Wow, were we excited One son graduating law school and the other finishing his first year in law school. It was THE BEST OF TIMES. My wife and I decided, as a graduation gift, to take our sons on a cruise to the Greek Islands.
There we were, sitting in front of Linda B. at Liberty Travel previously in Aventura now in Hollywood. We told her what we wanted, a high end ship, great food and great ports. She sold us on a Costa cruise, the Victoria, which went to the islands in Greece that we had heard and read about. She guaranteed us that this was a high end ship, only one step below Windstar.
The anticipation was great over the next few months waiting to go on our family cruise. The flights that we booked, of course not through Liberty Travel, since they make no money on booking airline tickets, were great. We arrived in Venice, Italy and went to the ship.
CRUISING INTO THE WORST OF TIMES:
The boys' room was made up as single instead of a double and our room, which had already been made up, was filthy. There was a half full Coca-Cola can on the dresser; there was dust on the top of the counters and there were fingerprints on every window and mirror. We called Housekeeping who assured us that they would immediately rectify these problems.
Still hoping for the best, we went upstairs to the buffet and upon return to our room 2 hours later, nothing had been done. We began to realize that our travel agent had terribly mislead us and we were not on the high end ship that we had demanded and paid a premium for.
There were fresh cut flowers on our bed that the travel agent had sent. To this day, I don't understand why anyone would put fresh cut flowers on a bed. When we asked for a flower vase, we were told they did not have any and a champagne bucket was delivered to our room for the flowers.
Next, we learned that although Linda had assured us we would have late seating, we were booked on early seating. It made no difference, the food on that ship was so awful that I would equate it to eating in a high school cafeteria. On the second night of the cruise, my wife actually ran out of the dining room crying, when for the second night there was nothing for her children to eat. The food was so bad, the boys didn't eat.
Unfortunately, we had depended on a travel agent, a big mistake, and things only got worse. The ports of call and the times that the ship arrived at these ports were ridiculous.
The first day, we arrived in Bari, Italy. The shore time was from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The four of us disembarked the ship and looked for a taxi to take us to a restaurant for a good meal. The taxi driver laughed at us and said, this is siesta time, everything is closed until 4:00 p.m. In Santorini, we had to be back on the ship by 2:00 p.m., however at that time of day, the gondola ride down from Santorini to the shore is a one and one half hour wait in the hot sun. Then, there was Mykonos, beautiful, beautiful Mykonos; we dreamed about the beaches and our sons looked forward to the night life. No way, the shore time for Mykonos was from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., too late for the beaches and too early for the night life.
I will not bore you with every detail, however, every single day there was something else on that ship to prove that we were not on a high end class cruise. Espresso and cappuccino were not provided. Even at breakfast and dinner, we had to pay for coffee. The cigar bar was not a cigar bar but a small humidor in the back of one of the lounges. The waiter who assisted us did not have a cigar cutter or even matches. On one of our excursions, the bus they put us on had an inoperable air conditioning system for a bus trip that took one half hour in each direction in 90 degree weather.
If this ship was one step below Windstar, then Holiday Inn is one step below the Ritz Carlton.
Finally, we arrived in Venice, the city of beauty and romance. Arriving at our hotel, the Regina-Europa, we thought we were done with Costa and Linda B.. You already know that's not the case. The Worst Of Times continued because we had used a travel agent. We had prepaid Liberty Travel for two rooms, ($400 per room per night). We were ready for our beautiful rooms, some good meals and to explore Venice.
Not yet, Linda blew it again. They told us that the hotel was full. It also turned out that the room that was booked had no shower nor view. My wife was in tears again. Finally, a manager was called, found a room where the party had not arrived, apologized for the actions of our travel agent and we were finally done with Liberty Travel and Linda B. The children kept our lousy room and my wife and I received a beautiful room with a view.
I have learned a lot from this experience. The best of times is to make time to travel with your children. My wife and I and the 2 boys had a wonderful time together despite the circumstances. Next, never, ever, ever go on a Costa cruise ship if you are used to American food and service. You will be terribly disappointed.
Last, unless you prefer the Worst Of Times over The Best Of Times, do not use a travel agent. Obtain recommendations from friends and use the Internet. Because we wanted to go on a high end cruise in the Mediterranean, we thought we needed a travel agent. What a mistake
As it turned out, in retrospect, my wife and I would have done a much better job than Linda B.
Looking back, life is good, however, if you ever happen upon Liberty Travel, either in their store in Hollywood or on the Internet, turn around, do not look back, hit the escape key and remember me.