I took this tour because of my longstanding interest in the Norwegian Fjords, and due to the fact that the timing fit nicely into a larger trip throughout Europe. I scoured cruise review sites, and noted a mixed bag of reviews about Costa. In talking to their agents over the phone, I was less than impressed: When I called about the Norwegian cruise, Costa agents twice told me to call another cruise line. I had to instruct the agents that they actually sailed to this destination. Because of prior reviews, and this experience, I set my expectations very low for this first cruise of ours, which I booked with my wife.
The embarkation procedure went very smoothly. Within a few minutes of our arrival at the dock, we were processed and walked the gang plank. Once on board, there were smiling faces of employees stationed everywhere, directing us to our stateroom. It was a fantastic start of the journey, and Costa correctly anticipated that 2000 very confused people would need directions.
We toured the ship and noticed how clean it was. This organization appears to have cleanliness as a corporate ideal. Throughout the cruise, employees could be seen cleaning and polishing. My only concern about cleanliness was that the gym, a fabulous workout facility, had no disinfectant and wipes to clean the equipment. I went to the bathroom, stole some hand towels, and wiped the equipment with H2O.
We wondered whether Italy's new smoking ban law would be in effect on the cruise. It was not, and smokers were everywhere. Curiously, while there was no smoking in the dining room and at the lounges by the bars, you could step a few yards away and stand or sit at the bar and smoke at your pleasure. Did not any make sense. We did not smell smoke in our room, which was a big plus, given that smokers can smoke in their rooms.
The stateroom was excellent in design. Every space was used efficiently. We elected to get a category 10 room (the top stateroom deck), and the balcony was under a large overhang. This prevented us from seeing some of the tops of the fiords. It was also under a pool deck, and occasionally, we could hear steps and chairs moving. Next time, I would go down one deck.
The stateroom attendant was fantastic. She kept the room in fine shape, and got us extra pillows, and towels every day.
The crew, mostly from Italy, the Philippines and India, spoke pretty good English. The English hostess was accommodating, but apparently feels that leaving a message on the voice mail system is beneath her. That was the only major complaint about her.
The itinerary was great, although I would have preferred that they stop at more fjords, rather than cities. The Kristainsand stop was a waste. We took excursions at Geiranger and Flam. Both were great, but at one of the excursions, the Costa employee was so concerned about a wheelchair-bound passenger, she forgot that there were 30 or so other paying customers who were lacking in information like where to go and when. We toured the cities on our own, and the Kon Tiki and Viking Ship Museums were very worthwhile.
The activities on board were plentiful. Something for everyone, although we just liked to walk about after dinner.
The food and beverage exceeded our expectations (remember, they were low to begin with). There was some great food in the main dining room, and on two nights, we asked for special meals, that were prepared and presented with cheer by the employees.
The disembarkation procedure was handled pretty well if you are assigned a early slot. However, you need to be out of your room by 8:00, and for those with a later disembarkation time, there is a lot of time to wait about. The gym or pools were not open, and even if they were, your luggage is long gone to a holding station. The transfer to the airport cost 20 Euro a piece. This turned out to be a bargain, for we met up with a new-found friend at the airport who took a taxi that cost him about 80 Euro. He suspected that he was given the scenic ride.
In summary, Costa exceeded our expectations. The staff was great, the food was acceptable to excellent, the itinerary was what we were looking for, and the boat was in excellent condition. If we took another cruise, we would consider using Costa again.