Recently we travelled to Europe for the first time. As new retirees, and having disposed of children, we decided to travel for a month encompassing a cruise around the Greek Islands and then onto a European River Cruise, which I will rave about in another review.
As I said, new to travelling so the first mistake was to fly without a break from Adelaide (Sth Australia) to Singapore, 6 hours layover then an 11hr flight to Athens. Another 4.5 hrs layover before a short flight to Heraklion (Crete). Singapore Airlines was fabulous, second leg was Agean Air and ok.
By the time we got to Heraklion we were tired, hungry, smelly and ready for bed. Not really the thing to do when boarding a ship at 1:30pm. Embarkation process was long even though we were the only two people waiting to board Costa's Atlantica. Other passengers were trickling in slowly that day, most had boarded in Rhodes.
Although our luggage left for the ship long before we did, it arrived an hour after we did. So the shower & fresh clothes had to wait. Italians don't do anything in a hurry.
Our cabin was roomy with a balcony and a few hundred dollars more than an internal cabin. Worth it in the long run although Australians get charged a lot more than Europeans booking the same cruise, as I found out from fellow passengers. The bed was comfy, two large singles pushed together to make a king. Airconditioning was controllable and quite often needed to be turned down even though the weather was warm, September and 35-38 degrees Celsius.
The Costa Atlantica is very spacious, holds 2680 passengers and 'over the top' with italian gaudiness. But their demographics are the Italians and they love all that stuff.
As with most cruises, you have a choice of either restaurant (waited on) or buffet (all you can eat) venues for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you queue in the buffet, watch out for elbows and pushing and shoving. Australians, English and Americans are not used to the rudeness of these people (mainly Italians and Germans). But for variety we tried the buffet a few times and learnt to dive in like the rest of them.
The food was high quality in both venues but aimed at Italians with very little fresh leafy greens. Most salads were covered in dressing of some sort and most contained pasta & potatoes amongst the various european vegetables.
Food was plentiful and it was sad to see plates initially piled high and left half empty for the rubbish.
Service by Cabin and Restaurant staff was excellent, mostly Phillipinos and they are excellent in making you feel extra special. Happy, always smiling and go out of their way for you.
We did not attend the evening entertainment, most of it was in Italian and like everything else, not aimed at other nationalities.
All messages over the 'loud-speaker' were in 5 languages - Italian, Spanish, German, French and English last. If the ship was sinking, you would feel the water before you heard the message.
The main reason why we chose this cruise line was for the ports of call and the excursions. We embarked in Heraklion and visited Kos, Samos, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Izmir (Turkey) and disembarked at Heraklion.
Of the 2100 passengers, 250 were classed as English speaking and most that we spoke to had pre-booked their excursions. The excursions were Costa's downfall.
Of the 6 we pre-booked, 3 were cancelled. Another Australian couple had booked 8 and 7 of theirs were cancelled. On asking the excursion director, the reason was "Not enough English speaking people booked the excursions" - sorry, that didn't cut it with us. Many other English speaking passengers had theirs cancelled and no discussion, no other options, no alternatives were given to us. Yes, we got a refund but this didn't help us get to the sites we wanted to see.
We had to make our own way around some of the islands, which was better and cheaper but we had no help from the cruise line. In fact, quite often we were given wrong information about what was available on the islands.
Quite a few of us agreed, after discussions with many other 'english' passengers, that they just couldn't be bothered obtaining English speaking guides for the excursions. Strange, as English is second language to the Greeks.
If I had the chance again, I would hire taxis in most locations and find our own way to the excursion sites. Example: Costa charged 56 euros pp for a 2hr trip to Lindos (which was cancelled for us) We hired Mike, taxi driver who used to live in Adelaide!, had him for 5.5 hours, visited Lindos, Butterfly Valley and other sightseeing places for 50 euros each. That day worked out in our favour.
Disembarkation was smooth and quick and I was glad to move onto the next part of our holiday.
To summarise, I would definitely revisit the Greek Islands but I will never bother to cruise with Costa again.