Posted February 16th, 2005, 12:16 PM
Here is a part of my review... this is taking a long time!
PART 1 COSTA MAGICA – January 31, 2005
SUMMARY – In a nutshell
Cabin and service: 5/5
Food and service: 1/5
Ship activities: 2/5
Overall experience: 3/5
The good, the bad and the ugly….
- Itinerary was wonderful: Egypt was the highlight, and many more nice surprises such as Rhodes.
- We met some wonderful people on the cruise, we enjoyed the international crowd.
- The ship being so new it’s very clean, and it is well kept.
- There is a well defined smoking side on the ship, and other than in the casino, you don’t really get bothered by smoke – there are no ashtrays near elevators which is a good deterrent for people since no one smoked in these areas.
- Tea in the Bellagio Buffet restaurant has a good selection of whole-leaf teas of good quality that they put into a sachet. You also get real porcelain cups which is a nice contrast from the picnic plastic mug you usually get at the buffet… as for the food, it was not great, and the dessert were the same ones everyday.
- No more chocolate on your pillows… not essential, but a nice touch before going to bed
- No more bathrobes… had I known I would have brought one
- No more toiletries
- Food: quality, variety… it’s just the worst food we’ve ever had on a cruise. I’m sure this will change soon as everyone was complaining.
- No other dining option than the restaurant. They say the buffet is open but all there is, and this is true for all 12 nights we were there was a plate of iceberg lettuce, one with radicchio, olives, cold cooked cauliflower and carrots, 1 kind of cold cuts, and 1 kind of cheese. They also have pizza available til 1am.
- Embarkation in ports was a nightmare… it took up to 1 hour to get back on the ship when we returned from some excursion, especially in Egypt, when 7 buses all returned at once… this was not pretty. People were upset, yelled and pushed.
Costa Crociere just opened in 2004 their new cruise ship terminal in Savona. It’s a beautiful building well designed to wait for embarkation. It has a great outdoor patio where you can sip a beer or cocktail watching the harbour activity, while waiting for you number to be called. Since most passengers come with Costa transfers from either the Nice airport or Genoa airport, a Costa rep comes onboard the buses and give everyone a number. The luggage are automatically transferred from the bus to the terminal. Then, we proceeded to the terminal where there are many comfortable seats to wait for your turn. It was a bit long, over 1.5 hour wait, but at least is was comfortable. Then we cleared security fairly rapidly and proceeded immediately onboard. Everyone was asked to immediately go to the theatre to hand their passports. They keep them for Egyptian immigration processing.
Then we went straight to our stateroom where we found our Costa Cards on the desk. No need to wait in line to get your card. Also, the luggage was already in the cabin when we got there, which is always a great relief!!
The buffet was only opened til 4pm, which was a bit tight. We had not eaten lunch so we ran upstairs, and just managed to put a few things on our plates before they closed off all the buffet lines.
So overall, the process was very smooth even if it was a bit lengthy.
We had reserved cabin 7401, a category 8 balcony cabin. The cabin is very spacious. It has a 3-door wardrobe with 2 separate hanging closets, and one with shelves with a full length mirror. The vanity has 3 drawers, and a small cabinet unit for smaller object storage. There is a small fridge, as well as a safe that uses a magnetic card for locking (any card with a magnetic strip works).
The bed was comfortable. There is also a very wide couch that can probably transform into a bed – it’s not a pull-out couch, but the width of the couch is the length of a bed. There is also a small table that is adjustable to either be used as a dining table for breakfast, or as a coffee table. The bathroom is large enough, with the usual amenities, but no toiletries. There is one bar of soap, and for the 12 days we were there, we never got another one! No shampoo, or lotion. You can get lotion and showers caps on request only. Also, there are no bathrobes available either. Had I known this, I would have brought a bathrobe.
Our cabin steward was extremely discreet and polite but very efficient. He did not speak much Italian nor French (which is what 80% of the people on the ship spoke) but we managed to communicate in English. The room was promptly done as soon as we left in the morning. The cabin service was great.
DINING ROOM SERVICE and FOOD
We had a table for 6 on the upper section of the Portofino restaurant, situated at midship. The ship has two dining rooms and the galley is in between. Because of that, you cannot go to the front of the ship on deck 3 and 4. Since our room was aft, we always had to go down to Deck 5, then walk forward, and down again to Deck 3 or 4 from there. Not a big issue, but it is confusing at first.
For the first time, we dined at the first sitting which was at 6h30 PM. This was a bit early since we were gone on excursions most days, and didn’t return until 5 or 5h30. That didn’t leave us enough time to unwind and get ready for diner. We were always rushed to shower and go down to the dining room. The second sitting was at 8h45 or 9 PM depending on the night. Knowing what I know now, I would choose the second sitting, even if it’s a bit late just to have a bit more time after returning from excursions.
The food was definitely sub-standards. The menu offered a variety of dishes, but the preparation was not well done. Meat were never cooked properly, were tough and flavourless. The fish was often fishy tasting. We never once had a baked potato, we had most often boiled potatoes, and once we had mashed that were so gluey that needed to be cut with a knife. The vegetables were always frozen. We had shrimp once at the first gala dinner as a shrimp cocktail, and on the last gala menu, there was a langouste thermidor, which was not good at all, very tough. Filet mignon? Never to be seen.
On the first night, we asked for dressing for our salad. We were offered 4 different kinds, and asked for blue cheese. The dressing we receive tasted really odd. Every other night, the only dressing available was Thousand Islands… this is odd.
I must say that the pasta dishes were always tasty, and our server told me at some point that many people ordered two pasta plates as dinner instead of the meat dishes – I did that a couple times and was happy about my decision.
Our server Paolo was Colombian and his assistant George was from the Philippines. They were both very friendly. We communicated with them in English, which was a problem for many passengers as most spoke either Italian or French. The Maitre D’, Dario was friendly and very helpful. On many nights the dining room was extremely hot, and as soon as I mentioned it to him he got on the phone with the engineers and we immediately felt the AC turned on. We also requested on one night a table at the second sitting and he obliged us very gracefully. The service was slightly chaotic on the first 2-3 nights, and we had to wait more than 45 minutes between our appetizer and soup, but after the first gala dinner, things smoothed themselves out, and service became more organized.
We had lunch in the dining room once, and the nice thing is that you can sit wherever you want. They don’t ‘fill’ tables. The menu was limited, but the service was efficient.
Breakfast in the dining room only had a cold offering – continental breakfast: breads, cold cereals, juice. If you’re longing for eggs Benedict, fill up before you leave…
Breakfast was the same every morning. We had a variety of freshly baked goods, croissants, chocolatine, brioche, Danishes etc. that were very good. Fresh fruits, berries and cream, muesli, cold cereals and yogurt completed the cold buffet. The hot buffet had hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, beans, waffle and French toast. There was also a selection of marinated fish, cold cuts and cheese. This was fine even if the selection became boring after a while.
Lunch was served at two central sections which had a more conventional offer, and on two side stations that had a ‘theme’ menu everyday. The food was average at best. IT was always very crowded and the best bet was to find a seat on the mezzanine level which usually a bit quieter. The grills by the pools offered hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and lamb chops.
After 2h30, the only food available was the salad bar which consisted of iceberg lettuce, radicchio, quartered tomatoes, olives, a mix of cold cooked cauliflower and carrots, one cold cut, one cheese and buns. There is also pizza available until late in the evening. If you didn’t feel like going to the dining room, you really had no options.
Tea was the highlight of our food (or beverage) experience. They had a nice selection of whole-leaf teas of good quality that they put into a sachet. The cherry tea and the blackcurrant were particularly good. You also get real porcelain cups which is a nice contrast from the picnic plastic mug you usually get at the buffet.
The sandwiches were always dried, and the few pastries served were the same one everyday…
Soft serve ice cream was available almost all the time, depending on the days, sometime the machine was on, sometimes it was off.
We didn’t take a ship’s excursion as we had been to Naples 3 times already. We wanted to go to the Museum of Archaeology, but since we were there on a Tuesday, it was closed. So we opted to go on our own. We walked from the ship to the Castel Nuovo, which is just across the street – a 5 minute walk from the cruise ship terminal. Since it was raining, we opted to take a city tour bus for €18. Then, we went to visit the Castel Nuovo. The entrance fee was €5 for me, and it was free for my mom. There was a few exhibits of 16-19th century paintings.
This was to be the highlight of the trip and it was. We chose the Pyramid, Saqqara and Memphis tour (€99 per person) and really enjoyed it. As opposed to all other tours that included a meal in a restaurant, we had a lunch bag that we picked up as we debarked the ship in the morning. It was certainly not a gastronomical feast, but it allowed us to spend more time at the various sites.
The excursion started with a 3 hour bus ride to Cairo. On the bus, our guide talked about the ancient Egyptian civilizations, the most important pharaohs, etc. Because of our limited time in the city, and very little shopping opportunities, she offered to take orders for cartouche jewellery and t-shirts. Upon our arrival in Cairo, she called in the orders, and we were able to pick them up at the end of the day. They offered various size of cartouches in either silver, gold or silver with gold symbols. I ordered the most expensive one and it was $95 US. The small one made of silver was about $25 US. Once at the store, you could pay in €, dollars or with a credit card.
Our first stop was the Pyramids. We first went to the high plateau where we had a view of all three pyramids. We had about 15 minutes to take a few pictures. This stop had several merchants selling statuettes, pyramids, brass plates, post cards etc. This is one of the better shopping opportunity – so if you want some souvenirs, make sure to get them there. We bought 3 small pyramids in engraved brass for 1 Euro. Be wary of camel drivers… they will let you hop on their camel for free, but will charge you whatever they want to let you off… this happened to one of our friend…
They will also charge you just to take a picture, so pretend you shoot something else! And watch out for camel pooh…
Then we drove to a parking lot located between the Kheops and Kephren pyramids. There, we had about 30 minutes to walk around. Those who wanted could go inside the Kephren pyramid. Those who went said it was not worth it, as you walked in a very small and dark tunnel that is about 5 feet tall, and ended in a room that was completely bare. All objects and wall painting were removed. You also have the opportunity to go visit the royal barque, but again time is very limited, if you choose to do this, you have to run. We chose to walk up to the pyramid and just sink in the magnitude of the work… it’s even more impressive that what can be expected.
Our next stop was at the Sphinx. We had some time to wander on our own, and then we were able to eat our lunch at the restaurant terrace. We were given a coupon for a drink. The view was spectacular… We had 1.5 hour to walk around, and take in the sight. This was great.
Then, on to Saqqara. As we got there the wind started to blow and we witnessed a sand storm!! We went into a mastaba which was the tomb of Mererouka. There, we were able to see several rooms with unbelievable wall drawings and hieroglyphs. Once we got out, the storm had receded and we went on to the pyramid of Djoser, the step pyramid. We had about 30 minutes to walk around.
Next stop was in the ancient site of Memphis. The ancient city is no longer there. Palm trees cover most of what was once the capital of Egypt. But there is a small outdoor museum with the famous alabaster sphinx, a few sarcophagus, and the colossal statue of Ramses II. Even if there isn’t much to see there, it was a nice addition to the whole trip. It was very pleasant to see the lush palm trees covering this site – a nice contrast with all the sand surrounding this area.
Last stop – Papyrus Institute. This is the last stop of all tours. They show you how papyrus is made in a 5 minute demonstration. Then you have time to shop for your papyrus and then you can walk up to the jewellery store, where you can pick up your cartouche, and then shop for other jewellery. The papyrus are relatively inexpensive. You can get small ones for €8-10. We were looking at a large one but found it a bit expensive – it was €75. The salesman told us ‘How much do you want to pay for it…’ we didn’t think we could or should barter in a shop like this, but I guess you could… I offered him 50 and he accepted. When I went to the cashier to pay, the credit card machine didn’t work. All I had was €40, and he gladly took it!
MORE TO COME SOON...
Looking forward to:
12/12/2013 Explorer of the Seas - Caribbean 10 days
04/27/2014 Ruby Princess - Transatlantic
07/15/2014 Celebrity Silhouette - Greek Isles
10/14/2014 Celebrity Constellation - Black Sea
10/25/2014 Celebrity Constellation - Holy Land
02/02/2015 Celebrity Infinity - Antartica
Great memories of 296 days at sea on :
27) 10/24/2013 Celebrity Infinity - Transatlantic Harwich to Miami
26) 07/2013 Celebrity Summit - Bermuda
25) 03/2013 Celebrity Infinity - South America and Canal crossing
24) 10/2012 Brilliance of the Seas - Canada and St-Pierre Miquelon
23) 05/2012 Celebrity Silhouette - Mediterranean & Adriatic
22) 10/2011 Celebrity Silhouette - Holy Land
21) 12/2010 Emerald Princess - Southern Carribbean
20) 10/2010 Celebrity Equinox - Transatlantic
19) 06/2010 Azamara Journey - Norwegian Fjords
18) 10/2009 Azamara Quest - Ancient Empires
17) 01/2009 Azamara Quest - Asia, Hong Kong to Tianjin
16) 08/2008 Sea Princess - Iceland, Greenland Transatlantic
15) 04/2008 Navigator of the Seas - Eastbound Transatlantic FLL to Barcelona
14) 12/2007 Emerald Princess - Southern Caribbean
13) 10/2007 Serenade of the Seas - Circle Hawaii
12) 02/2007 Golden Princess - South America & Cape Horn, Strait of Magellan
11) 08/2006 Golden Princess - British Isles
10) 11/2005 NCL Star - Mexican Riviera
9) 05/2005 HAL Rotterdam - Mediterranean:Venice, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Italy
8) 01/2005 Costa Magica - Mediterranean (Egypt,Turkey, Cyprus, Greece)
7) 08/2004 HAL Zuiderdam - Hurricane Frances Eastern Caribbean
6) 05/2004 Sun Princess - Alaska Southbound
5) 05/2003 Regal Princess - Baltics Russia
4) 12/2002 Celebrity Constellation - Southern Caribbean
3) 10/2001 Golden Princess - Eastern Caribbean
2) 03/2001 Carnival Sensation - Western Caribbean
1) 04/1999 Costa Romantica - Western Caribbean