December 23, 2005
My wife and I joined another couple for a Christmas cruise on the Costa Mediterranea, embarking in Port Everglades, Florida, and visiting San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau. We had read numerous reviews, several less than complimentary, of both Costa and, especially, the Mediterranea and were anxious to see and experience the ship for ourselves.
The ship decor: The Mediterranea is worth the cruise fare, just to witness the decorations and artworks! The best pre-cruise descriptions I found were included in the Cruisemates reader review by the Finellis, dated January 11, 2004. Although I can’t verify the accuracy of their descriptions they do provide details for almost endless decorations and artworks. They were even better at Christmas with decorated trees in most venues.
Impressive and worthy of special notes were the large colored glass globe lamps shaped to look like flames, located along deck 2 and on the staircases; a large fountain near the Piazza Casanova; the lamps, colored glass, and encased metal art in the main dining room; the colored metal figures and costumed mannequins on the atrium wall opposite the glass atrium elevators, and the ceilings of the public rooms. The décor is definitely different than that of any ship we have sailed on, and worth seeing. It is something that has to be experienced to fully appreciate
Hint: Photographing the décor is a challenge so be prepared to use fill flash and no flash, as well as flash to light your ship photos. Visiting the dining room and main areas during off hours will give you time to experiment. Good photos of the mannequins can be taken from deck 4 with no flash during the daytime.
The ship: The Mediterranea is an 86,000 gross ton ship, built in 2003, so it has most of the modern ship amenities. It is extremely well maintained and is kept very clean. The ship recently passed an unannounced health inspection with a perfect score and it was easy to understand that the score was well deserved.
The food and restaurants: We had read several reviews of the Mediterranea that included negative comments about the food. The food was very good and was complemented by Italian specialties. The pasta dishes, available and recommended as a pre-entrée course with every main dining room dinner were especially noteworthy. Lobster, steak, and fish were just as available as on most other ships. The buffet was one of the cleanest and best maintained we have experienced, with a nice variety of food for both breakfast and lunch. They also have no-added-cost ice cream in the buffet area and an afternoon tea time with a large selection of teas packaged as you order them.
Hint: If you plan to eat in the specialty restaurant make reservations the day you board. It was sold out when we inquired.
The entertainment: Although we don’t make it to many shows, reports on the entertainment were positive. The Mediterranea does have special nights, Mediterranean and Festa Italiana, with themed activities throughout the ship’s lounges. It is the first time I have seen bocce ball played on a ship or heard of a shipboard Venetian mask making opportunity.
Toga night deserves special mention. Wearing togas on the last night is, apparently, a Costa tradition. We discussed and researched toga wearing, at length, as we planned the cruise. In the end the ship provides the sheets and the instructions. Perhaps a third of the passengers wear togas and the percentage is higher for those attending the Roman Bacchanal guest talent show.
Hint: If you plan to wear a toga, wear it to dinner and for the evening. A white t-shirt and shorts underneath the toga is a courteous gesture for table mates. It doesn’t work well to change into a toga after dinner.
Embarkation and disembarkation: We were able to board immediately upon arrival at the terminal at about 11:45 a.m. The process was relatively painless but not the most efficient we have experienced. Debarkation was a little slower than that of some other ships. We were among the last off at about 10:00 a.m.
The staff: Excellent, in a word. We had read reviews that were less than complimentary about the Mediterranea staff. We witnessed no unfriendly behavior, even though it was Christmas time, a tough time for staff to be away from home and families. The staff we encountered were pleasant and very responsive to requests
Hint: Cruisemates had suggested having little gifts available for giving on Christmas. Great advice! We took Christmas cards with $5 or $10 bills inserted and gave them to not only our waiters and room steward but also others on the ship. Smiles and surprised expressions when they received the envelopes were our reward.
Christmas cruising: This was our second Christmas cruise and it is a nice way to celebrate. The ship was nicely decorated for Christmas and the holiday celebrations recognized Christians as well as other religions. Music, religious services and food along with the decorations were all specially programmed for the holiday.
Hint: Expect children for any holiday cruise. There were a reported 500 on our cruise. The only significant unpleasant experiences were in the casino where the staff and security seemed unable to keep several youth from playing the machines. There were minor youth behavior problems around the ship but most were well behaved and, considering the large number aboard, the results were very good.
Ports and weather: Christmas is a great time to visit the Caribbean! The weather is very nice. The shops and tours were all operating. The Mediterranea’s itinerary, even though we stopped in San Juan, St. Thomas and Nassau which are frequently crowded with ships, hit the ports when only one or two other ships were there. We were in San Juan on Christmas Day. Amazingly, several shops were open and the locals have a big celebration along the water front on Christmas Day. Worth a walk along the water front.
Summary: We were impressed with our first Costa experience. Very nice ship. Excellent service. Good food. Fun.