This was our second cruise with Costa (did the Med in 2009) and apart from the food couldn't find a lot wrong with it then. Unfortunately, although the food has improved, they seem to have taken a backward step overall.
Once again we flew into Milan (Malpensa) airport in order to get the Costa transfer coach to the ship. On this occasion we were met by two female Costa reps that were rude, unhelpful and kept all us Brits until the very last coach. The journey to the Cruise Terminal took two and a half hours and check in took another hour, getting us on board thirty minutes before sailing.
Our cabin was spacious, with plenty of wardrobe and drawer space. We had a large, comfortable bed. The en-suite was compact but not cramped and the balcony had enough room for two chairs and a side table. There was also a sofa, TV (only one English-speaking channel, with terrible reception throughout), mini-bar (charges apply) and safe in the cabin. Our luggage arrived within an hour. Later, our cabin steward introduced himself to us and he did a good job of looking after us and our cabin during the cruise.
Breakfast was available a-la-carte in the Michelangelo. For the brave, self service was available in the Christofor Colombo, where you find your plate and cutlery, join a queue to get your food and drink, then find a place to sit - and enjoy! Be prepared for queue-jumping and pushing in from a lot of bad-mannered passengers. There was quite an extensive selection of food, to suit all tastes (but never any baked beans).
Lunch options were the same as for breakfast, and again a wide variety was available.
Dinner had two sittings, 6.45 and 9.15 pm, in both the Michelangelo and the Raffaello restaurants. On the first night you have an allotted time and table, but this can be changed later for the rest of the cruise. This four course meal was waiter service only. There was plenty of choice and the food and service was exceptional.... a vast improvement on our previous cruise with Costa. All beverages, including tea and coffee, had to be paid for, though jugs of iced water were free.
* If you don't use the dining rooms for dinner the only other option was pizza in the Christofor Colombo.
There was also the Club Conte Grande restaurant, which has a premium.
There were up to ten bars available ranging in times from 7.00 am to 1.30.am, serving alcohol (spirits 5.30 for 5cls, wine 4.95 a small glass, draught beer 4.90 for 40cls, or cans 4.95 for 33cls, cocktails 6.95, liqueurs 4.95 for 5cls), soft drinks (2.95 a can), water (1.70 a half litre), tea (2.00) and cappuchino (2.50). *All prices are euros.
Around the ship
There were two small pools with jacuzzis and a larger pool with a water chute (couldn't find the fourth advertised pool). There was also a wellness centre (charge) and a modern fitness centre. There was a disco, a library, a few shops, a theatre and a casino. The casino was a smoking area, as was the adjoining room (doors permanently open), therefore ventilation was poor. Next to the smoking room was the piano bar, also with open doors. Entertainment/shows took place in two showrooms, and the Rex Theatre which covered three decks. Overall we found all of the shows to be quite ordinary. Bingo sessions were held occasionally.
Twenty six of the thirty seven excursions for English-speaking passengers were cancelled. The Tour Office said this was due to a lack of numbers, and unfortunately for safety reasons we were not allowed to go on any of the other language speaking coaches. The Tour Office also had no information about the ports we were visiting, and when we complained we were told "Its a nice day for a walk". *A little research into ports of call before you sail may therefore be of help.
Disembarkation ran smoothly.
Apart from the excursion problems, the overall cruise cost was just about right.