Booking: We needed a break, so we booked about 3 weeks in advance. My husband is a veteran of the Navy, so we booked an outside balcony cabin on the back of the ship for $549/piece. Were able to book airfare direct to Fort Lauderdale through Delta at $240/piece, so very affordable getaway!
Departure: Flew out of Port Columbus at 9:40am, direct flight to Lauderdale on Delta. Flight took just over 2 hours, arrived at noon. Costa representatives were at the airport to greet guests in the baggage claim, but we did not book transfers, so we collected our luggage and hopped a cab. Cab was $15 to the pier plus tip. Transfers through Costa were $15/piece one way.
Embarkation: The easiest I've ever seen. Took us about 15 minutes. We only had to stop walking once, when my husband had to have discussion with the local authorities about whether or not he could bring his dive knife aboard since it was over 4 inches. Local authorities said no, but Joseph with Costa Security stepped in and called the head of security for the ship, Savio, who agreed to hold the knife on board and allow my husband to pick up the knife as he departed the ship to go diving in the various ports of call. My husband was very pleased!! He just checked his knife in and out and was very impressed that Costa Security went above and beyond to ensure he was able to dive safely during his vacation. There were staff dressed in nautical theme to take our pictures as we boarded and when we entered the ship, there were many staff members there to greet us and help us in everyway. NO SALES PITCHES - we truly felt they were there just to welcome us onto our floating home for the week.
Cabin: We always prefer a cabin on the back of the ship, seems more private somehow and my husband enjoys watching the wake and seeing the wide open sea behind us. We were able to get right into our cabin. We really liked the fact that we were able to get onboard so easy and early! My husband commented on the quality of the furnishings, lots of wood and metal vs plastic. I liked all the shelves in the bathroom, ample storage areas, powerful blowdryer in the drawer in the bureau, three separate closet spaces, and the lighting. One thing we noticed was how clean and polished everything was! They cleaned our balcony, windows and all, everytime we were at a port of call. Bed was firm and pillows were flatter than we were used to, but the bed was very comfortable. The beds were pushed together, but we did not experience the "separation in the middle" that we had experienced on other cruise lines.
Day 1: Of course, I booked a spa appointment right away, as I like to get as relaxed as possible as soon as possible. Had a shiatsu with Laura. It was fabulous and exactly what I needed. They were running a special of $20 off on full body massages, so I was able to book for $79. Very affordable and well worth it! Then we toured the ship. I noticed how clean the ship was and how friendly the staff seemed, while my husband noticed the age of the other passengers. We were one of the few people under 65 years old. This didn't bother us at all, we are thirtysomethings and were looking forward to a relaxing, peaceful, kid free week. I would say that 90% of the passengers were over 65 years old. We figured the kids were still in school, and that's why the older crowd was prevalent. The other thing we noticed was the different nationalities on the ship. We would guess 50% American/English speaking guests, 25% French & German, and 25% other. Dinner was casual that night. We were seated at Table 49 and had excellent service from Jaime from Peru and Krishna from India. Very gracious hosts! We loved the other guests at our table as well, Lowell and Marilyn from Canada celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary (who became our best friends on the ship and spent wonderful time with them), and Christian and Rebecca from Florida who were on their honeymoon. We chose the late dining option, so dinner typically ran from 8:30-10:30pm. After dinner, we were tired from the day of travel, so we retired back to our cabin to rest up for an exciting day in Key West.
Day 2: Key West: Shawn called a divemaster as he was anxious to complete his open water dives to complete his qualifications to recieve his PADI. He went on an open dive in the morning, while I stayed on the ship for breakfast, some time lounging in the pool, and another spa treatment. This one was a combo steam, lavendar cucumber exfoliation, massage, facial (an hour and a half total) for $99. Again, great value and very relaxing. I got off the ship and was pleased to see that we docked on a Navy base. We actually saw a ship arriving full of sailors and waved to them early in the morning! There was a shuttle waiting (cute train/trolley) that took me to the town square at no charge. Along the way, the driver gave us history on Key West. At the end, you could tip if you chose to. Met my husband on the square, did some shopping, and had a fabulous lunch at Caroline's. I highly recommend the shrimp wrap appetizer and the melon margarita! We would love to go back to Key West on vacation. Back on the ship, we experienced the muster drill. Not bad, very organized and the staff made it fun. Dinner that night was excellent, then after dinner, we decided not to do the show and see what other entertainment was available on the ship. Our favorite deck to walk on was 10, as you could walk along the entire length of the ship. By the pool, there was an amazing girl band playing a combination of Irish music and 80's rock. We summed it up as an Irish Dixie Chick, 10,000 maniacs sounding band. WE WERE SMITTEN! It was a little chilly up on deck, and where the towels were during the day, the staffed had rolled fleece throws, so you could cuddle under the blanket and watch the band. We thought this was a nice touch. We watched the band until they finished, then went to bed!
Day 3: Day at sea. Got up early to get a seat by the pool. If you are down by 9am, you can get a great seat! Met some great people from Boston, Dave and his daughter Lynne, who I talked with for about 3 hours, while my husband slept in. Found out that there was a large Irish contingent on the ship, about 1700 of the 2500 passengers on board were traveling with an Irish entertainer by the name of Andy Keegan. The band we had heard the night before were called the Screaming Orphans and were part of the entertainment booked through this group. We found out that they were playing that night late in the Medusa Lounge on Deck 10. My husband was already familiar with the lounge as he loved going up there for a scotch and cigar after dinner the previous 2 nights as a nightcap before bed. Great day by the pool, loved the sounds of the Bandeira Band (Steel drum music), and thought the activities by the pool were fun. We also loved the pizza and the hamburger/hot dog/grilled chicken buffets that ran daily for lunch. Great dinner (formal night), went to the show, Elements, which was actually excellent and featured the Costa Mediterranea dancers, and then headed up to Medusa's to watch the Screaming Orphans again. Closed it down!
Day 4: Grand Cayman: Again, Shawn took an open water dive and I went with him as he was diving at a dive resort called the Sunset House. No, beach, but the pool had an excellent ocean view with a waterfall, and an excellent oceanside restaurant and bar. Great day in Cayman!
Day 5: Roatan: Tender service was painful, but the excursion we booked was fantastic. We booked the pirates, parrots, and monkeys excursion and it was fabulous! Lots of pictures and a small beach to relax on after the tour was over. Very affordable too at $45/piece. This would be an excellent tour for children. This port is not very developed, so I highly recommend booking an excursion through the ship rather than venturing out on your own.
Day 6: Cozumel: Took the beach excursion to Playa Mia at $75/piece. This included transportation, beach chair, food & beverage (including alcohol) and non-motorized water sports. Massages and other water options available at a fee. I had a 1 hour massage on the beach for $70. Again, nice value and great quality. Used the floaties and floated in the water, very nice. I think next time we are in Cozumel, we will venture out on our own as I felt safe there. Dinner was fun (2nd formal night)and we experienced the Baked Alaska parade and the captain and the key staff paraded around the dining room. Very fun!
Day 7: Sea: Great day. This time, we slept in, and did not arrive to the pool deck until around 11am. Had a late breakfast and lounged in the sun. This time, we were on Deck 10, which had a great breeze, but watch out! Just because you're not sweating doesn't mean the sun exposure is any less. Both Shawn and I would up with sunburns...ugh. Last night in dining room. Toga night. Hint - if you don't know how to tie your toga, ask your cabin attendant, they are very good at tying Togas! Newlywed Game and Guest Talent Show that night, which I heard was very good. We went to bed as we were parched from our sunburns. We packed and had our luggage out by 1am.
Disembarkation: Had to be out of the cabin by 8am, but didn't feel rushed. We had purple tags, so we were the last off the ship and had to meet in the Roero Lounge on Deck 3 at 9am. Gave us time to have a leisurely breakfast and enjoy Deck 10 again before we had to leave. Disembarkation was as easy as embarkation. Very smooth and organized. Was a little concerned when I saw a longer line, but this was all the international guests entering the country, for our line, we didn't even have to stop walking. Caught a cab to the airport and were at the airport by 9:45am. Had to wait an hour to check our bags, as they only allow you to do so 2 hours before our flight. We flew out at 12:40pm and arrived back in Columbus at 3pm.
THIS WAS OUR 4th and FAVORITE CRUISE! I will admit, I was a little nervous about Costa as I had read some of the reviews about the food and the service. I put it like this...your vacation is what you make of it. If you want white glove service and filet mignon everynight in the dining room, then spend $1500/piece and book Princess or Celebrity. If you want a great cruise for a great value, then book Costa. The food and service we experienced on board was excellent. We heard some people complaining about the food, but I would like to see them try to cook for 3,000 people of diverse nationalities and make everyone happy. My goodness, you are on a beautiful ship, in the middle of the Caribbean, with great people serving you and cleaning your room daily with a smile. What is there to complain about???? Relax, sit back and enjoy the ride!
We did not feel pressured to buy anything, no hard sales pitches. Very relaxed, laid back, and if you needed something, the staff was ready to accommodate. Loved the little touches, like "That's Amore" playing everytime we set sail. Loved the pizza....loved the gelato...loved living la dolce vita.
We will definitely cruise Costa again...best value out there....