The ship: Costa Victoria was
built in 1996. Billed as an "Italian" carrier, we
expected things like food and wine to be superb. They weren't. In
fact, the food was the most disappointing part of the trip (more
on that later). Carnival owns the Costa line and from a customer's
viewpoint has pretty much left Costa's Italian-themed operations
alone. However, Costa's website could greatly benefit from some
upstairs consulting. It is unfriendly and nearly unusable - the
worst of any line. On this trip, the ship was full: 1200 French,
500 Italians, 100 Germans, 100 Spanish, and 100 English-speaking.
We left for Europe determined to avoid being the stereotypical
"Americans on vacation" who complain about everything
and want to be treated differently. To blend in, we dressed
European (black, no sneakers, small logos), tipped everyone where
appropriate, and were generally very nice. As it turned out, we
had nothing to worry about, as the French took first place at
being obnoxious. Politically, we have nothing against the French,
but they were pointedly rude to everyone, not just to us. The
Italian crew was clearly irritated by constant complaints and the
French habit of breaking into lines - everywhere. 65-year-old
French women would literally elbow their way to the front of any
line, husbands and families in tow, as if each event from the
buffet to the shore trip was the last lifeboat on a sinking ship.
Our cabin (1115) was well appointed with a big porthole in one
wall. The cryptic TV remote will require some experimenting to
choose channels. Like an ancient puzzle, getting channels above 10
took some time and patience. The Photo staff took excellent
pictures. With backdrops such as the Pyramids and the Parthenon,
that wasn't too hard a feat!
The staff: Captain Giacomo Longo
and his officers kept a low profile. A first for us, the Victoria
has a full-time Chaplain who led services daily in a dedicated
Chapel (deck 7). Cruise Director Cristina DioGuardi was also
scarce except for opening and closing staged events in the
theatre. She speaks (at least) five languages fluently - French,
Italian, German, Spanish, and English - and delivered each
announcement flawlessly in all five. Rarely do we comment on
someone's appearance, but for such a public position it begs
mentioning. Cruise Director Cristina's teeth, in obvious
disrepair, distract from a nice smile and detract from her
professionalism. Big thanks to English host Paolo, who graciously
offered to help a group of us get transportation out of Savona and
ended up with much more hassle than he bargained for!
The most romantic spot is in the
Concorde Plaza, deck 7. This spectacular 4-story club has a
central elevator. Take it to the top level (3) and there are two
hidden rooms, one on either side of the ship. We prefer starboard
(wink, wink) right as you exit the elevator.
Embarking is fast - arrival to
onboard in 15 minutes, even at peak times. There is a brand new
port building in Savona (it opened the week we returned) clearly
indicating Costa's presence in this small port city.
Costa does not allow advance tour
booking on their website so do it first thing on board. We did not
hear of a bad trip from anyone. Very few were cancelled due to
weather. The Pyramids trip from the port of Alexandria to Cairo is
long (12 hours, including 7 in the bus) but well worth it to see
this Ancient Wonder of the World. Take the Jeep trip on Corfu to
see old world Greek villages in the mountains, with little old
ladies guiding donkeys through the streets and the best local wine
served with local feta.
Costa has a "Honeymoon"
drink special that's an exceptional deal and you don't have to be
on a honeymoon to buy it. For $48, you get a bottle of wine, 16
sodas, and two margarita-style big drinks.
Tips are $3 less per person per
day than in the US, $7 instead of $10, given the last day of the
cruise. Costa will not let you charge them to your account as has
become customary in the US.
A taxi from Genoa to Savona is
$100, so if you have time is to take the train ($13 each person,
plus $40 cab fare to and from the stations). The Costa shuttle is
the best deal at $65 a person round trip.
There were no good Spa deals. In
fact, the Spa/gym area was unusually small for such a large ship.
Although they offered some in-port discounts, usually those were
the most interesting ports! See Alessandro for a massage - people
come back glassy-eyed from an hour with him.
On the way home, we stayed at the
Regent Palace Hotel in London, a great location (25 feet from the
Piccadilly Circus metro stop) and a great price ($99 a night).
Don't go on a cruise without
getting cruise insurance. www.quotesmith.com has rates that are
always better than what the cruise lines will offer. There are so
many things that can go wrong when travelling to Europe (and
making connections) that insurance is absolutely essential. We've
used TravelGuard many times, including once when we had to file a
claim. They were superbly responsive and did not drag their feet
Not So Great
The shows were hit or miss,
mostly miss. Costa could do a better job of briefing American
entertainers that American jokes don't go over well to a mostly
European audience, especially when 90% of the ship speaks in
another primary language than English. The Peter Terhune dancers
sang and danced their way through the whole voyage, performing at
least five different shows. The opera singer and the 'instant
fashion' presentation were outstanding.
Unless you're betting on a
perfect series of flights, stay the night before in Genoa or
Savona. You'll want the extra time to look around town. In both,
however, beware of Gypsies and pickpockets. The woman showing you
her new baby is also robbing your purse with a little sleight of
hand. We met three victims of such crimes - not a nice way to
start off your vacation.
Internet is expensive at 60 cents
per minute, very slow (about 14.4 I'd say) and there's no deal to
get unlimited access. Portside Internet cafes were $2.40 for half
The food? Oh my. It was not what
we expected - or liked. The Italian selections were no better than
I could get at a nearby Pizza Hut, and while the dining crew was
friendly and helpful, the food was often bland, small, cold,
tasteless, or mysterious. Just about every night a fish we had
never heard of before appeared on the menu (and tasted like Cod).
"Dentex" was my personal favorite cod-like offering. We
were not alone in our assessment. No one ever commented positively
on the food. There is a pizza/salad/ice cream station except the
hours change every day. There are no specialty restaurants by
theme, just one premium restaurant ($25 per person) where the food
is actually very good. Other casual restaurants and buffets close
for dinner. There were three formal nights, but people were all
over the map (within limits, like no jeans, shorts, short sleeves)
in what they wore. Expresso and cappucino were available in the
main dining rooms for breakfast and lunch but not dinner.
There was no 'free cruise' bingo
on the last day, but everyday bingo has a pot around $6000 if you
hit in 46 numbers or less. We did not hear of anyone winning. The
casino is small, with stingy slots and a remarkable absence of
Conclusion: Dream ports, good
ship, great value!