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Joyce and Tim

Review: Costa Victoria, Venice-Greece 3/27

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We sailed Mar 27 on Costa Victoria’s seven day cruise to Greece. Here are some general observations about Costa compared to other lines we’ve sailed recently.

--Costa had the best port info we’ve ever been given: not just where to shop, but nice maps of the area, with points of interest clearly (and accurately) marked.

--The food was better than most…nice buffets and dinners. Had only one lunch and no breakfast in dining room, so can’t comment. Heavy on the seafood, which is our preference. Nothing totally spectacular, but better than most and there was always something good.

--The wine prices and package deal was reasonable. Something like 5 bottles of wine plus one of prosecco, plus 10 bottles of water for around 119 Euro including service charge. They gave us tickets the first night (for the various types of wine and bottles of water) but let us switch varieties when we found one we liked. Some folks we met at the end of the trip had not been aware of this deal, so you may have to ask if it’s not offered.

--Smoking was not a problem. There are only a few areas where it is allowed. The lounges had smoking areas and it was notable that smokers outnumbered nons by about 3 to 1! I admit it did get smoky after a couple hours in the smaller lounge.

--There were lots of kids of all ages and families. Not the geriatric set we’re used to seeing, but maybe that is because it was a 7 day cruise and probably some schools were having a break. There were lots of strollers, and we saw exactly ONE wheelchair…an unusual situation in our experience cruising. Italians are notorious to letting their kids run a bit wild (in restaurants, for example) but we encountered very little of this. For the most part the children and teens were well behaved. Since this was March, the usual life around the pool didn’t exist as such, and the situation may be different in warmer weather.

--Americans were in the minority—by far! In fact we learned that mother-tongue-English speakers numbered about 160, out of the 2000 or so passengers. This is great for cultural exchange and helps you brush up on language skills (including sign language!) On the first night we received an invitation to a special cocktail party, just for Americans. The captain and some officers were there, live music, drinks, fancy foods, etc. They even sang the Star Spangled Banner. This is something Costa didn’t have to do, and it was very nice.

--There were hardly any announcements throughout the ship. And NO Bingo announcements! I’m sure there was bingo, but it wasn’t pushed at you non-stop like some others I could name!

--There were nice color coded signs on each floor helping you find your room, i.e, a range of room numbers was always a certain color. Since we were midship and could never remember which way the elevators faced, it was easy to turn the right direction to our room. Minor point, but a nice touch.

The biggest complaint we have is about the embarkation process. We expected it to be chaotic, from what we’d read, so were prepared for the worst. We realize we are in Italy where everything works differently, so we try to be flexible. But the system was archaic and totally fixable, which made it more frustrating! Here is the picture:

Check-in began at 2PM and we got to the ship at 3 via the shuttle bus from Piazzale Roma (directions included in tickets were very helpful though it was not readily obvious where the bus would be, as this piazza is a major bus terminal, but we found it.) As directed, we checked in our bags, were given a card with our “boarding number,” 29, and proceeded to the terminal. Here’s where it got frustrating. Inside the embarkation area was a large room full of chairs (and people). (The Great Hall at Ellis Island came to mind!) Instead of a counter with lots of employees checking in passengers--such as you’d see at an airport or other cruise lines, for example-- there were instead only two, yes TWO people doing check-in and a long line of passengers whose “number was up”! The board said 1-24 when we arrived. Others were sitting around waiting for their numbers. Luckily there was a bar just down the hall and we waited there with a drink (or two.) Finally it got up to 28 and we got in line. The crowd was thinning. No employee was going down the line to make sure all docs were filled out. In fact we had filled out the form online, but it was also required to fill out the form in the ticket booklet. The group of eight in front of us hadn’t even looked at their tickets until that moment, and everything stopped while they filled out the forms. No one ever asked to see our number 29, and in fact no one ever TOOK our ticket (though of course they looked at it). We got to our cabin about 5:00. Advice: spend the day in Venice and show up at 5. Or possibly they were checking in before 2pm and you might have better luck arriving very early…we’ve done this elsewhere, but were afraid to count on it in Italy. I can only assume that they do not have the manpower to move the process faster. Or maybe they just don’t want 2000 people showing up within a couple hours. Maybe it’s part of their grand plan to have people drift in and not overwhelm the staff on board. Whatever!

They did not take our credit card info at this time. We had to do that later at the Info desk (time wasted) and they did not take our photo, ever. That meant that in every port we had to show photo ID plus our Costa card to get back on the ship. This resulted in long slow lines in every port. Port times were short to begin with and this wasted time just seemed so unnecessary and cumbersome.

Of course once we were aboard, this was (sort of) forgotten (you can tell I haven’t forgotten, can’t you?) It’s not a deal breaker. We’d definitely sail Costa again, but we’d do it differently and know what to expect.

Next time I’ll tell you about the ports.


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Joyce glad you enjoyed your cruise. We were on the Victoria 4 years ago. The ship itself is very plain and when you board her, it is not the grab your eye Las Vegas glitzzy kind of setting. It is a more sedate, neutral color scheme in direct contrast to the Carnival/Costa Fargus kind of ships of today. The best kept secret of the Victoria is the pasta bar way in the back top deck under the white canape. We had discovered it the 2 to last day but let me tell you it was awesome. The best memories of that cruise was the entertainment staff. I have yet to sail with a staff that could match their energy and creativity. Joyce who was the Cruise Dir on the ship.


AHHH! cruising is so addicting!


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Funny, I thought the decor WAS over the top! No sedate colors--bright vivid blues, a red, modern hula-hoop "sculpture" in the atrium, colorful mosaic walls in the lounge that we enjoyed on deck 7...

Have no idea who the cd was, as we didn't go to shows and there weren't the annoying announcements from him. Will check though, as I think we saved some of the dailies!

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Hello Joyce I know the Victoria has been refurbihed not to long ago but I remember the Concorde Plaza being all in beige and the dance floor was trevatine and the carpet was beige and brown. The Winter Garden was also very pale bieges and pale woods and some chrome and alot of glass. The only two places I remember being really alive with color were the Casino and there was one bar all in bright blue. The Costa Ship that takes 1st prize for vibrant colours is The Med.

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Hi again!

I’ll give a summary of the ports, what we did there, and what we could have done better. We never take ship’s tours because we are usually able to see more sites for less money on our own. We do a lot of research before traveling. On this cruise, port times were unusually short, making it even more important to maximize the time available.

Olympia. We definitely wanted to see the sites of the first Olympic games. The ship docks very close to the town of Katakolon, or at least a commercial area of it. Buses were provided but it was a five minute walk to the end of the pier. As expected, there were plenty of taxis at this point, anxious to take us on tours. The rate seemed to be a consistent 100 Euros for a three-hour tour: half-hour drive, two-hours at the site while driver waits, then drive back. We decided to find another couple to share the expenses for such a trip. This is where being the minority language speaker is a disadvantage. After questioning a few people coming from the ship with our rudimentary Italian, we did manage to find an elderly couple (at least, a bit more elderly than us, but plenty energetic) who spoke Italian and French and were interested. The driver, Demetrius, knew some English, but not enough to provide a commentary on the drive. The timing was perfect: an hour for the ruins and an hour for the museum. Unless you want to see every fallen pillar and read every word of information, an hour is enough in each place, but I wouldn’t spend less than that. All the information is written in Greek and very good English…good for us but not so good for our companions! We managed to translate some of the key words and phrases for them and had a good time together. It was a nice chance for us to practice our Italian and we all got along well. We even had strangers take our photos together and exchanged names/addresses. (We met them a few days later in Dubrovnik and the wife told me she’d lost her camera in the water in Greece. I know the words for Lost, Camera, Water, and Island and noticed she was using a disposable camera in place of her sleek digital model. Add the gestures and sad face and there was no mistake!) I wonder how many people drop cameras overboard on cruise ships. I plan to send her some prints.

After returning to the port we had time to have a drink by the shore, and buy and mail some postcards before boarding time.

A plus for that day was our being by chance at the museum entrance where a few employees were looking up at the solar eclipse with a welder’s shield. They called us over and let us take a look. We had no idea there was going to be an eclipse that day!

Santorini. This is the only port where we had to tender to shore. It is a C-shaped island, the rim of an undersea volcano. According to the books, there are two major points of interest: a gorgeous town called Ia on one end, and another town called Thera, more or less in the middle where the ship docks--the one with the famous long white “staircase” from sea to hilltown.

This port is probably the best one for a ship’s tour, as it really works to your advantage. At 7:30 AM the ship stopped at Ia and those on tours were able to get off by tender and begin the day there, later going by bus to Thera. You may consider it worth the expense to have the extra time on land.

We had to wait til about 9:30 to get to the first tender. (Like many cruise lines, they have a ticket system and it’s fairly efficient.) Advice: believe them when they say the tickets will be given out beginning at 8:30, don’t bother to show up any earlier!

After getting to shore, you need to get up to the town. The three options are cablecar, walk the long staircase, or ride a donkey (mule?) to the top. We and the American couple we were with that day chose the cablecar. Even though I am afraid of heights, I am more unhappy about climbing a million steps to start my day! The touristy ride on the animal was not an option for us.

In Thera we walked around, took lots of photos, window shopped. The Victoria was the first ship of the season and the vendors seemed unusually happy to see us, i.e., aggressive in their sales pitches. After deciding to pass on what is said to be an exquisite, small archeological museum (only 3 Euros) we got a cab for a trip to Ia. The drive rivaled the Amalfi coast road in scariness (for me), and I was thrilled that the driver never took his eyes off the road for a second. For 35 Euros he took the four of us over, waited a half hour and drove us back. He was forced to take a detour, so we managed to see a lot of both the lowlands and highlands of Santorini, including quite a few of the white churches with the blue domes and the famous windmills. Ia is probably the most photographed town in the Aegean, and we were all glad we made the trip, even though it was a quick one. The dramatic cliffs over the sea, the white houses, the beautiful little church—well, our eyes were starting to hurt from so much beauty! (Stendhal’s Syndrome, you know?)

After more picture taking and window shopping, it was time to line up for the trip back to the ship…one hour til All Aboard time. Unfortunately a tour bus had unloaded right in front of us at the cable car. Tim the engineer quickly calculated the number of people, divided by a cable car’s passengers, multiplied by time for each—you get the idea--and we decided time was too short and we would WALK down. Also it seemed better to be DOING something, instead of just waiting in line. (Is this an American trait?) OK, big mistake, at least for me. First of all, you have to dodge the donkeys and massive amounts of their droppings at the top…and all along. They are tied together, about 10 to a group, and are usually led by one of the locals. They are large, powerful animals, and walkers are sharing a limited space with them (walls on each side.) I’ll get to the point. About halfway down I stopped to take pictures, totally NOT focused on the donkeys. As one passed, it gave me a nice hard kick in the shin. (I promise I did not provoke him!) Praise the Lord that he missed my bone by about an inch…I shutter to imagine me lying there with a broken leg – compound fracture comes to mind! I managed to walk to the bottom, then got a bit of ice from the bar down there. Skipping details, I can tell you that now, 10 days later, my leg is still purple and green, knee to ankle and is a bit swollen and sore. I realize I was lucky and I’m happy to pass on the warning. In addition, the woman we were with had a history of knee problems, and this was a painful effort for her. Bottom line, Beware the Stairs! We should have taken the cable car! We suspect that as long as Victoria pax are lined up for the cable car, tenders would keep running. What do you think?

Back to the ship for a nap because TONIGHT is Mykonos. Stay tuned!


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Mykonos. Believe it or not, we didn’t realize til this morning that we were visiting two islands in one day. A first. Just missed that little detail on the itinerary. After my morning mishap on the staircase in Santorini, we were happy to stay put on the aft deck with a bit of wine and an ice pack, watching the Greek isles go by…and then a nap.

Mykonos at dusk. What could be prettier? As I said earlier, it’s the beginning of the season and there are few tourists. Costa offers a shuttle bus to town, 5 Euros round trip. Take it. Town is too far to walk to for a 3 hour visit! After the bus you can walk around the nearby sections of town, including the old seamen’s houses, some churches and windmills, and the gorgeous seaside scenery. We, some 2000 Victoria pax, were apparently the only tourists in town that night,and we were milling about without much of a destination. We visited the local church, which was interesting, and very “Greek.”

Some people chose to eat at local restaurants. But Costa had a later-than-usual dinner. Instead of 9:15 for the late seating, it was (I think) 9:30 and we were back on board in time for that. Your choice.

The sun was about to present a glorious sunset and some folks were lining up near the seawall, we among them. Then! We saw a stairway to heaven…up to a tiny balcony…the sign said “bar open,” or maybe “restaurant.” In any case, it was unmistakably a public place, even though there were no other customers. We climbed the stairs and sat at the small table on the balcony. Beautiful music emanated from inside the restaurant, but no one showed up for about 10 minutes and we felt we’d found paradise. No hurry here. Eventually we were served lovely glasses of excellent Greek wine (2.50 Euro, a nice surprise! We ordered two more!) and took lots of pics of the sunset. It was an incredible night in the sky, and then the lights suddenly illuminated the old windmills on our left. No need to see the rest of Mykonos, if indeed you could even see anything after dark.

To find this place in “Little Venice”: facing the sea, it is between the windmills on the left and the old sea captains’ houses on the right. (Below it, there are benches facing the sea…full of other tourists, coming and going, who didn’t climb the staircase!) It is an old restored home with beautiful furnishings, etc. The name (which is not on the sign) is Galleraki. Go along the sea path and you can’t miss it…go UP the staircase. I hope you will enjoy it. We had the place to ourselves until the locals started showing up…we felt privileged and we just sat there…sorry I can’t tell you more about Mykonos but this was a highlight of the cruise! Maybe in the summer months this place is hopping, but for us, it was all ours. You can look at the ship’s tours and decide what they offer, but for us this was the best. OK enough about that!

On to Rhodes next time!

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Joyce and Tim,

Thanks so much for your review. Looking forward to the rest. We were just on Cost Allegra- on it's last regular voyage. Mostly non-native English speakers--but oh so interesting and so much fun.

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Rhodes. No bus is needed, as you dock right at the old town. Entering, you’ll see a thousand different places to shop! We resisted at first and went for the cultural activities. Rhodes is only 12 miles from Turkey and has an interesting history, with various rulers. It has been part of Greece officially only since 1947 (for me, a very good year!) We had done the research. At least one of us had—Tim had a notebook full of info and he read and remembered it all. We knew we wanted to see the Palace of the Grand Masters. As I mentioned, Costa gave us a terrific little map that included this and other major sites in Old Town. You can buy a combination ticket for four sites for maybe 10 E. You need at least three hours to see them all, but it is well worth it (and there is still time to shop). The sites are (in order of time needed) the Palace, the Archeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the church Our Lady of the Bourg. The last two don’t need much time (esp the church—not much to see but well done). This is not the order in which you’d logically go from one to another, but they are all within a 5-10 minute walk.

The lower level of the Palace is basically a history museum in itself (covering the Roman era in Rhodes) and there were good explanations in English and interesting, well organized displays. The upper level is a total reconstruction of the common areas of the Knights, who ruled for several centuries around 12-15C.

After all the walking and looking, we settled in for some lunch at an uncrowded restaurant with an internal garden. My notes say it was called the Garden of Sacrotous (copied from its sign, but we don’t have the card.) It was an island of calm in the midst of the busy commercial area, featuring lemon trees, friendly waiters and good food and wine at a fair price. Highly recommended! Sorry I don’t have the address but the area isn’t large and you are likely to come across it.

Linens, ceramics and the usual tacky souvenirs were for sale everywhere. We bought a tablecloth and added a Greek plate to our small collection of interesting ones, but shopping is not high on our agenda while traveling.

Other things to do on the island of Rhodes include Lindos, an acropolis similar to the one in Athens and of historical interest. It is 56 Km away and there were ship’s tours (4 hrs) set up to go there. And it may have been tempting to go there on our own in a taxi or bus. However, on this particular day, ship’s tours were canceled because there was a strike at the archeological site at Lindos, eliminating that option and making the day easier to plan.

We overheard other passengers talking about their trips to a very nice beach nearby, but of course at this time of year, it was too cold to swim or even sunbathe, and they quickly returned. At the port we couldn’t help noticing how crystal clear the water was—with a number of ships and fishing boats in port, this was very surprising to us. In the summer, the beaches are probably worth checking out

Sailaway was lovely as the town disappeared rapidly.

Back in the cabin, I iced my leg from yesterday’s mule kick at every opportunity. Compared to breaking my foot in Bermuda in September (don’t ask!) this was minor, because at least I could walk and—theoretically—dance. After dinner we headed for the disco, but the dance floor was tiny and very crowded. Instead, we discovered the live music in the lounge nearby (the one with mosaic walls, I can never remember names of lounges). A piano player and a guitar player alternated hour by hour, beginning about 6pm. Both were excellent and we enjoyed the mix of songs, many in English. Some we’ve never heard performed live before (such as We Are the World, which my Rome-resident sister assures me is a “standard” in Italy. Who knew?) The guys were personable and the opposite ages that you might expect: a gray-haired fellow on electric guitar and younger man on piano…again, everything is different in Italy.

It was a very good day!

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Finally got home and survived Easter and my mom's 80th birthday. Here is the rest of the cruise, if anyone is still interested. I'll be glad to answer any questions if I have the answers.

Sea Day

This isn’t your ordinary day at sea, as you are passing through many beautiful Greek islands most of the afternoon. It was warm enough to be outside on deck and we took lots of photos of the beautiful scenery.


We didn’t plan this port very well and could have done better. We had read that the don’t-miss thing to do is take the panoramic drive and view the city—that scene that you always see in the photographs. We didn’t really know much else—I’m still not sure how that slipped by us.

The ship docked about a 10-minute bus ride away from the old walled city. Costa sold RT tickets for 5€ each. We did not buy the bus ticket because we intended to get a taxi tour. Indeed, the taxis were lined up at the dock, available and multi-lingual. The rate was 40€, per hour which seemed kind of steep. (Looking back, maybe we should have just bitten the bullet here.) We looked unsuccessfully for another couple to share the cab. This is where speaking English put us at a real disadvantage, but in fact there weren’t many people to ask: most everyone was streaming off the ship onto the buses. We didn’t want to waste too much time, so we bought a bus ticket (sold just outside the gangway—no need to go back onboard to the lounge where they were selling them earlier) and joined the crowd.

The weather was iffy, not the best day for a panoramic view. We walked through the old town, wandering into churches and museums. There is a small but effective tribute to the city’s fallen heroes during the terrible bombings of the early 1990s. I think it is inside the Customs House. At another point on the street there is a detailed map of the city showing which buildings (many!) had been damaged or destroyed by bombs.

One thing you can do is walk on the walls around the city. We checked out one of the entrances, unsure of whether we wanted to go that high or exercise that much, and it seemed a bit pricy. I can’t remember exactly—maybe 7 or 8 euros—and we passed on that too. It started to drizzle and we stopped for coffee at a restaurant with an awning. Almost immediately the skies opened in a downpour. We were very happy we had chosen not to walk around the city up on the walls. It rained hard for a while and it provided a nice break for us.

After that, we walked some more, bought some postcards and headed back to the bus. As I’ve noted, the port times on this trip were extremely short, we get a taste of the places, including this one.

In Dubrovnik, all the prices were in the local currency and Euros. No need to change money for museums or souvenirs. It is probably a good port to take the ship’s walking tour or find a knowledgeable, talkative cab driver (and someone to share it with.) Unless you prepare better than we did, you’ll probably learn more and see more.


Unlike every other cruise we’ve taken, we were not asked about our post-cruise travel plans (flight times, etc). There was a form for this info in the ticket booklet, but no one ever asked for it. When I inquired at the main desk, the staff acted like they’d never heard of such a thing. They told me to come back after we got our tags and we could exchange them for an earlier color. We were, apparently randomly, assigned the second latest disembarkation color, so we exchanged them for the second earliest, green. We wanted to shop a bit in Venice that day before our 2:30 train.

The ship was supposed to dock early in the morning, but it was so foggy that the port of Venice was closed. When this announcement was made about 8AM, a group of teenagers erupted in a spontaneous song and conga line in the restaurant! Of course there was no predicting when we would be able to dock. Some folks who had 11:30 flights were nervous. We reasoned that planes probably weren’t flying either, but I’d have been nervous too.

Eventually, about 10AM, we sailed into Venice and docked. We were instructed to wait in various lounges, according to color. It was crowded but we found seats. There were no announcements of any kind. Tim investigated and soon realized that people were leaving the ship—apparently the first group, red. We followed them out, arrived at the luggage area at the same time as the first green tagged luggage rolled in…got our bags and left. It was 11:30. We took the shuttle bus to Piazzale Roma and walked to the train station (not especially easy with luggage, but doable).

We took over 600 pictures (we were gone a month altogether including 5 days in Venice, where you want to take a photo every minute) and haven't deleted very many of them. It will hard to figure out which ones to print.

Buon viaggio to all of you who will be taking this cruise! Best wishes. I hope I have been informative.


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A very interesting review - this cruise was obviously quite different from doing it in August when I did it! We loved walking around the walls in Dubrovnik but the danger was getting burnt to a crisp not getting soaked, and we docked right by them - no bus ride needed. We spent ages in Rhodes looking for the Archaeological Museum but never did find it. We did find some very interesting other dig sites though.

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I guess a lot depends on the time of year regarding activities! The "off" season has a lot of advantages (all but weather.) We were literally the only visitors in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Rhodes, for example. The other, more popular places had only a few people. I can't count the number of times we wondered aloud what "this place" (you name it) must be like in August, overrun with tourists. Since we live in a beach area, we didn't miss that aspect and didn't mind the coolish weather, which was pleasant except for the brief rain on one day. I doubt that you have the risk of the port of Venice closing due to fog in the summer, right? Seems like a spring phenomena, but I don't really know.

As I said, it was a good trip and I hope my thoughts were helpful to someone.

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