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Costa Cruises: Costa Victoria

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By R_CR

  • New

Dec 31, 2016

Singapore Phuket Penang

Cruise is okay for the price you paid for. But, many area for improvement. Average activities. You will not be hungry. Plenty of food to fill your hunger. Balcony room at deck 11 was good. I will grade it will 4/5 stars. Small pool. Small Gym, limited equipment Not big screen movie Short run around the deck jogging track. Old, I mean old facility Cruise is very good for rest in the room and eat simple food. You

will not gain weight ! I am okay with this Cruise as my expectation wasn't too high. Good for ppl looking for clean and good rest in cabin. Simple food was not make you fat ! Expensive internet rate. On board guess communication mobile app. MyCosta App. don't work or highly intermittent. Confirmed by front counter stuff, Mr. He. Its doesn't support IPhone-7. (Disappointing - Sad)

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By Diff_CR

  • New

Mar 26, 2014

Asia

We took this 21 day cruise on Costa Victoria which departed from Singapore on 19 December 2013. I apologise in advance for the length of this review...it reads like war and peace. However I thought it was important to "highlight" just how bad this ship is and how bad Costa as a company are, to spare anyone else the holiday from hell, without first being made aware of all the problems. So settle down, pour yourself a nice long drink, take a couple

of valium and celebrate that you were not on this cruise!!! Although we hadn't been advised prior to embarkation, this cruise was made up of a number of "back to back" cruises i.e. a 7 day cruise, a 5 day cruise and a 9 day cruise. We visited many ports around Asia and the itinerary was nothing short of fantastic. However, unfortunately I cannot say the same about the ship. We have cruised in excess of 20 times, with a number of cruise lines. This was our first cruise on Costa and without doubt it will be our last. It was the most distressing and upsetting experience. I am therefore reviewing Costa Victoria itself and not the ports visited. Embarkation was a nightmare. The departure hall was full to bursting, with nowhere near enough seats. My mother required wheelchair assistance onto the ship...but finding a wheelchair and assistance was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Eventually we boarded the ship and the Costa employee pushing the wheelchair deposited us in the bar, which was close to where we had embarked. He asked us to wait there for a couple of minutes. We never saw him again!!! It was almost 1.5 hours before Costa staff were able to find anyone else to assist my mother to our cabin. We had booked a premium balcony cabin. Despite being advised by our travel agent that this would provide a larger cabin for my mobility challenged, elderly mother, this was in fact incorrect. All balcony cabins on Costa Victoria are the same size. A premium cabin is (allegedly) located in a privileged position on all of the ship's decks and provides "special" benefits such as preferred dining time for dinner and breakfast and cabin service 24 hours a day. That is it!!!! The cabin we had booked was 10329 on deck 10. This cabin was cramped and was an obstacle course for even the fittest and most mobile of people. Although Costa were aware that my mother had a mobility problem they were not at all interested in my concerns for her safety. We did not book a disabled cabin as Costa only permits people in wheelchairs to book disabled cabins. All the disabled cabins are inside cabins. In my opinion the balcony cabins are not suitable for the elderly or infirm. The element on the kettle provided in the cabin was very rusty and the smell from the kettle made me heave. The cabin's were dusty and looked tired and dated. This ship is 15 years old and it shows in the cabins. I believe the carpets have been replaced in the cabins....it didn't look like anything else had ever been replaced. Announcements made on the PA system could be heard loudly and clearly in the cabins, no matter what time of day or night they were made. We didn't particularly enjoy being woken at 7:00 a.m. or whilst having a nap at 17:00 p.m. to an announcement that tours were still available for the remaining ports of call. The mirror in the bathroom was more rust than mirror. The floor in the bathroom was wooden...and wood rots in damp and wet places. The heel of my shoe went through the bathroom floor at one point... All cabins on deck 10 suffer from noise from the deck above. The pool and bar are above deck 10. From early morning until early evening we were deafened (no exaggeration) by the noise of sun beds and chairs being scraped across the floor and people walking to and fro. Then late at night there was the noise of chairs being scraped across the floor, music and dancing. Don't forget we were in a premium cabin...in a privileged position! We were told by the crew that this is a common problem for all the cabins on deck 10. We know of many, many people that asked to move cabins. During the first night of the cruise, after leaving Singapore, the seas were a little rough. At some point during the night I was woken to an almighty crash and found that the heavy safe had fallen out of the wardrobe onto the cabin floor. So, not only was the cabin an obstacle course, the safe wasn't safe!!!! Also the air conditioning grills rattled incessantly....it was like having a 40 piece orchestra playing next to your ear, whilst trying to sleep. I rang and reported the problem and was told I would have to put up with the noise. No toiletries were provided in the bathroom. The ship constantly stunk (and I mean stunk) of sewage. We were told this had been caused by passengers continually flushing inappropriate items down the toilet instead of using the sanitary bags provided. What sanitary bags? None were ever provided in our cabin. We never had any hot water in the sink in our cabin, although it is important to wash hands in hot water to kill any germs or bacteria that may be present. Throughout the cruise it was very difficult to get to speak to someone at the front desk as there was always long queues of complaining, disgruntled, unhappy people. Our cabin balcony and table were filthy...they were filthy when we boarded the ship and they were not cleaned during our time on the ship. The beds in the cabins are low, so if you have hard shell luggage which we had, it is not possible to store them under the bed. This meant they had to be stored on their ends at the bottom of the bed...which made it impossible to move from one side of the cabin to the other. There were no chocolates on the pillow on this cruise and no announcements made by the captain or officers either. In fact rumour had it that the Captain didn't turn up for the Captain's cocktail party, which he had been due to host. We were never given any information about the ship's position, as is usual on other cruises. The only news available on the ship was via Euro News, which even on the English channel was in German. The daily newspaper was never available. The wardrobes contained a rusty rail with 12 fixed hangers which were virtually glued to the rust on the rail. You needed to have Herculean strength to move them. The hangers were the large variety so it was impossible to put any additional hangers into the wardrobe. So...12 hangers for 2 people on a 21 day cruise. Also there isn't a laundry on the ship for the use of passengers....you have to give your laundry to your cabin steward. As an example it was £6 to wash and iron a pair of ladies trousers and £1 for each item of underwear. During our time on this ship they didn't have any guest speakers or port information, other than what was included in the Today daily programme. The safety drill was a complete joke. We were told that it was mandatory that all passengers attend the safety drill. We were given a card at embarkation that had to be taken to the safety drill and handed in, so they could ensure everyone had attended. If, for any reason, passengers did not attend they would be required to attend a safety drill the following day. We were unable to attend due to my mother's walking aid going "walkabout" and she was unable to walk without it. The following day, when we left the cabin to go for breakfast at 10:00 a.m. I noticed there was a piece of paper in our pigeon hole advising that we had to attend a safety drill at 09:30 a.m. that morning.....As a result we never attended the safety drill and heard nothing more about it. Very worrying considering the sad outcome of Costa Concordia. The timing of dinner in the main restaurant changed regularly...sometimes it was almost daily. Water with dinner was never offered....you were expected to buy bottled water. No coffee after dinner was offered...you were expected to buy and pay for coffee in the evening. You could buy drinks and water packages, which I believe were good value. However all the passengers on the same booking were charged for the drinks package, whether they wanted it or not and this was not practical for us. The drinks on this ship were the most expensive we have ever encountered. Some evenings it took 1 hour plus to get wine (whether you were on the drinks package or not). Most evenings it took almost 3 hours to be served 2 courses. The service in the restaurant was appalling. The staff on the whole were lovely but there is a very low crew to passenger ratio and therefore due to under staffing, the crew that are on there are massively overworked. Tables in the main dining room and buffet area were constantly dirty and not being cleared from the previous diners. However the officers that ate in the main restaurant where constantly served promptly and quickly....always arriving for dinner after us and leaving before us. Almost every evening we were so late finishing dinner that we were too late for the late show. The buffet was the worst buffet I have ever seen on a ship. The plates were small.....the size of a medium tea plate. They did not provide any trays in the buffet either. We concluded this was to stop people having a number of plates of food. Most evenings the buffet was only open for 1 hour and some lunchtimes too. Therefore if you were unable to eat the dinner in the main restaurant (and this happened to us on a number of occasions as the food was so bad) the only dining option was the pizza restaurant on deck 12. In fairness the pizzas were really, really good...but there are only so many times I can eat a pizza. Breakfast in the buffet finished at 10:00 a.m. and on sea days we missed this. A late "continental" breakfast was provided in the pizza restaurant. It was the same items every day, and, for us, virtually inedible. One day we asked if it would be possible to have some toast. We were told yes, it would be possible. When it came I picked it up and the underside of the bread had not been "toasted". The other side of the toast had grill marks on it. I asked the Head Waiter if the bread had been fried on one side, rather than being toasted and he replied yes.....we haven't got a toaster!!! The food in the buffet on the whole was okay, if you don't mind a limited variety and like small portions of mainly Indian and Chinese food. If you want to lose weight this is the cruise for you. Water and coffee were only available in the buffet in the evening if you were prepared to pay for them. On more than one occasion we were subjected to the Maitre D' and Head Waiters screaming and shouting at waiting staff. The majority of the officers onboard this ship were rude and aggressive and not at all pleasant or polite to passengers or crew. Their manner was one of aggression and finger pointing towards passengers and crew. As I mentioned earlier, this was a "back to back" cruise. On the first changeover day there were about 50 passengers that were continuing with the cruise. However they must have forgotten about us....there was no food or drink available at lunchtime (not even coffee or water) and when we questioned this with the F&B Director we were told, very rudely, that the ship had to be cleaned and made ready for 2000 passengers that were boarding that day and they didn't have time to provide lunch due to crew shortages. There was absolutely no consideration for passengers remaining on board. All of the safety doors were closed on turnaround days, although no notification was given of this. This meant that we had to walk miles and miles and miles to find the lift and buffet as none of the doors we usually used were open. You are not allowed to bring any food or drink onto the ship and this rule is strictly enforced. Whatever is found is confiscated. This also applies to irons, kettles, alcohol, swiss army knives etc. etc.. This ship is all about money, money, money i.e. making as many cost savings as possible and getting the passengers to spend as much as possible. The service charge of $11 day is compulsory and cannot be removed...no matter how bad the service. I know....I tried. They did not have any complaints forms....I assume they had run out....We were told by the crew that the service charge is not passed onto them; Costa use it to offset the cost of paying the crew. Therefore 1900 passengers paying $11 per day is $20,900 or £12,500 per day....a nice little guaranteed earner. It was not possible to change the pool towels provided during the day if e.g. they became wet or dirty, as the cupboard by the pool which contained clean pool towels was always locked. I had continual problems with the internet. The internet is very expensive on this ship and on several occasions I logged off from the internet and received the message "you have successfully disconnected from the internet and the counter has stopped" only to find out that the connection had continued and used up all my credit. Twice I complained about this to the front desk. I was told it was my fault as I hadn't logged off correctly. Despite promising me that they would escalate my complaint to the IT department, they never did and they refused to make any refund. A great scam to get money for nothing. When we received our final bill, the total was $xxx and 63 cents. Costa had then taken the liberty of rounding this up to the next dollar. Whilst we are talking about a very small amount of money, if you multiply $0.37 by the number of cabins on the ship it is yet another opportunity to get money for nothing. Finally the day of disembarkation arrived in Hong Kong. My mother was taken off the ship in a wheelchair by a member of the crew. He opened the door to enter the terminal building to see a flight of stairs and no lift!!!! He asked an officer where the lift was and he was told there wasn't one. I asked how my mother was expected to get into the terminal building without there being a lift and the officer shrugged his shoulders. She managed to walk down the stairs with some difficulty and the crew member carried the wheelchair down. The next obstacle was escalators to move up to the arrivals hall. It would have been very dangerous for her to use the escalator, so we had to wait while they contacted the manager of the Harbour City shopping mall, where the terminal is situated. The manager came and allowed us to use the goods lift!!! If she had been unable to walk at all I dread to think what would have happened. We were not given any prior warning that there was no disabled access at Hong Kong. There is a saying that you get what you pay for. However it should be noted that we paid £3200 per person for this cruise (excluding flights) which works out at more than £150 per day, plus a further $11 day (dis)service charge. It was the worst experience we have ever had on any holiday, let alone any cruise and my advice to anyone would be to avoid Costa at all cost!!!!

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Nov 22, 2011

Athens

The cruise experience was a disaster, not only did we get BED BUGS our first night we had to change rooms 4 TIMES. They give WAAAY too much pride and appraisal towards there crew team, director, and captain rather than accommodating and satisfying there customers who are the ones who actually make them money. The food had no flavor, very boring, not a good selection. The port stops were WAY TO SHORT for example we were only in Athens for 6 hours

when the city's population is 5 MILLION if you want to get anywhere or see anything you need more than 6 hours. As for entertainment I'm not even going to go there, there was only one night out of the 7 days that was actually even worth going to. I travel and go on a cruise at least once if not twice a year and have been on over a dozen cruises this is by far the worst cruise line I have ever been on and will NEVER go on a COSTA cruise line again. The food was boring, had no flavor got old really fast. Not much of a selection. Our first room we encountered was actually nice, until we woke up the next morning with BED BUG BITS on us. We then asked to be moved to a different room because we didn't want to get bit again at night. The second room we encountered had disgusting sheets with BLOOD STAINS and brown rings of sweat or urine or who knows what was on those sheets. Furthermore the mattress was like 30 years old when we sat on the end of the bed we could feel the springs through the sheets and the comforter. We then asked for the second time to be move to a different room because we would have rather slept with the bed bugs again then to sleep on that mattress and those sheets. The third room we encountered was above a BAR/CLUB where we could barely hear each other talking because the bass was so loud. Keep in mind at this time it was almost 1AM and we had a 9 hours time change from flying from the USA and were not about to have to listen to loud music and bass every night till 2AM or 3AM. We then finally get to the 4th and finally cabin, it is now 3AM still didn't receive a newer mattress which is the only request we asked from our first move. We then proceeded the next day and spoke to the director of the ship which then we finally got newer mattresses after wasting our whole night and morning due to employees who don't know how to satisfy their customers. There was no on board activities unless you call BINGO an activity. I travel and go on a cruise at least once if not twice a year and have been on over a dozen cruises this is by far the worst cruise line I have ever been on and will NEVER go on the COSTA cruise line again.

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By Kim _CR

  • New

Aug 1, 2010

Holiday

The Costa Victoria was very old, toilets very unhygienic reception staff unhelpful and very rude. Cabin crew and waiters excellent. Would not go on another Costa Cruise if offered to me for free. Too many children swimming pools way too small as there are only two small pools outside. Children allowed to run around in Casino . We struggled to find somewhere to sit at breakfast and lunch time not enough tables for the number of people on board.

Breakfast was okay, lunch you had a better choice, dinner was average compared to other cruises I have been on. Terrible , toilets very smelly we had booked cabin with balcony and did not get this. Did not use them Did not use them we did our own thing The cruise was very disappointing would not travel with Costa again it put a downer on our holiday.

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By Kim _CR

  • New

Aug 1, 2010

Holiday

The Costa Victoria was very old, toilets very unhygienic reception staff unhelpful and very rude. Cabin crew and waiters excellent. Would not go on another Costa Cruise if offered to me for free. Too many children swimming pools way too small as there are only two small pools outside. Children allowed to run around in Casino . We struggled to find somewhere to sit at breakfast and lunch time not enough tables for the number of people on board.

Breakfast was okay, lunch you had a better choice, dinner was average compared to other cruises I have been on. Terrible , toilets very smelly we had booked cabin with balcony and did not get this. Did not use them Did not use them we did our own thing The cruise was very disappointing would not travel with Costa again it put a downer on our holiday.

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By judy_CR

  • New

Jul 10, 2010

Mediterranean

We chose this cruise for it's itinerary. We wanted to see Greece. In hind sight, this cruise is probably not the best way to do this. The ports of call (Ancona, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Corfu and Dubrovnik) are beautiful, but there is definitely NOT enough time at each destination. Very rushed! The cruise ship itself is nothing special. We have been on other cruises (Princess, Royal Carib) and Costa Victoria is definitely not in the same

category. The ship looks old and worn/dated. It was often loud and noisy every where we went. This cruise is not for honeymooners! The food was not good. Very little variety and not very tasty. Not much more to say here. Our stateroom was roomy for two. It was cheaper to book two rooms than to squeeze all four of us into one. We were in an oceanview. The room was dated but clean. All in Italian...so we didn't take part most of the time. We are English speaking and you will be a minority. Most instructions given in Italian. If they do announcements in English, they come at the very last and by then, you've stopped listening. You need a tour in Athens (go for an on shore excursion). This is much cheaper and you see much much more of the city. We had a personal taxi tour with George the Famous taxi driver's company. You need a tour in Santorini to get the most of your 4 hours (Oia is a must see). The rest of the ports can be done on your own. We would not go on a Costa cruise again. The staff on board was its only saving grace. They were friendly and helpful. See Greece without a cruise!!!!

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Jul 30, 2009

Eastern Mediterranean

This was our first Costa cruise. We liked the international makeup of the passengers. We chose the cruise because of the itinerary. Most of the shore excursions were fine but we were disappointed at the brief amount of time in each place. We did Venice and Mykonos on our own and could have done Santorini and Athens on our own too, which would have given us a little more time. The Santorini beach excursion and tour was very rushed. The food

was good. We preferred the dining room to the buffet. The pool area was overrun with children. There didn't seem to be anyone watching all the kids jumping around and in the jacuzzi. It would have been nice to have maybe one evening hour a day for adult swim.

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Sep 11, 2005

Eastern Mediterranean

Andrea Palmer Overall: This was our first cruise experience and we were unsure of what to expect. Overall the cruise was wonderful. Our only complaints were that my husband and I did not care for the food at the Bolero Buffet, however, it was always busy with people. Also, we had a minor incident and the information desk didn’t seem to understand what we were asking for, but after they tracked down our English Speaking Host, it was

cleared up. Best Parts: We traveled with young children (ages 5 and 6) and they loved the kids club! It is for ages 3 to 12 (divided into the mini and maxi groups) and was available for shore excursions as long as the tickets were presented to the Squak Club staff at least 24hrs in advance. It was available from 9am-12pm, then 3pm-6pm, and 9pm-11:30 (which gave my husband and I lots of free evenings). We had 2 formal nights and on both nights the kids had the option of eating with the Squak Club. They had tons of fun activities planned and our kids couldn’t wait to go each day! Their favorite was taking a tour of the bridge and then posing for pictures with the captain afterwards. The staff was multi-lingual and really seemed to enjoy their job! On of our children has food allergies and requires a special diet. Our agent informed Costa when the cruise was booked and the staff at the restaurant did an excellent job of taking care of his needs, as did the Squak Club during snacks and dinners. The staff at the restaurant was wonderful! Everyone was very friendly and helpful. If you want pizza, don’t get it from the Bolero. There is a pizzeria on deck 12 (just upstairs from the Bolero) that is pretty good, however, it is open late (about 11pm). We dinned mostly in the restaurant (as we were not impressed with the Bolero Buffet – deck 11 by the pool). The lunches and breakfast were much better in the restaurants. Dinners weren’t bad either. My husband really enjoyed the midnight buffets. The shows were fun and well done. The itinerary was amazing! Our itinerary included Bari, Katakolon (Olympia), Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Dubrovnik. We took the Olympia, Mythology and Modernity tour in Katakolon and enjoyed it. We did Santorini on our own and took the donkey ride up to the top (the kids thought that was really fun!) and took the cable car down. There was no excursion for Mykonos, but we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant near the windmills. Then we took the excursion to Lindos and afterwards explored Rhodes on our own. Dubrovnik we also did on our own. Rhodes and Dubrovnik were our favorites. My husband and I don’t drink so we took advantage of the Boys and Girls package which was 22 non-alcoholic drinks for 44.85 euros and the water package (13 1 liter bottles for 23.95 euros). Downsides/Concerns: If you are thinking about booking with Costa it is important to remember that it is an Italian Cruise line and the majority of the people on board are Italian. Announcements are made in several languages. I have noticed this is a complaint with many of the Costa reviews. This did not bother my husband or me. We have been living in Europe for a few years and are used to being in the minority. There were only 250 English speaking people on our cruise, most didn’t seem to mind this. Also, we found the Europeans on board friendly and interested in the Americans. The pool is small and felt crowded on the day at sea. The gym/fitness center was very small and often crowded (expect during mid-afternoon). They only had 4 treadmills and one elliptical trainer. Also, if you want to catch a show you have to get there about 45 minutes before it starts to get a good seat. If you arrive minutes before the show, you most likely won’t have anywhere to sit. I don’t know about other ships, but we thought our cabin was small. However, we were very happy with our cabin steward. Overall we were very pleased with our first cruise experience and would recommend Costa to our friends. We were happy with the ship, the staff, food (at the restaurant), the itinerary, and the price. We are already planning another one!

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Aug 28, 2005

South America

Costa Cruises Costa Victoria Cruise Lines South America Janetta We were looking for a cruise to Venice to see the Greek Isles and Mediterranean, and picked this ship specifically because of its wonderful ports of call. The experience of the ship itself was very similar to what you would come to expect of any mainstream cruise ship. We had no problems with the service, the food, the embarkation, the entertainment etc. Announcements

were made in 5 languages (Italian being first) which was an interesting experience. The staff was all multi-lingual and for anyone worried whether language will pose a problem, rest assured that there was none what-so-ever. There was a party specifically for Americans as part of the entertainment which was fun to attend. Dinner seating times were 6pm and 8:30 pm and we highly recommend going with the earlier seating on this cruise (even though we are late night owls ourselves). If you plan to do a lot of touring in the mornings, but want to have enough time for dinner and the show at night, we found that you were much better off with the earlier seating on this cruise. There were lots of activities to engage in during the day on days at sea. Everything from toga parties to bingo. The best part of this cruise (and the reason to take it) are the ports of call. We found them to be a once in a lifetime experience that will remain in our hearts forever. We have a very in-depth review (with photos) about the ship and the ports of call on this cruise written here: http://thetraveljournal.blogspot.com/2006/06/costa-victoria-mediterrenean-cruise_26.html .....for anyone interested in taking this cruise. We certainly highly recommend this cruise to anyone who wants a wonderful Mediterranean experience. Happy Sailing!  

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Feb 12, 2005

South America

Costa Victoria February 12-19, 2005 Brazil: Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia, Ilheus, Buzios, Santos This is a cruise up the coast of Brazil designed for Brazilians but we found it quite enjoyable as Americans. We were 2 of 60 Americans on board. The other 58 were with a corporate group that kept to themselves. Not knowing Portuguese and only a little French and Spanish, we anticipated difficulty but were delighted at

Costa's surprisingly good logistics - in six languages. Resourceful tour guide Angela and our lovely hostess Patricia were informed and attentive, close all the time on shore excursions for a quick translation in English or to point out something interesting. This was Patricia's first time hosting an English-speaking group (she usually hosts Germans or Italians) and she did a wonderful job. This particular week after Carnival was, unknown to us, "Fitness Week." At least 1000 of the 2000 passengers were in rather awesome shape, making poolside people-watching an unusually attractive pastime. Victoria parties into the night, every night, as she cruises Brazil each February. Carnivale was especially hard on the crew, as Brazilian teenagers spray painted cabins, broke into storage lockers, ran down hallways late at night, often did not tip, and drank illegally from booze they smuggled on board. This week, they merely ran down hallways and yelled a lot (bring earplugs). We were on deck 9 and it was pretty quiet except for two nights. If noise becomes a problem, demand the information desk gives you a second room in which to sleep. If the ship is not full, they will accommodate your request. Victoria is almost 10 years old but in the last year she's undergone some changes. There is a new captain and cruise director. Balconies were added to two floors of formerly porthole rooms in 2004. The best improvement? The food is *remarkably* better than late 2003 when we sailed her to Egypt (see www.strategicdevelopment.com/travel for that review). Each night we found cheeses or bruschetta waiting for us on the table. The seafood was excellent, especially the scallop and mussel salad. When we asked the waiter, a charming Filipino named Jay, why the food was so much better, he said, smiling, "The Victoria has had many changes. You know, we have added balconies in the last year." And with that, he left us wondering if this was a translation problem or he was just kidding! Note: the new balcony rooms are nice but you may want to get the exact same room, without balcony, for much less. Getting There and Back: Costa offers no transport to the port at Santos from the airport at Sao Paulo because, frankly, too few foreigners buy this great cruise. We took a taxi for $78 each way for the 75-minute trip. Embarkation, usually 15 minutes or less in other Costa ports, was a sweltering 90 minutes. Get to the port as soon as you can before 2pm to secure a good place in line. You'll need to arrange for early disembarkation (red luggage tags) for any flights prior to 1pm. Using another cab, we got to the airport 5 minutes a harrowing 45 minutes before the flight and barely made it thru security and on the plane. Good Deals: 1) Due to a strong dollar against the Brazilian real, shore trips are a good deal. Rio de Janeiro is fantastic and more. Take the all-day Super Rio for $99 which includes a churriscaria (delicious meats) lunch, a train trip to Corcavado (The Big Jesus), a visit to Rio's contemporary Cathedral, shopping, and the trams to Sugarloaf (the big rocks you've seen in every travel poster of Rio). All the major places in about 8 hours, with plenty of nap time on the bus between stops. Everyone loves this tour. 2) Up the coast, the 4-hour "Salvador of Contrasts" features a ornate Cathedrals and monasteries, strolling through the old town plus shopping in the large central market. Ask the tour guide to go to the Donnini jewelry store. A special bus whisks you from the market up the coast to a gated cliff enclave. At Donnini, a guard checks you in, and an elevator takes you upstairs to an incredible display of emeralds and semi-precious stones. An English-speaking clerk shows you what must be a half-million dollars worth of jewelry and how to shop for color, grade, etc. Being the budget traveller, we bought a 7-carat blue topaz for $90. A taxi will return you to port, compliments of Donnini. There's free internet in the port building, all the way to the right as you enter from the ship. 3) Buzios is a picturesque town with nice shops to buy souvenirs, good lunch places, and quite a few nightclubs. Victoria docks here at 1130pm, then tenders passengers in to the nightclubs for a hearty party until morning. The ship leaves the next day at 430pm. 4) Deck 9 aft (all the way back towards the stern) has a deck with excellent views and relative privacy especially late at night (wink, wink). Not-so-Good: 1) At Ilheus, the "Itacare and Tijuipe Waterfall" tour is advertised at 5 hours but takes an oppressive 8. At least 3 of those 8 are on the bus, and the remaining 5 are three unimpressive stops (a beach overlook, another deserted and ugly beach, and a chocolate shop) and the waterfall itself. It is at the bottom of a long muddy road you walk - straight down. If it rains, as it did for us, that road turns to slush and becomes a long, wet, muddy hike up. Bring a towel and a bathing suit, but be a good swimmer. The rocks are slippery, the water is deep, and the potential for injury is high. There's a restaurant adjacent serving good steak lunches for $10 and Brazilian beer for $1. We do not recommend this trip for anyone -- especially those with mobility problems. 2) A number of the public elevators and hallways strongly smell of mildew. This is normal for a 10-year-old ship but still undesirable. Bring a Stick-up for the bathroom, which may have its own special aroma (this is also normal for many ships). 3) Odds and Ends: Internet is slow and expensive at 50 cents a minute with no wireless service available. For that picture perfect cruise moment sipping coffee on your balcony, robes are no longer available except in suites -- even at the spa. Use Common Sense: Although crimes against tourists are few and tourist police are everywhere, use common sense in Brazilian ports. With the exception of Buzios, which is pretty much like Key West and very safe, leave your bling-bling (jewelry) in the cabin, along with your NASCAR tank top and your Budweiser hat. Carry money, your room key, your Costa card, and your passport in a pants pocket, preferably zippered. Overall, spending a week on the Victoria is an easy, fun way to see Brazil with reasonably sized cabins and lots to do. For true pampering, choose another line like Princess or Celebrity. But for getting around inexpensively and comfortably to exotic places, Costa is the best. Read our other cruise reviews here and at www.strategicdevelopment.com/travel. Hello to Mohammed and Rita from Switzerland, Charlie from England, and our waiters Jay and Frances! Happy cruising! George and Eleanor

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Feb 8, 2005

South America

Costa Cruises Costa Victoria Cruise Lines South America Armando Pomerane This was the worst cruise I have ever made. I don´t recommend the Carnival Cruise to anyone. It was a crowd of 1500 teenagers traveling alone and disturbing all around the ship. The food was awful, there were no security taking care of the disasters these people were doing. Even if the panorama suite was very good (not balcony), the entrance to the suite area

were daily vomited. Take care of these date and avoid taking Costa.

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Nov 19, 2003

Eastern Mediterranean

Overall: Despite a near-spotless ship and friendly crew, the real star of this voyage is the itinerary. You can see the Pyramids, Naples, Sicily, Egypt, Cyprus, Santorini, Corfu, the hills of Capri, and the volcano at Mt. Etna -- all in just 11 days. And depending on terrorism in that country, you'll also go to two ports in Turkey. Bombings in Istanbul the second day of the cruise caused Costa to substitute Athens and Rhodes (not

a bad trade). Victoria is the cleanest ship in which we've sailed, with fabulous Med ports and obliging weather. November is an ideal off-season time to cruise this circuit. Why? No crowds. We never stood in line in a port city for anything. And the rates can't be beat. Costa deeply discounts trips during November and January. 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! Best Deals 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 on payment. 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 an hour. 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 passengers. Conclusion: Dream ports, good ship, great value! To see all our reviews, visit http://www.strategicdevelopment.com/travel. Happy Cruising! George and Eleanor

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Apr 3, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise with Costa, and will most likely be my last. I booked at the last minute because of a cut-rate deal I got as a single passenger. I should say first of all that I am 40 years old (but look 25 or so), a New Yorker through and through, Asian, female, fit, active, and well traveled. I've traveled in groups and alone, and had cruised twice before, on Orient Lines to Greece and Turkey in 1996 and on Renaissance to

Portugal, Morocco, and Spain in 2001. I have a background in finance, theater, and dance. I am a foodie, which means I am as happy eating a $1 street meal as I am in a five-star restaurant, as long as the food is fresh and tasty. Indeed, one of the reasons I travel is to sample food from other places. I enjoy traveling alone because I meet more people that way and have to worry only about pleasing myself. Embarkation A nightmare. Embarkation was scheduled to begin at 1pm. I arrived at 12:30pm to find the crowds already there. Porters, who are not Costa employees, are quick to relieve you of your bags and not at all shy about asking for tips up front. As I was debilitated from food poisoning (from a convention at the Radisson Deauville hotel in Miami, if you're curious) I was generous and handed almost everything over, including a carry-on I usually carry myself. I asked for, but was denied, a wheelchair, and cut to the front of the line – not my usual practice at all – to get into the terminal as quickly as possible to find a seat. I was handed a group number, my bags were X-rayed, and I collapsed into a seat, which was difficult to find. Embarkation didn't actually begin until 1:30pm. The woman making the announcements was rude in a funny New York way, chastising passengers for getting up before their group was called. I was group 14 and so had to wait until 2:30 or so before my group was called. Unfortunately, the wait still wasn't over as we were merely admitted to a large hall and yet another line to check in with Costa agents. There was only one long counter with about 10 agents working, so checking in 2,000 passengers took some time. And even after checking in, there was yet another line to board the ship. There were two cruise members waiting to take pictures with passengers, but thankfully they were not stopping people and causing a further delay. I didn't reach my cabin until after 3:00pm. My advice to future Costa passengers is forget the welcome buffet. Forget arriving early with a large group expecting to find seats together. It ain't going to happen. Instead, eat before you leave for the port and arrive midway during the boarding process (at least two hours after it is scheduled to begin). You will have a much less stressful time. You can always order from a (admittedly limited) room service menu once you are on board. Public Spaces I haven't traveled on a large ship before, and I enjoyed the choices of bars and lounges afforded me. The ship is neither glitzy nor "elegant" as people usually seem to define the term. (I have to say that I was not impressed with the Renaissance R1, which usually got rave reviews in this regard. I found the fake wood and gilding, well, cheesy.) The CostaVictoria was okay; it reminded me of a large mall. A little worn in some spots, but perfectly passable. Lots of blue, brushed stainless steel, and bird's eye maple laminate. Since I don't gamble I can't really comment on the casino, which looked fairly large and well attended. Shops were fine but the merchandise was unimpressive. The two most attended bars, the Capriccio and the Grand Orpheus, were midship. At times it could feel like running the gantlet getting through those bars as the only way from aft forward was walking through them and you were definitely getting checked out along the way. The Concord Lounge, at the bow, was an underused space during the day – a great place for good views and peace and quiet. Likewise the aft Tavernetta Lounge, which in the evening became the "Magnifico" restaurant, offering reservations-only dining for an additional $20 (plus 15% service charge) and, later, a bar/dance space. The Planetarium Atrium, from decks 5 through 7 midship, made a good parking spot for waiting – for dinner at the Fantasia restaurant, for the front desk, for the tour desk. The library has no lounging space for hanging out and reading, but does have a decent selection of books in several languages. I never used the gym or the spa, as I was on vacation from dancing and the rest of my usual strenuous fitness program. Likewise, I never used the tennis court, the chapel or, thankfully, the medical center. The Internet café was like all shipboard Internet cafés: slow and expensive at 50¢ a minute. As an Internet junkie, I still checked email on board ship, but found (slightly) cheaper Internet access ashore when I could (in Key West and Grand Cayman). One thing I will definitely say in CostaVictoria's favor is deck space. There always seemed to be enough deck chairs, perhaps not immediately around the pool, but I never had trouble finding one somewhere. There is a small tennis/basketball court aft, and golf lessons are available from a former Italian national champion. Cabin: I loved my cabin, #10547 (deck 10, aft, on the port side) which was perfectly adequate for one person and perhaps would feel a little cramped for two. I personally like modern Italian design and so the bathroom/head, with its sleek Italian fixtures, really appealed to me. The bathroom came equipped with a pathetic 900-watt hair dryer, and you were forbidden to plug your own in because the electrical system supposedly couldn't handle it. I didn't test this assertion, just took twice as long to dry my hair. A rare occurrence: there was enough light and a large enough mirror in the bathroom for me to do my hair and makeup, and another large floor-to-ceiling mirror (with a table and two chairs) facing the large porthole which allowed for daytime makeup. There's a full length mirror in the closet as well. Storage seemed adequate for two people who don't overpack, with space for two suitcases in the closet and perhaps more under the bed. My queen size bed was comfortable, though I could really feel the joint between the two twin beds they'd pushed together to make it. My only quibbles about the cabin were the noise from the TV being watched by the teenagers next door and the noise at certain times of day from the Bolero Buffet above me when the staff were clearing the deck and moving tables and chairs around. Otherwise, I was very comfortable and liked the small, almost private, aft deck on deck 10 which most passengers didn't seem to know about. Staff: My Indonesian cabin steward was what all cabin stewards seem to be: Asian and a bit obsequious. But my cabin was always sparkling clean and the steward rarely guessed wrong when he guessed I had left and the cabin was free. There was one night when the A/C regulator in my cabin broke down and I woke up freezing. I asked the cabin steward the next morning to take care of it, but by evening decided he had forgotten and called the information desk to make sure it was taken care of by the time I went to bed. It was. Bars and wait staff were populated by Asians, primarily Filipinos and Indonesians. As warm and friendly as you might find on other ships (much better than the Eastern European staff on the Renaissance R1), but I am always uneasy at the clear racial divisions in cruise ship crews. Must the service staff always be Asian and the officers always "European" (i.e. white)? The "animators," who were responsible for contests and games among the passengers, were very friendly and very good at getting people involved in doing silly things they would never do at home. They taught everyone who was willing the "Bom Xi Bom" Costa dance. They were also very friendly with the passengers – one of them was a little TOO friendly with me. Something about a woman traveling alone seems to send the message to men that she is just desperate for them. Not. I also unfortunately witnessed a racist, offensive scene enacted by the animators during the disembarkation talk, where they were illustrating different greetings around the world. The "Japanese" greeting perpetuated offensive stereotypes of Asians and confused Japanese with Chinese, a bit like the Italians mixing themselves up with the French. This sort of racism seems to be par for the course among cruise lines, but I nevertheless lodged a written protest with the cruise line, as did other Asian Americans on the cruise. I have yet to hear from Costa. Food The most disappointing aspect of the trip. The breakfast buffet was passable – hot and cold cereals, yogurt, fresh and canned fruit, boiled and scrambled eggs in trays and eggs/omelettes made to order, sausages, bacon, corned beef, potatoes, French toast, scary-orange colored pancakes (not sampled). Bread throughout all the meals was uniformly terrible; after sampling a roll I was afraid to try the brioche/croissants/danishes. I did notice donuts but don't eat them. I usually ate breakfast fairly late, so skipped lunch and went to the snack buffet. This consisted of mediocre tea sandwiches, not even worth it cookies and quick breads, fruit, cold cuts and cheese, and really, really bad pizza. Dinner in the Fantasia restaurant was generally not up to scratch as well. I ordered a filet mignon "on the rare side of medium rare" and it was barely pink. I did get another one cooked as ordered, but the meat was tough. A salad that was supposed to feature hearts of Romaine, bib lettuce, red oak leaf lettuce, endive, and goat cheese consisted of iceberg lettuce and a smear of goat cheese. A cheese course consisted of a slab of supermarket-quality cheese with plastic-wrapped saltines. Desserts were usually a disappointment: "featured" desserts were old-fashioned choices like crêpes suzette, cherries jubilee, and baked Alaska. The soufflés were very good, but I had one taste of a strawberry mousse that tasted like Frankenberry cereal. Pastas were dependable, but not of the quality you might expect from an "Italian" cruise line (albeit one now owned by Carnival). However, I soon discovered that the pizzeria, deck 12 starboard aft, served decent pizza (at least it was freshly made) and had dinner there a few times. It seemed a lot of my fellow passengers also skipped meals at the restaurant, as many tables were nearly empty almost every night. I ate with two other elderly male passengers at my eight-seating table when I did eat at the restaurant. People did not generally dress up, except for the two formal nights. Entertainment I had plenty of free time as a lot of regular cruise ship activities are not my cup of tea. I did take a group dance lesson from the ballroom teachers, who were very sweet and friendly. I also was recruited a couple of times by the animators into silly activities and enjoyed myself. I took a golf lesson from the pro and enjoyed myself thoroughly – he was very dedicated to making me a golfer. I didn't attend most of the shows as they are not usually appealing to me. My dinner companions, however, raved about them, particularly the Italian tenor and the magician. Musicians at various locales included a classical violin/piano duo (pretty good), a "calypso" band (the usual cruise stuff), a duo that one night did a spot-on Bee Gees imitation, a couple of lounge singers, and a couple of other duos that played more contemporary music. The "Rock Star" disco (someone at Costa should really rethink that name) had a small dance floor that was usually crowded with teenagers, but on a few nights there was late night dancing for the rest of us. The DJ played songs from different eras, but had no idea how to mix: transitions were rough, and he could really kill the mood of a lively song by following it with a dead one. I heard the same songs (badly) mixed the same way two nights in a row. Fellow Passengers Not the most sophisticated lot in the world, as you should expect when you pay a cut-rate price. A lot of the teenagers were unsupervised by their parents and seemed to spend most of the cruise getting as drunk as possible for as long as possible, despite the supposed 21 year-old drinking age. I had one conversation with an 18 year-old boy who boasted of spending the entire day in Cozumel in a bar, waking up on the floor of his cabin in the evening with $1 in his pocket left from the $300 he had had at the start of the day. I enjoyed meeting the European passengers, who seemed to be a bit more worldly than many of my fellow Americans. There were French doctors attending a medical conference on nutrition on the cruise and they were bemused by the irony of watching us Americans engage in the sport of overeating. Tours/Ports of Call Key West: The bike tour ($25 for 2 hours) sounded interesting, but I didn't take a tour here as I had been to Key West independently before. I just wandered around and enjoyed the sunshine. If you opt out of the tours, I recommend that you walk away from the port and explore some of the quieter residential streets north of Duval Street, or around the Truman Annex southwest of Mallory Square. Progreso: I was lucky enough to have chosen the Uxmal tour ($82.50 for 8½ hours) at this stop as it was pouring when we docked and the rain followed the tour to Chichen-Itza ($93 for 8½ hours). Costa really pushes the Chichen-Itza tour and I've heard it's very impressive, but Uxmal has a perhaps more beautiful site and is less crowded. Lunch for the Uxmal tour was at a hotel adjoining the site and was perfectly fine. We did also get a short drive through the regional capital Mérida. They provide Pepsi-Cola (and diet Pepsi) and beer for the return bus trip; if you want water you should bring a bottle, order a bottle at lunch, or buy one at one of the stores just before entering the Uxmal site. The only downside of the whole day was the final stop at a souvenir site in the middle of nowhere, where those of us nonshoppers had to hang around for half an hour with nothing much to do. Our guide, Manuel Turriza Rodriguez, was one of the best guides this usual hater of group tours has ever encountered. You can arrange a private tour with him by contacting him at mconene@yahoo.com or 011-52-9-44-63-65. Note that the sea was pretty rocky leaving Progreso as we were following a storm and as we were entering the Caribbean waters. A lot of people on board were ill. I was already on Dramamine so I was fine. Cozumel: Because of the storm a lot of the water-based tours were canceled. I had booked a tour to Tulúm, which was crowded but so gorgeous it's worth it. The cliffside setting of the ruins is just spectacular, and there is a small cove where you can go swimming if you plan ahead and wear your suit. There is nowhere to leave your belongings, however. We took a short bus ride to a 45-minute ferry ride to another hour-plus bus ride to get to Tulúm. Along the way they took us to a rest stop where we were told we would have the only opportunity to buy souvenirs. This isn't exactly true as there are souvenir shops at Tulúm. Nevertheless, I bought a small Tulúm guidebook, which I've always found worth it as you can then wander off from the group and still be able to figure out what's what. There is a fifteen minute or so walk in the hot sun from the parking lot at Tulúm (where the shops) are to the actual ruins, and they offer a $1.50 trolley ride for those who want to skip it. The guide takes you around with him for half an hour or so and then you are left to your own devices to wander around for about an hour and a half. This is where, you can decide to return early to the parking lot and do some shopping. Lunch, provided by Costa, was sandwiches from the Subway franchise at the parking lot, junk food (Cheetos, packaged muffins), Pepsi-Cola, and beer. Once again, if you want bottled water you'll have to buy it. I did buy one souvenir which was available in both Progreso and Cozumel and which I thought was well worth it. An archeological institute offers a $25 facsimile Mayan book that explains the Mayan calendars and includes a personalized sheet of amate paper with your birthday in Mayan (as well as your name). They take your order – name and birthday – at the beginning of the day and deliver the book to you at the end of your tour. There's also a $10 map of the Mayan world. They only take cash, so bring enough with you. Grand Cayman: Grand Cayman is known for snorkeling/scuba diving and banks. There is also a turtle farm, a sandbar where you can feed sting rays, and a town called Hell you can mail postcards from. I've been to many islands in the West Indies before and none of the tours appealed to me except perhaps an intro to snorkeling/scuba diving – but again, because of the storm we had been following those tours were canceled. We also didn't dock at Georgetown because of the swells and docked at Spots Bay (further southeast) instead. We were charged $4 per person to get to Georgetown in minibus taxis. Once in Georgetown, ask for the public bus depot at get a bus (another minibus) back to Spots Bay for $2.50. You also can get a small slice of Cayman life by doing so, as the bus stops to let islanders on and off. * * * * * * * I did manage to have a good time and I thought the cruise was worth the bargain price I paid, but I wouldn't recommend Costa to anyone unless they understood those terms.

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Mar 16, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

A ship that is always clean and well maintained. Rooms are small but well organized. Room Staff is extremely friendly and efficient. Shops contained expensive designer type items. The officers seen not too frequently throughout the ship. Drinks were weak and cost $4 to $6. The food was ok but nothing 5 star. The shows were very good, family oriented and well attended. Very large casino but the children’s video game area was too close

and expensive, about $1 per ride. We had a nice time all in all. If you go thinking that you are going to get a $2000 cruise for $500 you will be very disappointed but if you consider what you get for the price you pay I think it is worth it, but we are not planning to cruise with Costa again. For more details read on. Let us start with Day one. Embarkation: went very harsh. As you entered the pier the porters were right there to immediately ask for tips before taking your luggage. They do not work for the cruise line so they do expect a tip. As you entered the building each person was handed a number and asked to be seated. We seated for 2 hours and 15 minutes. As the building filled up you were called into lines according to the number you held so those that got there first went onboard first. This made the procedure very inefficient. As you entered the ship some one was there to greet you and direct you to your room, aslo to sell you drinking plans and shore excursions. Our room was very nice, a little smaller than most of the other lines, but arranged for efficiency. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. We had an outside room and it had a very large round window, which really brightened, up the entire room. As the Antonio the steward showed us around the room he also told us about a welcome aboard buffet. Well, by the time we got on board 3:45 PM they CLOSED the buffet location. We didn’t leave port until 5 pm so we had plenty no time to unpack, relax, or get oriented to the ship. We were requested to go to deck 6 for the fire drill and head count, and honestly it felt like we were prissoners. We took first seating at 6:15 PM This ship is one that rocks quite a bit with the weather so if you have problems walking or with seasickness you will want to be aware of this. Also rooms do not accommodate the large scooter type of wheel chairs. They do have a pizza shop on board but it does not open until 6pm and we found it not to our liking. The shops onboard catered mostly to those who like designer items. I found the prices on most items too high. The Internet café was a nice touch for those of us who could not leave their e-mail for an entire week. It is also good for staying in touch with the family. The food ….we had heard some bad reviews about the food aboard this ship so we didn’t really know what to expect. Truly my wife and I like gourmets and like just about anything. We not always enjoyed what we ordered. The food was always served to us hot and displayed nicely on the plate, but it took around 15 minutes between plates to arrive. We did find a lot of foods that we had eaten before. On the nights that we wanted something simpler and more American we ordered from their always-available section, consisting of sirloin steak, chicken breast, or fish. Fish was rubbery every night we ordered, meaning it was not fresh. We noticed that they had special menus for those that wanted a vegetarian meal. Those with more of a gourmet taste for 5 star restaurants may not have found it to their tastes. We did however find that the menus description sometimes did not match the American thoughts. Like taco salad to an American is usually lettuce, meat, cheese, etc. Their actual taco salad was a to be built taco. When we did get this they were more than happy to get something else for us. The staff ….We found the staff friendly but somehow not to ready to assist you with anything. Our cabin steward knew us by name before we sailed the first day and anticipated our needs before we realized we needed it. The waiters were friendly, not too efficient, but entertaining. They had several nights that the waiters entertained before desert was served. The Captain, who was rarely seen about the ship, to the man or woman sweeping were too serious, demotivated, without a smile to offer. We had our three year old children on board. We can tell first hand what their programs were not stimulating or child geard, like they will spend 2 hours painting and parents must pick them up for lunch. They will spend 3 hours in the afternoon playing and parents muct pick them up before first seating. The teens seemed to enjoy themselves too. All in all kids were less rowdy than on Carnival cruses. Debarkation …Went smoothly, although it felt like they wanted you out of the ship right away. We were placed in rooms according to the color of tags on luggage and dismissed by color to avoid bunching. Luggage was easy to find because it too was placed according to color of tag on the luggage. Leaving Port Everglades was a total traffic jam. Port of Call- We went to San Juan, Puerto Rico 4:30PM to 1:30AM were all shore excursions were cancelled by Costa, and most stores were closing up. St. Thomas USVI 8AM to 5PM was a nice port of call. Catalina Island 8AM to 5PM were we had the BBQ party. Nassau Bahamas, 1PM to 6PM, not enough time for walk and site seeing. If I had to choose, I will probably not choose Costa Cruise again.

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Feb 16, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Embarkation/Debarkation: Because of our late booking we had to pick up our documents at the dock. They were waiting for us at a station outside the lounge and there were only two people ahead of us in the line. Embarkation and debarkation were orderly and well planned. Passengers were kept informed of the status regularly. Seating in the lounge area was comfortable, but space between rows was limited and made passage between aisles difficult.

The Cabin: We were in an outside cabin 60141 (category 7) on the Manon Deck (really deck 6 1/2.) There was adequate space and the room was clean and equipped with a desk, two chairs, T.V., hairdryer, safe, refrigerator and a large porthole. We had problems closing the door to the head and on the last day the door fell off the slider twice. The The ship is old but generally well maintained. The decorations are O.K. The open area atrium, several decks high with glass elevators, is attractive as are the tile mosaics in the bar. There are plenty of lounge chairs on the decks around the two pools and hot tubs. Entertainment and Activities: We learned the hard way that we had to get to a show early to get a seat. We enjoyed the crew show and the stage production. The dancers and singers were very good as was the Irish Tenor. The lounge musicians were very talented. We were drawn to a number of shows that were predominately classical. We sat down every evening with the next days schedule and circled the events that appeared interesting. We kept very busy without playing bingo or other gaming activities since we were on a limited budget. We particularly enjoyed the cooking demonstrations and arts and crafts projects presented on at sea days. The shore-excursion talks focused on where to shop. There was no effort to educate us about the history and people of the islands. The Food: After a cruise on Costa in 1992, I had vowed I would not go on another, mainly because of the food - predominately southern Italian with lots of tomato sauce. (I am not fond of tomato sauce.) But because the price was so reasonable and the timing right for our anniversary, I gave the line another chance; I’m glad that I did. We ate all of our meals in the Sinfonia dining room because neither of us has much will power when faced with all of the choices of a buffet. We both tend to try everything. We were able to better control ourselves by ordering from the menu. It did limit our calorie intake and we managed to keep our weight gain to a pound or two. (Also, we never took an elevator.) The breakfast menu did not change but there was a wide assortment of choices. Dinner includes seven courses with many items in each category of appetizer soup, salad, pasta, entre, cheese, and dessert. It was easy for me to skip the pasta course because they were generally tomato based. On two nights they offered northern style cream sauces. The soups were particularly delicious but cream-based (calories). The Crew: I expected the crew to be rude and unfriendly, based on reviews Id read before the trip. I did NOT find this to be the case. All the personnel were friendly and helpful, from boarding to departure. We developed a close relationship with our wait staff and looked forward to seeing them at meals. Our preferences we noted and remembered. We were treated like we were special. Tipping: Before the cruise, we prepared envelopes with tips for the staff based upon the guide on the Costa web page. They were less than I had seen on other cruises but that is what we put in the envelopes. On board, they passed out envelopes and a printed guide with rates much higher than those given on the web. We increased our tips as a result. My guess is that the web guide is for passengers from other countries who tend to tip less. The Ports: San Juan, P.R. -- We were only in port for a few hours in the afternoon and evening. Our shore tour for flamenco music and dancing was canceled and we ended up walking around the old town on our own. This was our fifth visit and we had been on the two other offered tours on previous visits. St. Thomas, V.I. -- We were again disappointed to find that our shore tour had been canceled and we ended up on a driving tour of St. Johns rather than the nature hike through the national park. We enjoyed the cruise from the ship to the island, the many stops for photos and the tour of the Annaberg ruins. This was our fourth visit to St. Thomas, so we skipped that island this time. Catalina Island, D.R. -- This is Costas private beach. The swimming was good and there were lots of lounge chairs and coconut trees for shade. I was disappointed to find no hammocks. There were several shops with locals selling a variety of handmade items and art just down the beach from the ships area. The bargaining was hot and heavy. Pity on those who paid the first price asked. Casa de Campo, D.R. -- At last we got the shore excursion we asked for. We were bused to Altos de Chavon - a replica of a 17th century Mediterranean village with lots of upscale shops, with time to shop. The evening show Kandela, in the open-air arena, was well worth the $25. However, the stadium seating was hard on my back. I hope that they get a concession renting stadium seats before our next visit. Nassau, The Bahamas -- This was a relatively short stop (4 1/2 hours) and we had been here many times so we chose to spend our time walking through the shopping area near the ship. Ft. Lauderdale, FL -- We live in Florida and have visited the Everglades recently, but even though we didn’t take it, I was glad to see that an excursion to this area was offered to passengers. Summary: The cruise was well worth the price (second passenger free) booked just 4 days before departure. The cabin was clean and spacious, the crew friendly and helpful, the food good but generally not gourmet and there was plenty to keep us busy on sea days. The show room filled quickly and we missed the first show but enjoyed the other two. We were frustrated by cancellations of two shore excursions (not enough passenger interest). Time in port was too short. (Of course, it was only a 1-week cruise.)

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Feb 9, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was my husband and I's third cruise. We cruised with Carnival and NCL before. We booked this cruise less then 2 weeks before sailing. So we found a great deal (under $400 a person for a seven day cruise/ocean view room). I thought embarking went fairly smooth. The waiting room was full of helpful staff and lots of seats and was air conditioned. I personally would rather sit and be comfortable to wait to board then to have to stand

around with my luggage. This ship was probably the largest we had been on. It wasn't too fancy but still nice. The pool was a good size and there were plenty of deck chairs all around it. Our room were a decent size but you really could hear what was going on in the rooms next door. The staff was efficient. Not really overly friendly (besides the people who plan out the ship activities) but did their jobs. The food on this ship was ok. Out of our three cruises this food was the worst but everything was edible and there was lots of food at all times of the day. I was disappointed with the pasta selection at dinner. I wanted to try a pasta since it is considered an Italian cruise line. But every pasta selection had seafood in it that week and I don't like seafood. The entertainment was good. About the same level as the other cruises we had been on. We stopped at Key West, Progresso, Cozumel and Grand Cayman. I personally could do without key west but the other islands were great. Although if you don't' book a tour thru the cruise line at Progresso there isn't much to do there. We went on the tour to Chichen Itza and had a fabulous time. Overall we enjoyed the cruise. Everything about the cruise seemed average. I think a vacation is what you make of it and we made sure to have a good time. We aren't picky people. We just wanted to get out of the snowy weather in PA and enjoy ourselves. For the price of our cruise we got to go to 4 islands in 7 days for how much it cost us to go to Colorado one year for 5 days. So it was definitely worth it.

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Jan 5, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

We sailed on the Victoria for the second time in January. We love the personal service on Costa. The boarding procedures are very well done-not too long of a wait. When we reached our cabin-it was all ready. The food was impeccable-and if we wanted something special, it was ours to order. The animation staff is extremely good. There is always a poolside activity whether it be exercises, singing, games or dancing-there is something to

appeal to everyone. What we really liked to was the international flavor. 5 languages are spoken on board. The best was the last night that is called the Roman night, where practically everyone on the ship dresses up in a Toga-and we spend the whole evening like that. Everything from start to finish was perfect!

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Apr 7, 2001

Eastern Caribbean

Susan Cooper Very disappointed.  This ship was sorely in need of refurbishing. If you love Italian food you will enjoy the dining experience, otherwise you will be disappointed.  the dining room opened its doors at 8:45 for late dining and most of the waiters had a problem with English, therefore if you were lucky you received your food at 9:30 and you missed the shows.  on the plus side the staff was incredibly nice and helpful

and helped make this a fun cruise.  the embarkation was deplorable and we waited about an hour or more until we were able to board the ship.  disembarkation was much better.  if you are a non-smoker DON'T take this cruise. the ship is filled with about 60% Europeans and they all smoke.  it is hard to find a spot that is not smoking other than the dining room.  we would not consider another Costa cruise in the near future.

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Dec 16, 2000

Modified Eastern

A nice ship that is always clean and well maintained. Rooms are small but well organized. Staff is extremely friendly and efficient. Shops contained expensive designer type items. The officers were seen frequently throughout the ship. Drinks were weak but free champagne was offered frequently. The food was ok but nothing 5 star. The shows were very good, family oriented and well attended. Very large casino but the children’s video game area

was too close. We had a very nice time all in all. If you go thinking that you are going to get a $2000 cruise for $500 you will be very disappointed but if you consider what you get for the price you pay I think it is well worth it and we are planning to cruise with Costa again next Christmas. For more details read on. Let us start with Day one. Embarkation: went very smoothly. As you entered the pier the porters were right there to immediately take your luggage. They do not work for the cruise line so they do expect a tip. As you entered the building each person was handed a number and asked to be seated. Several cruise personnel were going around to check and make sure that all you paper work was completed properly and help those that needed help. As the building filled up you were called into lines according to the number you held so those that got there first went onboard first. This made the procedure very efficient. As you entered the ship some one was there to greet you and direct you to your room taking any carry on luggage that you might have with you. We were immediately impressed with the cleanliness of the ship. Our room was very nice, a little smaller than most of the other lines, but arranged for efficiency. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. We had an outside room and it had a very large round window, which really brightened, up the entire room. As the steward showed us around the room he also told us about a welcome aboard buffet. They had this at the usual buffet location and were well stocked with the usual buffet foods. They were also serving hamburgers and hotdogs out on the deck. We found this as a pleasant surprise as the Carnival ships that we had sailed on previously had not offered food until dinnertime. We didn’t leave port until 7pm so we had plenty of time to unpack, relax, and get oriented to the ship. First seating was having their dinner as we were leaving. This ship is one that rocks quite a bit with the weather so if you have problems walking or with seasickness you will want to be aware of this. Also rooms do not accommodate the large scooter type of wheel chairs. They do have a pizza shop on board but it does not open until 3pm and we found it not to our liking. The shops onboard catered mostly to those who like designer items. I found the prices on most items too high. The Internet café was a nice touch for those of us who could not leave their e-mail for an entire week. It is also good for staying in touch with the family. We had decided to get the honeymoon/anniversary package, me for the romance and the robes for my husband. It was very nice and consisted of a large basket of flowers that would have cost at least $50 at your local florist, a bottle of champagne with two glasses, 2 cotton robes that even fit fuller figures like ours, a silver 8x10 picture frame with a free 8x10 photograph, a rose on my pillow the first night, and an invitation to a special cocktail party with the captain. We thought that this was a very good addition to our cruise and especially for $99. The food ….we had heard some bad reviews about the food aboard this ship so we didn’t really know what to expect. Truly my husband and I are not gourmets and like just about anything. We almost always enjoyed what we ordered. The food was always served to us hot and displayed nicely on the plate. We did find a lot of foods that we had never eaten before and tried a few and enjoyed them. On the nights that we wanted something simpler and more American we ordered from their always-available section, consisting of sirloin steak, chicken breast, or fish. We noticed that they had special menus for those that wanted a vegetarian meal. Those with more of a gourmet taste for 5 star restaurants may not have found it to their tastes but for my husband and myself, we were well suited. We did however find that the menus description sometimes did not match the American thoughts. Like taco salad to an American is usually lettuce, meat, cheese, etc. Their actual taco salad was a to be built taco. When we did get this they were more than happy to get something else for us. The staff ….We found the staff extremely friendly and ready to assist you with anything that you might need. Our cabin steward knew us by name before we sailed the first day and anticipated our needs before we realized we needed it. The waiters were friendly, efficient, and entertaining. They had several nights that the waiters entertained before desert was served one night they even danced with each lady at the table. Everyone from the Captain, who was often seen about the ship, to the man or woman sweeping up always greeted you with a smile and offered assistance. Tours …In Key West we took the Conch Train Tour which was really a trolley. It gave a little information about the city but I would not recommend it. We were not in this port long enough to really see it. In San Juan we took the city tour, which showed us around the city in an a/c bus. We also stopped to see the old fort but didn’t really have time to really explore it. Also the cost of the fort was not included in the tour price. Town was crowed with 10 cruise ships in port!!! City was pretty and decorated for Christmas. We did our own thing in St Thomas having been there before. We went to Coki Beach a great place to snorkel. My husband scuba dived for the first time too. Then we hit the shops! In Nassau it was chilly and rainy but they didn’t cancel the tour to the Blue Lagoon. I would not recommend this tour for anyone who has problems walking a long distance. After the boat let us off it was about ¾ mile to the place to swim. The water was only to the knees and nowhere insight to snorkel. They did snorkel with the stingrays or dolphins but you had to pay extra for that! It ended up being a $30 each boat ride. Very disappointing. We left within the hour. Then it rained hard most of the day. We stayed on board the ship. We had no children on board so we can’t tell first hand what their programs were like. I did however see that the younger ones were well attended and appeared to be having fun. The teens seemed to enjoy themselves too. All in all kids were less rowdy than on Carnival cruses. Debarkation …Went smoothly. We were placed in rooms according to the color of tags on luggage and dismissed by color to avoid bunching. Luggage was easy to find because it too was placed according to color of tag on the luggage. Leaving Port Everglades was a total traffic jam.

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Nov 30, -0001

Key West Cozumel Grand Cayman, Jamaica

Carl Von Tobel Jr December 27, 1998 I would like to submit to you my review of my recent trip aboard the Victoria. To start off I am a second time traveler aboard your cruise lines and was looking forward to that first class treatment that I believed your line would be able to provide my wife and me. I have many great things I can say about the Victoria, to begin with the staff and support cruise was top-notch. The restaurant was

5-star. The pools and decks were more than adequate. The ports were also fine. The major problem I had was with he air and sea package myself and family bought. To begin with my nightmare returning home begins with our arrival at the airport. The cruise line set up other family members and myself with flights home aboard Kiwi Airlines. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5 45 PM on Sunday but we were not able to return till 1030 PM MONDAY night. I realize that most of the problem lies within the airline but it was Costa’s choice to use them in our air sea package, not ours. When we arrived at the Kiwi desk there was no representative to meet us. When we were finally able to find a representative she was nothing but rude to me and family. She informed us that our flight was delayed 2 hrs (we realize that flights get delayed and we sat down and waited). From there we returned to the counter only to be told that our flight was going to be delayed again for another 2 hrs. From there we sat and waited, we waited till the return time only to find no one from Kiwi to help us in a panic. We were going to miss the flight. We tried to call Costa for help but was told it was the airline’s problem not the cruise lines. We finally found (hours later) that the flight was being delayed till 2:00 am the next day with no offer of accommodations made to us from anyone. We were told to return and 7am the next day for our flight home, well again no one was there from Costa or Kiwi to help us to get to the flight. Finally, we got a representative from Costa at 11:00 am and told us a flight was on the way and we should be leaving by noon. Needless to say, we waited and waited till 6pm and finally got a flight home. With over a 24-hour delay we finally returned home and a great vacation was destroyed. I can not believe that a first rate cruise line like Costa would deal with such a nickel and dime operation like Kiwi. We did not choose Kiwi, Costa did. I am very disappointed in the customer relations department who also offered very little help in many of their customers in distress. I believe that Costa has the attitude that once you were off the ship that you were no longer their priority and you were on your own. We received no help from many of their reps and were faced to deal with this situation on our own. To sum up my opinion, I am very disappointed with the performance of Costa and the way they took care off their passengers off the ship. We never received an apology from the line! Myself, being a second time cruiser on the line, would have to say we would never cruise Costa again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

K. Schnoebelen 2000 This was our first cruise experience, many friends had told us we would love it but we had never considered ourselves "cruise people". We were on the Super Bowl Cruise. Let me start off by saying this was the best seven days of our lives. We are well traveled, Europe etc. but our time aboard the Costa Victoria was a non-stop great time. When we left Minneapolis MN. it was 10 below zero and we were dressed

in shorts in anticipation of warmer weather (a good idea by the way). We flew non-stop via Ryan Airlines a charter service, although we had a 2 hour delay caused by late delivery of our breakfast meal (bagel and orange, HAHA) that was the last problem we had for the rest of the trip. Service was as good or better than most of the finer hotels. The only thing that might have been better was the food, I had expected a little better quality in this area. Don't get me wrong it was better than adequate but certainly not in the four or five star restaurant category. The ship itself far exceeded our expectations. Absolutely beautiful!!!!. I am an early riser and enjoyed the open air bar-cafe area at the top rear of the ship. Had my morning smoke and coffee without interruption and watched the sun come up every day. We were on a very lively party ship. If peace and quiet is what your looking for I would not suggest a Super Bowl cruise. The ports of call were San Juan, Nassau, St. Thomas and costa's private island in the Dominican Republic (Catalina Island) and it was the best day ever. Everything could purchased with our ship card (a credit card for all ships activites, drinks etc.) and the only visitors were from our ship. The island had no docking facilities so the ship had to anchor and we were ferried in by lifeboat and pontoon boat. Upon arriving a young man came right up to us and asked us if we would like lounge chairs and the placed them for us at our desired spot on the beach (close to the bar of course). I had a full body massage for half price in an open air hut on the beach , what a perfect day. I could go on and on but I think you get the drift, we have already booked our next cruise on the CostaAtlantica for Super Bowl 2001. I would highly recommend Costa for a remarkable, fun, adult cruise experience.

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Nov 30, -0001

Greece and Turkey

The ship She was very clean and everything was very new , but she is big, very big and you do a lot of walking per day to get from one place to another. Since you are on a holiday that does not matter a lot. She was full and it showed; Some one wrote in a review to never have felt really crowded despite the 2200 passengers; I did, especially around the pool, in the shopping area and in the theater. The ship’s design is wonderful, the

restaurants are spacious, comfortable seats are available at any place in the ship. Outside deck 6 [one of the main decks] there is a wide and large 400 meter covered jogging track which can also be used to have a walk in the outdoor without being exposed to the sun or the wind to much; it is a very romantic place in the evening. There are 12 lifts and there was never any waiting time; very good for such a capacity; stair cases are very convenient too. At embarkation at the pier in Venice you enter the ship via the main entrance hall at deck 5 from where you take the panoramic lift to the appropriate deck for you cabins. All thru the cruise this entrance hall and central planetarium with its panoramic lifts are a point of encounter and passage; it is a beautiful 6 floors architectural stunt and I love the way that this hall has been  arranged. There are 6 to 10 lounges and bars where at various moments of the day you can enjoy music of a live band or piano. Wonderful ! The Concorde plaza lounge with its particular architecture and three level seating area is a great place to be, especially in the evening when the ballroom dance starts. The last evening we participated in a small dance contest and got the second price. That was real good fun. The theater on deck 6 and 7 has always been a controversial subject and even we experienced that it was far to small for a ship of that capacity. We usually got there 30 minutes in advance but never managed to get on the first row,  from where the view was probably the best. The Festival theater has a very nice interior and is very cozy and nicely arranged but not optimally. And she was certainly always very crowded and full. The outdoor pool area on deck 11 is beautiful and big; sun-loungers, tables and deck chairs available next to the pool and on deck 12 in the front part of the ship. There is plexi glass almost everywhere which gives a pretty good protection against the wind. At the rear part there is no more plexi to allow people to stick their nose in the wind. The pool capacity is dramatically low and on several moments you could hardly join the crowd in the water because the pools were full. Several people complained about the splashing children and it had been advised to parents to only allow their children to go into the main pool [the other pool being smaller and rectangular and "reserved for adults and calm swimmers"]. No way to keep order in that pool matter. The hot tubs were more than hot enough for a summer season and no children were allowed neither. Guess what ? . . . On deck 12 there was thus a lot of space for sun bathers and normally there also was a "fun shower" [which had not been operational for quite some time now] which could have done a good job to cool off the people in that area of the ship or used as a small pool for young children. To bad it did not work ! On the evaluation form I suggested a third outdoor pool  in another area of the ship , one which would be the only one for splashing children. It would make a better distribution of the cruisers too cause it really felt crowded around the pool. On deck 6 there was the indoor pool with a relaxing and sauna area adjacent to the fitness rooms. The idea of being in an indoor pool aboard a ship had always appealed to me and it was indeed a funny experience to be in an indoor salt water pool. That part of the ship is certainly worth a visit. At the stern on deck 11 there was a buffet area with both indoor and outdoor of plenty seating capacity;  you could even take your food to the tables and chairs in the pool area. The outdoor tables of the buffet were in the shade thanks to the enormous canopy. A very good and realistic impression of the ship can also be found at http://www.travelpage.com/cruise/ships/co_victo.htm The food and bars Very important item if you go on a holiday and was very good on this cruise. As it was announced in the brochures there is plenty of food and very international ; two evenings we had a formal dinner but the food did not differ from the other evenings; it was outstanding and coming from France and being used to "French delicatessens" we have a nerve to say so. There was one Italian night, all  the others were international [as far as I can remember]. Breakfast was possible either in the restaurant or at the buffet. For the convenience of being served [remember that we had three small children with us] and remaining seated we always went to the restaurant. The same applies for the lunch on most days; the food was better presented and looked more tasteful than at the buffet. We observed the same on our Costa Allegra cruise earlier that year. We never made it to the midnight buffets nor to the pizza’s. I read in another review on the Victoria that there was ice cream available in the evenings, but never saw that announced [probably only in the Caribbean]. For lunch there also was a kind of hamburger grill next to the pool where you could find the usual grilled stuff. We never tried it. The tea time was OK and quite tasteful though the Italians do not really know how to make good pastry. Very often it was very crowded around the buffet [both at lunch and tea]; this makes me kinda nervous and that is why I also prefer the restaurant. It is amazing how they manage to prepare a dinner for more than 2000 people and still come up with good things. Note that the restaurant we were in [Fantasia, 1st seating] started at 7 PM, the other at 7.30 PM; same applied for the second seating. In the kitchen there are about 150 people [without counting the waiters and assistant waiters]. There were plenty of bars and all prices were reasonable; Each day there was a "cocktail of the day " which made it easy to chose and cheap to have a drink. In all cabins a choice of drinks and snacks was available in the fridge. The entertainment Evenings: This was the disappointing part of the cruise. As we had the first seating for dinner and we never made it till after midnight we never had the opportunity to participate in the late evening entertainment. The shows were usually alternated, namely the show of day 1 for seating 1 was repeated on day 2 for seating 2 and vice versa. The first night we had a show in Vegas style with  Rock as a theme; singing and dancing, feathers and costumes. It was very good and promised to be a good week of shows and entertainment. The second evening there was nothing in the theater but a in the Concorde plaza a jongleur gave his performance, Johnny Carletti. It was the same one as on the Costa Allegra three months earlier and he still had not learnt how to juggle properly. It is incredible that Costa kept this guy on, despite the numerous errors and ridiculous acts that will not work that he brings. We left after half an hour. The third evening there was a karaoke in the main theater; no comment on the performers but we feel that this type of entertainment is not really appropriate to fill an evening for 1000 people. The fourth night there was a very nice and entertaining show called "Cinémagique" which combined singing and dancing with movie theme. One of the best of that week. The fifth night we attended the performance of Victoria, an American Whitney Houston like singer with a wonderful and strong voice. She brought all kinds of well known songs and got rightfully a standing applause. I liked it a lot. Our two oldest children joined us but found that she was singing to loud. I am curious to know how they will react in ten years from now when they will start going to disco’s. . . The sixth night the theater was already very early crowded but we had no idea why; apparently there was a very popular Italian singer on board who was giving a concert that night. We left the show after a few minutes since it was not our style. There were people standing everywhere and our seats in the very front row was quickly and gladly taken by some real fans. So we headed to the Concorde Plaza where the band was already playing. We practiced some dances cause at 11 PM there was a dancing contest at which we wanted to participate. There were 11 couples, 10 of them were Italian , we were the only non-Italians (from Switzerland). We all got a hat with a number on it, there were 5 people selected as a jury; the place was full ; we had to do 4 different dances and got the second prize (a set of pens and a nice Costa bag for my wife). It was real fun. The last night there was the show of a ventriloquist, wonderful entertainment, the best of the cruise; apparently they kept the best for the last evening; the guy was perfectly combining humor with entertainment, involving the whole audience and in particular some selected [on the spot] people. Most of the above entertainment shows took place in the main theater. However there was every evening also entertainment in the disco [often starting at 0.30 am], in the tavernetta, and in the different bars. These were things like election of Mr. Costa, The ideal couple, Tropical games, etc. Not really our cup of tea. The ports of call Bari (I): just a technical stop to allow people from the southern part of Italy to embark. nice to go into town though we were warned by several people to be careful on our money and wallets because of thieves, etc. Katakolon (GR.): tour to Olympia, the ancient Olympic site; we had seen that one already so just wandered around in the very small village Kusadasi (TR.): tour to Ephesus, one of the most ancient preserved ruins of a city; very nice and the afternoon we spent in the town itself, lots of shopping and good bargains Volos (GR.): whole day tour to the Meteora, old monasteries on top of rocks; very interesting, probably the most exciting tour of the cruise Piraeus (GR.): Athens, we just took a cab into the old town cause we had seen all the spots already; went back to the ship by 3 PM. last day at sea, with a lot of wind Disembarkation Went very smoothly and we found our car just outside the terminal, ready to take us back home. All by all I was very happy with the cruise though the children‘s club was sometimes overcrowded, very often the Italians are to noisy and if you do not like to feel just a number in a crowd, then do not cruise on the Victoria cause she is really big but I liked that 

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Occupation: Professor Higher Education Cruise Line: Costa Sailing Date: December 11th, 2002 In the vernacular of our youth, “The cruise was awesome!.” This was an international cruise. It was quite special to be greeted in the morning with, “Good morning.” in five or six different languages. The world needs more cruises like this to bring people from different countries of the world together, especially in an atmosphere of fun

and frolic. As one could imagine, on an Italian ship, the cruise was an epicurean delight and adventure! As this was my seventh cruise I believe I can make a few observations and evaluations with a touch of authority. I would like to make the statement here, that in previous cruises, I was married and not single. I basically achieved what I wanted to achieve on this cruise, namely to escape the world of work and reality for a brief period, to have time to write, to tan and in general, to be spoiled for eleven days. Two other areas that I wanted to experience or achieve were practically non-existent. One was to dance the nights away and secondly I was hoping for a touch of romance. Regarding the latter I must say that the Costa Victoria was close to a complete failure. Italy and the Italians, known the world over for amore, romance and love, let me down. Until I find a partner or take a wife I will never take another cruise aboard this ship. For those of you, especially in the U.S., and that takes in approximately forty per cent of the American population, book another cruise line if you are single.. If you are married and/or have a partner, Costa Victoria is the ship for you. I was astonished that the ship could not put together a better environment for the single traveler. On the first night aboard the ship they did have a singles party, however, hardly any of the passengers had unpacked their bags nor had they become acclimated to the ship’s environment. The cocktail party was a complete bust. I have a few suggestions for the Costa Victoria as well as some of the other cruise lines having difficulty appealing to the single crowd, especially the single adult. 1. Create an Adult Singles Program Director. 2. Establish a special club area and or environment specifically for the single adults. 3. Program some creative romantic events! 4. A special singles group should be created for all excursions. Conversation is very difficult to develop and maintain between single and married couples. The Costa Victoria arranged excursions for the various languages, why not for the single vs. the married or couple. 5. The booking agent could play a major role in dealing with the single adult. On all forms/applications etc. a question should appear asking the individual if they are an adult single. Another question should be, “Are you interested in socializing with other adult singles during the cruise?” 6. If the above respondent replies yes to the above, a Directors job is half over. Schedule these  people at singles dinner tables and place them into singles groups for various excursions. Also, plan for various ‘aboard ship’ events. I would like to mention at this point in the evaluation that the crew and staff of the Costa Victoria were superior to any cruise ship I have experienced. The young ‘animators’ were super and my special praise goes to my head waiter, David Herrero, my assistant waiter, Maria Reyes Cristina and to my cabin stewardess, Dominika. If you happen to get any one of these individuals on your cruise aboard the Costa Victoria, you will be a very fortunate individual. The bus excursion to San Jose, Costa Rica, through the rain forest area and the city, was very good and worth the money; however, the train ride from one coast to the other in Panama still needs a lot of work. The latter is not worth the price of the excursion. In regards to what is worth your money and what isn’t, I suggest that the Costa Victoria get some help from the American Catholic Church on how to conduct a BINGO event. I spent twenty dollars for three paper bingo cards and two games of bingo. The first game was worth fifty dollars and  the second game was worth two hundred and fifty. The entire event took about fifteen or twenty minutes. The ports of call, in general, were excellent, especially Limon in Costa Rica. The people of Costa Rica should be the examples for other Latin American countries to follow. The prices for souvenirs and other South American trinkets were the best in Cartagena and Cozumel, expensive in Aruba  and Panama and fair in Costa Rica. One last critical comment regards events that were held in a nightclub area called the Concorde Plaza. I make this observation having been a director in the theatre for over forty years. The special events held in this area by the young people called the ‘animators’ were a lot of fun and very entertaining however, they would bring into this nightclub between a hundred and two hundred people, at the close of each one of these special events they would get a large group of participants up on to the dance floor and the club would really begin to shake. Everyone in the club, dancing and not dancing, were ready to party!! At the end of the group dance, the ‘animators’ would vanish along with the band, leaving one hundred to two hundred hyper people in a quiet vacuum. A tape, played very low, of Frank Sinatra would come over the sound system. You now had two hundred people with nothing to do but sit in silence, move on to another event, or go to bed. I ask why???? Once again, if you are in love and/or have a partner, either for a short romance or for a life time and desire to take a cruise where memories will last you through the years, then I recommend, without reservations, the Costa Victoria. It is a most beautiful ship and certainly deserves the title as the ‘gem’ of the Italian cruise fleet. Respectfully submitted, Robert W. West

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