Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Experience Italy at Sea Aboard the Costa Victoria

Bucket List No. 14: Go on a cruise holiday.

After months of anticipation, CS and I finally boarded our plane to Singapore where we embarked on a tour of Malacca and Penang aboard the Costa Victoria Cruise Ship. We chose to book the first flight out of Manila to ensure that we will arrive earlier than the scheduled embarkation time set at 5PM. Thank goodness for on-time departure and arrival which gave us ample time to drop off our bags at the Singapore Cruise Center and then grab something to eat at the nearby Vivo City.

Chicken Curry

Roast Duck

We walked back to the Singapore Cruise Center by 4PM to check if Costa will accept early check-in but the staff were firm and only started accepting passengers as scheduled. At the drop off counter, we were handed a queue card that detailed the time that we were supposed to check-in. The entire process was generally organised except for some passengers who were insistent on lining up even if the cards they were holding showed different check-in timings. 

Travel People, Costa's accredited agent in Manila, organised a briefing and Q&A session among clients who availed their services a month before our trip. They presented to us what we can expect on the cruise, what to bring, how to save money, and the things we can do to ensure a hassle-free trip that included printing our own boarding passes and luggage tags that expedited our boarding process. After passing through immigration (the ship is set to sail for Malaysia that night) CS and I excitedly entered the 12-decker Costa Victoria Cruise Ship.

Since this is my first cruise experience, CS made sure that I will enjoy every single moment of it starting with our Balcony Classic Stateroom located at Deck 10 (Norma). When we were first booking for this trip, I urged him to get the cheapest available cabin since I knew that we would be out most of the time. But he contended that it MUST be a room with a balcony or no cruise at all.

Our tastefully-designed and relaxing cabin had a double bed (2 single beds tied together), private toilet and bath, air-conditioning system, flat screen satellite television, WiFi connection (charges apply), a mini bar, and a balcony that offered an unobstructed view of the Strait of Malacca.

All guests are given personalised Costa Cards which bear your identification details and also serves as your credit card aboard the ship. It is imperative to bring your Costa Card at all times especially if you're disembarking at the port of call as all passports are collected and kept for safety and only the Costa Card is your means to go in and out of the ship. The individual Costa Cards along with Today, the ship's daily newsletter, will be placed on your bed by your cabin steward. All information you may need to plan your itinerary are indicated in Today like the daily activities and its schedules, special promotions at the Duty Free shops, and lunch and dinner timetable.

After settling in our cabin, we took the stairs one level up to check out the buffet dinner at Bolero Restaurant (Deck 11 - Rigoletto). We got lucky that we were included in the first wave of guests to board so while others were still in the check-in or immigration counters, we were already lining up for our first meal aboard the ship. To cater to varied dietary requirements, the restaurant's buffet is divided into vegetarian and non-vegetarian spread. Since we were on a cruise, we vowed to eat to our hearts' delight and consider the entire trip as cheat days. We still ate vegetables and fruits but more hotdogs and burgers -- which were devilishly delicious. All other meals were bland and boring so we ought to book our next meals in the sit down Sinfonia and Fantasia restaurants where the food's quality and selection is said to be way much better.

With a few hours to spare before the scheduled drill, we had enough time to explore the rest of the Italian-themed ship. Operated by Costa Crociere, Costa Victoria underwent major refurbishment in 2004 to add more cabins with balconies and a remodel in 2013 to keep up with its theme.

Costa Victoria, a real marine oasis, has outdoor jacuzzis and deck pools for a refreshing swim. Guests are expected to wear proper swimming attire so make sure you pack right for your trip. Be wary that no lifeguard is on-duty so adult supervision is mandatory if you're traveling with children.

An obligatory emergency drill will be participated by everyone on board before the ship departs from Singapore. Life jackets are found in the closet (one per guest on each room) which must be worn before going to the designated meeting points. To confirm that everyone is accounted for and has adhered to the safety procedures, Costa Cards are swiped as you arrive.

Goodbye Singapore!

As the night was still young, CS and I headed to the Festival Theater at Decks 6 (Traviata) and 7 (Carmen) for an hour of amazing music and dancing exhibiting Italy's rich culture and history. 

One of the best decisions we made aside from booking the Balcony Classic Stateroom was availing the Alcohol Free Cruiser at Usd36 that included 8 glasses of cocktails that we can order throughout our stay. Choices are limited to only 5 cocktail choices and several fruit juices so if you plan to drink more, I suggest getting the Adult Beverage Package for a wider range of unlimited drinks.


Pink Panther

Next up is Day 2 at Costa Victoria and the first port of call at Malacca, Malaysia. Watch out for it!

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