Nice East Mediterranean and Tripoli Cruise, 10-21 Oct. 2010: Costa Mediterranea Cruise Review by Capricruiser

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Nice East Mediterranean and Tripoli Cruise, 10-21 Oct. 2010

Sail Date: October 2010
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Rome (Civitavecchia)
The Ship: The Mediterranea is a well-reviewed ship so I won't repeat many details other than to say it's big, considered one of the medium size cruise ships of recent construction : 12 decks, 292 meters long and 32 meters wide. Max passengers 2,500. 1 main restaurant on two levels, 1 specialty restaurant, and a self-service buffet. 1,057 cabins, most outside with balconies. It was the itinerary that made this cruise unique because the stop at Tripoli was the first for Costa in over three years.

Embarkation: Basically a piece of cake. After leaving our car in the port parking (€90 for the duration of the cruise), a shuttle bus brought us directly to the ship where, being Costa Club Pearl members, we were immediately checked in and went on board. There were relatively few passengers boarding at the same time, approximately 16.00 in the afternoon.

The Cabin: We had a "panoramic suite," cabin number 6176, cat. PS, on the 6th deck, in the mid-section. The cabin was More reasonably large (about 30 square meters) with a main sleeping/living area, dressing room, bath, and a large balcony. The bed was comfortable but we asked the cabin steward to bring us two extra pillows and to remove the hot synthetic duvet leaving only the cotton cover There was a three-person couch, easy chair, desk and chair, minibar, safe, and an oval table. There was a four-drawer dresser, two-door wardrobe next to the bed and another in the dressing room, besides several cabinets for additional storage. The carpet was clean and free of stains. There were large mirrors in the dressing room and over the desk. The hair dryer was in one of the drawers of the dressing room. Our suitcases fit under the bed. The TV had satellite channels in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Russian. In addition there were shipboard channels advertising excursions and the onboard shops, spa, etc. The interactive TV had a webcam showing the view from the bridge and a channel with a so-called "scan display" which showed the ship's current position, wind direction and speed, outside temps, weather and sea conditions. The bathroom was good-sized with two side-by-side sinks and storage space above and under them, a toilet, and a jacuzzi bathtub/shower. We always had fluffy white towels (four bath and four hand), four facecloths, and two bathmats, as well as two nice robes and slippers. A sliding glass door led out onto the balcony which was equipped with a sun lounger and a chair and table. The cabin steward changed the towels twice a day as necessary and the sheets/pillow cases every third day. Being a Costa Club member, we always had fresh fruit in the room which was replenished frequently. We did not use the minibar. We did not feel any discomfort even when the seas were rough a couple times. Vibration was non-existent and I felt only the slightest movement on the worst days.

Service and Staff: I found the staff members in the Reception and Excursion Offices to be professional, friendly, and very helpful. They were of several different nationalities and spoke two or three languages each. At no time was any of the crew or staff rude or discourteous in any way. To the contrary, almost everyone I had occasion to meet had a smile and/or greeting for me. In the cabin area, our butler Furlan from Costa Rica was professional and very helpful, always available for whatever we needed. Our cabin steward was Cho from Myanmar whom we found to be the best we have ever had in many years of cruising on a dozen or more ships.

Passenger Mix: On this cruise there were 2280 passengers aboard. Most were Germans - some 820 of them; there were also 780 Italians, 290 French, 92 Spanish speakers, about 50 English-speakers (including 3 Americans), and a mixture of Russians, Polish, Japanese, etc. The multi-language announcements were few. Not being during the school holidays, children aboard this cruise were relatively few, thus we had very little chaos.

Cleanliness: Costa is a line that prides itself on keeping everything clean. There were squads of men constantly going about rubbing and shining the brass, polishing mirrors and glass doors, vacuuming the carpeting, cleaning and sanitizing tables and surfaces.

One nice thing were the numerous hand sanitizer machines found at the boarding points and prior to entering the restaurants.

Smoking: This was one the few cruises we have taken recently that tobacco smoke was an issue for us. One morning early in the cruise we had a strong smell of tobacco in the cabin, probably from the air conditioning. We complained and something was fixed because we didn't have the problem any longer. In the bars and lounges however, it seemed the smoking areas were much larger than the non-smoking. On most ships we have been on, the lounges were divided, smoking on one side, non-smoking on the other. The Mediterranea's lounges were smaller, with the two areas right next to one another so it was hard to avoid the smell. One lounge (the Roero/Orientale) that had an excellent piano-violin duo that we enjoyed listening to had the smoking area directly in front of the stage so if you wanted to listen to the music you had to sit with the smokers. To go to the restaurant on deck 2 you had to pass through the Talia Lounge which was a smokers' haven. Not good. Naturally smoking was prohibited in the restaurants, theatre, etc.

Restaurants and Bars: The Mediterranea's main restaurant (MDR) was on two levels aft, on decks 2 and 3. The self-service buffet was also aft on the 9th deck, while the Medusa Club specialty restaurant was on the 10th. I didn't count all the bars but they were many and scattered all over the ship.

MDR: We elected the second seating (usually at 20:30; first seating was too early at 18:00) and were assigned to table 19 with two other Italian couples. Our table companions were great and we enjoyed their company throughout the cruise. We judged the food served nightly to be very good, not exceptional, and certainly not bad. International but for the most part Italian cuisine which we naturally enjoyed. To save on costs and wastage, Costa has recently reduced portions and cut out many of the more expensive items previously found on cruise menus. This was no problem to us because we don't cruise to eat, and if there was something that we really liked we could always ask for seconds. No big thing. My wife eats mainly vegetarian and she was very satisfied with what they served her. Aside from MDR food, the wine list was extensive and during the course of the cruise I selected different wines in the €23 to €25 range. The waiter corked and saved the half-full bottles for the following evening Some people had bought wine packets but I noticed that most these wines were unknown or nothing special. We always had a huge jug of ice water on our table and only used bottled water in the cabin. Other than for the three gala evenings, we dressed casually for dinner.

Self-Service: The self-service buffet was on the 9th deck and was open for breakfast and lunch only. There was a pizzeria open in the evenings I believe. Available for breakfast was an assortment of Italian pastries, muffins, Danishes, cornettos, etc. plus four styles of eggs, scrambled, omelettes, and hard-boiled; sausages, bacon, potatoes, cold meats and cheeses, fruit, yogurts, industrial fruit juices and American style coffee. Lunch saw a carvery with roasts or meatloaf, pasta and rice dishes, hamburgers and wurstel, fries, oven potatoes, salads and desserts. We generally used the self-service for both breakfast and lunch because we did not want full meals, usually only taking pastries for the first and either a salad, pasta dish, or hamburger for the second. Two or three times we took lunch in the MDR

Bars: We generally had espresso coffee mornings and afternoons in one of the bars. The coffee was surprisingly good and cost €1.10, little more than at a bar on mainland Italy. Some evenings I enjoyed an after-dinner drink in bars where live music was being played. Very recently Costa has changed their prepaid water and coffee packet system which in the past was made up of individual vouchers or coupons that you simply gave the waiter when you wanted a coffee or a bottle of water. Now you buy the water or coffee packages (13 bottles of water and 25 cups of coffee respectively) and your on-board account is automatically debited each time you order one or the other until the number of coffees or bottles are used up. The advantage of the old system was you just gave the waiter a coupon and didn't have to sign anything. Plus, any unused coupons could be used on your next Costa cruise. Now you have to sign a zero-cost ticket each time and if you have unused credit, it's lost at the end of the cruise. We used all our water credits but probably gave up at least ten coffees.

Library and Internet: Both were on the 3rd deck The selection of English language books in the library was good. There were many computers available for internet users in the. The cost was €10 for 30 minutes (minus 20% for Costa Club members). The Mediterrenea had Wifi throughout for personal computers and we used ours in the cabin. Here again you had to pay for a password - €24 for three hours (€19.20 for Costa Club).

Laundry: We used the ship's laundry service twice, including having my suit dry-cleaned the first day. The service was excellent with everything being returned within 24 hours.

Gym and Spa: The gym was a large open space at the front of the ship on the 9th and 10th decks with huge windows looking out over the sea. There were plenty of exercise machines available. I used the gym every day and rarely had to wait for a particular machine. The spa area was extensive and staffed primarily by girls from the Philippines who gave great massages. I bought the four massage packet for €327 and had Ada who was wonderful. The 11th had a good but short oval running track which I used after dinner for a few fast-walk laps, and in the early morning on at-sea days.

Entertainment: We went to several shows in the evening after dinner as well as either listening the piano-violin duo mentioned above, or even dancing in the large Casanova lounge or disco. We had a great time.

Weather and Climatic Conditions: We had grey rainy weather sailing down the Italian coast on day two and then again when we were returning through Italian waters. The rest of the time the weather was good with temperatures in the low 30's at both sunny Alexandria and Limassol. Malta was cooler, maybe 25 degrees or so, but no rain, while Tripoli was warmer in the morning but by late afternoon it was quite cool and windy. The sea was a little rough south of Italy and Greece but not felt too bad aboard the ship. For the rest of the time we had fairly calm seas.

Port Calls and Shore Excursions: After boarding at Civitavecchia we had two at sea days before reaching our first port, Alexandria.

Day 1-3 - At Sea

Day 4 - Alexandria. Warm and sunny with that particular smell we always find at the Alexandria port. The majority of the passengers all boarded buses for the long haul to Cairo but since we've done that and have been in Alex several times, we elected to remain on the ship and go ashore only for lunch. We took a taxi from the dock to the "Fish Market," one of Alex's best seafood restaurants. After a great lunch of red mullet, jumbo shrimps, squid and vegetables, we took a long walk along the Alexandria waterfront and eventually caught a taxi back to the port.

Day 5 - Limassol. Warm and sunny. We've both been to Limassol before on other cruises but my wife wanted to see Curium. She took the excursion to Curium and Omodos (€49) and I opted for the jeep safari (€79) up into the mountains. We both had a good time but were glad to get back to the ship.

Day 6 - Rhodes. Warm but overcast. We've also been to Rhodes before but my wife wanted to return to Lindos to visit the acropolis. I wasn't feeling up to it so she took a taxi to Lindos (€57 one way) and I contented myself to a short walk into the old town. The visit to Lindos must have been great because she still talks about it.

Day 7 - At Sea.

Day 8 - La Valletta, Malta. Here my wife and I decided on two different excursions. I took the all-day best of Malta tour (€78) while she went to see the megalithic temples at Tarxien (€42). My tour consisted of a walking tour through Valletta followed by a bus tour to Mdina, plus the ever present shopping experience at an old air base turned into a shopping center. We were supposed to see the megalithic temples as well but this somehow got dropped from the agenda. In any case, the lunch in a local restaurant was very good.

Day 9 - Tripoli, Libya. All passengers whether they were planning on disembarking or not were debited a mandatory €14.00 a head Libyan visa charge - apparently required by Libyan authorities for any ship entering their territorial waters. Four disembarking possibilities were offered: ship excursions to Leptis Magna, Sabratha, or a tour of Tripoli, as well as being able to disembark and walk around Tripoli on your own. The two excursions out of Tripoli were by bus and passengers were required to remain as a group on the individual buses leaving the port and returning. On return you had to reembark on the ship. Those opting for the Tripoli tour or walk around could not leave the city limits but were free to stay ashore all day. It was clear that the Tripoli tourism people were not geared for masses of excursionists and we literally swamped them - buses of varying age and condition had been sequestered for our visit from all over the country it seemed. There was ample confusion and delays as they tried to accommodate more than 2000 passengers. My wife and I opted for Leptis Magna for which we paid €107 each (which included the visa and lunch). Our group of about 45 people went on one of the buses (not the newest) with a very good archaeologist guide and enjoyed the six hour tour of the site along with about an hour for lunch under a huge Khaddafi-type tent (chicken and couscous preceded by an interesting spicy soup and followed by sweets and fruit). On return our bus took us back along the Tripoli waterfront (with huge photos of the Colonel on every corner) directly to our ship. Needless to say, Leptis was magnificent. The few Libyans we had occasion to meet were courteous and friendly.

Day 10 - At Sea. Rain and overcast.

Day 11 - Savona. Nice day. Later in the morning we went ashore to walk around the town and do some shopping.

Day 12 - Civitavecchia. Disembarkation.

Disembarkation: Being suite occupants we were given red luggage tags so when we leisurely disembarked at Civitavecchia port out bags were waiting for us and we left immediately on the shuttle bus to retrieve our car.

Conclusions: The Mediterranea is a nice ship and the itinerary for this cruise was particularly interesting. The only real criticism we had was the smoke in the lounges which was annoying to us and probably intolerable for many others. Costa should see if a separate enclosed smokers-only lounge could be established and leave at least some of the others smoke free. Less

Published 11/17/10
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