SMOKE OR DIE, OR BOTH. Great Cruise if you like second hand smoke everywhere you go.
We booked a 7 night cruise on Costa Cruises from Venice to Greece particularly to visit the sites of Olympia and Athens, for our daughter who had studied the Greek legends. She is 4.75. This was accomplished.
Before offering my negative comments, I do want to say that the staff on the boat was wonderful. Rarely have I seen so many people working so hard to make the cruise a success, and for so little in wages. It is clear the the cruise line pays extremely low wages because almost all the staff was from disadvantaged countries in Central America, South America, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. These hard workers not only provided service, they did it in 4-6 different languages! Italian, English, Spanish, French, were basic, plus some Portuguese and Russian, and other languages. Unlike some other reviewers, we did not have any language problems with the other passengers or any staff.
However, Costa Cruises is not friendly to NON-smokers and it was like riding in a smoke filled room for 7 days and nights. I felt like our boat was trailing a smoke cloud down the Adriatic Sea. Costa allows smoking in all the bars and lounges, including Guest reception. This interior smoke permeates the entire boat, and can be smelt in the cabin and even in other areas and on decks that do not have smoking. By the pool, there are supposed to be both smoking and non-smoking areas. I could never find any non-smoking area, there was smoke everywhere. It was so bad that on the last morning when there was smoke inside the non-smoking restaurant, no smoke alarm went off, and most people ignored it, even though it was clear that the smoke was not from cigarettes. I became ill from the smoke with a sinus infection, beginning day 2, as did my wife and daughter. Although Costa purports to offer a free medical checkup if you develop signs of influenza (and I had at least 4 symptoms) we could not obtain one.
This was not my previous cruise experience and in my opinion, it is completely inappropriate to put a persons unhealthy recreational habit in higher priority to the good health of another. We did not book a cruise to be sneezing, coughing and uncomfortable for 7 days just so others could puff away like a teepee of American Indians.
It is also my opinion that Costa needs to come into the 21st Century. Smoking is now recognized as a serious health hazard to non-smokers, and smoking is banned in offices, restaurants and modes of transport (planes and trains) in respect to the health of others. Smoking bans on planes also are a recognition that smoking constitutes a FIRE HAZARD, something that is really a problem on a cruise ship.
I see a lot of reviews making negative comments about the food, deservedly so. First, the tap water is not drinkable in the cabin, rather important because you must pay 7.50 E for the bottle of water (I thought it was complementary until I read the fine print, but I could replace it once I got the drink package.) THEREFORE, YOU MUST GET THE DRINK PACKAGE for 19.50 E per person per day, everyone in the reservation must get it. Lunch buffet was pretty ordinary unless you were able to find a carving station, but they moved them from day to day and you had to search by the smoke filled central pool area to find them. Any pasta station had a long line. The breakfast buffet was good but it took me several days to realize that they were offering an omelette station. No ketchup/chili sauce/salsa/condiments with breakfast. The dinners were great if you had just been released from prison in Bulgaria. We shared a table with another couple and I think everyone sent back at least one plate during the cruise. There were 7 courses per meal, Appetizer, Soup, Pasta, Main plate, Salad, Cheese and dessert. The portions enabled you to order all 7 courses and not be stuffed. In all fairness, though most of the choices were pretty bland, I enjoyed the Osso Bucco and the Veal Shanks on separate nights, just the portion was so small, 4 bites.
We also had service issues the first night, table not set up correctly, missing plates, glasses, cutlery that was not provided during the meal; and one of our group got 3 courses served so late that we had all finished our course before his came. When I reported this to management, I was told that this happens first night of a cruise, but this does not make any sense, because the staff was not there for their first night. I must say that the problems were resolved immediately, and our serve staff was very attentive after that.
We won't be booking on COSTA again, until it changes its policies towards smoking and bans smoking from the interior of the ship and in any eating area, including around the pool.
I want to commend our Steward, Juan Alvarado, our waiters Jose and Jorge at table 16 in the restaurant. and our photographer, Michael who each provided wonderful service. Juan Alvarado was an absolute pleasure and greeted us with warmth and a smile every day. He made us fell like were there for a family visit.
The boat- claims to have 5500 works of art. Well, if you count the nudes on the wallpaper in the corridors, maybe. Some of these "works of art" are large pixeled photo reproductions of actual art. There are some very nice sculptures by the pools, if you can see them through the smoke. (jk :)) We did see the tea set but no coins. The marionettes were nice. But we mostly saw them the first day when exploring because these were in bars and lounges where smoking was mandatory and we could not stand to go into them after day 2. I am still coughing as I write this.
The boat was a comfortable cruise. But we missed Santorini because "there was no comfortable anchorage due to winds and waves, not good for the transfers". So the chart of our cruise showed a hard right turn after we were 5 hours out of Athens. Then we cruised to Corfu at 9 knots, after having gone SSE at 17-19 knots. The smoke cloud we were trailing caught up to us. In all fairness, we did have some rolling during the cruise between Athens and Corfu, and at a higher rate of speed, even the 100,000 tons could have been unsteady.
One bad aspect of sharing the cruise with 3450 smokers and 50 non smokers (jk, again) was that we created our own crowds everywhere we went. When we arrived at Katakolon for Olympia, there were 25 buses lined up for the Costa Cruise excursions. We took Katakolon Express and were the first bus out and to Olympia 20 minutes earlier than the other ones. By the time we left, we could have walked back to the harbor on the tops of the buses. BTW- HIGHLY RECOMMEND KATAKOLON EXPRESS/PIRAEUS EXPRESS for their Olympia/Athens tours.
I thought the furnishings were very tasteful and comfortable, lounges, restaurants and theatres. Our cabin had 2 drop down twin beds to sleep 4. But we all piled into the 2 twins pushed together.
The Internet package was $$$$$$$, unbelievable in this day. Equal to 3 months of service at home, at least.
Squok Club for kids was conducted in Italian, but daughter is flexible and made friends in all languages. She produced coloring and a mask. They had a stage production the 5th day that they all participated in, very nice with lots of costumes. They did show movies, in Italian, which included Tangled and Wreck it Ralph, both of which we knew. Since daughter is a movie-a-holic, she was happy. Daughter was sold on going to Squok Club from day one and never said she did not want to go. We explored Corfu without her, and while I was sorry she missed the Mon Repos museum and Mouse Island (which is a little itty bitty teeny weeny island at the end of the peninsula near the airfield on which there lives a little itty bitty teeny weeny itsy bitsy mouse) I am sure she would have complained about the walking, she was happy at Squok Club.
I used the fitness club a couple of times, particularly to avail myself of the steam room to try to clear up my sinuses. Good variety of machines, busiest from 9-11, very quiet before and after. Steam room was great. There was an internal Jacuzzi there, co-ed, but mostly a geriatric hot tub party. I did not see anyone under 55 use it.
Overall: so so, even through the smoke. Poor because of it.