Two Costa cruises
My partner and I have been on several Costa cruises, the last two being a transatlantic on Costa Deliziosa departing !st December 2018 and Costa Victoria to the Indian Ocean departing 1st March, 2019. Both cruises were preceded by a short stay, two nights in Marseille on the first, three nights in Mauritius on the second. They were both enjoyable, but in both cases is has become very noticeable how Costa (along with the rest of the Carnival group) are cutting corners. Things which were included are now charged for and there are some unexpected charges being introduced. The standard of the food has gone down, as well as some of the service. The cruise on the Deliziosa was, in fact, a back-to-back cruise of a transatlantic crossing with a Christmas cruise added on. The weather for the Atlantic crossing was excellent, even in December; hot, sunny and with very little wind. It was ideal for sun-bathing on deck, and the front of the sun deck made an ideal place for this, with a view of any marine life that appeared, and away from the noise of the animation team around the pool. The itinerary after Marseille was Malaga, from which we went by train to Cordoba, Then two Canary islands followed by six days sunbathing at sea. The first port of call on the other side was Guadalupe where we took a trip to the waterfalls in Bas Terre, and a local bus trip around Grand Terre, where it rained. Next Antigua, which was just a beach stop, and Tortola where we took a local ferry to Virgin Gorda and its famous baths, but the sea was a bit too rough to venture in. The next day was a sea day - still hot and sunny, but the weather turned during the course of the following day (also at sea) when the rain was torrential. This was followed by a visit to Nassau in the Bahamas. Now, when I have previously thought of the Bahamas, I have thought of palm trees and idyllic beaches. That is definitely not Nassau. The traffic is horrendous and the pollution worse than London. We had intended to spend several hours exploring the old town, but after about an hour and a half, we had to call it a day as we were both coughing and had sore throats for the rest of the cruise. The next day (December 19th), we stopped at Port Everglades where a lot of passengers disembarked. We went by taxi to Miami (not recommended as you can do it more cheaply using the local bus service all or part of the way), and spent most of the time looking at the Art Deco buildings with a short stop on Miami beach, Then buses back to The ship. We then started the second of the back to back cruises, which was a Christmas cruise. The cruise over had been comfortable because it had not been too crowded, but about 800 more people got on than got off, including a lot of children, so everything was much busier and getting a table in the buffet became a problem. The first port should have been Puerto Rico, but, unfortunately we found this had been changed without prior notice when we got the itinerary from Costa, to Nassau again. I had hoped never to have to go there again. but we took a local bus as far out of town as we good to a reasonable (I wouldn't say special) beach. We then took a ferry to Paradise Island - a place to avoid. The rest of the cruise was basically in the U.S. (even though they were different countries); Grand Turk, with a huge America shopping mall, Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, with a huge American shopping mall, Christmas day in Key West and finally back to Port Everglades. We took an excursion to the Everglades which dropped us off at P.E. airport. We managed a tour of an Everglades park without seeing any alligators or any other animals apart from one heron, A bit of a waste of time. Finally, we took a Norwegian Airlines plane back to Gatwick. I have previously been a fan of Norwegian, and have voted for them is various surveys, but I have to say, the service on this flight was the worst I have ever encountered. It appeared that we should have pre-booked a meal, if we wanted one, but we hadn't been told of this, having previously just bought snacks on board. So we had nothing. We were totally ignored by the stewardesses, no food, no drink no "can I get you something?" Nothing except for a glass of water each which I had to go and look for. I do not wish to fly Norwegian ever again. In brief, the cruise across the Atlantic was good, even though the food was not as good as on previous Costa cruises, but the second leg was a let-down. The ship had too many passengers for comfort and the ports of call were not inspiring, apart from Key West. The evening entertainment was generally very good. Costa has cut down on shows where there is a lot of speaking in six languages, it is more singing, dancing and acrobats. The second cruise, on the Costa Victoria, was to four islands in the Indian Ocean. The itinerary was superb, as we had a reasonable amount of time in each port to see the destinations in a little more detail than the usual one day visits. The ship was stylish and had a good number of entertainment venues, but there were a lot of odd and rather inexplicable areas. At the front of the ship there was a three tier dance/show area where the usual weird Costa competitions were held. The dance floor was surrounded by tables and chairs, as usual, but with some pillars blocking sight-lines; there was a floor above, with two almost circular balconies overlooking the dance floor, but the back of this floor had seating from which it was quite impossible to see the dance floor, and there was a third floor that gave a view of the dance floor from one row of seats, but had a large wasted area behind these that didn't seem to be used, or useable, for anything. The theatre had a bar, which never seemed to be operational, and a balcony which had a flat area behind the raked seating which had tables and chairs from which there was no view of the stage at all. It seemed that there were spaces dotted around the ship that nobody knew what to do with, or why they were there. The Victoria, much more that any other Costa ship we have been on, seemed to operate as a two class ship. There was a speciality restaurant which was reserved for Perla Diamante level passengers but was open to others on payment. On the Deliziosa, we were given an upgrade on two evenings to eat in the Samsara restaurant on board, as we were Perla level, but this was not offered on Victoria. In the theatre, up to about three minutes before the shows started, there was a great swathe of the best seats reserved for Diamanties. The reserved signs were then removed and all the plebs made a dash for the better seats, continuing to move around after the shows had started. What got up my nose, though, was the fact that the front of the sundeck, which we used on the Deliziosa, was here cordoned off and admission to that area was charged at 10 per day. There was no other area where you could see the front view from. The Victoria was the only ship I have been on in the last 30+ years that has not had either a sauna or a steam-room available without additional charge. Here, you had to pay a daily Spa charge of 25 per day just to use the sauna. While complaining about the ship, I might add that the cabin was the smallest I have had on a cruise ship. However, it was the itinerary that mattered. We started with three nights in Mauritius, (recommended to get over the night flight) which allowed a brief visit to some of the sights, plus a bit of relaxing on the beach (tip - use insect repellent on the beaches, as well as the jungles, the sand flies are a menace.) We also went on a bike tour organised by the hotel, the first time on a bike for many years. Embarkation was very quick and efficient; lunch was available as soon as we got on board and our very small cabin was available as soon as we has finished eating. Very well organised. Next day at sea; very hot and sunny so sun bathing all day. The next day was hot but very rainy. This was a bit worrying as the forecast for the duration of the cruise had been bad. It was also my birthday, so it rained on my parade. 5th March arrived in the Seychelles. The ship was a longish walk out of the centre of Victoria, but we walked there and had a reasonable wander around the centre. Some interesting architecture with a variety of religious buildings in very different styles. Then took a local bus to Beau Valon beach, which is touted as one of the best beaches in the world. The touts have got it wrong; the beach was covered in sea-weed, backed by hotels so you couldn't get off the beach except for the one limited access path and generally scruffy. There are better beaches on the island to visit. We then took a bus back to Victoria and went to the local botanic gardens, famous for its coco-de-mer palms and giant tortoises. Well worth a visit. The following day, we went on a comprehensive tour of the island organised by one of our table companions, including a beach stop and a visit to a rum distillery. The next day started wet. The funeral of a former president was taking place, so a lot of things were closed. we just went ashore to buy a few things and made friends with a flock of cute little pigeons. One day at sea, followed by a lot of sea birds and then Madagascar. This island was the highlight of the cruise. First port, Nosy Be, from where we took a ship's excursion called a jungle trek. It was fascinating. We went by minibus (over very pot-holed roads) to a small village, where I should point out that the toilet facilities were such that none of the ladies in the group would consider using them and the gents found alternative tall vegetation. We then went by (intermittently) motorised canoes to the jungle site, It was not too difficult to walk through, but some people did find the terrain a bit treacherous. We saw a number of animals, including lemurs, chameleons, and geckos, Plus a couple of boa constrictors. I think they must have been fed before we reached them, because they were quite docile. I am terrified of snakes, but I managed to take their photos without screaming. After the two hour-ish trek, we went back to the village by canoe again, for a good buffet and drinks. We also had a (rather long) talk from the gentleman who had first organised these tours, and a few minutes on the beach before returning to the ship. As we had disembarked by tender, it was a bit chaotic getting everyone back on board, The next day, Diego Suarez and another ship excursion, this time a mountain hike, We had a car ride with a very pleasant Dutch couple to the Amber Mountain national park. The roads were even worse and this time they were very wet. We went in convoy to the park, but then stayed in little groups each with a guide, to hike through slightly more difficult terrain than the previous day, Again, we saw a variety of animals, including a miniature snake, a mongoose and a colourful butterfly that hitched a lift on a lady's hat. There were some nice waterfalls as well. Another hot and sunny day on deck followed by Tamatave, our third and last stop in Madagascar. From there we took an excursion on the Pangales Canal to a small village where we could see the daily life of the people there, plus buying home made souvenirs, and a buffet of fruit an juice, a very pleasant and relaxing trip. After that we called in at the main market in Tamatave, where vanilla is a good buy. One point to make about Madagascar. Prior to going, I read in the guide books that you should not take Euros as the people did not use them and they would not be accepted. WRONG! Take Euros; if you can take large denomination notes and take as much as you can. The traders DO take euros, but they have problems changing them at the banks, who do not accept coins and give a worse rate of exchange for lower denomination notes, so, if you can, take 50 notes and change them with the locals for their small notes; take small notes and change them for their coins. It is no skin off your nose, but it will help them. In addition, the people are so poor, small things like pens, sweets, etc are greatly appreciated, After Madagascar, La Reunion. Be careful, your itinerary says St. Denis. It isn't. The boat docks some miles from St, Denis and there is a shuttle bus to the port gate, as walking in the port is not allowed. Costa then confuses people by saying there is a shuttle bus to "Le Port" This is nothing to do with the port you have just arrived at, it is separate town, whose main claim to fame seems to be its giant Mall, We went there to draw cash out and then found we were stuck there. Avoid it, unless your idea of a holiday is a could-be-anywhere shopping centre, Get a taxi to St, Denis. The next day, having learnt our lesson e joined table companions again for a taxi excursion around La Reunion. What a difference to Madagascar. It is, of course, part of the E.U. and the infrastructure is like mainland France. The waterfalls and volcanic sites are amazing, The last volcanic eruption had finished three days before we got there. It is well worth doing a tour to include the centre of the island and Hell-Bourg, the waterfalls, the lava church etc. Our last port was a return to Mauritius. We took a taxi from the port for a tour of the north of the island, including some of its beaches and then a ship's excursion to the south of the island to include an airport drop-off. Apart from Le Trou aux Cerfs, which seemed much ado about nothing, this was a good trip, especially the Hindu temple complex and Sacred lake. Air Mauritius flight home and back to reality. I may have been critical of the ship, but the entertainment was very good, there was a lot of different things taking place in the evenings and the itinerary was superb. Do go!
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