I travelled with my 87 year old mother and booked the trip two weeks prior because the price was so good.
We arrived in Miami a day early and rented a car at Dollar car rental for a great rate of $23.00 total, much cheaper than taking a taxi, plus we had the car for a day to travel around. The next day we returned the car to the airport and they provided a free shuttle to the cruise port. We were there around 12:00 p.m. and there were already quite a few people there, even though our ship wasn't sailing until 9:00 p.m. We were quickly on board and went to the 9th floor for something to eat until our rooms were ready, which was about 2:00.
I have previously travelled on Princess and Royal Caribbean and have always booked an inside room, except for a 12 day Mediterannean cruise that I took with my husband where we booked an oceanview room. It never made sense to me to spend money on the room as we only sleep and change there. However, I really did enjoy the balcony. I kept the curtains open and woke up to a view of the ocean. I also kept the door open at night so that we could hear the sound of the ocean. In the morning I would go on the balcony and read a little before going for breakfast. The room was a good size and our room steward was great. I still wouldn't pay a lot extra for a balcony in the future, but this was only $40.00 a week more each person and it offered an onboard credit of $100.00.
I was worried about the reviews of Costa, mainly the smoking on the ship. I've been trying to get my husband to quit smoking for over 30 years and I hate the smell of smoke. There were smoking areas, but there were also a lot of non smoking areas, so it really didn't cause a problem. There is smoking in the casino and would go through the casino to get to the theatre, youcould also get to the theatre from another floor though, so if it really bothered you, you could avoid it. Some of the reviews said you could smell the smoke in your room from adjoining cabins, but we couldn't smell anything.
When we first boarded, the ship seemed very ornate. There are many mirrors and lots of gold, but you soon get used to that.
The reviews also said that there were no drinks (water, coffee, tea, juice, etc.) and that you were forced to buy a drink package. This was not the case, water, coffee, tea, juice were offered for breakfast. There was water, coffee, tea, ice tea for lunch. Water was available all day on the pool decks. You could get drinking water in the dining room for supper. As I don't drink, it didn't make sense to do the unlimited drinking package at $250 a week (especially as you have to get it for both people in the room). However, if you do drink, this is a really good deal as it included capuccino, tea, coffee, pop, wine, alcoholic drinks and beer.
The food was a little different, but good. There was always something to choose from. The eggs in the buffet were a little runny, but there is a station that you can get fried eggs, omelets, etc. There was always pancakes, french toast, bacon (a little undercooked for me), fruit, cereal, yogurt, and wonderful pastries. Lunch was great, lots to choose from, as well as a pizza bar and hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. Supper was also very good. The servings were small, but more than enough as there was 5 courses. The desserts were good, but no cheesecake, etc., but more than enough to choose from.
The animation team always looked like they were having a great time. It was fun to just watch or join in the activities and dancing lessons by the pool. They had exercises every day on the deck, which was really nice. At 9:00 a.m. there was usually a yoga type of stretch, which was a great way to start the day. At 9:30 a.m. there was an abs session or aqua exercise session. At 5:00 p.m. there was another exercise session, either stretch or aerobics or abs. I really enjoyed these. There was a large slide at the back of the boat that was great for both kids and adults. There is a kids club, but I didn't check this out as our grandchildren weren't with us on this cruise, but I did see some staff with a group of children and the kids seemed to be having a good time. There wasn't any problem with children running all over the place on this cruise, everyone seemed to take care of their kids. Some people still put their things on a lounger and then not show up for a few hours, even though they do ask you not to do that. Unfortunately some people are just inconsiderate.
There are three pools and four hottubs. The only negative was that the hottubs could have been hotter, especially the ones on deck. The one in the spa area was okay. My mother likes to spend a good deal of time in the hottubs as it helps her arthritis. The gym was really nice, had three small levels with different exercise equipment. The spa in the same area and has showers, sauna and steam bath, hot tub and a few loungers for relaxing. There is no extra fee to go to this area.
The shows in the evening were okay, not the best, but a nice way to end the day. One show was very good, it was with a singer and a guy that stood on his hands on two sticks and did all kinds of antics. He was amazing. The singers and dancers were also good. I've enjoyed the shows on the Princess better. There are quite a few little bars that have singers around the ship, but were very good. The casino was always full and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
I can't say much about the islands as we mainly got off and walked around the port, but didn't really do anything on the islands as my mother wasn't really up to doing a lot of touring. I've already been to most of the Carribean, so I was fine with just spending time relaxing. As we didn't have kids with us, it wasn't a big deal to go to the beach. We're also going to the Dominican in February, so we'll be on a beach for a week. We mainly went to rest and enjoy the sun. In Ocho Rios we just wanted to walk into town. The people there were a little upset that we didn't want to take the $2.00 taxi ride into town, but we really just wanted to walk around. Some were a little rude. It is definitely must least favourite port and I probably won't go back to Jamiaca. We were there around 20 years ago with our kids. There are many other places I would rather be. Other people really enjoyed Belize and Roatan (my family at home were very concerned that I not get off on those islands as they are supposed to be dangerous - however, everyone really enjoyed themselves). The people right in the port were very nice and friendly. Everyone said the trip to the Mayan ruins in Belize was wonderful, however, it was a 7 hour trip and would have been too much for my mother. One woman that took the shore excursion with the ship said the people were complaining it was too hot and they wanted to cut the lecture short and just go to the beach. She was very disappointed as the lecture was really good. That's the problem with going on a large tour, they have to please everyone. Whereas if you arrange to go on your own or with a few people, you can cater your tour to what you want. Three of the people at our dining table went on their own and had a wonderful time. I was reluctant to go with them because of the warnings from my family. The cost of that trip wasn't much different than what was offered on the ship. I believe paid $75.00 a person and the one booked through the ship was about $85.00. The tour in Roatan was only about $25.00 per person to tour the island, and they really enjoyed that. It's quite a bit more if booked on the ship. However, it might be safer.
When we were disembarking I overheard a woman say she couldn't wait to get off the ship, which surprised me, but there are some people that you just like to complain. As I was packing very light I didn't bring shampoo, conditioner and body lotion as I thought they'd supply that. They did have shampoo and I had to request body lotion. They didn't have conditioner, so I bought that in Jamaica. It was a little confusing at times for my mother, as all the announcements were usually done in five languages (Italian, English, French, German and Spanish), but I didn't find that a problem. She has a hearing problem and obviously they had to speak quickly to get the announcements in. I think she had a hard time differentiating between the languages, as she kept saying they don't speak any English. It was really nice to see so many different nationalities together. I would definitely travel with Costa again. The ship was very clean and the staff were wonderful. We met many nice people and had a wonderful time.