As we got a good deal we decided to try Costa cruises. We have previously done NCL, RCCL, HAL, Celebrity, Carnival and MSC and after MSC we actually decided not to go fo a Italian cruise again. The MSC wold charge you for anytthing and not much was included compared to the american ships - but money talks and we had the AI drink package included in our offer, which turned out to be excellent value.
In order to help to understand the difference between the American shps and Costa I will try to make comparisons during the review.
Arriving at the port we delivered our luggage after having been in a line. At this point you get a boarding number, that should be used n the terminal later. The luggage delivery station was approximately 400 meters from the terminal, so you had to walk from the luggage delivery station to the terminal. At US ships you arrive at the ship and stewards are ready to take your luggage immediately at arrival - no line and not necessary to walk to the terminal.
Arriving at the terminal you will wait until your assigned boarding number is called. Then you are put in a new line to wait for document checking. You don't deliver your credit card details here nor is your photo taken for your key card at this point (New lines for you is coming up).
After the document checking a new long line is waiting for you for security check. Then you are on your way to board the shp, but has to pass to other lines: 1 for another document check and another line to get your photo taken. Finally on board you have 48 hours to provide your credita card details on the machines onboard. On US ships all of the previous is done at check-in and decrease the embarkation time significant. IT took us 2-3 hours from delivering the luggae to board the ship - area for improvement.
The ship itself is beatiful and very well maintained. The decor is quite nice and italian which we did like, though it was difficult to navigate between the parts of the ships, as you could only pass from one end to the other on deck 5 -on deck 3 and 4 you have to go to deck 5 if you had to move from one end to another.
We had balcony cabin 9281, which had an excellent location, as it was near the elevators, lido, buffet and bar. There was no noise from the public areas. The cabin itself was slight wider than on the US ships, so you felt that the cabin was larger than on US ships. It was in good condition and had quit hard beds (Which I liked.
Restaurant & food:
Well this is where the big difference between Costa and US ships really is big.
If you want decent food you HAVE to eat in the main restaurants at your specific seating, as the alternative buffet was nearly none exiting. We tried to the buffet one evening and it was a huge mistake: They only have slad and poor poor quality pizza (2 flavours). The pizzas was the worst we have had ever - there was barely no toppings on these, so I would compare those to a flat bread with a bit of cheese and oil on the top - very poor. On US ships you have a broad variaty of dishes during the evening buffet which are very tasty.
While at the buffet, there is the usual stuff for breakfast including an omelet station. The variaty is OK, but not as much as on US ships. For lunch it was OK, though it was limited variaty.
On US ships you can have Limonade, fruit punch, ice tea or water throughout the day - on Costa you are offered water only, so you had to get other drinks from the bar. There are only very limited personnel to deliver the drinks for you so you will have to line up at the bars to get your drinks.
You can also choose to have dinner in the speciality restaurant but did not try that (25 cover charge). The quality of the food in the main restaurant was so so. Sometimes quite delicious - at other times no taste at all. My wife ordered steak on evening and got a small flat piece of dry meat and approximately 30 french fries - that was all. Portions are small and the variaty are again limited compared to US ships. The US ships will beat Costa by far on the food choices, quantity and quality - so don't go Costa if food is a priority for you.
If you don't have kids - forget the pools - they are really overcrowded with kids so it is impossible to have a swim or even to find a spare spot where you can dip.
Mainly italians, where you can expect that they smoke more than average, though smoking was not an issue for us - nor inside or outside. You are allowed to smoke in one side of the ship, but the italians smoke all over the ship.
On US ships you have very limited smoking and yoiur fellow passangers are US, which we prefer instead of the quite selfish and noisy italians.
Hey this is great if you are on the AI package. You can order any drinks from the barmenu - except those with a star. The list of drinks available on AI is large and they deliver great drinks including Pina Colada, Daquiries etc.
You can also have specialty coffee on the AI package, but not freshly squizzed juice.
- Don't expect all the "extra" service you get on the US ships.
- The time you are in port is very limited (5 hours or so) compared to the US ships where you will have the most of a day in port.
We did see a show or 2 and liked what we saw. We actually prefer the shows on the italian ships compared to the shows on US ships, as the singers and dancers perform very well. At the US ships it seems like the singers try their best to be the new star like Whitney Houston, Tom Jones etc and it becomes often ofthe a pain to listen too. We prefer if the US singers would relax a bit more and just be themselves.
Would we go Costa again? - not sure even if we felt that it was a better deal than going with MSC. We prefer US ships as you get better overall deals when you include service, quality, quantity and fellow passengers