We have recently returned from a costa cruise, which we almost didn't take because of all the awful things said about the line. So pleased we went with our common sense we had a fantastic time. The important thing to remember when booking a Costa cruise is that this line caters very much to the southern european market, especially italian. therefore dining arrangements, especially at breakfast, are done to suit, i.e. more emphasis on buffet style, less so on the sit down served arrangement as is prevalent on other lines. there is the option to go to the restaurant and be seated, most of the food is continental buffet style but tea and coffee are served, as are items that don't lend themselves to buffet such as omelettes, fried and poached eggs etc. evening dining is the event with 7 courses, and there is the usual lunch buffet/burger and fries bar very much like most cruise lines. there is no buffet dining in the evening, the area turns into a sit down served pizzeria. very italian.
Our embarkation in Barcelona, was quick and very efficient, but most of the passengers don't get on and off here so we are unable to comment on the other ports. We were treated wonderfully from the start, politely, friendly and we didn't come across many staff who couldn't at least make themselves understood in English. Costa are very thorough these days with lifeboat drill, as they should be. the arrangements for english speakers at this port were as plain as the nose on your face. turn up at the arranged time at the theatre, listen to the english hostess give a talk and watch a video and then be ESCORTED to your muster station for the lifejacket demo. simples. you can then happily ignore any further announcements regarding lifeboat drill at other ports no matter what language the announcement is in.
language does seem to be a major issue for some cruisers on costa especially in europe. the bulk of the passengers come from italy, spain, france, portugal, germany etc. their first language is not english, why should it be and why should this need spelling out. it annoys us greatly that some english speakers seem to have this bizarre idea that everybody should be able to speak english. There is also a perception that if the passengers are european therefore there is bound to be pushing and shoving. i will admit that in some instances some of them don't grasp the concept of queuing very well, but in the restaurants we saw none of that. everyone waited in line, generally patiently and did not push in.
the smoking rules on board are very strict, more so than some other lines we have been on. no smoking inside, not even in the casino. we saw no one disobey these rules and never smelled smoke inside. the only place where smoke could be smelled was at the side of the door leading to the promenade deck but it never lingered as the air conditioning was very efficient here. there were so many bars and seating areas it was never necessary to sit there. in fact, this ship has more bars and seating areas than most of the ships we have been on. there is only one paid for restaurant plus a small one specifically for spa cabins and the space for these has to come from somewhere. full marks to costa for resisting the many paid dining areas (so far). most of the bars had some form of live music/entertainment which was excellent as was the talent in the theatre shows. no big production shows as on lines such as royal caribbean but the in house dancers and singers were as good, if not better than we have seen elsewhere. the shows were very popular, and they managed to find something which could appeal to all cultures and languages. well done to Costa for what is potentially difficult. This is a large ship and absorbs its full complement of passengers really well, there is never any need to feel overwhelmed by people if you want to get away. we never used the library, internet area, or disco so cannot comment on these. considering the large number of teens on board and that alcohol is served from age 18, the behaviour was very good.
The food was absolutely wonderful. maybe fewer choices in the buffet than some cruises but generally you would have to be extremely picky not to find something to like. I have read poor reviews about the pizza. this is probably due to expectation. certain nationalities (not to be named) expect their pizza to have thick or stuffed crust and a hundred or so toppings to choose from. italian pizza is not like that, it is a snack really, made to be cooked very quickly and eaten on the run, hence thin crust and few toppings. we love it, and when you are on costa you are effectively in italy. whereas costa's pizza is not the best we have ever had it italy, it is more than acceptable. The burger and fries bar tended to be the busiest (there were many teens on board on this sailing), especially between 11 and noon. the main buffet did not open until 12 noon and on one day in particular when the ship docked at 1 pm everyone wanted to eat and be ready for getting off. however, there were actually 2 burger/fries bars on this ship and the one at the other end of the buffet from the main pool was usually quieter. all you have to do is wander around and look. we never waited very long in the main buffet, even at the busy lunch time.
the evening dining was wonderful, 7 courses (all small) which meant you can try lots of different food items and still be able to walk. and if you didn't think any course was big enough, they would have happily brought you another one, or a different one. all the staff wanted to do was to please and i never heard the words its not possible once. the food was of very good quality, beautifully cooked and presented and politely served by the friendly waiters. if costa is at the 'cheap' end of cruising the food did not make it feel like it. we had the drinks package which was fantastic value and the wine at dinner was most acceptable. if you are a connoisseur you may have problems, but then maybe you are on the wrong cruise line. the food was excellent quality, beautifully cooked and presented and politely served.
there were many children on board, all of them very well behaved and the odd one that misbehaved was soon pulled into line by a parent or carer. yes they were noisy and lively especially in the activities around the pool which they were all encouraged to join in, even the tiny ones. i would be very concerned about children in this environment that weren't noisy and lively. at dinner, all the children we saw, and there were many of them, knew how to sit up to a table, sit still, manage cutlery and behave in a civilised manner. perhaps this is because they are brought up to do this from a young age. it is obvious from our travels in europe that they seem to grasp the idea that children are a joy to have with you and you want to give them a good time, but they are not the centre of the universe and sometimes they have to fit in with the grown ups and do it with good grace. the children on this ship certainly knew how to do this.
the main pool area was where many of the activities took place, mostly around dancing, singing, games and exercise. we expected it to be like a zoo but it wasn't. the glass roof was nice as it meant the area was available to use even in bad weather. the weather on our cruise wasn't especially good, quite windy and a bit of a swell so that sometimes the pools had to be closed due to water slopping around which would have not been safe. similarly, not all the beds were out because there weren't enough people outside to use them. however, if you could find a nice warm sheltered corner (which we did), there was nothing to stop you getting a bed and moving it. (which we did). we didn't ask someone else to do it for us, we just took a bed and moved it. we expect service on a cruise, not slavery.
the public bathrooms were plentiful but not easy to locate and this was a niggle which we intend to raise on our survey. the doors were the same colour as the ladies/gents sign and this made them easy to miss. there was supposed to be a lit sign above the door but it was not always lit up. plus, the ship map did not show the location of the bathrooms. when we did find one, it was always spotless and fresh. occasionally towels and tissues did run out, especially the bathrooms around the theatre which were heavily used, but it never took long to replenish them. besides there are hand air driers as well. hygiene was paid attention, hand sanitiser available outside all the restaurants and coming on board. no washee washee (ncl) you were left to make the decision to sanitise your hands yourself. you would be a fool not to.
Costa does not present, or price itself as the Ritz of cruising. It is a family orientated and family friendly line and this shows in the way that children of all ages are welcomed and valued. some of the kids did go to the kids club, some not. the carers of the kids club certainly knew how to keep their charges in line and they did. we never once saw any child 'running wild' - whatever that means.
haven't reviewed the cabin specifically, they are pretty similar to cabins on most cruise lines. we had an inside one, midships, deck 7 which was a premium cabin an a little larger than some we have had and a very nice bathroom. we do usually tend to go for the cheapest option because we spend so little time in it, but Costa have this arrangement whereby if you book the cheap, to be allocated cabin, you cannot choose your dining location or time. for two people travelling together perhaps this is OK but we were in a four and wanted to be sure we were dining together. For that reason only we upgraded to the premium cabin, classic is the cheapest. it actually wasn't that much more expensive, about £28 per person. we also got room service free with this class of cabin and as we do like our early morning tea/coffee it was nice to have that. we did have breakfast pastries once in the cabin an were impressed with them, they were delicious and fresh.
Using the medical facility isn't something you particularly want to do but on this occasion we had to. They were excellent, very well staffed, treatment first class and wonderfully caring and considerate. the medical facility must report to the customer service staff details about their patients because 2 days after i started receiving treatment they called me in the cabin to ask how I was and had my condition improved. a nice touch. Fortunately for me I wasn't confined to the cabin (not norovirus!).
What I would say to the nigglers and complainers about Costa cruises is this -
they are exceptionally good value - don't expect the Ritz from what you have paid
If you are travelling in Europe, the ship will probably be full of Italians, Spanish, French etc. what did you expect. These passengers will probably not speak English, why should they.
Do you hate the presence of visible children, especially in the dining room. if you do, choose another line, or an adult only ship.
Going on holiday should be an adventure, it won't be totally under your control and like it is at home. that is the joy of a holiday. if you really can't stand it that there may be little things that are not exactly as you might like them to be, then better to stay at home.
We have travelled on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and NCL as well as Costa and independent travel throughout Europe and the USA. There are things about each one that have been specially nice, and things that we were not too sure of. That applies to probably every holiday we have ever been on. Keep an open mind, be flexible and you will have a wonderful time, on Costa as on any other cruise line. Moderate your expectation to what is realistic and do some research first (and not just bad reviews).
Be grateful you can afford to cruise, and are fit enough to do so. There are many out there that would give their right arm to be doing what you (and we) are fortunate enough to be able to do