We took this 21 day cruise on Costa Victoria which departed from Singapore on 19 December 2013. I apologise in advance for the length of this review...it reads like war and peace. However I thought it was important to "highlight" just how bad this ship is and how bad Costa as a company are, to spare anyone else the holiday from hell, without first being made aware of all the problems. So settle down, pour yourself a nice long drink, take a couple of valium and celebrate that you were not on this cruise!!!
Although we hadn't been advised prior to embarkation, this cruise was made up of a number of "back to back" cruises i.e. a 7 day cruise, a 5 day cruise and a 9 day cruise. We visited many ports around Asia and the itinerary was nothing short of fantastic. However, unfortunately I cannot say the same about the ship. We have cruised in excess of 20 times, with a number of cruise lines. This was our first cruise on Costa and without doubt it will be our last. It was the most distressing and upsetting experience. I am therefore reviewing Costa Victoria itself and not the ports visited.
Embarkation was a nightmare. The departure hall was full to bursting, with nowhere near enough seats. My mother required wheelchair assistance onto the ship...but finding a wheelchair and assistance was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Eventually we boarded the ship and the Costa employee pushing the wheelchair deposited us in the bar, which was close to where we had embarked. He asked us to wait there for a couple of minutes. We never saw him again!!! It was almost 1.5 hours before Costa staff were able to find anyone else to assist my mother to our cabin.
We had booked a premium balcony cabin. Despite being advised by our travel agent that this would provide a larger cabin for my mobility challenged, elderly mother, this was in fact incorrect. All balcony cabins on Costa Victoria are the same size. A premium cabin is (allegedly) located in a privileged position on all of the ship's decks and provides "special" benefits such as preferred dining time for dinner and breakfast and cabin service 24 hours a day. That is it!!!! The cabin we had booked was 10329 on deck 10. This cabin was cramped and was an obstacle course for even the fittest and most mobile of people. Although Costa were aware that my mother had a mobility problem they were not at all interested in my concerns for her safety. We did not book a disabled cabin as Costa only permits people in wheelchairs to book disabled cabins. All the disabled cabins are inside cabins. In my opinion the balcony cabins are not suitable for the elderly or infirm.
The element on the kettle provided in the cabin was very rusty and the smell from the kettle made me heave. The cabin's were dusty and looked tired and dated. This ship is 15 years old and it shows in the cabins. I believe the carpets have been replaced in the cabins....it didn't look like anything else had ever been replaced. Announcements made on the PA system could be heard loudly and clearly in the cabins, no matter what time of day or night they were made. We didn't particularly enjoy being woken at 7:00 a.m. or whilst having a nap at 17:00 p.m. to an announcement that tours were still available for the remaining ports of call. The mirror in the bathroom was more rust than mirror. The floor in the bathroom was wooden...and wood rots in damp and wet places. The heel of my shoe went through the bathroom floor at one point...
All cabins on deck 10 suffer from noise from the deck above. The pool and bar are above deck 10. From early morning until early evening we were deafened (no exaggeration) by the noise of sun beds and chairs being scraped across the floor and people walking to and fro. Then late at night there was the noise of chairs being scraped across the floor, music and dancing. Don't forget we were in a premium cabin...in a privileged position! We were told by the crew that this is a common problem for all the cabins on deck 10. We know of many, many people that asked to move cabins.
During the first night of the cruise, after leaving Singapore, the seas were a little rough. At some point during the night I was woken to an almighty crash and found that the heavy safe had fallen out of the wardrobe onto the cabin floor. So, not only was the cabin an obstacle course, the safe wasn't safe!!!! Also the air conditioning grills rattled incessantly....it was like having a 40 piece orchestra playing next to your ear, whilst trying to sleep. I rang and reported the problem and was told I would have to put up with the noise. No toiletries were provided in the bathroom. The ship constantly stunk (and I mean stunk) of sewage. We were told this had been caused by passengers continually flushing inappropriate items down the toilet instead of using the sanitary bags provided. What sanitary bags? None were ever provided in our cabin. We never had any hot water in the sink in our cabin, although it is important to wash hands in hot water to kill any germs or bacteria that may be present. Throughout the cruise it was very difficult to get to speak to someone at the front desk as there was always long queues of complaining, disgruntled, unhappy people.
Our cabin balcony and table were filthy...they were filthy when we boarded the ship and they were not cleaned during our time on the ship. The beds in the cabins are low, so if you have hard shell luggage which we had, it is not possible to store them under the bed. This meant they had to be stored on their ends at the bottom of the bed...which made it impossible to move from one side of the cabin to the other. There were no chocolates on the pillow on this cruise and no announcements made by the captain or officers either. In fact rumour had it that the Captain didn't turn up for the Captain's cocktail party, which he had been due to host. We were never given any information about the ship's position, as is usual on other cruises. The only news available on the ship was via Euro News, which even on the English channel was in German. The daily newspaper was never available. The wardrobes contained a rusty rail with 12 fixed hangers which were virtually glued to the rust on the rail. You needed to have Herculean strength to move them. The hangers were the large variety so it was impossible to put any additional hangers into the wardrobe. So...12 hangers for 2 people on a 21 day cruise. Also there isn't a laundry on the ship for the use of passengers....you have to give your laundry to your cabin steward. As an example it was £6 to wash and iron a pair of ladies trousers and £1 for each item of underwear. During our time on this ship they didn't have any guest speakers or port information, other than what was included in the Today daily programme.
The safety drill was a complete joke. We were told that it was mandatory that all passengers attend the safety drill. We were given a card at embarkation that had to be taken to the safety drill and handed in, so they could ensure everyone had attended. If, for any reason, passengers did not attend they would be required to attend a safety drill the following day. We were unable to attend due to my mother's walking aid going "walkabout" and she was unable to walk without it. The following day, when we left the cabin to go for breakfast at 10:00 a.m. I noticed there was a piece of paper in our pigeon hole advising that we had to attend a safety drill at 09:30 a.m. that morning.....As a result we never attended the safety drill and heard nothing more about it. Very worrying considering the sad outcome of Costa Concordia.
The timing of dinner in the main restaurant changed regularly...sometimes it was almost daily. Water with dinner was never offered....you were expected to buy bottled water. No coffee after dinner was offered...you were expected to buy and pay for coffee in the evening. You could buy drinks and water packages, which I believe were good value. However all the passengers on the same booking were charged for the drinks package, whether they wanted it or not and this was not practical for us. The drinks on this ship were the most expensive we have ever encountered. Some evenings it took 1 hour plus to get wine (whether you were on the drinks package or not). Most evenings it took almost 3 hours to be served 2 courses. The service in the restaurant was appalling. The staff on the whole were lovely but there is a very low crew to passenger ratio and therefore due to under staffing, the crew that are on there are massively overworked. Tables in the main dining room and buffet area were constantly dirty and not being cleared from the previous diners. However the officers that ate in the main restaurant where constantly served promptly and quickly....always arriving for dinner after us and leaving before us. Almost every evening we were so late finishing dinner that we were too late for the late show.
The buffet was the worst buffet I have ever seen on a ship. The plates were small.....the size of a medium tea plate. They did not provide any trays in the buffet either. We concluded this was to stop people having a number of plates of food. Most evenings the buffet was only open for 1 hour and some lunchtimes too. Therefore if you were unable to eat the dinner in the main restaurant (and this happened to us on a number of occasions as the food was so bad) the only dining option was the pizza restaurant on deck 12. In fairness the pizzas were really, really good...but there are only so many times I can eat a pizza. Breakfast in the buffet finished at 10:00 a.m. and on sea days we missed this. A late "continental" breakfast was provided in the pizza restaurant. It was the same items every day, and, for us, virtually inedible. One day we asked if it would be possible to have some toast. We were told yes, it would be possible. When it came I picked it up and the underside of the bread had not been "toasted". The other side of the toast had grill marks on it. I asked the Head Waiter if the bread had been fried on one side, rather than being toasted and he replied yes.....we haven't got a toaster!!! The food in the buffet on the whole was okay, if you don't mind a limited variety and like small portions of mainly Indian and Chinese food. If you want to lose weight this is the cruise for you. Water and coffee were only available in the buffet in the evening if you were prepared to pay for them.
On more than one occasion we were subjected to the Maitre D' and Head Waiters screaming and shouting at waiting staff. The majority of the officers onboard this ship were rude and aggressive and not at all pleasant or polite to passengers or crew. Their manner was one of aggression and finger pointing towards passengers and crew. As I mentioned earlier, this was a "back to back" cruise. On the first changeover day there were about 50 passengers that were continuing with the cruise. However they must have forgotten about us....there was no food or drink available at lunchtime (not even coffee or water) and when we questioned this with the F&B Director we were told, very rudely, that the ship had to be cleaned and made ready for 2000 passengers that were boarding that day and they didn't have time to provide lunch due to crew shortages. There was absolutely no consideration for passengers remaining on board. All of the safety doors were closed on turnaround days, although no notification was given of this. This meant that we had to walk miles and miles and miles to find the lift and buffet as none of the doors we usually used were open.
You are not allowed to bring any food or drink onto the ship and this rule is strictly enforced. Whatever is found is confiscated. This also applies to irons, kettles, alcohol, swiss army knives etc. etc.. This ship is all about money, money, money i.e. making as many cost savings as possible and getting the passengers to spend as much as possible. The service charge of $11 day is compulsory and cannot be removed...no matter how bad the service. I know....I tried. They did not have any complaints forms....I assume they had run out....We were told by the crew that the service charge is not passed onto them; Costa use it to offset the cost of paying the crew. Therefore 1900 passengers paying $11 per day is $20,900 or £12,500 per day....a nice little guaranteed earner.
It was not possible to change the pool towels provided during the day if e.g. they became wet or dirty, as the cupboard by the pool which contained clean pool towels was always locked. I had continual problems with the internet. The internet is very expensive on this ship and on several occasions I logged off from the internet and received the message "you have successfully disconnected from the internet and the counter has stopped" only to find out that the connection had continued and used up all my credit. Twice I complained about this to the front desk. I was told it was my fault as I hadn't logged off correctly. Despite promising me that they would escalate my complaint to the IT department, they never did and they refused to make any refund. A great scam to get money for nothing. When we received our final bill, the total was $xxx and 63 cents. Costa had then taken the liberty of rounding this up to the next dollar. Whilst we are talking about a very small amount of money, if you multiply $0.37 by the number of cabins on the ship it is yet another opportunity to get money for nothing.
Finally the day of disembarkation arrived in Hong Kong. My mother was taken off the ship in a wheelchair by a member of the crew. He opened the door to enter the terminal building to see a flight of stairs and no lift!!!! He asked an officer where the lift was and he was told there wasn't one. I asked how my mother was expected to get into the terminal building without there being a lift and the officer shrugged his shoulders. She managed to walk down the stairs with some difficulty and the crew member carried the wheelchair down. The next obstacle was escalators to move up to the arrivals hall. It would have been very dangerous for her to use the escalator, so we had to wait while they contacted the manager of the Harbour City shopping mall, where the terminal is situated. The manager came and allowed us to use the goods lift!!! If she had been unable to walk at all I dread to think what would have happened. We were not given any prior warning that there was no disabled access at Hong Kong.
There is a saying that you get what you pay for. However it should be noted that we paid £3200 per person for this cruise (excluding flights) which works out at more than £150 per day, plus a further $11 day (dis)service charge. It was the worst experience we have ever had on any holiday, let alone any cruise and my advice to anyone would be to avoid Costa at all cost!!!!