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.
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.