We did the christmas cruise on the Costa Serena in December 2007. Summarizing, we had a very nice trip, enjoyed most of the ports and the new ship. There are some BUT's I would like you to observe, if you don't mind them, you will have a nice cruise.
Overall, until now we did cruises only on american ships, on NCL and Royal Caribbean, so we tended to compare Costa with them.
First of all, we travelled with my parents, booking two balcony cabins 8383 and 8385. Cabins are perfect (no wonder, the ship is nearly new) and spacious, enough space. I really advise to book balcony cabins. Some people say its a waste of money, we don't want to miss the balcony, its perfect top sleep with open doors and enjoy sunset on the balcony early morning.
Ports: We loved Funchal (its the best), Barcelona, Malaga and Tenerife. Casablanca is a waste of time, its dirty and ugly. We only booked the Casablanca city tour since we did not want to tour there by ourselves (skip it, stay on the ship) and Malaga (since its a huge city its a waste of time to run around by yourself). In the other ports we walked around by ourselves and loved it.
Now I compare the Costa ship with NCL and RCCL: - Buffets are really Italian style, very basic, lots of Pasta and Pizza. Breakfast is really VERY basic. we decided to eat in the restaurant where you at least can order different eggs.
- Lunch buffet is little better but we preferred having lunch in the restaurant. Very good choices
- Evening buffet was a waste of time, again, very basic. We had dinner in the main restaurant every night and really enjoyed it.
Overall, service is not bad but 99 % of the staff miss "the last step". On US we are used to be greeted, smiling people everywhere. On Costa we met some of those nice people, but most of them seemed to us "doing their job". Don't expect towel animals in the Cabin, Costa does not do it.
Passengers were mainly Italians. Yes, there is little bit less discipline, Europeans and especially Italian are not used to wait in lines, so waiting for something can be fun ! Yes, Italians smoke more, but it was OK, bit more smoke than on US ships but still enough space for non-smokers.
Embarkation was done by numbers, we had to wait about 20 minutes, but then were on the ship very fast. You can go directly to the Cabin where you find the Cabin Cards. Within the next 5 days you can have your Credit Card registered. Disembarkation was also by colors, you wait in the lunge until your color is announced. That went very smooth.
All public areas on the ship are very nice.
We loved the Ships Samsara Spa, although its very pricey we had great massage at the portuguese masseur Henrique, he was perfect. we did not use the other facilities of the fitness center but it looked nice.
Summarizing, on our next Cruise we would prefer NCL or RCCL again, we would take Copsta again only for a special super deal.