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Review: Costa Atlantica

Cruise - Ocean Cruise

Costa Cruise

  • By SilverTraveller Glynis-Sullivan

    13 reviews

    Ribbon

  • Sep 2012
  • Balcony
  • Family holiday
  • Husband

126 people found this review helpful

"You are not going with Costa Cruising are you"!!! Our friends seemed rather amazed that we were booking a cruise with Costa. Costa Cruise Company has had a lot of very bad publicity over the past few years including a ship going into the rocks off Italy!!! But the price was right and the cruise ship was going to the Eastern Med which included a trip to Haifa in Israel that allowed us to go on a trip to see Jerusalem, and the plus was to go over the border into Palestine to visit Bethlehem, places I wanted to see for a very long time. No need to worry about the Costa safety, we had our safety drill and it was quick and efficient, the staff are trained during the cruise at various times and everyone on board knows where to go and what to do in case of an emergency.

Our trip started at Heraklion on Crete, we flew Easy Jet, the day before the cruise started to make sure we arrived in time for embarkation. We booked the cruise through Cruise Nation and they organised a five star hotel in Heraklion called the Galaxy Hotel, which was extremely good. Ideal for a stop over, lovely room, swimming pool, good restaurant. The only problem was that it is a little way out of the city centre – it is about a 10 minute walk, so if you are of a mature age a taxi is recommended. Heraklion is a lovely, lively city we were there for the entertainment weekend with singers and dancers performing in the village square, where we drank ouzo and Greek coffee in the warm pleasant evening sunshine. After breakfast the following morning we took a taxi to the port to be transferred to our ship. The embarkation was smooth and trouble free. Our cabin was "aft" – which means at the back, we had a good size cabin and a balcony, all the rooms on the Costa are well furnished – if a little old fashioned – clean and very comfortable beds!.

The Costa Cruise line is Italian, we were on the Costa Atlantica a large ship with approximately 2,000 passengers so be prepared to "get lost" whilst trying to find your way around and be prepared for a lot of walking when you are at the front of the ship for the entertainment and your cabin is at the back!!! The whole of the ship has an Italian feel from paintings of Great Masters on the dining room walls, amazing stained glass windows, a lift that goes up 10 floors from reception that is all glass and a glass stair case to one of the many restaurants. There are four restaurants, two for the set dining – no anytime dining on this cruise – two restaurants that you have to pay extra for a more intimate experience, and of course the buffet, which does have different themes each evening. We went on the first sitting which was 6.45 early yes, but the second sitting was 9.15 a little late and I didn't take enough gaviscon for the whole of the trip and I would have needed it eating that late. Some evenings the restaurant didn't open for second sitting until 9.35 that is just a little late for me!

The food was really good if you like Italian food, lots of pasta! I do like pasta but not that much – over all the food wasn't as good as one might expect on a cruise line, we have been on four cruises before and the standard of food has been excellent, but as the old saying goes " you get what you pay for" and this was a very inexpensive cruise for the places and experiences we encounter. The staff are charming and helpful if a little over stretched, but, oh well, you are on holiday and no one is rushing anywhere so a little wait was to inconvenient. The gym was excellent and a pleasant way to shake of those pounds put on by the pasta!!!

Our first stop was the iconic and beautiful Greek Island of Santorini, situated on the top of a hillside, the remains of the Volcano that erupted here about 3,600 years ago. The only way up is by cable car or mule. We were transferred by shuttle to the harbour after looking at the mules decided to go the traditional way. Well it was fantastic, the mules are treated well and only take two trips up the hillside per day, so you don't feel they are being mis-treated. There are a lot of mules and a sign telling you about their treatment. Once you are on, hang on the mule knows its way to the top and zig zags all the way to the top. A good experience but one I don't wish to repeat – well not too soon anyhow!!!!.

Fira the capital of Santorini is at the top of the hill and is a lovely place to visit, churches, wonderful view and even a jewellers call Nick the Greek!. We wanted to visit the famous land marks that are on thousands of post cards sent all over the world. The village is called Oia where the blue top churches and the amazing views look over the bay that the volcanic eruption created. Some people on the cruise booked on the tours, but if you are a little savvy, get to the top and ask for the bus station a bus that the tour takes cost 1 euro 60 compared to the 60 euros charged by the cruise company.

Our next day was "at sea" a good time to find your way around the ship or just rest and enjoy the sun. The entertainment on board is very good with resident performers and guest acts a lovely way to unwind after a day at sea or after a tour.

Our next stop was Haifa in Israel to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem. This trip we did organise a tour from the ship, do your bookings early – when you get on if you can – as this tour gets over booked very quickly. Everyone has to have a visa before entering Israel or Palestine, this is arranged by the cruise staff and a designated time is set in one of the theatres for everyone going on the trips to have their passports checked and be given a visa slip that is stamped. Our tour bus drove through Tel Aviv to the Israeli/Palestine border through to Bethlehem, not a trip to venture if you are disabled or unsteady on your feet. We went to the Church of the Nativity, with many other people on conducted tours, but it was wonderful just the same. The church is ornate and beautiful, the two caves at either side of the church were busy and claustrophobic, but the birth place of Jesus of Nazareth the cave of the Star of David is a sight to behold.

We left and drove back through the border on to a delightful lunch at the Olive Tree Hotel. Our afternoon trips started above the Garden of Gethsemeni giving us a panoramic view of the city of Jerusalem, and the wall that surrounds the city. We then went to the Western Wall, better known as the Wailing Wall. We were given a piece of paper to write down our thoughts and wishes to be placed in the wall and set off through the security barrier. The wall was smaller than I imagined but impressive never the less. Men go one side and women the other, Men have to wear the scull cap of the Jewish faith and in that area the scrolls are on display. I went to the wall with my piece of paper and tried to push it in the wall but mine fell out!!! oh dear now what – I tried to find it but there are thousands of wishes on bits of paper pushed into the wall daily – was this something I have done or said – we will never know. So my wish would go in the melting pot and be burnt with all the rest.

Leading off the square from the Western Wall the walk way that Jesus took to be crucified. It has the stations of the cross depicted on the walls of what I can only call a very busy walk way, full of shops and a Holy Rock Cafe!!! It felt very strange and not what I had expected, but this is a different world, not so organised as ours but fascinating the hustle and bustle reminded me of the bible story when Jesus cleared out the dealers and trades men at the temple, but that was then and this is now. The walk way goes to the Church of the Holy Sepulchura, the site of the crucifixion of Jesus. A very impressive church, packed full with people and stairs lead up to the site of the crucifixion – so if in doubt don't climb the stairs. It is an experience not to be missed hot and tiring but to visit the area that created one of the greatest religions on this planet is worth every penny, The cost of the trip was 99 euros which for the experience is very, very good.

Our next day was in Limasoll, Cyprus – yes, we did cover alot of ground (sea) in a short time – Limasoll is a coastal town with a good shopping centre and a long sea front. You can catch a bus along the coast number 44 to visit the archaeological site, a Greco Roman theatre. Many of the passengers disembark in Limasoll and new passengers joined us. This is a busy vibrant city and many British people have made Cyprus there home, so more English speaking people got on board in Limasoll. We were in the minority on board an Italian ship and this made the dining experience quite unique when people from all nationalities get together!!

A day later we moored up at Antalya, Turkey a lovely place with a castle standing proud over looking the busy port and shopping centre. The busy port has many tourist boats to take people out to the headland a very enjoyable hour – yes on the sea again!!! – but different. The castle on the top of the hill was accessible by taxi for 20 euros but if you go to the port area ask where you can catch the local bus, it goes every 20 minutes and cost – 1 euro 50 cents. The view from the top is fantastic and the little coffee shop on the path going down the hill is an oasis, lovely and quiet away from the maddening crowds. You can walk down the hill to the port again but we decided in the heat of the day the bus was our best bet. The tours included a trip to Duden Falls which is expensive but will give you a taster of the area. Also in the old town is Hadrians Gate built in honour of the Roman Emperor.

Rhodes our next stop. The walled town of Rhodes is a leather shoppers paradise and a historians pleasure. Historically, Rhodes is world wide known for the Colossus of Rhodes, it is now a World Heritage Site The walled city is surrounding the Palace of the Grand Masters and you can walk around the walls to take in the feel of the history of the area. The Red Bus tour is fine but only in certain parts is there the documentary – disappointing really but it is a hop on hop off bus and it is a good way to see the archaeological site with its amphitheatre and columns. Rhodes has a beautiful harbour with many boats moored from all around the world, the entrance to the harbour has pillars with deer on top guarding the harbour and windmills strategically placed, reminding us of more history when the mills ground grains delivered by merchant vessels in Mandraki harbour.

Our last stop was back to Heraklion – one week – it seemed a lot longer due to the amount of "sea/land" we had covered, and as we flew back to terra firma and the cool climate of England we have a lot of really good memories that will last a life time just like the story of Jesus of Nazareth.

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