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Steve Tucker

Age: 53

Occupation:Microbiologist

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Costa

Ship: Costa Atlantica

Sailing Date: November 8th, 2002

Itinerary: Transatlantic

Cruise Line: Costa
Sailing Date: November 8th, 2002

My wife and I took this cruise mainly because of the great price we got on a balcony cabin. We had frequent flyer miles that were expiring so we made our own airline arrangements and booked a hotel room in Genoa for the night of 7 Nov.. We got a good rate at the Columbus Sea Hotel through the internet. We are in our early 50s and have taken one other cruise, the R1 From Istanbul to Athens (Oct 99). We have traveled throughout Europe on various trips. Neither of us are connected with any aspect of the travel industry. We took a taxi from our hotel to the terminal at noon on the 8th. The porters picked up our luggage from the taxi and were not bashful at all in asking for a tip. We checked in, got our boarding group number (9) and looked around the terminal. Costa had a table set up where they were selling a wine package which we took and really enjoyed all the Italian wines. It was about 2.5 hours before we got on the ship. They were still boarding passengers at 5:30 PM which was the ships scheduled departure.

The Good

The ship is absolutely beautiful. The crew kept it spotless the entire time we were aboard. The service was exceptional! All the crew were extremely pleasant and could not do enough for you (I must exclude the shore excursion office from this , see below). We had a balcony cabin (5244) on the I Clowns deck. The room was reasonably large and had lots of storage both in closets and under the bed. Our stewardess was Ingrilda. She was a true delight and kept our cabin spotless. We really enjoyed the balcony. It was a great place to see the sunset. We had the first seating in the main dinning room. I was apprehensive about the food because of all the comments on the travel boards. We thought that the food was very good. It was prepared in the European manner and not typical American food. We could see that if you had never traveled in Europe it might not appeal to you. Our waiter (Mr. Lope Lira) was outstanding! The theme nights were super especially the Italian night when there was a conga line and the waiters danced with all the female passengers. We never had a bad meal on this ship. We did try the buffet on several occasions and ate lunch at the grill a few times. The only down side to the food was the bread. It just wasn’t up to par. We went to two of the midnight buffets. One included a tour through the kitchens. The chefs out did themselves on both of these nights with ice statues and huge buffets.

The entertainment was much better than I expected. The hostess Clem did an excellent job ensuring that all of the shows were professionally done and well received by the audience. The internet was very easy to operate but was € 0.50 per minute. The weather was perfect the entire voyage. The seas weren’t rough at any time.

The So So

The library had a good selection of English language books, but was only open for 2 hours a day. The water slide looked neat, but it also was only open for two hours a day and always had a long line in front of it.

It would have been nice if they had put the next day’s weather forecast in the daily bulletin. It’s not like the bridge crew didn’t have it. The English speakers hostess (Ilia, more about her later) told us that there were only about 200 English speaking passengers out of some 2300 passengers aboard the ship. My guess is that there were only around 50 Americans aboard. Some of the Italian and the Spanish and a few German passengers made it pretty clear (in my opinion) that they would have been happier if no Americans had been aboard. Nasty comments, breaking in line in front of us, blowing smoke in our faces and on a few occasions shouting in our faces made me suspect we really weren’t loved. We generally got along very well with the French passengers.

The Bad

Cigarette Smoke was everywhere! I know that a lot of smoking was to be expected with this many Europeans aboard, but there was a pervasive cloud of cigarette smoke throughout the ship. The only places where no-smoking was enforced were the main dining room and the theaters. Everywhere else the no-smoking areas were ignored. Maybe on a cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale with predominately Americans aboard it wouldn’t be so bad but our experience was terrible. The shore excursions office without a doubt was the most unorganized group on the ship. We had nothing but problems from this office. The first night on the ship there was a meeting of the English speaking passengers at 6:00 PM. It was mainly to inform us of the shore excursions in Barcelona, and Tenerife. We also met Ilia for the first time. She was the English speakers hostess, She had only been on the job for a month.

We don’t mind cutting someone new some slack, but she never did her home work. Everything she told us was generally wrong, any complaints to her seemed to go nowhere. We had been to Barcelona before so had decided to just wander around Las Ramblas for the few hours we would be there. Ilia assured us that there would be shuttle buses between the port and the foot of Las Ramblas. We showed up at the appointed time (after the ship arranged shore expeditions had departed) and there was 1 shuttle bus, 2 cabs and between 500 and 600 passengers (my guess) trying to board the bus. The bus departed, all the Costa people disappeared and everyone stood for 30 minuets until 3 more buses appeared. It was not a pretty sight as the entire mob tried to shove their way on these buses . My wife and I happened to be standing next to where one bus stopped so we got on, but there was a near riot in the parking lot. We left Las Ramblas early as I was apprehensive about the return trip to the ship. We later heard that the same thing happened again at that end.

We complained to Ilia about this mess. She told us that she got scared and went inside the terminal to get out of the area. Cecilia from the passenger information office called us later to tell us that this never happened and that there were plenty of buses and cabs. I guess she must of worked in the Clinton White House. The promised shuttle buses never showed in Tenerife. We asked the chief of security for the Atlantica at the foot of the boarding gangway where to go to catch the shuttle bus. He made two phone calls and told us there were no shuttle buses and to walk to town. We walked in and took a cab back. We heard from other passengers that there were shuttle buses later in the morning. The shuttle buses were run by the port not Costa but it would have been nice if the security chief had the right information.

A couple of days later there was another meeting of the English speaking passengers to go over the shore excursions in the Caribbean. Ilia gave us a shore excursion price list for the rest of the voyage. My wife and I decided to try some of the Costa excursions. We picked out the ones we thought we would like and went straight from the meeting to the shore excursions desk. The English speaking passengers had obviously been briefed last as there was a long line at the desk (most of the passengers in the line chain smoked). We waited in line for an hour (thanks to the Italians and Spanish passengers the line tended to grow in front of us) then the office shut down at noon and we were told to come back at 4:30 PM . I showed up a little before 4:00 PM and only had to wait for an hour until I finally got to the desk. The girl told that they were only booking tours for the first two islands and that I would have to come back tomorrow to book the others. I told her politely that was really stupid and I really didn’t want to stand in line for another few hours. The girl jokingly offered to let me put a cot there for a place to wait. Yeah, right, I controlled myself and let her live. I should mention that friends of ours who were on their 3rd Costa cruise were able to book all their shore excursions at the same time they booked the cruise, i.e. 5 months before sailing. I was able to book the rest of our choices two days later. In Barbados we took the Best of Barbados tour from Costa and it was very nice. In St. Lucia (beautiful island !) We took a pick up tour from Heritage Tours located in the port terminal. It was the same tour that Costa offered but for half the price! We really enjoyed our tour of St. Lucia. Then we had the tour from Hell. We had booked the English speaking island tour of St. Maarten. When we showed up for the tour, there is our “Tour Bus” .. It is the Avis rental car shuttle from the airport, luggage racks and all!

Ok, I’ve ridden in worse. Then the tour guide tells us that he speaks very little English. Ok. So here we are 6 English speakers and 12 Spanish speakers on the Avis rental car bus. The tour guide tried to tell us about the Island, then two of the Spanish guys jump all over him for speaking English on a Spanish language tour ! One of the Americans was bilingual and she went up to the tour guide and offered to help translate for us. Then one of the Spanish guys just about assaulted her for the attempt. They had a really ugly discussion. From there on it was all Spanish. Gee it was swell ! We complained to Ilia, that worked well. We filed a written report to the Captain of the Atlantica, and are still holding our breath for a response. Finally we insisted on talking to the manager of the shore excursions office. He listened to our complaint, agreed that it was valid and arranged to refund our money. In Tortola we again took a pick up taxi tour. We spent 4 hours exploring Tortola, had a great time, for only $15.00 each!

We really didn’t want to spend the day on the beach at Catalina Island so we opted for the Boat Tour on The Chavon River. There was nothing to this tour, you might as well save your money and go to the beach. At Nassau we took the Nassau Island Tour. This was another Costa disaster. It ended up to be two English speakers and nine French speakers in a taxi. The lady driver only spoke English and the French passenger got quite upset (rightfully so !).

Disembarkation
We had to be out of the room by 7:30 AM. We were given color coded tags for our luggage the night before, and told to wait in the Caruso Theater starting at 8:30 AM until our color was called. 4 hours later we get off the ship. Customs and immigration were nothing. Why the long wait? All the Costa people would say was that it was the fault of the American police.

Recommendations

We think that Costa gives a lot of value for the money. We however, will not take another Costa cruise until they do something to control the smoking, It was really terrible. Their shore excursion office on the Atlantica is a disaster. If you should go on one of their cruises , book your own tours either through the internet, with a pickup tour group at the terminal, or with a taxi driver.

In short, If you smoke and are bilingual you’ll have a great time, otherwise forget it!

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