The selection of this cruise was 1. By season, as we can only close our own place certain times of the year, 2. by itinerary, 3. By home port, from Bavaria to Savona it is a 1 day drive, and 4. yes the price did play its part when deciding between candidates.
My parents (DH's parents in law) paid for the cruise as a gift this was not foreseen but a gift very much appreciated. As a result they booked through the Costa Antwerp (Benelux) callcentre as it serves Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands where they live.
Epic fail: the callcentre has trouble communicating in Dutch, they are essentially francophone... and since then all communications came in French (in which we are very very rusty) or in Italian (which to us is all but incomprehensible).
Epic fail #2: the website loses all your details once you put them in. And we tried several times. In the end we got lucky once, but the parents did not, so had to fill in the papers again by hand in Savona.
Epic Fail #3: when the cabin assignments came (we had booked 2 identical standard insides, as we do not tend to spend much time in there anyway), they were 8239 (deck 8, starboard almost all the way forward) and 1414, (deck 1, port side, almost all the way aft)
They could not have put us further apart if they tried; and they were unwilling to change us to 2 cabins remotely together or even near the same elevator shaft. I mean we are all adults and adjacent cabins are not needed, but being the entire length, the width, AND the height of the ship apart is surely over the top?
In the end we were instructed to ask at Guest services onboard.
Upon arrival at the port, we were directed the wrong way down a 1-way lane, almost causing a head-on collision with a shuttle bus, and then our pre booked valet parking was nowhere to be found. After losing our temper with a parking attendant, we were directed to the right place.
In the terminal, we got priority boarding to be able to ask about a cabin change. Very nice. On board, we got a very blunt NO. The ship was allegedly fully booked. We now know that there are two standard answers of guest services on board - sometimes even before you finish your sentence. The whole attitude is "Oh why don't you just go away".
After unpacking we proceeded to have a look around Costa Magica and it is a very nice ship, if sometimes a bit OTT. Then to the muster drill which was very thorough, and very polite but firm with those who thought they should be exempt. When we met the parents, they told us that their cabin steward did not understand why we could not be together since his whole corridor was basically empty. Father and daughter went back to guest services, where we said that we were furious about being lied to, the ship was far from full. One employee said rudely to the other in Italian: "they booked a cheap inside, I am surely not going to do anything about this, and if I start moving them everybody will want to move". I understand some basic Italian and translated in English to my father. My father then even volunteered to pay for an upgrade, but they insisted this was not possible either. Instead of being ashamed that we had understood what they said, we were still being treated as second rate citizens. The whole attitude for the duration of the cruise at the guest relations desk was "I don't know, I don't care and why don't you just go away".
The service in the restaurant and by the cabin attendant was exemplary, really friendly and correct. The cabin was spotlessly clean and everything was in working order. In my parents' cabin there was a TL-light which started flashing in the bathroom during the cruise, this was immediately fixed and they even received a phone call later in the day to check if everything was ok now.
The food in the restaurant was fabulous. The portions are very small, but this allows you to sample all the 7 courses. Note: the buffet is closed in the evening during the meal times in the main dining rooms, you can get pizza until 6 pm and after 9.30 pm, but that is it. If you are a buffet diner, do not go on Costa. We found all the staff to speak english, italian and at least 1 other language.
Shows: a bit loud (the volume level), but not badly produced and taking into consideration that when there was spoken content they tried to do text in 5 languages, still 'all right'. That said, the shows just were not as entertaining as on other cruises, and were at just under 45 minutes a bit short. They were also squeezed in between early and late dinner seatings making people rush in from dessert of their early seating, or rush out early not to keep their tablemates waiting for the late seating.
If we do not sail Costa again it will be because of the reservation/ guest service desk experience. The operational side excepting the front desk of the ship runs very well, but other lines in our opinion can match that experience without the drawbacks.
If you are not dealing with the Antwerp callcentre, your experience with the reservation department might differ from ours. Whether the front desk of Magica is representative of the line as a whole? We would guess so, as it was most of the team reacting as they did, but who knows, if we do take another Costa cruise they might show us different.