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14 Venice to Baltic Sea Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise for the itinerary plus we got a good price with Planet cruise. The cabin was lovely and spacious. Staff were very good. Food was good and the bars were excellent. We bought the drinks package. This was worth it as ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the itinerary plus we got a good price with Planet cruise. The cabin was lovely and spacious. Staff were very good. Food was good and the bars were excellent. We bought the drinks package. This was worth it as the drinks are pricey. The only negative was the queuing to enter St Petersburg. This was not helped by RC excursion team insisting that their excursions go first. My advice just leave the ship ASAP. No one was stopped. We had an excellent tour of St Petersburg with Alla tours. Our guide Pauline was excellent. Other passengers were complaining about the ships excursions. We were a party of 5 with 3 cabins. We all had a brilliant time. We made our own way around Tallin, Riga and Helsinki. It was easy to get around. Would recommend this trip for all ages. You'll have A fab time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
After suffering two disastrous cruises with P&O over twenty years ago we vowed never to cruise again. However, having reached our fifties, we researched it again in a lot of detail, and we decided to give Seabourn a shot with a seven ... Read More
After suffering two disastrous cruises with P&O over twenty years ago we vowed never to cruise again. However, having reached our fifties, we researched it again in a lot of detail, and we decided to give Seabourn a shot with a seven day Venice-Athens run on the Odyssey in early September. In short, though expensive, it was the best holiday we have ever had...and we have already booked up again for next year. All the worries we had about cruises from previous trips - i.e. lack of space, poor food, bad maintenance, downmarket entertainment, compulsory black tie, enforced shared tables and chain smoking everywhere - dissolved within a day on the Odyssey. It's in sparkling condition. Nothing feels dated and even though the cruise was fully booked it felt very roomy. We'd booked an Owner's Suite up front as we wanted space to retreat to (we're quite private) and it had just been completely refurnished to a very high standard. It's now decorated in muted greys, beiges with champagne-coloured chair backs and a much better sofa than that shown on the current website. I wonder if it's the same furniture as used on the Encore? It was certainly very well appointed. It was all the private space we needed with an enormous verandah, so we had breakfast there most mornings. The new beds are INCREDIBLY comfy too and Kudzie, our Suite Stewardess, was an angel. More premium liquor provided than even I knew what to do with. On embarkation day we felt all our worries were coming true again. As it was Venice Film Festival, most private launches were reserved for celebs so there was difficulty in the agents finding boats and the Seabourn Transfer could only pick us up from our hotel at 3.15pm (ship sailed at 5.00pm)…which caused a lot of anxiety. Once onboard we had expected to be shown the room but weren't (is that normal?) and our room keys weren't working so that had to be fixed at Seabourn Square. We had a quick sandwich and egg roll there which tasted like they had been hanging around for days (caused a bit of tummy trouble that evening). On top of that, and a delayed sailing, it started thundering and lightening with heavy rain all evening. And the first destination was changed (without us receiving notice) from interesting-looking Sibenik to (boring) Vodice. Luckily that's all the bad news out of the way on day one. After that, everything was pretty much perfect! We were really impressed with the look and feel of the ship…modern, sparkling clean, luxurious without being over-fancy. But the service was just amazing. I've stayed at hundreds of five star hotels all over the world for business and pleasure, but the service on board was in a different league and does deserve that 'six star' accolade. Whilst all that stuff about everyone remembering your name didn't seem to work for us (it happened twice), who cares? Almost all the staff seemed engaged, committed and to really care. And apart from the initial hiccups, everything worked like clockwork. If only Seabourn were in government. All restaurants were good but our favourite was the Patio Grill. Great steaks and Mariej runs it like a military operation…but with charm! The Thomas Keller chicken night at the Colonnade is just as fantastic as people say it is. The Thomas Keller Grill is beautifully appointed but - as everyone notes - the food is bizarrely over-salted (and I love salt). The rib eye was a real great piece of meat though. Service there was too quick - we'd finished our meal within 45 mins. Having said that we'd go back again. We only went to the main Restaurant on the final night and liked the way ladies are escorted to table. We'll go there a lot more on our next trip on the Odyssey but wanted to keep this trip as informal as possible. Gabor at Seabourn Square bent over backwards to make sure people got the drinks they wanted and always with a smile. And yes, Caviar is available on tap and is pretty good too! Passengers were all age ranges but most were 50-80. Mostly US/Aus/NZ with some Brits. Good to see some LGBT couples and a get-together for them. Quite a lot of young people on board from Australia who didn't look like Seaboard regulars :-) as there was a group booking for a Daikin dealers' conference. I had been a bit worried about this in advance, but it was actually nice to have younger people on board really enjoying themselves. As we don't stay up late we never saw any entertainment in the Grand Salon nor did we visit the Club. We loved Seabourn Square, usually a nice quiet place to hang out and get a coffee. Tours were OK to good, but most of the time we liked the fact that (Vodice aside) we were visiting some pretty interesting destinations for strolling around. Disembarkation was a breeze but we were soon back to earth with a bang, twiddling our thumbs at Athens airport waiting for the flight home. All in all, the perfect holiday and we can't wait to get back on the Odyssey. It's great that the ship's excellent for people who want to socialise but just as good for those who want a quiet and interesting holiday in the lap of luxury. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Almost Perfection. Missing the laundromat, expanded sushi menu, longer swimming pool or endless pool to swim laps, and more than one night at the TK grill. Colonnade was an improvement over their smaller ships, the retreat was not ... Read More
Almost Perfection. Missing the laundromat, expanded sushi menu, longer swimming pool or endless pool to swim laps, and more than one night at the TK grill. Colonnade was an improvement over their smaller ships, the retreat was not utilized, Food was the best ever on any other ships (crystal, Celebrity, Cunard, Princess, Holland America, Windstar). Ship was spotless, service was flawless, Ports were great, tender service was a bit slow due to some long tender runs. Larger fitness area with more equipment was perfect. The ship is beautiful, morning coffee and pastries in the observation lounge for early risers was greatly appreciated. Now if they only could control the weather........ it was unusually hot 105-110F during the cruise which wiped you out after shore excursions, The pools were more like dunking spots filled with passengers after the excursions. AC in the ship worked great and provided relief from the heat. Read Less
Sail Date June 2017
This was the third cruise we had aboard the Riveria, as it is so perfect for us. WE always bood a Penthouse suite and near the Executive Lounge, which is so handy for those extra coffee's in the evening. WE have already booked the ... Read More
This was the third cruise we had aboard the Riveria, as it is so perfect for us. WE always bood a Penthouse suite and near the Executive Lounge, which is so handy for those extra coffee's in the evening. WE have already booked the same suite for 4th June this year, so it wont be long before wew are back aboard our favourite ship. WE have tried others and only started cruising as a result of my persistance to get my wife on our first cruise. That was just a 4 day 'toe in the water' trial in the Caribbean from Miami, with Royal Caribbean and it was excellent. We then went with American Cruise Line for three years, but their standards dropped a fair bit and we looked for something better and in 2010, were aboard the Crystal Serenity. That was the best, but also the most expensive, almost twice the price of our normal cruises, so we drew our horns in a little from Crystal, but it was superb. Next was the SEabourne Oddessy. A smaller ship, quite nice, but for me, not big enough. The standewrds were high and the suite was OK, but we looked around again and in JUne 2014, we found the Riviera on the Rome to Rome cruise that we are doing again this year. The Myan Mistique trip on the Riviera in January 2015 was perhaps not as good as the others, but that is only locations as the ship is still, in our opinion, one of the best values around today and the May last years trip was great. Accomodation, service, food and a sense of quality is top rate and I doubt we would find anything better. Our only wish was that the two lardet shipos had a greater choice of areas abroad. Having 'done the Med' somewhat, South America, Asia (if I could get the other half persuaded) would be on the list, but the smaller ships do not have the suite size in their Penthouses, so it would mean going larger and adding to the costa again. Having reched my 75th birthday and my wife will be there in March, we love the quiet areas aboard and do use our accomodation a fair bit to relax in. Not too many children around, done that and got the T Shirt, but Oceania have this ship just to our liking and I doubt that anyone could be dissapointed with a cruise on this ship. We are looking forward to the 4th trip in our favourite suite aboard Riviera and although we do pop off to other places inbetween cruises, there is nothing quite like the call of Oceania once a year at least. Malcolm & Helen Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We chose this cruise because we had already toured many times on the river ships and wanted to visit the Mediterranean countries. All the ports were new to us. The majority of the guides were excellent and we were given a much more ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had already toured many times on the river ships and wanted to visit the Mediterranean countries. All the ports were new to us. The majority of the guides were excellent and we were given a much more comprehensive overview considering the time allowed in each port. One of the best guides was only supposed to drop us in Nice, show us the meeting place and meet us to return to the ship. She took the group into the old city after taking us through a lovely park area along the Promenade Anglaise. She made certain we knew where the markets were, the specialty shops and any particular interest of individuals. There was a nice assortment of cities as well as smaller ports. Transportation from the ship to place we wanted to do on our own was provided. This was a maiden voyage with the crew in training and service was superb. We especially enjoyed The Restaurant and Manfredi's. Like most cruises, you could eat yourself to death but try the afternoon tea at least once. The scones are among the best I have ever eaten and it is a relaxing interlude in a busy day. I believe our cabin was 3017 and it was well-appointed. Viking keeps refining their ships and the evolution of the cabin through the years has been very interesting to see. Entertainment was average to very good. One of our favorite shows were opera singers in Naples. Do take a scarf or sweater. The theater can be very cold. The Viking Living Room is an amazing place to relax. I often have trouble resting the first night. I curled up in one of the amazing club chairs with a warm blanket, with soft music playing in the background and feel soundly asleep. The free, automated laundry rooms on each floor are a nice convenience with detergent included. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
This is a trip that started out as a living hell through no fault of Celebrity. Our flight on U.S. Air from Miami never left the ground and I can truly say that after 60 -- plus -- flights in the past dozen years throughout the world on ... Read More
This is a trip that started out as a living hell through no fault of Celebrity. Our flight on U.S. Air from Miami never left the ground and I can truly say that after 60 -- plus -- flights in the past dozen years throughout the world on almost a dozen different airlines -- this was the worst non-customer service attitude that we have ever experienced. Thankfully, our expert travel agency -- Express Travel of Miami -- and American Airlines and it's OneWorld partners came through at the last minute and got us to Venice within hours of our original scheduled arrival time. We need a wheelchair accessible vehicle to get from the airport to the ship and it was waiting for us, in spite of our arrival time had changed three times, and whisked us to the ship. Check-in and embarkation was very quick, friendly, and a pleasure. Now to Celebrity. This was our fourth Celebrity cruise in two years -- twenty-sixth in the past dozen years. Because my lovely wife is confined to a wheelchair, we require a wheelchair accessible suite. Our suite was in the Sky Suite category. The suite was perfect -- clean with all our necessities, roomy, and totally wheelchair accessible. This category offers us the service of a butler. Our three previous butlers were excellent. On this cruise, Manuel Moreno, was excellent -- plus. We were spoiled at every turn. He was always available and went far beyond the call. He took care of every request and problem. Our stateroom attendant, Suta, and assistant attendant, Andi, were efficient and kept our suite very clean and well stocked. Did I mention that, even though we made it to Venice, our luggage did not. To the rescue came Jon Pilling, the most capable concierge that we have ever had the pleasure to meet. First, he gave us clothes and toiletries to hold us over until our luggage arrived. Then he stayed on top of tracking down and getting our luggage to us [two pieces before we left Venice and the other two via special delivery truck when we arrived in Ravenna]. Our meals in the main dining room were excellent and the service was very good. The specialty restaurants that we used -- Tuscany and Murano were superb. We never tire of the Lobster Murano [a must on every cruise]. Additionally, the food and selections available up in the buffet were perfect. Since this ship made a port stop every day we had breakfast in our suite every morning when in port. Manuel arrived exactly on time and with breakfast perfectly fixed. This is a great cruise itinerary. We have enjoyed about half of the ports previously but many were new to us. Due to our transport requirements and the re-visitation to a number of the ports, we made arrangements for private excursions at each port. Unfortunately, even though this is a fourteen day cruise -- it ended much too soon. Our disembarkation was as smooth and efficient as our embarkation. Manuel took us to the customer relations desk and, thanks to Cristina -- the assistant guest relations manager -- we were quickly whisked off the ship, received total assistance to get our luggage and had everything placed in the required wheelchair accessible van. At the airport -- there was a Celebrity representative to personally get our luggage and ourselves checked in for our flight back home. We are looking forward to the two Celebrity cruises that we have already booked.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Check in and disembarcation were great,totally hassle free,very efficient staff and most friendly. The strengths of Voyager is most definately the staff. They work so hard and are eager to please and we were so grateful for all that ... Read More
Check in and disembarcation were great,totally hassle free,very efficient staff and most friendly. The strengths of Voyager is most definately the staff. They work so hard and are eager to please and we were so grateful for all that they did for us. We have cruised with RCI before and did notice a general cut back in standards of food. I remember a much wider choice of food in the Windjammer but this time found it very "samey". Breakfast time was a bun fight and so we ate in the MDR and there the breakfasts were superb. No chocolates on the pillow and no shower gel but the towel animals were appreciated. The main gripe was the extortionate price of wine and the bottled water at $3.85 plus 25%!!! We noticed that an awful lot of people were not drinking which included us and our on board spend was the lowest of any cruise!! I wanted to press a skirt but was told that I would have to use cabin service as no laundry was available. At $2.50 I decided to leave the skirt creased. Shows? The Broadway show was awful as not many songs were recognisable. Tenors Un Limited a three opera singers were magnificent - they were such fun. Apart from that not much to get excited about. A good cruise but not one that I would want to repeat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We had a group of 8 adults in our party. We discussed several cruise lines and decided to take this trip only due to the itinerary. We had several members in our group that had traveled on the Princess lines and said we would not be happy. ... Read More
We had a group of 8 adults in our party. We discussed several cruise lines and decided to take this trip only due to the itinerary. We had several members in our group that had traveled on the Princess lines and said we would not be happy. The itinerary won out. They were correct. The boat looks tired, dingy and needs to have a major renovation. The staterooms have minimal storage space for an extend length cruise. The bathroom in our cabin had mold growing in it and on the back of the shower curtain when we arrived. The bed was like sleeping on a rock. The carpeting was threadworn at the entry to the room and you had to be careful when you walked out of the stateroom. Ironically they were trying to replace or repair it while we were at sea. The colors did not match. The towels should have been tossed overboard a few years ago. All in all the boat had a lousy presentation. FOOD -- The meat as we had seem on past Princess cruises was very poor in taste and quality. The beef constantly tasted like liver covered with brown gravy. When I sent back my rib eye and asked to have it blackened or cajun seasoned they asked why I wanted my meat burnt. This probably would have been a better idea. After explaining to our waitstaff and the head waiter I was informed that all they could do was salt and pepper. It didn't work. We ALL ordered multiple meals to try to find something we liked almost every evening. ENTERTAINMENT -- Entertainment was severely poor. We had the late seating and went to the shows nightly. The best entertainment was either the passenger talent show or Karaoke the lounge. The two tours we took through the ship were adequate. We booked most of our own excursions before we left home. I can say that if you are looking for only a traveling motel room, take this trip. Otherwise I wouldn't expect to much. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Just returning from the Costa Cruise line's Mediterranea yesterday, I have contemplated strongly just how to write a fair review of this cruise ship, the Costa cruise line, and the locations visited. Firstly- I am an American living ... Read More
Just returning from the Costa Cruise line's Mediterranea yesterday, I have contemplated strongly just how to write a fair review of this cruise ship, the Costa cruise line, and the locations visited. Firstly- I am an American living in Italy, familiar with the Italian culture and lifestyle. I speak enough Italian to communicate effectively and live in an Italian town without any problems. That said, I am writing this review geared towards any Americans considering flying over and using Costa for a cruise. Did I enjoy the cruise? Overall, yes. The destinations were tremendous and somewhat surprising once we got there. The ship was overall excellent, very clean, with an excellent mix of European and American passengers. Would I ever go on a Costa cruise again? Absolutely not. The "Italian hospitality" that the cruise line markets itself on is neither Italian, nor hospitable. I will site some of the many problems this cruise line has concerning customer service. Take note- I am an American, and our standards of customer service do differ drastically from European, and specifically Italian standards in many regards. Not all of these gradients are necessarily bad, as I have experienced many delightful experiences traveling all of southern Europe, extensively in Italy itself. Since I live only 45 minutes from Venice, travel to the port was easy and hassle-free. Those flying in will be jet-lagged and may have several hours to spare in Venice at the port, since you cannot board the ship until at least 2:30pm, which our travel agent was wrong about (she said noon was the time to board). We arrived at noon expecting to board, and had to find a way to burn 2 1/2 hours with a toddler. Not a problem- if you also arrive too early, take a brisk walk (don't get ripped off by a taxi) to the parking garage about 5 minutes from the port, and on the other side take a water taxi to Venice, and enjoy Saint Mark's square for the remainder. The ship is massive and impressively clean. Being my third cruise (one on Carnival and one on Norwegian), I found the ship's amenities to be on par with other cruise ships. Ship's services and features: Child services: Under 3, nothing. Over 3- a dumping ground for parents that want to drop their children and run. I spotted the "squawk" groups during the cruise being entertained by Italian babysitters, doing mindless games and eating snacks. If you are taking your children on a cruise, don't subject them to this extremely lacking and pathetic treatment- leave them at home, or incorporate them into the cruise and excursions- we did it with a 2yr old, and it was quite acceptable and enjoyable. Get a baby-backpack, do not use a stroller- Istanbul was incredibly crowded. Ship excursions- Costa offers these packages for each port- they range in price from 30 to over 100 euros for tours of the various sights. We did just one in Greece, in Olympia- because Costa neglected to tell anyone that the ruins of Olympia are over 45 minutes away from port. We jumped on a tour at the last second and found it terrible. We learned from the Greek trip and did everything else on our own- and had a blast. The tours are overpriced- the English speaking tour guide was hard to understand, rambled on longer than this review, and moved slower than pond water through the sites. Bari was the first stop- and since we live in Italy, we were disappointed. Other American visitors were as well, since Bari has little to see within walking distance of the ship aside from the famous castle and a few "ho-hum" cathedrals. My recommendation to Costa would be to shift the Bari stop to a further south Italian location- something with beaches or more history or something better than Bari. Olympia was the next day- we realized we needed transportation when an employee overheard us and told us the ruins were 45 minutes away. Another couple was in the same situation we were, and they jumped in a taxi. We did the excursion, and even ran into that couple later in the ruins. Their taxi fare was half of our excursion cost, and their taxi was parked at the entrance waiting on them- they had the better time. Olympia was less than expected- everything truly is in ruins- few of the columns are even standing. Izmir, Turkey- the third day. We expected this day to be uneventful- we planned on only walking around the immediate area of the port- when we encountered taxis right at the edge of the port. For 80 euro- they offered a round-trip transport to the ancient ruins of Ephesus- where one of the old Seven Wonders of the World lay in ruins. We gambled, and jumped in with our toddler. The hour-long taxi ride was worth it- the location was amazing- far more sights and rich history than Olympia. Istanbul- again, we avoided the tours- 100 euro for a 9 hour tour was the one we thought about; well- we did it on foot in less than seven hours (again- with a toddler in a baby back-pack), saw all the sights including more, had chai (tea) in a carpet shop, talked politics and world events with many friendly merchants, got lost in the Topekai Palace exterior gardens, hit most all of the Grand Bazaar, and walked back through the local quarter- an amazing exciting time. Grab a map, buy or use a library tour book, bring a compass (those little bubble ones you can slip on your watch band work just fine) and enjoy. Don't use Costa's tours unless you have a heart condition or just enjoy throwing your money and time away. Croatia- walled town of Dunkirk- overall very pretty- but too crowded by our own cruise tourists. The walled town is only about 1500 meters wide, and the nearly 1,000 tourists from the ship crammed it completely. We got out of the town, walked up some cliffs overlooking the city, and got amazing photos- found a nice little beach, avoided the tours and crowds. Finally- my biggest issue with Costa- Customer Service. Little things bugged me throughout the trip- but I didn't want them to bother me during my vacation, so I let them all go and concentrated on the enjoyable times- until the last day. Costa bills you a "standardized gratuity" which their guide clearly states you can adjust higher or lower, whatever you prefer. Nowhere is it stated that you must do anything prior to checking out. We even attended the "check-out day" briefing the day prior, and the woman again stated to the English speaking group that we could adjust the tip through Guest Services. My wife and I got our bill the day prior, and saw the breakdown- about 19 euros for the waiters, our housekeeper/maid, and the maitre'd (head waiter-type, for all you non-French speakers). Now, the maid was fine, and our waiters (Rex and Alex) were absolutely amazing. But the maitre'd?? For us, he would occasionally say "good evening," but he spent most of his time chatting with the Italian tables and ignored the German and English tables. I even watched as he walked around my wife's chair, and chatted with an Italian gentleman for 10 minutes while I ate my dinner staring at his backside, as it was pushed up against my wife's chair. Did he turn around and ask us how our meals were at least? Nope. So- we decided to move his tip over to our waiters, and add to it to make it an even 20 euros on top of their tip already. So, that morning, my wife went to guest services to check out and do that seemingly simple task. She returned an hour later in tears. After waiting in one long line, my wife was told to go to another line to do the tip change. After waiting in this second line another 25 minutes- the Italian woman there rudely told her that she could not do it either, that she had to go to yet another line. My wife politely expressed her dissatisfaction with the service so far, which resulted in a snide remark from the woman and a dismissing hand wave away from the desk. My wife then approached this third employee- an Italian man this time. She explained the situation- and he told her "no. You cannot change it now." She asked to speak with his manager. He then looked up at her, and said there was no manager available. He then went back to work, ignoring my wife standing over him. She was very upset by this time, and again asked if he was going to help her. This Costa cruise employee, demonstrating their "Italian hospitality" told my wife again that nothing could be done, and continued to ignore her. When she told me the situation, I took my toddler downstairs with her to take care of this myself. I approached the man my wife pointed out, and I interrupted his business to discuss the situation at hand. I had their Costa guide in my hand, and gave it to him with the area underlined stating that we could adjust the tips as we wished. He rudely told me we could not, and handed me the guide back. I asked him for his manager, and he told me "no" and went back to work. I again said "please get me your manager." He said, "no- but I can call security." I was shocked. Here I was, holding a toddler in one hand, requesting assistance with their own guidebook in my other hand, and this guy was threatening me with security???? All of this over just trying to tip our waiters more for their excellent service. Well- again, I maintained my composure and asked a third time- get me your manager. My wife found a phone nearby, and called the help desk and explained the situation. Eventually- we were directed to a manager, who would not leave his office to come see us; we had to go to his location. There- he told us that we could not change any bill amounts; it all had to be done yesterday. He agreed that their own guide book was "not correct" and their Costa briefing yesterday was "not correct." His crew was "not correct," but now he was empowering us with the "correct" information. I expressed my extreme dissatisfaction with the employee I dealt with, and informed the manager of my residency in Italy and current job with the US government, and that when fellow co-workers asked me of my Costa cruise experience- that this last day would define my overall assessment of the Costa cruise line. The manager seemed mildly interested, and very non-confrontational. He just wanted us to let it go- not change anything, stick to the status-quo. So- long winded, and if you read this whole thing; please understand that I truly enjoyed the trip, especially the Turkish ports. The food was fine, the ship was clean, and even with a high-energy toddler, we all had a great time overall until this last day. This last day may just have involved a few Costa employees that do not represent a systemic problem in Costa overall, but when confronted with their own printed regulations and their own briefings they provide passengers, they still were right, and the customer was wrong. In America, nearly any self-respecting business would have quickly helped us out, and perhaps serious consequences would have befell the rude employee we encountered- but right now, as I type this, that Costa employee is somewhere near Bari with another boat-load of passengers. Too bad those passengers won't find out until next Sunday that their maitre'd is getting his 16 euros whether they like it or not. Ben Z Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Please enter your review. Westerdam HAL We were very fortunate to take a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on the second voyage of the Westerdam. There were high notes, and not so high notes. We had a wonderful time and would do it again, ... Read More
Please enter your review. Westerdam HAL We were very fortunate to take a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on the second voyage of the Westerdam. There were high notes, and not so high notes. We had a wonderful time and would do it again, however, this is not a five star ship. It is close to a 4. We understand that many of the problems are because it is so early in the ships life. However, unless some changes are made this ship can never be called a luxury ship. The good things first: The ship is so stable, you never feel motion. The beds are fabulous. Best we have ever slept on in a ship. The cabins are roomy. Lots of closets, hangars and shelves. The verandah cabins have bathtubs. Not only does that offer the opportunity of a bath, but the shower is twice the size of a normal ship shower stall. The bathroom is really quite luxurious and the products are excellent. The towels are large and thirsty. The air conditioning works very well. Room service is quick and available 24 hours a day. There is no additional charge for espresso or cappuccino in the dining room. The ports are amazing. They included some new ports like Samos, Greece and Malta. The stage is phenomenal in the show venue. Everything is state of the art. The curtain is covered with fiber lights, the lighting is variable and beautiful, the stage has several elevated portions that rise and lower. The two revues by the ships cast ended with indoor fireworks. Issues: The couch, carpet and duvet in our cabin were all soiled. This is the second sailing. What will it be like in two months? The full-length mirror is located on the door of one of the closets. When you open the door to use the mirror, the door blocks the light and you cannot see. The reading lights above the headboard are so low they cannot be used for reading. The light switches do not allow you to keep just the entry light on. The hairdryer is located under the dressing table. It must be used when sitting; and it is never very strong or hot. The TV is on the dressing table leaving little space for cosmetics and toiletries. It is quite far from the bed and small. There are four seatings, 5:15, 5:45, 8:00 and 8:30. Those in the 5:15 were very unhappy that it was so early; we had the 8:30 and it was too late. We missed four shows because we were still eating at 10:45 and the show started at 10:30. The service in the dining room was not white glove; no one placed a napkin in my lap until I complained to the captain. The service was SLOW. The waiters didn't remember after a week that with every dinner my husband and I drink ice tea. Again I had to speak to the captain. The food is very average. The best meal was the next to last night when caviar made its only appearance. The a la carte Pinnacle restaurant is fabulous. Great service and great food. In the regular dining room they do not seem to understand that when the breadbasket is empty they should refill it. The salads, vegetables and starches were terrible. No presentation and nothing exciting. One evening my roasted vegetables were missing and when I asked the waiter lifted up my foil wrapped potato to show me the vegetables underneath. The good news was the only way you will gain weight is from the desserts. By the way, it you want a flambE they are not served in the dining room, you must go to the lounge outside the lower level dining room and wait in line. The wait is worth it as the ship made chocolates are also served there. The ships two reviews by their cast were great as was the magician and a super singer/comedian. Some of the shows were terrible and people left in droves. The magician has signed a two-year contract so you are assured of a good show from him. The Lido pool has a retractable roof, which allows HAL to put a better chaise in there. The outside pool chaises are not very comfortable. The Lido Pool chairs are so close it is impossible to gracefully sit or stand. I signed up for the unlimited hydrotherapy pool package in the SPA. As I exited the first day, I fell as my foot hit he wet floor. There was nothing to grab onto, and I took a nasty spill. I reported it to the desk and they did not even take my name. When I experienced pain the next day I called and they told me to go to the ships doctor. He told me it was muscular and would just take time. No one from the SPA or the ship called to see how I was doing until I told customer service of my disappointment. The gentleman made it clear that the SPA does not belong to the HAL. Fine, but my accident was on their ship. Nothing was done to prevent his from occurring again and later in the cruise another passenger also fell. Her fall was much worse than mine; she hit her head on the steps and passed out. Even after that no change was made to the facility. We would travel on the ship again, but, with the understanding this is at most a four star ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
We just returned from the Westerdam's 2nd voyage and it was a marvelous experience. I was a little leery of going on such an early voyage but Holland America outdid themselves on this cruise. The crew is friendlier than ever and ... Read More
We just returned from the Westerdam's 2nd voyage and it was a marvelous experience. I was a little leery of going on such an early voyage but Holland America outdid themselves on this cruise. The crew is friendlier than ever and more than willing to do anything for the customer. The ship itself is very spacious--even with a full contingent of passengers you never felt crowded. The only time I couldn't find a seat was at the disembarkation lecture so I just left and caught it later on the tv. The newly revamped Lido is outstanding. We hardly ever waited at all. The viewing from the Vista Lounge is excellent. But best of all is their newly implemented Signature of Excellence program. All staterooms have lovely linens and bathrobes. There are now 4 dining times which is an improvement. If only HAL would go to open dining so we could eat at 7:30 and with whomever we wanted--then their product would be the best in the market! But the best change was the addition of the gratuities to your shipboard account on a daily basis. This is so much fairer to all of the staff and takes away a lot of the negative feelings we always felt on the last night of a cruise. (It's hard enough to get off the ship anyway!) We participated in a lot of the shore excursions and felt they were very good value for the money. All guides were excellent and the ports were fascinating--Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Malta. We have cruised Radisson more than any other line and this experience ranked up there with those trips. The food was every bit as good. The decor was a bit more splashy than other HAL ships but very attractive. I particularly liked all the orchids and cloth towels in all the public restrooms. Treat yourself to a cruise on this ship and you won't be sorry! Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
We are, or were, first time cruisers and did not know what to expect. The Star Princess Greek Isles trip April 10-22 was a dream. The Star Princess was a beautiful ship and as everyone has mentioned, despite the number of people on the ... Read More
We are, or were, first time cruisers and did not know what to expect. The Star Princess Greek Isles trip April 10-22 was a dream. The Star Princess was a beautiful ship and as everyone has mentioned, despite the number of people on the ship, it never felt crowded. The only time we ever felt like we were in somewhat of a crowd was occasionally in the evenings on the Promenade Deck. Horizon Court would also get a bit crowded at peak times, but not enough so that you couldn't get your food and find a place to sit and eat. The Fitness Center and jogging track were impossible to use in the early morning, our preferred time to work out, so we just decided to let all the walking in port be our exercise for the trip. I guess the fitness facilities were the only areas I really felt were not designed to handle the number of people on the boat. We thought the food was excellent for having to feed that many people. Naturally there were a few selections that were so-so, but also many selections that were very good. We loved the freedom of Personal Choice and the 24-hour food at Horizon Court, especially the constant selection of freshly cut fruit. What a treat! We were able to eat on very odd schedules, which suited us just fine. We only ate in the dining rooms for dinner a few times during the cruise, and only once for breakfast. Never having experienced traditional dining, we found the different tablemates and servers to be just fine, and enjoyed meeting different people. The entertainment on board was constant and covered the entire spectrum. I was amazed at the variety of activities they had going on. The production shows with their singers and dancers were quite good, but we found some of the other acts to be more mediocre. Our favorites were the mock game shows put on by the cruise director's staff - always very funny. The public rooms of the Star Princess are all nicely appointed, and always very clean. We enjoyed the low-key, elegant atmosphere of the ship. The only wear and tear noticeable to me was the worn carpet that pervaded the ship. Otherwise, everything looked very well maintained. One of our favorite spots was Skywalker's - day or night. Loved the atmosphere and views from up there. The indoor pool was popular, and was actually the only one I saw being used on our cruise. Of course it really wasn't warm enough yet to use the outdoor pools. The hot tubs also seemed quite popular, though there were so many of them spread around, it seemed you could usually find a deserted one if you were willing to go the distance. With the breezes and it still being April, the decks were not really used all that much from what I could tell. We certainly did not feel the temps were comfortable enough for lounging outside. We had a balcony cabin more aft on the Baja Deck and it suited us just fine. It was certainly bigger than many hotel rooms I've had in Europe. The balcony was roomy enough for our needs - a table and two chairs and we thoroughly enjoyed the views from the balcony. I've never cruised before but I probably would not be able to do so again without the balcony. We woke up each morning in a new port and it was so fun to jump out of bed and see where you were. Then, when exhausted after our day in port, we could relax and enjoy the sail away from the balcony without having to move our tired bodies somewhere else. Our cabin steward, Jaime, was great and kept the place spotless. The only negative we had on the room was that twice during the cruise a horrible sewage smell permeated the cabin. We determined it was coming from the air vent and that was a bit disturbing. Thankfully it didn't last too long and only happened twice while we were in the room. The reason we picked this cruise was because of the time of year and the itinerary of the cruise, and it all exceeded expectations. The ports were not too overly crowded for the most part (Venice being the exception, but it was also Easter weekend when we were there) and the weather was perfect for site seeing - mostly right around 60 with a breeze. Except in Venice, Athens and Rome, we were also the only cruise ship docked at the ports, and I imagine that changes during the summer with more cruises in the Mediterranean. A brief remark on each port: Venice - Venice was beautiful as always and the sail away is not to be missed. It was awfully crowded for Easter weekend when we were there with long lines for all the sites. We paid the $10 per person for unlimited use of the shuttle to and from the Star Princess to San Marco Square. We arrived via a bus from the airport at Piazzale Roma and tried to walk to the boat but could not find the way. We ended up taking a taxi for the 5 min. ride. I think it cost maybe 10 Euros. Dubrovnik - One of our favorites of all the ports of call on this cruise. The medieval walled city is picture-perfect. Transportation from the port was a bit interesting. We ended up paying the $10 per person for the cruise-arranged bus. It may have been walkable, but the bus trip took 20 minutes. Corfu - We walked the two miles from the ship to Corfu Town and spent the day there and walked back. Taxis were available but no bus. Katakolon - We did a shore excursion to Olympia and enjoyed the guided tour and not having to worry about transportation to Olympia - about a 30-40min. drive from Katakolon. Piraeus (Athens) - We also did a shore excursion, though I've been to Athens and Piraeus before and had no problems getting back and forth. We wanted the guided tour of the Acropolis and Athens. Traffic was awful and we ended up spending a lot of time in traffic. Perhaps that could have been avoided with public transportation? Mykonos - It was very windy the day we were in Mykonos. It was about a 30 min. walk from the dock to the town. There was a cruise-arranged bus available and just a very few taxis. Since we didn't try to go to Delos, we didn't spend much time on shore in Mykonos. Walked around the town, enjoyed a cafe for a spell and walked back to the ship. Kusadasi - We did a shore excursion to Ephesus and had an absolutely wonderful guide. She really made the ancient city come alive. It was a half-day excursion and so we had the afternoon for shopping and walking around in Kusadasi. The boat docks basically right in the town, so it is easy access to everything. The vendors seemed desperate for the tourist $ and since we were pretty much the only game in town, there was a lot of yelling to get you in their shops. Security was very tight for the entire cruise, and the only visible difference I noticed in Kusadasi was a police boat, which patrolled around the ship while we were in port. As in all ports we had to pass both our person and bags through x-rays and dock access was limited. No one needed a visa for Turkey. Rhodes - Rhodes Town is charming and the boat docked close enough so it was an easy walk to the old town. There was a bus station in town, just outside the old city walls, with local buses to Lindos. It was Sunday and they were not running very often and unfortunately we felt it was too late in the day by the time we got there to try and get to Lindos. I saw a sign saying a taxi to Lindos was 30 Euros. Santorini - This was another of our favorites. Such a beautiful island, and so dramatic with the calderas and towns perched on the edge of the cliff. This was the only port where tenders were required. We found that whole process to be very smooth and didn't have to wait at all to get on one. We took a local bus out to Akrotiri, but unfortunately had not done our homework and it was closed for all of April. We ended up riding around with some friends from the ship in the car they rented for the day. I think it cost them $25 to rent it for the day. Day at Sea - and boy were we ready for it! We ran into a storm that evening after passing through the Strait of Messina. I guess the swells were 8-12ft. Though the boat was rocking a bit, I did not think the motion was bad at all. And this is coming from a person who has been seasick before and who vowed never to let that happen again! I did not take any medication or anything and did not feel sick in the least. Mostly I didn't think you felt much motion on the boat. Generally I could tell we were on a boat when we were at sea, but there wasn't much rocking. More of a steady vibration I guess. Naples - We walked about 20-30 min. or so from the dock in Naples to the train station and caught the train to Pompeii Scavi. As it said in my guidebook - Naples is not for pedestrians and it was not the most pleasant walk, but the price was right. Once at Pompeii we got in with a small group and local tour guide. I don't know if he was an official tour guide or not, but he took us to the highlights of Pompeii and at least seemed to know the basics of what we were seeing. Because Pompeii is so massive, it was helpful to have him take us to the more major sites and then we spent another hour or so exploring on our own which worked out perfectly for us. I have to say, having visited Pompeii around the same time of year about 10 years ago; I was amazed at the number of people. Maybe we lucked out before, but 10 years ago we had the place to ourselves. Not this time - and the crowds weren't from the cruise ship. It seemed to mostly be school groups. Civitavecchia (Rome) - We arrived at 4am and our color/letter assignment was called at 7:30am. We walked the 30min. to the train station, which even with our rolling suitcases wasn't too bad of a walk (it was probably 30 min. because we had our luggage to slow us down). Otherwise there were some taxis available. We were in Rome by 10am and had the whole day before us with our flight home not until 10:30 that night. We had just been in Rome a few months before so we had seen all the sites and so spent our day revisiting a few of our favorites and enjoying the fabulous weather and a good book on a park bench in Villa Borghese. All in all it was a fabulous cruise. The only negative, and I shouldn't even call it a negative, just a possible improvement I guess, is that Princess really didn't make an effort to provide any local culture. Some Greek specialties in the dining room, or some Greek folk dancing, etc. would have added to the whole experience. But that probably also adds to the price. Definitely a vacation to remember and hopefully we'll be doing another cruise one of these days. As cruise director Tim Donovan was apt to say, it was a "cracking" time. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Call it: M/V The Condemned (instead) PROS: The ship did not sink CONS: The ship still sails BOTTOM LINE: Avoid this freighter masquerading as a cruise ship. You know that old saying: "You get what you pay for" ? Well in this ... Read More
Call it: M/V The Condemned (instead) PROS: The ship did not sink CONS: The ship still sails BOTTOM LINE: Avoid this freighter masquerading as a cruise ship. You know that old saying: "You get what you pay for" ? Well in this instance, I didn't. Not even close. My Travel Experience: -4 cruises (to the Caribbean and Mediterranean) on new, mega-ships (Celebrity and Royal Caribbean) and a small, luxury ship (Silversea). -Visited over 30 countries for business or pleasure. Why this Cruise: I purchased an 11-day Eastern Mediterranean cruise on M/V Azur, owned by Festival/First European cruise line. I chose the cruise for the itinerary - I wanted to see the Pyramids/Sphinx, but was not willing to do a land vacation to Egypt at this time. Itinerary was quite appealing (included 3 countries I had not visited before). -Venice, Italy -Dubrovnik, Croatia -Olympia (Katakolon), Greece -At Sea -Cairo (Alexandria), Egypt -Limassol, Cyprus -Antalya, Turkey -Rhodes, Greece -Athens (Piraeus), Greece Corinth Canal -At Sea -Venice, Italy I knew this was primarily a European-targeted line, that it was an old ship, etc. I did as much research as can be done using the web. As such, I had set my expectations appropriately, which is to say, I set them extremely LOW. Little did I know how much lower the "ship" experience would scrape the bottom. THE GOOD: 1) Price: Cheap 2-for-1 special; I booked one of the 13 "suites" on the ship. 2) Transfer from Venice Airport to Ship: Agents with signs were placed right outside customs to herd the cruise passengers. 3) Embarkation: Process was managed quite well. 4) Excursions: I signed up for only 1 shore excursion (Cairo -Pyramids/Sphinx/Museum). Bus, tour guide and overall experience met my expectations. 5) Crew: Steward, Waiter, Busboy, Animation Team, Reception folks were friendly, capable, helpful. THE BAD: 1) Ship: Like an aging woman who badly needs (and wants) major cosmetic surgery but somehow cannot pull the funds together; instead settles for the affordable, occasional Botox shots which do nothing to hide the ravages of time... Very small ship, low ceilings, old faded carpets, dated furniture, peeling paint, rusting everywhere. Narrow stairs. Elevators are practically death traps, so tiny the claustrophobic would die a quick death. Seemed like no stabilizers were installed on this ship - you felt every wave! Passengers held on to railings and had to tread carefully in case doors slammed on their foot or hands. You could hear every rattle and creak, and feel every roll on this ship. You could definitely hear the neighbors in the next suites, and anyone walking or talking in the hallway. In 5-6 languages, continuous loudspeaker announcements starting at 9AM everyday ("Bingo! Bingo! Bingo! starts right now at the Pacific Lounge" or "We are today offering 10% off hair products at the salon"). There was a very obtrusive and unwanted photographer. Everything was for sale and the staff left no stone unturned to enhance passengers' awareness of this fact. Definite tone of nickel-and-diming the passengers at every turn. And this ship was small, much smaller than I had expected. 2) Passengers: About 99% European. I heard from an officer there were only 3 Americans onboard. Majority were German, French, and Italian with Swedish, Spanish and British thrown in. Usual suspects of loud, inconsiderate and rude folks. Met some wonderful people, of course, and enjoyed my time with them. 3) Food: About 50-50% hit rate. Soups were good, but everything else was okay. I remember only 2 good dishes from the whole trip: spaghetti bolognese and beef brisket. The others were either very forgettable or very bad. Extremely limited options for dining (seating in formal Riviera Dining Room, and buffet at the informal Tahiti Lounge). Continental breakfast offered in your room, but after one breakfast, you're willing to fast (seemed like leftovers from the previous day). No room service was offered. On some days, they offered tea at mid-afternoon; cookies and finger sandwiches weren't great, but at least you got fed. 4) Room: My "suite" at first sight was okay - picture windows, mid-sized bed, tiny TV, 2 chairs with a table bolted to the floor, fridge with overpriced drinks and snacks, ample storage, bath/shower. Upon closer inspection, you could see peeling paint, rusting, faded carpet, and there was a tear in the bed sheets (thankfully, I always travel with my own lightweight sheets and towels). The bath towels were thin and looked more grey than white, and the bathroom fixtures were antiquated. To flush the toilet, you had to close the lid and reach behind the bowl. Another odd European contraption, for sure, but it was very annoying (think about it: at night, you had to turn the light ON to make sure you hit bulls eye when flushing). 5) Activities: I give the entertainment team (dancers, magician, etc) a "B" for effort, but a "C-" for results. Their shows would probably be off-off-off strip at Las Vegas. A funny note: at the Azur Lounge, the ceiling is so low that the dancers' costume hats hit the ceiling, sometimes threatening to fall off! There were these pathetic vegetable carvings in the afternoon using maybe 1 watermelon or some carrots. It was either funny or sad, depending on your outlook. 6) Lifeboat Drill: Not taken very seriously; I shudder to think what would have happened if there was a real catastrophe. The passengers just jabbered in their own languages, and ignored the loudspeaker instructions (quite an interesting tableau to watch). 7) Officers: Not as friendly or as ready with a smile as the Crew. Not a big deal, but these people could all take a hospitality course. THE UGLY 1) Ship: Good Lord, the smoking was so prevalent if you didn't have lung cancer or emphysema yet, you sure felt like a carrier after walking past the Azur Lounge. The ONLY smoke-free areas were the Riviera Dining Room and the library (which was situated on the topmost deck, where if the waves did not get you, the boredom did). 2) Lies, Lies, Lies: Weather turned nasty at Cyprus. We had to stay another night at port -the worst rocking and rolling I've ever experienced in my life (turned out the Mediterranean had the worst storm in 20 years). The next day, the skies cleared and the seas calmed, but the Captain announced we won't sail to Antalya. Then a rumor spread -we won't sail to Rhodes. Then another rumor -we won't sail to Athens and the Corinth Canal. Some of the passengers received text messages from family and friends that 3 of Festival's cruise ships have been impounded by authorities for financial reasons. No Officer or Crew could tell us anything (most probably did not know what was going on). The mutinous passengers were beside themselves, notably an agitated German lady trying to foment a coup. Net-net: We sailed aimlessly, finally stopping at Heraklion, Crete for 4 hours and then sailing off again. Rumor was the ship was trying to avoid the same fate as her impounded sisters! Finally, the Captain announced we would indeed miss Athens and sail directly home to Venice due to bad weather and a technical problem on the ship's rudders or something (to which a few passengers -whose sole purpose on this cruise was to sail through the Corinth Canal- just lost it). Agonized cries in 5 languages drowned out any additional announcements. So this is Hell I thought, it is the Tower of Babel, on a condemned ship. 3) Debarkation: Last 4 days were spent at sea (running from the creditors?). People read, slept, spent time with newly met friends, but mostly people drank a lot -to the advantage of the ship's coffers. The final night, we went through the whole rigmarole of leaving our luggage outside our rooms before 1AM, waking up by 6AM, breakfast by 7AM, because we were supposed to arrive in Venice by 7AM and disembark by 8AM. Well at 7AM, we were nowhere near land! We were still in the middle of water, with no land in sight! Then the engine was turned off, and we were literally just floating in the Mediterranean Sea, like a rubber ducky in an immense bathtub. After hours of rumors and confusion, the Captain announced that instead of Venice, we would make land in Ravenna in 2 hours. And oh -lunch will be served, and oh yes, wine and beer will be free!! During lunch, the engines were turned back on, with horrendous noise, and the dining room ceiling shook so badly we thought it would fall on us as we were eating our last meal and imbibing the fizzy wine and beer. But at least we were sailing! Ravenna turned out to be an industrial, backwater and utterly desolate port (rumor was that the port authorities here were more "amenable") . Buses waited for us, each labeled with final destinations (Airport, Train Station, San Marco, etc). Our bags, hundreds of them, were disgorged from the rear of the ship, amidst mass confusion and shouting and the inevitable lost luggage and torn labels. I boarded a bus for the 3-hour ride to Venice. Turned out I was in a bus with only Italians, none of whom spoke English. Over the din (the Italians were VERY agitated and gesticulated wildly, I wasn't quite sure if they were happy to be back on terra firma or mad that it was 150 miles from the correct destination), I shouted: "San Marco ? San Basilio Vaporetto? Nessuno problemo?" Seeing nods, I could only hope for the best. The bus driver drove us back to Venice, and attempted to unload us by the parking lot at the other side of the port. At this, all the Italians shouted and pounded their fists. I could catch: "San Basilio blah blah blah", which meant that the Italian passengers insisted on this final drop-off point (I hoped). Otherwise, it would be a tortuous 2-mile trek (over the parking lot, the highway and more streets, to the Vaporetto stop) in the rain and cold, whilst dragging heavy suitcases. A debate ensued, getting louder and louder, until the driver backed down and drove us to the right place. Note: We saw hapless fellow cruisers lugging their suitcases in the highway, apparently they didn't fight with their bus driver! All I can say is: That is the first and LAST time I will sail on this cruise line. I have ample horror travel stories to last me a while... Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
I have just returned from the most wonderful cruise aboard the COSTA ATLANTICA and would like to share my thoughts and opinions with you, so here goes :- TRAVEL AND EMBARKATION We were due to go on vacation on 20th July 2003 . The day ... Read More
I have just returned from the most wonderful cruise aboard the COSTA ATLANTICA and would like to share my thoughts and opinions with you, so here goes :- TRAVEL AND EMBARKATION We were due to go on vacation on 20th July 2003 . The day finally dawned and we set of. Our flights were with British Airways from Glasgow via London Gatwick to Marco Polo airport in Venice our flights were right on time and were great, flying over the Swiss Alps etc on a beautiful sunny day, THEN just coming into land in Venice was a sight to behold, we could see the whole of the Venitian Lagoon with St Marks square etc and we could also see our ship sitting in dock patiently awaiting us.It was truly a wonderful sight quite awe inspiring !!!! We were then quickly into the airport terminal and awaited our luggage (helpful tip- if you are arriving here try your best to have a 1 EURO coin for the luggage trolleys) we waited the grand total of 10 MINUTES for our luggage (the best ever) walked through passport control and right in front of us were about 3/4 Costa Reps to guide us to a desk, at the desk we provided them with our transfer voucher and were informed that a coach would be there in 10 mins to take us to the port. It was then a pleasant 20 minute drive to the port itself. NO PROBLEMS so far. On arrival at the port and still on board the coach we were then given a card with an embarkation number and told roughly what time we would be able to board ship -if my memory serves me correct we were given #10 &12 - we were then told that those numbers would be boarding around 4.30 p.m and that if we wished we could go for some lunch or catch a waterbus into Venice (our luggage was taken care of) and as it was only 12 noon I think most people on the coach were going to do just that. BUT - thanks to these boards I remembered that someone had said to mention that we were in a suite and that we would have priority boarding - excellent advise THANK YOU !. I called the girl over and explained and my embarkation card was swiftly changed for # 1 and we were informed that we could board in about 30 mins and just to go right into the waiting area dock # 107. This area was a bit congested with numerous little trolleys/desks which appeared to be selling wine packages or similar, most of them had signs but only in Italian, so we headed for the Information desk where they spoke excellent English and they directed us over to another area where a rather disorderly line had formed but we managed to make our way to the front and show our cards and were told to come right through _ the other people in line had numbers as high as fourteen but obviously were willing to wait there until called. This part is not a complaint in any way but I would say that a few notices dotted around or the odd announcement might solve this problem. only my opinion. We were then shown through a set of glass doors where the obligatory Photos were taken (mines was actually okay for a change I normally look like martian or something after travelling so Costa were off to a good start) We had to be shown to a tender/water taxi as due to the Festival of the Redentore our ship was not going to be able to sail down the grand Canal (pity) but was docked over in Mestre. It was a pleasant trip over to the Atlantica and we were very quickly on board after the first of many smiling Buon Giorno that we would hear on our cruise. Within 2 minutes of boarding I was IN LOVE with the Costa Atlantica -the ship was beautiful,spotlessly clean,wonderful and cool after our trip on the tender and every member of staff had a smile. I just hoped that the rest of the cruise was going to be up to our expectations :- READ ON FOLKS THE CABIN,SHIP AND THE SERVICE. After a never ending walk along the hall ( this is when we realised how BIG the ship really was-good for the waistline though haha) we finally reached our Suite # 5293 and our cabin steward Dedi was already outside in the hallway to ensure that we had everything that we needed.- I have a heart condition and need to sleep with a few pillows for comfort , I had hardly closed the door when Dedi appeared with 4 extra pillows - definitely points to him for quick service., Our Suite was wonderful, on entering there was door to our right leading into a dressing area with a large double wardrobe, and a dressing table with huge mirror surrounded by lights, a marble top and some drawers to the side - the hairdryer was in the top drawer. A further door of of this area led to the Bathroom with double sinks (again with marble tops) a bath with jacuzzi and and an over bath shower (excellent power) the bath had a full sized glass screen and also a small line to hold wet bathing suits etc. Toiletries consisted of a can with the Costa logo beside each sink holding small bottles of shower gel,shampoo and after sun, shower cap and soap. The rest of the suite was on par sized with a decent hotel room and again all surfaces were topped with marble, another dressing table/desk night stands and a table with adjustable height, another double wardrobe, more drawers, a couple of cupboards,a mini fridge which was stocked (we emptied it into one of the cupboards and put our own soda and water into it, even a couple of beers and there was no problem) There was also a leather sofa which i understand converts into another bed if required, a king sized bed and an easy chair. We thought the room was great.Our balcony was approx. 18feet long by 41/2 feet wide and it had 2 adjustable wooden chairs and a wooden table, I think standard cabins have plastic furniture on the balconies. we found the chairs very comfortable and they reclined incase you wanted to do a bit of sun bathing. The front of the balcony is made of blue glass which lets you see through it out to the ocean even from your bed (there is a floor to ceiling window just next to the bed) and from now on a balcony is a must for me !!!!! Our butler already had a bottle of champagne on ice for our arrival but he came and introduced himself as Daniel , brought us the list of shore excursions menus etc and explained what he could do for us, e.g book our excursions, table reservations for the Club Atlantica, room service etc and bring us breakfast in the morning - this sound good to me !!! We then went for a quick browse around the ship (our luggage hadn't arrived yet but is WAS only 2 p.m. had a snack from the welcome buffet, went back to our cabin and as our luggage was there, unpacked and changed, in time for our sail away followed by early seating dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed our sail through the lagoon and we could see the famous landmarks of Venice in the distance. The only snag being that we had to go for dinner before we had seen all of the sail down the lagoon. But we knew we were coming back the same way so it wasn't a problem FOOD AND DINING AREAS We were first/early sitting which was at 7 p.m. main sitting was 9.45 p.m a bit too late for us. We had a table for 8 and had very nice table companions for the whole week.Our waiter and busboy were excellent although our busboy was quite new but he was ssooo eager to please. The food was excellent throughout to the point where as I can only manage 3 courses to remain comfortable after dinner I was in a real dilemma deciding what I could do without, I always had a starter but as I loved there soups AND their pastas it was a hard decision which one NOT to take, all main courses too were great.Just keep in mind that this a European ship with tastes to match in cooking (dont expect food to have an American slant, just as if you had gone to europe you would not expect to find American steak houses etc so enjoy the european slant on things) THE FOOD IN MY OPINION WAS SUPERB !!!! Our waiter was also very good in that if you choose something that he perhaps felt wasn't a good choice he would suggest something else e.g one evening for dessert we choose a lemon ice cream something or other (sorry i dont remember what it was called) and our waiter said "can I suggest that you choose something else" why we asked has it all gone or something "no he said, it is just that is is not made with real lemons but artificial flavoring and gelatin, but if you really want it i will order it, but I would suggest another choice" once again points awarded here for honesty and helpfulness. The food on the buffet stations too was excellent, but this is my one and only complaint from the whole cruise!!!! The restaurants at the buffets were CRAZY at meal times we could hardly get a table for the four of us at lunch time -my reckoning is that ;- 1.WE were in a minority being 4 of only 118 english speaking passengers,with the majority of passengers being Italian (not a problem in itself) BUT 2. The Italians on a whole love to eat, love to talk and love to take forever with lunch, this is where i feel the problem lies, as they have their lunch but remain at the table for AGES after they have finished eating to talk and talk and talk, So it does get a wee bit on the noisy side and tables are taken up for ages with them. But hey!!! its their vacation too ! so we just had lunch either later just before the buffet closed or went to the main dining room. 3. one other down point - sorry any Italians reading this - but they dont believe in waiting in line, if there is a line they think you have to join it at the FRONT !!! Other than that they were very courteous and always had a smiling Buon Giorno or Buona Sera when ever you passed them. WE took the opportunity to dine in the Club Atlantica as we could dine free as suite passengers, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience, there was only 3 other tables occupied, service, food etc were excellent and with a pianist playing and the stars shining in through the glass roof we were enchanted. Dont miss it. The theme nights in the main resuraunt were not to be missed either, on one occasion they dim the lights and the waiters come around carrying candles and then start to sing O SOLE MIO and dance with every lady guest, it was a lovely touch. The entertainment was great and varied and they had a talent show on the last night for passengers, very good! The staff were all warm and friendly and were actually pleased to hear an English (or rather SCOTTISH) accent apparently the europeans on a whole tend not to have much to do in the way of speaking with staff, they very much just see them as waiting staff and are not too friendly towards them. But we found that when they heard anyone speaking in english they were only too happy to chat with them and we found that we had better service too!! EXCURSIONS We booked 2 through Costa. Istanbul and Athens, had no problems what so ever with them. Excellent english speaking guides and our reservations were made on our behalf by our butler, so no waiting in line at the desk.They were reasonably priced andmost enjoyable.The other ports we just jumped in a cab and went to wherever we wanted. again no problems. DISEMBARKATION This to was swift and painless, we were given coloured tags for our luggage and an approx time that we would be off ship. and asked to be out of our cabins for 8.30.a.m. we could then wait in the Club Atlantica -suite guests- or a designated lounge for other passengers. We went onto the top deck for the sail up the GRAND CANAL -AWESOME truly amazing and the perfect ending to our WONDERFUL cruise. We then went up to club atlantica where pastries and soft drinks were provided, a Costa rep asked which colour tags we had (dark blue) and she came over to our table at 11a.m. and told us that we could now disembark. We were off ship and had our luggage in our hands by 11.15 a.m. PERFECT. I know this has been rather ? long so I will just add a few short notes to cover any points that I feel I may have missed. Smoking - No problems here smoking is NOT allowed in any of the theatres or dining areas or elevators, I hate smoking and never had any problems here at all. announcements - Again no problems here, very few announcements were made and any that were , were said in italian then english. The only exception being the lifeboat drill which was done in 5 languages but again this was not a problem . English speaking passengers - yes we were in the minority but we enjoyed the feeling of being in Italy (where we went for 10 days after the cruise) we actually felt that we were ABROAD . We were never made to feel as if we shouldn't have been there and actually managed to learn a few more words in Italian ! HELPFUL TIP FOR ANYONE WONDERING ABOUT CRUISING WITH COSTA - if you are the kind of person who likes things to be the same as home, surrounded by familiar things, foods drinks and people, Take a vacation in your back yard. BUT if you are the kind of person who likes to try new things,see new places, talk with new people and basically enjoy life. THEN get on a Costa cruise. I could have my suitcase packed and be there again in a heartbeat if I could. If there is anything at all that you feel I have missed, just Email me and I will do my best to help. Kindest regards from Scotland Sandra aka happy cruizer Read Less
Sail Date July 2003

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