December 22 to 30 2011 / 8 nights
Embark in Buenos Aries
Day 1: At Sea
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: At Sea
Day 4: Angra dos Reis (Brazil)
Day 5: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Day 6: Ilhabela (Brazil)
Day 7: At Sea
Day 8: Punta del Este (Uruguay)
Disembark in Buenos Aires
We were in Buenos Aires over the holidays for 19 days. We were looking for options to compliment our stay; either go to Mendoza, Igazu, stopover in Santiago or other. We found this cruise on the Costa web site and found the itinerary very interesting for the week of Christmas. I have cruised with Carnival twice before in the Caribbean. Costa and Carnival are sister companies and Costa is an Italian version of Carnival. Therefore, my expectations were set on what I experienced with Carnival which is basic and not to expect too much. I had cruised on the Carnival Victory twice. For this cruise, we cruised on the Costa Magica, a sister ship of the Carnival Victory so the layout of the ship was familiar.
The passengers were mostly Argentinean and Brazilian; they sold this cruise from both ends so the crowd changed somewhat after the stop in Rio. Since this was a holiday cruise, we were expecting many children. What we did not expect were undisciplined children with parents that did not seem to care. Children of all ages over ran the ship. They were everywhere, running in the hallways, getting on and off elevators pressing all the buttons on the way out, in the casino gambling, in the adult pool, in the Disco, roaming around everywhere unsupervised. It was like being in an unsupervised day care. The crew did the most they could but since the parents did not seem to care there was not much they could do short from kicking them off the ship. I must add that some of the adults were just as disrespectful, stealing deck chairs, being loud and obnoxious, cutting in on the buffet line and so on. I have never seen such chaos on a ship or in a resort or hotel in all my travels. The lack of respect for others was unbelievable. The ship's crew was just as shocked since the ship had just crossed the Atlantic a few weeks before, so it was culture shock for them. However, I do hold the crew responsible for not applying the rules out of respect to all their passengers. They seem to have given up. They did remind passengers of the rules in the daily newsletter but the rules were never enforced when situations arose.
Many crewmembers informed me that the ship had over 3000 passengers. According to the ships stats the capacity is 2700. If this is true, this may explain the reasons for the subpar service and disorganisation among the crew.
I always book a cabin with a balcony on a high deck, we were on deck ten and the cabin was identical except for the decor as the Victory cabins with balcony. Ironically, I was on deck 10 on the Carnival both times. The cabin decor surpasses the Victory, it is less tacky. Our cabin steward Caitano was impeccable. Courteous and was very attentively to details, thoughtful and always had a smile. We tipped him very well and he was very appreciative. He deserved it.
Food and Beverage:
Breakfast at the buffet restaurant was the same everyday and the taste and quality was awful. Fruit was rare and limited to a few choices. Watermelon every day, cantaloupe one day and it was not ripe. Mango on every other day and it was not ripe. No toast, eggs floated in some sort of liquid, potatoes were very oily, bacon was extra salty, and the sausage was more Chorizo style witch I find is not suitable for breakfast. They ran out of yogurt often, no spoons available at the buffet and the coffee is from concentrated liquid, very disgusting. There was an omelette station set up in a corner and the wait time was more than 25 minutes. The la carte breakfast option was available for 90 to 120 minutes each morning starting at 7am. Not very particle hours, we made it to the la carte breakfast on the last day. Nothing better here than what the buffet offered and the service was lousy. Coffee refills were never offered and the staff did not seem to want to be there.
Lunch hours for la carte were just as impractical as the breakfast. They seem to have planned these hours so you cannot make it and they do not want you there. We had the lunch buffet twice. Again tasteless food and not very many healthy options. On one day, they had hamburger patties with no buns. I asked and the staff behind the buffet and she said there was none. After lunch on our way out passing, another buffet there was many buns. Staff did not seem to care or want to be there and had no idea what hospitality service is. I witnessed some of the worst hospitality service I ever experienced on this ship
The buffet dining area was always disorganised. Dirty tables, tables full of used plates, uneaten food would stay there for long periods. It was difficult to find a table. We usually had to clear the table ourselves and clean it. They definitely did not have enough staff on hand; the staff present seemed disoriented and incompetent. The drink service was slow or nonexistent, most of our meals at the buffet were without beverages due to lack of servers. These situations happened everyday at the buffet restaurant during lunch and breakfast. After a few days, I saw eating on the ship as nourishment or as much as you can get out of the choices they offered. The buffets were not refilled fast enough and often had to wait for a refill. It was very frustrating and unacceptable but had no other choice if you were hungry. I am no fan of fast food but the golden arches would have been a welcome site after two days on the ship.
The buffet was opened at night for a few days during the week for 90 minutes. I found this unacceptable when you are dining at the second seating at 22h15. We did not experience the evening buffet due to the limited times it was offered. Waiting until 22h15 at night to eat after a full day at a port of call was not practical. The seated dining at night was just as chaotic and the rest of the services. The dining room never opened on time, always late. Service at the beginning of the week was slow; as the week progressed, it got too fast. The food was mediocre at best. Cheese plates were served with soda crackers or soup crackers. On the Italian theme night, nothing tasted or looked Italian, very disappointing from an Italian cruise line. I know my Italian food since I am a meeting and event organiser for high-end clients and work for Italians. The cannoli served would have insulted any Italian. It was disgusting and an insult to serve such a thing or call it a cannoli. When I mentioned this to our waiter, he told me that they serve the real cannoli when in Europe. Then why not in South America?
Tea was served everyday and offered the same options every day. Dry tasteless cakes, pastries, and sandwiches that had a slim piece of cheese or meat in bread 3 inches thick. Tasteless pizza served everyday with plain tomato sauce and hardly and cheese, just enough to make it somewhat white. Would it be that hard or too expensive to add some vegetables or event some pepperoni. I thought I was on an Italian ship, again very disappointing to find the same cardboard with tomato sauce everyday!! Salt and pepper was needed to make it taste like something. What surprised me is that no proteins were in tea or pizza afternoon choices. If you missed lunch and were dining at the second seating at 22h 15, you are out of luck and will be hungry until dinner; no other option for food was available when the pizza service was done at 19h30. When retuning from an excursion at the end of the day, no food or snacks were available. You better have eaten before boarding and get something decent. We ate as many times we could on shore before embarking the ship.
We dined at the club restaurant twice during the week. It was excellent and the service was impeccable. The dishes were well presented and were very tasty. The Maitre D Justine was amazing and a very hospitable host. These were the only two times that we had a decent meal on the ship.
Bar service at the bar was good, some bartenders were useless, they did not know their drinks or available liquors. We quickly noted these bartenders and avoided them. We purchased an all inclusive drink package that was offered for a few hours the day of arrival. It was an excellent choice and it was profitable for us. The quality of beverages was very good and the cappuccino at the bars was good, this was a relief since the regular coffee offered at the buffet was awful.
Music from a can is not my opinion of musical entertainment. Signers sit behind a piano or with a guitarist and the rest of the instruments and computer generated. Playlist were repeated every night. I think I heard Por Ti Volare and Quando, Quando Quando more times during the cruise than I did in my entire life, it was unbearable. I avoided the theatre shows after peaking at one. Bad singers, dancers, and animators are a standard on this ship. This was a Christmas cruise so Christmas music played over the ships loudspeakers all day for 8 days, the same songs over and over again. On the 27th I went to customer service and asked why they were still playing Christmas music. There response was that it was a Christmas cruise. However, Christmas has past and it is over move on!
Ports of call
This is the main reason we booked this cruise and we were not disappointed. Each port was amazing we visited places we would have never visited if it were not for this cruise. We booked excursions on all the stops except for Angra dos Reis. The excursion in Rio de Janeiro was not worth the cost. The English excursion was cancelled due to little demand so we took the Spanish one. The local guide was very kind and took the time to answer all our questions. I am disappointed that the ship did not offer a personal translator as they did for a French couple in Punta del Este. I would have paid the extra costs. Ilhabela is beautiful but we were there for only 5 hours. Way too short of time to appreciate this destination. Same for Punta del Este. All stops were tendered except for Rio. The wait times to board a tender in Ilhabela was 1 hour, an hour wasted waiting in the hot sun. The wait time for a tender was 45 minutes in Punta del Este. Bad planning and timing on part of Costa. At least they rented a tender service in Punta del Este to compliment their own to make the wait shorter by 15 minutes. It was always a relief to get off the ship and have a good meal. That was reward enough and made the wait tolerable.
Internet service was slow and we were charged for time we did not use. We did log off as they requested but our time kept being counted since their server never logged us off. We ended up purchasing 7 hours of internet time. We placed a complaint on day two after purchasing 3 hours and never used more than 1. After the third complaint, they informed us that an email was sent to Italy to see if they can refund some time. I asked that they provide a report of the quantity of KB uploaded or downloaded and at what times when we were connected. I also asked that they do not provide an answer to us the last night onboard, which is exactly what happened. They credited 90 minutes of internet time to our account not a refund. I will be contesting the internet charges with my credit card company. After this experience with customer service, I learned that they are only pencil pushers and cannot help you even if they wanted to. We also had to contest 4 charges on our account that were incorrect; these were credited after 2 days.
Brazilian immigration took our passports when we boarded. I questioned many time as to when our passport would be returned. I got many different answers. None proved to be correct, again bad training and people that do not care. We read every piece of information we received since all announcements were in Spanish and Portuguese on board. We were looking for some sort of info as to when we would get our passports back. When we disembarked in Buenos Aires, I was waiting to see a counter where we would receive our passport. There was none. We were near the exit when I asked a Costa crewmember where do we retrieve our passports. She answered that they were given out on board last night. I became very upset and was infuriated. We were never informed that we needed to claim our passports in the theatre the day before or go to customer service to claim it. We had to re-board the ship to get our passports at customer service. They knew immediately who we where and what we wanted. They said they called us on our cell phone but it was busy. That is untrue since my phone was on and I have voice mail. They were calling names all morning for people to go to customer service but they never called us? Again bad planning and they prove again that they customer service cannot deal with any situation.
After this experience, I will never cruise with Costa again just as I will never cruise with Carnival again. I will also add every other cruise line this company owns. Holland America, Cunard, AIDA, P&O cruises, Seaborn, ibero and Princess. If this is the kind of service they give you on Costa and Carnival I cannot expect much more form the others, even if they are called or are higher categoroes. They do not pay attention to details; do not care about passengers, its all money grab. They give you the cheapest of everything. I do not like Wall Mart and Costa and Carnival are the Wall Marts of cruises. If I am going to spend what I spent on this cruise, I will make sure next time I get something decent for my money.
I am a meeting and event executive; I work in the hospitality industry. I work with clients our office has had for over 20 years. Why? Because we treat all our clients with respect and give them the best there is with the budget they have. I can tell you if a hotel if a dump just by walking into the lobby. My expectations were low and they managed to go lower. I loved the ports of call but the rest was a nightmare. A crewmember even confirmed this. I hope this helps anyone planning a cruise. My advice is look elsewhere and spend a little more and get your monies worth. When you spend your hard earned savings on vacation you deserve it.
PS: My review was written before the incident with the Costa Concordia in Italy. When I read about what passengers experienced during the evacuation it does not surprise me. Chaos, confusion and bad training were witnessed all week on the Costa Magica. The Captain of the Magica and his officers were in the ship's bars every night consuming alcohol and fraternising the female passengers. Many other crew members were also in the bars. This in my opinion is unprofessional and should not be tolerated.
My sympathies to all the Costa Condordia passengers.