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Nancy Norris

Age: Over 40 - Under 80

Occupation:Agent

Number of Cruises: 25+

Cruise Line: Costa

Ship: Costa Mediterranea

Sailing Date: December 7th, 2003

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean


The CostaMediterranea
(Anchored off Catalina Island in Santa Domingo)

The Set-up:
As a member of the travel industry, I was given the opportunity to take a 7 night Eastern Caribbean voyage on the Costa Mediterranea, as part of a group, following a cruise convention in Fort Lauderdale. I had chosen to forego the cruise convention, however, in order to spend a pre-holiday week-end with family and enjoy some Christmas festivities in Naples. Luckily, I had chosen to fly from Cleveland, Ohio into the Fort Myers airport on Thursday morning, just before travel was affected by the first winter storm of the season. Friday morning a number of airports in the mid-west and northeast were closed (Cleveland being one of them) and numerous flights were cancelled or delayed. I guess there really is something to be said for the old adage that timing is everything. Although having enjoyed my visit with family, I eagerly awoke Sunday morning for the relatively easy drive across Alligator Alley to connect with my cruise companion, who had attended the conference. Although a seasoned cruiser, this would be my first cruise on a Costa ship and, I was anxiously anticipating the opportunity.

Embarkation:
On a cool, but sunny day, I arrived at Port Everglades about noon, to be greeted by a massive traffic jam. It took about ½ hour to get through the port security check point. Of course there were 8 ships in port, all leaving at approximately the same time, so the congestion was somewhat understandable. Once I arrived at the terminal, I was to discover my wait had just begun! In an effort to be efficient and save time, I had collected my friend’s luggage from the hotel upon my arrival in Fort Lauderdale. As part of the travel industry group, I was required to pick up my documents at the pier, which I was able to do without any difficulty. It was at this point, however, that my ordeal became interesting. Arriving at the pier with both of our sets of luggage, I discovered that my traveling companion was still completing other ship inspections as part of the concluding events of the conference. It appeared that nearly 2000 passengers had arrived at the terminal at the same time, and the lines were becoming increasingly longer with each passing minute. I was only provided two luggage tags with my cruise documents and had four pieces of luggage in tow. Realizing the embarkation lines were moving slowly, I decided to check the two largest bags and get in line with the remaining two, rather than wait for my friend. Now, I am sure I must have been a sight pushing one suitcase with my foot, dragging my carry-on behind, and at the same time trying to fill out the information required on my cruise documents with one hand and using my cell phone to remain in communication with my friend. Once inside the terminal, I discovered there were only two security lines operating for all these passengers. Well, that explained the long lines! Finally, passing through security, I thought I was finally home free! Hah!! Moving to the other side of the security checkpoint, I was greeted by the sight of a snakelike queue of people that appeared to weave back and forth endlessly (Think Disneyworld on one of the most crowded days of the year). It took over 1 and ½ hours to get through the entire process. This was not at all how I had hoped my cruise would begin, but I am pleased to say that this was one of the few negatives of my whole experience.

The Ship:
Entering the ship on Deck 2, into the nine deck high Main Atrium; I was immediately struck by the elaborate and ornate design of the ship. (It provides a definite WOW factor). It was quite obvious that the décor was a Joe Farcus original, which I will elaborate upon later in this review. As I drank in my palazzo surroundings, I was greeted with a hearty “Buon Giorno” by very friendly shipboard personnel and escorted to my cabin. Finally, someone to help carry some of my excess baggage!


Main Atrium

The Cabin:
I was escorted to my ocean view Cabin 1219, Circe Deck (1), midship. This is the only deck in which there are ocean view cabins that do not include a balcony. It turned out that the cabin location was perfect. It was close to the midship elevators, providing easy access to most public rooms and when we docked in port, the gangway was located just a few feet from our cabin. My home for the week was not overly large, but certainly comfortable. Beds were placed parallel to the window, and could be configured as 1 king or 2 twins. As a side note, I have read a number of negative comments regarding the quality of the beds. While the mattresses were not super plush and a bit on the firm side, I found them to be satisfactory. Two bedside tables with a small storage area and attached lamp are provided. Maplewood cupboards and shelving compliment the burnt orange and off white décor of the cabin. Along a mirrored ½ wall was a dressing table with 1 desk drawer and 4 smaller drawers (one, however, is utilized for storage of the hair dryer). There was also an open shelving unit that housed the flat screen, interactive TV. In addition to being able to check your account, shore excursions could also be booked from your cabin TV. Be aware, I did hear a bit of grumbling on board that there were miscommunications regarding shore excursions booked through the interactive TV, which might have explained the long lines I saw at the Shore Tour Desk. Since I had not booked any shore excursions, I can not attest to the fact, but thought it was worth mentioning. Limited satellite television was offered: No CNN, but I did receive ABC from various cities on various days. Movies, in multiple languages, could be purchased, but at the relatively high price of $8.95US. Below the TV, there was a cupboard for the safe, activated by the Costa Card. The Costa Card was also my cabin key, charge card and identification. A lower cabinet provided 2 small closed storage shelves and a cupboard housing a mini-bar. It was minimally stocked with beverages and snacks, but there was some space to chill provisions you may have brought on board. It was not computerized, so there was no fear of moving an item and being charged erroneously. A sofa bed, which could accommodate an additional passenger, and a small table, completed the furnishings in the room. The cabin only had one electrical outlet, so I would suggest you bring an extension cord. Although a relatively powerful hair dryer was provided, it was the kind that requires you hold down the button during use. I particularly liked the numerous lighting options in the cabin, especially the side lighting along the mirror. Not only did it provide a softer lighting effect, one always looks better than in harsh overhead lighting!

The bathroom was compact, but provided ample shelving on both sides of the mirror, and the shower was actually large by mainstream cruise ship standards. The circular design of the shower opening kept the shower curtain in place, avoiding the ever so common clinging shower curtain syndrome. If you have read any of my other reviews, you know that I judge a cruise ship shower by the ease at which I am able to shave my legs. This shower won the Norris Seal of Approval, due in most part to the adjustable shower head and well designed controls. Toiletry amenities included shampoo, soap and hand lotion.

My cabin stewardess, Maria, was a very nice young lady who tried to accommodate our requests, though not always successfully. As an example, I had requested an extra pillow, which Maria was unable to obtain. She did, however, anticipate our needs and provided prompt and friendly service. We enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails or a glass of wine in the cabin regularly and like clockwork, Maria would always be one step ahead, delivering fresh ice, just when it was time for “cabin happy hour”. Jokingly, I even mentioned I may need help with transforming a sheet into a toga on the last night and she made it a point to let me know she was available and would gladly offer her assistance, if needed.

At the end of the cruise, I had the opportunity to check out many of the other stateroom categories, so I have included photos of the various stateroom configurations, as well as my own cabin.


Oceanview Cabin

Inside Cabin

Oceanview Verandah

Suite

Public Rooms:
As mentioned, the ship was extremely ornate and had the imprint of Carnival’s corporate designer, Joe Farcus, everywhere. At first, this very bold, ornamental design, with an abundance of brass, marble, glass and wood was overwhelming. Upon further inspection, even though it was a bit overdone for my taste, the attention to detail was impressive. Individual pieces, such as the marvelous chandeliers, Murano glass pieces, sculptures and paintings were quite beautiful. Even the furniture, wall coverings and intricate inlaid wooden dance floors were amazing artistic creations. Although each room seemed to have a character and style of its own, there was a grand theme that connected each part to the whole. Imagine the ship as a 17th or 18th century Italian palazzo, in which ancient mythology is the decorative theme. The ship was so rich in design, however, that I was on visual overload by the end of the cruise. The designer’s touch, whose work can be seen on many Carnival ships, was not the only Carnival mark on the Mediterranea. If you have ever sailed on the Carnival Legend, Pride or Spirit the layout of the ship is almost identical. Other than décor, they appear to be exactly the same, even down to the placement of light fixtures, with one exception: Unlike the Carnival ships, there is no Wedding Chapel next to the library on the Mediterranea. Instead, a larger chapel occupies a space next to the video arcade.

The only public room on Circe Deck 1 is the Giardiono Isolabella Show Lounge, located forward. There were a number of activities scheduled here nightly, but unless your cabin was on deck one, it could be easily overlooked, as it was hidden under the main theater. That’s a shame, as it was a very attractive lounge. Seating was well designed for viewing, the dance floor was exceptionally large and the décor was understated and appealing.


Giardiono Isolabella Show Lounge

Most of the public rooms were located on Tersicore Deck 2 and Bacco Deck 3. On both of these decks all the public rooms were connected by a walkway that ran along the starboard side of the ship. The Osiris Theater occupied decks 2, 3 and 4, forward. Just as the name implies, it had an Egyptian motif with pharaohs ensconcing the stage and hieroglyphics adorning the walls. The main floor had excellent sight lines, but there were some obstructed views in the upper two levels. Also, the seats were configured in such a way that those on angles provided very little legroom. The theater never appeared full and we had little difficulty finding seats for all of the performances we attended.

Moving aft along the walkway on deck 2 the Piazza Casanova is one of the many lounges that provided an excellent dance floor. Its low ceilings created a deceiving intimacy to the space. The décor of the lounge befits its name. As Casanova was known as a lover, it seemed appropriate that the entire room was decorated with cherubs in a variety of sizes and positions. Directly across from this lounge, on the starboard side of the walkway was a glass enclosed card room. This proved to be a very quiet room and as an added bonus was equipped with an electrical outlet. Even on vacation, there are some of us who needed to work with the aide of a trusty laptop. This was a nice alternative to working in the stateroom (especially when the one electrical outlet in the cabin was being utilized for other things).


The Grand Casino

The walkway then led to the Grande Casino, which was quite large. Slot machines ran the length of the starboard walkway and from blackjack to craps all standard gaming tables were available. A small bar was also located in the casino that doubled as the ship’s sports bar. Now, I know we hear that cruise ship slots tend to be tight, but one of the ladies from our traveling group won $3,000. I won’t mention her name because she wasn’t planning on sharing this good news with her husband when she returned home.


Figures in the Atrium

From the casino the walkway led to the Atrium, which I have already mentioned as being quite ornate. In the center was a bar tucked between two grand staircases resplendent in chrome and brass railings. Mythological faces adorned the platforms of the bar stools. Banquette seating lined each side of the large dance floor. Gazing upwards there were weird jellyfish wall lamps traversing the walls of the nine story atrium. I’m still not sure what that was all about! Full-size figurines in resplendent costumes sat watch high above the staircase. Make sure to ride the glass elevators in the Atrium to get the full effect. Along the wall, on the port side, was the information desk and shore tour desk. The golf pro was also stationed there. Be prepared for long lines at the tour desk during their limited service hours.


The Talia Lounge

Small sofas and conversational seating traverse the walkway leading to the Talia Lounge. Comfortable seating, interesting glass lamps, a marble walkway and a small dance floor provided the setting for Cotton Club, my favorite duo, to perform nightly. This lounge was prone to much walk-through traffic, however, as it was located outside the disco and was the main egress to the dining room.

The disco occupied two-levels, deck 2 and 1, but the only access was on the upper level. Although there was seating and a bar on this level, a winding staircase led down to the dance floor, DJ and more seating. Decorated boldly in bright yellow, blue and red with lots of glass and brass, a pulsing lighted dance floor, and a full wall of TV screens this room exuded energy. It was a very popular spot for the crew and they helped to keep the energy level high until the early morning hours.


The Disco

At the very aft of the ship was the two-level Argentieri Restaurant, the Mediterranea’s main dining venue. I found this to be one of the most visually appealing rooms on the ship. The split-level design worked well with the polished wood and ceiling frescos to provide a sense of spaciousness and elegance without overpowering. Silver goblets were beautifully displayed in cases throughout the room. Diffused lighting was provided by circular windows and circular glass globes on the ceiling. The glass globes had colored spiral ornaments hanging from them, however, which were reminiscent of balloons left over from a party. They somewhat distracted from the overall effect of the room and, personally, I would have chosen to eliminate this attempt at whimsy to maintain the room’s richness.


The Dionisio Lounge

Moving forward from the upper level of the restaurant, on Deck 3, was the Dionisio Lounge. Its physical layout was similar to the Talia Lounge on the deck below, but here coffee tables of rich marble and a beautiful piano took center stage. Very formal and stately, this was the perfect venue for the talented pianist, Nancy Ruth, to perform or an intimate concert with maestro Mauro Bertolino.

On deck 3, the balcony level of the Atrium was the location of the Photo Gallery. Pictures were displayed on both the port and starboard sides of the Atrium. The photographers on this ship were artists in their own right. It was a visual delight to peruse the pictures on display. The standard cruise ship photos were taken, but so were an array of beautiful photographs both in color and black and white that captured passengers unaware in natural poses. Close-ups of passengers of all ages with a multitude of expressions captured their true essence. Unfortunately, photos were not on display long. They were removed after 2 days, which required searching through massive bins of the discarded photos on the last night in order to retrieve any photos you wished to purchase.

The walkway from the photo gallery leads directly to the Via Condotti, the duty free shop and boutiques. The winding path provided plenty of shopping on both sides. There were some beautiful Italian Murano watches on sale that were quite tempting, but I convinced myself that I didn’t need one. Now, I regret not having purchased one. Perfume and liquor prices on board were competitive with the duty-free prices on the islands. The standard logo wear and cruise ship souvenirs were available. You could even order a custom made suit.


Oriental Salon

Entering the Oriental Salon you are greeted by an attractive fountain and staircase. Interestingly, the signage in this part of the ship is confusing, since this is also the Roero Bar, which is the Wine Bar. We walked back and forth about ½ dozen times looking for the Wine Bar, only to discover that’s where we were. This is an attractive room, but seating is strange. Curved banquette seating is offered, but the way it curves makes it very difficult to sit comfortably. The décor of this room seemed a little out of place with the rest of the ship, as an oriental theme prevailed. Even the waitresses were dressed accordingly.

Next to the Oriental Salon was the Internet Café and Library. Library hours were limited, but the Internet Café was open 24 hours. Cost to access the internet, on one of the 10 computers, was $.50 a minute. It was not very busy (at least whenever I was there) and I never had to wait for a computer. Service was relatively fast by shipboard standards and efficient. To their credit, at least to my knowledge, they never lost connection on this cruise, which seems to be one of the most frustrating aspects of shipboard internet service. The library, on the other hand, not only had limited hours, but limited inventory.

Arriving at the second level of the Osiris Theater, there are two corridors that flank the theater entrances. These outer halls are actually the Terrazza d’Inverno Lounge. These hidden treasures are quiet walkways that offer seating along the outer walls of the ship that are perfect for reading or quiet reflection. I am sure that this space remains undiscovered by many. They are also the corridors one must take to gain access to the chapel. I mentioned the poor signage in this part of the ship and here is another example. There are arrows pointing upwards towards a stairway that indicates the Chapel and the Video Arcade. Well, those stairs do not lead you to either. They are accessed by the set of stairs that are at the end of the Terrazza d’Inverno.


The Terrazza d’Inverno

The chapel and video arcade were the only public rooms on Teseo Deck 4, forward. The relatively large chapel was quite nice and had the ambiance of a real church. As part of the Italian experience, a traditional Latin mass was offered daily by a charming Italian priest. The downside was its location. Having already mentioned it was hidden away in a remote corner, it required climbing the set of stairs from deck 3 to access. Obviously, not very wheelchair accessible and offered a challenge to the frail and elderly.

The next 4 decks were devoted to staterooms, with the exception of the Squok Club (children’s playroom), located on Orfeo Deck 5, forward. Just like the chapel, this was a difficult room to find. It took some serious searching and the arrows indicating its location were very deceiving. Once I found it however, I was not impressed. It is an uninspiring area and boring compared to the magnificent children’s facilities on so many of the newer ships. On the flipside, I found Monica and Gloria, part of the youth staff, to be very energetic and enthusiastic. I have included the children’s program (The Mini Club for children 3 to 6 years of age and the Maxi Club for children ages 7 to 12) as an attachment to this review. However, I should mention that there were very few children on board this sailing and according to the youth staff; the schedule is reflective of the numbers. For example, there were so few teens on board, that they did not even have a printed schedule. Activities were planned on a daily basis by the few teens on board and posted on a large surfboard near the pool.


The Apollo Pool Area

Ahh! Speaking of the pool, let’s now look at the upper decks of the Mediterranea, where most of my days were spent. Starting at Armonia Deck 9, aft was deck space with a small pool and whirlpool. The Apollo Bar and one of the luncheon grills was also located here. This pool area was designated as adults only, which may explain why it was quite popular, thus quite crowded. There were so few children on board this sailing, however, that the designation was unnecessary. The self-service buffet, The Perla del Lago Restaurant, could be accessed from either side of the pool deck. Numerous stations were scattered throughout this buffet area with seating at both tables and booths. The beverage stations near the center of the restaurant often appeared congested, but I believe it was due to the traffic pattern. There appeared to be no designated entrance or exit, consequently passengers entered the area from all four directions and got bottlenecked in the middle.

Two more grill areas were located outside the restaurant on both sides of the stage. This stage was the location of most of the daily activities that were scheduled poolside. Tables ran the length of both port and starboard sides of ship, with lounge chairs surrounding Cadmo Pool and the adjacent elevated whirlpool. This pool area had a retractable dome, but was not utilized during my cruise. Since so many of the day’s activities were scheduled here, lounge chairs filled rather quickly in the morning. A glass enclosed partition, with a bar on both sides, separated Cadmo Pool from the adjacent pool and whirlpool. This pool area was much quieter and less congested than the neighboring pool. The water in both pools was a bit on the cool side, but the water temperature of the two whirlpools was near perfect.


The Main Pool Area

Forward of the pool areas was the Venus Spa and beauty salon. Weight loss, detox, makeover and massage clinics were just some of the scheduled offerings from the Spa. There were separate ladies and men’s sauna and steam rooms, along with numerous, private spa treatment rooms. Spa services were many and varied, from mini-facials and body massages to self-tanning and pedicures. I have included a Spa Menu in this review. I would recommend the Spa Taster. Forward of the Spa, the very large two-level Olympia Gym offered stationary bicycles, treadmills, stair-climbing, rowing and resistance machines, as well as, free weights and dumbbells. The gym was designed in tiers so that a view of the ocean was visible from every machine. There was one whirlpool spa suspended in the center of the two-levels. On most days the gym was open from 7:00 am – 8:00 pm. Adjacent to the gym was a nice size, mirrored aerobics room. Although most of the regular exercise classes were conducted outside at the Cadmo Pool deck, yoga and Pilates classes were held here. An additional fee ($10) was charged for these special exercise classes.


The Gym

Exiting the gym from the upper level, Cleopatra Deck 10 was a wraparound open deck that went completely around the ship. The real jogging track is on deck 12, but many people, including myself, used this deck for our morning walks. If put off by the overcrowded lounge space around the pools, this deck was the answer. There were ample lounge chairs offering significant space to spread out. Positioning yourself on this deck, directly above the Cadmo Pool, as I did, provided a perfect spot for lounging, yet still close to the activities. The only other public room on this deck was the bi-level alternative dining venue, Club Medusa. This room was quite airy and open, due to the windows along the exterior walls and the opening to the upper level of the atrium in the center. Tables were arranged in a circular fashion around the atrium. Dinner was served from 7:30 – 9:00 pm nightly and then from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am, the Club Medusa Balcony became the Cigar Lounge.


Club Medusa

Other than the Club Medusa Balcony, the children’s pool and the water slide were located on Pandora Deck 11. The water slide had very limited operating hours and children had to be at least 4 ft. in order to ride.

Dining/Food:
Costa adheres to a very traditional/regimented dining service. On most days in the main dining room, all 3 meals are served according to first and second seating schedule. Second seating dining adheres more to European custom and may be considered too late by American standards. On formal night, second seating dining was at 9:00 pm, on other nights, 8:45 pm. I have become accustomed to dining late, so this appealed to me. Since I am on the topic of scheduled dining, let me share details of the main dining venue. Contrary to many reports, I found my dining experience in the beautiful, two-story, Restaurant degli Argentieri to be totally pleasurable. First, my wait staff, Ian and Neal, was outstanding! They provided prompt, efficient, friendly and courteous service. In fact, after the first night, I relied on their recommendations for all of my meals and was never disappointed. They were very experienced and knew which meals were past hits, and those that were misses. Often they would give me a look of disapproval when ordering a course and make another suggestion. Now, I have heard that inconsistency seems to be a word frequently used to describe a Costa meal. I thank my waiters profusely for steering me in the right direction, as my meals were consistently good. Food was not only tasty, but served to my exact specifications. I have also heard comments regarding the timing of the service, and here again; I found this to be a positive. Traditionally, each course of the meal is served to everyone at the table at the same time. Here, each person was served individually, as they completed each course. Now, for someone like me, who occasionally eats soup and never eats salad, sitting through courses and watching others eat is, at times, tedious. I much prefer this brand of service. Meals were never rushed, however, and somehow lingering over glasses of wine, dessert and coffee while engaging in lively conversation, we frequently found ourselves some of the last to leave the dining room.

Lunch and breakfast in the dining room, however, were mediocre. I much preferred the self-service buffet for breakfast and the grill for lunch. There was a limited assortment of fruit and pastries, but there was a wide variety of other breakfast offerings served from 7:30 – 10:00 am. If you happened to get a late start to the morning, an extensive continental breakfast with eggs cooked to order was offered at the pool grill from 10:00 am until noon. Interestingly, there was one morning when we were to advance our clocks one hour. That morning there were many people walking around the buffet area at 10:30 am (they had forgotten to move their clocks ahead) grumbling and complaining that they could not get any breakfast. Had they read their daily planner, or taken the time to walk around the corner, they would have realized that the grill served food until lunch began. The buffet offered a great variety of lunch choices at the numerous stations scattered throughout the restaurant. Each day one station was devoted to a specific ethnic cuisine, i.e. Caribbean, Greek, Italian, etc. There was a pasta station where the chef was creating a new pasta selection daily. Each offering I sampled was excellent. The pizza served at one of the buffet stations from noon until 2:00 am was, by far, the best cruise ship pizza I have ever had. The dessert station, however, was mediocre and uninspiring. There were actually three grill areas set-up to serve hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken burgers and French fries daily from noon – 4:00 pm. I found the burgers to be quite tasty. There was also a beverage station at the Patio Grill that served coffee, tea, juice, water and milk all day.

Club Medusa was the specialty restaurant. Although we had every intention of trying this alternative venue, we never found the right day to accomplish the task. Dinner is served nightly from 7:30 – 9:00 pm, by reservation only, at a cost of $20 per person, plus a 15% service charge. I spoke with one couple who had eaten there and felt it was well worth the price. I guess that will be one of those things I will make sure I try on my next cruise.

Costa is one of the few lines who has not eliminated the midnight buffet. Each night they offered a variation of the theme: The first night we had crêpes flambé served in the lounges; night two a buffet in the galley; the third evening was a pastry buffet poolside; evening four was Italian treats in the lounges, night five was a tropical buffet poolside; the sixth evening was the Midnight Buffet Magnifique; and on our final evening, midnight snacks were offered in the lounges.


Animator Pool Stage

Entertainment
The Cruise Director on the Mediterranea was average at best, but his Cruise Staff, known as “Animators”, were personable and thoroughly delightful. It was obvious that they enjoyed their work and their energy was infectious. Not only were they good at involving passengers, I was quite impressed with their command of multiple languages. Kudos to the “Animation Team”, they were in great part responsible for making my cruise so enjoyable and a definite highlight of the onboard entertainment.

Evening entertainment was weak, by typical American cruise standards. There was only one major production show, but as they were trying to appeal to an international passenger load, in which language was a barrier, somewhat understandable. We were entertained by a very talented tenor, a gifted pianist and an interesting steel drum band, but definitely not your usual “main event” fare. The lounge entertainment, on the other hand, was a veritable smorgasbord of musical genres. On any given evening, music by Frank Sinatra to Elvis or The Beatles to Pavarotti, from jazz to salsa could be heard in the lounges scattered about the ship. Europeans seem to favor participatory entertainment, as opposed to sitting and being entertained, and through a variety of theme events in the numerous lounges, Costa delivers. It was common to see a 50’s Dance Contest in one lounge, while an entire Italian festival was going on in another. While Reggae Night was entertaining some folks, others were participating in karaoke. One of the things I found particularly enjoyable on this cruise was the nocturnal activity. Atypical of many of my recent cruises, there was an abundance of late night action (definitely a European/Cosmopolitan influence). It wasn’t until after the evening show, often scheduled for 11:00 pm, that lounges came alive. The disco didn’t start filling up until after midnight. Having spent numerous cruises wandering around the ship after 1:00 am looking for any form of entertainment, or people for that matter, this was a pleasant divergence.

The Cruise:
Day 1:

After unpacking my carry-on, I wandered back up to the Atrium, deck 2, to enjoy the welcome aboard music. The Atrium Bar proved to be a perfect position to enjoy a cocktail and listen to the welcome aboard music, while watching for my cruise companion to board the ship. It also afforded me the opportunity to peruse the décor in greater detail. As this was a Caribbean cruise, English was considered the official language on board, but as I sat at the bar, it was refreshing to hear the variety of languages being spoken around me. Greeting my friend, we managed to have time for a cursory ship tour, before the requisite lifeboat drill, scheduled for 4:00 pm. Being an international cruise experience, the lifeboat drill was conducted in 5 languages. Although it was a bit tedious (particularly since this is one of my least favorite activities), I did try to make it a learning experience and increase my foreign language skills. By 4:30 pm we had set sail and wandered up to the Bon Voyage party poolside, on deck 9. It was extremely windy and the show consisting of one song/dance routine was somewhat disappointing.


Sailing from Ft. Lauderdale

Since neither my cruise companion nor I had ever sailed on Costa, we decided to check out the Welcome Aboard show scheduled for 5:30. Well, it quickly became evident that this cruise would be similar to any other Caribbean cruise. For us, the presentation proved to be somewhat redundant, but had value for first time cruisers. (By the way, this informative talk was presented in English only). Wandering the ship, we met a couple from Boston, who were part of our travel industry group and joined them for a lively discussion on first impressions of the ship. The evening entertainment, a magician, was scheduled as a 7:30 pm pre-dinner show for those of us with late seating dining. Well, I am not a fan of pre-dinner shows, nor of magicians, so I opted to do some exploring, while my friend chose to check out the show.

Dinner that evening was scheduled for 8:45. We located our table for 6 in the rear corner, on the main floor of the Restaurant degli Argentieri. We met our dining companions, two delightful couples from our travel industry group. Interestingly, my friend is from Montreal and one couple was originally from Montreal. As it turned out, a large number of Canadians, particularly Quebecers were onboard. Our waiters, Ian and Neal, were both excellent and made our dining experience truly pleasurable each evening. Tonight’s offerings were from the Lombardia region (Milano). The pasta dish, bavette with baby shrimps, was exceptional and my millefuille napoleon dessert was worth every calorie. After a very lengthy dinner, we listened to an excellent duo, Cotton Club, at the Talia Lounge, located outside the disco. We ended the evening dancing off our dinner calories at the disco. This late night venue proved to be quite popular.

Day 2 (At Sea):
I awoke early and started my first day at sea with an invigorating power walk, basking in the warmth of the early morning sun. Breakfast followed my morning walk. Dining al fresco, I savored perhaps the best omelette I have ever had. Ahhh! This had all the makings of a perfect day! The sun was shining brightly in a blue, cloudless sky and the lounge chairs were beckoning. It was time to engage in my favorite “Sea Day” activity, sun bathing. I located a perfect spot on deck 10, above the Cadmo pool on deck 9. As many of the day’s scheduled activities took place on the stage and open deck at the Cadmo pool, I was close to the action, but yet removed from the hustle and bustle. Exercise classes and dance lessons were a major part of the day’s events. On many cruises, I forego participating in activities, as they interrupt my “sun time”. So, I was particularly pleased that these activities were conducted poolside. I could participate in as many activities as I would like and still enjoy the sun. Each day a variety of different dances were taught poolside. Brazilian dances, the Cha Cha, and “Baciata” were this day’s offerings. I love to dance, as did the many Europeans on board, and dancing poolside became a favorite pastime for many, including myself! Now, one of the advantages of lessons being taught in multiple languages, is the opportunity to practice the steps over again each time they are presented. Speaking of activities being presented in different languages, bingo in 4 languages is quite entertaining. This is a good place to mention that in addition to the activities presented in multiple languages, there were a good number of activities presented in English only, for example: Shore excursion and port and shopping talks, the champagne art auction, arts and crafts and bridge play. Other than the lifeboat drill, all informational talks were presented in each language separately, in different locations throughout the ship.

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