April 7 - 14, 2002
By Vincent &
This was our 26th cruise and our 6th
on the Costa Line (3 on the Costa Romantica, 1 on the Costa
Victoria and our 2nd on the Costa Atlantica, having sailed
on her inaugural Caribbean voyage in December 2000). Our first review
on the Atlantica was an overview of its huge art collection,
plus a detailed description of its many beautiful public areas.
This review will center on
"Cruising Italian Style," since we feel that Hotel Director
Attilio Sissa and Cruise Director Ray Rouse and staff have given
this exquisitely maintained ship an ambiance that celebrates Italian
Hospitality, Music, and of course Cuisine. If you want to enjoy
pleasant surroundings, excellent service, festive atmosphere and a
variety of activities facilitating interaction among passengers, cruise
on the Costa Atlantica!
Costa ships are predominately white, elegant in shape and sport their
traditional yellow smoke stacks with the navy blue "C" and
the Atlantica carries on this tradition. She can be easily
located in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, since she is 960 ft.
long, 200 ft tall, a beam of 106 ft., and has a gross tonnage of
84,000. Her cruising speed is 24 knots, which is quite fast for a
cruising ship of this size. Her passenger capacity is 2,112 and crew
is 900. She is majestic and her Captain Giorgio Moretti has every
right to be proud of her.
Luggage was handled efficiently curb side, but there were not enough
crew to assist all wheelchairs, so Mary pushed Vincent's chair through
the terminal and on to the ship. Costa has a separate check-in line
for those in suites and handicapped passengers. We arrived at 12:30pm
and boarded at 1:00pm; however, our fellow cruisers had a longer wait
and boarded at 2:00pm, when most passengers did, even though noon was
listed as boarding time. We are not sure why there was an hour delay,
but it made some passengers grumpy until they hit the buffet. Credit
cards are registered on board later, at the passenger's leisure.
SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS
This ship is very easy to get around; there are three sets of
elevators, forward, aft and center. All decks are named after Federico
On Deck 1 "Luci del
Varietà" forward is the Corallo Lounge with its striking under
water motif; then there is a series of cabins and aft is the main
galley with its escalator up to the dining rooms.
Deck 2 "La Dolce
Vita" has forward the first floor of the Caruso Theater, a
simple, elegant room with sofa style seating and just two poles
supporting the balcony (essentially no seats with limited or
obstructed view). Going toward midship are the card rooms, Piazza
Madama Butterfly and next the Casino/Bar Fortuna with marble statuary
and many tables and slot machines. Centrally located is "La Dolce
Vita" Atrium/Bar, ten decks high with wonderful replicas of
Pompeian murals and delicately lighted Bird Cage glass elevators. This
is a busy, much used hub, often with delightful music at the grand
piano by Kelly Monzello. Going aft is Dante's Disco Club and the main
floor of the Titian Restaurant, a beautiful room with unforgettable
Venetian glass discs, reminiscent of the sun on the ocean, and many
gilt framed replicas of Titian's paintings.
Deck 3 "La Strada"
forward has the first balcony of the Caruso Theater with its high
backed individual seats (very comfortable); midship is the stunning
Caffè Florian, three distinct rooms which are replicas of the
original Caffè Florian in Piazza S. Marco, Venice, Italy. This is the
closest thing to Venetian Elegance outside of Italy. Nearby is the
Library, gentleman's club style with computers. Midship is also
"Via della Spiga" shops, which hold various shopping
treasures, including Versace dishes, designer clothes and liquors
bottled in Venetian glassware. Very nice and not too expensive: good
buys! Centrally located is the Conference Center and toward aft the
long "Paparazzi Lounge" with its many nostalgic photos of
film stars of the 50's and 60's (Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg,
Jayne Mansfield, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner (as a blonde!) etc., etc.,
etc. In the aft is the balcony of the Titian Restaurant.
Deck 4 "Roma"
forward has the second balcony of the Caruso Theater and all the way
aft are cabins.
Deck 5 "Clowns",
Deck 6 "Amarcord", Deck 7 "Intervista"
and Deck 8 "8 1/2" are all cabins, mostly with
Deck 9 "Ginger &
Fred" forward has the gym, midship is the open theater, pools and
bars. Towards aft are the Pizzeria Napoli, Botticelli Restaurant and
at the stern is the Lido Aurora Bar for outside dining.
Deck 10 "E La Nave Va"
forward holds the fully equipped gym, the Solarium pool with
retractable dome and the Club Atlantica, alternative dining and the
suspended crystal staircase down to Deck 9. Anyone subject to vertigo,
or with fear of heights, should forgo this glass stairway; however,
many love the floating sensation climbing these stairs.
Deck 11 "La Voce della
Luna" forward holds the jogging track and aft is the Balcony of
the Club Atlantica.
Deck 12 "Le Notti di
Cabiria" is the top open deck where strong, exhilarating winds
can be enjoyed when the ship cruises at full speed.
Now that specific areas of the ship
are defined, they will be referred to throughout this writing.
Our Grand Suite #7223 (360 sq. ft.) was much similar to the Panoramic
Suite #6219, we occupied in 2000. Teakwood, brass, granite and leather
all abound. When entering on the left is a mirrored wall and the first
wardrobe, then a refrigerator, and a desk with many drawers. There is
a contoured coral leather sofa bed, two upholstered chairs, a large
coffee table and the door to the double long balcony. When entering,
on the right is a privacy wall, then a lady's vanity with sink and a
second wardrobe with complimentary robes and slippers. There is a full
bath/jacuzzi, double sinks, shelves and mirrors, a bidet and granite
counters with marble, tile and mosaics.
Next is the queen bed alcove, two
night stands with Venetian glass lamps trimmed with copper and another
lady's wardrobe. The far wall is glass with a TV console, private safe
and more drawers. The color scheme is beige, coral and navy blue. The
walls are decorated with two original art works: one a family of seven
figures by Stefano Spagnoli is very geometric, in bold colors and
whimsical; the other is a montage of a Venetian Balcony with coral and
blue doors with wrought iron -- a propos.
FOOD & SERVICE
With the vigilance and help of the two Asst. Maitre d's, both named
Gianni, and the genial Maitre d' Umberto Iacomino (who is all over the
ship overseeing the many different venues) we had table #52 for six,
early seating, near a window overlooking the wake of the ship. We had
many lovely dinners at sunset, at an excellent table well served by
our waiter Ismail Shareef (India via Egypt) whose impeccable
service and finesse lead us to believe he may soon be moving up in his
career probably to Asst. Maitre d' (perhaps on one of Costa's many
projected new ships), since he is a polyglot whose manners and
appearance are impressive.
The variety of food presented was
enough to please every palate, especially the pasta dishes which were
unusually excellent and some magnificent: Pappardelle alla
Cacciatora (home made wide flat noodles with wild porcini
mushrooms in a cream sauce); Fagottini ai quattro formaggi (beggar's
pouches of pasta stuffed with cheese, meat, ricotta and spinach); and
Vincent's favorite Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino,
excellently prepared by the Maitre d'.
The appetizers included
favorites like Shrimp Cocktail, Prosciutto e Melone or Grana
Padano cheese, Carpaccio di Carne (thinly sliced beef
marinated and served with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano
cheese) and many fresh fruit combinations to tantalize the palate. The
salads were fresh, crisp and varied: Spinach with bacon and pine nuts;
Hearts of lettuce with goat cheese; Mixed greens with arugula,
endive, romaine, radicchio etc.
Main courses were excellent: Veal ossobuco
with polenta, Filet Mignon, Lobster Tail, Crispy Peking
Duckling. Every dinner was an occasion; Mary's sister Elizabeth and
her husband Vito, with their friends Cynthia and Robert, made our
table merry with stories of their daily excursions. Shareef made
dessert time unique with twin desserts until we outwitted him and only
half of us ordered dessert, but still on the last night, we all wore
clothes with elasticized waistbands. The Sicilian cannoli, the
many flavored ice creams, including rum raisin and pistachio, and the
hot soufflés were all excellent, as were the sugar free items.
But most of all we loved the Pastiera, a delicious Neapolitan
cheese cake, especially ordered for us by the Maitre d'.
The Botticelli Buffet was popular,
especially Tea Time every afternoon with its many gourmet blended tea
varieties plus cookies, sandwiches and cakes. The pizza was nothing to
write home about. The Atlantica needs a Neapolitan Pizza Man,
who can mix an excellent dough and prepare freshly made pizzas right
on the spot, as is done on Princess ships, and not serve warmed up
frozen supermarket style pizzas.
Room Service was slow, perhaps due to
overwhelming demand, since most of the time the phone line was busy.
We used the breakfast order forms, placed them on the door handle of
our cabin each evening and we had a full American breakfast delivered
each morning at 7:45am. The food was good and hot with a bud vase of
fresh flowers on our tray.
The Gala dinners were just exquisite,
and not only for the delicious entrees, but for the joyous atmosphere
which permeated throughout the dining room. Our group has several
wonderful portraits taken by Patrizio Marras, one of Costa's
photographers. Thank you, Patrizio, for the memories.
Cruise Director Ray Rouse is a debonair and busy fellow. He and his
crew generate an aura of Festa Italiana. The many
activities include the following: Bingo, Trivia Quizzes (we won four),
Crafts, Line Dancing, Dancing Lessons, Italian Lessons, Cooking
Demonstrations, Exercise Classes, etc., etc. and of course the shows
in the Caruso theater. The first two days were rough sea days, so the
"Metamorphosis" show had to be canceled, but Van Pressley
Jr. of the famous Platters did a one man show that brought the crowd
to cheers ("Smoke gets in Your Eyes" and "The Great
Pretender" and other 50's and 60's melodies were a trip down
Richard Ianni, the warm Italian tenor
brought the audience to its feet with his international favorites: "La
Vie en Rose" and "Te Voglio Bene." Ianni's
voice is powerful and well schooled -- Bravo!
At the Caffè Florian, we enjoyed
Luis Cartin (Spain) accompanied by Marcel Roscovan on violin and Rogut
Anatolie on Piano. To sit in this beautiful setting for a Caffè
Concerto Strauss is so delightful: Cartin's voice is splendid and
these three are true artists. We also enjoyed performances by Monika
and the Coco's Band. Her strong and clear voice is outstanding -- Brava!
To sum up, "Cruising Italian
Style" is more fun than any other way. The theme nights, the
Italian, the Bacchanal and the two Gala dinners had the passengers
participating in singing and playing carnival games with the elegantly
costumed crew. Needless to say, it was enjoyable to be in a dining
room filled with passengers waving their napkins and singing "O
Sole Mio" and waiters leading conga lines. The next day
everyone acted like old friends.
The horse race was a special event
for us since "Phantom Fury" out of Ferrante Stables in
Deerfield Beach, FL won the Owner's Sweepstakes for Elizabeth and Vito
and a purse of $900 ($5.00 tickets paid $20.00). He just edged out
"Rocky" and the crowd roared. Nice job of calling the race
by Ray Rouse!
There is music everywhere and smiles
galore; this could be the closest some may come to life Italian style.
PORTS OF CALL
San Juan, Puerto Rico: Arrival 3:30pm Departure
Arrival is a bit too late for the San Juan City Tour ($25); Fort San
Cristobal was closing when the group arrived, so they missed this
highlight. This is also too late for the rain forest tours, but for
San Juan night life the timing is fine, i.e., Latin Tradition Show
St. Thomas, USVI: Arrival
7:30am Departure 5:00pm
The 2 hr Skyline Drive ($30) is a very scenic tour, it ascends to the
volcanic mountain tops then circles down and ends with shopping at
Charlotte Amalie. Shopping in St. Thomas is among the best in the USVI.
We always pay a visit to Mr. Tablecloth for the best linens and
Catilina Island, Dominican Rep.:
Arrival 8:00am Departure 6:00pm
Altos Chavon Village Tour, 5 hrs ($31) is a bus ride along the Chavon
River and a stop at the replica of a cobblestone paved 17th century
Mediterranean Village with an artists colony. There are two other
tours with rides on the river at $49, each and for approximately 5
hrs. The ship offers a day on their private beach with BBQ and many
prefer swimming and sunning. Tenders are used.
Nassau, Bahamas: Arrival
9:15am Departure 6:00pm
Best Tour is the Dolphin Encounter 3 1/2 hrs ($88) "Educational
and Fun." Then there is the Nassau Island Tour 2 hrs ($24) which
is great for first timers and includes a visit to the famous Atlantis
Paradise Island. Normally we just go shopping at our favorite places
like the "Perfume Bar" and other shops downtown.
In order to avoid crowding Costa assigns specific waiting areas to
each colored luggage tag. Disembarkation was simple and orderly.
Customs were quick and efficient. We were off by 8:30 am and home in
less than an hour.
We enjoy cruising. We have never had a bad cruise, as matter of fact,
we have loved all of our cruises, some more than others. This cruise
was among the best ones, since it was our return to this beautiful
ship and a visit to our friend Attilio Sissa, Hotel Director, who
offered us great hospitality. We also enjoyed the company of our
fellow cruisers, Cynthia & Robert and Elizabeth & Vito.
However, we offer a few suggestions to make a great cruise even
1. The embarkation process was a bit
slow. We suggest using a process similar to that adopted by Princess,
which utilizes separate check-in windows for each group of cabins
(category/deck), thus cutting the length of lines. Moreover,
additional wheelchair assistance is needed outside the terminal, near
the luggage drop off site. If the ship is not ready for embarkation at
noon (the current check-in time), then Costa should slate it for one
o'clock. Thus, passengers would not arrive so early and create long
waiting lines. The terminal is spacious and the staff is sufficient to
speedily process documents and board the passengers quickly. Also
credit card registration should be done together with other documents
at boarding time and not later on the ship.
2. Room Service is a tad slow and
most of the time the telephone was busy in regular cabins as well in
suites. This service needs improvement.
3. Pizza is definitely of inferior
quality, especially when compared to the freshly made ones on the
Grand and Golden Princess. It is important that an Italian
Cruise Line like Costa, who has a great tradition of Italian cuisine
and advertises "Cruising Italian Style" offers a good
pizza Italian style. Frozen pizzas may be tolerable on ships of other
nationalities, but not on the Atlantica, Costa's
flagship, who sails the seas under the Italian flag. There is a
need to hire a good Pizzaiolo.
By the way, we congratulate Costa for
acting on one of our previous suggestions: The chlorine aftertaste of
the water, ice tea and reconstituted juices which we reported in our
first Costa Atlantica review is no longer present in any drinks. Water
filtration and/or quality control on chlorination has evidently
eliminated the problem.
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