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bjhorton

Costa Magica Baltic Cruise 05/21/06 Review

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ARRIVAL

 

We flew to Copenhagen a day early. We took a 15 minute train trip (there is a station right in the airport) to the central train station then had a two block walk to our hotel. The Hotel First Vesterbro (approximately $180 USD per night including all taxes and breakfast) is just down the street from Tivoli Gardens and the main shopping district. We spent the day walking around Copenhagen and the evening in the not-to-be-missed Tivoli Gardens. We looked around more on Sunday then caught a taxi to the port in the early afternoon. We arrived at the port at approximately 2pm.

 

EMBARKATION

 

We have never experienced such a quick embarkation. Although we arrived just 30 minutes past the posted embarkation start time, we literally dropped off our luggage in front of the terminal then walked on to the ship. We stopped briefly while someone checked our tickets and passports but there was no line. Once on the ship, we immediately went to our cabin to drop off our hand luggage then proceeded to a designated lounge to register our credit card. There was about a 15 minute wait to do this.

 

THE SHIP

 

We have been on over 25 cruises. This, by far, was the most stunning and elaborate ship we have ever been on. Many reviewers on this site comment that the ship is garish and overly decorated to the point of being tacky. I must disagree. It is classically European with marble, gold and rich colors everywhere. The main atrium area, several decks high, is a sight to behold. It took us a couple of days to get oriented to the ship. The multi-deck restaurants presented somewhat of a navigational challenge when moving from one end of the ship to the other but after figuring out that we needed to traverse the ship using deck 5 or higher, it was easy to get to destinations on lower decks.

 

The casino deserves special mention. Costa commissioned a famous Italian puppet-making family to create 50+ medieval marionettes (each about 3.5 feet tall) to be displayed in glass columns throughout the Magica's casino. Take some time to absorb the stunning artistry on display here.

 

OUR CABIN

 

We had a category 10 balcony cabin (6459) on Deck 6. We chose this particular cabin because on the deck plans it appeared larger than the other balcony cabins, with a larger balcony. We were right! The cabin ran parallel to the hallway instead of perpendicular to it. As a result, it was quite wide and in addition to the glass door and large picture window standard in balcony cabins, it had a second large picture window. The balcony was easily twice the length of the balconies in other cabins--we noticed this later when we were off the ship as we could easily spot our cabin--the one with the really wide balcony. There was plenty of storage room and the cabin was very nicely appointed, feeling like a spacious hotel room instead of a claustrophobic closet.

 

THE FOOD

 

We have been on previous Costa ships (the Classica and Romantica) and felt the food was adequate and somewhat institutional and tired looking. The Magica, however, had substantially better food. The breakfast and lunch buffets contained a nice variety of items and everything looked fresh and interesting. Nothing outstanding, but we were never hungry. We ate all dinners in the dining room with delightful dinner companions and were fortunate enough to have a window table. Since it stayed light quite late, we always had a beautiful view from our dining table. Nightly entrees always contained a fish, a beef dish, a lamb or veal dish (favorites with Europeans) and a vegetarian dish. Only once was there a chicken dish that I recall. The food was served hot, well presented, and usually delicious. The pasta courses were always fresh and interesting. Note that wine packages consisting of 5-7 bottles of wine + 10 large bottles of mineral or sparkling water was a great deal at approximately 115 euros ($148 USD). Be sure to order this on your first night and you'll be given coupons to later exchange for the wine and water. We found this to be a great value.

 

THE SERVICE

 

We have always experienced excellent service on our prior Costa cruises but felt that the service was exceptionally good on the Magica. All service personnel we encountered were extremely professional and friendly and the service in the dining room notably so. You couldn't pass a Costa employee anywhere without a smile and a greeting. With so many nationalities on board, many even remembered after the initial encounter what our native language was.

 

THE ENTERTAINMENT

 

Entertainment isn't one of Costa's strong points but I wouldn't expect it to be considering how difficult it is to entertain so many different nationalities at once. The Broadway-style shows (of which there were two on this 7 night cruise) were well done with beautiful costumes, adequate sets and good performances. While a bulk of the songs were song in English, some others were performed in other languages and added a very international touch to the shows. Other shows were less interesting and certainly not the spectacles of other lines. Europeans are very social and I get the feeling that the shows aren't of much interest to them anyway. They would rather spend their times in lounges or the disco and those areas always seemed to be packed. Classical musicians performing in the smaller, more intimate venues were especially talented and entertaining.

 

THE SPA

 

We treated ourselves to many treatments including massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. While the treatments are expensive, they are wonderful. The spa staff was warm, friendly and professional and there is nothing like two hours of having your hands and feet worked on while dreamily gazing out a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows at the passing sea.

 

The gym was large and extremely well-equipped but somewhat oddly designed. The ceiling is quite low so tall passengers ought to use caution when using the cardio machines. The windows are severely angled inward and not very tall so when using cardio machines your only option is to look straight down onto the water--not out onto it nor to land.

 

Be sure to take advantage of the sauna. While I can't speak for the women's sauna, the men's sauna was spacious and contained a large window that looked out to sea or to port.

 

THE PASSENGERS

 

As always, we were just two of few Americans on this ship. Of the 3,000 passengers on this sailing, I would guess that 30% were Italians, 30% Spaniards, 15% Germans, 15% French and the rest a mix of Americans, Canadians and Brits. And this is exactly why we love sailing Costa so much. If you can get by the fact that many Europeans smoke (it's hard to avoid in the lounges), you will find that they are very friendly and fun-loving people, very warm and passionate.

 

I would recommend to anyone sailing on Costa to take the time beforehand and learn basic phrases in Italian, Spanish, German, and French. When encountering someone in passing, they will often greet you in their native language. How much nicer it is to recognize what they are saying to you and respond back to them instead of the alternative response we often see--a blank stare or feigned deafness. Know that people are saying Good Evening to you and not insulting you. Since I have a fair complexion, I found that most people thought I was either French or German and was constantly greeted by other passengers in those languages. No matter. I was always able to greet them back, ask they how they were and then apologize for not speaking their language. Many then switched to English. During our last Costa cruise (of which there were six Americans among nearly 1800 Brazilians, we had the pleasure of dining with two Brazilian women one night. My partner and I speak Spanish which is similar to Portuguese--in some respects--but it was still a fun challenge to keep the conversation interesting and lively for two hours. It's amazing what you can convey through pantomime!

 

 

THE PORTS

 

For a ship carrying 3,000 people, getting on and off the ship was always fast and effortless. We never waiting in line for more than a couple of minutes.

 

We made stops in Tallin (Estonia), St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm. I won't go into detail on these ports except to say they were all beautiful--and fascinating. Our weather wasn't too cooperative so it was cool, windy and often raining but we thoroughly enjoyed every port we visited and ventured out alone in all of them except St. Petersburg. There, we took a wonderful nine hour tour to avoid having to get visas. We learned so much about the country and how far it has come since the fall of Communism 15 years ago. An exceptional and very educational itinerary with spring flowers in full bloom everywhere!

 

DISEMBARKATION

 

I have to admit that as usual, we didn't wait for our color luggage tag to be called--we just walked off the ship as soon as we saw people starting to leave. The ship docked in Copenhagen at 8am and we headed to the gangway at 9:15am. 15 minutes later, we had collected our luggage and were in a taxi on our way back to the same hotel we stayed in on the start of our journey.

 

FINAL COMMENTS

 

We love sailing on Costa and thoroughly enjoy the international experience it provides. We are sailing the Magica again this Thanksgiving in the Caribbean and are looking forward to spending another week on this beautiful ship.

 

We returned home from our trip with suitcases full of freshly washed and folded clothes. Watch out for Costa's laundry special the second from last day of the cruise. All the laundry you can stuff in a large paper sack will be laundered, folded and returned to your cabin on the last day of the cruise for approximately $26 USD. We managed to cram in a week's worth of dirty clothes. Careful folding is the secret.

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Thanks for the detailed review and bravo to your international attitude. I'm surprised there were so few Americans on this ship, one of their "main" ships, on a very popular route. Perhaps it's still early in the Scandinavian season.

 

We were fortunate enough to sail on the much smaller Costa Tropicale three years ago in the Med. There were only 20 or so primary-English speakers among passengers and most of those were English or Irish. It was a GREAT time; a very international experience. I hope to repeat that next year. Italians were the majority and they definitely know how to party!!

 

BobK/Orlando

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Thanks, BJHorton, for such a nice review! I had so much fun on the Costa Magica. It is such a beautiful ship. If there is one thing I do remember with such detail about that cruise was how beautiful the ship was. I thought the food was great, too.

 

The thing I love about Costa so much, that when the ship (Magica) is in the Carribean during late winter/early Spring, if yuo book at hte last minute, they are practically GIVING the cruises away.

 

I am going to book last minute next March to see if I can get a good deal on a balcony cabin!

 

La Dolce Vita~!

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Thanks for the review BJH. My Mum is going on this cruise in mid June and would like to know how you got on for local currency at the ports. Do they take US$ or Euros, or did you get some local currency before you left home or from the Pursers office? She would only need a small amount for souvenirs, coffee, snack etc. Thanks for any help. (PS e mail me at sddsddean@aol.com if you want)

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The EURO is the ship's currency. They do not exchange currency.

 

Denmark, Sweden, and Estonia have their own currencies. I'm not sure if business there accept Euros as a general rule but I would guess so. In each port, we just withdrew enough local currency from an ATM to cover our expenses for the day and used a credit card for shopping.

 

In Finland, the currency is the Euro.

 

In Russia, all the businesses we visited only wanted Euros or US Dollars. NO local currency was wanted!

 

Hope this helps! I hope your mother has a wonderful cruise!

 

Brian

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Excellent review and thanks for posting. Northern Europe will be our next destination. Probably 2008 now!

 

We have sailed Costa Fortuna in March this year and what a stunning ship. This was our first Costa cruise. We have now booked Costa Classica for Feb next year for Jewels of the Emirates.

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Just read your very well written and descriptive review of your Baltic cruise on the Costa Magica. We have not yet had the privilege to travel to any Baltic states, and it was fascinating reading your take on the experience, as well as your week on the Magica.

 

It seems my husband and I will be joining you on the Thanksgiving sailing....which is just slightly more than two weeks away as I write this! This will be our second Costa cruise, and it is just about an identical itinerary as we took back in 2002 on the Costa Atlantica. We love to travel...ANYWHERE! Cruising is now a priority for us as we have both retired from our 9-5 careers (teachers) and moved on to other ventures, with plenty of time to devote to travel.

 

Have to admit, we are both linguistically challenged, but we do have a few phrases in several languages that we can, sometimes, remember to deliver at the appropriate times! When we were in France two years ago we somehow managed to "get by" at the shops and restaurants, mainly by keeping our mouths shut and nodding a lot! A few well placed bon jours and como talle vous helped us get by! There will probably be a plethora of Americans on this Caribbean cruise, however. We are looking forward to another Italian style cruise. We had a great time on our first Costa cruise!

 

I hope that a meeting can be arranged for we Cruise critic folks on our November 19 sailing. I saw it suggested that those on this board who are interested: Official Meeting Place: Sirens' Bar (deck 9 aft) after the lifeboat drill. We are planning to do that as it would be great to meet up with some Cruise Critic folks on this Thanksgiving Holiday cruise. Hope to meet you there! :)

 

Sincerely,

Marguerite and Larry

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