I am tired from filling out all the other stuff for this review, so I am just going to hit the high points.
I loved the food. I am somewhat of a foodie and loved having authentic Italian food and service available. I loved having Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar available all the time. Although the ribeye I had in the tenth deck restaurant could have been cooked more (I asked for it medium rare and it came out very rare, but I was too hungry to send it back).
I enjoyed being pampered by our waitress Natalya and beverage guy Naveen in the main dining room (even though it took a little while to get the coffee sometimes).
I liked the corny way they kept playing the march from Aida, the "O Solo Mio" song, and the Goodbye Song all the time. Especially hearing Dean Martin's "That's Amore" on Italian Night! Though I was right under a speaker in the overhead and it distorted the music at the loudness they played it at.
I liked the international flavor of hearing everything announced in five languages, and how Europeans all know how to ballroom dance and love playing Roulette, and how familiar they are with songs from over a hundred years ago.
In fact one of our favorite things to do was watching all the skilled dancers in the lounge with the Trio Tringali.
I didn't like the way Europeans like to smoke though. Walking through the Paparazzi Lounge before or after dinner was rough. And their lack of manners is another issue; see my Port reviews.
Someone in a review said they saw a lot of topless women on the pool decks; on my whole trip I saw only one, and on the deck way aft where the jogging track is. Also I saw a lot of children roaming around without adults even though the rules say they can't use the elevators by themselves, so parents might be concerned about their kids' supervision.
I enjoyed drinking Campari and soda, and espresso almost anytime of the day or night. I discovered I love the flavor of orzata in the Costa Atlantica, the Drink of the Day on the first night!
Even though my girlfriend didn't like the shows, I did. Even the schmaltzy overwrought slow "love songs". Again, a lot of the entertainment was different from what we Americans are used to. This made everything (for the most part) a little unexpected but more enjoyable as I got to see new things. I appreciated all the entertainment, especially the dancing and acrobatics on a deck that wasn't completely still.
One thing I enjoyed (but not many other people) were the Fellini movies they showed on board (La Strada is one of Judy's and my favorite films). Unfortunately they only had two, and most of the dates were on shore days. Costa, if you are reading this, please show more Fellini movies more often!
My girlfriend could have used a wider selection of stuff to buy on the ship. She hardly did any shopping at all. And there was no place to buy sundries.
Two minor complaints: I don't think the Service Desk has enough staff that truly understand English. Also Costa Cruises, you didn't have an English-language catalogue available. I took the one in German, and will have to convert Euro to dollars. Again these are minor complaints.
I am sure that as soon as I hit the "submit" button I will think of other stuff I wanted to mention. Let me close by saying that this wasn't just a cruise to the Western Caribbean. On Costa, this was also a cruise to Italy and the rest of Western Europe, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. On any other line the cruise would not have been as special or as memorable.
One problem with Europeans is that they don't know how to politely form lines. Luckily though I grew up in New York City so I can be just as rude as them and could elbow my way to the front of the lines. Thus we got seats on the bus right behind the driver. Then we noticed the cracks in the windshield of the bus.
The stop for souvenirs and the rest of the drive to Tulum was uneventful. Once at the little tourist place the driver told us where to use the bathrooms and where to eat a good lunch. The "Mayans" who swung from the pole upside down kind of ruined the magic by reading newspapers in between performances.
Most of our little group decided to take the tram (for two dollars each round trip) and save ourselves some walking. Once at Tulum itself the guide pointed stuff out to us and gave us the tour for almost an hour, then turned us all loose.
I walked all over the grounds, took photos, looked at all the people going swimming in the ocean at the beach which is just down the stairs.
Then my girlfriend and I took the tram back and had a great Mexican lunch at the little tourist place. I had fish tacos with some rice and beans. We were warned that the salsa was really HOT! Luckily I love HOT foods and thoroughly enjoyed it.
We quickly looked at all the stuff for sale and told all the vendors we weren't interested enough times until they got the idea not to bother us anymore. We went back to the bus, but was too early for them to turn on the air conditioning. So we waited outside the bus and we were the first people go use the individual cold damp towels treated with aloe that were passed out. That felt great, even on a relatively not-so-hot day in January.
Finally the bus ride back to Playa del Carmen was over, and we walked down the dock to catch the ferry back. By the way to anyone reading this, tour guides depend on tips for their income. We saw a lot of people who were not tipping the tour guides. Maybe Europeans don't know they do need to give the tour guides a few dollars.
The ferry ride back can only be described by a military term, the first part of which is "cluster" and the second part is an expletive that ends in "k". People didn't know which end of the ferry to board, and neither did the crew of the ferry either until they finally decided. Picture a mob of people pushing one way and shoving the other. Luckily though I was able to get on, find a good seat, and save a seat for my girlfriend (who isn't from the city).
Unfortunately we got back to Cozumel so late from the tour that it was getting dark and the shops were all closed; we had to get right back on the ship. Oh well. It was good to see a thousand-year-old ruin on my own continent though.
On the tender ride in we saw four Carnival ships at anchor and knew it was going to be crowded.
The tour bus took us drove on a few streets downtown, then a little outside of town, showed us a little stretch of beach, then showed us a nice mansion belonging to the owner of Home Depot of Cayman. Then back to town for us to have free time. We checked out the church, and my girlfriend went shopping for a particular shade of opal (which she didn't find anywhere in the western Caribbean). We looked at the usual souvenir stuff. I actually found two t-shirts I liked!
After walking around we decided to have lunch at a second-story place overlooking the harbor. I had a Jerk Chicken Cobb Salad, Judy had nachos. We each had a tropical drink. A lunch which would have cost us say thirty dollars at The Ale House back home ended up being sixty-two dollars. Things are expensive in Grand Cayman.
We made our way back to the tender landing and then back to the ship.
My girlfriend and I are really into cats, so all we wanted to do in Key West was go see the polydactyl descendants at the Hemingway House. Which we did, and I took many photos.
I also got a picture of my girlfriend in front of the Mile Zero sign, and I got to go to the post office to send post cards and buy stamps. I also knew from my trips before to Key West is that chickens are allowed to run free in the streets. I got several photos of the free-range chickens also.
I realize that most people have much different expectations for Key West besides cats and chickens. Key West is a very touristy place crowded with people browsing the stores and bars. Once you get past this though you will discover a very eclectic corner of the earth filled with interesting people doing interesting things.
Luckily my girlfriend and I managed to get seats together on the tour van. The tour guide was good; he explained a lot and was funny too.
We went to Prospect Plantation first. This included a fruit demonstration, seeing ostriches up close, and touring the Great House with loads of scenic mountain and ocean views. Lots of colorful flowers to take photos of, and lots of coffee samples and even some rum punch! All while staying upwind of the smokers.
Finally this part was done, and we drove back through Ocho Rios and on to Dunn's Rivers Falls. Jamaicans are not known for their efficiency or politeness, thus it took forever to finally get in there and turned loose. My girlfriend had climbed the Falls thirty years ago, and that was enough for her. I just wanted to get some good photos.
We were done much earlier than most other people and started through the exit and going back to the bus parking. We ran the gauntlet of all these guys trying to get us in conversations and to buy their souvenir stuff. I have a very low tolerance for this kind of thing and walked as fast as my girlfriend could go. Once we got to the food place though we sat, had a Red Stripe each, and watched as this pair of young cats, obviously littermates ("sisters" as Judy called them) worked the crowd, well this one particular woman who was feeding them french fries and jerk chicken. I almost bought some myself, mostly to give to the cats, but didn't think it would be worth the eight dollars for the meal.
After taking photos we walked back to the parking lot, and finally found the van and got in and waited for the others to get back. And waited. And waited. I was getting really angry because, as I told the other people, I didn't want to miss out on shopping because other people were either too selfish or not smart enough to make it back to the van in the amount of time agreed upon. Other people were saying my tone of voice was wrong and that it wasn't the tour guide's fault, and I had to explain to them I was upset with the other people on the tour. I made it a point to be on time and I expected the others to be on time also.
Finally after some "discussion" we talk to the Costa tour people and leave without them. I should not have worried; there was no way we wouldn't be given the chance to leave our dollars behind in Ocho Rios. So I did get my shopping in. I bought a collection of hot sauces, and two bags of Blue Mountain coffee. Unfortunately they didn't have it in bean form, and it took twenty minutes for the store to bring some in for me. I was close to the point of saying "Forget It" and just going back, but finally a car showed up with my coffee. So finally we get back to the ship.
The Plantation and the Falls are very pretty. Someone else who could let the other stuff slide and just put up with it might have given this Port a Four or even a Five. But I have this naive idea that people should be considerate of others (and not keep a van of people waiting) or that they should be good at their jobs.