There are pros and cons to both large cruises and smaller ships. The seven-day Mediterranean cruise on the newly built Costa Pacifica shows how larger, more crowded cruises can still provide a good value for the dollar.
Photos taken by author.
PMD’s travel writers are no strangers to cruises. The latest cruise Shirley Mueller, MD, took may not have been the most upscale, but it was a good value for the dollar (which cruises often are good for). Both large and small cruises have benefits. The latter can offer more individual attention and care, but is often expensive. For those on a budget, but are afraid of the crowds or losing too much quality, Shirley has her latest experience on a large cruise.
Get ready for diversity. The Costa Pacifica cruise in the Mediterranean was all about a mixing of cultures for both staff and passengers. Since the latter get on and off at every port over seven days, there is a natural blend of nationalities. For the crew, as for other similar vessels, they originate from everywhere.
Our family of four took this Costa journey March 22-29, 2013, during Spring break for our grandchildren. We boarded and disembarked in Civitavecchia near Rome. In between, we toured Genoa, near the port of Savona, Italy, and spent a day in Provence neighboring our port of Marseille, France. Then we powered to Barcelona, which was followed by Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Our last two days were spent in Cagliari, Sardinia, and Palermo, Sicily.
There were several tours to choose from at every port. As a word of caution, preparation in advance is recommended as the expedition guides go over the sights very fast and sometimes in English that is challenging to understand. Still, all were amenable to questions and helpful in every way.
The historical quarter in Palma de Mallorca.
The disembarking and embarking back to the ship for the tours was well organized, especially considering that over 3,000 people were on the ship, many of whom were taking excursions.
Cagliari in Sardinia would be my least favorite as the city is poor, has a high unemployment rate and seems to be in disrepair compared to the other municipalities we visited. Instead, one of the tours outside the city might be more worthwhile.
Additionally, though our tour in Palermo was worthy, the visit to the XVI century Catacombs of Cappucinni could just as well be appreciated in photographs and probably not something on which everyone wants to spend valuable tourist time. Thereby, another tour offered by Costa might use the four hours in port more wisely.
We took the following tours:
• Savona — Genoa
• Marseille — A Day in the Heart of Provence
• Barcelona — Girona, Figueres & Dali Museum was cancelled; our next choice was Tour of Barcelona
• Palma De Mallorca — Tour of Palma De Mallorca
• Cagliari — Tour of the City
• Palermo — Mysterious Palermo
would consider the above a lot of sightseeing for the Costa price of $1,867.12 per person for a Grand Suite cabin — it was lovely. In our suite, we had a sitting area and a large marble bathroom plus plenty of closet space. Since the ship was just built in 2012 our accommodation was no doubt more appealing because there was less wear and tear within our cabin as well as elsewhere.
The Costa Pacifica, as it turns, is all about music. It is everywhere — in the classical lounge, the jazz cocktail bar and more. It is also about tours, drinking, food, spa treatments, exercise, gambling and cabaret (of variable quality) at night plus shopping. Almost anything can be found on this particular seven-day journey at sea.
Though the price for the cabin was reasonable everything else except the food is an additional charge. For example, all tours are billed separately. Also, any drinks — including authentic coffee rather than Nescafe during lunch and dinner — are an extra charge. However, even with all of the extras, the total price was still modest compared to many other trips, for example our journey to India and Sri Lanka on the Clipper Odyssey.
The food on the vessel was good but not as interesting or as tasty as it was on either the Clipper or our Rhine cruise. The breakfast buffet was especially challenging and difficult to navigate because of the enormous number of other passengers.
The cocktail lounge below with elevators off to the right.
In summary, I would say that this trip is good value for the dollar. A lot of sights are captured in seven days with no need to unpack and repack. However, for the choosy traveler with excess money who is willing to spend it on travel, this trip with nearly 3,500 other folks is probably not the way to go. It lacks excellent meals and truly individualized service, something probably no ship with this many passengers can supply.