About the New Costa Victoria
The Costa Victoria (2394 passenger-carrying capacity) is a cruise liner in the fleet of Costa Cruises, the largest Italian travel group. The vessel recently completed a dry-dock upgrade, complete with new balconies, terraces and windows.
Passengers boarding from Singapore were amongst the first to enjoy the newly fully refurbished boat from November 2013, which was re-designed with elements of traditional nautical style to reflect the “Italy at Sea” concept at the heart of the Costa experience.
We were amongst the group who left on a 4 night Media Fam cruise with TSL to Phuket and Langkawi recently and decided to make a big(ger) family trip of it, with my mum and sis purchasing their own room and joining us on board. After the experience, I think we all agreed that a cruise is great option for a family holiday.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. You Get Everything Under One Roof
Being on a cruise is like being in a nice hotel, with the additional bonus of food and entertainment thrown in. One highlight of being on cruise must no-doubt be the fact that there's free-flow food available around the clock.
The Costa Victoria had a number different food options serving up food at different times of the day:
- Fantasia Restaurant (Deck 5)
- Sifonia Restaurant (Deck 5)
- Bolero Buffet (Deck 11)
- Grill Lido Nettuno (Poolside, Deck 11)
- La Tavernetta Pizzeria (Deck 12)
- Club Magnifico Restaurant (Deck 12)
Other than Club Magnifico Restaurant which is the paying restaurant, cruise passengers can eat for free at all other restaurants. As you can imagine, we ate a lot! The different restaurants also offered different dining experiences, which were good for variety. We ended up spending quite a bit of time at the Bolero Buffet, which the kids enjoyed as they were free to pick and choose what they wanted from what was before them.
With four stations serving up European and Chinese, Indian, and Vegetarian food, there was a good selection for everyone. And when the weather was fine, we had easy access to Grill Lido Nettuno by poolside, which served up burgers with pretty excellent fries. When the weather was fine, it was really nice sitting outside on deck with the sea breeze blowing. As an added bonus, there were machines and dispensers for water, juice, coffee and tea readily available. You have to pay for water and drinks at the other restaurants.
We also had a number of our dinners at Fantasia Restaurant where we enjoyed selections from up to six courses -- Appetiser, Soup, Salad, Pasta, Main, Dessert/Cheese. Choose as many as you like! There is also a kids' menu available, dishing out the usual kids' favourites of burgers and nuggets, amongst others. All the food was attractively served and presented, and we were treated to occasional performances by the waiters too. It was also kind of fun that each night was themed.
There was a Gala Dinner one night, Italian night on another and Tropical night on the last night. That said, my kids' favourite parts of dinner were the bread sticks on the table -- boy, did they devour many of those! -- and having a rip-roaring good time sitting right by the window and staring out to sea. At least it kept them happy so the adults could enjoy dinner!
b. Entertainment and Facilities
Apart from the food, the other great thing about being aboard a cruise ship is that there's always something going on which you can participate in. On board the Costa Victoria, there were dance classes, organised sports, a cooking demo, beauty tips and tricks, and quizzes and games (with a chance to win souvenirs). Everyday we were provided with a daily programme which we could refer to to find out what was going on.
And if joining group activities is not your thing, you can also have your own fun by making use of the facilities available like the fitness centre/gym, sports courts (they were set up basketball and tennis on different days) and of course, the swimming pool and jacuzzis. There were also table soccer tables by poolside, which were hugely popular with families. We always saw a crowd around them!
You can also visit the library to read or borrow out some books. If you were so inclined, karaoke was also a popular choice. My kids' top choice, was unfortunately for me, the arcade! That didn't come cheap, since we had to pay for tokens in USD, but they certainly had fun.
Another highlight which you shouldn't miss is the nightly show in the theatre. At the Festival Theatre, we were treated to shows which ranged from a magic show, to Italian opera, song and dance performances and on the last night, an entertaining acrobatic duo. I was quite proud of the kids who sat through every one without a fuss, even Italian opera! I like to think they were mesmerised!
2. Good Opportunities For Family Bonding
Yet the Freedom to do what you want! The great thing about having all that choice with food, entertainment and activities is that you can generally find something to do together, and yet have the option available to do different things if you so choose.
We hung out as a group quite a bit, but once or twice when I was with the kids in the arcade or letting them nap, my mum and sis could take off to join a dance class or two, or shop in the duty-free shops on board. And if you really want to option of going child-free for a bit, you can check your kids into the kids club. At Squok Club on board the Costa Victoria, they even had the option for you to leave your kids (3-12 years) on-board while you took off on an excursion at different ports.
So if your child doesn't want to join you on an off-the-boat adventure, you don't have to choose between staying on board with him or dragging him kicking and screaming. You can instead leave in on-board in the good hands of caretakers, knowing that he has an exciting programme ahead of him. For example, the first day of sailing was Pirates Day for the kids and we spied a few around.
And waylaid them to take some pics! Laval from Lego Chima also made an appearance, much to Noey's excitement. Adults weren't allowed to linger at Squok Club nor take pictures, but I spied many happy faces in the photos taken by the official photographers.
3. You Get To Enjoy The Open Seas
It is not an experience you get everyday in crowded Singapore, to be able to look out of the window at the endless sea. The kids really enjoyed that. They'd hop out of bed and directly onto the ledge to stare out the window. It was also quite an experience getting out on deck, especially at night when it could get really cold. I usually get seasick really easily by the way, but being onboard a cruise ship, aside from the occasional sway, you hardly feel it at all. Great for people like me who would love to be out at sea but would otherwise not be able to take it!
4. You Get All These At An Affordable Price
The room rates for our 4 night journey on Costa Victoria can be as low as USD350 (inclusive of taxes and surcharges) per person for an inside room, which I consider an incredible rate, considering all the food and entertainment that includes. And I haven't even gotten to the bast part, which is that kids under 12 get to travel for free!
5.You get to wake up to a new place everyday
Well, almost everyday, but it was good enough! We really enjoyed our stops at Phuket and Langkawi, which will be the subject of our next post, so stay tuned!
A huge plus for me was also the convenience of visiting different countries. Our passports were held by the cruise operator during the entire duration of the cruise, and all we needed to get off was our Costa Card, which was our on-board ID, charge card and key card all rolled into one. Our cards were scanned individually, and that was it! No need for passports, immigration and all that. It was as seamless as it could be, and I personally like the fact that I don't have to worry about my passport and keeping it safe.
In short, a cruise is a great option for families looking for variety in an all-inclusive holiday package at an affordable price. My kids really enjoyed it and we're already thinking of a bigger family cruise holiday with the extended family next time round. Stay tuned for our next post on our adventures in Phuket and Langkawi, coming up shortly!
Disclosure: Media Invitation