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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Costa Cruise Line

MS CostaMagica

Your Rating:Three Stars
Reviewed by: J. Petty
# previous cruises: 31 to 40
Date of Trip: May 5, 2006
Itinerary: Transatlantic

I was on the 16 night crossing in May '06 from Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen, with stops at New York (2 overnights), Le Havre and Harwich (diverted from Dover). Except for the first 2 days out of Florida, weather was cool (highs in the 60's and even 50's F), gray, and windy, but never very rough. This was my first Costa cruise, and although I've never been on a ship that I wouldn't go on again given the right offer, I'm not going to go out of my way to go on Costa again. Most of the reviews that I've seen for the Magica say that the ship is beautiful, the pasta is great, and most Americans won't like the ship or the food because it's all too Italian. My general feeling was just the opposite. I found the public areas of the ship to be astonishingly ugly, the pasta to be poor (compared to what I've had in Italy or on Princess), and most of the dining room food to be quite good (and not particularly Italian). The Asian service crew members were quite attentive and friendly. Announcements were made in 5 languages, but were held to a minimum except for those concerning art auctions.

Boarding at Port Everglades was a breeze, with just us and about a dozen staff present; we were on board within minutes. Passports were checked but not kept. Credit card registration was held several times throughout the voyage so there was no rush. Boarding in New York wasn't anywhere near as pleasant (for us or for passengers joining there); the first afternoon we were in line 45 minutes and missed our dinner time. All onboard charges were made in Euros, including the automatic tips (which at 6 Euros per day were quite reasonable for these days), and were billed in Euros via Italy so it helped to be using a credit card that doesn't add on extra % for foreign transactions. Disembarkation in Copenhagen was rather slow, in part because they chose to have those like us with independent arrangements go last all together, so that we had to wait in a long line for the few taxis (I prefer the Princess method where they let independent travelers trickle off whenever they are ready). We were asked to be out of our cabin by 8AM (and found it already made up for the next guests when we arrived back from breakfast 10 minutes before that).

Public Areas
Most of the public areas are decorated in "Sensory Overload Modern", (but no flashing neon lights); my mother wondered whether it was supposed to be reminiscent of a bordello (which would seem to fit in with the "Famous Nudes of History" decor of the stateroom passageways; where is John Ashcroft when you need him?). The atrium has huge pictures (photographs?) of Italian coastal villages painted on the upper walls and ceiling. We never did find anywhere quiet with comfortable seating; loud music was played in lounges even when they weren't in use. The library had strange wrap-around chairs that reminded me of Number Two's chair on "The Prisoner". The deck chairs were made of some kind of fabric stretched over metal frames, and were very uncomfortable for sitting. The pools aren't long enough for lap swimming (a disappointment for me after several recent cruises on Princess and RCCL). The outdoor promenade deck under the boats doesn't wrap around; the official walking/running tracks are around the funnel high above. There is a steel-plated deck behind the boats that seemed to wrap around, but the deck was often wet and slippery and I never figured out whether passengers were supposed to be out there except for the boat drill. The shops weren't anything special; the only reason we bought anything was to use up our shareholder shipboard credit that was freed up when our shore excursion from Dover was canceled. I found it interesting that the shops handled the changeover from $ to Euros at the beginning of our cruise by crossing out the $ and writing in the Euros sign, thus instantly marking everything up by 28%. The Magica has no public laundry rooms. The library is quite small, most of the books seem to be paperbacks left by past passengers, and books may be checked out or back in only during limited hours.

Food and Service
I found food in the dining room to be mostly quite tasty, from appetizer to soup to salad to main course. Beef, pork, poultry and veal dishes were uniformly good, but the fish seemed to be overcooked. Desserts weren't quite so good; pastry crust usually had a sawdust consistency. The breakfast menu had quite a variety of dishes, including very good Eggs Benedict. I didn't find the buffet upstairs to be quite as good; not a whole lot of variety, and a very limited salad bar (but very good cookies for tea). There are in fact something like 6 buffet lines, and we had to check around to make sure we didn't miss anything since they didn't all have exactly the same items. I was pleasantly surprised that fresh milk was readily available at all meals, and that good hot do-it-yourself cocoa was available in the buffet area. My mother is a fan of the soft ice cream from the self-serve machines. No adjustments were made to dinner schedules for nights in port (on other ships open dining was offered when in port); in fact the 4th formal night was held the evening in Le Havre with many passengers away on tours to Paris).

Our (inside) cabin and bathroom seemed to be about average in size, and the cabin was actually quite tastefully decorated. The bathroom had a spongy blue floor (with several chunks gouged out of it already), an adequate shower with a good supply of hot water and a pull-out laundry line, and amenities consisting of one small bar of soap (plus a soap dispenser in the shower). The beds were quite comfortable, but we had listened to those who advised that the mattresses are very hard and asked for mattress toppers. There was very little closet space: 2 small closets with 6 or 7 cheap plastic hangers each (and this in a cabin with 2 upper berths available), and several of them broken. Drawers were also somewhat limited in number, and equipped with little rawhide loops instead of knobs. This was rather unappealing, since the loops were quite grubby (how do you clean rawhide?). The drawers didn't lock into the closed position very well; the morning that we were towed into Harwich by tugs all of the drawers banged open and closed repeatedly as the ship listed one way and then the other. Air conditioning was good. Irons and candles are not permitted in cabins. We were given a fruit basket with the usual types but also a couple of kinds of tropical fruit; we had just about decided that they were ripe enough to eat when the whole basket was replaced with a fresh one and we had to start over again. There was a standard-sized mini-bar, and a safe. The one really bad thing about our cabin was that it was located on deck 6 aft, right above a lounge. The percussion bounced us around our cabin each night until about 1; the last couple of nights we were actually hearing (feeling) music from 2 lounges at once.

There were the usual singers (one of whom other passengers said was quite good), dancers (ho, hum), a couple of Hungarian acrobats who were pretty amazing, a laser light show (ho, hum again, but I have read reviews where people rave about this). There was an opera singer who was pretty good, but a couple of other attempts at classical performances (violins, piano) weren't as good as some that I have attended on Princess. A travel agency had set up a series of Big Band events with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, but charged 42 Euros for the package. Movies were shown in the main showroom most days at sea, and the room seemed to work pretty well for this. Our problem with it was that they were mostly scheduled in the late morning or early afternoon, when they conflicted with other events or with lunch. The famous "Toga Night" wasn't a great success, with maybe 5% of the passengers participating

There were dance lessons, exercise sessions (often with more staff than passengers), bingo, trivia and sports contests daily. In port at New York the subway was about a 15 minute walk away (buses were much closer but they require transit passes that can't be bought on the bus), and enough sights are accessible via subway to keep anyone busy for weeks (we visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty the first day and mostly strolled along 5th avenue the second). I visited the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum near the Magica's pier the final morning (unfortunately the Concorde was closed). At Le Havre we rented a car and drove to Rouen to see the old town and Cathedral, then went on to Chateau de Martainville and its interesting museum of Norman traditions and arts. Many other interesting places are within reach: Paris, the Normandy beaches, Honfleur (old fishing town), ruins of great Norman abbies such as Jumieges. Our Dover stop was canceled due to a storm, and we were quite disappointed to not be able to go on our excursion to Leeds Castle. Instead we took a train from Harwich to Colchester (#6 pp return), and were pleasantly surprised by the town. There is a big Norman castle, and a very interesting clock museum in a picturesque half-timbered house. People who took the free shuttle into Harwich town were impressed by the town and the friendly people. Everyone was amazed by the crowds that lined the whole waterfront at Harwich as we sailed by on the way out (we had heard on the radio that we were the biggest ship so far to make a port call there).

Who Goes
About half of the passengers were from the U.S.; the other sizable groups were German, French, Italian, British and Spanish. An attempt was made to seat passengers at dinner according to their language, but somehow we ended up with a German couple tacked on to the end of our table of 6 English speakers. Most passengers seemed to be in their 60's or above, as is usual on long crossings.

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