Venice and the Eastern Mediterranean - Presented by your Travel Goddesses: Stephanie Strickland & Laurel IndalecioVenice and the Eastern MediterraneanOctober 21 - 31, 2005
Costa Victoria
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Costa Victoria


Below is information about our cruise which may be of interest to new cruise takers or to those who are seasoned.  Stephanie is a seasoned cruiser.  This was my (Laurel) first cruise....ever. 

Please keep in mind that the opinions below are our own, based on our experiences at the time we took our cruise.  We are not recommending this particular cruise or the Costa Cruise Line.  If considering this cruise, read information on other websites also, before you make your decision.

How did we find out about the Costa Victoria and the cruise?

Stephanie and I were looking for a vacation in Europe and came across the Costa Cruise Line website after searching for hours on the internet for reasonable prices and decent itineraries.  See the Costa Victoria....

Costa Victoria at night on Mykonos


Costa Victoria off the coast of Dubrovnik


How did we get there?
Most cruise vacations will schedule your air transportation to the ship's departure location.  Check with the cruise line regarding this service.  We decided to schedule our own airline reservations because Stephanie and I live in two different parts of the world.  We were afraid that if we left it up to the cruise line or a travel agent, we would be traveling alone and not see each other until we arrived in Venice.  Also, we felt that it would be a shame to arrive in Venice and not have a few days to explore.  Some of the passengers on the cruise did not have time to visit Venice because their flights left within hours of our disembarkation.

Stephanie and I met each other in Chicago (horrible airport!) and boarded a plane to Munich.  We then caught another plane that took us to Venice.  We spent about a day flying to get to Venice.

The return flight was the same except that we had to stay a night in Munich. Our flight from Venice to Munich arrived 15 minutes late.  We ran to the gate to catch our connecting flight only to discover that United had closed the plane to boarders 30 minutes prior to the departure time. The poor staff later at the Lufthansa desk (partners with United) were cringing as I expressed how displeased we were.  I later discovered that connecting passengers from Milan and Florence were also shut out of this flight. All of us were stranded in Munich.  The Lufthansa staff were pleasant and helpful and all of us were put up into a hotel because there were no other flights departing that day to the United States.  We all boarded the same United flight the next day.  Imagine our surprise when people were still boarding THIS flight 5 minutes before the departure time.  We figured that United had overbooked the flight the previous day and were more than happy when the flights from Venice, Milan, and Florence were a little late.

Airline review:

United -  I'll never fly with them again.

American - Kudos go out to them for allowing me to change my connecting flight to the next day from Chicago without charging me the $100 change fee.

Lufthansa - Kudos to them for putting up with a situation they did not create but had to deal with.  Maybe they are re-thinking their partnership?  Our flight to Munich from Chicago with Lufthansa was wonderful.  The staff were pleasant and attentive and really made the flight enjoyable.  You also did not have to pay for many of things you have to pay for on US airlines.  This airline gets 5 stars in my book.

How did we get to the ship's boarding location in Venice?

Since we were spending a few days in Venice before we departed, we walked to the ship's pier on our second day to make sure we knew where it was at.  Remember we were in Venice.  You either walk or take a water taxi to the pier.  We consulted with the hotel staff about the best way to get there with our luggage.  We opted for the water taxi because 1) I was not about to drag all of my luggage up and down several very large stair bridges to get to the pier, 2) it would take us right to the pier where the cruise staff were waiting for our luggage.  Water taxi's are not cheap but boy was it convenient.  We split the fare between us.

How was the boarding process?  Was it quick?  Any problems with language?

Boarding process was quick and we boarded within an hour of arriving to the ship.  We were treated to lunch when we boarded and were allowed to go to our rooms soon after.  Our luggage arrived in our room a couple hours later.  Most of the staff on the Costa Victoria speak English if not fluently, enough to communicate.

What type of passengers were on the cruise?

Costa is an Italian cruise line, therefore many of the passengers were European.  If you are an American, British, Australian, etc. and you have problems with English not being the first language and proximity issues, this would probably not be the cruise for you.  Yes, there were Americans on board but we were not the majority.  When announcements are made on the ship, they are done in Italian, French, Spanish, German, English, and Japanese.  You are informed during an orientation that if you do not hear an announcement in English, then it wasn't meant for you.  So you don't worry about it.  It is helpful to learn basic greetings (hello or thank you) in as many languages as you can.  I impressed a Japanese couple when I said "you are welcome" in Japanese when they thanked me for holding an elevator for them.

Yes, there were families with children.  So there are children running around screaming in a variety of languages.  There are rules prohibiting younger children from running around but you know....children are children.

What about our meals?  Will we be sitting at tables with people who don't speak English?

No, the Costa staff arranges the seating so people from the same country are seated together.  We were seated with a married couple from Virginia and a mother and daughter from Colorado.  They were very pleasant company.
When you sign up for the cruise, you are asked which of the 2 times you prefer to eat.  We were at the first seating.  You are then assigned one of 2 restaurants and a table.  We ate at Fantasia at Table 48.  I have scanned in 2 of the menus so you can see what we had a choice of.  We had a different menu every night.

See Menu #1 OR See Menu #2.  (Pages will take a while to load.)  You tell the waiters which items you want. 

This was our seating ticket

How was our room?

If you have been on a cruise ship before you know they can be small. No difference here.  If we were rich we would have gotten a suite.  Our room did have a balcony where we were able to sit and enjoy the ocean breezes.  I don't know how the people who get the inside rooms stand it with no windows.  Our room porter was from Colombia and very attentive and always had a welcoming smile for us. The shower stall was small for me and I am 5' 6".  For those with US electrical plugs.  There is an outlet (one) for US appliances, so you don't need an adapter.  We had a laptop we used to store the photos we downloaded from our cameras.

Was there internet access?

Yes, but we did not use it.  No, they do not have Wi-fi.  No data ports in the room. You have to use their internet cafe.  The internet access (satellite) is paid for by the minute (charged to your room) and we were warned that it is very slow which means you will rack up the charges very quickly.  You are on vacation, enjoy it.  If you must e-mail, many of the ports we stopped at had internet cafes.  Dubrovnik had lots of them!

Was the trip smooth?  Could you feel the ship rock?

This is a large ship.  Unless the sea is really rough, you don't feel it.  Sometimes I had not even realized that we were underway from a port.  Only one night it was a little rough which means if you used the stairs (faster than waiting for an elevator), you needed to hold onto the rail.  We were watching a show that included feats of balancing and were amazed that the performers were able to do it with the occasional lurching they had to put up with.  It was not rough enough to toss you out of a bed and we did not see anyone clutching their stomachs and looking green.  Not even worth a motion sickness pill or patch.

Did we visit each port on our own?  Or did the ship offer tours?

The Costa Victoria offered tours for each location with the exception of Mykonos where we bought a bus ticket to the town of Turlos.  You do not have to go on a guided tour if you do not want to.  You can stay on the ship or go out on your own.
Some things to keep in mind if you decide to explore on your own:

1)  This particular cruise did not stay long in each port.  You usually arrive in the morning and must be back on the ship in 4 - 5 hours.  The ship leaves on time and waits for no one.  It will leave without you if you are not there.  I would suspect that if a tour group had problems (i.e. bus breaking down), they would wait or face the wrath of a swarm of angry passengers.

2)  Most of the historical/archaeological sites are not located where the ship is docked.  You must use ground transportation to get there.  The tours provided the transportation.  I guess you could rent a car to drive around....but....keep in mind that in Europe they drive differently.  You must have nerves of steel.

3)  If you are touring on your own, you might be traveling without your passport.  Huh???  If you are not part of the European Union the Costa Victoria requires that you turn over your passport when you board.  They give you a copy of it to carry with you.  (We do not know if other cruise lines do this.)  They do this to facilitate custom requirements in each port.

We did not have any problems.  The ports usually know that a ship is in, therefore, no one gives you any hassles.  If you miss the boat, then I suspect you are going to have problems with not having your passport.
The ship did provide maps at each port.  As a cartographer, I can say the maps are not half bad.  They highlight the key spots and keep you from getting too lost if you are wandering around on your own.
Select a thumbnail below to see the maps that were given to us.
Katakolon and Olympia

How were the tours?  Do you have any freedom to explore on your own?
The tours were very informative and interesting. The guides spoke English well.  Stephanie hung on to every word and stuck with the group.  I on the other hand broke away from the group and wandered around keeping my tour group in eye shot.  I did this so I could get pictures without a bunch of other people in the picture taking pictures.  I and some of the other passenger were also suffering from "information overload".  The guides provide you with a lot of information and I could only absorb so much.  If you just take off and explore I don't think they would even notice.  Although, I am not sure about Bari.  There, the local police escorted us through the tour.  Not sure why this was.

After each tour or a segment of tour we were allowed about an hour to sightsee on our own or visit the shops.  Not really enough time if you are a serious shopper.

The tours we went on:  

Some general info:

- A tour bus drove us around town and we then toured the town on foot.  We were given about an hour to walk around on our own, BUT at that time, all of the shops were closed for lunch.  Go figure.  We found one store open and it sold nylons and women's underwear.  Hmm.  We did find a shop that had gelatos. Yum!

Katakolon - the small village is within walking distance from the ship.  Stores are basically for tourists. There is a grocery store if you want to buy some snacks or toiletries.  To get to Olympia, it is an hour drive. 

Santorini - If you don't take a tour, you can take a tender from the ship to Skala Fira then you must take the cable cars to get to the village of Fira on top of the island.  To get to Oia you need ground transportation.  The line is long to get on the cable cars going down the mountain so you must allow time for that.  OR you can take the donkeys, if you dare.

Mykonos - No tours here.  You can buy a bus ticket that will take you to Turlos.  This is just a shopping and dining spot.  We arrived at sunset and only stayed about 3 hours.  We found a few sundries stores if you need something.  It is easy to get lost walking around the narrow alleyways.  We did.  Most of the restaurants are located along the shore.  If you are going to eat, head there.

Turlos - Showing restaurants along sea shore.

Rhodes - To get to the Temple of Apollo, you need ground transportation.  To tour Old Town you can walk from the ship.  Store clerks are a little more aggressive here than the other ports.

Tenders used to get ashore

Dubrovnik - Whether you take a tour or go on your own, you will need to take a tender to the shore.  There are many different stores, museums, and cafes to explore on your own.


What type of money (currency) do I need?

Once aboard the ship everything is charged to your charge card.  That is your only option.  At each port, the Euro is the currency.  The exception is Dubrovnik where they have a different currency (Kuna) BUT the stores except Euros and even US dollars. (As of the date of our visit.)  The ship is able to exchange for Euros but not the Kuna.

For the casino, you can charge to your charge card or use Euros straight out of your pocket.





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