I was meeting my parents and my sister in Barcelona, due to a work conflict I had to join the cruise a little late. The ship sailed from Rome (Civitavecchia), then to Savona, then Barcelona, so I missed just a couple of days of the trip. I met the ship in Barcelona without much of a problem. The crew was extremely friendly, but a little scatterbrained at times trying to figure the logistics out for my late boarding. A few of them remembered me from that and yelled my name every time they saw me. It was hilarious. I know that my family had to wait about 3 hours during embarkation when they boarded in Rome. They weren't thrilled about that, so I'm glad I missed it. This cruise was immediately (a week or so) after the unfortunate Costa accident, so I anticipated the crew and travelers to be a little on edge, but that was not the case. The crew were amazing and lighthearted, extremely pleasant and accommodating.
The negative reviews I had read were focused on the food, the fellow travelers and the ship's appearance. The reviewers who say that this is a different type of cruise that Americans may not be used to are absolutely correct. The ship was opulent, but in a very Italian way. This isn't a mini-Vegas, but it is a beautiful ship. Our interior room was bigger than I had expected. The bathroom was pretty and spacious. My parents' interior room was laid out differently, larger sleeping area but smaller bathroom. Both rooms were larger than I had anticipated. The food was delicious, but in a European way. No burgers or huge portions, but the quality was excellent. Again, this is a European cruise, not an American cruise. The late night pizza was fantastic. The breakfast buffet was enormous and delicious. The nightly dining room was so good that we never considered dining anywhere else. Our server Jerry was amazing!
The passengers were....well, Italian. Having lived in Italy myself, I understand that social customs are slightly different than what people in the US might be used to. There is a bit of pushiness or less defined personal space rules and they speak a little louder, which may come across as rude if you aren't used to it. It's nothing extreme, just subtle differences that might confuse someone who is sensitive to that sort of thing. The most glaring issue was the lack of English. I speak Italian, but my family does not, so I had to do a fair bit of translating during the trip. The staff does speak English, but most of the passengers don't speak it very well, so it's a little isolating if you are English-speaking and are expecting to meet people.
The ports were awesome. We had so much fun in each one of them. It was very easy to find transportation (like free buses) between the port and the downtown area.
I missed the Savona port stop, so Barcelona was my first one. Barcelona is a great city. I have been several times (though never through a cruise) and have enjoyed it immensely. The port is located pretty far away from the city, you definitely need a bus/cab from where the ship docks. I tried walking from the city to the port and was defeated. As I was embarking from Barcelona, I have no idea what shore excursions were offered. The cruise initially embarked from Rome (Civitavecchia), so I'm sure there were some excursions that I was not privy to. I have but one complaint about the Barcelona stop - it was too short. About 4 hours. Barcelona is a HUGE city, and it would be very tough to get a feel for it in such little time.
Casablanca was next, it was the stop I was most looking forward to, but most hesitant about. The reviews made it sound like a dump, but that was not the case. It was a bit of a hike from the port to the city, but worth it. There is a very authentic feel to this city, which I adore. I personally do not like very touristy areas, I'd prefer to go off the beaten path a bit. Casablanca allowed us to do so. There is a main market that you should stay away from, however. It did not feel safe and we were pushed around a bit. We mostly stayed to main roads and sites, and we had a great time. There is an excursion to Marrakech for the day, which we opted out of. The people who went seemed to have a nice time, though it was a lot of traveling for a short stay. I think that if you are comfortable finding your own things to do and see in Casablanca and aren't afraid of haggling in stores or dining in local eateries, you'll be fine staying in the city. If not, maybe the Marrakech excursion is a better option.
Next up were the Canary Islands, Arrecife and Tenerife. Holy crap, Arrecife/Lanzarote is awesome! I HIGHLY recommend the Timanfaya park/camel ride excursion. It was unbelievable. I have about 500 photos from that excursion alone. It was the best port on the trip, hands down. The volcanos are stunning. Most of the island is volcanic, it's really fascinating. The camels are so much fun to ride. We learned a lot about the islands and it was so much fun! The tour ended with a wine tasting at the island's winery. Go on this excursion, you will not regret it!
We did not go on any excursions on Tenerife, we just did some shopping and enjoyed the scenery. It was a little bit of a snooze town, but nice to be in. A little expensive.
The last stop was Malaga, Spain. It was a nice town, again very pretty. We had a great time wandering, shopping, eating and just enjoying our last couple of days on the cruise together. Not sure I'd go back to Malaga, but they definitely had great shopping.
Overall, I would recommend this cruise. It was a lot of fun, and the port stops were pretty great. I would absolutely cruise with Costa again, I'm looking into a Nordic cruise for next year.