Ross - Answered a Question by Foster (08 Oct 07 08:57)

Gratuity There is a hotel service charge of 6 euros per person, per day. 15 percent is automatically added to bar bills.

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Ross - Answered a Question by Foster (08 Oct 07 08:58)

N the Theater Atene (Athens). Bars include the Bar Budapest, a wine bar that serves complimentary hors d'oeuvres before dinner; Grand Bar Berlino (Berlin), the hot spot for nightly game shows; and the Lisbona (Lisbon) Disco. The Sports Bar Stoccolma (Stockholm) broadcasts popular sports events. Interestingly, they were broadcasting American wrestling on various evenings. The Internet cafe is located on Deck 4 and is staffed just a few hours daily. Cost per minute is 50 cents (euro) and there are no packages. For a ship so new, Wi-Fi is oddly not available. At the same time, Costa Concordia is state-of-the-art when it comes to cell phone reception; GSM mobile customers can chat anywhere onboard -- in port or at sea. Cabins European lines are still a bit behind North American ones when it comes to demand for balconies, but that's changing. On Costa Concordia, 575 cabins (out of 1,500) have private verandahs. This is rather on the low side for the newest ships being designed for North American passengers -- but on the high end among European ones. Cabins come in the usual configurations including insides (that measure at about 150 square ft.), more elaborate mini-suites (279 square ft.), a bigger suite (337 sq. ft.) and 10 Grand Suites (456 square ft.). There are 29 cabins designated for disabled passengers. I sailed in a standard balcony stateroom that measured 220 square ft., and if you've traveled on any Carnival ships lately you'll do a double-take as it looks almost identical. It features twin beds that can be converted into a queen size bed and a large leather sofa that can be converted to a third bed. There is a large working table. Closet areas are spacious enough for a seven-night cruise, and there is also a locked minibar (which will be opened upon request), a safe, a multi-function telephone and an interactive TV, although surprisingly, not yet a flat screen model (flat screen models are in the suites, though). The shower-only bathroom is spacious. The balconies are a decent size and have glass rather than steel balustrades. Unfortunately, many passengers still opt to smoke cigarettes on their balconies so your effort to get fresh air may feel more like a pub-stop. A round of applause: Costa Concordia has a handful of cabins -- insides only, measuring a cozy 150 square ft. -- to accommodate single travelers. It's one of the rare new-builds to include cabins for solo passengers. Guests who really want the full spa experience can book one of 55 Samsara cabins or 12 Samsara suites on Deck 10 with direct access (via spiral staircase or elevator) to the two-deck facility. Though no bigger than their non-spa counterparts, Samsara staterooms offer extras not found in "regular" staterooms, including flat-screen TV's and Samsara bath products. Passengers who book one of these spa-exclusive cabins receive a "Welcome Ritual" package, which includes an invitation to a relaxing tea ceremony, a personalized consultation, a choice of two spa treatments, a choice of two fitness or meditation lessons, two tanning sessions, unlimited use of in-spa perks such as the thalassotherapy pool, and a reserved table in the Samsara Restaurant (guests can also opt to eat in the main restaurants or Club Concordia). Entertainment Dancing is a popular pastime for Europeans, and Costa Concordia provides an excellent choice of venues. What is more, the ship offers no less than twelve live bands or musicians nightly -- playing everything from classical music to piano melodies, and from popular dance music to the latest hits. During the daytime, there are even Latin dance classes in the pool area. The enclosed, double-deck Lido Riviera Magica features another novelty for Costa. It's got a poolside movie screen. Here, passengers are required to pay to watch the movie; admission fees range from 6.95 euros (and includes one complimentary non-alcoholic drink) to 8.69 euros (with an alcoholic drink). As there are so many language barriers, passengers wear earphones. Typically movies are shown, but you can expect to see major sporting events, too, such as soccer matches. The most popular nightly event is the aforementioned interactive passenger game shows in the Grand Bar Berlino. Despite the need to translate everything into multiple languages, the cruise staff is able to charm cruise passengers into participating in games such as "Election of Ms. Human Cannon Ball," "Election of the Ideal Couple," or the Gypsy Night. More mature programming can be found some nights in the disco, such as "Sexy Night" with a striptease theme (no nudity, however), which, not surprisingly, attracted huge crowds to watch a too-short performance. For Formula One fans, the sexiest new feature onboard is cruising's first ever Formula One simulator. A racecar aficionado myself, I'd love to tell you how it works -- but it was broken throughout my cruise. Fitness & Recreation Costa Concordia has four swimming pools, two of which are located under the sliding glass roofs. Adjacent to both of them are whirlpools. Generally, the new magrodomed midship pool area (Lido Riviera Magica) is reserved for adults only, while families with kids can use the smaller Lido Riviera Mediterraneo pool (at aft of the same Deck 9). There is also a small kids' splash pool and an outdoor pool with a slide on Deck 11, but it is not used during cold weather. In line with operating Concordia year-round in the Mediterranean, its Samsara Spa is one of the most elaborate afloat. Measuring in at over 20,000 square ft., the two-deck Samsara Spa (Samsara is a Sanskrit word meaning "the continual spiritual search for nirvana") features rooms with varying ambience; one might carry a Japanese theme, another is Indian-Bollywood and a third evokes tropical jungle (there's an actual shower in the couples' sauna that's designed to resemble a rainforest -- the water rains down from tiny holes in the ceiling). The facility also features two tanning areas: on one side, there are loungers for catching rays from the actual sun, while on the other side you can bake under a lamp with a timer adjusted specifically for your skin type. There's also an indoor thalassotherapy pool, and 10 out of 12 treatment rooms feature access to a spa-only balcony. The fitness facility is state of the art and there are daily classes for yoga, spinning and Pilates, each for a nominal fee of 9 euros. Family Squok Club, located Deck 10 amidships, is the best kids' facility in the Costa fleet (though it's no match for the more sophisticated and spacious children's centers on North American ships). Part of that is because it's larger and better equipped; the outdoor component, with splash pools, is also positive. The multilingual staff provides activities for four age groups: Mini Club is for 3- to 6-year-olds, Maxi Club for 7- to 11-years-old with areas for treasure hunts, sailor knot lessons, drawing, miming and theme parties; the Teen Junior Club, for 12 to 14 year olds and TeenZone for 15- to 17-year-olds. For them, activities include sports competitions, photography and graffiti lessons, pool parties with a midnight swim plus music, dancing and karaoke. A 24-hour arcade is located on Deck 5, next to the Casino Barcelona. Fellow Passengers Costa has the most wide ranging appeal, geographically speaking, of any cruise line in Europe. It appeals hugely to families -- you can see many generations onboard, and surprisingly, during my Thanksgiving cruise, there were also many American teenagers onboard. Dress Code There are two formal/gala nights during a seven-night voyage, while the rest are casual and informal. But even during formal evenings, many Europeans tend to dress rather casually. Gratuity There is a hotel service charge of 6 euros per person, per day. 15 percent is automatically added to bar bills.

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