Started reading reviews for Costa when deciding which cruise lines we would pick. Our family usually travels on Princess but this time we had to pick Costa because the price and itinerary was right for us. There were 6 adults (2 married couples, my Uncle in his own cabin and our son who is 25 in our cabin) in our group and we decided to all pick interior cabins for the lesser price. Because there were 3 adults in our cabin we were upgraded to an ocean view cabin located mid-ship. We visited Olympia, Athens, Ephesus, and Israel (Egypt was canceled and an extra 1/2 day in Israel was what replaced it, not happy about only getting the 1/2 day, an extra full day would have been much better.....more on that later in the post).
Embarkation: We left from the port in Savona, Italy (not Genoa...but Savona is not on the list). The building where cruisers wait to board the ship is very nice and modern. We were called in groups so be prepared to wait but there was plenty of seating and available bathrooms.
Cabin: The cabin was wonderful!!! We have cruised many times (Mexican Riviera several times, Panama Canal, Eastern Mediterranean in 2012) and this is the first time that I did not experience sea sickness at all. The cabin had a 'couch' area that served as a bed for our son who is 6 foot 1 inch and he said he was very comfortable. I thought the beds were more comfortable then I expected. There was only one English news channel and one English movie channel but it did not present a problem as we were on the go most of the time. The bathroom felt slightly larger than the bathrooms on Princess ships with larger counters and the detachable shower head made showering more convenient. Other than a gel soap dispenser in the shower and a small bar of soap on the counter there were no other items given (no shampoo, conditioner or hand cream so be sure to bring your own). Plenty of closet and shelving space for all three of us and we always bring our luggage fully packed. Our steward Felipe was from Columbia and spoke excellent English, Spanish and Italian. My husband speaks Spanish so Felipe would use both English & Spanish languages with our family. He was the best steward we have ever had on a cruise. Our room was cleaned twice a day and our beds turned down before bed time. We like to use extra wash cloths and I only asked Felipe once and we had them everyday.
Food: We knew that Costa is mostly European so we were pleasantly surprised by the variety in food. The other couple in our group do not eat cheese at all so they were especially concerned but everyday there was something available to their liking and the "everyday" menu was always handy to order from. There was no "Anytime" dining so we picked the 630 PM seating and it went well for us, we did not miss any dinners. Many on board had the "All Inclusive" drink package, but from our Mediterranean cruise experience last year we knew we could not drink enough alcohol to make it worth it for us. We decided to get the wine package that also included water and the 20 beer package, and this option worked perfect for our family. In our category of cabin there was no room service unless one pays for it so I missed the convenience of ordering coffee and cereal in our room...I missed that a lot. If one wants breakfast, one must get up and go to the buffet with lots of people, but there was a lot of variety. The eggs in the buffet seemed under cooked but my husband found a location where the chef makes made to order omelettes which he had everyday. Also the bacon and sausage is a different style than the USA but it was good,
and there was always a good variety of fruits, salads, and vegetables at every buffet and formal dinner.
All in all our food experience was better than we expected but I have to say that Princess food was a little better on our Mediterranean cruise last year.
Be warned that the buffet lines are long and people try to cut in line and are pushy. Sad to say we saw a lot of wasted food and parents who let their children run wild. On the other hand, the formal dining was a nice experience and our waiter and his assistant gave very good service.
Ship Ambiance: Costa allows smoking in more places than other cruise ships. Our group knew that before hand and I have to say that there was a lot of smoking but we could always escape if needed. There was never a hint of smoke in our cabins (that would have been unacceptable for us and we would have complained) and I still don't know if smoking is actually allowed in the cabins. Several times we tried to find a bar or venue to dance and although they played familiar music, it would have been better if they just had a DJ instead of the live bands. We tried the Disco several times, although it was suppose to open at 11 PM, the times we were there waiting until 1130 PM the music still had not started so we just went to our cabins. Too bad for Costa because if we had stayed and danced, my bar bill would have been a whole bunch more :-)!! Tried the drink of the day only once and we were not impressed so we never ordered it again. The entertainment in the main auditorium was hit and miss (just like every cruise we have been on) but one night there was a gentleman (can't remember his name) who put on the best music show we have ever seen on a cruise, he was an excellent singer/entertainer who sang in English, Italian, French and German. My son went to most of the shows and said most were typical cruise type fare and enjoyable if one was not expecting perfection.
Since this cruise was so port intensive we did not get involved in many of the ships activities. My son did go to the hot tub and gym as much as possible and was satisfied with both - no bad experiences.
Ship Tours: Since there were only 11 English speaking persons on the cruise there was very little choice for us. I had planned private tours on our own for our group beforehand for most of our ports and they worked out excellent for us. However, we did try to book a tour through the ship for our stop in Civitavecchia (Rome) but there were not enough people in any language to fill it up so it was canceled. Five in our group had spent a week in Rome before the cruise so we took the Costa shuttle for 29 Euro PP but my Uncle, who met up with us on the ship and had never been to Rome, decided to book a tour through Costa, "Classic Rome" (which visited all the highlights) and he was placed with the French group. He said that he was referred to as "The American" and was well taken care of (his picture with the cute French speaking tour guide is a wonderful memory). The tour included a meal and since he knew Spanish and the French people at his table knew some Spanish, they were all able to communicate and he said he had a great time but was really glad that most of our tours on the cruise were private tours with just the 6 of us in a smaller shuttle or van.
Disembarkation: We had a train to catch at 1030 AM so we requested an early departure. Our request was granted and we were off the ship by 830 AM. Very smooth and orderly.
A few negatives: We went with the idea that we were going to get to go to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt (when it was included) for a very good price. When Egypt was canceled it was a big disappointment for all of us (my husband and I were able to go to Egypt in October of 2012 and we really wanted our son to see it with us this time) but it is understandable why Costa canceled the Egypt port. What we didn't care for is the inconvenience of giving us only an extra 1/2 day in Haifa Israel as a substitute for the cancellation of a full day in Egypt. A second full day would have really made more sense for touring a different part of Israel. Another thing that was annoying was that we didn't get a full day in Athens. We had a tour of Corinth and Athens booked and we had to change it to Athens only because Costa reduced the time we would spend there, very disappointing. The smoking factor was not an issue most of the time, but there was a time or two that we did leave some locations because of the smoke.
Overall Thoughts on our Costa Cruise: This cruise was really a great value for the money we paid. The ship was big & beautiful and there were lots of activities. There were many things I learned here on CC that helped me to know that Costa would be a little different from other cruise lines so we were prepared for it, but if you need to hear everything at length in English, cannot tolerate smoking of any kind, and/or you are extra picky about "American" tasting food, then I would not pick Costa.
Would we cruise with Costa again? Yes!... if we like the itinerary and the cruise is a good value.