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BellaBeagle December 3rd, 2004 11:32 AM

CostaAtlantica Eastern Med. Cruise Review!
I just attempted to post a long description of our October 20-30, 2004 CostaAtlantica cruise from Savona with ports of call in Naples, Italy; Messina, Sicily; Alexandria (Cairo); Limassol, Cyprus; Marmaris, Turkey; Santorini, Greece; and Katakalon (Olympia), Greece. Somewhere between writing it and posting it, it appears to have gone missing. :(

The short version of my post (in case it reappears!) was that we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. The CostaAtlantica was clean and beautiful and we would love to sail on her again.

We also enjoyed our ports of call immensely. We did participate in the on-board shore excursions (except in Naples where we did Capri on our own and in Santorini where we did Fira on our own) even though we normally would not. Although the excursions were pricey (44 euros to upwards of 100 euros per person), they were well worth it since the ship docks quite a distance from many of the interesting attractions.

If anybody would like more info on the CostaAtlantica in Europe or on these ports of call, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer your questions. Cruise Critic has helped me plan all three of our cruises, so I thought it was about time I started giving back! :D

By the way, here's a link to our Atlantica pics:

KateKathy December 3rd, 2004 12:13 PM

Thanks for posting your short review. Hope your long one shows up. We're on the Atlantica in the Carib over Xmas.

Congratulations on your wedding and glad you had a great honeymoon.

FrenchyPati December 3rd, 2004 03:34 PM

Hello BellaBeagle,

I'm french( so excuse my english) and new on this site.
I enjoy very much your photos.

I will go on a cruise in the Mediterranean in March of the next year on the Costa Magica.

Some of our stopovers will be the same ones that yours, en particulary, Naples, Limassol, Marmaris, Alexandria and Katakalon.

Can you tell me what excursions exactly you have done?

I would like to know also how long you passed to Naples. For us it will be 1pm to 7pm. Do you thing is't enough to go to Capri?

Thanking you by advance for the councils which you will want to give me well.

BellaBeagle December 3rd, 2004 08:29 PM

KateKathy - Thanks for your kind words (we had a fantastic honeymoon!!!) and I hope you have an equally fantastic time on the Atlantica in a few weeks!

FrenchyPati - your English is wonderful...much better than I could do in a foreign language. Here are the answers to your questions:

In Naples we did not do the ship's excursion. Instead, we toured Capri on our own. Like you, we were in port from 1pm-7pm. I was also concerned about going to Capri on our own with so little time, but it worked out just fine! We docked a little before 1 pm and were among the first off the ship. We then headed through the cruise terminal (once you enter, go straight and head down the stairs to the outside), walked straight across a parking lot, and at the end of the parking lot, to the left, we saw the building where we bought our tickets to Capri. The hydrofoils to Capri leave approximately every 45 minutes and the trip to Capri takes about 45 minutes as well. The cost was around 14 euros per person. The cruise passengers who took thie ship's exursion arrived in Capri after us (we saw them getting off the hydrofoils) and, in fact, they take the same type of hydrofoils over as we did. I believe we took a 1:45pm hydrofoil (run by the Snav company) to Capri and a 5:45 hydrofoil back. That gave us plenty of time to walk around the main portion of Capri (we did not make it to Anacapri). We had a lovely, unrushed afternoon. I highly recommend doing this!

In Limassol we did the ship's excursion to the Kourion ruins, the temple of Apollo and shopping in Omodos. This excursion cost approximately 44 euros per person. From the ship, it was approximately a 1 hour bus ride to the ruins. The ruins are not the most spectacular ruins in existence, but the drive is very beautiful and Omodos was a wonderful mountain village. My only complaint was that I wish we had had more time to walk around Omodos. We only had about 30 minutes. Some of our dinner companions took a tour that involved driving jeeps through the mountains and stopping at scenic villages. This tour also involved a wine tasting. They loved it! I believe it was significantly more expensive than our tour, but perhaps worth the extra money. When you're in Cyprus, try the Commanderie desert wine...we bought a bottle back with us and wish we had brought more!

In Marmaris we did the Dalyan and Caunos Express tour. It was around 44 euros per person. There were only two tours offered here. The one we took, which was half a day, and the longer version of the same tour which was about 7 hours. Again, the bus ride to these attractions is about an hour. I recommend the shorter tour. Both take you to the cliff tombs in the Dalyan river delta, for a boat ride down the river, and then on to the ruins of Caunos. The shorter tour, however, gives you time in the morning to walk around Marmaris, which is a lovely town. We bought fantastic hand-painted Turkish pottery at ridiculously low prices.

In Alexandria we took the Pyramids of Giza, Saqqara, and Memphis tour for 99 euros per person. This was the highlight of our trip. The bus ride from Alexandria to Cairo is almost 3 hours long. During the trip, however, our tour guide explained some Egyptian history to us and told us about the sites we would be seeing. We went to Saqqara first to see the Step Pyramid. Amazing! Next was Memphis. This was not as good as I had hoped because almost nothing remains of the ancient city of Memphis. However, the few items still there were interesting nontheless. Our last stop was Giza. The bus drops you off at the base of the pyramids, where you have about 20-30 minutes to walk around. The bus then goes to a plateau above the pyramids where you can take pictures from a distance for about 5 minutes. Finally, you take the bus to the Sphinx where you have about 30 minutes to walk around. We were certainly rushed, but when you see so much, that is to be expected! Afterwards, the bus drops you off at a papyrus institute where you watch them make papyrus paper and have the opportunity to buy some painting. These paintings are very reasonably priced and we bought about a dozen to bring back as souvenirs for people. They're quite nice. Another excursion that some of our dinnermates took in Alexandria also went to Giza and Saqqara, but then allowed them to ride camels in the desert. It was more expensive than our tour again, but they enjoyed themselves and talked about almost nothing else for days. Just a warning...the vendors on camels at Giza are VERY pushy and you must be firm in saying no to them or you will end up with a great deal of unwanted merchandise just to get away from them (as my husband found out). :D

In Katakalon we took the excursion to Olympia for 44 euros. Almost all of the excursions in this port go to Olympia. It's about a 30-45 minute bus ride from the port. It was interesting to see where the Olympics began and the tour does permit you time to shop in the village of Olympia, but of the ports, this was probably our least favorite. This is not to say we didn't enjoy ourselves, because we did, but it didn't quite live up to the other ports. However, as your only other option here is to walk around Katakalon, which is a very, very small, but quaint, fishing village, I would recommend going to Olympia. It's worth seeing at least once.

As you can hopefully tell, we enjoyed ourselves very much on our excursions. You are so lucky to have chosen this cruise! Enjoy yourself, and if you have any other questions, please just ask! I'm more than happy to do what I can.

FrenchyPati December 4th, 2004 06:52 AM

Hello BellaBeagle,

Thank you very much for your so complete answer.

I intend to make almost the same excursions as those you chose, so you answered me exactly what I wanted to know.
I am very impatient to go on this cruise and your information will be very useful for me. Again, thank you.

pebbles99 December 16th, 2004 12:46 PM

Dear BellaBeagle,
Thank you for your great review. We enjoyed your pictures. We are taking this exact cruise in Sept./05 and have a few questions. We arrive in Genoa a couple of days before our cruise. Would you spend the 2 days in Genoa or Savona? How do recommend getting from Genoa to Savona? Any additional thoughts on excursions? Look forward to your reply.
Don and Diana

BellaBeagle December 20th, 2004 09:14 AM

Hi Don and Diana! We also arrived in Italy a few days before the start of our cruise, and we really enjoyed it. We booked the Costa pre-cruise package (which is very reasonable) for two nights in Genoa. They put us up at the Jolly Hotel Plaza and provided free transfers from the hotel to the ship in Savona. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes, and taking a cab would have been too expensive, so the transfers were nice. We know that several couples on our ship took the train from Genoa to Savona and then a bus to the ship which was dirt cheap (a few dollars maybe), but with our luggage, we were glad to have the transfer. We also booked the Jolly Hotel for the night after the cruise ended. If Costa had arranged our airfare, this night would have been included in the cost of the airfare, but we got a better deal booking airfare ourselves, so came through for us. :) We then bought the transfers from Savona to Genoa at the ship's excursion's desk for around $20/pp. They will tell you that the transfer only goes to either the airport or the main train station in Genoa, but when you get out to the buses, you will see that the bus to the main train station in Genoa also goes to the Jolly Hotel, so we were able to stay on the bus and be dropped off directly at our hotel. It was perfect.

As for what to do during your pre-cruise stay, I would recommend taking a day trip to Portofino. From Genoa, the round-trip train tickets cost us around $4/pp, plus an extra $1/pp for the bus tickets. We took the train from Genoa's Brignolle (sp?) train station (which is within easy walking distance of the Jolly Hotel) to St. Margarita Ligure (about a 30-45 minute train ride). St. Margarita Ligure is a very picturesqe seaside town and we enjoyed walking around there as well. Right outside the train station, you can take a bus to Portofino. The drive is beautiful (and hair-raising!), and only takes about 10 minutes. Portofino is gorgeous. I believe I read somewhere that it is the most photographed village in Italy, and although I can't swear to the truth of that statement, it would certainly not surprise me. Our day in Portofino was very enjoyable, and we've enlarged and framed several pictures of it for our home because it photographs so well.

We also spent a day walking around Genoa. There are certainly some very pretty spots in Genoa, and the small pedestrian walking zones are quite nice, but on the whole, we didn't feel that we needed to spend much more time there. I'm sure others would disagree. The aquariam in Genoa is right on the harbor, and while we didn't make it inside, I understand that it's very nice, so that might be an option for you. We also had the best meal of our trip in a small restaurant off the beaten path in Genoa. The menu was completely hand-written in Italian, so we just took our best guess at what things were and pointed. To this day, I have no idea what I ate (risotto with ?????), but it was amazing! I believe the name of the restuarant was Rivaro, but I'll go back through our receipts and see if I can find the exact name for you. If I do, I'll post it here.

We didn't have a chance to spend any time in Savona, but it looked similar to Genoa (from the few minutes we saw of it on the bus transfers). Of the two, I'd say look around Genoa though simply because it's bigger and will likely have more to offer.

We also know people who did day trips to the Cinque Terre from Genoa and were quite happy with the results. The train ride is pretty long each way I believe (maybe 2.5 hours?), so if you decide to do this from Genoa, it would be a very long day.

As for additional information on the excurions, I'd say that you definitely do not need to take a ship excursion in Santorini. We spent the day walking around Fira ourselves (others took the bus to Oia with no problems) and had one of the most enjoyable and relaxing days of the cruise. At dinner that night, we compared notes with our tablemates who had taken the ship's excursions, and we felt that our day compared very favorably with theirs (and it was much cheaper!) :)

I hope this is helpful, and as always, ask away with any other questions you have!

Happy holidays!

pebbles99 December 20th, 2004 08:02 PM


Thanks so much for your reply!! We have started to do some research and have decided to go to Paris for a week before the cruise and then after the cruise to spend 4 days at the Hotel Miramare in Santa Margherita. There is much more to do there than we realized, Portofino, Lucca and the Cinque Terre. After that we'll head to Florence. Your recommendation of the meal you had in Genoa, though may require we detour there for a day.

We have been to Santorini last year and would do it on our own. The one port we would like to do "right" is Alexandria (pyramids, Sphinx ) do you know of anyone who hired a driver/guide and did this port on their own? The trip to the pyramids sounds to long by bus.

Thank you again for your help, hope you don't mind if we have more questions.
Don and Diana

BellaBeagle December 21st, 2004 03:33 PM

Don and Diana, I wish I was going on your trip with you. Paris and Florence sound perfect! I'm glad that you'll have a chance to "do" Portofino too...I promise it won't disappoint, and from what I've heard about Lucca and the Cinque Terre, neither will they.

I agree with you that Alexandria is the port to make sure you do right, but unfortunately I don't know of anybody from our ship who took an independent tour to Cairo. Judging from the number of Costa buses lined up at the port when we docked (somewhere in the range of 30-40 I'd guess), it seemed that the vast majority of passengers were taking the ship's excursions to Cairo.

We generally shy away from the ship's excursions as well simply because we don't necessarily enjoy the "crowd-mentality," but that said, I was pretty happy with the excursion to Cairo. The bus ride went by very quickly because, on the way there, the driver filled us in on Egyptian basics and interesting facts (and also tried to sell us souvenir cartuches), and on the way back we slept pretty soundly. The buses were modern and were equipped with a small toilet. The only very minor gripe I have about the day was that we simply didn't have enough time to absorb the awe of being at the pyramids. The way our excursion was arranged, we stopped in Saqqara first, then Memphis, then lunch, and last, the pyramids. Saqqara (and the Step Pyramid) was well worth stopping for, Memphis not so much. I feel that they should have either cut out this stop, or reduced the length of time we were there to allow us more time in Giza. That said, we chose to take this excursion and there were certainly other combinations (all involving Giza) that we could have opted for. I understand that all of the tours were ultimately crunched for Giza-time though, so perhaps it doesn't matter which one you take. Given the 6 hours on a bus, I guess it's understandable that these tours would have to move quickly.

This was a long way of saying, I definitely think a private tour of Cairo and the pyramids would be best because of the limited time you have there (you don't want to waste a second!), but the ship's excursions were certainly a very good second-best. As long as you get to see the pyramids and the sphinx somehow, that's all that matters! Even two months later, I'm still in awe that I actually made it to Egypt! :)

I never mind questions, so if you've got any more, ask away! :D

Marie-Claude December 22nd, 2004 04:40 PM

More ??
Thank you BellaBeagle for the pics and the info - we'll be on the Magica on Jan. 31 for a cruise with similar ports (actually the same itinerary as Frenchy Pati). We are so excited!!
The information you provided was so helpful - it helped me decide on many excursions I was uncertain about.
As for Egypt, I had read from someone else that the combo with the camel ride was remarkable - so we may opt for that, even if I really wanted to go to Memphis, but by the sounds of it, it may be wiser to skip over Memphis and do something else.
You said that the guide on the bus wanted to sell you cartouches - did you buy any?? Was that your only chance of buying them? There are so many things that I'd like to bring back from Egypt, and I'm afraid that the schedule is so tight that we won't have any time for a bit of shopping...
What currency did you have on you for street vendors? US dollars, Euros??
Thanks for answering all of our questions!!

BellaBeagle December 23rd, 2004 08:58 AM

Good morning Marie-Claude! I also know people who took the camel ride excursion in Egypt, and they were thrilled with it. In retrospect, I too would have probably switched Memphis for the camel ride had I known more about the excursions. :)

As for souvenirs from Egypt, I should have bought more! :D The bus driver sold a wide variety of cartouches, ranging from sterling silver to 14K gold to gold-plated. The 14K gold pieces were expensive (approx. 80-100 euros I think?), but we purchased a very nice sterling silver piece for only $11. The bus driver took both euros and U.S. dollars. He took the order in the morning on the way to Cairo and had the cartouches ready for us by the time we went back to the ship. He also sold a variety of different colored t-shirts and polo shirts with your cartouche embroidered on them. We didn't purchase one of these, but I saw a few people on the ship wearing them and they looked to be of good quality. This was the only opportunity that I am aware of for buying cartouches on the ship excurions in Egypt (although, oddly, I did see a store selling them in Santorini).

There really wasn't a good shopping opportunity in Saqqara and Memphis (although Memphis in particular had a number of small tourist stands where you could buy fairly cheap souvenirs and post cards), and Giza was primarily men on camels trying to sell you either a camel ride, a photo with their camel, or a number of poorly-made souvenirs. However, at the end of the day, each ship excursion goes to a papyrus institute where you watch them make papyrus and then have plenty of time to purchase papyrus paintings. These paintings are absolutely beautiful and very reasonably priced (and unlike the street vendors, which I understand often sell banana paper as papyrus, I feel confident in the authenticity of these paintings). We bought five paintings (around 8 1/2 by 10 inches each) and paid $40 total. I wish we would have saved the five smaller paintings for gifts and bought a much larger piece for ourselves, but I guess I'll put that on the must-get list for our next visit. :) We just got the paintings back from the framing gallery here, and they look quite impressive once nicely matted and framed. There is also apparently a store right next to the papyrus institute where several people went to buy t-shirts and other small souvenirs. We didn't make it in there, but the others seemed happy with their purchases. All the merchants we encountered were equally happy to take either dollars or euros.

At the end of the day, as you walk back onto the ship, a number of vendors are lined up there as well for last-minute purchases, but I was wary of the quality, so we didn't buy anything.

Unfortunately, that's about all the shopping you will have time for in Egypt. At the very least, you'll be able to pick up some nice-quality cartouches, t-shirts, and papyrus paintings if any of those were on your list.

I hope this helps...keep those questions coming! :)

Marie-Claude December 23rd, 2004 09:59 AM

Bellabeagle: Thank you so much! I now have my shore excursions plan and my shopping list pretty much set! Only 5 weeks to go!!

I have a very silly question - did the cartouche seller only take cash, or was there a way to pay with a crecdit card? I know it's sound a bit silly, but I'd like to buy several cartouches and I hate to carry large amount of cash - also we get a much better exchange rate from the CC company than any bank (since I'm canadian, either US or Euros cost me a bit more...)
Thanks again!

BellaBeagle December 23rd, 2004 01:45 PM

Marie-Claude, be sure to post a review (with pictures!) from your cruise when you return. I'm going to live vicariously through you since our next cruise isn't until (tentatively) next September! :(

I don't remember for sure whether the cartouche seller took credit cards, but if I had to guess, I'd say he didn't because I seem to remember everyone digging around for cash. The papyrus store definitely took credit cards, and we used ours there, but they will charge you slightly more for that privilege. They will also be very unfront in their preferences for cash, but when we told them it was credit or nothing because we didn't have enough cash, they were fine with credit. :D

Happy shopping!

margeg December 23rd, 2004 08:40 PM

your pictures

Originally Posted by BellaBeagle
I just attempted to post a long description of our October 20-30, 2004 CostaAtlantica cruise from Savona with ports of call in Naples, Italy; Messina, Sicily; Alexandria (Cairo); Limassol, Cyprus; Marmaris, Turkey; Santorini, Greece; and Katakalon (Olympia), Greece. Somewhere between writing it and posting it, it appears to have gone missing. :(

The short version of my post (in case it reappears!) was that we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. The CostaAtlantica was clean and beautiful and we would love to sail on her again.

We also enjoyed our ports of call immensely. We did participate in the on-board shore excursions (except in Naples where we did Capri on our own and in Santorini where we did Fira on our own) even though we normally would not. Although the excursions were pricey (44 euros to upwards of 100 euros per person), they were well worth it since the ship docks quite a distance from many of the interesting attractions.

If anybody would like more info on the CostaAtlantica in Europe or on these ports of call, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer your questions. Cruise Critic has helped me plan all three of our cruises, so I thought it was about time I started giving back! :D

By the way, here's a link to our Atlantica pics:

Boy I really enjoyed looking at your pictures!!! We are going to the eastern carib on Jan 23.

SuprHawk December 24th, 2004 11:25 AM

How's the "crowd"?

My brother and I are looking to do a similar cruise in early 2006, hopefully with Costa. But my brother is concerned if well fit in with the crowd. Let me explain. Were both divorced, in our early 40s and were born and raised in Oklahoma. Were not professionals, Im an aircraft mechanic; hes a groundskeeper at a golf course. We usually sail Carnival because we like the up-beat party atmosphere and making friends onboard. I dont expect the party atmosphere on Costa but how is the crowd? I know most of the passengers are Italian but are they upper-class businesspersons, middle-class working-class people, or ????? And how do they feel about Americans?
We want to do this trip because neither of us has been to Europe, plus Athens and Alexandria are 2 places that would be unforgettable visits.

Please put my brothers mind at ease. I really want to do this trip.


BTW..I really liked the pics, hopefully Ill see it in person soon

BellaBeagle December 27th, 2004 11:15 AM

SuprHawk, I completely understand your concerns about the "crowd." From our experience though, I wouldn't think you have anything to worry about at all. Americans (at least on our ship) were definitely in the minority, but all announcements were made in English, signs were in English and we had no problem at all finding our way, both literally and in a social sense. We were at a table for 9 in the dining room, and our dinner partners were also Americans. If I had to guess, I'd say the average age at the table was early to mid-40s. One couple owned their own small business outside of Detroit, one was a retired engineer from Florida, one was an aircraft mechanic (like you!) based out of Minneapolis, his wife worked in human resources for a company, one woman was a former travel agent and the other woman was an unknown. :) My husband is a landscape architect, and I am a lawyer. Some of us had traveled extensively, others had never before left the United States on their travels. All in all, we had a very diverse group of people, and we all got along amazingly well. We got along so well in fact, that we socialized outside of dinner hours and on excursions. We've kept in touch since the cruise, and hopefully will end up on another cruise together one day. :) We've never 'clicked' as well with a group of people on a cruise as we did on this one.

As for the general population on this cruise, my guess would be that it was mainly middle-class Europeans. My impression of our fellow travelers was that everyone was just relaxed and excited to be on this trip (I heard several passengers refer to it as "the trip of a lifetime") and there was absolutely no issue of not fitting in. If you are happy to be there and looking forward to a great vacation, you'll fit in just fine!

We also experienced no problems with any sort of anti-Americanism, both on our cruise and during our pre-cruise stay in Italy. Everyone was friendly, eager to help, and interested in talking with us.

I hope that you can convince your brother to do this cruise. It really is amazing!

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