We sailed on the Costa Magica from Savona, Italy. We asked the cruise line a few months prior to departure if we could disembark in Barcelona a day earlier instead of returning to Savona. Costa agreed as long as we understood that we would not get any partial refund. Since we wanted to stay and explore our favorite European city, Barcelona, we agreed to their preconditions.
The itinerary was special for two sailings only. The itinerary was for 9 days starting with a day at sea; Malaga, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco; Cadiz (Seville), Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Gibraltar, UK; Alicante, Spain; Barcelona, Spain; and finally back to Savona.
Costa is not for all American travelers. We have been on different Costa ships before (2001 on Classica, 2002 on Victoria, 2007 on Fortuna) because we like the European touches and people. We you are used to the more American style of cruising then stick with the other American ships. The staff is mainly from the Philippines and India.
Prior to our embarkation in Savona we visited Venice for a few days. We took a train from Venice to Savona through Milan and arrived in Savona the day prior to sailing. The train ride including the connection in Milan took about 5 ½ to 6 hours.
Savona is a beautiful seaside city. It is tranquil full of nice little shops and streets. We stayed in the marina area just steps away from the cruise terminal. The name of the hotel is NH Savona-Darsena. It is a new hotel in the marina. The marina is now full of new apartments and shops. I would definitely recommend this hotel although some rooms may be noisy on a Saturday night as there are quite a few bars and restaurants around it. For a good and local dinner try Enzo which is over the bridge, across the marina and behind a gas station.
The closest airport to Savona is in Genoa. From Genoa to Savona is a 30 minute train ride. From the train station you have to arrive in the marina by taxi which is about 5-10 minutes away.
Getting on the ship was quite easy. The Magica was inaugurated in 2004 and is the sister ship to the Fortuna. The ship is a large ship with nice dEcor. It is quite similar to the Carnival Liberty and its class of ships as it was built by the same shipbuilder.
The cabin was typical with adequate furnishings. We stayed in an outside balcony cabin. I would say that the hallways were not as clean as the other ships. I noticed the carpets had spots on them that would need a good shampooing.
Overall, the service on the ship, however, was outstanding. European ships are not known for good service but the Magica had very good service. On the other hand, the food at dinner was very bad. Even some of the servers acknowledged the bad food. The breakfast and lunch were good and the afternoon tea time at 4:00 p.m. full of finger foods and small pastries was excellent.
We enjoyed the pool. The ship has two pools and a water slide. One of the pools is centrally located while the other is under a retractable roof. On windy or cold days the pool is enclosed while on sunny days the roof is completely open.
The night time shows are very nicely produced, although we notice the lack of a live band for these shows. We hope that this is not a trend as nothing beats the sound of a live band during a performance.
There are a number of lounge acts. Some were utterly disappointing and should be replaced while others played wonderful Italian music. I think that these Italian singers should stick with singing and playing Italian music since their renditions of American classics, be they rock or swing or jazz, are mostly dreadful.
The disco was, for the most part, empty except when the "animators" or the ships employees whose duties were to create excitement visited it. The DJ was only adequate.
The casino is not very large and was mostly full even though Europeans are not big on gambling.
Day 1 (At Sea)
This was a great relaxing day. The weather was unseasonably cooler than normal and the seas were rough as we sped down the western Mediterranean towards Malaga and the Costa del Sol.
Day 2 (Malaga, Spain)
We did not take a tour since they were expensive (especially with the Euro being so strong). We explored Malaga which is a very nice city. You do not need to take a tour to explore Malaga. The tours take people usually to the beach cities of Torremolinos and Marbella. It is a long walk from the ship to the end of the port. The ship's shuttle took us from the ship and dropped us off on the edge of town. From there we walked up the main streets.
The weather was perfect. We took the pedestrian-friendly main street north from the port area. The street is called Called Marques de Larios. On either side of this beautiful avenue you can find many nice stores. You can also take narrow arterial streets and find small stores and cafes serving delicious seafood.
A short walk from this area to the east is the beautiful Malaga Cathedral. I would recommend this baroque church that is missing one tower because of the lack of funds when it was built between 1528 and 1782.
From here we took a 5 minute stroll to the Alcazaba. This is a Moorish fortification that dates to the 8th century. It is located right next to a Roman ruin that dates to the 2nd Century. From here you can also take in a beautiful view of Malaga's port and see your cruise ship as the Alcazaba is built on a small hill.
Day 3 (Casablanca, Morocco)
Here we would recommend taking a tour. For those who don't mind being in a bus for several hours there are tours to Marrakech or Rabat. We opted for a ½ day tour in Casablanca. This was a good tour. Our tour guide Kemal was full of wit and tidbits.
We visited a seaside area after going through a ritzy neighborhood. We stayed here for 20 minutes. Then we visited a church for about 15 minutes. We visited one of the most beautiful houses of worship we have ever seen. King Hassan II Mosque was partly shrouded in fog when we visited it. The inside is massive and made of mosaic, cedar and granite among others. This is the third largest mosque in the world. We then visited a shop that was filled with souvenirs. We decided to just wait outside since inside was too crowded.
We returned to the ship, ate lunch and hired a taxi for $40 to be with us for a few hours. We went to the "Tower Center" area which has some western shops. Shopping was not great as some of the better stores were closed for lunch. We conversed with the driver in French as many people in Casablanca are able to speak French in addition to Arabic.
We came back to the ship and used their spa facilities. The spa runs specials when the ship is in port so take advantage of them. On port days the spa is empty. The massages were good. Unfortunately, some "Einstein" ship-designer decided that the children's playroom should be placed above the massage rooms. It is hard to relax when you have the constant thumping of children running above you.
Day 4 (Cadiz, Spain)
Cadiz is a port city that is the gateway to Seville. We did not visit Cadiz, although it seems like a lovely little town. We took a tour to Seville which I would recommend. Seville is located about 2 hours away and is a lovely city. We visited Plaza de Espana, which was built for the Expo in 1929. We visited the Cathedral in Seville which is the third largest church in the world and where Christopher Columbus is buried. This church is absolutely stunning. We also visited the Alcazar of Seville. This is the palace of Spanish kings and queens whenever they visit Seville. We also visited the old Jewish Quarter where no Jews now live. Seville is overall a stunning city.
Day 5 (Lisbon, Portugal)
Lisbon has one of the most beautiful harbors in the world. The April 25th bridge (which was built by the same company that built the Bay Bridge in northern California) spans the bay. In Lisbon we did not take any tours as most of the town is within walking distance of where the shuttle drops you off. We paid for the ship's shuttle that dropped us off at the Baixa (lower area) which is the downtown of Lisbon. We walked up some of the pedestrian only streets where shops are located. Some of Lisbon is situated on hills so you have to take either stairs or an elevator (a lovely one called Santa Justa Elevator) We then went to Bairro Alto and Chiado (higher neighborhood) which is where the nicer boutiques are located. Then we took the tram down to Avenida de Liberdade that is modeled after Champs-Elysees. This wide boulevard has a park in the middle and is the nicest street for shopping for luxury or just strolling in cool air.
On our way back we sampled some great bacalhau which is cod. Lisbon is well known for cod and other seafood. Great restaurants can be found just off Comercio Square which is at the north end of Baixa.
Day 6 (Gibraltar)
Unfortunately, torrential rains that were very unseasonable kept us away from here. The rains were so fierce that only a few brave souls managed to get off the ship. We again hit the spa and tried to relax in their Jacuzzi and sauna. The spa was deserted so we had the entire place to ourselves.
Day 7 (Alicante, Spain)
Again it rained here too although a little better than Gibraltar. We took the shuttle outside of the port from where we tried to explore the city. Unfortunately, a storm hit us again and we had to come back. Also, it was a Sunday and the entire city was closed. This is a beautiful and friendly city. We wished we could have had better weather and there are a number of beaches close by, including Postiguet beach which is adjacent to the port. We will definitely try to come back to this lovely town.
Day 8 (Barcelona, Spain)
The ship is in port only 5 hours which is like visiting the Louvre and spending 10 minutes there. We disembarked and stayed here 3 days. Barcelona's highlights include La Sagrada Familia (the unfinished church due to be completed in about 20 years), Montjuic, the Cathedral, Gaudi buildings, Park Guell and other interesting sites. Las Ramblas a street where the ship shuttle drops you off is over-rated. Unfortunately, those with a few hours to spend in Barcelona see only this street and leave. Barcelona is so much more.
Overall, the cruise was very good. The itinerary was excellent. Unfortunately, we hit some bad weather in some parts of southern Spain. But when there was no rain the weather was perfect as September is really a good month to visit Europe. Costa needs to improve its dinners. Service seems to have improved tremendously since we last sailed with them. Hopefully we can take Costa again.