Costa Atlantica-Kids Sail Free-Get What You Pay For or Not!!
Hi. Just returned from first Costa cruise. Saw "kids sail free" offer and decided to give as a gift to our 4 children and my parents for Christmas since none of them had ever been. Husband and I sailed with Carnival last August and although we realize it is not the "top of the line" we enjoyed it. Kids were free as the 3rd and 4th guests only so I reserved 2 cabins with my children being the 3rd and 4th in both cabins since my parents were going too. Our price was $299/person but we still had to pay port taxes, etc on the children. Final price per inside stateroom was just shy of $1000. Still not a bad deal. We drove 3hrs to Nashville, TN and then flew to Miami, FL. We were departing from Fort Lauderdale, FL but it was cheaper to fly in to Miami and then arrange transportation to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale. We are equally as close to St. Louis, MO but most hotels in Nashville, TN offer free parking up to 7 days, which was worth saving since we were driving 2 vehicles. We stayed at Alexis Inn and Suites which was $79.95 for a room with 2 beds and a pull out sofa. They shuttled us to airport for free to catch our flight. We flew with United Express which was a much smaller plane than I had ever been on but worked out "ok". Upon arrival to Miami payed $100 for van transportation for 8 to Crowne Plaze in Fort Lauderdale. Crowne Plaza was very nice and close to Port Everglades. Upon arrival to Port the Costa staff was wonderful. They assisted us with tagging our luggage to be taken to our room. They even allowed us to tag 2 12packs of Coke and 1 case of Bottled Drinking Water, which surprised me.
Arrived a little early and were allowed to embark, very fast and easy. Had a decent buffet, the fresh fruit was the best part. Not many entertainment options. Went to pool with kids and after a short bit, all families with kids were asked to leave since it was an "adult only" pool. There were 2 more pools but only one uncovered in order to get sun while the kids swam. First night went to register kids for "Squok Club." Filled out papers for all stating they were not allowed to sign themselves in/out. Waited to speak to woman in charge of it to confirm that the childrens' groups would not be unsupervised by at least 1 staff member while there. She confirmed this. The next evening while at sea my children decided they wanted to try the kids club. Went and signed them in and there was a young man seated in chair with face propped in hands with elbows on knees silently watching a couple young children play with blocks and puzzles independently. He appeared very disinterested in them. My children went to adjacent room were there was an individual entertaining them while seated around a table. I had told my children I would be back to sign them out in 1 1/2-2hrs. My husband and I had gone back to our room to relax for a bit. Suddenly there was a knock on our door. It was my daughter-ALONE. The staff had told her she could sign herself in/out whenever she wanted so she decided to sign herself out since she had been feeling nauseated for a while(from the motion of the ship rocking which was more noticeable towards that end of the ship). The staff never attempted to contact me to tell me she was feeling ill but also had no means to contact me other than my stateroom phone. I was very upset to learn that the staff had allowed her to sign herself out when I had specifically indicated AND discussed this with the staff member on duty previously. She fortunately found her own way back to our room as she wandered around the ship alone. I was very upset and went up to the kids club and signed my children out and expressed my dissatisfaction. They didn't reply much. I also went to guest services to share my experience and the fact that their childrens' program was in much need of additional security measures. When on Carnival without children we did take notice that the childrens' program was extremely secure. I couldn't help but wonder, What if my husband and I had been off the ship on an excursion? What would she have done. A young girl alone wandering on the ship alone; too many horrible possibilities to mention!!! Guest services contacted the Supervisor of the childrens program; Monica. She accompanied the individual responsible to come to me and apoligize for the incident. My reply was, "thats fine, but if something had happened to harm her, your words would not mean much to me. Your children's progam is not secure at all and that is unacceptable!!!" I then returned to my room. We did not get off the ship at our 1st port, Key West. Although it was very beautiful it is quite touristy and expensive and there is not much for children to do. At Cozumel, we were headed to Chankanaab and we took a taxi van for $25. During transport our driver was wonderful and arranged a private reservation for a boat to take the 8 of us snorkeling at 3 locations for $200 rather than paying to get into Chankanaab. It was $16 for transport back to port. I learned from my last cruise
that it is much cheaper to just pay for tranportation to go to desired destination and avoid the expensive "cruiseline" tours. Had a great time snorkeling with kids and the guides were wonderful. Ate at Grenado's which was probably the best meal we had during the entire cruise. Then at Grand Caymans I had prepaid for a private snorkeling tour to Coral Gardens and the Barrier Reef followed by swimming with Sting Rays at Sting Ray City. I read great reviews of Captain Marvins so booked a tour with them. It was much less expensive than with Costa. We were scheduled to arrive there at 1pm. I had arranged for a tour from 2:30-5:30 which was perfect since we were going to be there from 1p-7pm. It was a 2 block walk from the port. I was told to be at Captain Marvins at 1:45 which should not have been a problem, right? WRONG!!! Costa refused to issue us a tender boat ticket because we had not booked our tour thru them which was about triple the price. I was furious. I had paid for this cruise just as everyone else and I was not going to be discriminated against. We literally had to argue loudly and insist on going to the tender boat to make it in time for our excursion. The staff kept telling us "you will be fine. We have to give priority to those that have booked with Costa." But then they would make us stand there while everyone else went in front of us. It was ridiculous!!! We made it but there were others that didn't. Some people did not get onto the island til 3:15pm when we had arrived prior to 1pm and did not get to do any activities due to lack of time. We had an awesome time. Saw 1 sea turtle. The boat was very nice and was not overcrowded- maybe 20 people max and everyone was friendly. Snorkeling there was so much better than at Cozumel but we enjoyed both places. We collected some large shells to bring home which were $20 at port in Cozumel the day before. Just know that stuff in Grand cayman is extremely pricey. I ran into a place called Tortuga's to get some gum. They had the small packs of Wrigley's gum with $.35 marked on the package. I grabbed 4 packs and pulled out $2. I was then told they were $1 a pack. Wow!! Someone said a typical steak dinner at a restaurant there was $62. I would definately recommend Captain Marvins to anyone. Highly recommend buying own snorkeling mask as most rented masks leak. Not very expensive and enhance your experience. Last comment on Costa is that food quality was poor. Buffet was not hot. Restaurant not great. Could only have tea or water and tea was horrible. Ice cream was not good and only available at certain times and more often than not was not working or was just liquid when dispensed. They ran out of ice after about 2 days into cruise. My husband went to 9th deck to get some water after midnight, not available. Ended up eating mediocre pizza most of the time after we tried eating buffet and formal restaurant. Still enjoyed time spent with family and our snorkeling experience and swimming with Sting Rays. Will never take Costa again. Very few English speaking people and most were extremely rude. Very few shows-1/night and corny. Director says every sentence in 6 languages so takes a while to say, "Hello everyone, welcome to the show." Missed the entertaining shows by the restaurant staff during dinner that we saw on Carnival. Also know that there were several women and children (females) topless throughout the cruise. Many men wore speedos. Not what we anticipated. Ship was decent just lack of entertainment and services. Actually went to guest services and filled out paper to decline automatic gratuity charges and preferred to tip generously to staff independently when appropriate. Hope this helps. Thanks. P.S.-Transportations to/from MIA and FLL airports can be pricey and hard to find. Upon debarkation, since we had rented a car before going on cruise you may present your rental care receipt for free shuttle from Port to Fort Lauderdale Airport. During shuttle I got on priceline on my phone and got a rental mini-van for $29 plus tax, etc totaling $44. Drove 30min to Miami and left it at MIA upon flying out. Much cheaper than all shuttles and an easy drive. Would choose this option again.