We booked an inside guarantee cabin at short notice for this 7 night Middle East cruise and were pleasantly surprised to have been given an outside cabin on Deck 8, as were are friends also travelling on this cruise.
Since we were driving up from Muscat, we decided to park at the cruise terminal inside Port Rashid which wasn’t an issue, although we did need to provide a copy of our passports and vehicle registration to the port security office in the terminal.
We were informed we could board from 3pm and the cabin would be available from 8pm and arrived at 8pm to a very quiet terminal. The staff checked out the passports, particularly interested in my wife’s who is only eligible for a UAE “visa on arrival” based on the status of our GCC residency and advised that we would need to pay 115 dhs prior to arriving in Abu Dhabi for the re-entry visa.
The ship has only recently been handed over from Iberocruises and despite being a 14 year old ship appears to have had some good refits, and the rebranding to Costa seems to have been done to a high standard. The ship was of a better standard then I expected, although a little plain (lacked any of the glitz or art that I’d experienced on larger cruise ships).
The cabins were ok, with two fold down beds for our children and everything was setup perfectly for our arrival, and before the boat drill the children were provided with wrist tags and child lifejackets. The only real annoyance is that the two single beds wouldn't join together properly so always came apart in the night..
Service and food onboard was great, with 7 different bars, a coffee ship, the buffet restaurant, a grill station, a pasta station, a pizza station (pizza available at lunch by the slice or from 7-11pm in the evening) and the main dining rooms. Dining was open seating, which worked well with this cruise.
The buffet did get busy at times, and whilst this was ok on this cruise whilst the ship was around half occupancy, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if it was full.
The dining room food was excellent and the service superb. The staff entertained our children at the dinner table with magic tricks and napkin animals.
Entertainment was generally good, lots of bands playing all evening with different types of music in the various bars, and the stage shows were mixed varying from very good to average.
The kids club is quite small, but the staff were superb and kept the children occupied. The kids club only operated 9-12, 15-18, 21-23:30 and wasn’t as active as on the bigger ships, but still had enough activities to keep the kids going. There is also a reasonable sized play park on Deck 12 and a slide into the childrens pool.
In addition to the childrens pool are two pools and two Jacuzzis on Deck 11.
Whilst the ship is quieter then the larger ones, it definitely had enough going on to keep us (29 years old with young kids) entertained.
With this particularly cruise they had a short cruise midway with passengers embarking in Dubai and disembarking in Abu Dhabi. This encouraged a lot of Indian and GCC nationals on board who had slightly different etiquette and this caused a little fuss (entering the pools fully clothed or wearing boxer shorts instead of swim shorts, walking onto the stage to take photos with the acts mid performance, leaving food everywhere, children causing fights in the pools and ignoring rules and staff etc). The staff found these guests quite difficult as culturally their attitudes were very different to the normal guests onboard. During the first show which involved the cast wearing leather two piece bikini, many of the local guests walked out quite offended.
Muscat is a beautiful city, but the tours and taxis were mostly a rip off despite having some of the greatest places to visit on the whole Middle East itinerary (Grand Mosque, Palace, Corniche, Souk, Museums).
Abu Dhabi and Dubai both offered free shuttle buses.
Overall, despite the neoRiviera being quite new to Costa I’d say she is a good ship and despite being small will fit into the mix.
A few off topic comments are that as a seafarer I noticed quite a few minor safety deficiencies which surprised me considering Costas recent history, I would have thought that they’d have aimed for 100% standards. I did mention a few items to the captain when I noticed him doing his rounds, but he clearly wasn’t interested. Safety to the Italians isn’t quite as serious as it is to us Northern Europeans or North Americans.