We sailed for Progresso, Mexico on smooth seas, but a storm made the Western Caribbean very, very rough -- so rough, the port authorities at Progresso would not let us dock. After circling around outside the port for an hour or so, the Costa folks quickly re-arranged our schedule. We headed for Grand Cayman out of sequence, then got back on schedule in Montego Bay the next day. After the scheduled stops at Panama and Costa Rico, we went to Roatan Island in Honduras as a substitute port for Progresso (and on the day we were orginally scheduled to be in Grand Cayman).
The ship is small and the seas do affect it more than most cruise ships. Many of the passengers (including me) were queasy outside Mexico. However, we soon got our sea legs, and while the rest of the trip was almost equally rocky, it soon got to be a funny topic of conversation rather than an issue. Everyone watched carefully to see how the show dancers could keep their feet under them, and one had to be watchful as drink carts were rolled down passageways -- they often zigged and zagged as the ship rolled.
The most often heard comment was, "Yeah, but considering the price we paid, who cares?" Remember, this cruise, for the North Americans on board, worked out to around $55 per night inclusive after the shipboard credit was subtracted. We managed to get drinks, a watch, licquor, a dress, scarves, tee-shirts, money clip, sweat shirts and photos for a total out of pocket cost to us of around $5, by carefully monitoring the $200 shipboard credit.
The passengers were about 2/3 European and 1/3 English speaking. Most of the Europeans were Italian, next was Germans, then French and all others.
What was best about the trip was the size of the ship. At 800 passengers, it was intimate enough that we got to recognize almost everyone, and to know many of them. There were no crowds at elevators or disembarking. The dining room was more like a restaurant than a convention center. We enjoyed it so much, we will be looking for small ships from now on for our cruises. I'm sure there is a place for the megaships, for the young folks with enough energy to try all the activities, but us old pharts had plenty to do on the small ship.
The staff was first rate. Everyone went out of their way to be sure we had a good time, Even the security detail on the gangplank was smiling and started remembering people by the second port.
Now, a thoughtful word about the food. Before our trip, I read a lot about Costa food, and not all of it was good. So, I paid particular attention on our ship. Here is my thought: All of the food was excellent, but not all of it was to my taste. I have simple tastes, and European gourmet cooking just goes so far. When we finally had American night and I got some BBQ ribs and french fries, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. There were a couple of nights when I just had pasta rather than duck's bill goose toes, or whatever they were serving as a delicacy. But, they key point is, ALL of it was prepared extremely well, and everything I tried was very, very good. I did eat a lot of things I'd never eaten before, and some of them I'll actually eat again, some day. There was no proplem with the quality of the food -- only individual tastes.
Were there any negatives? Yes, I never got used to the European-style sheet/comforter. It was either too hot or I got too cold when I pushed it off. And, my matress left a lot to be desired. We tried an inside room for the first time, and decided we wouldn't do that again -- we decided that we're not cave dwellers, and it might be nice to see whether it was daylight or not.
We only took one organized tour, the Panama City bus trip organized by Legendary Journeys. In contrast to an earlier report on this forum, we found it thoroughly enjoyable and worth far more than the cost. We stopped at the Gatun locks, visited a duty free center being developed on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and got out of the bus for a walking tour of Panama City that took us right in front of the Presidential residence (inside the gates!) At the other stops, we either took a taxi tour or walked into town (Puerto Limon). The best was the driver we found in Montego Bay who took us (aty our request) to a native craft center, to a local restaurant for native fare, and to a supermarket where I restocked my cabin supply of Diet Pepsi. He guided us every step of the way, recommending dishes for lunch and found us some scotch bonnet pepper in the super market. He seemed to appreciate that we wanted to experience the real Jamaica, not the typical tourist stuff. No jewelry stores or Hard Rock Cafes for us.
All in all, it was a great trip, made doubly better by the price. We're sad that the Allegra is going to Singapore, but, who knows -- we may go there and sail on her again, some day!
Don & Betsy
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