My DW, DS, GF and I drove from New Orleans to spend New Year's with family in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area. Driving was more economical than flying due to the Holidays.
After getting dropped off we were directed to the check in area by some very friendly Costa personnel. We went through the security checkpoint without incident and proceeded to check in. It took us about 15 minutes from the time we pulled up and the time we were on the ship. We were truly amazed as this was the smoothest and quickest embarkation of any of our cruises. Once inside we were met by Costa staff who checked our documents again and took our picture with a handheld device. This took all of a minute or so. From there we were directed to our cabin.
Waiting for us in GS 7200 were a bottle of champagne, fruit basket, plate of hors' dourves, our Costa id. cards and the daily information pamphlets. The suite was spacious, with a large sitting area. The balcony accommodated two loungers, two adjustable chairs, a small table and had room to spare. Leading from the bedroom there was an area with a separate vanity and a large closet. The bathroom had marble double vanities, a bidet, and a whirlpool tub/shower. The bedroom area had a closet and ample drawer space where all of the stuff that my DW brought fit comfortably. The TV in the room was rather small but they carried the three major US networks along with a number of ship information channels and news and entertainment programs from Europe and India.
Minutes later we were greeted by our Room Steward Fanny (Peru) who was a gem all throughout our Cruise. Right after, we met Rodney (Philippines) our butler. He explained that he would bring us fresh fruit everyday and would serve us breakfast every morning if we chose to.
The Atlantica is a beautiful vessel. The decor was beautiful but you could tell in places (hallway carpeting) that the ship had been in operation for a number of years. However, none of the detracted from its charm. It had ample deck space and never gave us a "crowded feeling".
Before I discuss the food, I can say that we cruise to get away from daily stress and relax. We have never gone hungry on any past cruises and this one was no exception. Our wait team of Joseph (Philippines) and Mukesh (India) were outstanding and very aware of any needs that we might have.
The food, in our opinion, was typical of any cruise line that we have been on. However, it did have a distinctive Italian flair to it. For most daily dinners in the main dining room, they offered a meat entree', chicken, lamb, etc. The menu also included a different pasta dish daily although you could always order the standard spaghetti and meatballs. Of all of the desserts that we tried,we liked the cheesecake best.
With the exception of the pizza stations, I didn't visit the buffet although they served hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, tacos and salads and desserts. The pizza was delightful. Costa had two pizza stations. One that served pizza with ingredients that changed daily and another station that always served cheese pizza.
Entertainment: I only attended one or two shows and I can truly appreciate the effort that Costa's Cruise Director, Andrea, puts out in trying to entertain travelers from all over the world. When you get an audience that speaks 4,5 or 6 different languages it is a monumental task to please everyone. Andrea amazed me in the he could speak fluently in so many languages and would switch from one to another at the drop of a hat.
The service overall was outstanding. Everyone we came in contact with, from the bar personnel to the purser's office ladies was extremely polite friendly and courteous. Speaking of the latter, I have been on different lines where when you approach the front desk personnel they take care of you professionally and move you along. What impressed me on the Alantica was that each one of the front desk staff could not only speak a minimum of three languages but would take their time with EVERY passenger that they were assisting. This might put some people off but I found it charming that someone would actually take the time to listen and to try to help. As an example my DS GF was feeling queasy and I went to get her some Dramamine. In previous cruises, I have gone to the desk and asked for the same and the person who attended me would ask how many I would need. Then they would hand them over, say thank you and "Next". On Costa, this particular young lady (Germany), took the time to ask a number of questions, whether she had high blood pressure, was she pregnant? Thank God, no. Then she went on to explain how to take the pills and what their effect would be. This type of service totally wowed me. Just for that personal touch alone, I would sail with Costa again.
We had priority disembarkation so after a leisurely breakfast with our new friends we left the ship. Customs was a breeze and all in all we were out the door in about 15 to 20 minutes. Couldn't be any smoother. Costa has this down pat!
Negatives, the AC. At around 3 in the morning, we heard a whistling sound that sounded like a freight train. Come to find out that if we set the thermostat all the way up this would happen. After the second night we had this under control.
Did we get a good value for our money? Absolutely. Would we sail Costa again? Definitely.
We had been reading about crime in the tourist areas in Nassau this past December. So with a bit of trepidation we did a walking tour of the Queen's Staircase and the fort next to it. However, not only did we have no incidents but every local that we walked by was friendly and wished us good morning and a nice day.
Being a cigar smoker, I wanted to go to the cigar room at the Graycliff Inn. The Graycliff is truly a Five Star Resort. I had previously contacted via email Alejandro Mantero, who runs the cigar operation at the Graycliff. He arranged for us to tour the entire facility, including the wine cellar and where they actually hand rolled the cigars.
We found out that the wine collection at the Graycliff is the largest privately owned collection of wines in the world. The cellar holds 275,000 bottles of wine from 15 countries. One rack alone which we saw held about 100 bottles and were told that it was worth $1M US alone. We asked for and were shown their most expensive bottle of wine. It was 1727 vintage made by monks in Germany and was worth $275,000 US.
The cigar room was manned by Cuban rollers who were on contract with the Graycliff Inn. The lead roller asked me if I smoked and when I said yes, he made me a cigar on the spot.
We walked back to the straw market area where we enjoyed a Kalik and a Sands beers. My DW went into the straw market and walked around the stall but found the vendors to be extremely aggressive so she didn't make a purchase. We have been going to the Bahamas since the 1980's and this hasn't changed.
We did our own thing again and took the free trolley to the Morro castle. The trolley schedule was a bit out of whack due to the holiday so we had to wait a few extra minutes for one that would take us to El Morro. Afterwards we walked through Old San Juan, had lunch and afterwards I enjoyed a hand rolled cigar which I bought from a vendor in a small plaza. While my wife hit the stores I puffed away.
The Puerto Ricans are friendly and we never felt ill at ease anywhere we went. The kids were craving McDonald's and we found one in Old San Juan. the old San Juan reminded us of our hometown of New Orleans in that the architecture is very similar there to our own French Quarter.
We spent truly a great afternoon.
However, we took the Godfrey tour and would highly recommend it. The whole day tour cost $25 US per person. Godfrey picked us up at the docks, took us into downtown Charlotte Amalie to shop for 3 hours. We purchased our limit of 5 liters per person at AH Riise and I can tell you that we saved over 50% from prices stateside.
Godfrey picked us up at the appointed time and gave us a tour of the island, dropped us off at Magens Bay and picked us up for the return trip back to the ship. Taxi fares from the port to Magens Bay were $9 per person each way so we saved cash.
Magens Bay was beautiful but crowded as 5 cruise ships, including the Oasis of the Seas, were in port that day. With so many people at the beach the water was cloudy but refreshing. Had a couple of adult beverages and a great time overall.