We are independent travelers who decided to take a cruise because we thought our preschooler would like more time with her grandparents. Her grandparents love cruising, and we want to see more of Europe while we are living here, before we have to return to the U.S. in two years. The reviews we read about the Atlantica indicated it had spacious staterooms. The Costa website indicated that the Atlantica had an extensive children's program and facilities such as an indoor swimming pool that would appeal to our preschooler. Its itinerary to the Baltic appealed to my in-laws who have travelled just about everywhere else in the world except St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Helsinki or Tallinn.
The Atlantica is huge, dramatic, cheerful, clean and well maintained. The size was a plus for us. My husband gets motion sick easily, but in ten days he never needed to take his Dramamine, even when there were rolling white caps and gusty winds. A very smooth ride. I liked the post-modern decor which referenced classical Italian art.
I didn't get to participate in many activities, since my 3.75 year old daughter had mixed success with the Squok club and hoped for babysitting from her elderly grandparents didn't pan out. It was just as well, because most activities were conducted in Italian or Spanish. Of 2000+ guests, we were 1 of only up to 140 English speaking guests... During one activity, I made a nice decoupage picture frame that I have on my dresser at home. However, only because I had done something like it before, had I managed to get through the activity. They were out of frames, but the activity leader thrust a brush at me, pointed to a glob of paint on a paper plate and disappeared. I found a seat and waited for ten minutes for the person to reappear and didn't know what to do. I asked if anybody in the room spoke English, but all thirty people stared at me as if I was nuts. Finally, the instructor came with more frames. She gave the instructions only in Italian or Spanish, but fortunately I knew what to do after I had the supplies. I tried a belly dance class, but that was only taught in Italian, too. Service
The lady in charge of our room was very sweet and friendly to us. Moreover, she kept our room absolutely spotless. The English speaking hostess was miserable. When we asked her whether or not taxis in Copenhagen would take euros or credit cards she said she did not know. She did not offer to find out or even apologize for her lack of knowledge. She recommended a Hop On Hop Off service in Stockholm that was too expensive and did not have a very audible commentary. Our table attendant was very friendly and remembered our daughter's preferences: extra ice, a pillow on her chair and strawberry ice cream. As she adoringly said, "He's a n-i-c-e man." Occasionally dining service could be slow, but that may have been due to diners who came in more than 20 minutes late.
The St. Petersburg and the Hermitage 9 hour tour was EXCELLENT. The Bornholm tour was good, too, but the bus seemed very warm during the first part of it.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
We live in Wassenaar, so all five of us took a taxi to the port, which cost about 104 euros.
We had room 1232 on deck 1 in the middle of the ship. It was quiet, except for a little rumbling from the engine and rattling of some fixtures. It had plenty of room for 2 adults and one small child with two large bags and four smaller ones. The decor was pleasant and modern. The room was cleaned twice a day, we were given fresh towels daily, and our room was kept spotless. We had enough room to unpack our bags completely.
The food was usually good, but was not haute cuisine or luxurious. It would have been nice to have had a prettier presentation. They should take cues from De Kas in Amsterdam. I had a tough veal cutlet one night. I thought veal was supposed to be tender. If a poor baby cow is going to give up its life, it might as well be cooked properly. I would have also liked to have sampled the cuisines of the countries we visited. I would have even eaten lutefisk. A hearty Russian meal might have been welcoming on some of the more rainy nights.
My 3.75 year old daughter was not crazy about the Squok club. It seemed a bit chaotic at times. There were many kids on the ship when we went. I'm sure that my preschooler's tiny, sometimes grammatically incorrect English speaking voice wasn't audible above the roar of the Italian kids' voices. It must have been difficult for the Italian caregivers to understand her in those conditions, even if they had some understanding of English. The activities were uninspired: trying to create a beaded necklace by stringing beads onto an unknotted string, trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with missing and duplicated pieces, singing Italian songs, coloring within the lines, building with LEGOS, eating cookies and cake on deck 9 before dinner, watching movies in Italian (some of which were too intense and caused her to have nightmares--she never had cried out in her sleep until she saw Meet the Robinson's while in Squok Club). On the positive side: she was able to visit the bridge (which "grown ups" aren't allowed to do) and got a free baseball cap, fanny pack and t-shirt.
My in-laws, who have seen a lot of cruising entertainment and so ought to know, thought the floor shows were out of synch and out of tune. I thought the magician acts were entertaining and family friendly. My preschooler and I loved having the opportunity to "dance" together to live jazz and ballroom music. She also LOVED the final crew performance. She wanted to "see the movie" that they were sure to make of it so she could see it again and again. I explained that I didn't think that it would be possible, but I could help her write a thank you note so that they would know that they made somebody's trip very special. The Squok Club staff promoted the Animation Show as if it would be a good family friendly activity. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very bawdy show full of sexual references (shadow play of a stripper, men stripping down to underwear, women parading in Hooker outfits to the tune of "Sex Farm" and men "playing" women like instruments with suggestive stroking). I am not a prude, but I thought it was inappropriate. Thank God my daughter didn't get any of the allusions, but older children would. Creepy.
We were two hours late to Amsterdam. We didn't arrive until 11. We had to be out of our cabin at 8. We didn't get off the boat until 1 p.m. I wish they would have provided entertainment or drinks for us while we waited in the lounges without anything to do. Some people probably missed connections. They had misplaced our daughter's bag, but quickly found it when we mentioned that it was pink and small. I wonder what might have happened had it been more ordinary looking.