COSTA DELIZIOSA: BALTIC CRUISE ALL GREAT PORTS BUT . . .
1. Bad food badly cooked. Absence of fresh ingredients renders all dishes bland, often breaded and undercooked, covered with glop. Even pizza and minestrone not Italian on this over-Italian fiasco that does not represent Italy well. Hot food is seldom hot. The coffee is no good. There is no menu on display at any time. Everything is over-salted. Pasta everywhere. The joke is these not-so sophisticated Europeans are all pretending to be enjoying themselves with their constant reliance on wine and bottled water but the food is half outright inedible, half same-old same-old. The cheapest ingredients prevail. For instance, the apple juice is only 10% of fruit origin.
2. Temperature issues. Zero air circulation can render the Albatros Restaurant -- effectively their only -- uncomfortably hot and humid. The Buffet area can be way too cold. Cigarette smoke prevails in corridors and gathering places.
3. There is no buffet option after lunch, only a pizza bar that the hungry over-rely on despite its lack of flavor. Plastic food. Cheese is everywhere "cheesefood". No pizza ten through ten, only a tea and coffee station that can run out of milk and be refused absolutely replenishment. "No" is often the answer, mocking laughter the response.
4. While the magician and the mime are good, the general sashay and leap is not choreography (Kim excepted). Except for the jazz trio, the acts are generally mediocre. Fran, the emcee, is useless and not social. She actually upstages each act by announcing her own entrance into the audience after introducing the act by not dousing the backlight. "I HAVE A DREAM" is the worst show I've seen in my life (from NYC I've seen thousands). The lights are aimed at the eyes of the audience. This includes lasers. Not nice, escpecially for old people. Not professional. Amateurism abounds throughout. Salting the food injures the old particularly. In the general melee, old people are actually in danger -- on the fjord trip one gentleman fell amid the onboard confusion and had to have his leg amputated that day.
5. Since you pay in euro for everything, Costa can exact an exorbitant rate of exchange along with their already exorbitant price for everything (except medical attention). They tack on four or five cents US per euro. You want room service, it will cost, as will movies in cabin or out. Even ping pong balls cost in this brave new world. Forget the FREE ship's tour. Toss out tradition. You want a beverage? How much you got?
6. Babel. It was obvious from get-go as we wait four hours to be allowed on the ship. Why can't the entire cruise experience be taken into account? More pushing and shoving among Europeans than Americans or Brits, we notice, more xenophobia. No real mixing on the fjord cruise if you're Anglo. Cacophony.
7. Excursions run generally twice the going rate but not in St Petersburg, one tour you have to take because the Russians won't let you in without an expensive and punishing visa processing from them. The $600+ price tag for the weekend seemed safer with Costa than doing business with the Russians, which I found no less dodgy. Problem is Costa tour guides are corrupt and Euro tourists are docile. In our case, we're hauled out of the Hermitage by Olga, which has 45 minutes still to go, and led to this nasty windowless tourist shop on a pearl of a day. I actually witness the bribe go from the shopdealer to the bus driver. When I point this out to Costa, the rep shrugs (always with the comeback) tourist shops are standard on these excursions. Actually that weekend we do another tour with another guide Tatiana whose bus-driver offers to do a drive-by on another tourist site rather than take us to a shop. Tatiana has us vote. She is a country girl, she tells me. Maybe that explains her willingness to give us what we want. But the food offered on lunch both days is a joke. Vegetarians, we get a little pile of plain rice and another pile of frozen peas and carrots.
8. Costa knows all this, and I know they are cynical. I know this from my conversations with the staff, who will readily lie to you. An unnecessary conversation with the chief service person Katia (this our first request) consisted of a tirade from her when all we asked for was a discreet chat with the maitre'd. No library, by the way. The books are literally trash.
10. Invasive overuse of the speakers in languages most of us don't understand. One comes to ignore them as tasteless pitches for more business. Evidently other than silly games the few free events this ship offers are but brief pitches for our financial expenditure. Exception, a decent lecturer who gave but two in each 12-day period.
PLUS THE NORWAY FJORD CRUISE FAILS IN HALF ITS PORTS . .
It's just that Costa is so cheap we wind up in cargo ports and places useless to non-excursionists. Finally, are those of us so few who don't want to queue up and sit down and be led around like children? Are ports ships can berth in becoming useless for the traveler? It's true that the three ports out of seven I take issue with as deeply dull (Honningsvag, Leknes, Andalsnes) I secured some payoff out of (a herd of reindeer, a stave church, a 19th c. octagon church) but we could have done so much better in near-by real ports. Nice as Norwegians are, their cost of living is the highest in the world, twice NYC! It's also cold, windy and fickle with fog and showers, so inevitably you end up with a respiratory ailment, especially with this nonfood we're trying to survive on. I think the fjords are overrated, at least from what I've seen on this cruise. Alaska's Inside Passage is but half the price and Vancouver is a great port. Just rent a car for a week and head to Denali. Sure, the euro is $1.24 but there are people here who charge you $1.49 anyway. For two cups of java and one danish in a modest dive in Bergen, we were charged 132 Kroner, which comes to $30.
We thought Costa, being the biggest fleet in Europe, would double-down and raise their ante for excellence. Instead, having cruised four continents with them in the past, I think they're cashing in on the credibility achieved by other more accountable brands. I could never have imagined there could be such a confluence of disappointments possible within one established brand. Without meaning offense, I'd say the Concordia disaster is completely understandable under the circumstances. As well as default as a mode, this two-year old ship has serious air issues they're aware of. It is not a good value. It does not represent the industry. Europe is losing its way. While US and Canada become more European, Europe has dumbed down. In 55 years of sailing the food is the worst we've seen on a cruise ship. We both became ill
from it as a consequence. Neither of us ever do vendetta, but in this instance
we feel the information should be out there. There is a lot more negatives we
could cite such as St Petersburg ballet which did not have an elevator forcing
the patrons (one coming in a wheelchair) to be hauled up several flights only to get half-sight of a stage for their dream of a lifetime. St Petersburg, they
say, is nine months of anticipation and three months of disappointment. That
could very well be MO of the Costa Deliziosa instead of the lie "Experience pure pleasure" while they bombard you with videos in Italian of gold facials.
How delude yourself with extras when half the basics are missing?
Our last meal with them, by the way, was a total disaster -- impossible for anyone to eat. It's hard not to believe giving us the worst meal of the trip was the chef's way of saying good-bye. Costa-style.