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wblevin

Costa Mediterranea Review - Venice 5/14 Saling

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This is a repost to add "Review" into the title and correct wording about responses (sorry CC)

 

Costa Mediterranea – Europe 5/14 – 5/21/06

 

Four of us embarked on this vacation – my husband and I from NJ and my brother and his wife from Las Vegas (all in our 40s/50s). I am only going to give a brief overview of our opinions of the ship and some general information on what we did in each port – which will probably get lengthy anyway. Any questions, please feel free ask - will be happy to answer if I can.

 

We flew over to Venice a day early. Ended up in Venice about 4pm and stayed at the brand new Courtyard Marriott, very close to the airport, actually walking distance as we learned later that night but paid a taxi 30€ to take us about ½ a kilometer. We later found out that the Marriott has a courtesy shuttle. Although the price was right (120€ - we had several free nights because we are Marriott timeshare holders), this is a ways outside of Venice – about a 20-30 minute bus ride. This first night, we made our way by bus to the Piazza Le Roma water port. We bought roundtrip tickets on the water taxi for about 10€ each and had a nice 30-40 minute ride down the grand canal under the Rialto Bridge to Piazza San Marcos which makes several stops along the way. We got off here and walked around for a while, finally deciding to take a 20 minute gondola ride for 80€ for the four of us (no singing however – lol) – it would have been 120€ for a 45-50 minute ride. Frankly, we thought it was worth it – once you get into the side canals, it gets very quiet and was very nice and relaxing. Afterwards, we had dinner and caught a water taxi back to Piazza Le Roma where we got back on the bus to the Marriott. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure where to get off, and as we neared our hotel, we all pushed the button for the bus to stop, but he kept going. Arriving at the airport, he announced it was the end of the line and he was done for the night – we had our choice of trying to catch another bus back, hiring a taxi for 24€ (less luggage this time) or hoofing it – we hoofed it! In general, we found public transportation to be unreliable, but considerably less expensive than cabs!

 

Sunday morning we took a cab to the port – actually very close to Piazza Le Roma. We arrived about 12:30 and were given a #9 ticket for check in and told embarkation would start around 1ish. I noticed an information counter and went over to talk to the woman behind the counter – she basically was of little help and I jokingly told her so, and she then asked what number I had and promptly exchanged it for a #2 – yeah! Shortly thereafter they called #1 and then #2 – I think we were on the ship about 1:30 or so. They asked us to check our luggage on deck 9 as we weren’t allowed in the cabins until 2. We did so, and grabbed some lunch at the buffet. After lunch, we retrieved our luggage and headed to our cabin, #5109 at the front of the ship. Very pleased with our cabin – ours and my brother’s #5107 had very nice balconies and we opened the partition between the two rooms and it seemed even bigger. Note – on the last day, we glanced in at other cabin balconies on this floor and most seemed to have obstructed views. Heading down to the suites in the back of the ship, we were very pleased that we did not spend the extra money – only slightly bigger, and actually, I think they had smaller balconies! Interestingly enough, my brother had been on the Carnival Pride several months earlier and noted the ships were almost identical. Plenty of storage space in the cabin and the bathroom was quite adequate with more shower room than usual. For anyone interested, I do have pictures of the cabin. DH was tired, but the rest of us decided to go back into Venice. Costa provided a courtesy shuttle to Piazza Le Roma which ran every 20-30 minutes. We had about two hours before sailing, so we headed to the Rialto Bridge area for some shopping and then back to the ship for sailing.

 

We found the ship, in general, to be very clean and the staff was very courteous. We felt our cabin steward was either over worked or very slow as there were a number of days that our room wasn’t cleaned until mid afternoon and several times not at all – although, it is possible (but doubtful) that he tried and someone was sleeping in the cabin. He did, however, get us most of our requests – a mattress topper for both rooms, extra towels, and was very kind at bringing extra ice twice a day. We did tip him extra at the end for that. Our dining room waiter and bus boy were excellent. We found the food in general to be pretty bad, however, again, they did try. I requested steamed broccoli the first nite, which was also brought out the next two nights – until they ran out. The salads were very plain and, in general, we found the food to be rather tasteless – maybe this was catering to a European/Italian taste, we really don’t know. No lobster or chicken (maybe because of the bird flu???) on the ship. We had done the Costa Victoria several years ago and really enjoyed the food, but this was definitely not good – our opinion. They ran one to several “Quiz”s each day, which we enjoyed and got a kick out of the girl translating from Italian to English. They had an informative meeting the first day for English speaking passengers, 82 Americans and 400 South African’s on board this sailing. Leonardo was available throughout the cruise to help with the language barrier. The second night out, we were invited to a cocktail party at 5:00 – we basically assumed it was for repeat cruisers, but when we arrived, there was a huge American flag draped across the balcony and we learned it was only for the Americans! They played the Star Spangled Banner and dropped red, white and blue balloons down from the balcony when the song was done and then brought out a cake decorated like our flag. What a nice way to welcome us – only complaint, they should have announced it on the invitation – we came very close to passing it up, and that really would have been a shame! Unlike our previous Costa cruise, most announcements were done in the hallways (thank goodness) and only important announcements were done in all five languages. Most of the entertainment was geared to everyone being able to figure it out, no matter what language you spoke. We were disappointed that the second singers/dancers show was cancelled due to technical difficulties, but my husband was glad about the replacement Karaoke that sheets were handed out in all languages – lol.

 

The pace of the ports was excellent. First stop was Bari, Italy – 11-2pm, so we were able to sleep in and catch up on a bit of jet lag. All in all, it was some kind of holiday, so much of the port was closed there and we had some things we needed to procure. We hired a cab for some 65€ to take us around for about two hours. My brother has a new T-Mobile cell phone, which we learned did work overseas! Very simple, just hold down the “0” until you get a plus sign and then dial area code and phone number. Unfortunately, he forgot to bring his charger and we went out to buy one, which we did get for a very reasonable price, checked to make sure it was charging and purchased. It wasn’t until the next day that we learned that although it appeared to be charging – it wasn’t! Lesson learned.

 

Next day, we arrived in Katakolon, Greece. We again decided to do the cab route. We hired a cab at the pier for 100€ to take us out to Olympia (about 40 minutes away). We could have paid only 90€, but the cab driver’s English wasn’t as good, so we opted for a bit more for a cabbie we could converse with. We paid 10€ each to get into the museum and the ruins 8€ for just the museum. We had him drop us off in the town and shopped a bit before walking the short distance back to the ship.

 

Wednesday was Izmir, Turkey. The clocks went forward one hour. I booked a tour with Meander Travel (email address istanbultours@meandertravel.com) for $30 per person - $120 total (not Euros). I cannot speak highly enough about this company and our tours. They were waiting for us out on the pier with a huge brand new van that could have accommodated 10 people. Our driver never said much of anything, but our guide was fabulous. He is actually an archeologist at Ephesus and was full of information. We started out with a tour of the Virgin Mary’s house, then on to Ephesus where he guided us around the entire site and then we stopped at the remains of the Temple of Artemis. He then told us we were going to have lunch (all included in our price) at a silk rug manufacturer. Now, after having done a ship excursion in Tunisia several years ago and sitting for over an hour while they showed us rug after rug – this was the very last thing that we wanted to do, however, he had been so kind on our tour, none of us had the heart to turn him down. So we emerged from our van at a lovely “house” where we were escorted to the side yard where they proceeded to wine and dine us with a 6 course meal (my husband insists it was the best meal of the week) including appetizers, wine & sodas, various vegetables, salad, chicken and fruit for dessert, all brought out to our tableclothed table under some trees in the yard! Afterwards, they invited us to see how the silk is taken from the chrysalises of the silk worms (48 to make one strand of silk!) and how the rugs were then woven by young girls at a loom over the next year to year and a half. It was actually fascinating. No high pressure sales pitch – we used the facilities and returned to the van. It was a great day. We tipped our guide well.

 

Thursday we were in Istanbul, Turkey. Again, I had hired Meander travel for the day for $64 per person, including all entrance fees. Again, they were waiting on the pier for us and we had a packed day of touring that started with the spice market where we purchased baklava and continued on to all the highlights of the city including Topkapi Palace – fascinating, make sure you get the history of the sultans and eunuchs and harems, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, The Cisterns and finally the Grand Bazaar. We stopped for lunch at an outdoor café and were pleased to hear the chanting from the Mosque calling everyone to worship. Again our guide was knowledgeable and we were extremely pleased with our excursion for less than ½ the price of the ship’s excursions, we got to see more.

 

Saturday we arrived at Dubrovnik, Croatia. I had attempted to book a tour here, but the only quote I got was for 300€ and I felt that was way too much money. The waters were rough apparently, and the ship needed to relocate from anchoring in the old side of town to the new side of town. Costa was providing buses at a cost of 5€ per person each way and much of the ship was quite upset about this – felt it should have been provided. This was the only port we tendered and it was total chaos! We couldn’t get off the ship until about 2. When we finally arrived on land, we found a very pleasant cab driver, Igor Cvrlje ( info@taxicvrlje.com or mobile phone 00 385/098/980-2833) who spoke perfect English and agreed to take us around for 40€ an hour – even promising us that if we didn’t like his tour, we wouldn’t have to pay him – lol. This is a quaint city and gorgeous countryside. He took us to the top of the city, actually, it was Napolean’s lookout, that had been destroyed many years ago, but the view was spectacular and not to be missed – but certainly not available to buses as it was a very narrow windy road – quite scarey but worth it. He took us to a nearby hotel that we could have had lunch or a drink if we had had time, but again, the view from both sides was incredible. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop at the fortress before boarding as we sat in cruise bus traffic for ½ an hour. Luckily, the ship was able to dock during our absence so tendering everyone back on board was not an issue – thank goodness!

 

Sunday morning, we awoke to sailing back into Venice – absolutely wonderful – we did not arrive into port during the wee hours of the morning – we stood on our balcony and watched for a while, then went up for a leisurely breakfast on deck, arriving back in port around 9:30am. We rushed to get off the ship – a VERY stupid thing to do. We did not have a plane to catch and had Rose colored luggage tags. The ship basically had manual labor taking off the luggage and as each color reached the terminal, the people with that color luggage tags were called. This procedure took quite a while and although we got off the ship at about 10:30 (our color had NOT been called), we stood in the terminal for the next 45 minutes waiting for our luggage to come out. DUMB – another lesson learned!

 

Since our return flight was not until Tuesday, we went back to the Courtyard Marriott planning on touring Florence on Monday. Didn’t do my homework properly – all the museums in Florence are closed on Mondays and many on Tuesdays as well. We attempted to get earlier flights home, but everything was booked. Although we had reserved a car rental, the concierge strongly recommended that we take the train rather than the car – she felt it was faster and easier. Monday morning we caught a cab to the train station in Mistre (between the airport and Venice) – expensive as we ran into a ton of traffic and you pay by the time, not just the trip. Arriving at the train station about 20 minutes before departure, we learned that the train was booked, so we had to wait 40 minutes for the next train (about 32€ per person each way). Finally on our way to Florence, we had a lovely compartment for 6 people and English speaking companions that made the three hour trip more enjoyable. We arrived about noon and walked throughout the town – by far the hottest day we had, we were exhausted by about 4pm and ready to head back – but the trains again were not cooperating – another full train and another 1-1/2 hour wait until departure. This time we ended up on a regular train and the ride was considerably less pleasant. Finally arriving at the train in Mistre, we waited almost two hours for the #15 bus that would take us back to our hotel or the airport – it never did show – ended up sharing a cab with a serviceman. Frankly, I would have much preferred to rent a car on this excursion – although, granted, parking in Florence probably would have been difficult.

 

We had a wonderful trip with wonderful memories. Any questions, feel free to ask. Love remembering and talking about such a great trip.

 

*edited on behalf of OP*

__________________

Wendy wblevin@aol.com

30+ cruises - Princess, NCL, HAL, Celebrity, RCL, Costa, Carnival - in that order!

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Yes! The food in Turkey is great! Never had such fresh food, and they take such pride in presenting it well. Also Turkish wine excellent as well.

 

Hopefully Costa will heed the negative food comments and improve it somehow!

 

you did not mention the smoke situation so I guess it did not bother you too much.

 

At least the party for Americans was at a reasonable hour--ours was at 11 AM and they served the usual cocktails, wine, etc!!!!

 

One of the best reasons for choosing Costa is the port intensive itinerary, and sounds like you enjoyed that part too.

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