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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman


Costa Atlantica
Costa Cruises
April 1, 2001

Tips:

1. If you want to book Club Atlantica - alternative dining ($15 +15% surcharge), do it EARLY! Book it (at the front desk/guest services) for a casual night, like Wednesday (St. Thomas) or Thursday (Catalina Island). Monday (sea day) and Friday (sea day) are the formal nights, Saturday is Toga night. I think you need to get off the ship in San Juan (Tuesday) for Dragonfly.

2. Be sure to pack extra luggage: with the 4 bathrobes we bought on board, t-shirts, liquor, etc., we needed the extra duffle bag we packed (we filled it with dirty laundry). 

3. Do the water slide! It's a blast! It's open only out at sea: Monday 10a-11a & 4p-5p, Tuesday 10a-11a (because you don't dock in San Juan until after 3p), Friday 10a-11a & 4p-5p. When I was first on it Monday morning, the adults outnumbered the kids 2:1.

4. The gym is open 8a-8p daily, so if you prefer to work out before breakfast (I do), you won't make it to the dining room for breakfast. You can make it to the buffet until 9:30a, then it's continental. On the one day I missed the buffet, I had a sandwich (it's a European ship, so "continental" means rolls and cold cuts, as well as the pastries).

5. Bring some bonine, or other anti-motion sickness drugs. There were a couple of nights that the ship rocked and rolled, so much so that they had motion sickness bags around the ship. We were surprised about the rocking and rolling as well. I guess to save fuel and make time they didn't deploy the stabilizers as much. I've heard they have a certain level of rocking and rolling that is "tolerable". We didn't get sick, but we know other people did. 

6. Sign up for the Bridge tour (again at the front desk). We heard it was great but, like Club Atlantica, it fills up quick!

Cabin & Facilities:

This ship is FABULOUS! Having sailed on Costa Romantica and Costa Victoria, Atlantica definitely is very different in style. All 3 are Italian and luxurious. I'd say that the Romantica and Victoria are "Armani" (clean, cool and elegant), while Atlantica is "Versace" (glitzy, sexy, and outrageous). Yes, you can buy Versace in the onboard shops, including a limited-edition, white gold chronograph watch (with Cartier automatic movement, I was told) for a mere $5,400.

We had a balcony cabin (6221) and it was the best cabin we've had (layout, not including the balcony). It was our first balcony in 5 cruises (Costa Romantica 4-98, Celebrity Mercury 4-99, Celebrity Galaxy 12-99, Costa Victoria 4-00, and Costa Atlantica 4-01). We're HOOKED! I didn't spend more than 3 hours total on the balcony for the entire cruise, but it was very, very nice. If this were just an outside cabin (like we've had in our other 4 cruises), it would still rate as the best cabin. Second would be Costa Romantica, followed by the Celebrity Mercury/Galaxy twins, and last place would be Costa Victoria (too small!). Good storage space, Bathroom very well equipped with Grohe fixtures, and a hairdryer in the top drawer of the vanity (which is a welcome change from the bathroom wall-mount units I've had before). There was a note in the on-board newsletter "Today" about the satellite TV being unavailable, but I was able to tune in CNN, TNT, 2 Italian and 1 German station, as well as the 5 different movie channels (different languages). 

The gym was spectacular: two stories, very well equipped! Since this is a European ship, everything is calibrated METRIC: just remember 1.6 km ~ 1 mile, 1 kg ~ .45 lb The free weight area has an assortment of dumbbells up to 22kg (~48 lbs) each, and 3 adjustable-incline benches. If you think that's not heavy enough, just remember you're on a MOVING BOAT: heavier weights are hard enough to control when you're on LAND. Besides, you're on VACATION, Hercules... the last thing you want to do is injure yourself. At the center of the gym was a hot tub (ok, WARM tub). No, this is not the Thalassotherapy pool you find on Celebrity Century/Galaxy/Mercury, but it's still very nice. The men's locker room has a large sauna, a great steam room, and very luxurious showers (large, tiled, glass-doored, with Grohe single-overhead & 4 side mount sprayheads).

Besides the tub in the gym, there were three additional tubs, one attached to each of the three pools. The one in the back of the ship is "adults only". If you have children, please don't use this: it's smaller than the other two, and some of us want to get away from the kids. There's also a crew-only sundeck and pool at the front ("crew beach," I was told). As I said before, take advantage of the water slide!

Food:

Food on the ship was good. We're really foodies, and I don't think you can get spectacular gourmet food on a cruise ship (unless you're shelling out $$$$ for Sea Goddess, Silversea, and the like). We ordered some soup and sandwiches from room service one afternoon after a workout in the gym: the beef broth and the tuna sandwich were good. At dinner, we usually ordered 2 entrees, along with the appetizer, salad and desert. Ask your maitre d' for bruschetta on the first night, and you'll get it again for every night that follows. Monday night (sea day, formal night), my partner ordered 3 lobster tails, as well as the chateaubriand (steak). On another night, he had 4 desserts surrounding him. The pastas are very good. What's new on the menu is the "available every night" selections, so Caesar salad, fettuccini alfredo (with peas and ham), grilled salmon, strip steak, chicken fingers, and some other items were always there. If I were very focused on food, I'd have picked Celebrity, which I've found to have better food and service (but with a bigger price: we find the VALUE of Costa to be better). As it is, I'm trying to drop body fat (gotta get in shape for summer!), so I only gained a pound on the cruise.

We had late seating, so we rarely ate at the midnight buffets. A couple of changes: there is no "buffet tour through the kitchen" like on Romantica and Victoria. The kitchen/galley is located BELOW the restaurant, and they use high-speed elevators to get the food up to the dining room (very similar to Celebrity Century/Galaxy/Mercury upper level dining room). Also, there were a couple of nights that the "Midnight Surprise" was just flambéed fruit with ice cream (like peach melba - the other night it was sautéed pears). On "Italian Night" (Thursday), the buffet included a very delicious stuffed young pig and fettuccini in pesto. I think that was the BEST food served on the ship for the whole cruise. I was very happy to see the stuffed piggy make a return visit, via the lunch buffet Saturday (yes, I know it sounds like they "recycled" it, but I didn't care: it was still good!). Actually, on several nights, I walked by the buffet and thought, "hmmm, those two were the desserts we just ordered after dinner..."

We ate most of our lunches in the dining room (except Saturday, when piggy returned on the topside buffet). It was good. The only thing I missed from previous Costa Cruises was the chilled soup at dinner. How I miss that bowl of cream of pistachio soup!

Ports:

Fortunately, the shipped docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico on the FIRST TUESDAY of the month, which is "Noche de Galerias": several streets in Old San Juan are blocked off, and the art galleries are open late. We stopped at several, met some of the featured artists, had wine, Perrier, hors d'oeuvres, and looked at some very different pieces. Some were very expensive pieces ($50K+) you can get here on the mainland (also for $50K). We HIGHLY recommend Dragonfly (364 Fortenza St.) for dinner ("Chino-Latino fusion"). It's about 5 blocks from the ship. It's also pricey (2 drinks, 6 items - $130 with tip), but very worth it: get the prawns, the sea bass, the duck nachos, it's ALL good! We went there in shorts, put our names in (no reservations), and came back later after changing clothes (no shorts in the restaurant). The restaurant was filled with very hip, attractive people. They all smoked, but we didn't notice the smoke AT ALL (they have a very effective ventilation system). We had our "Out & About" guides (for gay and lesbian travelers) for Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, which is how we found out about "gallery night" and this restaurant. You can purchase (and download them) from the "outandabout.com" website, if you're not already a subscriber.

In St. Thomas (Wednesday), we bought our liquor from A.H. Riise downtown, not at the mall by the dock. We got liquors that aren't available here in the USA, such as stuff made in St. Thomas, and an interesting one from South Africa. However, we heard that K-MART was a better place for liquor. We don't know. If you go to A.H. Riise, be sure to bring your "port shopping guide" (it's in with the ship's newsletter "Today" that the steward leaves on your bed each night) and get your "free gift with purchase" (a beach bag - very handy). START BACK FOR THE SHIP BEFORE 4PM, or you might be like the person running and screaming ("WAIT! WAIT!") down the pier at 4:45 (Atlantica's gangway is at the END of the pier, which seems VERY long if you're about to miss the ship). Remember, there are several ships in port, all leaving around the same time, so all those passengers are in taxis, which are all snarled in traffic, trying to get back to the ships.

Catalina Island (Thursday) is the beach day. Get to the private island (Catalina) early (I didn't, so I'm telling you to go early). When we went, it was sunny all morning, but started to do the rain-sunny, rain-sunny, rain-sunny thing around noon. After the second dousing, we headed for the picnic buffet on the island: burgers, ribs, etc. Had we gotten off earlier, we'd have better quality beach time. Also, we hiked a bit to get to a spot with available lounge chairs: if we were there earlier, we'd have been closer (albeit more crowded later). There was a spa special: 20 minute foot & ankle massage for $20 on the beach, as well as on the ship. Didn't try it, but the person who was getting one as I walked by the beachside massage gazebo looked very relaxed.

As for Nassau (Saturday), we only got off the ship to get Ziploc bags. A number of people RAVED about Atlantis on Paradise Island.

Gripe:

WHINY PASSENGERS. I heard some complaints regarding announcements made in 5 languages. I like hearing all the announcements: it drowns out all the annoying whining in English. Seriously, this is a cruise line marketed heavily in Europe and Latin America ("#1 in Europe" should be a giveaway), so there are LOTS of non-US citizens on board. On this cruise of 2,200, >1,000 were non-US citizens. If you want an English-only cruise, book elsewhere!

Summary:

Like I said before, we like the VALUE of Costa: this was less than $175/person/day with a balcony. If you want something higher-end, by all means PAY FOR IT! Book Crystal, Radisson, Seabourn, Silversea, etc. at $700/person/day or more. For food and service, I prefer Celebrity: at dinner, Celebrity has a sommelier (wine steward) who can help you select a wine, instead of ordering wine just off a short list from the assistant waiter (busboy) on Costa; and Celebrity brings a dessert tray, instead of just a dessert menu. There are more differences, but the main one for me was PRICE: Celebrity Millennium would have cost HUNDREDS more than Costa Atlantica for NO BALCONY. We decided to get the balcony, and spend the bucks elsewhere (like Dragonfly). Good thing too, since Millennium went into dry dock that week.

We would have spent some of those savings on artwork, but Park West no longer does the art auctions on board. Instead, it's a new company: West End Galleries (I think). We didn't find the artwork to our liking. There were a couple of pieces at the auction we purchased previously and those were the only pieces we really liked. On all the previous cruises, we bought multiple items. I guess we'll take the money we earmarked for art and apply it for next year's cruise. I called my travel agent the morning after we got back to book a balcony on Costa Atlantica!

If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me: Dennis at dg30084@yahoo.com

Photo--Courtesy of Costa Cruises


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