Eastern Caribbean Cruise April 1998
This was our third cruise in the last two years. We have also had several transatlantic crossings on luxury liners during the 1950's and 1960's and have traveled extensively through Europe and North America. Up to now we have enjoyed all our sea traveling with the exception of minor inconveniences here and there and a major storm in the Atlantic Ocean during a crossing on the Michelangelo in 1968. During that storm even the officers of the ship became seasick; a very few dared to go eat in the restaurant, where the tables and chairs were tied by ropes and the dishes and silverware were positioned in special receptacles to prevent their spilling on the floor. At that time, I convinced myself that I was "seaworthy," thus I did not get sick. Now I don't understand how I did it, because ever since I have felt seasick every time there was significant motion, especially on small boats. On this cruise we encountered some large swells the first day and night at sea, but we took motion sickness pills and overcame the problem ( btw, I found out that Bonine medication did a better job in preventing motion sickness, without causing drowsiness, than Dramamine).
CostaRomantica, by today's standards, is a medium size ship ( Gross tonnage: 54,000; length: 718 ft; beam: 98 ft). With a capacity of 1,350 passengers (double occupancy) and staff of 650, this ship has excellent crew-to-passenger and space-to-passenger ratios. Very few other ships can claim better ratios! The ship was built in 1993, but she has been kept sparkling clean so that makes it hard to tell her five years of age. The fact that she was designed in the best tradition of Italian artisanship, with extensive use of quality marble and fine fixtures and furnishings, gives her a classic and long lasting beauty. Even though she does not have a centralized multideck atrium (Centrum), as we have seen on newer ships, in all of her public rooms there is a feeling of spaciousness and elegance. We never felt crowded even though the ship was fully booked.
Our cabin #1109 was a spacious (340 sq. ft) mini suite on the Monte Carlo deck (11) with a full wall of 3 panoramic floor- to-ceiling windows, king size bed, sofa, table, desk, chairs, large sitting area, double vanity, plenty of closets and storage space, mahogany furniture with leather veneer, etc.; however, what impressed us the most was the spacious and elegant bathroom with marble floor and walls, with double sinks, whirlpool tub and a large shower. There was plenty of room for the two of us to use the bathroom at the same time. We cannot say the same things for the facilities on the Grandeur of the Seas or the CostaVictoria for comparably priced accommodations.
With the mini suite, in addition to the usual services of the steward, there was also the attentive help of a butler, who made sure that a fruit basket was always filled with prime quality fruit and that a bottle of spumante was chilled on ice ready for libation. Every morning we ordered our breakfast served in the cabin which was always promptly delivered by the butler with all of the desired items. Our steward Gustavo and our butler Pedro Galindo deserve to be acknowledged for their excellent and courteous service.
Except for breakfast, which we ate in the cabin most of the time, and an occasional lunch or afternoon tea, which we had at the Giardino buffet, most of the meals we ate in the Botticelli Restaurant. We felt very comfortable seated at a table for two, as requested, with a nice ocean view and pleasant people sitting at nearby tables with whom we socialized during our meals. The food was always good and sometimes quasi gourmet, the bread/breadsticks were always freshly baked, crunchy and flavorful, and the pasta always al dente, served hot with tasty sauces, as expected from a first class Italian restaurant ("No soggy spaghetti or mushy lasagna served here." I, a pasta connoisseur, can attest to that!). The service in the restaurant was good most of the time, but sometimes when the ship was in port or when there was open seating the waiters were not as prompt as they could have been. During a cooking show I volunteered to be the assistant to chef Tobia who prepared veal cutlets a la marsala. I helped to saute the thinly sliced veal in butter with marsala wine and condensed beef sauce on a slow heat. Results: One of the best veal cutlet dishes I have ever tasted. Good work Tobia!
The main entertainment on the CostaRomantica were the nightly variety shows in the theater L'opera, which were presented twice each night to accommodate the first sitting and second sitting guests. The quality of these shows was similar to those seen on the CostaVictoria and Grandeur of the Seas: Nice Las Vegas-type shows with dancers, singers, comedians, magicians and jugglers.
At other times of the day, there were live combos playing various types of rhythms in various locations: poolside, Piazza Italia, Tango Ballroom, Diva Disco, etc.. Something for every taste! There was also a recital by a talented pianist, Giovanni Moncada, who enchanted us with a programme of sonatas, nocturns, waltzes and studies by Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert. What a treat for us lovers of classical music! Bravo Giovanni!
There were also many types of activities scheduled at different hours of the day in different places: Card games, including bridge, poolside games, dance classes, golf lessons and seminar, arts and crafts, ping-pong, culinary demonstrations and trivia games. We enjoyed the last two activities, especially the trivia games which we won everytime we participated. Though we did not win at the Bingo games, nor playing the slot machines or blackjack in the Casino. We contributed a few hundred dollars there, but we had fun.
Ports of Call:
These are the usual Eastern Caribbean ports visited by most Cruise Lines: San Juan, St. Thomas and Nassau, and Costa's private beach resort, Serena Cay in the Dominican Republic. The critique on these ports can be found in many other reviews, therefore we are not going to comment any further on them. However, Serena Cay merits a mention as a very pleasant beach resort, because, as its name suggests, it presents a serene environment. There we enjoyed a peaceful day at the beach and shopped for some interesting artifacts.
One improvement that Costa can make is to modify the itinerary for an earlier arrival in San Juan. I think that this can be achieved by reversing the sequence of the ports of call, making Nassau the first port visited and San Juan the last. This change would also give the cruisers a much needed last day at sea for relaxation and contemplation before the dreaded debarkation.
Both operations went relatively smooth; however, compared to the CostaVictoria and the Grandeur of the Seas, embarkation was slower and debarkation faster. A bit less crowded than what we encountered on our these two previous cruise ships, which are larger than the CostaRomantica and carry more than 2000 passengers.
Before we list some of the more critical comments on certain aspects of this cruise, we want to point out that we would love to cruise again on the CostaRomantica. It would have been our best cruise yet, if it weren't for the marred view from our cabin. As we mentioned above, the suite had three panoramic floor to ceiling windows, a great feature on any cruise ship. However, there were extensive water condensation and salt stains trapped between the double glass panes. The view through these windows was not clear: It seemed like watching the panorama on rainy days.
First, we asked the butler if the windows could be cleaned. His answer was that the seals of the double glasses were defective thus they were unable to keep the moisture from penetrating inside the panes and very little could be done to improve the visibility. Then we asked if we could be moved to another suite, but that was not possible since the suites were fully booked. We had to live with the problem. We had the opportunity to speak with the congenial Director of Hotel Services, Manrico Giampedroni, who invited us to his office. He aknowledged that the window problem was a serious one which could be addressed only after the ship returned to Italy and that the engineers would be notified of the defective seals. Even looking from the outside of the ship it could be noticed that the windows of our suite were the worst of them all in regard to visibility. We contacted Ms. Marie Baroniel, Costa Cruise Line Customer Relations, to report this problem and we are awaiting a reply.
Other minor inconveniences were the lack of hooks in the bathroom on which to hang your clothes, and the shape of the whirlpool tub. This could have been better designed, with a seat for the comfort of the bather who could then better utilize the jets of water for hydromassages. This could be better achieved if he/she were in a sitting position.
In conclusion, the CostaRomantica is a great ship with excellent service, food and entertainment. We would cruise on her again, but we would make sure that the stateroom of choice would not be suite #1109, or that the current problem has been corrected.
Vincent and Mary Finelli can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or comment.
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