The Costa Mediterranea was one of the most beautiful ships my family and I have sailed on out of the eleven cruises we have sailed. The ship was also immaculately clean and well maintained. I was extremely pleased to see the efforts made by all staff to shine the mirrors, clean the carpeting and polish the glass. Our Steward, Reggie kept the cabin neat and clean at all times. He also was the first Steward from all our cruises who, upon our arrival, immediately introduced himself, educated us on the use of the cabin safe and television, reviewed the items in the refrigerator and removed the alcohol at our request, and even placed our luggage in the cabin when it arrived and we were not present. He was an example of excellent service.
However, I cannot say the same for other areas of the ship. I must admit that for the first time in my life during this cruise, I felt discriminated against as an American by many Costa crew members. There were many instances where a non-American received preferential treatment over me and my family. For example, I had a very bad experience with the Guest Services Desk that I will go into more detail later. From the first occasion that I visited the area to the last, I received very poor attitude. As soon as I spoke English, the attitude became apparent. Other non-English speaking guests were greeted with smiles and assisted immediately. I was made to feel that my questions were bothersome.
I also must say that there were many unusual situations that occurred. It seemed for every good or positive about the cruise, there was a poor or negative that accompanied it. For example, the Costa Kids Program was amazing. My son found the theme nights each night to be exciting. The "Horror Night" on the first evening was a bit scary for a four year old; but, he thoroughly enjoyed each night thereafter. The negative was that the program didn't open until 9pm on most nights. My son's bedtime is 9pm and he had difficulty staying awake to enjoy the evening's activities. Most other cruise lines start their evening kids programs at 7pm where my son gets a good 2-3 hours of fun each night.
My family and I were seated for 5:45pm dinner at a long table of eight. The three of us sat alone for the first two evenings until I questioned if we could be seated at another table where we could speak with fellow guests. We were moved to a round table of six where we sat alone for the next two evenings. When I asked if anyone else would be joining us, I was told that the other family was dining at the buffet and would I like to be moved again. We chose to stay and finally had other guests seated at the table for the last two evenings. My question is, why would we be seated alone in the first place when there were other tables open for us to join? Three people sitting at a table for eight is pathetic looking.
The pizza was fantastic. The meatballs that were served for lunch as an entrée were some of the best I have ever eaten. However, when I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs for dinner on the final evening of the cruise, I received three small meatballs that didn't even come close to those that I ate for lunch earlier in the week. These meatballs almost tasted like the frozen meatballs I make at home. Why would the chef serve one kind of meatball for lunch and another for dinner? My high expectations for a great spaghetti and meatball dinner were quickly dashed with this very unusual inconsistency.
The tender and shore excursion organization was probably the best we've encountered. Issuing numbers at a central location and then ushering everyone to the tenders worked wonderfully. However, once we hit shore, there was mass chaos to get in a line for a wristband or to board a van. Non-Americans were pushing and shoving and it seemed whenever I finally got to the front of the line, the ticket-taker would move and I'd find myself back at the end of the line. By simply requiring guests to remain in a straight line to get a wristband or board a van, the mass chaos would have been avoided and this part of the shore excursion would have been much smoother.
The embarkation and debarkation process went very smoothly. As a matter of fact, my family and other Americans exiting the ship noted quite vocally that there was some retribution for all the pushing and shoving that occurred during the cruise by non-Americans as they waited in an extremely long line for customs as we just whisked through with no wait. Funny thing was, ending my cruise was one of the positives.
Our Spa experience was energizing yet relaxing. I booked the couples spa treatment for Monday, February 11 on-line prior to our embarkation. This treatment was a surprise present for my wife for our 7th anniversary. All information received on-line and through e-mail communications noted that we would be contacted by Spa staff on the day of embarkation to schedule times for the treatments. Thank God we visited the Spa during our original tour of the ship. The Spa had no record of my on-line booking and had no plans to contact me to schedule times for the treatments. In speaking with other guests during the cruise, they waited to be contacted and could not get the day they requested on-line because the Spa was already booked. There seems to be a communication problem between on-line bookings and the Spa on the ship. Also, the procedure as outlined in all communications that the Spa staff would contact guests on the day of embarkation is flawed.
Finally, the absolute worst customer service experience takes me back to the Guest Services Desk. As I mentioned above, I want to describe in detail a situation that could have been resolved on Saturday, February 9 very simply; but, it became an everyday trudge to the Guest Services desk that almost ruined my vacation.
I booked the "Welcome Aboard Ruby Package" on-line as a Valentine's Day surprise present for my wife. The package included: one bottle of sparkling wine, a plate of 12 canapés, one beautiful fruit basket refilled daily, a Captain's welcome letter and an invitation to the VIP cocktail party or reception. When I arrived in my cabin on the 9th, there was no fruit basket. I approached the Guest Services desk to verify that my on-line order had been received. Knowing that the Spa had not received my order, I thought it was possible that my Welcome Aboard order was also not received. The Guest Services crew member told me that the fruit would be in my cabin later. I again asked her to verify that the ship had received my order and she became very terse with me. She rifled through a three-ring binder behind the desk for a couple of minutes and finally told me that the package was on record.
On the 10th, there still was no fruit in the cabin and my wife's Valentine's Day surprise was ruined because I had to explain to her why I was going back to the Guest Services Desk. I was told that the fruit would be delivered later in the evening.
On the 11th, there still was no fruit in the cabin. I asked the gentleman at the Guest Services Desk to speak with a manager. He rudely responded that he would handle the situation and that the manager would only give me the same response as he would give. I raised my voice a bit and told him that I was the paying customer and that I wanted to speak with a manager. Finally, he disappeared into the office and the manager appeared a few minutes later. I explained the situation to her and she informed me that I scheduled the package for delivery on Valentine's Day, February 14. I agreed; however, the package was to include a fruit basket refilled daily. Why would someone pay $50 for fruit everyday of the cruise and I pay the same and receive fruit only on Thursday and Friday of the cruise? The package states a fruit basket refilled daily. Finally, the manager agreed and sent the fruit on the evening of the 11th.
All was well until 14th when I approached the Guest Services Desk and inquired when the VIP cocktail party was scheduled. I was informed that it was on Monday, February 11. I also was interested in when I would receive the Captain's welcome letter. I asked for the manager and told her that I would not pay the full package price of $50 when I did not receive all that was included in the package. She told me that she would look into it and would get back to me.
On the 15th, I saw a charge for $50 on my statement and approached the long line at the Guest Services Desk. I asked to speak with the manager and was told she was handling the situation and that she would contact me. She left a message on the cabin voicemail about the same time I was at the desk.
I received a phone call from Room Service asking me to sign the invoice for the package. I refused and was instructed to visit the Guest Services Desk and speak with the Administrative Director. After waiting in the long line again, I was told that the Administrative Director would not see me and the Guest Services manager was handling the situation.
The Guest Services manager called later in the morning and informed me that she would credit my account $8. At that point I was very insulted since I had spent over $1,000 on board and told her I wanted a full credit of the $50 for my problems. This was a situation that I had to deal with almost everyday of my cruise vacation and if I were dealing with an American cruise line, they would recognize my hassle and have no problem with crediting me the $50 to keep me a happy customer. I was very vocal and expressed my displeasure. Finally she agreed to credit the account the $50.
This whole situation could have been avoided if the crew member on the first day took me a little more seriously and checked with room service to see if they had received my on-line request for the package. Also, there is no procedure in place to identify an on-line "Welcome Aboard Package" purchased for delivery on a day other than the day of embarkation. The package included a fruit basket refilled daily; but, room service knew nothing of the purchase until five days after embarkation. I also never received an invitation to the VIP cocktail party nor did I receive the Captain's welcome letter. This was very poor communication between Costa's on-line special services department and the ship. And then, there was very poor customer service from the Guest Services crew.
In conclusion, I go on vacation to get away from the everyday battles that life presents me. After sailing on the Costa Mediterranea, I feel like a battle scarred warrior who has to return back to my normal life's routine to get another vacation. This vacation was far from relaxing. Although I cannot say that the cruise was a complete bust since there were some very good positives, I can say that the many negatives have led me to a decision that my family and I will never sail with Costa again.