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janice woolley

Age: 34

Occupation:Psychoanalyst

Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Costa

Ship: Costa Mediterranea

Sailing Date: 2013-01-3

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

There is a reason that Costa is the most popular cruise line in Europe, they give you the cruise you've imagined.

Before I start singing the praises of Costa, I would like to begin by sharing some ideas on how to keep more of your money while still enjoying your cruise to the fullest. Holding down the add-on expenses isn't easy,after all, it's your vacation, you deserve it, and you want it to be special. However, there are ways to keep those costs minimal.

Start in the planning stages. Most cruise lines offer air and sea packages that save you the trouble of hunting for and booking your own flights, but they may not be the most cost-effective choice. You may be able to save a tidy sum by searching for a discounted fare on the Internet or by using the miles you've accumulated in an airline frequent flier program.

By arranging your own air, you'll be responsible for transfers between the airport and ship. However, a real bonus is that you may save enough not only for transfers, but also for a pre-cruise hotel stay. It's always great to arrive early to unwind and to insure that you won't miss the boat, a real possibility with airline delays and cancellations. We usually take advantage of hotel and parking packages which offer free parking in the hotel lot with 24 hour security for the length of your trip when you book for the night before your cruise.The hotel takes you to the cruise port in their shuttle, so you free yourself of the stress of driving to the cruise port as well.The site we like best for these is Stay123. We can count on saving 50% or more of what we used to pay for the airport parking.

Shore Excursions can carry a big price tag, so select them wisely. Shore excursions range from a simple half-day bus tour for less than $50 per person to exotic adventures and helicopter flights that can run hundreds of dollars per person. Some tours are cheaper if you arrange them yourself, either by contacting a tour operator ahead of time or hiring a guide when you arrive in port. In the latter case, the per person cost can be cut even further if you share your guide and transportation with another couple.

This is a good time to point out that ship-to-shore telephone calls are very expensive ranging from $6 to $10 a minute. Most ships are wired for Internet access these days and email is a far cheaper way to stay in contact with the office or family. Connections can run from 50 cents to a dollar a minute and often are slow. If your cruise ship has a 'package' deal of a certain number of minutes for a set fee, you will often pay less per minute. However, if you can wait until you arrive in ports of call, shore side Internet cafes are often inexpensive and have fast connectivity.

To save money while online, set up a simple web-based email account with Yahoo. Accessing Yahoo is universally very fast and you can get web-based email anywhere in the world. Don't use the email address assigned to you on your cruise ship; it's almost always more expensive than using a web-based mail account.

Alright and so, this is our 3rd trip on this excellent ship. Naturally, if we return to the same ship, we must have enjoyed ourselves immensely on previous cruises, and we did! So, this poses the question, what is so good about Costa that we find ourselves returning ? Costa Mediterranea Hotel Director Ann Ryan, whom we had previously met on the Costa Atlantica, is dedicated to following up on any inquiry by a passenger. She ensures that each passenger has the most enjoyable trip possible. When speaking with her, she proudly noted that recently the Mediterranea in the last two sanitation inspections by CDC (Center for Disease Control) has received two perfect scores of 100. This is an especially unusual feat, denoting that the ship is impeccably run.

The flow of the promenade on Deck 3 Bacco is reminiscent of the classic liners of yesteryear where the passenger could walk all around the ship on the promenade deck. The Winter Terrace Walk is accessed from the outside promenade forward or the doors adjacent the theatre. This lovely indoor promenade has large porthole shaped windows overlooking the sea. There are many tables and seats by each window, which are great for conversations, doing puzzles, playing cards, reading, or just relaxing and sea watching. This is an example of excellent flow, since this walk way goes all around the prow of the ship, back to the promenade. Toward midship on Deck 3 is the immense Oriental Lounge with its huge curving bar and piano strains of music. Continuing toward midship are the Via Condotti Shops. When leaving the Osiris Theatre on Deck 2 Tersicore, passengers pass the Piazza Casanova (with its multitude of "putti": white cherubs), a spacious room which has constant activities throughout the day and evening --- trivia, games, dancing lessons and live music. Going aft from Piazza Casanova on Deck 2, passengers pass through the Grand Canal Casino, one of the most spacious casinos afloat, no crowded aisles here.

Costa's suites are standardized: wide ceiling moldings of fine woods, granite tops on all furnishings and warm monochromatic colors of peaches, oranges and reds. Very sumptuous. On entering the suite, on the left there is an anteroom with a large lighted vanity, with a double armoire across from it. There is a door that leads to the bathroom with a full jacuzzi tub/shower. The room is tile and marble and has twin sinks and ample shelves for toiletries. The suite opens to the left with a large bar with TV, Personal safe and built in bureau and another double armoire. There is a king bed with copper and Murano blown glass lamps on the night stands. Opposite there is a desk with columns and mirrors, a refrigerator, a coffee table and a peach colored leather sofa. An arm chair completes the furnishings. The glassed far wall leads to the large balcony which holds two recliners and a table.

Costa Line describes itself as "Cruising Italian Style" and this is very evident in the good manners of its crew. Even though, they are a multicultural group, they all greet passengers There is always dinner music including the following: Classical Italian and American songs, Neapolitan favorites, and even Argentine tangos

Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Sail Away 7:00pm

Day 2. Key West, Florida Arrive 8:00am Depart 1:00pm Take the Conch Train or the Trolley Tour ($26) for a good overview. See the Little White House of Pres. Harry Truman and muse on how complicated life has become in the US in the last fifty years.

Day 3. 3-7-06 Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 7:00pm Cozumel was hit hard by Hurricane Wilma Oct. 2005. It lost the new pier, but with tendering the tourists are returning. See the local San Gervasio Ruins and the Folkloric Show ($72). Snorkeling is great here, but for those who cannot swim go to the Sea Trek Helmet Diving tour ($88).

Day 4. At sea

Day 5. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Dunns River Falls is the highlight to see; climbing them is a must for those with able bodies.

Day 6. Georgetown, Grand Caymans Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Once again there is tendering in order to go ashore. Here among the favorite tours are those which include swimming with the Stingrays.

Day 7. At sea

Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrival 8:00am

The top-notch staff, all of whom we had met on previous cruises on the Mediterranea and other Costa ships, welcomed us as old, special friends and made our cruise a great one. We tend to cruise more frequently on those lines that offer special perks to "frequent floaters," such as occasional upgrades, Champagne, fruit basket, a Concierge, VIP treatment, etc. Costa is one of our favorite lines, and we'll be cruising on Costa again.

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