Well let me start by saying my DW and I have been on over 25 previous cruises including Carnival, NCL, RCCL, HAL, and a couple of small lines. We are in our young 50's and consider ourselves independent travelers. We have found reasons to like and dislike all of the cruise lines for various reasons and our tastes. Generalizations can always be tough but some of our impressions are Carnival is less elegant but more fun, we love NCL's freestyle dining but the service was weaker, HAL has great service, elegance, and food but an older crowd, and RCCL has ok food but excellent entertaining shows. We tend to like smaller more intimate ships but have had great fun on bigger ships as well. That said here goes on the 4-3-2010 sailing of the Atlantica.
We picked this ship specifically for its price for what is typically an expensive time, in addition Costa has an excellent reputation of catering to Roman Catholics and because this cruise was over Easter. Mass on Easter was available, as on all other days of the cruise.
We drove most of the way down the previous night and stayed at the brand new Holiday Inn Express in Palm Bay Florida . The hotel was very nice, and the staff helpful. We had a very nice free breakfast the next morning and left for Tampa. We parked at the port and it was $105 for the 7 nights. It is a block to the terminal where you can drop off your bags. We arrived at the port at 12 and within 45 minutes we were heading up the gangway.
Being onboard early there were no lines at the welcome buffet, we would find this would usually be the case. The buffets were weak, and at times quite poor, the lines moved well however even though the ship was full, (2600). The pasta was "el Dente" to the point of paste and for me usually inedible. The roasts on the buffet were usually well done, often burnt, however the gravy's were outstanding. Deserts seemed to consist of a previously frozen cake and some various form of gelatin pudding. The morning bacon was not good at all...very greasy. Omelets were available as were fried eggs which were consistently scalded and crispy.
The food in the restaurant was good, sometimes great. We have found that we always have had a particular item better somewhere else, but only on a cruise ship do we get day in and day out the variety. We sat a 6 top table with our sisters and brother-in-laws and rotated to have different elbow mates for each night. Appetizers were very good, main meals good on most nights. Desert remained a disappointment, I did enjoy the Costa chocolate dessert and ended up having several nights. I was sad to see the Gelato listed on the ship was never the wonderful full icy flavors I enjoyed in Italy but just regular American ice cream, not even a good version of that.
We found the ship to be somewhat old in age and style but in very good condition. There was one pool at the back of the ship that was specifically for adults and it was needed as there were an inordinate amount of kids on the ship. Chairs were hard to come by in this area but the staff did a good job of policing the pool of children. One of the pools was closed much of the week due to a previous weeks mishap which rendered the pool unsafe until a proper cleaning was performed.
We booked early and got a inexpensive inside room, comparatively good price compared to other sailing that time of year. The room was kept clean and the bathroom was reasonable size and felt especially clean with the new floors. The bed was great and the TV came in well with the typical Denver channels, these 4 channels were the only English channels other then ship happenings.
In the ports we always do our own thing, and this was no exception. In the Caymans we snorkel right near the tender port, it is a sight often visited by boats but we just swim from shore. this time we brought several new snorkelers with us and enjoyed the sight even more through their eyes. This ends up being a virtually free excursion for us as we walk to the spot and we have our own gear.
Cozumel hasn't changed much since the repairs from the last major hurricane, but we did notice increased sea life in our usual spot. A small bar called the Money Bar is adjacent to the spot and we snorkel, lounge at the few chairs having a $2.50 beer while warming back up for another go at snorkeling. It is an $8 taxi ride for 2 each way and we get chips and salsa and a number of Dos XX and the bar bill is never more then $30 for the day. There are lockers available for $2 and rental gear as well
Roatan is turning into one of favorite ports, this time the ship docked at Mahogany Bay where we could have lounged around for free, but we chose to taxi to Maya Cay, the former Fins and Flippers, where we had a great snorkel. this was not inexpensive and was fairly busy, about 150 guests I would say. we spent $40 and person for this side trip, food and drinks not included.
Key West several of us rented a golf cart and toured the city, a different way to get around and quite fun.
The entertainment was quite a mix of things, the stage shows were very good and both male and female singer were quite good, maybe the best pair we have seen assigned to any ship. There was a couple from Hungry who were entertaining with grace and strength in a cirque style. One especially clear night they turned the lights off on the back of the ship and the CD gave a star presentation that was as good as ones I have seen in planetariums. One night a juggler/comedian entertained in a mime atmosphere and was quite good as well.
I found the lounges disappointing as well, music consisted of a string trio, a Ella style quartet and duo playing to no one in the lost lounge under the main theatre and a DJ disco who was taken hostage by the multitude of teenagers. I think we struggled the whole week with where to just sit and talk but this was probably because the kids were just everywhere, not so much a function of the ships spaces.
I managed to lose my $20 very quickly in the casino, just did it to say I did it. Getting off the ship was a breeze as we literally walked our bags off our floor within 35 minutes of being cleared by customs.
All in all we had a very good time and I would do this cruise again, while far from perfect we loved our time off and our company.