To celebrate my 40-year-old birthday and my husband’s 50-year-old birthday, we decided to book a suite for our son and us. We have tried a cruise with Royal Caribbean before, so we hoped that the experience would be at least just as pleasant and where looking forward to some luxury with a butler and other nice stuff being pampered a little when we finally have the yearly vacation together.
Our expectations were not met at all. We experienced a ship filled with people not happy to work there and therefore the service was not nearly as good as it should be. When talking to another couple at dinner, who had tried other Costa ships, they said, that they had never tried a mood so bad before. They told us that the staff are usually happy and ready to give you a good time, but that is not what we saw at the Costa Serena at all.
We decided to buy an all-inclusive drink package that should be easy to manage. Order and drink. It was not easy at all. In the leaflet, Costa had written, that at dinnertime we could choose between 3 different wines and that a wine list specially made for the all-inclusive drink guests would be presented, so we were looking forward to that. At dinnertime, the waiter looked at us strangely when we pointed that out and would only serve 1 wine which I did not like at all. That next day we went to the information desk to find out what was going on and after talking to different people, the lady assured us that it would be taking care of that night, but unfortunately it was not. We were only served that same bad wine. The next day we complained to the Maitre D in the restaurant at dinner, and for some strange reason, the man had never heard or seen that the all-inclusive guests should have a wine list and different wines to choose from so I handed him the leaflet with the information. After consulting again with his boss he told us, that they would create a wine menu and that it would come in 15 minutes time as written in the all-inclusive drink leaflet. When I asked him if we were the only people ever buying the all-inclusive drinks and why they had not such a menu already as they should have, he just gave us attitude and said angry to me, if I thought it was easy to make such a menu. We did not ask for anything other than stated in the drink package!
This experience was just unnecessary and did not make our experience pleasant at all. On a cruise, you are supposed to relax and be pampered and instead we experienced one thing after the other being annoying and not very pleasant. Our headwaiter told us the last day that he had been working on the ship for 9 months and he was VERY tired. He was looking forward to get off in the same port as us. No wonder a lot of the crew members were no fun at all if that is how they work. But again, that just took away from the experience we had hoped for and as a customer paying a lot of money for an experience, this ship was a total disappointment.
Setting aside the very bad food and the horrific lunch time where you literally have to fight yourself through thousands of other guests because there are only 1 place to eat lunch, a couple of bad shows where people just looked at each other not bothering to clap, there was also the strange “entertaining” trio in the Grand Bar with a big dance floor, where the “singer” only sang to every fifth song and otherwise just stood and held the microphone. The “saxophone player” started every song by a mouse click on a computer and otherwise stood there holding his saxophone and not playing as the computer did that for them. This was extremely weird to look at and as they were there every day we got to know their routine, and Costa could have spent just a little more and found somebody willing to perform and not just stand on a stage holding a microphone and a saxophone.
On the fifth day, I ordered a drink and a limoncello as I had done the other days and was now told that I could only order one thing at a time. The all-inclusive leaflet did not mention anything about that and it was first 2 days before leaving we were told this. Then we had to visit the information desk again and was this time met by a very aggressive lady who definitely not had the personal resource at that time to take care of our problem. She called somebody who could tell her that this is “company policy” so that people do not get drunk to easy. This was not mentioned anywhere, it had not been this way the first 5 days, this was both alcoholic drinks, warm beverage and cold beverage and did not make any sense. I could not order a beer and a bottle of water to take to my room, because I could be drunk to fast? It looked like that Costa and the crew members uses the term “company policy” when they want to make a rule up not mentioned anywhere, as they had done this a couple of times.
The worst thing about the cruise was that our troubles did not end when leaving the ship. As you are to give a credit card number when entering the ship so that Costa can later withdraw the money that you have spent on board, we of course expected them to take the amount we had spent and that would be it, but that is not how it went. When they had withdrawn the right amount, we found out that our credit card suddenly could not be used anymore, as there were no money available on the card. There should be money on the card, so we called our bank that could tell us that Costa had reserved nearly 2000 Euro MORE on our card, so they could not do anything and we could not use the card. When calling Costa Cruises we were just told that we could not call their bookkeeping department as you can only send them a mail. Very unsatisfying when something like this happens. When my husband wrote the bookkeeping department, we did not hear anything from them. Not a mail saying that they had received our mail or anything. The next couple of days strange amounts was released on our credit card in different portions so that we now again can use our credit card. We have still not heard anything from Costa. Not an explanation or anything else. Very strange behavior.
Another thing that is very odd and frankly not OK at all is the way they handle the tips. When I have had a bad experience on board, I do not feel like mandatorily giving a huge amount in tips as I have to with Costa. I would like to choose to give a tip to the people who have made my vacation better and a pleasant trip. This is what we did when using Royal Caribbean and that gave the crewmembers incentive to treat the passengers as good as possible. If they do not then they do not get many tips.
One positive thing can be said about this cruise and that is the boarding and leaving procedures when paying a little extra to get a suite. We were supposed to be “VIP” guests, what ever that means, so we had gotten these red things to put on our luggage. When we loaded the luggage on board in Savona, the lady asked us, if we were VIP and we pointed to the red things on our luggage and she said that we had not and gave us a number for the boarding queue as everyone else. After waiting in the very warm hall with everybody else, I could see from the progress on the queue that it would take a while for us to board so I told my husband that it is strange, that everybody should be in the same line, if we were so-called “VIP”, so he went to the information desk and the nice lady there told us, that of course we should not be in the same queue as everybody else. Thanks luggage-loading-lady for the wait in the hot waiting area! We got another number for the red-carpet line and got on board very quick. This of course would not have happened if we had not went to the information desk to check again.
We are not use to luxury like this but when we for once spend the extra money on something just a little more “over the top”, then give us all you got! Not a butler we only saw about 5 times doing the cruise not helping much with anything without us asking for it. Not a cleaning lady not giving us 1 single pillow sculpture. Not a suite with a balcony where we could not sit or open the door because both neighbor-suites smoked. Not a staff so tired and certainly not happy to work there or make my family’s cruise something to remember. Not a ship lacking in most areas. Bad and very small swimming pools and very bad quality of food can also be mentioned and not helping the experience at all.
My family and I will definitely not be using Costa Cruises again as there are so many other companies that will take our money and hopefully make our future vacations something to remember…..in a positive way.