We've sailed with Costa before and loved the wonderful food and the relaxed atmosphere. We've sailed on the Atlantica before and had a wonderful experience. This time was to be much different.
We drove from our home to Ft Lauderdale and arrived around 4:30pm - the ship was scheduled to leave at 9pm. We'd made advance reservations at Park N Fly right near the port - receiving a nice discount for booking in advance. Once we arrived at the port the confusion and disorder started.
We had not received luggage tags in advance of our trip via email or snail mail but were told by Costa that it was a simple task to get them at the port. I questioned this, but didn't push the issue. Luckily we arrived when the porters weren't busy because it took them two tries before they got the right name and cabin number on the tags. It was just by accident we noticed the cabin number was incorrect the first time or who knows when we would have gotten our luggage.
Once we saw our two bags put on the luggage transporter we proceeded to check in. We have sailed many times and this was the strangest check-in we've ever encountered. As we approached the counter I had our passports, emailed boarding passes and credit card in hand along with the usual health questionnaire. The very pleasant young man took the boarding passes and the health questionnaires, telling me he didn't need the other items. Within seconds he handed the boarding passes back and directed us to the ship. I asked about the guest card and was told, "Oh, that's taken care of on board. Enjoy your cruise." We were very sceptical, but did as we were directed.
Upon entering the ship we were met by a crew member with a hand held scanner. She scanned the bar code on our boarding passes and took our pictures. "Next", she said ushering us on. Before I lost her attention I asked where we picked up our guest card and was directed to the customer service desk...where there was a very long line. Once in line a crew member started asking who needed to register their credit card - almost all of us - and he took us to a machine next to customer service. We all got turned away because we had to go to our cabin to get our guest card before we could register our credit card.
This is a very messed up system. I think it would would all right IF we'd received instructions before boarding. Email is easy. There was no excuse for such confusion.
Next we attempted to change our "fixed" dining time from 9pm (it used to be 8:15pm but again lack of information caused us to make a wrong decision) and were told that the maitre'd wouldn't be available until the next day at noon. So we ate at the casual dining that night.
Now let's talk about the cruise and all that terrible:
- we were supposed to leave Ft Lauderdale at 9pm - didn't happen. Supposedly they were waiting for a "plane load" of people who were delayed by the storm. Later we found out this wasn't true. I don't think we left port until 2am.
- late leaving meant late arrival in Key West ... not necessarily a bad thing because Key West isn't open at 8am.
- when we attempted to change our dining time, the assistant maitre'd just about screamed at us - stating he'd already submitted 10 pages of changes and it just couldn't be done. He finally agreed to ask the person in charge and if they could change us we'd have a note delivered to the room. He also wanted to know why we waited so long to change. (Because we were told he wasn't available.)
- food .... their normally heavenly bread was stale - every single meal of every single day - totally dry on the inside - and tasteless. Pastries were not any better ... dry, tasteless and totally unappealing. We resigned ourselves to eating the machine based ice cream (not wonderful either, but it had taste.) Pasta (fantastic on all other cruises with them) was starchy/gluey. Sauce (used same sauce on EVERYTHING) was good - but got boring after awhile. Pizza (deck 9)was superb as was the salad. But we didn't want to eat pizza for every meal. They must have gotten a sale on lamb (not my favorite) because it was in everything ... even when you didn't expect it - like lamb gravy served over beef tenderloin on the second Gala night (yes 2 gala nights on a 5 night cruise).
- wait staff on deck 9 - let's just say that the words customer service are not in their vocabulary. Twice we heard servers being yelled at by the bosses for not cleaning tables.
- wait staff in the main dining room - they couldn't even keep our water glasses filled. Finally a water pitcher was dropped in front of us so we could pour our own - but we lost that to another table when they asked for water. Is there only one water pitcher per bus boy?? We never got offered coffee after diner EVEN after we asked for it the first night. Apparently "fixed" dining times meant NOTHING to many of the foreign passengers as they were allowed to come in whenever they wanted. When one waiter turn a couple away because they arrived at 7:00pm his manager ran after them and personally seated them - apologizing. About 30 minutes later the other 5 people in their group strolled in. Later we discovered they were assigned to 2nd seating. This was happening all over the dining room.
- Costa has solved the 5 language announcements - they don't make announcements any more - well a few, but very few in English.
- cabin - NO TOILETRIES - 1 little bar of soap and a liquid soap dispenser in the shower. No tissues for the dispenser provided. We asked about the lack of tissues, hand lotion, etc. and were told Costa had eliminated them along with the chocolate on the turned down bed. The cabin steward apologized.
- No voice of the Captain at noon time - or ever. We never saw any of the officers except at the captains cocktail party (we left early due to all the push rude passengers)
- entertainment - they used to have movies in a theater type setting and/or on the television. Now you have to rent them at $10 each. Many channels on the TV, BUT only 2 in English and every other hour both run infomercials at the same time. No news in English - but if you understood most any foreign language there was news. We finally found a Korean channel - that either was in English or had English sub-titles. Of course, we only got the news of Korea. They did show movies in one theater - all old (1963 Fellini style).
- live entertainment - not much. Classical music, dance classes - definitely not anywhere near the normal Las Vegas style shows.
- we asked about changing the tips automatically charged to our account. We normally change the amounts to people depending on the service. Guest Services said only Americans and Canadians could choose to cancel ALL charges IF they brought their passports to them so they could take a copy plus fill out the usual form. Lots of English speaking people did so.
- equipment - one evening after dinner we discovered our television no longer worked. When we tried to call for assistance, we discovered the phone didn't work. My husband went down to guest services to report the problems. Apparently the girl on duty could only take one report because she asked him which ONE do you want to report. Then she picked up her phone and called our room. My husband asked her if the phone was ringing - Yes, it's working. He then told her I was in the room and would have answered if it was working. She got huffy and said there would be no one to take care of the problem until the next day. In the hallway of our room he grabbed a cabin steward and told him of the problem. Withing minutes our cabin steward was knocking on the door. He was able to get both working. Later the huffy guest services person called to see if the phone was working - probably so she could close the complaint.
- Not enough time was allotted to Grand Cayman. We arrived late..again. We had to tender in - and since we weren't taking a tour we weren't allowed off the ship until after the tour people were off. We wound up having about 1 1/2hrs on land to do some shopping.
Americans and Canadians were allowed to disembark the ship via self service IF they signed up in advance. We tried to sign up at guest services but were turned away (by the same person who could only take one repair report). We tried again later - when there was a long line of people - and found out all the person had to do was type something in the computer.
Needless to say there was a very, very long line of English speaking people waiting to get off the ship by 7:00am the morning of arrival. Oh, we arrived late getting back to Ft Lauderdale too - probably because we left Grand Cayman late.
Costa should be ashamed of the way the Atlantica treated their English speaking passengers. It was obvious this cruise was geared to the European market. That's okay - BUT it should communicated so those who are not European can make an informed decision as to whether to take the cruise or not.
Sadly, we won't be sailing with Costa any more.