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Old 10-25-2010, 05:15 PM   #161
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DW and I are headed to Easter Island for a week in mid-December. Then we are off on an epic 6000-mile road trip in South America (Montevideo to Santiago, Chile to Tierra del Fuego and back up the east coast to Montevideo via Buenos Aires). I figure it will take at least 30 days if the car holds up. The #1 warning I've received is to buy gas at every pump I see because the next one might be 6 hours down the road (that is if the pump isn't out of gas).
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Old 10-26-2010, 08:51 AM   #162
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On Friday, we are headed back to PV for the winter. Looking forward to cheap food and wine.
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Old 10-26-2010, 08:58 AM   #163
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We leave Thursday for Rome for 10 days DW flies home, I chair a conference on uncertainty in the Safety regulatory process. Then its Bonn, Salzburg and Kempten for lectures and meetings. I only do disasters in nice places these days.
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Old 10-26-2010, 09:21 AM   #164
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DW is oft to Cairo/Luxor (and a Nile cruise) in two weeks.

As for me? I'm staying home with the puppies (she's traveling with her friend, another gal that likes to spend time in other places )...
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Old 10-26-2010, 09:44 AM   #165
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Heading to Sacramento/SF Bay area Nov. 19-30...spending Thanksgiving with parents/family. My annual trip home to CA
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Old 11-08-2010, 12:55 AM   #166
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I went down to see the shuttle launch last week and it was a bust. Hung around for 4 days until it was postponed until the end of November. Not sure if I will make another attempt. Rates on beachfront hotels at Daytona Beach were a deal at $59/night. Visited friends I had not seen in 15 years so that was a plus. Also had a travel companion that split expenses so that helped mitigate the trip cost.
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:25 PM   #167
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Just returned from a 7 night cruise through the Eastern Caribbean on Costa Cruises ship Atlantica.

Very impressed with everything. We booked it last minute and didn't research it too much, but we were very pleased. They are an Italian cruise line and that showed up in a number of ways on board. It was good to get a taste of Europe (figuratively and literally) without straying far from home. Warm weather, clear blue water, what else could you want? The kids had a blast in their on-board kids club.
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Old 11-15-2010, 01:36 PM   #168
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Just returned from a 7 night cruise through the Eastern Caribbean on Costa Cruises ship Atlantica.

Very impressed with everything. We booked it last minute and didn't research it too much, but we were very pleased. They are an Italian cruise line and that showed up in a number of ways on board. It was good to get a taste of Europe (figuratively and literally) without straying far from home. Warm weather, clear blue water, what else could you want? The kids had a blast in their on-board kids club.
We have been on many cruises but never on Costa.

Costa cruises gets a bad rap from Americans on the cruise boards. Many people think that the staff are rude and post that they would never again sail on Costa. Just because of the many posts along those lines I would be really reluctant to go on them.

I do see the outstanding deals posted though on the line.

Would you be so kind as to critique the line (Costa) compared to the other mass market lines that cater to North Americans.
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Old 11-15-2010, 02:42 PM   #169
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We have been on many cruises but never on Costa.

Costa cruises gets a bad rap from Americans on the cruise boards. Many people think that the staff are rude and post that they would never again sail on Costa. Just because of the many posts along those lines I would be really reluctant to go on them.

I do see the outstanding deals posted though on the line.

Would you be so kind as to critique the line (Costa) compared to the other mass market lines that cater to North Americans.
Sure, I'll try. I have been on Celebrity and Norwegian once each in the last 7 years for your reference.

We were really reluctant to book on Costa as well, given the reviews and comments regarding Costa on Cruisecritic.com. Many of the reviews/comments were justified, some not so much.

The price for us made it a worthwhile gamble. Under $1200 total for a balcony cabin for 4 of us for 7 nights. And no tipping was required for our 2 kids, so the tips totaled $150 or so.

I found the service very helpful and friendly overall. And non-intrusive. The high pressure repeated barrages from the alcoholic beverage servers on board was much more low key versus other lines I have been on. The first day they hit a little hard selling their drink packages, but after that, we were not asked to order anything more than a couple times a day. Those really wanting to get drunk might call this service "inattentive" or "indifferent", but I guess you just need to raise your hand and flag down a server and they will bring you something. We enjoyed the peace and quiet of not being asked about ordering drinks.

We never saw anyone being treated rudely.

The language barrier at times was a minor issue. But most of the crew spoke varying levels of English. I spoke with the Kids Program staff the most out of all the crew, and I occasionally was unable to communicate in English about anything beyond basic subjects due to the language barrier. Italian was their first language, except for the Peruvian chica, which I am assuming spoke Spanish as a first language. I switched to Spanish when talking with one of the staff and that seemed easier to communicate (my pidgen spanish was a little better than her pidgen english I guess!).

The biggest difference on Costa vs. other cruise lines is the meal times and entertainment times. Food was served somewhere continuously from 6:30 am until 1:30 am. There may have been a few days where breakfast stopped at 10:30 am and lunch didn't start till 11 am, can't recall for sure. Rather limited (vs US mass market lines) room service was available 24-7. We never ordered food room service, but did order juices, coffee, and hot chocolate a few times and had the fastest room service delivery times on any line (probably under 5 minutes).

But if you are used to almost 24x7 food options in a wide array of restaurants like Carnival or NCL has, then you will be disappointed with Costa. Any time of the day, you can always find SOMETHING to eat, but you can't find every variety of food all day. We had kids, and would have liked the burger joint by the pool to be open all day. It was only open something like 12-3:30 pm every day. Sometimes the kids didn't want what they were serving in the buffet restaurant and just wanted a burger and fries (we never ate in the formal dining room unfortunately). Ice cream availability was also a problem, as it seemed to be only available when the buffet restaurant was open (~12-4 pm, and 7:30-8:30 pm). Kids often like it whenever, so it was a little tough saying "eat cake instead, we will get ice cream later"

Another example of the meal schedule was that the dinner buffet was only open from 7:30 to 8:30 pm. Which means you better get there by 8:00 or so if you plan on making a second (or third) trip back to the buffet line to get more of something you really liked. Most days the buffet closed within a few minutes of 8:30. If you missed the hour of the buffet, there was always the pizza restaurant around the corner, but they only served 2 kinds - cheese and then a pizza du jour of some type (usually had meat on it of some kind). The fact that dinner didn't start till 7:30 was probably off-putting to Americans who are accustomed to eating around 6pm.

Formal dining was at 6:30 or 9, and supposedly you had to show up at your assigned seating time. We usually weren't ready to eat at 6:30, so we never made it into the formal dining room.

Many of the entertainment choices (like the main show each night) didn't start till 11:15 if you had the second dinner seating. Some were later. I heard a few Americans (and some Canadians!) saying they regretted not being able to enjoy these since they were past their bed times. We even heard an "OMG your kids are still up and it is almost midnight" one time.

I will say the food in the buffet restaurant was the best we have had on any cruise (or at buffet restaurants on land). Almost everything was cooked very well (ie "just right"). It didn't taste like you had pulled it out of a steam table tray. Part of that is because they replenish the trays with a little bit of food at a time, hence nothing was sitting there for hours. And no particular buffet line was open longer than 2 hours (1 hr for dinner), adding to the freshness.

Some of the buffet selections would be described as "weird" or bad by the stereotypical American. Raw meat (beef tartare), octopus, some of the salads, the sandwich meat and cheese choices, mayo on stuff we don't put it on, different pizza vs. Dominos or Pizza hut, pasta cooked differently with less sauce, and different sauce, etc etc etc. But there was enough generic roasts and meats and familiar veggies to make up for it I thought.

Back to the languages, if you are a stereotypical American who things everyone should speak perfect, unaccented English to them, then you will be disappointed. Ship announcements were done first in Italian, then usually in French, English, German, and Spanish (not necessarily in that order). Except for German, I could usually pick up the gist of the message in one of the other 4 languages. Most italian staff spoke those 4-5 languages with varying levels of proficiency. English was definitely not a first language of hardly anyone, but there were a few staff from England that I saw. The asian or latin american origin staff (housekeeping, food service mostly) spoke decent english and I imagine Italian, not sure what else. Sometimes the language barrier was an issue, but staff and crew could usually point you to someone who was more fluent to do translations if they were not fluent in English, for example.

But I actually liked the other languages spoken on board. It was interesting watching our daughters "make friends" with other children who spoke no English or very little. And letting our kids learn how they do things elsewhere like how our daughter learned the French girl kisses her friends on both cheeks to say "Hi". I translated a little (with what tiny bit of French I know) so they could talk.

Now, if you are a xenophobic American who doesn't like foreigners, you won't like this ship. At times it was a little frustrating not know which of the 4-5 languages you should pick to address someone.

Other than the food and entertainment schedule and the languages spoken, I don't know what all the negative comments regarding Costa are about. We had a blast and prefer Costa to Celebrity and NCL from what we have seen.

PS - I just realized I wrote quite an essay!
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Old 11-15-2010, 05:55 PM   #170
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PS - I just realized I wrote quite an essay!
Thumbs Up!

I never heard of this cruise line, and have taken only Royal Caribbean cruises, but will keep this Costa in mind in case we want to take another cruise. About missing the formal dinners, I would think you missed out on the good dishes, no?
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Old 11-15-2010, 05:55 PM   #171
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The people who post to this travel thread about frequent luxurious trips must be drawn from a different set from the people who post moderate invested assets and modest expenses on other threads, and those who are trying to wring the last penny from their food budget.

I am always confused about this.

Ha
No confusion with us. travel is our biggest discretionary expense at about 20% of total expenses. Out of the country for about 70 days this year. Still enjoy it a lot. May slow down at some point but not any time soon. If anything we are going to more exotic places as time goes on.
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Old 11-15-2010, 06:05 PM   #172
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Fuego:

Thanks for the review. It was enlightening. I could see a Costa cruise as an enlightening cross-cultural experience.

Food wise I am not too picky. Put food in front of me and I'll usually eat it, Italian or otherwise. Except for those bulls balls. I steer clear of those.

But I must say, when I go on a cruise I enjoy meeting others at dinner.
If I was to be seated with people who spoke no English, then dinner would be a challenge and perhaps not so much fun.
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Old 11-15-2010, 07:09 PM   #173
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I sailed on Costa in the late 80's several times . I enjoyed the line . One of the fun things they did was have a toga night . People got really inventive . I have sailed on most of the mainstream lines and have never found huge differences between any of them . I usually pick my cruise by itinerary .
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Old 11-15-2010, 07:22 PM   #174
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The people who post to this travel thread about frequent luxurious trips must be drawn from a different set from the people who post moderate invested assets and modest expenses on other threads, and those who are trying to wring the last penny from their food budget.
I am always confused about this.
Ha
In 2010, I went to FL 3x, all done on a low budget basis. I'm pretty proud of that.
No long distance travel is planned for the Bird this winter...unless SEVERE cabin fever sets in again.
I keep a constant eye out for low airfares and "hard to resist" condo rental situations and free nights at hotels whose rooms would otherwise be empty.
And now I will have a travel companion if his budget permits.
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Old 11-15-2010, 08:58 PM   #175
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Fuego:

Thanks for the review. It was enlightening. I could see a Costa cruise as an enlightening cross-cultural experience.

....

But I must say, when I go on a cruise I enjoy meeting others at dinner.
If I was to be seated with people who spoke no English, then dinner would be a challenge and perhaps not so much fun.
I don't really know if they intentionally seat same language speakers at a table. I imagine they would if possible. And you could always ask to be seated elsewhere if it wasn't working out. From my experience on the Costa Atlantica, many of the Europeans knew at least basic English. Maybe not quite enough to converse over dinner for 7 nights though.

I would like to meet more people on board, but the DW is such an introvert. She does not want to be seated with other people at dinner (other than family).

I have found that our kids are good tools to meet people and create opportunities for introductions as well.
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Old 11-16-2010, 05:28 AM   #176
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we just got back froma cruise on Royal Carri bean's Rhapsody of the Seas that left from Sydney Australia and sailed to the south Pacific to Fiji, Vanuatu, and several other islands I had never heard of... great cruise and stunning scenery...
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:09 AM   #177
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In 2010, I went to FL 3x, all done on a low budget basis. I'm pretty proud of that.
No long distance travel is planned for the Bird this winter...unless SEVERE cabin fever sets in again.
I keep a constant eye out for low airfares and "hard to resist" condo rental situations and free nights at hotels whose rooms would otherwise be empty.
And now I will have a travel companion if his budget permits.
I went to FL Xmas 2009 and am going to FL again this Xmas 2010, and thought the 2 trips were too close. Here I found someone who went to FL 3 times in 2010

Any experience to share ? I still feel I am not that familiar with Orlando even though I have been to Orlando 3 times (1st time with wife, 2nd time myself, 3rd time with wife and kids)

LS
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:17 AM   #178
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I still feel I am not that familiar with Orlando even though I have been to Orlando 3 times.
Yep. DW and I were in Orlando a couple of weeks ago, the first time we'd been back since we moved from there in 1974. Speaking of 'not familiar', the only thing we could recognize were a few street names. We could not find our old residence, even though the neighborhood is still there along with what appeared to be all the houses.

The traffic was miserable. Looks to me like Mickey Mouse has ruined central Florida...
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:15 AM   #179
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I don't really know if they intentionally seat same language speakers at a table. I imagine they would if possible. And you could always ask to be seated elsewhere if it wasn't working out. From my experience on the Costa Atlantica, many of the Europeans knew at least basic English. Maybe not quite enough to converse over dinner for 7 nights though.

I would like to meet more people on board, but the DW is such an introvert. She does not want to be seated with other people at dinner (other than family).

I have found that our kids are good tools to meet people and create opportunities for introductions as well.
My only solo cruise (so far), earlier this year was interesting at dinner. I'm hearing impaired and very much an introvert, but I was determined to eat some good food at the evening meals. I was seated at a table with a nice lady that was completely deaf. The deaf lady's family and two American Sign Language interpreters, that were hired by the cruise line, were also at our table. They were hired because of ME and the deaf lady. (I do not know sign language) Anyway, it was fun...given that I'm not the most outgoing person. I didn't talk a lot and I didn't hear everything that was being said, but I wasn't at all self conscience of the fact that I couldn't hear everything...everyone at the table was aware of our situation and that made things much more pleasant. The interpreters were pretty cool...very cute, young college educated girls, that had quite an interesting job, with paid travel.
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:16 AM   #180
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Here's my latest travel find--trying to talk DH into doing this with his guy buddies next year (they've done a few mountain climbing trips but the old knees are getting in the way).

Doesn't it sound awesome? A sofa on wheels!
The Mototaxi Junket :: fighting to make the world less boring
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