Boarded at Malaga, crossed Atlantic for first time and found it very relaxing but not boring. There was plenty to do and see on board. The trouble began at the first Caribbean island stop - Antigua. There were two ships in port together, swamping the facilities available. This happened more often than not on the rest of the cruise- surely it is not beyond the wit of the cruise lines to arrange their schedules to avoid it? There was also the first of the totally artificial "tourist villages" - all almost identical, all full of the same Costa-sponsored jewellery and other shops. I suspect that if one checked the ownership of these places, Costa would figure. These are frequently designed so that disembarking passengers were forced to walk through them, accosted at each shop by insistent staff. At Grand Turk this was ALL that was available as the town was some distance away and closed on a Sunday! There is minimal contact with the real culture and people.
The tours sold by the More
ship were overpriced and often poor - the coral in the "reefs" to which we were taken was usually dead or dying and the fish very few. The bus tour of Belize was an hour of viewing decrepit houses in junk and garbage-filled gardens, the bus a battered and uncomfortable ex-Dallas Greyhound coach. When we asked where the city centre was our guide told us that there was not one - certainly there are only a few, sad shops. Most passengers were back on board hours before sailing time, having found nothing of interest to do, see or visit.
In Miami it was actually cheaper for four of us to share a taxi to go to the Dolphin Mall than to take Costa's tour to the same destination. In Jamaica, after docking at a ramshackle pier (we later found it was for loading bauxite!!) with corrugated metal sheets blowing gently in the breeze, we boarded the tour bus to see the only thing worth visiting, the waterfalls. On arrival there was a major shouting match between passengers who had been told that entry fee was included in the price and the crew of the bus (caught in the middle) who said it was not. Most passengers demanded the return of their money and walked back or took a taxi. We found on all the islands that frequent and amusing local buses had a network of routes at an absolutely minimum fare, usually a dollar.Ocho Rios in Jamaica was a squalid example of what 30 years of no maintenance can achieve coupled with demanding beggars and street vendors.
All in all the Caribbean is over-cruised and some ports of call not worth a visit. Others such as Grand Cayman should not be missed. Less
Costa Mediterranea Cruises to the Western Mediterranean
Good, took a local taxi for $20 with a charming and well-informed local driver who showed us the island and its many impresive facilities ranging from sports stadiums to a university. A buzzing and friendly place
Why the cruise visits Belize City is a total puzzle. We found almost all the passengers we spoke to felt the same, and were quickly back on board. We opted for Costa's "City Tour" - this was in a ramshackle ex-US Greyhound coach with broken seats. The hour's tour was at walking pace, obviously to make it last. The one stop was at the unimpressive brick "cathedral" to which there was no access! Otherwise the only thing to see were run-down houses with rotting woodwork. One gets the impresiion that nobody has lifted a paint-brush or hammer since independance, and the gardens were full of eveything from the day's garbage to overgrown, crumbling cars!
This is California's Silicon Valley in the Caribbean! The port is central in the town, which is clean and modern with plenty of good shops and places to visit. We hardly saw a building which was not new and fully maintained. Seven mile beach is great, from there we caught a $1 local bus to the turtle "farm", somewhat overpriced but interesting and with an excellent restaurant.
We never got to the falls! After being told by a ticket "tout" at the ship that entrance to the falls was included in the $20 fee, the bus crew said it was not (the falls are about 2 kms from the ship) Following a major scene, most had their money refunded. We opted to stay with the bus which after negociation took us on a tour of Ocho Rios area instead, including a beach stop.
The port itself was the worst we have ever seen, it turned out that it was a bauxite-loading pier. The corrugated metal sheeting which formed the abandoned buildings waved gently in the breeze! In the run-down and dirty town we were constantly accosted by beggars, drug sellers and street vendors.