around 12:30 and found ourselves in a 1½ hour line waiting to submit our completed documents. Then onto another waiting area before lining up to go through the obligatory picture taking session. We got to our locked cabin around 2:30 (all the other cabins had a door key in the locks). So up to the "Guest Services" desk to wait in line to get a key to open the door. Unfortunately there were several elderly cruise passengers who insisted on carrying on lengthy conversations with the very busy staff. One half hour or so later I was on my way back down to open our door.

The Cabin: Upon entering the cabin, we immediately noticed that it was fairly warm which we attributed to the thermostat being turned halfway between warm and cold. We adjusted it to the coldest setting and surveyed the cabin. It was a typical "Carnival type" cabin but not quite as large. The beds were already pushed together and made up. The bathroom was fair in size but there was not the usual basket of conditioners, mints, personal products that we were used to on the other lines. One other thing that was missing from the cabin was the preordered "anniversary package" that was supposed to be delivered on the day of embarkation. I attributed it to the ship being full and the staff being busy so we decided to wait to give them a chance to deliver it. Our baggage arrived within two hours which I thought was excellent. We returned that evening to change into our dinner clothes only to find that the temperature in the cabin was no better than when we boarded. Long story short .. After seven complaints to "Guest Services" in person, over the phone and three visits from the engineering staff over the course of three days there was a slight improvement to the room temperature. However if we left the lights and TV on for an extended period the temperature increased to the point of being uncomfortable again. At this point we gave up on getting the issue resolved and worked around it. The Ship: Overall the ship was very impressive. It took a few days to get used to the "use one deck to traverse the ship" and then go up or down decks to get where you want to be. The Dining: We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffet throughout the week. The food at breakfast was fair. We were glad to see that the bacon was fully cooked and the scrambled eggs were cooked solid and not soupy. All the other regular fare was there including many types of breads and cheeses. Lunch for the most part was poor. The foods were bland and tasteless. I tried the burgers at the grill on several days and was very disappointed in their lack of taste. We had dinner in the Smeralda restaurant during the second seating. We sat at a table for eight and ended up with five other pleasant cruisers. The food in general was fair. There were more items that we did not like than we liked. The clam chowder was inedible, the lobster was mushy and the steaks were tough to mention a few. The breads were good though cold and hard, the appetizers were generally good and there was usually a desert that was very tasty.

Ports: Excursions are getting more and more expensive and Costa is no different.

San Juan – since we didn't arrive until 5PM we didn't book anything here. We decided to walk off the ship and visit a few shops in the immediate area close to the dock.

St. Thomas - took the "Skyline Drive and Meagans Bay Beach" tour here. The tour was fine but we were very surprised to find that the time at Meagans Bay was extended to two hours instead of the one that the paperwork indicated. We hadn't worn swim suits since the time was supposed to be so short. The other surprise was that we were expected to "rent" beach chairs at $11.00 each (includes $5.00 returnable deposit) as they weren't included in the $43.00 pp cost for the tour. Other cruise lines in port had chairs already set up and reserved for their tours.

La Romana – took the "Natural Wonders of the Dominican Republic" tour here. I highly recommend this one even though the cost was $79.00 pp. After a speedboat ride to a protected area you transferred to a double dugout canoe for a ride through the mangroves. Refreshments were served during a swimming stop at a shallow area offshore that was only waist-deep. The guide was excellent and provided a fascinating tour that we have ranked close to the top of our list for favorite tours.

Grand Turk – new port that only opened to cruise ships in early 2006. Took the "Island Bus Loop (Guana)" here which provided free admission to the lighthouse and prison and allowed a hop on hop off feature. The problem is that there are only three stops on the loop and the driver advised against the first one as there is nothing there to see yet. Cost of this one was $44.00 pp. Rather expensive for the two attractions which have a regular admission price of around $7.00 each. We thought ourselves lucky to be able to see this wonderful island prior to the significant development that is sure to come.

Debarkation: We received our colored debarkation tags on the last night and set our luggage out before the 1AM deadline. There were three different areas on ship set up to hold all the different color combinations which worked out fine. Once again the times posted for debarkation were very close to when they were actually called. There was a significant que waiting to process through customs once inside the terminal which we have never had before. We quickly found our bags and made our way outside to our transportation. Overall this was the most efficient, quickest and painless debarkation of any cruise yet.

Overall: Things always started on time! That was especially nice since most other cruises that we have taken weren't punctual at all. There were always deck chairs available and we didn't see many "chair hogs" leaving items to claim them. There were a few folks saving seats in the theater but not too many. There was ample room for everyone and the view was unobstructed for the majority of the seats. The shops had many different items from the other cruise lines but the prices were quite high. Photography was kept to a minimum onboard the ship which was nice but we were surprised to see that there weren't any photographs being made during debarkation at each port. The casino (the slots) took our money just as quickly as any other ship with few payouts.

It"s very doubtful that we will cruise on this ship again.

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