Costa Cruises Costa Magica by Bud Lockwood Eastern Caribbean November 26, 2006
My wife, Ginny, and I sailed on the Costa Magica to what Costa called the "new Eastern Caribbean". The itinerary included the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk as well as San Juan and St. Thomas. The ship, staff, itinerary, accommodations, food, and entertainment were all very good.
Sailing on Costa is a unique experience principally because of its Italian focus which includes the staff, food, decorations, and entertainment. It is apparently a favored cruise line for Europeans which provides many opportunities to meet more than a normal number of passengers from Europe. The line caters to these people by making announcements in five languages.
Pricing is a potential Costa advantage. Their Caribbean prices are very competitive. We were initially tempted by Costa pricing and returned because of our positive cruising experience.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: We arrived at the Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale) terminal at 11:40 a.m. and were greeted by very long lines, apparently caused by federal ship inspections. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get on board. Getting off was easy. Our color was called 10 minutes early and we off and in the car in 20 minutes.
Ship: The Magica is a large (105,000 tons) and new (2004) ship. It has the amenities one expects from that type ship. In Costa fashion it is decorated very colorfully as well as tastefully. The staff also maintains the ship in great condition.
Food: Costa adds one course, a pasta dish, to its lunch and dinner menus. The pasta selection is something we look forward to. The restaurant portion sizes seemed bigger than we were accustomed to on other ships so we found ourselves skipping a couple of dinner courses each meal. They had a nice selection of main courses including lobster prepared in a special way that was excellent.
Decorations: Costa has Italian themed décor that is special. The colors are not subtle! The art work and photographs make touring the ship fun. Other reviewers have described these in much better detail than I can.
Entertainment: Costa has traditional as well as unique entertainment and entertainment themes. Unique entertainment and themes include one night when they suggest dressing in Italian colors. Another they suggest wearing a toga which they provide complete with tying instructions. They have a Mediterranean night where guests are encouraged to visit several lounges, get special Costa provided cards signed at the lounges to get a discount on a future cruise. They also had some excellent musicians in the lounges and atrium.
Ports: The Grand Turk port was new to us. Grand Turk is a relatively small island that has been developed to be close to the equivalent of other cruise line's private islands although it has a brand new shopping/restaurant/bar complex at the end of the pier. Cruise lines other than Costa visit Grand Turk. The Dominican Republic stop was at La Romana which provides access to Altos de Chavon, a 17th century replica village built in the 1970's. La Romana is a very small port, maybe better described as an inlet because the ship docks barely out of the sea. We took a boat ride on the Chavon River and visited the replica village. The rides to these sites were interesting because the vegetation along the way was beautiful, obviously carefully groomed and cared for as part of the tourist sites. We were impressed.
St. Thomas was a third stop. We visited the park called Coral World which was a pleasant surprise. It included several ways to see fish in their natural habitat as well as aquariums. Good place for getting shark photos.
We also visited San Juan, Puerto Rico, but only for an evening and night life stop.
Conclusion: Costa pricing made it easy to give them a try and the cruising experience is enough different to make them a unique experience well worth return visits. Liking Italian food, art and customs is probably a prerequisite to having an enjoyable cruise.