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Chris George

Age: 54

Occupation:Consultant

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Costa

Ship: Costa Classica

Sailing Date: March 7th, 2004

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

After many years of "hints", my wife finally was able to get me to agree to our first cruise ever. Our travel agent was instructed to pick interesting islands, not too many days at sea and warm weather!

Well, the agent recommended a 7 day Caribbean cruise on the Costa Classica, setting sail from the Dominican Republic in 2 weeks. Sounded like a little slice of heaven.

Our troubles started when we received the tickets from Air Transat, the vacation planner, made out to the wrong people. Plus, in their brochure and what was told from our travel agent, you needed to have a valid passport. What they don't tell you, but is printed on your itinerary, is that your passport must have atleast 6 months of validation left on it. As mine had only 2 months, we were scrambling again. Fortunately I have dual citizenship so we could use my U.K. passport. We found out that the remaining 2 months of validation on my Canadian passport was never a problem. In fact, never asked for my passport except in leaving from the Dominican Republic.

The Air Transat flight from Toronto to the Dominican Republic went well and we were greeted at the airport by the Costa representative, who arranged for our bags to be loaded in the bus. Off we went to the cruise ship.

Now I've heard and read "horror stories" on embarkation on cruise ships but this was not the case for us. Minimal waiting time and a pleasant crew welcoming us aboard. But things were about to change.

Our first night for dinner proved to be interesting. What was ordered never arrived but being hungry, took what was offered. The second night for dinner, we had first sitting and a table reservations. WE were very fortunate as out of a passenger list of 1200, 22 of us spoke English and 6 were at our table! However, it became rather humerous to see each night how our waiter could get our orders wrong.

Being an Italian ship, I would have thought the food would have been excellent - on the contrary. Lack of taste and amount being offered. Even at lunches, the food at best was unpalatable. One day for lunch my wife and I had their hamburger plate only to be both violently sick 2 hours later.

I certainly was under the impression that food was always available on cruises...not on the Costa Classica. Specific times only. As to certain "requests" - hardly. One morning we asked the kitchen staff for some "sugar free" jam and were given a plate of sugar laden jam. Even their fruit was picked too soon and was never ripe. On two occasions, my wife had asked for hot water for her tea and both times the staff looked at her and walked away. Guess knowing Italian is mandatory on this cruise line!

As to our room, while "nice and comfortable", our room steward always forgot to give us face cloths and you were never able to get additional towels when asked. During the 7 days, our T.V. went on the blink and was never repaired properly. On the 6th day our toilet stopped working. While it was "fixed" later that evening, the 7th day broke down again and we were without a working toilet for the last day.

Entertainment was "amateurish". The "casino" consisted of a dozen or so slot machines housed in the same room as video games for the teenagers. We really never took in the "things to do aboard" as each day we went exploring each island. However, their "entertainment" consisted of napkin folding and how to make paper flowers.So stimulating I'm sure!!

The itinerary for visiting the islands was as promised but the Costa land tours were very expensive and in euro dollars. In fact two islands we visited the local currency was in Euro dollars...our travel agent forgot to tell us that as we brought along only American Dollars. Even aboard the ship everything was costly..even a glass of water from the bar (would have thought it was free) cost .50 euro (that's $1 Canadian) for water - only a glass!

The last day (and we were glad to be leaving) was typical of our cruise. As the Candians were leaving the ship first, we were told to meet in the theater at 12:30 for disembarking. The day before, we were told that as we were leaving the ship and not staying in the Dominican Republic, we didn't have to clear Immigration. Well at 12:25 last day, a message came over the loud speaker saying all Canadians had to get their passport stamped. Some of us ran to get their passports stamped while others didn't, As it turned out we didn't need to..but conflicting stories from our English Costa host.

As for the crew themselves, some of the wait staff always went out of their way to speak but the crew in uniforms (officers) they walked around never smiling and never once greeted you even if cornered in the hallway.

One of the first things we did when we got home was to fire off an email to our travel agent recommending that they never push the Costa line on any future customer. The really funny part was today, 2 weeks after our Costa experience, my wife was asked where she got her tan from. So after going into great deal of warning about the Costa line, the sales clerk said she had heard the same warning from one of her customers that same morning. We are not alone!! Stay away from the Costa Classica!!

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