December 11, 2005
I went on a pre-holiday cruise on Costa. It was a slightly different experience than on the major U.S. cruise lines, but overall a good value for the money.
Embarkation We arrived late at the ship, so we walked right on board. Staff was helpful and friendly.
The Ship The Mediterranea is very attractive, designed by the same man who did the Carnival Legend, and I noticed how similar the two ships are. I was able to easily find my way around as the layout was almost exactly the same. The only hard part for me was trying to remember the names of the lounges and restaurants, because they are Italian. The huge Christmas tree in the Atrium made it feel more festive.
Pools and Hot Tubs Pools were salt water, but very nice and never too crowded. The middle pool is the most crowded because they have activities there by day, and the band plays. Still, you can find a lounge chair on Deck 10 -- just walk down the stairs and you're at the pool. Towels are placed all over the lido deck, so you just grab what you need. The hot tubs are never hot enough for me on cruise ships; they should call them bubble baths -- lukewarm water with a nice jet massage. There is a water slide; read your newsletter or ask for the times when it's open. It's a lot of fun for adults and kiddies.
Children I don't have any children, but my cabin mate told me she overheard parents raving about how good the children's programs are on Costa. I can tell you I hardly saw any kids on the ship, and the ones I did see were well behaved.This time of year was good for adults who don't want a lot of children running around, because most kids were in school. The Costa staff seems excellent with kids; they put the little ones on stage with the band and let them play the maracas or teach them to play steel drums -- too cute!
The Lifeboat Drill This was extremely long, since the staff had to recite everything in half a dozen languages.
My Cabin The cabins are clean and well kept. I slept like a baby on the firm mattress and I swear my back never felt better. Others complained the mattresses are too firm, but you can ask for an extra mattress pad (egg-crate style, I heard).
The Staff The staffers are more quiet and unassuming than on other cruise lines; they are friendly, but more in the background just doing their jobs. Perhaps they are not as interactive with the customers as other cruise lines, but they are polite and well mannered. I think this is Costa's European style. Say bongiorno ("good morning") and you will be greeted with a big smile..
The Food I really enjoyed the food in the dining room. The soups were good. Different pastas were offered for dinner each day. They had chicken, fish, pork, beef, shellfish and vegetarian entrees. My favorite was a pork dish (I wish I remembered the name). The mahi-mahi was also good. There was a lamb dish that was heavenly! I was pleasantly surprised with the desserts -- good variety. The pear tart is not to be missed; nor is the gelato they had in the buffet area on certain days only.
As for the buffet area, my only complaint is that they only serve breakfast and lunch with a choice of different food stations; during dinner hours, all they had was pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and Mexican. The pizza was tasty but I would like more food choices.
Activities Costa has many activities to choose from, but the line dance classes are a blast! Just jump in and try to follow the crowd. I was shy and waited until the last day to join in -- big mistake; I had a ball and a good workout to boot! They also had cooking lessons, bocce ball, arts and crafts. The horse races were fun to watch. The "sexy legs" competition for men was so funny! There is no reason to be bored on this active ship -- so much activity, too little time!
Entertainment Costa falls a bit behind some of the other lines, but I was still entertained. The bands were decent. The Mellow Calypso band by the pool did Bob Marley standards, etc. An Italian Elvis singer was quite enjoyable. I missed the Time Machine show that I heard later was the best of the cruise. They had a female Latin singer in one of the lounges -- she was excellent! The band that plays outside the disco is quite good also. I watched the staff talent show, which was impressive as the staff members who are not professional singers or dancer perform a variety of acts. They did dances from different countries.
Shore Excursions In San Juan I did the city tour -- skip it and take a cab to Fort Cristobal; we were there just 20 minutes, friends who took a cab spent three hours wandering around at their leisure. Then go downtown to Old San Juan and walk around the shops. You can walk back to the cruise ship from Old San Juan. The locals speak English. It's a beautiful and safe port. We got directions from locals and everyone was nice. We went to Senior Frog's at night to see a good rock and roll cover band -- a loud, rowdy spring break-type bar. If you want to cut loose this is the place, but older folks might prefer one of the classy bistros to sip wine and sit at a sidewalk table. There are lots of choices, all close to the ship.
In St. Thomas, I did a private tour here so I can't comment on the ship's excursions. It is a beautiful place!
At Catalina Island/Casa de Campo, I was going to tour Santa Domingo after viewing impressive photos on the Internet of this, the oldest city in the Americas. Columbus is buried here. But being exhausted from three ports in a row, I decided not to take this nine-hour tour, so I changed my excursion to the Amphibious Vehicle on the Chavon River. This sounds like an historic tour, but it's a party boat -- rum punch and beer served at 8 a.m. The bathroom on the boat was the most rustic thing I've ever used; I had to take a photo of it to show my family. Many did not use it, and beware it's a very long ride to Altos De Chavon -- especially if you drank some beer or rum! Altos De Chavon, the Artists' Village, is lovely and very picturesque. I would not recommend going on your own in the Dominican Republic -- take a ship tour or do the free beach day on Catalina Island. I heard the Kandella show at night was very good.
Nassau is a great port; I've been here before so I did my own thing here, no ship tour. I haven't been here since 1987, so I was pleased to see how much the island has changed -- no more drug dealers or panhandlers; it was clean, safe, and commercialized. There are lots of high-end jewelry stores. The Straw Market is now indoors. The locals were very helpful with directions. I even took a city bus and felt very safe, they take great care of the tourists here.
So what was the best part of Costa for me?
The Toga Party and Guest Talent show! It's what I will always remember... Do bring some gold ribbons or braids to wrap around your toga; wear tons of jewelry and make yourself a leaf headband. Caesar and his entourage come to dinner, but the fun starts at the talent show. Don't change out of your toga after dinner -- just go right to the theater still dressed. The cruise guests perform and the audience votes "thumbs up" to send the good performers to the buffet, or "thumbs down" to send the bad ones to the lions! I don't want to spoil all the fun for you by telling you everything, but it's a blast!
Overall, it's a slightly different cruise experience, but I'd say have an open mind and give it a try.