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Cruise Ship Review
CostaVictoria
By
Bernard Soltz

CostaVictoria Eastern Caribbean Cruise February 1997

I sailed on the CostaVictoria on February 2, 1997 for the one week Eastern Caribbean cruise. Several complete reports on the ship's size, construction, facilities, etc. have been written and posted before, so I will not go over that ground again. I want to talk about the highlights and lowlights of the passage and comment on the ship.

Interior Design:

The public rooms are all done in what one would call the Italian design. Modern, arty, and imaginative. Seats are all comfortable and movable. The passageways in the passenger decks are all in a nautical royal blue. The color is quite satisfying, and not at all off-putting, as some have commented. The most interesting public room is forward, the Concord Plaza. This room has a three- story atrium, with a 2-level balcony. I attended three opera performances here, presented using a most ingenious combination of art and technology. There are two, large, rear-projection TV screens built into the bulkheads ( walls) which present video simultaneously for the left- and right-side of the room. The hi-fi system floods the room with flawless sound. The entire performance is controlled by computer. Ambient light is kept low during the performances for optimum viewing. Only a handful of people attended these presentations. What a pity! It must be a well-kept secret. Surely, there were more opera lovers on board.

Cabins:

Yes, these are small, about 150 sq. ft. They were adequate, but offered poor closet space and very tiny bathrooms. How small were they? They were so small that there wasn't enough room to change your mind. I managed, but my wife did not. She fell in to ( not in ) the shower, hurting her coccyx. When I took her to see the ship's doctor, I learned that others had had similar falls, for more or less the same reason as she. This is why form and function, rather than style, should have been considered foremost in the design of the cabins. Some of the arty things in the bathroom, such as the curved sides, could have been eliminated to provide more room.

Cabin service was good, but not as good as we have come to expect on other lines. For some of the services we requested, we were told to call room service or the front desk. A definite no-no.

Showroom:

By now, everyone knows about the fiasco in showroom design. Yes, the balcony is a disaster, but the worst part is that people who could not be seated properly in the balcony flooded the lower level, pressing for seats. Those who were not quick enough to arrive early and then sit and wait for the show to start, or who did not have someone saving seats for them ( a definite no-no ) did not see the shows. I observed shouting matches which almost developed into boxing matches over seats, something I had never witnessed on any other ship. Very bad PR for Costa.

Entertainment:

The shows were so-so, more or less like the earlier-day Celebrity shows, and definitely not up to the level of RCI or Princess. The dancers, young and energetic, were, to their credit, quite good. The best show was the Wednesday presentation of Richard lanni. Another writer has described lanni as a "fiftyish lounge lizard with a mediocre voice". Tsk. tsk. Generation gaps, dear reader, generation gaps. lanni may be fiftyish, yes, but a lounge lizard with a mediocre voice, never! In the first show, he played to an audience primarily of senior citizens, the majority of whom were Italian or speakers of Romance languages. His repertoire was directed to them. Show tunes in English from the 50's, 60's and 70's, and great Italian, Spanish and French songs. He received a standing ovation.

The Most Fun:

The Roman Bacchanal was the most unusual activity on the ship. On the last night, Saturday, passengers were asked to dress in togas, which could be made from bed sheets. On Saturday afternoon, our cabin steward placed sheets, along with instructions for making the togas, on our bunks. To make the costume complete, he left gold-painted wreaths, too. If you're a camera buff ( and even if you're not ) you can have a lot of fun pursuing this. I documented the entire toga-making process, plus a night of fun in the dining room, on video tape and 35 mm. film. This will provide laughs forever.

 

Food:

Pasta twice a day! Well, what would you expect on an Italian ship? The menu had a variety of offerings. You didn't have to order the pasta, but it was there if you wanted it. I rated the food good, a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. My wife, the fussy Italian, rated it 6. I totally disagree. I know Italian food; I've been eating it for the 46 years I've been married to her! Here's how I rate Costa food against the food on other lines:

1. Celebrity (excellent, 9 - 10 )
2. RCCL ( very good, 8 - 9 )
3. Princess ( good to very good, 7.5 - 8 )
4. Costa ( good, 7 )

Consider the 7 rating I gave Costa's food like the 3-star rating in Mobil Guide ( not the Michelin Guide). It's a very acceptable level.

Service in the Sinfonia dining room ( there are two dining rooms ) was very good. Our waiter, Anil from Bombay, was very attentive and tried to satisfy us. He unquestioningly removed any dishes we found not to our liking, and quickly replaced them with other, more palatable ones. Our headwaiter, Furlio, stopped at our table daily and made sure that all of us had our appetizer of mozzarella and prosciuto on the table when we arrived for dinner on Thursday.

We took most of our meals in the Sinfonia dining room. When there was open seating, we did not have the services of Anil. Unfortunately, the waiters we found were less knowledgeable than Anil; to wit, when we asked for half-and-half for the coffee, we were told there was none on the ship. When I protested, the waiter found the half-and-half, delivered it to the table, and served it the way he found it, in the cardboard container. No excuse. This showed a definite lack of training, something that Costa will have to correct very soon.

I can't comment on the midnight buffets because I did not attend. Three large meals a day were all I could handle. Those who did attend gave glowing accounts, so, if you're a trencherman, don't be put off by me.

Pompeii Spa:

This is a lovely area of the ship, with an indoor pool, exercise equipment, massage rooms, steam room and sauna. And a bad design. First, changing rooms and lockers should have been provided in a closed area contiguous to the sauna and steam room. Second, the steam room should be renamed, or rebuilt. It is not a steam room. It is a room wherein you may experience insipid steam for a few minutes in a 20-minute on-off cycle. It is a waste of time. The sauna is much better; it is hot, and if you want steam and no one objects, just ladle more water on the coals. Third, the ceiling above the steppers is too low. If you are more than 5' 8" tall, you cannot stand up straight when exercising. I am 5' 11", and worked out on the steppers in a stooped position. Even when stooped, my head kept touching the ceiling! Fourth, there were no walking machines. This was not a problem for me, for I did my daily mile outdoors on Deck 6.

Public Restrooms:

I discovered something unique about the public men's restrooms. The first time I used them, I thought I had blundered and entered the women's room by mistake. There were no urinals! Most curious.

Tours:

This was my second time on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary, and my fourth time in San Juan and St. Thomas, so there were no mysteries for me and I didn't need any ship tours. Nevertheless, I did want to book the Wild Thing in St. Thomas, and found, to my dismay, the CostaVictoria did not offer it. Further, the people behind the tour desk had never heard of it and made no attempt to find out about it.

People Handling:

I must compliment the crew of the CostaVictoria for keeping a clean ship and for their expertise in handling large numbers of people. There were about 2000 passengers aboard, and I almost never felt crowded. Debarking went quickly and smoothly. I was in the fourth group to leave the ship, and was off by 10:00 A.M.

Straw Poll:

Near the end of the cruise, I conducted my own, very unscientific poll of passengers. The questions were (1) Are you enjoying the cruise ? (2) Do you like the food? the shows? (3) Do you like the ship? and (4) Would you book this ship again? Ready for the answers?

The answer to first question was almost always yes. Most liked the food, but thought that it could have been better. Almost all thought the shows to be average, and that they could have been much better. All agreed, however, that the Richard Ianni show was the high point of the entertainment. Except for the problem in the show lounge, everyone liked the ship, and complimented the upbeat Italian design. Now, for the answer to the last question. Half said that they might book this ship again, and the other half, never. Comparisons were made between the CostaVictoria and the CostaRomantica. Among those who said never, the CostaRomantica was cited as the ship of choice for another Costa cruise. They said that the rooms were bigger and that the food was better. Which tells me there is a lack of quality control and standardization at Costa. The CostaVictoria and the CostaRomantica are in the same line; why the diversity?

And now for the good news. I gained only 2.5 pounds. Happy cruising!


For comment or thanks, contact Bernard Soltz at: bsoltz@gte.net.


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