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A UNIQUE CARIBBEAN ITINERARY BECKONS.
Twenty years had elapsed since my last Costa cruise. When I received an invitation to cruise aboard the Costa Mediterranea, it was a no-brainer. Two decades ago, my kids and I had a fabulous time on the Costa Romantica. In those days, Costa was family-owned, pasta dishes were prepared tableside and those goofy toga parties had just begun. I didn’t know what to expect this time.
Carnival Corporation purchased Costa in 1997, changes were imminent. If you’ve ever cruised aboard one of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Spirit class ships, the Mediterranea will structurally look and feel familiar. But that’s where the similarities end.
Built in 2002, the ship’s décor is sort of an eclectic mix of ancient Rome and Greece, with a European neon disco vibe. Colorful Murano glass fixtures adorn nearly every public room, especially the main dining room. Inlaid Italian marble floors and authentic Italian artwork span the ship, inspired by Italian buildings of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The majority of passengers were Europeans and South Americans who flew to Miami to join the ship for this first Caribbean cruise of the season. Nearly 300 others who had just completed the Costa Mediterranea’s transatlantic crossing stayed onboard for this 11-night cruise. It was truly an international passenger list.
Announcements were made in five languages, but mainly only during the safety drill, at the beginning and end of the evening’s entertainment, port embarkation and upon arrival back in Miami.
When I entered my mid-ship balcony stateroom, it was identical to the staterooms I had on the Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Pride just a short time ago. Decorated in the same tones of orange and peach with complimenting carpet colors, it was easy to see that Carnival Corp. followed the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy.
My stateroom was quite roomy even with a full-size sofa and table. Nice features of Spirit class accommodations are lots of closet space, shelves, countertop and cabinets.
FOOD AND DINING
Before I go into detail, it’s very important to remember that Costa is a European cruise line, despite its Carnival Corporation parent. The majority of passengers come from Europe and South America.
With two fixed dining times, there wasn’t an option to “dine anytime.” The Lido buffet was closed for dinner but a section was transformed into a full-service, tablecloth pizzeria. $8pp will get you a baked-to-order personal-sized pizza, salad and Italian dessert.
In the elegant main dining room, some dinners were very good while others were just mediocre. The Italian sauces didn’t disappoint and the wine selections were quite good. I’m a fan of Sicilian reds and there were three offered on the wine list.
Entrées weren’t exclusively Italian and there was always the Every Day menu of chicken, steak, veggie and salmon available. Gluten-free and no/low sodium are available upon advance request.
I was fascinated as the cruise director introduced every evening’s entertainment in five languages, in less than two minutes. Designed for an international audience, a variety of non-verbal entertainment included a juggler, magician, aerialists and dancers.
Twice on this cruise, a pair of tenors performed traditional Italian standards including Turandot’s Nessum Dorma, Sorrento, Finiculi Finicula and Volare.
Italians love la dolce vita and it was evident throughout the ship. Every evening the lounges were filled with party-happy guests. Live musicians and singers provided hours of entertainment. From conga lines and line dancing to salsa and swing, people danced til the wee hours.
While there weren’t many kids on this longer cruise, Italians tend to travel as a family and Costa offers a good children’s program. In addition to adult swimming pools, there’s also a kiddie pool and splash area.
Simply put, this was an outstanding itinerary. On our 11-night cruise, we visited eight islands, cruising as far south as Guadeloupe. For international passenger appeal, Costa carefully planned an itinerary that included islands that currently belong or once belonged to the British, French, Dutch and Spanish crowns.
Flanked by the two Bahamian ports of Nassau and Freeport at the beginning and end of the cruise, the Caribbean ports included La Samana in the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola and Guadeloupe.
The Costa Mediterranean is one of only a handful of cruise ships to visit such a diverse mix of islands, especially round-trip from South Florida. The unique itinerary alone is an excellent reason for a Costa Mediterranea cruise.
With a friendly crew that aims to please, cuisine that doesn’t leave you hungry, and a very reasonable price tag, the Costa Mediterranea offers a memorable vacation experience at a great value.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Costa Cruises’ Costa Mediterranea for this 11-night southern Caribbean cruise. I’ve been as objective with this review as possible, with the realization that what I like, others may not. Conversely, a feature that doesn’t appeal to me, may be exactly what other readers love.
For more information visit: Costa Cruise Line.