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Ilene Karp

Age: 57


Number of Cruises: 10+

Cruise Line: Costa

Ship: Costa Mediterranea

Sailing Date: December14th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Costa Mediterrenea Dec 14, 2003 Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. Third sailing in the US on a ship entered into service in July, 2003. TIP: Never book a new ship.

First tip off that this would be a less-than-memorable cruise was not being greeted at the airport by a Costa Representative. After searching for a phone, I had to page the rep twice before someone showed up. Then we had to walk almost ½ a mile in the terminal to the baggage claim area. “Oh you don’t need transfer vouchers, just show them your upgrade slip from Costa,” said the travel agent, “and your names are on their list.” What list. We were not on any “list, but the Costa rep saw that we had paid for the transfers and just let it go. Bad start #1.

Check in at the Costa pier. Little did we know that there would be 18 ships in port that day-sort of like a parking lot for ships. We walked to the check-in counter, and were supposed to b e given “preferential” treatment since we had been upgraded to a suite. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The 2 yentas at the check-in were more concerned about talking to each other than taking care of us. The upgrade ship issued by Costa did nothing. This slip, I will add, was issued by Costa in JULY of 2003; we were not informed of this upgrade until about 2 weeks prior to the sailing. Of course the tickets were issued with the ORIGINAL (Cabin # 8188) BOOKING instead OF THE UPGRADE #7200. Then we were given a ticker with #11 and told to “take a seat with the other passengers and wait until our number is called.” OK, I thought that the suite passengers had their own waiting area as I had read in other reviews. Well, about 45 minutes later, ticket #1 AND suite passengers were called to board. A mad crush to the gate and that upgrade slip again was worthless. We just got into the cattle line for the security check and was shocked and disappointed to see elderly and disabled passengers waiting to board. When a wheelchair becomes available, they we will board them. Other ships board elderly, disabled and families with children along with suite passengers. This was uncalled for and really made me angry. I guess that there are no disabled passengers in Europe.

Tip: GET A PASSPORT AND USE IT. You would be amazed at the items passengers try to use as identification. One elderly passenger was refused boarding because she “forgot” her I.D., and was turned away. She had no one to get her passport left at home. Unfortunately, the ship could not bend the rules so she was forced to leave.

After being scrutinized, we were allowed to board and have the ship ID issued. The main lobby is just breathtaking-5 stories high, and this being the holiday season, decorated with a 2-story high Christmas tree. The ships’ theme is “The Dance” and the paintings, sculptures and wall-décor well accentuate the theme. We found our cabin, almost dead center of the ship and close to everything.

The room: Cabin #7200 is on the port side. It is about 350 square feet, spacious and well designed. 3 full sized sliding-door closets with ample storage drawers. Most ships we have been on I wind up living out of the suitcase for the week with no place for any storage. The “butler” arrived with cold “canapés”-actually 10 dime-sized pieces of stale bread with mystery spread. Additionally there was a bottle of sparkling Italian wine and a basket of fruit that looked as if it had lost a battle with an irate supermarket bagger. Then came the finding of the luggage. Since our tags issued by Costa said “8188” it was necessary for my husband AND the “butler” to go to 8188 and retrieve the luggage. Once that was done, we went to the welcome buffet and looked around the ship. The wait staff at the buffet were, to say the least, dis-interested in helping the passengers and were more concerned with talking amongst themselves. The first dinner was fair, but the wait staff were over-burdened with too many tables and the help just ignored the diners. Our waitress was fantastic in spite of her less-than-helpful busboys. Since the dining rooms is mostly the male-dominated area, a woman waiter is sneered at. We skipped the first mid-night buffet because by 9:30 we were really tired –it was a very long day after leaving our home at 3AM to drive to Philly airport for a 7:Am flight to Miami. We had originally booked the Carnival Paradise from Miami and purchased the airfare based on the Paradise; however this “deal” came up and Fort Lauderdale is not that far from Miami.

Anyway, Monday, 12/15/03 Key West
Cool, sunny and 70. Perfect for site seeing but not beach weather. Toured the usual touristy-spots and Hemmingway’s House ($10 per person). Well worth the cost. Back to the ship because I was not feeling too good, a quick lunch and a spot on deck. Unfortunately the lounge chairs look beautiful but they are metal mesh and are very uncomfortable. We had the early (6:30) seating and our dinner companions were delightful. Dinner low-lights were tough prime rib veal Oscar with crayfish and asparagus which was missing and grouper which was ok. Unremarkable desserts.

The first show which was a “review” was marginal. The bad thing is that unless you are on the first level, sitting upstairs is dreadful. Too may posts block your views of the stage.

Tuesday, Dec 16, 2003 day at sea on the way to Progresso, Mexico.
I should have had a clue that something was wrong when I could not go out on our deck because of the high winds. It seems that a winter storm came in and the seas were VERY rough-30 to 40foot waves, and 60+ MPH winds. We ordered room service which did come when we asked. Juice, coffee, 2 rolls, 2 sweet rolls, butter, jelly, cream, yogurt, sugar. Of course we had to put the dishes outside for someone to retrieve them. By this time I was really ill and needed to see the ships’ doctor. I must admit that the visit was very thorough and far better than I was expecting. Back to the room and back to sleep until dinner. Today was the Captain’s Cocktail party. Dinner highlights were seafood salad-squid, and other items, tough beef Wellington, shrimp with saffron rice, pork chops. I opted for grilled chicken and the largest baked potato ever seen. Desserts included cherries jubilee which I passed.

Tonight’s entertainment was the Island Magic steel band. Now most people, me included, think that steel bands only play “Yellowbird” at the poolside. This band played show tunes and at first the audience was stone-faced. After the second song, they audience was cheering. Other entertainment in the lounges were equally good, mostly Italian jazz and rock. Late night surprise was a pastry buffet which I passed.

Day 3-A storm at sea.
Since the weather was bad, the port of Progresso, Mexico was closed and we had another day at sea. The shop was shaking badly all night and for the first time in years, I’m really sea-sick. I still wasn’t feeling all that great and another day of rest would do me good. Of course, we received a revised schedule of activities and all trips were cancelled. So, instead of informing passengers that the trips would be credited to their accounts by the END of the trip, we were told, that they trips would be “automatically” refunded. Automatically means immediately to most folks so when they trips were NOT refunded there were plenty of irate and angry passengers. Of course language barriers abound on the ship and I was told “eventually” by a tour-operator with a cavalier attitude instead of saying “by the end of the trip.” Same nonsense-“our computer system isn’t working,” etc. They showed “Seabusicuit” which I opted to sleep. The show was Classical Concert with Mauro Bertolino which I skipped and opted for sleep instead. So when 11:30 rolled around, I was wide awake and went to the Tropical Night Deck Party which was lovely. Beautiful ice carvings, desserts and a HUGE try of fabulous Italian meats and cheeses which I just photographed. We docked in Cozumel around 8PM with no announcement and many passengers eagerly disembarked for a night on the town.

Thursday, Dec 18, 2003, Cozumel, Mexico
Another chilly-60degree, and windy-35MPH day. We walked through the duty-free pier and into a shopping area. After taking some photos of other ships in port, we went into one of the local stores. I found an interesting piece of pottery which I world have purchased but the help kept following us and looking at us as if we were criminals. I don’t understand why people are in business-to chase customers away. We went into Diamonds International and had to leave because they store smelled like moth-balls-great for shoppers. With nothing left to do but go back, we walked through the duty-free pier again-and security. I found a lovely ring at one of the shops and asked how much it is and the clerk walked away from me. Don’t you want my business, I asked, and he said NO. OK then, I guess you must be independently wealthy I said and he said “No tourist business.” So we went back to the ship for lunch which was Greek Specialties. I wound up with a strip steak for lunch which was really good. So far the shopping aboard is a major disappointment. Unless you love amber jewelry, there wasn’t much to buy other that t-shirts, liquor, etc. After an unremarkable dinner the evenings show was Mario La Manna, Italian tenor who was fantastic, so much so that we saw the show twice.

Friday, December 19m, 2003 Grand Cayman
Unfortunately we did not dock in Georgetown because of the rough seas but docked at another area along with 2 other ships. Again with the rough seas, we decided to stay on board so I could feel better. We dined at the Club Medusa-their up-scale restaurant menu by Gualtiero Marchesi and décor-dishes, linens, etc., by Versace. Dinner starts with a martini glass of cream of cauliflower mousse with bacon-ok, not to my liking, but definitely different; your choice of 4 appetizers, we had the scallops in a light vinaigrette and the lobster pie which was actually a compressed “cake” of solid lobster meat topped with a HUGE shrimp. Then your choice of 4 pasta dishes and then a filet, lamb, or 2 fish dishes. My husband had the filet which was served with a merlot demiglace, toasted pine nuts and spinach, and I had the lamb and polenta. For dessert my husband had “eggnog parfait” which was actually a scoop of eggnog ice cream served in a dish with a fantastic chocolate sauce and shaved chocolate, I had a raspberry torte served with fresh raspberry coulees and a piece of star fruit. Then a glass of Champaign to end the meal. Normally they charge $20 per person, but this was included in the cost of our cabin. Unfortunately we missed lobster night and the show” Solid Gold” which we’ve seen on most ships. We did stay up to see the Grand Buffet. Unfortunately trying to photograph it was a disaster, so we did the best we could and left without eating anything.

Saturday, Dec 20, 2003-at sea
Breakfast in the cabin then a walk on deck. Not much to do since the weather really did not allow for pool nor hot tub usage. We went to the disembarkation talk and just goofed off the rest of the day. This was the best night because it was Roman Bacchanal day-come dressed in your togas (sheets left in the cabins with directions). After a forgettable dinner, we waited for the show. It was passenger talent show/toga party-the best thing all week.

All good things finally do end, and Sunday was time to get off!!! Unfortunately the disembarkation process was just as awful as embarkation. We allegedly had “priority” and waited with everyone else.

TIP: Always have your travel agent issue you vouchers for transfers. The copier at the pier was broken and out upgrade slip was confiscated. The bus FINALLY left Fort Lauderdale at 10:30 so passengers with 11:30 flights were out of luck and the cruise line did nothing for them. We had a 1:30 flight home so we had plenty of time.

Final score:
Cleanliness 100
Cabin stewardess 100
Food -10
Pool 75
Entertainment 90-bnetter than average
Cruise director Paul-100
Captain Massimo Garbarino 100
Dining room waitress 100
Buffet help ZERO
Dining room at lunch-ZERO
Room service 70

Remember: a bargain is only a bargain if you truly love it.

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