This was our second cruise in as many months. We sailed in January on the Crown Princess to the Southern Caribbean. I will occasionally make some comparisons in this review. As a point of information, we initially booked this cruise 2 ... Read More
This was our second cruise in as many months. We sailed in January on the Crown Princess to the Southern Caribbean. I will occasionally make some comparisons in this review. As a point of information, we initially booked this cruise 2 weeks before sailing as a 1 week cruise. Costa offered a second week while were aboard at a great price so we took it. On to the review.
We began cruising in 19786 and cruised 1 or 2 times a year until 1997. For some reason we got away from cruising and did other things on our vacations. We began cruising again in 2005 and have now been on 4 cruises since then. We are glad to be back to it, but it has changed. More on that later.
We live in Central Florida, so we were able to drive to Ft. Lauderdale. We did drive down the day before and stayed at the Embassy Suites on SE 17th Street. We have used them before and like them, in spite of the fact that they are a bit pricey for the accommodations. They did offer a cruise parking rate that included a shuttle to the pier, and allowed you to park for 9 dollars a day. We took advantage of this and it worked great, especially in view of the fact that the nearest parking facility in the port is not within easy walking distance of the Terminal 29 which the Mediterranea uses. One note about the hotel, that also applies to others in the area. I started checking prices when I booked the cruise, around February 4th. All, including the Embassy Suites, went down considerably as the date approached. The Embassy Suites went down a hundred dollars a night between February 4th and February 23rd.
We arrived at the pier at about noon. Embarkation turned out to be a disaster. I have to state that I don't believe that it was Costa's fault, at least not entirely. We were told later that for one reason or another, Customs did not clear the ship until very late. When we arrived the line to go through security and check in extended a considerable distance outside the terminal. We were able to turn our luggage over to a porter almost immediately, and went to stand in line. It did start to move, but it took about an hour to reach the security screening checkpoint, and another hour to reach the actual checkin point. We were on the ship by about 2:30 PM, and immediately went to the buffet for lunch.
The ship is beautiful. Some may term it gaudy, but in our opinions, it is absolutely stunning. As mentioned on previous reviews some may find some of the artwork a bit risque, but it is nonetheless beautiful. After all, this is an Italian ship. Since I found the decor and artwork on the Crown Princess to be dull and boring, this was a welcome change.
We booked a guarantee in category 5, which is cabin with verandah, with obstructed view. We were upgraded one category, which eliminated the obstructed view. Costa lists these categories as cabin with verandah, but then the next 3 higher categories list as cabin with large verandah. We expected a small verandah, and were not surprised that it was in fact small. The room itself was beautiful and nicely sized. On the Crown we were greatly disappointed in the size of the cabin, there was room for a bed and a small desk/vanity, with very little room to move around. The Med had a bed along with a sofa, actually a sofa bed, with a lot of room. The bathroom on the Med was of sufficient size, with a shower that at least allowed one to move around a bit. On the Crown the bathroom was tiny with no storage space. I happened to drop the soap in the shower on the Crown, and had to step out to pick it up. The verandah on the the Med was much smaller than the one on the Crown, but on the Crown we purposely booked aft cabins, which have an oversize verandah. The verandah on the Med was large enough to sit on for morning coffee and/or snacks, which is all we are really interested in.
As I stated we have been on 4 cruises since January of 2005, and a total of over 20 in all. We are Platinum on Princess and probably Pearl now on Costa. The biggest difference in the cruises we have now taken in the last four years and those taken over ten years ago is the food. It is also the biggest disappointment! I like good food. In the past there were few nights in the dining room where I did not order at least 2 entrees and a similar number of appetizers and desserts. Partly because I am a little older now, but primarily because of the diminished quality of the food, that is no longer the case. I seldom finish any course. This has been true on every line we have been on over the past 4 years, Princess, Costa, HAL and RCI. I would probably say that of the four, HAL had the best, most consistent food. That was on the Westerdam in February of 2006. The food on the Med was good, but neither great nor exceptional. This was true in the dining room as well as at the buffet. This is partly because the ship carried at least 50 per cent Europeans, many of whom were Italian, and I suspect the food was prepared according to those tastes. That is ok, and is probably as it should be. The exception to me at least, was the pasta. Pasta was served as a separate course every night in the dining room, and for several hours at a pasta station each afternoon in the buffet. While some of the sauces were unusual, to Americans, and not to my taste, they were all great. The pasta itself was always cooked to perfection.
We found that the service on this ship was outstanding. We also found that to be the case on Princess and HAL last year. We were not impressed with the service on RCI 2 years ago. On the Med, because we extended the cruise a second week after we were already onboard, we had to switch cabins. Both stewardesses were outstanding. They were efficient and unobtrusive. Both of our cabins were always immaculate. I can't say enough about them. One hint that I discovered. Costa does not supply robes in verandah cabins. If you ask they will usually provide one. In the second cabin we were in, she put in a clean one every day for each of us. The dining room staff was great. Food was always served in a timely manner and at the proper temperature. Requests were granted quickly. Costa, as well as Princess, has eliminated the Sommelier, and relegated that duty to the Assistant Waiter. Our Assistant Waiter on Costa seemed knowledgeable about wines and made a couple of suggestions that turned out to be excellent. One thing I noticed on the Med, and that one of our dinner companions also remarked on, was the way in which the dining room staff seemed to get along and to interrelate. They obviously worked well together, which is an indication that someone is doing something right.
We did not, and seldom do, attend any of the production shows on either ship. We do not find these terribly entertaining, and would much rather spend the time in a lounge with a piano bar, combo for dancing, or a classical duo or trio. There was plenty of that in the Med, not quite so much on the Crown. The second week of our cruise a singer-pianist joined the ship and played nightly in one of the lounges. His name is Luciano, and he is an Italian tenor, and is absolutely great. We listened to him at least part of each evening the second week. He is also a very pleasant individual. I highly recommend him.
We did not partake of any formal excursions either sponsored by the ship, or that we found on our own. We shopped, and kind of walked around or took a taxi on our own. We had been to every port on both itineraries, except for Roatan previously and in general weren't terribly interested in sightseeing in any of them. St. Thomas, as always, is great for shopping.
When we booked this cruise, since we had just gotten off of the Crown Princess and just kind of wanted to go again, my primary criteria were price and departure port (Florida so we could drive). I was able to book for just about 1300 dollars through an online agent, and also had Costa vouchers for 200 dollars, so the price was right. During the first week they offered through the daily program a second week at a reduced price, which turned out to be 399 dollars per person, we we took that, and were glad that we did. Overall Costa is a lot of bang for the buck.
One thing that should be mentioned, simply because it comes up regularly in any discussion of Costa, is the number of Europeans on board. During both of these weeks I would guess that Europeans, including British, constituted at least half of the passenger list, probably as much as 60 percent. I have to say that I did not witness any of the actions that Americans tend to stereotype Europeans with, such as rudeness, pushiness or general anti-American attitudes. We talked with several, as much as possible given language differences, and found them to be pleasant. We did talk with several Brits, and enjoyed their company. Costa does do a good job of seating people with those that speak the same language, so the differences are not quite as noticeable. The only problem with the mix of nationalities is the fact that all announcements are in 5 different languages, and that gets a bit tedious after a while. I am sure that it is tedious in any language.
The disembarkation from the Med went like clockwork. We finished breakfast at about 9:40 AM, and went to the disembarkation area and asked if our color had been called. It had and we walked off of the ship, found our bags without trouble, hailed a porter who got us into a cab. We were back at the Embassy Suites and on the road home by 10:15 AM One tip the porter gave me enroute to the cab. He told me to not tell the cabby our destination until we were loaded. Apparently the cabbies can charge a flat rate of 15 dollars to the airport, and the fare to the hotel area is metered. The fare was just over 9 dollars. I should also mention that even though our embarkation the first week was terrible, we watched the embarkation the second week, and that went perfectly smoothly. It appeared that people arrived, and within a very short period of time were aboard the ship.
I will cruise Costa again, in fact I have coupons for 2 hundred dollars off trans Atlantic or European cruise and hope to use them later this year or next year. I will also cruise Princess again, and bought 200 dollars worth of future cruise credits, which is a great deal. I plan on using those next year. All in all, even though the food is not what it once was, and service in some areas has diminished ( I especially miss having a steward escort me to my cabin on boarding, and having a waiter find me a seat, and getting my water or iced tea when using the buffet), it is still impossible to have a bad cruise. Read Less