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Charles

Age: 63

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Costa

Ship: Costa Magica

Sailing Date: December 19th, 2005

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

We arrived at the terminal building in Ft. Lauderdale at 12:45 PM on December 19, 2005 to sail on a 7 day eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Costa Magica. There was a long line outside the terminal building. This line was to get a number which would then allow one to wait inside the terminal building until their number was called. When your number was called, one could proceed to the next line, which was to go through the metal detectors for boarding the ship. A fourth line (which thankfully wasn't very long) was used to have you wait until the next ticket agent was free. A fifth line formed so that one could go up the escalator to board the ship. (If they hadn't held people at the foot of the escalator, the sixth and final line would have extended onto the escalator.) The final line was for the photographer, and those who checked the credentials at the gangplank. So after three hours of waiting, in lines, we finally arrived at our cabin to discover that our luggage was already there.

Three or four hours of waiting was common for passengers boarding the ship. It made it especially tough on those with smaller children, or elderly who had trouble with standing. We talked to one person who had surgery on her knees, and when the husband complained about the line, they handed him a plain metal chair, which she dragged and sat on, while the line moved. I was behind a lady who at one point warned that she might faint because she had not had lunch. I suppose some people did get special considerations, but for most, it was a crude welcoming by the cruise line.

The inside cabin we had, was 160 sq. feet and seemed quite adequate. The closet space, and bathroom and bathroom shower all were adequate. There was a problem with the drawers, and being able to pull hard enough on the knob to open the few available drawers. Although the ship was only one year old, the drawers had scratches where people had used other objects to open the drawer.

The waiters did not seem adequately trained for the high quality service expected on cruise lines in general. Service seemed slow, and water or tea glasses were refilled only if one asked for service several times. One had to ask for ice in the drinks. There was a communication problem in many cases. At one lunch, I asked for a glass of cold milk, and the waiter started to pour a glass from a coffee creamer pitcher. I told him I didn't want cream, I wanted milk, and he proceeded to obtain a glass of hot milk with the steam pouring out of the glass. At another meal, I ordered corned beef hash pointing to the entry in the menu, but I was served hash browns. A person next to me at breakfast ordered fried eggs, turned over and the yolk cooked hard, and he was served two hard boiled eggs.

I was actually surprised at the number of passengers (guessing 30%) who seemed foreign and spoke a different language other than English. Announcements were made in five languages. A lot of the crew who led activities had thick accents. When they wanted the audience to clap, they would call, "Applause-oh!". One could say that this added to the international flavor of the ship.

There was other mix-ups such as Christmas background music being played when we were trying to take a ball room dancing class. Then the activities listed in the newspaper, might not match the list that the instructors had. The ship had no structured "keep in ship-shape program", but they did have a good gym, but only a small walking or running track. More effort is needed in structuring a fitness program.

Perhaps the most egregious infraction was caused by misunderstanding. Max the cruise director made announcements several times about a Christmas Eve Mass "in Latin." There was also a Jewish Hanukkah service, but there was no mention of a Protestant service on Sunday, which was Christmas.

My wife and I checked and they told us that there would be a service, and gave us the room and time. The guest services area seemed oblivious to the fact that about 50% of Americans identify themselves as being protestant, so protestants would form about a third of the ship passengers. They did not mention this protestant service in the daily activities paper, nor in any announcements. So the service was sparsely attended, which was just as well, since we were put into a very small room (but every seat was taken).

As we found out, the second day of the voyage, (the 20th), a protestant minister had asked to have a service on Christmas, and mentioned that he had been a minister for several other cruise lines, and would do it free of charge. He wasn't told that he would be allowed to have a service until the night of the 24th, when a note was slipped under his door. I felt that Costa Cruise line simply did not appreciate that there were protestants and that many protestants would want to have service on Sunday, Christmas.

The difference in cultures was also reflected in some of the entertainment and food. Much of the singing entertainment was often in other languages. This was true for the stage as well as entertainment found in the bars. There was even a classical violinist and piano player who did one program, which I attended and enjoyed. Overall, the entertainment was quite good. The food was excellent, and reflected a European flavor, although there was one location which served hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries. Who would ever eat there? Costa did not supply toppings for soft ice cream, such as sugar sprinkles, or syrups.

The ship game arcade is located off the casino, so kids would leave the arcade, and be found slipping into the casino area, and trying to obtain tokens and play the casino games. More control is needed by Costa.

Nothing that Costa Cruise Lines did was major enough to spoil everyone from having a good time. Costa Cruise Lines does bring an international flavor to cruising in the Caribbean. The service misses the mark, but give them time. A good description for the cruise, is being unprepared for the American cliental and slightly disorganized.

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