If this was the first cruise I've been on, I would probably never go on another cruise again. Thankfully I have been other on cruises and am not turned off from the experience only from ever booking with Costa again.
First off, while getting on board the ship there was not a single person at the port to direct us to where the ship was and had to ask other cruise ship liaisons where to go. Once we found the ship, the lines were completely unorganized with a mass mob trying to push their way to leave luggage before boarding the ship. Once we get in we are asked to fill out the medical form, without being offered any pens, so as I am about to fill out the form with my own pen, one of the Costa members grabbed it out of my hand then asked if she could borrow it, used it and threw it on a table then ran off. This was clearly a personal pen and not a ball-point or anything generic, so our first reaction to Costa was that they were very rude. Thankfully this was only 50% correct.
Overall when once we were on board we received mixed reception from the staff. Half were very nice and eager to help and the other half couldn't be bothered to do their jobs. This is not a language issue, if it were I would easily make an exception. This is me asking for water at a restaurant or directions or ketchup, etc. and them giving me a disgusted look as if what they did wasn't enough for me and I should be happy that I am getting anything at all. Several times I had to ask for water more than 3 times before receiving anything from a waiter.
My wife and I love food, we love to try new food and experience new delicacies and have been on other cruise lines and enjoyed the food very much and were excited for dinner. When the soup came out as buillon water with something floating in it (a small piece of frozen carrot?), we were very surprised and passed it off til the other dishes arrived. Each dish was worse than the last and culminated with a piece of rancid meat that was supposed to be steak. I don't just mean the taste, the meat was old and looked like it had been sitting out for a week before being cooked. We couldn't even eat it. We had several different pasta dishes on the ship and every single one of them tasted exactly the same. It seemed that all the food we ordered from there on out was of the same quality throughout our trip: old and on the verge of rotten or flat out frozen foods that had been put in a microwave. If this is incorrect about the way it was prepared, then every cook on that ship should be fired and hope for a job flipping burgers, because they are incompetent.
When it came to the buffet for breakfast the eggs looked like soup with lumps in it and the bacon changed colors depending on the way the light shined on it. The hashbrowns were frozen and barely edible and the last day we ate them, made us both sick. The hamburgers at the grill seemed to be about 49% filler as compared to meat and were worse than the food I remember as a child eating the hockey pucks they served in elementary school lunches.
After the first night we ate on the ship, we were so depressed, angry and filled with dread over the food, since we would be stuck on the ship with nothing else to eat for 7 days. Sadly we were forced to eat on the ship all week and by the end of our time there, we were so frightened to order anything that we decided, we'd rather be hungry than eat the food on the ship.
On a positive note, the Maitre d' did his best to try and make our meals better, but it was not his fault, it was bad food and bad cooking.
Frankly all the activities on the ship seemed to be aimed solely at Italians age 60+ with very little consideration towards the other guests. Every piece of entertainment for large groups seemed to move in the same way, with everyone line dancing to bad choices of music. We were bored almost the entire time we were not on a shore excursion or sleeping.
In the theater the Russian Dancers were great, but the "stories" and costumes of those performances were atrocious. The Magician we saw was perhaps the worst magic show I've ever seen from a main entertainer and he seemed more interested in getting applause than doing his tricks, which were mediocre at best. The "Circus Artist" was actually just a juggler that we walked out on because he kept dropping everything and for some reason people seemed to cheer him on more for that.
The best thing on the ship for entertainment was Giorgio, who is far too talented to be on this cruiseline. He was the only thing we enjoyed and would make an effort to sit in on his shows when we could.
Bar and Waitstaff
Drinks, for the most part were good, however not a single drink was made with fresh items, but I should have known better since the menus all said "Half Fresh" in regards to the fruit used in the cocktails. The Mojito I ordered and the Mai Tai my wife ordered were undrinkable and the Daiquiris were not the right consistency, simple drinks were fine though.
Our only savior on the cruise was Luane who would constantly come back and asked if we needed anything else to drink, most of the other waiters would kind of ignore us as if they couldn't be bothered to do their job since they would have to actually do their job.
We loved the shore excusions and the majority of them were excellent. Our biggest issue was that some tour guides decided to take too much time and not allow us any of our own time to explore the cities or the areas. This was vitally important since we needed to eat something at the ports because we were unable to find anything edible on the ship.
The Istanbul tour was ill planned as the lunch planned took more than an hour of travel time to get to the restaurant which could have been used for exploration.
I think there was not enough time planned by the ship either in Croatia when a tour is supposed to end 10 minutes before having to be on board the ship.
Overall the ship decor and layout was fine with a few major exceptions.
One of the main things we were hoping for was a nice relaxing evening in the in the hot tub after dinner and late into the night, but unfortunately on this ship that was impossible. The tub's temperature was 10 degrees (F) colder than any bath I would ever set foot in and also they all close by 10pm, which was extremely disappointing and made us very upset.
If you like to stay up late and drink into the evening and party it up, well you can't because by 1:30 all the bars close and they turn the lights all the way up and all the wait staff disappears and you are forced to just go to bed, cause there's nothing else to do.
If you are expecting anything beyond your room being cleaned up, you're fine. If you expect anything more, don't bother. One of the things my wife was looking forward to was towel animals in the room. Apparently if you book a cabin below Balcony level they don't bother to do that or turn down the bed.
Also do not give your clothes to the laundry unless you want your shirts back with industrial staples put through them, ruining them.
I will never, ever go on board another Costa ship unless they paid me