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Cruise Review - Costa VictoriaCosta Mediterranea
Western Caribbean
March 4 - 11, 2007

by Mary & Vincent Finelli

There is an old saying "It is the company on a voyage that makes it so enjoyable." This, our fourth cruise on the Costa Mediterranea, proved the old adage right! There is a list (or rather a roster) of old friends and acquaintances, that we met again on board, which made this a terrific cruise. The wonderfully friendly Captain Giuseppe Russo tops the roster. The others are the following: the accomplished Hotel Director Attilio Sissa; Chef Massimo Molinaro with whom we crossed the Atlantic two years ago; Maitre D' Bartolomeo Vitiello with his impeccable continental manners (Yes, ladies you will be greeted with a kiss on the hand); The 2nd Maitre D' Antonello Tievoli (with the quirky reversible last name "I love it."); Then, there is the 2nd Maitre D' Raffaele Bailo (the Music Man), whose contributions to the ambiance of the Restaurant Degli Argentieri are immeasurable. Finally, Passenger Guest Relations Martina Fantoni, a lady who provides cruise rs with a great sense of the "Costa Family." This concludes the list of old friends, later on we will enumerate the new ones.

This was our 13th Costa Cruise and all excellent ones. Perhaps, it is the manner in which Vincent approaches them--with enthusiasm and a sense of homecoming. The very Italian flavor on the Costa Ships is contagious, enhanced by a decidedly international mix of passengers, since the Costa Line is after all the most popular in Europe.

EMBARKATION
Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is a mere twenty-five minutes from our home in Boca Raton, Fl. The Costa Mediterranea is berthed at a new pier recently built due to the increased number of ships calling Port Everglades home port. Go right at the first traffic light after the security check point (where there were long slow lines) and the ship looms gigantic on the pier. There were well defined separate lanes for busses, taxis and private autos. We were dropped off with our luggage, but since this was an impromptu trip (an offer we couldn't refuse) the porters tagged our luggage for us and it only took a minute. We had wheelchair assistance through check in and all the way to our suite. Boarding time is listed as 1:00pm, but we were on by 12:30pm. Excellent.

THE SHIP
We have written several reviews in great detail on the decorations of the Costa Mediterranea, which can be accessed on line. It is the magnificent work of Joe Farcus, Carnival's famous ship architect. He employed a massive amount of classical motifs to make the Mediterranea reflect the countries it represents. There is the Osiris theater (Egypt), the Medusa Club (Greece), and even the decks are named for both mythological and real persons from this area. Like her sister ship the Costa Atlantica, she sports the traditional Costa blue "C" on her yellow smoke stack. Built in Kvaerna Masa Shipyards, Finland in 2004; she is Panamax: 982 ft. long, 104 ft. wide, 196 ft. tall with a gross tonnage of 85,700. She has 12 decks and 1057 cabins of which 742 have balconies. She is powered by 6 Diesel Generators and has a maximum speed of 24 knots. Her total passenger capacity is 2,680 and has a crew of 920.

Enough of the specifics, the Mediterranea is graced with the works of 34 contemporary artists and a large heavy tome (over 250 pages) has been devoted to the great art collection on board: "L'Arte della Commedia." La Commedia dell'Arte (the Comedy of Masks) includes the famous classical characters of Pulcinella (Punch), Colombina (Columbine), Arlecchino (Harlequin), Rosaura, Capitan Spaventa (Captain Frightful), etc. The atrium's main wall has the six masked Venetian characters in full regalia -- a sartorial triumph! The Vignale designs and the Cioce photographs of dancers are stunning and of museum quality. There are 48 Cioce panels in the Atrium Maschera d'Argento (Silver Mask Hall), depicting dance in movement so beautifully, that they are unforgettable. There are also many sculpted figures in dance poses which occupy the rest of the 8 deck high wall.

Decks 2 (Tersicore) and 3(Bacco) are public decks with the Osiris Theater forward, Via Condotti Shops, the Piazza Casanova, the Casino, Passenger Services Desk and the Tour Desk and the two level restaurant of the silversmiths "Ristorante degli Argentieri." 

Decks 4 (Teseo), 5(Orfeo), 6 (Narciso), 7 (Promoteo), and 8 (Pegaso) are all staterooms.

Decks 9 (Armonia) and 10 (Cleopatra) are all public areas including the Buffet and grills, pools and whirlpools, spas, gym, tennis courts, jogging tracks, etc. 

The Costa Mediterranea is an art and amenity filled ship of the first magnitude.

FOOD & SERVICE
Costa Line describes itself as "Cruising Italian Style" and this is very evident in the good manners of its crew. Even though, they are a multicultural group, they all greet passengers in Italian. Hotel Director Sissa has instilled in them a very gracious and friendly attitude towards passengers. Everyone goes the extra mile to please and they deserve excellent marks for politeness. On formal night the Maitre D' Bartolomeo all dressed in tails is quite elegant. On Gala night the tables have not only the usual flowers, but also candles, in addition to the complimentary champaign. Each night the waiters are in different outfits: white formal jackets, black formal jackets, and even Red-White-Green for the Italian dinner. There is always dinner music including the following: Classical Italian and American songs, Neapolitan favorites, and even Argentine tangos. All because 2nd Maitre D' Raffaele is an aficionado with both deep interest and knowledge of good music.

Of course, not only is the ambiance Italian, but so is the food. Our waiters Julio Katinding and his assistant Chester Coronica were tip top. We enjoyed appetizers of Grana Padana and Prosciutto di Parma, pate` with pistachios, and Escargot. The various soups were interesting and the hot ones included pasta e fagioli and double chicken broth with tortellini; the cold ones included Pear cocktail with Kirsch, and chilled cucumber yogurt with dill soup. Pasta courses were abundant such as Farfalle al Salmone (Bow ties with Salmon), Fettuccine Alfredo and Penne con Pomodoro Fresco (pasta with fresh tomato). The entrees included Beef, Veal, Lamb, Chicken, Salmon, Tuna (steaks or Carpaccio), swordfish broiled to perfection and quite succulent. The King crabs were wonderful too. Chef Massimo Molinaro made terrific swordfish involtini (roll ups). Excutive Chef Giovanni Scalet is to be congratulated for his many unique offerings. Bravo! 

Desserts were varied and not overly sweet. Excellent Napoleons, Baba au Rum, Tiramisu and fresh exotic fruits from raspberries, blueberries and blackberries to papayas, mangos and Kiwis. We had room service each morning for breakfast and our Butler Carla was always punctual and hot items were hot and chilled ones cold. The full restaurant menu was available: eggs any way, pancakes, waffles, French toast, fruits and sides orders of bacon, and potatoes, Danish, Bagels and rolls of all kinds. The breads on board Costa are very crunchy, just the way we like bread. Grissini (bread sticks) are fresh and delicious and set every night on every table. 

We dined on Deck 10 at the Club Medusa Restaurant twice. This upscale Italian restaurant has a beautiful setting and wonderful ambiance, with the excellent music of pianist and singer Domenico Mancuso (a wonderful repertoire and excellent voice). The dance floor is large and well used. The tables are set with gold brocade tablecloths and Versace red and gold plates. We chose the fixed taster's menu, which is an eight course meal that has a duration of about two and one half hours. But there was also an a la carte menu with great variety. The Club Supervisor is Rahul Upadhyay, whom we met before; he is very efficient and aims for excellence.

Congratulations to both Captain Russo and Hotel Director Attilio Sissa, they have a well oiled machine.

CABIN
Suite #6184 on Deck 6 is a large cabin with excellent appointments. On entering on the right is a lady's dressing room with two wardrobes, and a lighted vanity with an upholstered stool. Through this ante room there is the large bathroom, with a full jacuzzi tub/shower, a double sink and many shelves for toiletries. Costa Mediterranea provides sets of their own brand shampoos, and lotions which are superb. Next, there is the queen size bed with a gorgeous peach brocaded coverlet and choice of several types of pillows (contour, firm, extra firm, and soft). There is a handy bar with granite topped counters, night stands and tables. There is a personal safe and refrigerator. The large extra long peach leather couch has two matching chairs. There are also two more armoires. The far wall has floor to ceiling windows and a glass door to the very large balcony which holds two recliners and a table of teak wood. Our Cabin Stewardess was Danina and between her and Butler Carla we were pampe red all week long. We were also visited by our former Butler Ronald Andaya, whom we met last year on a Costa Mediterranea cruise. What a surprise!

ENTERTAINMENT
Cruise Director Gabriele Di Gangi is witty, handsome, and enthusiastic. He is surrounded by a high spirited group which spends many hours organizing and running a multitude of activities such as the following: Bingo, Trivia, Casino Tournaments, Athletic games, etc. The Costa Orchestra, Singers and Dancers are very good. The Platchkov Duo from the Moscow Circus did excellent juggling. The new production show "The Elements" of fire, wind, earth and water is magnificent, especially when time is taken to read the program and understand the theme. A tenor Edmondo Rahme sang international songs from Tom Jones to Pavarotti. He was quite good in the pop songs and involved the audience, but his classical opera arias were not as good. There is an International night, where passengers wander from one lounge to another where different ethnic themes are presented. Costa gives passengers a "passport" to be stamped in the areas representing France, Greece, Spain and Egypt, then the passenger can g et a discount of $100 on future cruise with the approved passport. There is an Italian Night with masks and a Toga Night with a Variety Show where Caesar 's thumb up or thumb down can send the poor Christian to the feast or to the lions. There is great fun to be had on board.

PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Depart 7:00pm (usually). On this day the sailing was delayed.

Day 2. Key West, FL USA Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm. There are free shuttle busses to downtown. We have been in Key West many times, thus we have visited all of the interesting places including President Truman's Little White House, The Key West Shipwreck Historeum, the Hemingway Home and the famous Sloppy Joe's Bar. This time, we just did some shopping downtown.

Day 3. At Sea.

Day 4. Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm. Tendering ashore. We did not go ashore. However, among the tours we prefer are the Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling (2.5 hours, $ 47) and the Stingray Observatory and Island Highlights (3 hours, $ 60).

Day 5. Roatan, Honduras Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 5:00pm. We took the West Side Highland Tour (4 hours, $ 46) and were disappointed in both the Carambola Botanical Garden and the visit to the Butterfly and Parrot Park. 

Day 6. Cozumel, Mexico Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm. We consider this port as the best shopping place in the Western Caribbean. For those interested in archeological tours, the visit to the Ancient Mayan city of Tulum is a must (8 hours, $ 82). Several great snorkeling and SCUBA diving tours are available.

Day 7. At Sea.

Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Arrive: 7:00am 

DEBARKATION
Immigration authorities were speedy and debarkation began at 8:15am. We had wheelchair assistance from our suite all the way through passport check, luggage pick up, customs and out to the curb. Very smooth, and we were off by 8:45am. Excellent.

CONCLUSION
We enjoy cruising on new ships; however, we frequently return to those ships where we had some of our best cruises and that is understandable, since we like to repeat pleasurable experiences. Some of our favorite ships of Costa are the Atlantica and the Mediterranea, thus we have cruised four times on both of these ships. One of the major reasons for these preferences is the people we have met aboard, and when we return it is like coming home, and enjoying seeing familiar faces in familiar places. Cruising Italian Style is just great, "That's Amore." Happy Cruising!

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