My Wife myself and my 3 children (Ages 15,8,8) sailed on the Victoria April 13 for a 7 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. My wife and I previously sailed on the Costa Carla C 22 years ago and had high expectations for this cruise, our children's first.
Costa circa 1980: Let me first tell you that our cruise aboard the Carla C was incredible! The food was beyond gourmet, the service impeccable.....we truly felt like royalty. Naturally we figured that it could only get better. Boy were we wrong!!!.....what happened to the Costa of 20 years ago? Read on if you wish to find out!
Embarkation: was average. Port Everglades is in a very bad section of Florida so hold on to your purse and wallet! My wife's was stolen the morning before the cruise in Ft. Lauderdale. It was a little harder for us to board the ship because all of her ID was in her purse. After 2 hours in a detention room and many tears, we were finally able to board the ship but my wife swears someone followed her around secretly for the entire cruise. Security was very tight....and that didn't bother me the least bit.
We're OFF: Once on the ship, we went to the buffet on deck 11 rear. It was barely average. Nothing unusual, nothing spectacular, nothing to write home about, and it was the same everyday..... basically pretty boring. The help at the buffet was courteous but half of them didn't understand a word of English, which brings me to another point...English was definitely the minority language on this cruise, both passengers and crew. If you're into ignorant Western Europeans who like to sun topless around the kiddy pool exposing their hairy legs and armpits and who prefer the smell of their BO to Calvin Klein, this is the cruise for you! All announcements were in at least 5 languages and English was not the first. We were told by the crew that there were 2300 passengers on the boat, which was over the 1900 limit.....unsafe and overcrowded. If you did not get a lounge chair by 9:00 am, forget it!
The Ship: simply beautiful!!! Immaculately clean, abundant with rare marble and expensive mosaics. The public rooms were large, albeit overcrowded. This ship must have cost a fortune. I have been on other cruises and this was one of the most beautifully designed ships I have ever seen. Someone was always cleaning something 24 hours a day. One day in port they even painted the anchor after it got dirty from anchoring in Catalina Island the day prior. On the negative side the arcade is in the middle of the casino and kids aren't allowed in the casino, so you had to covertly sneak them in to the arcade. Also the A/C in the public areas was inadequate and many of our non-deodorant using shipmates stunk to high heaven. I always knew when my elevator mates were non-American.
The Food: The food was just average. My prime rib, the first night's dinner was like a steak'um with gravy...gravy on prime rib....Classy!!! The pasta was always excellent. The coffee was great. The food presentation was on par with Shoneys/Eat'n Park. Gourmet is not a word in Costa 's dictionary. Even the salads were boring. The midnight and dessert buffets were spectacular like they were sculpted from shiny plastic...just how they tasted. Looks aren't everything. They bragged that there were 150 different people from 60 different countries in the kitchen staff...you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen. The morning buffets were the same soggy scrambled eggs, cereal and other items that you would typically find on a very skimpy Sunday brunch not equal to Shoneys or Eat'n Park. Even the orange juice was watered down. One morning I asked for an omelet and got the dirtiest look from the man behind the counter that I said "Never mind". The next morning I got up the courage to wait for an omelet and what I got was an overcooked taco shell. Average drinks ran from 4-8 dollars each. Our waiter and busboy were wonderful and they were extremely happy that we were Americans. Tipping on Costa is cash only and they told us the Europeans never leave a tip and since their salary is a measly $50 per month, their tips were their income. Along with our cabin steward they were the nicest people on the ship.
The Itinerary and Ports of Call: The itinerary was great but the time spent at the ports of call was too short. by the time you got off the boat you had to rush to get back on. Although, if you took a paid excursion, you were allowed to leave first and come back last. I would like to elaborate more on these exotic ports but was too rushed to enjoy them. They even had the nerve to dump us in the Dominican Republic one evening at dusk. I don't know about you but the last place I want to be at 1:30am is in the streets of Puerto Rico. I did enjoy St. Thomas and Nassau which we left mid-afternoon.
The Activities: The kid programs were very crowded and I ran into the ship's fairy princess at a market in the Bahamas and she told me most of them are bogus and they are geared to make you buy unlimited drink passes that are not unlimited. She said everything is geared to spending lots of money. Management was rude and they, the non-Italian employees, were underpaid. My teen daughter tried the disco but was propositioned by the many non-American boys that wanted to party or as they said "pawty" with her (whatever that means). I must admit there was always something going on somewhere and if you were bored, it was by your own choosing. The deck activities were generally fun, but the constant announcements in at least 5 languages kind of zapped some of the energy from the deck activities. The on board entertainment was on par with other cruises, magic, comedy, dancing and singing. The Cruise Director Peter was an "idiot". Come on Costa , you can do better. I figured he got the job because he was related to some VP at Costa . His favorite phrase was "Chow for now". I figured he was referring to the dog chow we had for the midnight buffet that was left over from dinner earlier.
The Staff: Most of the executive staff was Italian. I was told by a Slovak casino employee that the Italians get all of the good jobs. Don't get me wrong, I'm Italian American and proud of it. I only saw the Captain once when he was introduced at a show night. He was probably too scared to show his face in public areas because of the large number of disgruntled crowded passengers that wanted a piece of him. The Italian staff members were generally indifferent and not very helpful. An employee explained to me that it was the last Caribbean sailing and they were tired and just wanted to go home. The international staff was generally pleasant. They nodded a lot and smiled...most of them had no clue what I was saying to them. When I inquired on the final day to a young lady in a white uniform as to why the photo place was closed when it was supposed to be opened she kept telling me that orange luggage tags go to the plaza. I finally told her she had no idea what I was saying and that she was "nothing but a total moron". She gave me a bright smile, nodded and said "yes".
Summary: On the final morning, Stefano, the ship's manager, made everything crystal clear. When I was doing my daily security check in because of my wife's untimely purse snatching and ID loss, I arrived with one of my children at breakfast at 7:02 am. I was told by the man at the door to the Fantasia restaurant that I could not go in. When I explained that I just wanted to join the rest of my family, he still resisted. I had an FRS radio and was talking to my family inside the restaurant. Finally the Maitre de who I regretfully tipped the night before told me in a very rude tone that my family had not shown up for breakfast then closed the door. I went to the info desk and demanded to speak to the captain of the ship. I was quickly ushered into Stefano's office. He told me he was in charge of the entire ship. When I complained to him about the treatment and my total disappointment with Costa when compared to my previous Costa experience, he summed it up like this. He asked me what I paid for my last Costa cruise which was by far much more expensive than our vacation aboard the Victoria. He then indicated that you get what you pay for and they have to cut corners to keep the cost down. Sorry, I didn't know that. I've been on less expensive cruises (Carnival for one, but they own Costa ) and have had a great time with great food and service.
Sorry Costa , I'll never be back...."Chow for EVER" Peter and Costa ..........