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Costa Victoria Homeward Bound - Buenos Aires to Savona - March-April 2011

Ally

Deckhand
The first two things that really strike you about Victoria is the amount of space in her public areas inside & out, and (more importantly to some) the almost complete lack of revenue driven areas on board. These two aspects are hand in hand in many ways, for example, Orpheus Grand Bar on deck 6 has a huge amount of unused floorspace, this is the same on deck 7 in the casino where large swathes of floorspace has been intentionally left furnishings & thus revenue free. The space in her public rooms is quite unique for a purpose-built cruise ship of her size, one of the big complaints against some cruise ships is the way that tables & chairs seem on top of each other & crowded, this is far from the case on Victoria.

Design wise, Victoria is a very elegant ship...as close to an ocean liner as you can probably get in a cruise ship. She has curves everywhere, her external & internal architecture has been beautifully designed and, as with all German built ships, her build quality, attention to detail and overall atmosphere is second to none, she really is quite exceptional in most areas.

Technologically speaking she is actually very advanced, especially in her propulsion systems. Her four main powerplants drive two screws, she has two large rudders and 5 thrusters...2 aft & 3 forward. The thrusters are how she manages to parallel park so efficiently. She can berth in about 15 minutes from arriving to roping up, equally getting away is just as quick, a case of drop the ropes and let the thrusters do the work....no hanging about for tug assistance at all. Despite a minor blip off Brazil when she lost all power for about 20 minutes, she has had no major problems...and that is with one engine out of action. Incidently, the engine with the fault will be put right before she leaves for Asia next year, so she should be firing on all cylinders without any difficulties.

Boat drill...as per all Costa cruises, you will get a boat drill every 7-8 days and unlike most modern ships, Victoria has her muster stations outside on the boat deck (deck 6) and they have 6 muster stations - A, B, C, D, E & F - three down each side. The drill takes around 15-20 minutes depending on languages required, so be prepared to stand a long while in possibly hot/humid temperatures (especially in Asia).

Concorde Plaza is almost cathedral like in its design & build, stretching from deck 7-11 and with two incredible mezzanine floors that are both user friendly and elegant, again the attention to detail is just superb. Another of the main rooms is the theater on decks 6 &7, superbly designed, very thoughtfully built to enable 90% of theater goers to see without obstruction, there are screens on each side of the stage for those in the upper level on deck 7 so that no-one misses anything on stage.

Music lovers will really enjoy Victoria...Orpheus (deck 6), Planetarium (deck 5), Capriccio (deck 7), Concorde Plaza (deck7 thru 10) & Tavernetta (deck 12) all have live music in the evenings, Orpheus & Planetarium starting early evening. There are bars in each lounge too, with long drinking hours, so the drinkers will be happy.

Dancers are also very well catered for, Victoria has a variety of dancefloors, all with live music in the evenings...ranging from ballroom to disco. A disco is also available on deck 6. Daily dance lessons are available to those wishing to learn from expert dance teachers.

Kids & teens....the usual teen & Squok programmes are available and were well organised on my cruise. The children on board seemed to enjoy their experiences, which appears to be standard on Costa, so kids are definitely well looked after aboard Victoria.

Sun worshippers will enjoy Victoria. There are no shortages of loungers anywhere on the ship, the sun deck area stretched to the equivalent of around 3 football fields, and as in the inside areas, there are large swathes of space to stretch out in without having to clamber over others to get to a lounger. The upper decks (11, 12 & 14) all have loungers, deck 11 has two bars, an outdoor buffet counter and two very large pools, 4 whirlpools, a stage for live music and plenty of areas to just watch the world float by.

One unusual aspect to Victoria is her indoor pool on deck 6. It is alongside the gym & spa and is very popular...the pool itself is larger than most ship's outside pool, so if a few lengths is what you want to do when the weather is not good, then you will be pleased.

Eating....often a bone of contention with some people, but in Victoria's case, there is no problem. The service is very good, food quality is very high, I personally did not have any bad meals or slow nights service wise. The pizza is to die for...absolutely wonderful at lunchtime. There were apparent issues with the Sinfonia restaurant at breakfast & lunch which seemed to have been sorted after a couple of days. I had evening meal in Fantasia. Both Sinfonia & Fantasia are on deck 5...Sinfonia is aft whereas Fantasia is midships.

Drinking water at evening meal......just ask the waitstaff and they will happily provide jugs of iced water for your table, along with lemon slices too if you so wish. Never a problem for me or countless others in the dining room and always waiting there on my table for when I arrived in the evening.

Posh frock nights & cocktails parties....on this cruise we had 4 Gala nights & a total of 3 cocktail parties over the 3 weeks. The buffet & pizza restaurants were either closed or partially closed most nights as most passengers preferred to eat in the main dining rooms, so it would have been pointless to open up both sides of the buffet. Obviously this changes according to itinerary/passenger mix & demand.

Powerpoints in the cabin.....standard two voltage shaver point in the bathroom and a two voltage powerpoint in the cabin area (at least in my cabin). Lighting consists of two bedside lamps, 2 spotlights over the desk with independent switches & overhead spotlights, again with independent switches.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Theater....the entertainment is very professional and varied, the crew show was standing room only as usual and extremely enjoyable. Overall the shows on Victoria were of an excellent standard - most of the performers were aboard Allegra last year, so it was great to see & hear them again, The animator crew are hysterical, they play pranks on the passengers and crew daily and can always raise a laugh, even when the weather is miserable...whether it be dressing as babies and throwing tantrums in the casino or chasing each other like cops & robbers, these guys & gals put their all into having fun with everyone....brilliant to see and watch.

Smoking...another bone of contention...again, I think it really depends on the nationalities & region/itinerary - some are more attached to their ciggies than others and in many respects this showed a little during the cruise. The usual smoky areas to avoid...casino & to some extent Capriccio next door. However, on the whole the smoking was not too much of a problem for the majority of passengers...there are ways and means to avoid the worst areas.

Cabins....as with any purpose built cruise ship, the cabins are a tad compact & bijou but since they are just for sleeping, dressing & washing in, they work perfectly fine. My cabin was 80456 a grade I1 inside that was a standalone...with a crew access behind one wall, a linen cupboard behind another wall and the aft elevators behind another wall. Noise transmission was pretty much none existant, the elevators are quiet and foot traffic across the marble landings/stairs is negligible. The bathrooms have a large wooden sliding entry door (be gebtle with these doors as they can be tempermental) and the shower has a curtain to play with. Water pressure is excellent, as is the hot water...very hot and compared to other ships (inc QM2) your tightie whities will stay white, not go an attractive shade of orange. Access to the cabins is via a perforated door key, identical to Costa Allegra. There is a push button safe in the cupboard. Other storage in the cabin comprises of a double wardrobe with a chest of drawers to one side, two bedside chests of drawers, a small desk or table (depending on grade), a fridge and a cupboard with shelving. The TV is a CRT type, therefore not interactive...BUT...there are totems around the ship where you can book shorex, check your ship account, book the speciality restaurant etc, so you do not need to go to the tour desk on deck 6 or the reception deck on deck 5 for everything, it can be done remotely using the totems.

There are also several totems for registering credit cards around the ship too.

Hosts & hostesses...this is unique to Costa, they always have hosts & hostesses who can speak a variety of languages and they are the point of contact for passengers if they have a problem or just want to ask a question. This time around the English hostess was Rachel and the German hostess was Elke...there were also hosts/hostesses for the Portugese, Spanish & French. They had specific hours where they were available on deck 5 and passengers could just drop by for a chat or whatever. Other lines should take this on as it really does break down barriers tween crew and passenger. All the hosts/hostesses were excellent on this cruise, very hard working, polite & efficient,

Secret spaces.....yes, she does have a few areas that you can often have to yourself. Apart from the stern rail on deck 6 (boat deck), decks 7 thru 10 have full width stern balconies that are reached via doors in the cabin corridors. Deck 8 stern balcony also has the Italian flag flying from it when in port. These balconies are brilliant for sailaways...and yes, you CAN smoke on them if you so wish (quite often you'll find crew on them having a quick ciggie]. Many people do not realise that passengers have access to these balconies, but you can and they offer unobstructed views from the stern along with limited wind/weather cover at each end.

Ship's photographers...again an area of some consternation on other lines. Yes you will see them and they will see you, but a polite 'no thank you' will suffice and they will leave you alone. They will not continually hassle you to take photo's...if you want to have a photo taken whilst eating, having fun at the pool or whatever, then they are happy to oblige and the standard of the photo's is actually very good, with some unusual and unique montages that make lovely souvenirs for those wanting to purchase them. Costs range from $9.99 to $14.99 each depending on size/event.

Potential drawbacks.....with the benefit of hindsight & the fact that nothing is ever perfect, Victoria does have a couple of areas that need to be taken into consideration when booking a cruise on her, especially with your choice of cabin.

With the theater behind the aft stair tower from deck 6 thru 7, anyone wanting a siesta in the afternoon or are early/light sleepers might want to book a cabin forward of the aft stair tower due to the inevitable noise issues. Inside aft cabins on deck 8, 9 & 10 aft do pick up noise, this cannot be avoided, obviously deck 8 is probably the worst with 9 & 10 offering some improvement. Outside cabins on these decks aft of the stair tower also experience some noise too but to a lesser extent since the insides are right over the stage area.

Concorde Plaza at the very front of the ship could potentially cause noise issues for the outside cabins on decks 6A, 7, 8, 9 & 10 (there are no insides forward of the forward stair tower).

Another potentially difficult thing to consider in regard to Concorde Plaza is that with the loss of the inside cabins to accommodate the huge expanse of lounge area, Victoria can be a very bow light ship, so even the slightest of swell could be a problem for those with even slight motion sickness...she does move a lot she has quite a pronounced shimmy and she actually bounces too, especially when fully fuelled/ballasted. In all honesty I actually felt that her center of gravity was too high and that had been messed up by the balconies being added, combined with the weightless bow and engines/fuel tanks aft. The amount of movement IS excessive for a ship of this size and could put some off booking her, but I do suggest that you give her a try, making sure that if you are prone to motion sickness that you take appropriate precautions. You can obtain anti-nausea pills from reception or the pharmacy free of charge if you think you might require them. My inside cabin on deck 8 was right next to the aft stair tower & elevators and I felt every single roll, pitch & shimmy.

So the old addage of a cabin midships & low comes into play...if there were low cabins, midships.....

Victoria is essentially an upside down ship...her main public areas are deck 5, 6 & 7, there are cabins on deck 4, 5 & 6A but mainly midships to forward. The bulk of her cabins are decks 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12 (the suites are on the upper decks). The retrofitted balconies are mainly decks 9 & 10. The midships cabins are probably the best if you want to avoid the noise of the theater aft or the excesses of movement forward due to the lack of weight in that section of the ship.

Seeing the sea.....I have to admit that I found Capriccio & Orpheus a little disappointing when it came to seeing the sea...Capriccio - well you can't and in Orpheus its glimpses via 3 vertically stacked large portholes, so I feel the design (which is otherwise superb) has let the ship down a little in these two areas. Tavernetta on deck 12 has huge picture windows, so seeing the sea is excellent, albeit too high to take in the wildlife very easily. Concorde Plaza has the huge wall of windows overlooking the bow....however, although the visibility forward is good (albeit slightly obstructed by the huge steel trusses), I personally feel that I have been spoilt by Costa Allegra and her Flamenco Ballroom at her stern where she has huge picture windows that look over the wake. Had I designed Victoria I think I would have swapped the theater over with Concorde Plaza and made more of the view by having Concorde at the stern with big windows on three sides...that, IMHO, would have been spectacular. On decks 6 & 7 you can sit on some very comfy wicker chairs or on round sofa's around the atrium, these either look down onto the Planetarium bar on deck 5 or out to sea on 6 & 7. Another 'problem' about both Capriccio & Orpheus is that both lounges are used as corridors to other parts of the ship, so there is always a constant flow of foot traffic and that can spoil an otherwise very pleasant atmosphere.

The marble used on the stairs & landings might prove to be a problem for those with sight deficiencies. All passenger stairs & landings are in cream marble and it is not always easy to see where the stair riser is against the landing. Grooves have been cut into the riser surface but they are still cream, thus no clear demarcation, so greater care is required when using the stairs if your eyesight is not great. This could (and did) cause a few stumbles, so be aware of it and don't rush up or down the stairs too often.
 

Ally

Deckhand
None of these potential drawbacks are meant to put people off Victoria, she is a stunning ship and ahead of her time in many areas, they are my own observations of how certain areas of the ship could have been made much better than they already are, and to act as guidance for those looking to book a cruise on her and wondering where to go for the quietest or most stable cabins. Costa is by no means responsible for the bad sea handling, crew that I spoke to are equally critical of her sea manners, they too feel that it is her achilles heel in many respects.

Visually Victoria is stunning inside and out, her curves and attention to detail is exceptional, her crew are her heart and soul and they are a pure joy to be around, I cannot praise them enough during the 3 weeks I spent aboard her. She is extremely easy to get around...even for those with mobility issues...the flow of her rooms is perfect, access is via either one of 12 elevators (4 of which are glass in the atrium that go from deck 5 thru 12) or via 2 stair towers.

So in summary.....is she a good fit for Asia...yes, definitely. She will be very well received out there and will give Legend o/t Seas & SuperStar Virgo a real run for their money. By introducing Victoria to Asia, Costa should be able to capitalise on their already popular itineraries with a very capable ship. However, one part of the itinerary might have to be curtailed, the cruise up the river into Saigon might have to go, this is an uncertainty at time of writing this report, but I fear that her draught & her height could cause a problem with the depth of the river and the new suspension bridge outside Saigon. Time will tell on this.

Victoria delivers a great product, her crew are superb, her eating & drinking venues are excellent & her entertainment is varied and very professional. Yes she has her potential drawbacks but they are not really deal breakers, but should be taken into consideration by those they are most likely to affect. By booking a cruise aboard Victoria you are assured of a really friendly & happy ship and some marvelous itineraries. Wherever she is in 2013, I will definitely try to get another cruise on her (2012 is Costa Classica's turn for 37 days) in the knowledge that she is a very different vessel to those I have sailed in the past.

One thing that is quite strange, and I know it is never wise to compare ships too much, but when chatting to other passengers, its become clear that many rate Allegra & Marina higher than Victoria. The two main reasons are cabin size & the way that Victoria reacts with weather/sea state. When you consider that both Allegra & Marina are less than half the size/weight of Victoria and the consensus is that they handle the sea better than Victoria, it is quite a surprise to hear that opinion. However, both Allegra & Marina were originally containerships, so their hulls were V shaped and thus built to take any & all weather conditions, Victoria is a purpose built cruise ship with a flat bottom and a shallow draft. As I have already said though, Victoria is slightly hobbled by her weight & balance issues and her high center of gravity.

I have a huge amount of gratitude towards Captain Massimo Pennisi & his crew, especially Rachel, Elke (and the other hosts), Alvin, Marianna, Pian & all the crew in Fantasia, Lucas in Orpheus, Brian in Planetarium, Heri my wonderful cabin steward, Alex & the reception staff....and well everyone on board who made my cruise very special & one that I will remember for a very long time to come. A very big thank you to you all & I hope to see you again someday aboard either Costa Victoria or one of the other Costa ships.

I would have no hesitation is recommending the Costa Victoria for the Med or for Asia, my only reservations are as I have already pointed out in regard to cabin position & basic 'sea manners' of the ship itself, you will always find some cabins are better than others, just as some ships handle the sea better than others. Do your homework, keep your expectations realistic and you will have a wonderful cruise aboard Costa Victoria.
 

Neil

Deckhand
Hi Ally

Many thanks for a very informative report which I am sure will be appreciated by our members.
 

Captain Larry

Deckhand
Ally, I compare your review with what I experienced on Norwegian Sun in the Baltic in August 2011 -- I wish I had been with you!

Your review is well researched and well written. Thank you.
 

Ally

Deckhand
A more in-depth account of my cruise aboard Costa Victoria, April 2011

As before these are my own observations and opinions of the cruise, hotels & flights. Others on my cruise will inevitably have different observations & opinions to mine, both positive & negative.


The flights, arrival in Buenos Aires & the Panamericano Hotel.

Air France were, as always the most efficient airline, second only to their stablemate KLM. The planes (F-HEBE & F-GSPP) were beautifully presented, clean & tidy, their crews were an absolute credit to the airline. The food available was very good, well presented and most importantly, edible. Aperfect start really...despite being sat next to a snoring, obese Spaniard for over 13 hours...that is just one of the hazards of world travel.

The plane landed in Buenos Aires at 0743 and by the time I had got through immigration and collected my suitcase, it was around 0900. I met up with the Costa rep and things got a little bit comical from this stage onwards.

I flew with Air France, so someone, somewhere got something very lost in translation and they assumed I had to be French (along with the other couple from the plane who actually were French and speak not a word of English). Once the rep realised the mistake she was very apologetic and made sure I received my instruction letter in English at the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel a little after 10am...the traffic from the airport was horrendous...so by now I had been on the go for over 36 hours...to say that I was ready for a shower & then bed was an understatment.....famous last words...

The hotel is in a nice position, opposite the opera house & obelisk on the main road through the city. The building itself is quite tired though, lights requiring replacement in the lobby that flicker forlornly, marble that has seen better days....all very grand but this old lady definitely needs some heavy cosmetic surgery to bring into line with the Sheraton where I stayed in Buenos Aires in 2006.

The biggest shock to the system is that rooms are not available til 3pm...which is crazy when you have flown halfway around the world and arrive at 10am desperate for a shower and a bed to crash out on. So I decided to make a bit of a fuss...we were all tired and wanted nothing more than to change out of clothes, shower and sleep.....so after much pleading, the hotel suddenly came up with our rooms by 11am....go figure.

This is where Costa need to tighten up their act IMHO.

The Panamamericano is rated as being 5 star, but that was in the day when Crowne Plaza owned it a few years ago......Costa actually still advertise it as a Crowne Plaza, it isn't and it frankly is nowhere near Crowne Plaza standard.

The hotel website does paint a pretty picture...with designer furnishings, high quality fabrics etc. Reality is far away from that, sadly.

My room is on the 16th floor, number 1628. It is right opposite the lifts and the window view is a little disappointing. To the left is a partial view of the opera house, to the right is a partial view of the Rio Plata...but infront and at close quarters is a large run down building & rooftops of housing that has all seen much better days. The traffic noise is quite excessive too, despite the double glazing.

Within the room is the standard stuff...large kingsize bed made up of two singles, an LCD telly, a desk, a chair & table....but despite what it says on the hotel website, there are no tea/coffee making facilities in the room. I asked about this and was told that they did not have them in rooms anymore as there is room service (at a cost).

The bathroom is marble, jacuzzi tub with shower over, bidet & toilet. Looks the part until you look a little bit closer.....not hard to do since the toilet is opposite the basin and the back of the cabinet is falling away and the door is obviously damaged by damp. Same goes for the ceiling too...significant maintenance issues here.

It is a shame, the hotel has a lot of untapped potential to be something special, sadly though Panamericano has a long way to go before it can truly measure up to the Sheraton....even though both hotels are of the same age & basic design.

I do believe that Costa need to follow though with these hotels in regard to what they tell Costa that they offer and what they actually manage to deliver. This is the second hotel that had been worlds apart from what Costa have been lead to believe and what actually exists.

Currently I am the only English speaking guest here with Costa. The others are Italian, French & Spanish...none of them speak any English, so its all a tad disjointed at the moment, something that should change once we are aboard Victoria tomorrow.

Even that has thrown up contentious issues with the hotel.

Breakfast is served tween 0630 and 1030 in the morning. We must vacate the rooms by 1030....but we do not get collected to go to the ship until 1.30pm. The hotel will not budge in regard to check-out time, so we may well be in for quite a wait in the morning.....and the hotel lobby is not the most comfortable, it has some very formal furnishings and only one sofa...so the race to get that might be interesting indeed.

So the departure time was nearing and oh boy was it chaotic!

Bus 1 was due to leave at 1.30 and bus 2 at 2pm...I was on bus 2.

For some reason I chose to keep my suitcase with me and I am so glad that I did. Pandamonium as all the suitcases for both buses had been stored in the same room, so all had to be brought out, sorted and then handed over to their respective owners. This meant that the buses left the hotel later than anticipated. Not a good end to the hotel stay or a good start to the cruise and it could have all been avoided with a little bit of organisation from the hotel staff.

We did eventually get away though and the drive through the city of Buenos Aires began for the last time......the port's new cruise terminal was ahead of us and beyond that, the white shape of my home for the next 3 weeks....Costa Victoria....
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - Boarding. 75 degrees/sunny.

One of the first things that you notice about Costa Victoria is the amount of open deck space....the prom deck is about 20ft wide in places...really spacious and at certain times of the day is very shady thanks to the lifeboats & tenders. It is a full wrap around deck too, with covered areas front and rear.

Finding my cabin was very easy, I am in 80456 an I1 grade twin. Surprisingly the cabin is smaller than a twin aboard Costa Allegra and could be better suited as a solo cabin, but despite the small size, it is plenty big enough for its purpose...ie sleeping, getting dressed etc.

The bathroom is small but well designed, the shower has a curtain...so no door problems.

Evening meals for me are in Fantasia Restaurant up in the forward area of deck 5. I have a table for 1 by a picture window...absolutely perfect as I am not one for chitchat at meals. This evening I only had a light meal as still feeling the effects of my flights Monday/yesterday. However, I was treated like royalty...maitre de, restaurant manager and both wait staff all making themselves known to me...very nice welcome indeed.

Jugs of iced tap water are available, its just a question of asking your wait staff.

I have yet to explore the ship fully or do any photography, but that can be done as we go along...plenty of time, especially the port days when everyone else is off roaming about.

There are 1901 passengers on board out of a possible 2350, a few children too though maybe about a dozen, so quiet so far. The nationalities are Argentinian, Brazilian, American, Spanish, French, German, Australian, Irish, British & Italian. There are just 19 Brits on board. Our hostess is a lovely Irish lass Rachel.

So we are underway to Montevideo now, lifeboat drill was done shortly before departure...all done at the muster stations outside, so be prepared to stand for a long while as it can take some time to get everyone at their respective muster stations.

That's about it for today, I am exhausted and ready to sleep....its 0055 in the UK and my body has yet to adjust (my excuse & I am sticking with it).

But the big question is will Costa Victoria be a good fit for the Asian itineraries next year......?

I shall answer that at the end of this review, but I have a feeling I already know what the answer will be.....

Costa Victoria - Montevideo - 81 degrees/sunny

So I am back in Montevideo, the last time I was here was aboard Norwegian Crown on New Year's Eve 2005. I took a tour here last time, so stayed aboard today.

It's a beautiful hot & sunny day today, most of the passengers have gone off on tours which gave me a chance to do some photography around the ship to show what her public spaces are like. The main characteristic about Victoria that hits you is just how much space there is on board. Her public areas are large and airy...some might say that there is a lot of wasted floor space that could be used for gaining revenue (as per American cruise line ships tend to do), but Victoria has large empty areas inside and out that allow the passengers to breathe and not feel hemmed in......quite extraordinary to find so much room on a cruise ship these days.

There are 3 wrap around outside decks...6, 11 & 12/14...6 being under the lifeboats and tenders, 11 being alongside the pool area and 12/14 is the walking track. Deck 6's prom is so wide and so open its quite unique. On all the open deck areas there is never any problem in finding a quite shadey corner of a lounger in the sunshine, Victoria is definitely designed with outdoor space to a premium, but without sacrificing the public areas on the inside. She realli ia stunning in her overall design.

The Concorde Plaza covers 4 decks right at the front of the ship, there is a large dance floor, seating & bar on the lower level, and then two mezanine levels above that, the second is a superb observation lounge to sit and look out over the bow and the top level also looks out over the bow but gives spectacular views of the dancefloor, stage and seating below..along with the multi deck atrium, great care has been put into the architectural style of the ship.

Tonight Rachel, the English speaking hostess, is having a small get together in the Concorde Plaza for the English speakers, which will be a chance to have a natter and settle into shipboard life.

I did manage to have a chat with her quietly about possible problems brewing on forthcoming Pacifica cruises due to the port changes - ie Israel being dropped. She contacted Pacifica's English & German hostesses and gave them a warning to expect some problems. I could not stand by and let the crew on Pacifica have so much aggro over such a normal incident as a port change without getting a warning through to them from Victoria. After seeing what the hostesses went through last year on Allegra, it was a horrible experience and one I wanted to avoid for the Pacifica if at all possible. Hopefully now that the ship has been warned they can nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. Rachel certainly appreciated the heads up and Pacifica was informed tonight.

Only day two but so far the experience aboard Victoria has been very positive, we are at sea for the next two days as we travel up to Rio de Janeiro.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria cruise - at sea - 73 degrees/cloudy/slight swell

So today is our first sea day of two before we reach Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Last night Rachel organised a little informal get together in the Concorde Plaza for the English speakers, really nice evening it was too.

Although cloudy & breezy its still decent weather for those wanting to use the many sunloungers on decks 12 & 14. The pools are also very busy today, especially the indoor one on deck 6.

Despite being at sea and having 1901 passengers on board, the lounges have loads of seating available..the amount of space on this ship truly is remarkable, she is just not crowded at all. Space that would usually be crammed with revenue making facilities are bare....this makes Victoria a real pleasure to be aboard, no-one is constantly trying to sell you this or that, if you want to sit quietly in a lounge without a drink, you can do so...the waitstaff wait til you call them over rather than be in your face.

Several first time Costa are on board and so far they have been very positive, they like the ambience and the peace & quiet.

Tonight is our first posh frock night of the cruise, the captain's welcome gala, so should be a very pleasant experience for everyone.

Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 75 degrees/cloudy/slight swell

Another day at sea today, and another cocktail party. This time for the past passengers up in the Tavernetta Lounge on deck 12.

Last night was the welcome gala, very nicely done, capt Pennisi is a very nice approachable captain. He is a young captain, very handsome and just as captain Donato is, very personable and happy to chat with you. Capt. Pennisi was also at this morning's cocktail party.

For those who love to dance when cruising, Victoria should suit you very well. Every bar has live music and most have a dancefloor too, every taste & genre is catered for...ballroom dancing in the Concorde Plaza, jazz in the Planetarium, piano in the Capricci and modern in the Orpheus....the ship is a dancer's heaven.

There are also many quiet areas of the ship too, for those wishing to nod off or read a book or just people watch. Everyone has a spot to choose from and enjoy aboard ship.

As I have already stated, there is space on this ship that you just do not find on other similar vessels, Victoria is not a crowded ship by any means, she has the largest sun deck area of any ship in the Costa fleet, her internal spaces are airy and light...she really is quite a stunning ship in many ways.

For the foodies, there are several places to get your fix....a pizzeria on deck 12, a buffet on deck 11, two main restaurants on deck 5, a grill on the sun deck another grill at the stern, the pay-for restaurant on deck 12...so many choices and none are overly crowded. Service has been excellent at evening meals so far. I cannot commemt on breakfast or lunch as have not used the main dining rooms for those meals as yet...although there were some niggles initially, I believe those have now been sorted out.

The crew, as has always been my experience, are all superb. Nothing is ever too much to ask, a smile is always greeting you wherever you wander on board at all times of the day or night. And, importantly, despite her size, the crew really do try to get to know your name by the end of the first day, which always gives a much more personal touch.

The weather is not so great really, very heavy downpours, a bit of a swell and quite windy. Hopefully it will clear up some in the next few days as we cruise north.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - Rio de Janeiro - 81 degrees/wet/cloudy

Arriving in Rio this morning is heavy rain & low cloud, so the much anticipated views of Sugar Loaf & Corcovado were sadly missed. However Rio is a bustling port city, the favelas huddled onto the hillsides behind the slightly shabby but still grand colonial buildings and sparkling towerblocks that make for a very eclectic seafront vista.

There are no other cruise ships in today, I suspect that we are the last visitor of the season in most of the ports of call for this half of the trip.

The ship is almost empty today due to those going off exploring on shorex, very few seem to have elected to go it alone, which with the reputation of Rio, is not exactly surprising. The peace and quiet on board has allowed some more photography though and this afternoon I am treating myself to a hot stone massage......well, I am on holiday, aren't I?

Last night after evening meal I met up with Rachel and her German counterpart Elke for drinks in the Concorde Plaza. Its great being able to sit and chat candidly with the crew, you get to know them so much better and surprisingly enough on a ship of this size, they really are happy to spend time with you without having to worry about being elsewhere or having a 3 mile hike to get anywhere. The concensus of opinion is that Costa could happily exist on its own with Victoria, Romantica, Classica, Atlantica, Mediterannea, Allegra & Marina and cast Miami off into the sunset with the Farcas Fantasies. The crews have all been very positive towards one day maybe becoming a truly 100% Italian line once again without the hindrance and interference of Carnival Corp. I personally hope that it can happen one day soon as the 7 older ships really embody the Italian flair and ethos associated with such heritage that Costa have worked for in its 63 years.

I have also been chatting about the much speculated refurbishments of the older ships too......Classica & Romantica are to have balconies fitted, amongst other embelishments, however, there is a real concern that these works do not ruin the ambiance of the ships and that the balconies look as if they were there right from initial build and not seen as add on after thoughts (as per some of the Fantasy class Carnival ships that frankly look grotesque).

We leave Rio at 6pm this evening, so all being well I shall be out on the stern rail and snapping away at some of the landmarks...providing the cloud lifts, of course. One thing that is really unique about Victoria is that each deck above 7 has its own small full width balcony across the stern which offers some spectacular views. Deck 8, where my cabin is, has the flag hoisted off the balcony. So I am planning to be out there when we sail tonight.

Our departure was on time, despite one couple getting to the ship very late...they were greeted by cheers & clapping as they ran up the gangway. That might be the last time that they leave it to the last moment to board ship.

Sadly we said goodbye to two passengers in Rio today, a German couple had to be left behind on medical grounds. This is always sad to see, especially so early on in the cruise. The gentleman had injured his replaced hip just by getting up out of his chair, he and his wife were escorted to the local hospital by the German hostess Elke and the decision was made that they stay there as being back aboard ship would have been too risky....moreso when we are at sea for 5 days later on.

One's health always has to come first, but unlike other lines, Costa took great care of these two people and made certain that they would be comfortable and cared for before leaving them so far away from home.

Rio by night was quite spectacular, even with the light rain and low cloud. One quite remarkable experience was having passenger aircraft swoop low over the ship as they made their final approaches to the main airport in Rio. The runway is right on the seafront and is overlooked by a floodlit Christ The Redeemer statue.

So as we left Rio and effectively closed the 2010/11 winter cruise season for the city, we waved goodbye to not just an amazing city, but to also two of our passengers. One can hope that these will be the only two that we leave behind in our wake.

Tomorrow is another sea day before we reach Salvador Bahia.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 81 degrees/overcast/calm

We are now at sea once more, on our way towards Salvador Bahia tomorrow.

Although still cloudy, the rain has finally held off so far today as has the breeze. The sea is a lot calmer but no wildlife apart from the odd seabird. We have passed a couple of rig ships tween us and the Brazilian coastline this morning. Not sure if they were gas or oil but both were very large and not the usual fixed rigs that we are so used to seeing around the UK.

The television is the highlight today, Avatar is showing all day....I never had the chance to see it at home, so well pleased to see it today, and I am very impressed with the film too, totally captivating to watch.

Rachel has a couple of things up her sleeve today....a Brazil quiz this afternoon and another informal get together tonight, so they will be fun. It gives those with any difficulties to sit and chat with her and not feel uncomfortable doing so. Costa is the only line that has hosts/hostesses for the individual nationalities, its a great idea that cuts back on so much of the festering about problems or questions that you might not get such a satisfactory answer for if dealing with the front desk. It is a system that other lines could easily adopt and they too would have far less passenger upset or confusion.

This evening's get together in the Concorde Plaza was very enjoyable. Rachel had arranged for several of the entertainment team to meet up with us in the bar area. It was especially good for me since most were aboard Costa Allegra on her big repositioning with me last year, so it was a chance to catch up with everyone...and discuss the problems that we had with certain passengers who acted like 2 year olds over a port change.

Thankfully so far we have had no such problems this time around, the ship is a happy ship....the crew morale is incredibly high, possibly due to most going home once we arrive in Savona, but even with the thoughts of home, the crew are absolutely wonderful...which is a trademark of Costa anyway.

Costa Victoria - Salvador Bahia - 94 degrees/sunny/slight swell

This morning started with hot sunshine, blue skies and the occasional shower of rain. The sea was so calm it was quite beautiful as we ran up the coast towards Salvador Bahia, our next port of call.

Victoria did suffer a slight glitch this morning with the loss of all but emergency systems for around 15-20 minutes. It was not alarming, infact most people did not even realise that we had stopped dead in the sea....except those of us in inside cabins, of course, and one lady who was stuck in a glass lift for a few moments. Having these glitches is all a part of everyday sea life, something that those of us who are seasoned cruisers get used to and deal with quite happily.

Salvador Bahia appeared over the horizon late morning. An amazing city of sky scrapers and cliff lifts/feniculars. The city sits on a peninsular with a fairly large commercial port and marina. The main cliff lift (similar to that at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight) is close by the cruise ship berth and it takes you up into the older part of the city that has recently undergone a major refurbishment to attract more tourists into the city's heart and where the most historical areas can be found.

The temperature has rocketed today, up in the 90's already with clear blue skies and little wind. The sea is slowly changing colour too as we travel further north, from the darkest of blues off Uruguay to an almost cobalt blue here off Salvador Bahia.

Again we are the only cruise ship here in the city, I am pretty certain now that we are the last cruise ship in the region and we are closing each port city's cruise season as we leave.

We left Salvador Bahia at 7.30pm, it is a clear night with a sky full of stars...and the occasional airliner on approach to the main airport nearby. This has been the second major port with the airport on a direct flightpath over the ship...a planespotters dream.

The night is so calm, its beautiful, and not too humid either, so very pleasant out on the decks.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - Maceio - 94 degrees/sunny/calm sea

After another glorious morning at sea with calm weather, we arrived in Macieo at just before 1pm. The port city is quite sprawling compared to most and unlike Salvador Bahia & Rio, the skyline has less sky scrapers. The port itself is very small, although it has no dedicated cruise terminal, its very clean and efficient. Entering the port has its own skills, a three-point-turn with a reversal into the berth that might not be so easy for a novice (not to mention quite nervy too).

Another lovely surprise greeted me today when I returned to my cabin from my morning walk around the decks, Alex Santos who is guest services manager on board had some absolutely gorgeous flowers delivered to me. Really beautiful chrysanthemums and a red rose in an arrangement, very pretty and totally unexpected too.

The sea has changed colour once again today, from the cobalt blue of yesterday and this morning to a more turquoise shade of blue this afternoon.

In port with us are tankers Alexis & Lorena, both quite elderly looking, rusty sides and blackened funnels. There is a fairly large natural gas & oil industry in this part of Brazil, there are tankers at anchor outside the port waiting for their turn to berth and either discharge or refil.

Maceio is mainly a beach town, frequented by the Brazilians on holidays. Many of the shorex took people off to the various beaches around the city and beyond. Its actually quite pretty near to the port, despite the industry. Long expanses of white sandy beaches run along the built up area, on one side of the pier is a shallow reef with fishing poles standing upright waiting for the tide to turn and allow today's catch into the nets. There is also a small marina next to the commercial berths and what appears to be a yachting school off in the bay on the other side of the pier.

The port authority has laid on free shuttle buses from the ship to the port gates, this is due to the port being a busy commercial one and unsafe for walking around in. Another shuttle bus is also available to take passengers to a local craft village at Feirinha da Pajucara for $7 return.

Palm trees nestle along the piers, the breeze whispering through them, seabirds, jellyfish, pigeons & butterflies are very common around the ships and the port in general. The area is attractive, I can see why it is so popular with holidaying Brazilians visiting from the larger cities inland.

There is a crew drill today, Echo India Mike, muster Delta. Any passengers are welcome to join in if they so wish. I think I will stay out of everyone's way this time around....might give it a go later on on another drill maybe.

We are due to leave here at 11pm tonight, so should be a nice balmy evening in port for everyone. A tropical party is planned for the pool deck area tonight along with a tropical fruit midnight buffet, so looks like it will be quite a night upstairs.

Costa Victoria Cruise - Recife - 94 degrees/sunny/slight swell-calm seas

After a short overnight hop from Maceio, we arrived bright & early in Recife...maybe a little too early for the port as we had to hang around outside the port for about an hour before we were finally cleared to reverse into our berth behind a freighter, Lucy Snug.

The sea state is beautifully calm today again, the colour has changed once more to a more industrial greeny/brown in and around the port breakwaters, further out its a dark, almost navy blue.

Its another hot day too, and as has been for the most part, quite low humidity of around 50-60%, so although the temperatures have been in the high 80's to mid 90's, the air quality has been pretty good going so far.

The days are getting very short too as we approach the equator, sunsets have been spectacular and at around 5.20pm.

The port of Recife is a very industrial area backed by large sky scrapers with a smattering of trees & parkland. The port itself is built on several islands linked to the mainland by a series of bridges. As with many of the Brazilian ports, there are some excellent beaches within relatively easy reach. Like Maceio the port authorities have laid on free shuttle buses to take passengers from the berth to the port gates where they can grab a taxi or wander into the town or over to the beach.

We have had a couple more medevacs this morning....pretty much every port there has been someone taken off the ship for medical treatment ashore, most have not returned. There have been a lot of broken bones, bruises & bumps from falls on board, and many of the more expected illnesses from our more elderly passengers too.

Up until today we have been running like the proverbial well oiled machine when it came to leaving on time. Today was the first time that we have been delayed by late tour buses. The original 'all aboard' time was 1230 with a sailaway at 1pm...however today were didn't get everyone back on board til 1.30pm and sailed a few moments after the gangway was stowed at 1.45pm.

We should be able to make up the lost time easy enough, so there is no sense of urgency as we gather speed away from Recife and make our way to our last Brazilian port of call, Fortaleza.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - Fortaleza - 96 degrees/sunny/calm sea

Yet another sweltering morning at sea today, absolutely beautiful start to the day with hot sunshine and a slight breeze.

We had our second of three boat drills this morning.

The ship's mood has altered overnight as news filtered through of the school attack in Rio yesterday. We have a few crew & passengers from the city and one of the Brazilian news channels has had the incident wall to wall right from when it happened yesterday morning when we were in Recife. Absolute tragedy for all concerned, losing 12 youngsters like that is always devastating, regardless of where you come from.

We also had more accidents yesterday too. One passenger is due to be taken to hospital today after a bad fall yesterday and my waitress, Marianna, severely burnt her hand yesterday too. I do not think I have ever been on a cruise where so many have either fallen ill or injured themselves...quite extraordinary.

So we have now arrived in our last Brazilian port of call, Fortaleza.

Very ultra modern buildings along the seafront and into the back of the city. The port area is a very large & busy place with several ships at berth or out at anchor. The city has a mountainous backdrop to it, its very green with swathes of palm trees and parkland visible from the ship. The shorex are in the process of departing at this moment, so I took the opportunity of doing this bit of diary til the activity dies down a bit....then its off to the pizzaria on deck 12 for lunch - the pizza is superb, so lunchtime is usually a trip upstairs for me.

This will be the last sight of land for the next 5 days....although we will be skirting close to Cape Verde by the looks of the chart down on deck 5, so if we have any more accidents or incidents, I guess we will make an unscheduled call into there if required before heading off to Tenerife (now that WAS tempting fate).

Costa Victoria - at sea - 84 degrees/sunny/calm seas

Today is our first of 5 days at sea before reaching Tenerife.

We also crossed the equator at 10am and that was celebrated in the traditional style of Neptune's parade with lots of singing and dancing up on the pool deck. Capt Pennisi was there to watch over everything and I am pretty sure that every passenger was up on the decks to see the show. Jaimie & Barry with the dancers were up performing along with a couple of the house bands, so a lot of fun was to be had in the sunshine.

Its another posh frock night tonight, so will be getting all dressed up later today for that and what looks like a very enjoyable day/evening in the Atlantic Ocean.

The formal night was very enjoyable, Rachel came to dinner with me, which was really nice. She is a lovely lass, very outgoing & helpful...definitely an asset to Costa...just like the other hosts & hostesses on board. They bend over backwards for every guest and even though sometimes it may not always be appreciated, they still wear that amazing smile.

Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 75 degrees/overcast/slight swell

Our second day at sea and the hour went forward overnight by one hour. We are around halfway tween Brazil and Cape Verde and according to the chart, we should pass tween the Cape Verde Islands, so could be a photo opportunity if the weather is clear enough.

The sea has a bit of a swell to it today. We are still on 3 engines for the most part, the fourth is running at about 50% which is more than adequate for the 18 knots cruise speed needed.

We have a passenger who is trying everyone's patience, an Aussie this time, however they are not getting the better of anyone as they can be seen right through....body language & time lines of 'problems' not quite running true. Its a shame but I guess every cruise has to have one. At least it is not like last year, so that we can all be thankful for.

There was an Oktoberfest up on pool deck this morning and we have started the happy hour drinking sessions too...now that we have left South America far away in our wake.

Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 75 degrees/sunny/slight to moderate swell

Our third day at sea today, just two more before we reach Tenerife.

Last night the sea felt a bit choppier than of late, but it did nothing to stop me sleeping like the proverbial tree trunk again. After breakfast and a lie-in this morning it was down to my usual routine of wandering outside and around the internal areas of Victoria before settling down in the Concorde Plaza with the pooter and recharging the battery....the view from the visor in the Plaza is quite clear today, visibility isn't too bad at all, even if the ship is still experiencing head winds and thus bobbing up & down a fair bit, especially as the Plaza is at the very bow of Victoria, so the rise & fall is pronounced here.

The satellite system is a bit patchy today...Emirates TV, a bit of Brazilian & a hint of French....a right old mixture of films, documentaries and news programmes that break up on a regular basis as the signal goes awol. There is always ample things to do on the ship though, so as nice as it would be to settle down infront of the telly, it is far from necessary to do so.

We are making a direct heading towards Cape Verde, although not scheduled to stop at Mindelo, we have been advised this evening by a note from the Captain that due to a medevac we shall be anchoring off the town for a short time at 0600 tomorrow (local time).
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 73 degrees/sunny/slight to moderate swell

Day 4 at sea and the unscheduled stop in Cape Verde this morning for a medevac to take place. The person requiring the medevac was a German passenger who needed urgent surgery, she had been kept stable on board in the ship's hospital for several days in the hope of keeping her aboard til Tenerife but had deteriorated so the decision was made to divert to Mindelo where she was due to undergo further medical treatment today and will be flown home once declared fit to do so later on.

Since this was not our first medical emergency, possibly our 10th or 11th on this cruise, it all went off well and with few onlookers. It's always sad to see people leave the ship under such circumstances, but on crossings like this, they are usually commonplace. Although having said that, on the cruise last year which was double the distance & length, we didn't have any such events at all. However it does have to be said that the average age on this trip is a lot higher than last year's cruise, so maybe that will have something to do with it perhaps.

Its a busy morning...collecting our passports now that we are back in European waters (almost) at 9am, then a galley tour at 1020am.

I managed to get my passport at 0830 this morning...well ahead of everyone else, and then went off for the galley tour. Very interesting to see where the meals for both restaurants is prepared. Have to admit that I expected it to be larger, but infact its a collection of many small areas sectioned off. Fascinating stuff to see in action.

The weather has improved as the day has worn on, from very overcast & muggy first thing to bright sunshine now...albeit with a strong headwind still.

I was due to have dinner at the cover charge restaurant (as a complimentary) this evening, but it is the crew show tonight & I did not want to miss it, so cancelled my reservation for tonight. Rachel has invited me to join her at Club Magnifico one evening before the end of the cruise, so will get to try the cuisine up there at some point.

The crew show.......well what can you say....I watched it through twice, standing room only on both levels of the theater and it was truly WONDERFUL!

They might not be professionals but they pour their hearts & souls into giving their best performance that they can. They always enjoy themselves immensely and they get the audience right into the spirit of the fun & pure happiness....absolutely superb show once again.

There are fun and games going on around the ship every night from the entertainment team members.....last night one of the lads dressed up in a pink romper suit and sat right in the middle of the wine bar (Cappriccio Lounge) and promptly threw a tantrum....teddybear & dummy went flying (kinda thought of the antics shown by passengers on forthcoming Costa Pacifica cruises tbh). Tonight a surprise was awaiting anyone wanting to use one of the elevators near the theater....it arrived, doors opened and there was a team member dressed as an old man, trousers around his ankles, sat on a made up toilet complete with loo roll...he was sat there, reading the paper and grumbling each time the doors opened....cracked everyone up completely. Nowhere on Victoria is safe from pranks by the entertainment staff...builds no end of good times and memories.

For the fourth night in a row we have shifted our clocks forward by an hour...we are now at GMT, tomorrow night we will be in BST and will change to CET tomorrow before changing back to BST next Thursday on the flight home......confused yet, hmmm...well last year was far more complicated with 30 mins back, then forward, 60 mins back, 30 forward....why can't everyone work off the same time zone (or would that be too easy?).
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 74 degrees/sunshine & clouds/slight swell

So here we are, our 5th consecutive day at sea.

We have been reasonably lucky with the sea state throughout the cruise so far, despite Victoria's shortcomings, makes me wonder if we will have a repeat of last years cruise....calm all of the way til we entered the Med and then Mother Nature gave us a timely reminder that she can pull the rug out from under us at any time. The Med last year was rough, the weather wet & miserable....compared to 5 weeks of hot & sunny weather and the calmest seas I have ever experienced aboard Costa Allegra (OK I am tempting fate again, and you got it, fate bit us again).

The cruise is still far from over though, I don't get off til a week today, so still plenty of sea days and ports to come...not to mention the last gala night sometime next week....bringing a total of 4 for this cruise (the 3rd being the Captain's Dinner tonight).

Generally the passengers have been a friendly bunch, albeit very few with any command of English, the South American's have lived up to their reputation to a degree for being late for everything and taking over the buffet at mealtimes...whereas the Europeans have on the whole been quieter & more reserved about most things. That doesn't mean that tantrums have not happened cos they have...some quite colourful, such as one Frenchman who was very animated in his desire to get his point across to the reception desk staff....or the Aussie who has only just really calmed down (albeit probably simmering under the surface just waiting for the blue touch paper to be lit once more).

When you get a few sea days together as we have done this week, you can really enjoy people watching, and you see so many different sides of people...and not just due to cultural or differences in their nationality. For instance, yesterday when the Europeans were able to collect their passports...I sat on deck 6 in the comfy wicker chairs watching as people wandered around lost, looking for Concorde Plaza (forward on deck 7) where the passports were to be collected from....we have been on Victoria for 2 weeks yet around 60% of her passengers still have no idea where anything is, they wander about with heads buried in the deck maps, mumbling in their native tongue, scratching head and shrugging shoulders. When they do ask for help from crew, they often look like the brain has not quite engaged, asking for the instructions to find a place several times before finally wandering off in completely the wrong direction......

But then we are on holiday, afterall....aren't we?

Yes...we have had 5 days at sea....5 days of doing as little as you want to do, apart from chasing that darn sun hat & towel that just blew off the lounger for the upteenth time in the 70mph breeze on the pool deck or supping some wild and strange coloured cocktail, trying to figure out what it tastes like whilst being smacked in the eye by the errant lump of pineapple balanced on the edge of the glass.....

Sea days.....when the true nature of the human beings come out to play....that is if they manage to get up early enough to try and beat the pool attendants putting the neatly rolled towels on the loungers, some traditions will never change though...we do still have some of the reputed lounger savers from Germany, up at the crack of dawn to get their lounger, only to be thwarted by the pool attendant who gets there first......

T'is a grand life when you can sit in bed, eat breakfast that has just been delivered to you by a smiling, happy crewmember, watch the webcams on the telly and type the daily diary on your netbook without so much as doing anything remotely strenuous (apart from getting out of said bed to open the cabin door for the breakfast to be brought in, of course).

Aye...a grand life indeed as another week of sheer laziness starts. Time for another cappucino I think, then mulling what to do today.....hmmmmmm....what a life...As if I needed a reminder that we are approaching European waters....the BBC News suddenly appeared on the telly this morning....all for about 10 minutes before the signal went off, oh well, a small taste of home (even if it wasn't exactly exciting).

The third formal night went off without too many hitches this evening, beforehand it was the Costa Club cocktails in the theater with Capt Pennisi.

(Do I really have to go home next week.....can't I stay a bit longer, please?)

Tomorrow we are in Tenerife...first land for 5 days (cannot count the hour or so spent off Mindelo due to the medical emergency), I won't be off the ship though as much prefer to stay aboard and relax, especially on a mostly empty ship again.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - Tenerife - 75 degrees/sunny/calm seas

So after 5 days of nothing but sea, we arrived in sunny Tenerife this morning.

Royal Caribbean's Vision o/t Seas was already here by the time we arrived. I was actually quite surprised to see just how small she is, Costa Victoria towers over her, yet even more surprising Vision carries more passengers than we do. She looks very dated and she was the ship in the media a lot last year due to illness on board both in South America and the Baltic. She, like us, has just arrived back in Europe after her South American season.

Another visitor to Tenerife this morning was Iberocruceros Grand Mistral, she only stayed for a couple hours, anchored outside the port. It didn't look like she dropped any tenders but she did have her bow crane in use, so I can only assume that she had a medevac to deal with before steaming away to her next port of call just before lunchtime.

Three other passenger vessels arrived late morning, the ferries Volcan de la Teide, Volcan de Tamanfaya and a fast cat belonging to Olsen Express.

The city huddles around the port and onto some precarious looking hillsides. Mostly modern buildings dominate the skyline with a few much older, more colonial buildings closer to the seafront.

In many ways the port and surrounding hills look very similar to Muscat in Oman...except here they are very green instead of desert dust. Quite a pretty little port if you ignore the oil refinery and the other industrial areas.

Around 90% of the passengers are off on shorex today so the ship is very peaceful. We are refuelling for the first time since Rio de Janeiro and replenishing food & drink stocks for our last leg of the trip. We are due to leave Tenerife at 5pm, arriving in Madeira at 9am tomorrow. We then have a sea day, then Cadiz, then a half day in Malaga where some passengers are disembarking, finally another sea day before arriving in Savona on Wednesday morning at around 9am.......but that has all yet to come, the holiday still has a week to run and there will be plenty of chances to enjoy the ship and surroundings.

Costa Victoria Cruise - Funchal - 75 degrees/sunny/calm sea

This morning brought us to Funchal, Madeira.

Pullmantur Empress was already in port as we squeezed up behind her, we were later joined by P&O Arcadia at lunchtime.

It was a lovely start to the day after some overnight rain, slightly misty to begin with but a beautiful sunrise over the bridge and across the city of Funchal.

The relationship with Royal Caribbean was immediately obvious aboard Empress....non-stop announcements in Spanish & German from the moment we were in earshot. Thankfully they did stop once all passengers were off on their respective coaches to do their tours. We, on the other hand, sat quietly as passengers filed off the ship in their allotted groups and onto their coaches in silence...ie no announcements whatsoever.

The sun has almost burned off the early morning mist and low cloud to reveal quite a spectacular skyline above the city. The Porto Santo ferry, Lobos Mourinho, has been shifted away from its normal berth to allow all three cruise ships to use the pier.

P&O Arcadia arrived just on midday. She will be staying until shortly after we leave on her way to Alaska & back to Southampton, a 22 week cruise. We leave at 5pm, it might be an interesting departure since we are in the middle of the three ships.

One part of the landscape that you cannot help but see is the very large expanse of silt that has been built up to around 5m thick & covering about 4 football field size area in what was once part of the harbour. The silt has come from the devastating landslides that hit the city a year or so ago. The dredging teams and the roadway repair teams are still working around the clock to get the mess sorted and shifted and reopen many of the smaller roads that had been blocked in the mountains & valleys as a result of the mudslides.

Our time to leave Funchal came just before 5pm and as we sailed out of our berth....which, I hasten to add, is really great to watch since we have the old fashioned shafts & propellers rather than Azipods but we still manage to parallel park with incredible ease thanks to some very powerful bow & stern thrusters....we did the usual 3 horn blows, our company ship P&O Arcadia replied to us with 3 short blasts, we replied to her and then the ferry & Empress joined the conversation...eventually the whole of Funchal echoed to the sounds of four ships all saluting each other.....quite an extraordinary sound, and one that used to be very common in Southampton Water when I was a youngster. Passengers & crew from all ships waved at each other as we left port for the last time.

A very emotional farewell for Victoria from Funchal since she is unlikely to be back for a few years once deployed in Asia in January 2012.

The pilot left us to go fetch Empress, she required tug assistance since she is not equipped with the same technology as us, the last to leave will be Arcadia, she was in the process of reboarding as we departed.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria - at sea - 67 degrees/cloudy/moderate swell

Today was another day at sea for Victoria, we awoke to much colder temperatures and some overnight rain was evident by sodden decks. So far we have faced headwinds of around 70km/h all the way from Buenos Aires and today was no different. Initially we were running at an average of 17 knots but by this evening we had dropped to 12 knots as the ride was making a few uncomfortable.

For the first time in several days we have passed other ships at sea, a large tanker and a freighter were on the horizon today, both heading towards either Spain, Morocco or the Gibraltar Straits.

Many of the waitstaff & chef's received their next deployments this afternoon. My waiter, Alvin, is to stay with Victoria but his lovely assistant Marianna is to go to Mediterannea, which is a shame as they work so very well together as a team. They are both quite sad about the move as they always have a lot of fun and get on famously together. The diners on Mediterranea will have a superb busgirl in Marianna, she is hardworking and very bubbly, I am sure she will settle in well on the other ship.

When I returned to my cabin after evening meal I found my end of cruise gift from CostaClub, a beautiful pewter model of Costa Victoria mounted onto a wooden plaque. Really lovely and at 5" long its pretty heavy too. A superb reminder of the cruise and one that will take pride of place on the mantlepiece at home.

Tomorrow we will be arriving in Cadiz before we finally enter the Med via the Gibraltar Strait and then arrive in Malaga on Monday, where several passengers are due to disembark. My final day on board is another sea day and Rachel & I will be having evening meal in Club Magnifico on deck 12 (used in the daytime as Tavernetta), she has invited me since we have had a couple of abortive attempts to eat dinner together that have ended with her needing to go back to work to deal with problems.

Costa Victoria Cruise - Cadiz - 68 degrees/sunny/moderate swell (am)/heavy seas (pm)

We have now reached mainland Spain and almost our last port of call before Italy, Cadiz. The weather deteriorated somewhat overnight and it made for a fairly bouncy few hours, especially the last few as we approached Cadiz.

Cadiz greeted us with a brisk & cold breeze this morning and three ships already in port....Vision o/t Seas, La Belle de Cadix & Iberocruceros Grand Celebration. A couple of hours later Holland America's Amsterdam arrived....and we are still the biggest ship in the city.

Its strange, especially since I hate the big ships, here we are in Cadiz with ships built around the same time as us and we are the biggest here....and when all but La Belle de Cadix was built (she is a hybrid river cruiser capable of sea going cruises), Vision, Victoria & Amsterdam WERE the largest cruise ships built in their day. Now, however, they look small and compact compared to the likes of Norwegian Epic, Oasis o/t Seas and Allure o/t Seas. Ships of Victoria's era are more in the midsize bracket nowadays, almost bordering on small......incredible really and I am not entirely sure that it is good progress.

HAL Amsterdam looked like she was experiencing problems when she came into Cadiz, she required a two tug assistance to pirouette, something she should have been able to do by herself, and she required some gentle nudging into her berth ahead of Vision o/t Seas, again unusual for her.

Ships aside, the city of Cadiz is laid out around us, the huge cathedral is less than a mile from our starboard side. The city itself is quite spread out but unlike so many port cities, its relatively low skyline means that you can see the sea from every vantage point on Victoria. There is a lot of history around Cadiz, not only is it a port city but it lies on the river mouth leading to Seville. The river cruiser La Belle de Cadix, owned by Croisieurope, sails from here to Seville and beyond on the river, which must be quite a fascinating journey.

The architecture in Cadiz is a mix of Roman, Phoenician & Moorish, all of whom have had a part in the city's history.

After a very chilly start its warming up in Cadiz, the pools are being given some serious maintenance today and the wraparound deck on 6 is being given a makeover...full strip & repaint.

One great thing for those who like taking photo's from the ship.....Victoria does not vibrate at the stern, so no more of those annoying out of focus & shaky shots. Even when getting out of a berth, she doesn't shake like so many of her contemporaries do.

Just before we dropped our ropes a marching band could be heard in the city center. It is Palm Sunday today and the cathedral's saints were being paraded through the city, quite extraordinary to hear and there were crowds of people in the city all milling around near the cathedral.

We left just before 6pm to a serenade of ship's horns. Initially we let off 3 blasts to let everyone know we were leaving but then we had conversations with La Belle de Cadix, HAL Amsterdam & Iberocruceros Grand Celebration. Vision o/t Seas had left around 3.30pm. Its always lovely when ships salute each other, HAL is a corporate sister line and Iberocruceros is an outright part of Costa, so its traditional for ships of the line to salute one another as they leave port. The little river cruiser joined in too...just as Empress & the Madeira ferry did the day before yesterday.

The weather has deteriorated rapidly this evening. No swells but some seriously high seas. We are still into a head wind though, with gusts of over 100mph, so quite a stormy night & Gib Strait transit.

It was Italian night in the dining room and so much fun....Alvin even got me to dance which is a feat in itself. Then it was conga lines around the room followed by a dancing display by some of the waiters...absolutely wonderful night.

We arrive in Malaga tomorrow morning til lunchtime, several passengers are leaving the ship, so we will have half a ship full for Savona in 2 days time.
 

Ally

Deckhand
Costa Victoria Cruise - Malaga - 64 degrees/cloudy/heavy seas


Our final port of call before Savona and my penultimate day aboard Victoria arrived after a pretty nasty night at sea. It was obvious as we left Cadiz yesterday that the weather was deteriorating quickly and the moderate swell was replaced by all out storm force winds & 25ft+ waves...again almost head on...something of a feature of this trip.

We pulled into Malaga before sunrise at about 0730 and docked a short distance from the terminal due to two other ships being expected.

The first of those ships arrived an hour or so after us, Iberocruceros Grand Voyager, she will be transferred to the Costa fleet this winter to run with Costa Allegra in the Red Sea. Having seen several photo's of her I had wondered what she was like in the flesh, I was pleasantly surprised by the look of her. She is small but nicely proportioned and appears to be a decent little ship, so should prove to be a popular running mate for Allegra.

The city of Malaga wraps around the coastline, mountains as a back drop and some half decent beaches too. The port area is large and spread out, it is virtually in the center of the city's seafront area and has a fairly new cruise terminal that looks very modern and although we could not use it, seems pleasant enough.

The second ship to arrive was MSC Poesia. She too made heavy going of the sea state as she arrived just before lunchtime. Very attractive ship. a little larger than Victoria, she cuts quite a handsome figure for a relatively new ship. She was well packed out with most of her passengers either on the extensive sun deck areas or on the balconies.

The weather is certainly causing problems though, its a good 35 degrees down, very windy and often showery too, most passengers on all 3 ships are wrapped up warm against the not exactly springlike conditions.

Several of our passengers got off today, so there will likely be more tables empty in the dining rooms tonight, which is our final gala night.

The farewell gala night was emotional, not just for the passengers but for many of the crew too. Most of the crew are being redeployed to other ships once they are back in Savona, others are giving up working on the ships completely due to family at home...especially a couple of the waitstaff who are mum's and they want to see the kids grow up and attend school for the first time. The cocktail party went down well, even if it was delayed due to a Tango India Alpha call on deck 6. The meal's highlight was a parade of Baked Alaska followed by the room stewards, kitchen staff, housekeeping officers, restaurant managers & maitre d' with the captain & his senior officers all marching to Italian songs around the dining room. I doubt there were too many dry eyes anywhere.

Tonight was a lovely night albeit bittersweet, tomorrow we are at sea all day and if this evening is anything to go by, it'll be another rough sea day. There have been a few passing cruise ships today too, probably see more of them as we pass the rest of Spain & France tomorrow.

Its been a good cruise, Victoria has lived up to her potential quite well, her crew have been her beating heart & soul, they have all been truly wonderful to be with over the last 3 weeks, many are going onto other ships and maybe a few could end up on Classica next year...will have to wait and see.

Costa Victoria Cruise - at sea - 73 degrees/sunny/calm seas

Well, we have almost reached our last port, Savona. Emotions are running high on all sides today as we will be bidding Victoria & her crew bye-bye in the morning tomorrow.

Packing is underway and suitcase labels have just been delivered to the cabin. Tomorrow morning its up early to settle the account...I am pretty sure that the ship will be paying me again...providing my maths have been correct.

Its a last dinner with Rachel tonight up in the Club Magnifico and this afternoon its a small get together drink up on deck 11 for the English speakers....there will be tears before (and after) bedtime tonight.

The weather is perfect...gorgeous sunshine, calm seas and we passed Ibiza & Majorca earlier this morning.

Dinner in Magnifico went really well. I am not a fan of the cover charge restaurants on ships usually but in Magnifico's case, I felt it would be well worth the extra, especially if you have a special occasion to celebrate whilst on board. Rachel actually managed to stay right through to coffee this time too. She was exhausted after the cruise, yet she still had plenty to get done before we all get off tomorrow in Savona.

Costa Victoria Cruise - Savona/Nice - 72 degrees/sunny/calm seas

Well the end of the trip has arrived.

We arrived in sunny Savona a little after daybreak and with Costa Mediterranea already in port, many of our crew will be going over to her later in the day.

Disembarkation started just before 9am and I was on the coach to Nice shortly thereafter. The trip to Nice is beautiful, especially when the weather is as good as it was today. Very scenic drive of around 2 hours, through Italy, Monaco & France.

We arrived at Nice Airport in plenty of time, checked in using the self service totems and used the bag drop facility, then went off into departures.

After an hour or so we boarded a bus to our plane, BA345, and left the Med behind as we flew to Heathrow. Very smooth flight, not exactly happy crew as usual though. The plane was messy and not too comfy, it was an old looking A320.

The flight took around 2 hours and after landing at Heathrow we had an escort to immigration by a BA crew since we had a silly short 65 minute connection time. Managed to get through everything with time to spare though, so boarded the flight to Manchester (another A320 but my newer than the last one and a smiling crew for once too). The short hop of 30 minutes to Manchester was uneventful, landing at Manchester & getting the case was easy as always...my case was the 5th one off the plane, so very quick.

I used the courtesy phone for Bewleys and the shuttle bus arrived after about 5 minutes. I have stayed at Bewleys before so knew what to expect, this time I had a room in the newly refurbished tower, really nice room overlooking the approach of the runway on the 7th floor. Bewleys is by far nicer than Panamericano in Buenos Aires (and Mandarin Oriental in Singapore) and at a fraction of the cost.

After a great night's sleep I left Manchester for home, arriving there just after midday.
 

Ally

Deckhand
I have added a few photo's from this cruise into the Costa Victoria & South America sections in the gallery onsite.

If anyone has questions, feel free to ask & I will do my best to answer them :)
 
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