This was my first Costa cruise. I’ve cruised on nearly all the other cruise lines including MSC, another European cruise line. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised and very much enjoyed the cruise. The ship was in good condition, our oceanview room was fairly typical of other cruise lines, the main dining food was very good and the breakfast and lunch buffet was OK. The premium pay restaurant, Club Medusa, was excellent. The entertainment was in line with most US cruise lines. Keep in mind the Med cruises are very much different than the Caribbean cruises, so daytime entertainment is tamer. If you want to party, skip the cruise and head to Ibiza or Mykonos. The ship had several pools, hot tubs, Spa, excellent gym, shops, etc.
I think there are some differences between Costa and MSC, who mainly market to the Europeans, and the US cruise lines sailing in the Med. First, nearly all the passengers were from Europe so all announcements are made in six languages. The ship had roughly 2300 passengers and we met only two other Americans. Second, the only dinner option is the main dining area. No dinner buffet, so if you have the early seating and get back to the ship after 7pm, late night pizza or paid room service are the only options. Third, the shore excursion options may be limited since they will only offer an English speaking tour if there are enough English speaking people taking the tour. This didn’t affect us since we normally don’t take the cruise line shore excursions, but beware if you do.
Embarkation was very fast since we boarded off peak time in Heraklion, Crete. The port is right in downtown Heraklion. You may need to take a free short shuttle bus ride from the terminal building to the ship. You drop your luggage off at the terminal building before getting on the shuttle bus. There is an emergency drill your first night.
Since Alanya, Turkey was not on the port of call listing, I am including in the ship review.
Alanya, Turkey: This was the sleeper port of the cruise. I wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised. Great beaches, stunning mountain scenery, magical coastal views, a hilltop castle, Roman and Greek ruins, white water rafting, waterfalls and a quaint waterside area with cafes, shops and a scenic harbor. You can even ski if there in the winter. Definitely take a boat tour (one to five hours). The best beach is Cleopatra, a 20 minute walk from the ship or a few minute taxi ride. If interested in archeology, visit Side and some of the area ruins via private taxi or shore excursion.
Disembarkation: Very organized and no issues. They will actually allow you to stay on board until 6pm if you have a late flight, but you need to vacate your cabin by 8am.