The Costa Tropicale is a small ship by today's standards, holding just 1,022 passengers. However, as the former Carnival Tropicale, it has been completely refurbished in conjunction with its transfer to the Costa division. Color schemes are light and festive. The ship home ports in Brazil during our winter and during the rest of the year sails from either Savona (Genoa) or Venice, Italy. The ship will sail the rest of this season from Venice offering Saturday departures on 7-night cruises to Dubrovnik Croatia, Corfu, Itea and Argostolli Greece, Kotor Montenegro, Raevenna, Italy and back to Venice. We got to experience the Tropicale on a special 4-night early-June cruise to Dubrovnik, Croatia and Corfu, Greece. The third planned stop at Kotor Montenegro was cancelled without explanation and instead the ship spent a half day at Korcula, Croatia. Dubrovnik and Corfu are excellent stops, the former with its walled enclosure of the old town and the latter with many narrow streets filled with shops and a "castle" overlooking the main city of Corfu Town. We were disappointed to not get to stop at Kotor, Montenegro, an emerging country, especially since no reason was ever given. The ship did sail Kotor Bay, best described as a long fjord on the Adriatic Sea that one would more expect up in Norway. Lonely Planet describes Unesco listed Kotor as "a big secret."Excursions were offered at all stops but we did not take any as the towns were close to the ports and easy to walk to. Independently we took a half-day trip via hydrofoil to Sarande, Albania from Corfu. There was not much to do there and little to buy but we can now say we've been to Albania. Roundtrip was EUR 30 or about $35. Other comments:SHOPPING: Logo shop, clothing store, perfume store and liquor "closet." Rather disappointing selection of merchandise.FOOD: Very good to excellent. Italian dishes of course but plenty of steaks and prime rib for us meat & potato people. Two seatings in the Corallo Restaurant. Fast friendly service. Buffet service at the Buffet Giada although this was not open at dinner time. LOUNGES/CASINO: Excellent Italian show-band in the Miami Ball Room playing classic Italian dance tunes and familiar American songs kept the dance floor full in all age groups. Duke Piano Bar and Casablanca Bar usually full as well. The disco is called Club Bahai and catering to European tastes did not open until 1am but was crowded and played plenty familiar U.S. dance hits as well as the required 70's tunes. Costa's "Animation Team" did an excellent job of getting people out of their chairs and on to the dance floor at both the Miami Ballroom and at Club Bahai. Casino stayed crowded late as well; slots did not appear very generous though.PASSENGERS: 80% of the passengers were Italian with the rest from other European countries. We were told there were just 35 primary-English speakers on board and only a handful of those were Americans. Not a problem though....we were a "novelty" and treated friendly by crew & passengers. They were surprised to find Americans on board. People were very well-dressed in the evening with many expensive Italian brand names showing. Crewmembers spoke English. Ship announcements were made in 5 languages. My son participated in the Teen Group; all the other teens were Italian yet they all managed to communicate! The teen Team Leader was quite pleasant. EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION: As you arrive you are assigned a Group Number and groups are boarded in sequential order. It pays to arrive early if you want to get aboard early. Standard method of getting off based on baggage tag color codes. Red is first off, brown is last. Overall, a great experience which I highly recommend, particulary if you want an international experience with few Americans. Those Italians like to party and you'll have a great time!
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