The first two things that really strike you about Victoria is the amount of space in her public areas inside & out, and (more importantly to some) the almost complete lack of revenue driven areas on board. These two aspects are hand in hand in many ways, for example, Orpheus Grand Bar on deck 6 has a huge amount of unused floorspace, this is the same on deck 7 in the casino where large swathes of floorspace has been intentionally left furnishings & thus revenue free. The space in her public rooms is quite unique for a purpose-built cruise ship of her size, one of the big complaints against some cruise ships is the way that tables & chairs seem on top of each other & crowded, this is far from the case on Victoria.
Design wise, Victoria is a very elegant ship...as close to an ocean liner as you can probably get in a cruise ship. She has curves everywhere, her external & internal architecture has been beautifully designed and, as with all German built ships, her build quality, attention to detail and overall atmosphere is second to none, she really is quite exceptional in most areas.
Technologically speaking she is actually very advanced, especially in her propulsion systems. Her four main powerplants drive two screws, she has two large rudders and 5 thrusters...2 aft & 3 forward. The thrusters are how she manages to parallel park so efficiently. She can berth in about 15 minutes from arriving to roping up, equally getting away is just as quick, a case of drop the ropes and let the thrusters do the work....no hanging about for tug assistance at all. Despite a minor blip off Brazil when she lost all power for about 20 minutes, she has had no major problems...and that is with one engine out of action. Incidently, the engine with the fault will be put right before she leaves for Asia next year, so she should be firing on all cylinders without any difficulties.
Boat drill...as per all Costa cruises, you will get a boat drill every 7-8 days and unlike most modern ships, Victoria has her muster stations outside on the boat deck (deck 6) and they have 6 muster stations - A, B, C, D, E & F - three down each side. The drill takes around 15-20 minutes depending on languages required, so be prepared to stand a long while in possibly hot/humid temperatures (especially in Asia).
Concorde Plaza is almost cathedral like in its design & build, stretching from deck 7-11 and with two incredible mezzanine floors that are both user friendly and elegant, again the attention to detail is just superb. Another of the main rooms is the theater on decks 6 &7, superbly designed, very thoughtfully built to enable 90% of theater goers to see without obstruction, there are screens on each side of the stage for those in the upper level on deck 7 so that no-one misses anything on stage.
Music lovers will really enjoy Victoria...Orpheus (deck 6), Planetarium (deck 5), Capriccio (deck 7), Concorde Plaza (deck7 thru 10) & Tavernetta (deck 12) all have live music in the evenings, Orpheus & Planetarium starting early evening. There are bars in each lounge too, with long drinking hours, so the drinkers will be happy.
Dancers are also very well catered for, Victoria has a variety of dancefloors, all with live music in the evenings...ranging from ballroom to disco. A disco is also available on deck 6. Daily dance lessons are available to those wishing to learn from expert dance teachers.
Kids & teens....the usual teen & Squok programmes are available and were well organised on my cruise. The children on board seemed to enjoy their experiences, which appears to be standard on Costa, so kids are definitely well looked after aboard Victoria.
Sun worshippers will enjoy Victoria. There are no shortages of loungers anywhere on the ship, the sun deck area stretched to the equivalent of around 3 football fields, and as in the inside areas, there are large swathes of space to stretch out in without having to clamber over others to get to a lounger. The upper decks (11, 12 & 14) all have loungers, deck 11 has two bars, an outdoor buffet counter and two very large pools, 4 whirlpools, a stage for live music and plenty of areas to just watch the world float by.
One unusual aspect to Victoria is her indoor pool on deck 6. It is alongside the gym & spa and is very popular...the pool itself is larger than most ship's outside pool, so if a few lengths is what you want to do when the weather is not good, then you will be pleased.
Eating....often a bone of contention with some people, but in Victoria's case, there is no problem. The service is very good, food quality is very high, I personally did not have any bad meals or slow nights service wise. The pizza is to die for...absolutely wonderful at lunchtime. There were apparent issues with the Sinfonia restaurant at breakfast & lunch which seemed to have been sorted after a couple of days. I had evening meal in Fantasia. Both Sinfonia & Fantasia are on deck 5...Sinfonia is aft whereas Fantasia is midships.
Drinking water at evening meal......just ask the waitstaff and they will happily provide jugs of iced water for your table, along with lemon slices too if you so wish. Never a problem for me or countless others in the dining room and always waiting there on my table for when I arrived in the evening.
Posh frock nights & cocktails parties....on this cruise we had 4 Gala nights & a total of 3 cocktail parties over the 3 weeks. The buffet & pizza restaurants were either closed or partially closed most nights as most passengers preferred to eat in the main dining rooms, so it would have been pointless to open up both sides of the buffet. Obviously this changes according to itinerary/passenger mix & demand.
Powerpoints in the cabin.....standard two voltage shaver point in the bathroom and a two voltage powerpoint in the cabin area (at least in my cabin). Lighting consists of two bedside lamps, 2 spotlights over the desk with independent switches & overhead spotlights, again with independent switches.
Theater....the entertainment is very professional and varied, the crew show was standing room only as usual and extremely enjoyable. Overall the shows on Victoria were of an excellent standard - most of the performers were aboard Allegra last year, so it was great to see & hear them again, The animator crew are hysterical, they play pranks on the passengers and crew daily and can always raise a laugh, even when the weather is miserable...whether it be dressing as babies and throwing tantrums in the casino or chasing each other like cops & robbers, these guys & gals put their all into having fun with everyone....brilliant to see and watch.
Smoking...another bone of contention...again, I think it really depends on the nationalities & region/itinerary - some are more attached to their ciggies than others and in many respects this showed a little during the cruise. The usual smoky areas to avoid...casino & to some extent Capriccio next door. However, on the whole the smoking was not too much of a problem for the majority of passengers...there are ways and means to avoid the worst areas.
Cabins....as with any purpose built cruise ship, the cabins are a tad compact & bijou but since they are just for sleeping, dressing & washing in, they work perfectly fine. My cabin was 80456 a grade I1 inside that was a standalone...with a crew access behind one wall, a linen cupboard behind another wall and the aft elevators behind another wall. Noise transmission was pretty much none existant, the elevators are quiet and foot traffic across the marble landings/stairs is negligible. The bathrooms have a large wooden sliding entry door (be gebtle with these doors as they can be tempermental) and the shower has a curtain to play with. Water pressure is excellent, as is the hot water...very hot and compared to other ships (inc QM2) your tightie whities will stay white, not go an attractive shade of orange. Access to the cabins is via a perforated door key, identical to Costa Allegra. There is a push button safe in the cupboard. Other storage in the cabin comprises of a double wardrobe with a chest of drawers to one side, two bedside chests of drawers, a small desk or table (depending on grade), a fridge and a cupboard with shelving. The TV is a CRT type, therefore not interactive...BUT...there are totems around the ship where you can book shorex, check your ship account, book the speciality restaurant etc, so you do not need to go to the tour desk on deck 6 or the reception deck on deck 5 for everything, it can be done remotely using the totems.
There are also several totems for registering credit cards around the ship too.
Hosts & hostesses...this is unique to Costa, they always have hosts & hostesses who can speak a variety of languages and they are the point of contact for passengers if they have a problem or just want to ask a question. This time around the English hostess was Rachel and the German hostess was Elke...there were also hosts/hostesses for the Portugese, Spanish & French. They had specific hours where they were available on deck 5 and passengers could just drop by for a chat or whatever. Other lines should take this on as it really does break down barriers tween crew and passenger. All the hosts/hostesses were excellent on this cruise, very hard working, polite & efficient,
Secret spaces.....yes, she does have a few areas that you can often have to yourself. Apart from the stern rail on deck 6 (boat deck), decks 7 thru 10 have full width stern balconies that are reached via doors in the cabin corridors. Deck 8 stern balcony also has the Italian flag flying from it when in port. These balconies are brilliant for sailaways...and yes, you CAN smoke on them if you so wish (quite often you'll find crew on them having a quick ciggie]. Many people do not realise that passengers have access to these balconies, but you can and they offer unobstructed views from the stern along with limited wind/weather cover at each end.
Ship's photographers...again an area of some consternation on other lines. Yes you will see them and they will see you, but a polite 'no thank you' will suffice and they will leave you alone. They will not continually hassle you to take photo's...if you want to have a photo taken whilst eating, having fun at the pool or whatever, then they are happy to oblige and the standard of the photo's is actually very good, with some unusual and unique montages that make lovely souvenirs for those wanting to purchase them. Costs range from $9.99 to $14.99 each depending on size/event.
Potential drawbacks.....with the benefit of hindsight & the fact that nothing is ever perfect, Victoria does have a couple of areas that need to be taken into consideration when booking a cruise on her, especially with your choice of cabin.
With the theater behind the aft stair tower from deck 6 thru 7, anyone wanting a siesta in the afternoon or are early/light sleepers might want to book a cabin forward of the aft stair tower due to the inevitable noise issues. Inside aft cabins on deck 8, 9 & 10 aft do pick up noise, this cannot be avoided, obviously deck 8 is probably the worst with 9 & 10 offering some improvement. Outside cabins on these decks aft of the stair tower also experience some noise too but to a lesser extent since the insides are right over the stage area.
Concorde Plaza at the very front of the ship could potentially cause noise issues for the outside cabins on decks 6A, 7, 8, 9 & 10 (there are no insides forward of the forward stair tower).
Another potentially difficult thing to consider in regard to Concorde Plaza is that with the loss of the inside cabins to accommodate the huge expanse of lounge area, Victoria can be a very bow light ship, so even the slightest of swell could be a problem for those with even slight motion sickness...she does move a lot she has quite a pronounced shimmy and she actually bounces too, especially when fully fuelled/ballasted. In all honesty I actually felt that her center of gravity was too high and that had been messed up by the balconies being added, combined with the weightless bow and engines/fuel tanks aft. The amount of movement IS excessive for a ship of this size and could put some off booking her, but I do suggest that you give her a try, making sure that if you are prone to motion sickness that you take appropriate precautions. You can obtain anti-nausea pills from reception or the pharmacy free of charge if you think you might require them. My inside cabin on deck 8 was right next to the aft stair tower & elevators and I felt every single roll, pitch & shimmy.
So the old addage of a cabin midships & low comes into play...if there were low cabins, midships.....
Victoria is essentially an upside down ship...her main public areas are deck 5, 6 & 7, there are cabins on deck 4, 5 & 6A but mainly midships to forward. The bulk of her cabins are decks 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12 (the suites are on the upper decks). The retrofitted balconies are mainly decks 9 & 10. The midships cabins are probably the best if you want to avoid the noise of the theater aft or the excesses of movement forward due to the lack of weight in that section of the ship.
Seeing the sea.....I have to admit that I found Capriccio & Orpheus a little disappointing when it came to seeing the sea...Capriccio - well you can't and in Orpheus its glimpses via 3 vertically stacked large portholes, so I feel the design (which is otherwise superb) has let the ship down a little in these two areas. Tavernetta on deck 12 has huge picture windows, so seeing the sea is excellent, albeit too high to take in the wildlife very easily. Concorde Plaza has the huge wall of windows overlooking the bow....however, although the visibility forward is good (albeit slightly obstructed by the huge steel trusses), I personally feel that I have been spoilt by Costa Allegra and her Flamenco Ballroom at her stern where she has huge picture windows that look over the wake. Had I designed Victoria I think I would have swapped the theater over with Concorde Plaza and made more of the view by having Concorde at the stern with big windows on three sides...that, IMHO, would have been spectacular. On decks 6 & 7 you can sit on some very comfy wicker chairs or on round sofa's around the atrium, these either look down onto the Planetarium bar on deck 5 or out to sea on 6 & 7. Another 'problem' about both Capriccio & Orpheus is that both lounges are used as corridors to other parts of the ship, so there is always a constant flow of foot traffic and that can spoil an otherwise very pleasant atmosphere.
The marble used on the stairs & landings might prove to be a problem for those with sight deficiencies. All passenger stairs & landings are in cream marble and it is not always easy to see where the stair riser is against the landing. Grooves have been cut into the riser surface but they are still cream, thus no clear demarcation, so greater care is required when using the stairs if your eyesight is not great. This could (and did) cause a few stumbles, so be aware of it and don't rush up or down the stairs too often.
None of these potential drawbacks are meant to put people off Victoria, she is a stunning ship and ahead of her time in many areas, they are my own observations of how certain areas of the ship could have been made much better than they already are, and to act as guidance for those looking to book a cruise on her and wondering where to go for the quietest or most stable cabins. Costa is by no means responsible for the bad sea handling, crew that I spoke to are equally critical of her sea manners, they too feel that it is her achilles heel in many respects.
Visually Victoria is stunning inside and out, her curves and attention to detail is exceptional, her crew are her heart and soul and they are a pure joy to be around, I cannot praise them enough during the 3 weeks I spent aboard her. She is extremely easy to get around...even for those with mobility issues...the flow of her rooms is perfect, access is via either one of 12 elevators (4 of which are glass in the atrium that go from deck 5 thru 12) or via 2 stair towers.
So in summary.....is she a good fit for Asia...yes, definitely. She will be very well received out there and will give Legend o/t Seas & SuperStar Virgo a real run for their money. By introducing Victoria to Asia, Costa should be able to capitalise on their already popular itineraries with a very capable ship. However, one part of the itinerary might have to be curtailed, the cruise up the river into Saigon might have to go, this is an uncertainty at time of writing this report, but I fear that her draught & her height could cause a problem with the depth of the river and the new suspension bridge outside Saigon. Time will tell on this.
Victoria delivers a great product, her crew are superb, her eating & drinking venues are excellent & her entertainment is varied and very professional. Yes she has her potential drawbacks but they are not really deal breakers, but should be taken into consideration by those they are most likely to affect. By booking a cruise aboard Victoria you are assured of a really friendly & happy ship and some marvelous itineraries. Wherever she is in 2013, I will definitely try to get another cruise on her (2012 is Costa Classica's turn for 37 days) in the knowledge that she is a very different vessel to those I have sailed in the past.
One thing that is quite strange, and I know it is never wise to compare ships too much, but when chatting to other passengers, its become clear that many rate Allegra & Marina higher than Victoria. The two main reasons are cabin size & the way that Victoria reacts with weather/sea state. When you consider that both Allegra & Marina are less than half the size/weight of Victoria and the consensus is that they handle the sea better than Victoria, it is quite a surprise to hear that opinion. However, both Allegra & Marina were originally containerships, so their hulls were V shaped and thus built to take any & all weather conditions, Victoria is a purpose built cruise ship with a flat bottom and a shallow draft. As I have already said though, Victoria is slightly hobbled by her weight & balance issues and her high center of gravity.
I have a huge amount of gratitude towards Captain Massimo Pennisi & his crew, especially Rachel, Elke (and the other hosts), Alvin, Marianna, Pian & all the crew in Fantasia, Lucas in Orpheus, Brian in Planetarium, Heri my wonderful cabin steward, Alex & the reception staff....and well everyone on board who made my cruise very special & one that I will remember for a very long time to come. A very big thank you to you all & I hope to see you again someday aboard either Costa Victoria or one of the other Costa ships.
I would have no hesitation is recommending the Costa Victoria for the Med or for Asia, my only reservations are as I have already pointed out in regard to cabin position & basic 'sea manners' of the ship itself, you will always find some cabins are better than others, just as some ships handle the sea better than others. Do your homework, keep your expectations realistic and you will have a wonderful cruise aboard Costa Victoria.