Let's just say our flight over could have been better, had to make connection in Amsterdam and then fly to Rome, board a bus and head to the port (about a one hour bus trip). Once there, you got checked in, which I guess by cruise standards was expedient. Line moved fairly well...by the time we boarded we were pooped..but being the troopers we were, we made it to our assigned dinner seating. Our cabin was an inside upgrade..meaning it was on a higher deck but basically the inside cabin. Beds made into one king bed, very comfortable. Not much room to move about though. Noise in hall at night was a problem. Had kids staying next door and their parents let them run around in the hall late at night. One complaint about room was there was only one english station on the television, that being the BBC. All others were either Italian, French, Spanish or German. I like to watch tv at night before sleeping so I found this slightly annoying. They gave us bare bones essentials in the bathroom. Only one bar of soap, while there was a liquid soap dispenser in the shower (which I assume is for hair and body). Good thing we packed our own shampoos, conditioners, lotions, etc. The bar soap lasts for awhile. I suggest you bring along trial size soaps for the shower if that is your preference. Our steward was very attentive. The room got cleaned up twice a day with turn down bed service at night. Costa includes tipping as part of their final tab but if you want you may tip extra to anyone you want..I felt the steward probably deserved more than the usual cut. Everyone on board is very friendly. Most of the crew speak some English.
On the cruise, I would say there were 75% German nationality. You could see this in the food preparation which was geared toward their tastes I felt ie. veal and pork entrees, european style breakfasts. I felt the cuisine was above average for a ship of its size. Some things were done well while others lacked taste. Most pasta dishes are tasty. There is a different dinner salad every night along with a vegetarian entree. I opted most nights for the fish entree as I don't eat alot of meat. Five or six course meals are too much for me, but my husband indulged his food fantasy the whole trip. The days at sea I found myself eating alot more....the ships decks are generally very crowded. Most europeans would scout out their deck chairs early and sunbathe all day even in the chilliest of weather.
I liked the Grand Bar Bellino, there was always piano playing, a card table game area, comfortable couches, places to have cappuccino. The nightly entertainment while not up to Broadway standards did offer a variety of entertainment for most groups. I found the internet cafe to be expensive and I had trouble getting connected to my home internet site or sending mail through it. I was fortunate to find internet cafes in Greece that were a bargain compared to the ship. They do make an effort to make you feel welcome. An electronically generated newsletter (international) news printed in all languages on board was generated to all cabins every day, along with the following day's agenda and itinerary. Most times announcements were not made in English unless they had to do with the fire drill, or onboard art auction. There is only one english speaking hostess, she is quite good at what she does.
The reason we took the cruise was because of its itinerary. It went to all the countries we hadn't visited yet. We particularly liked the shore excursion in Izmir, which I feel was the most informative, cultural, historically interesting tour with a local guide who was a college professor. I was pleasantly surprised by Turkey, not expecting it to be the highlight of our trip. On the other hand, while I was looking forward to Egypt, the length of the time on the bus (2-1/2 hours each way) was very tiring..12 hour day so be prepared! Very touristy are the pyramids, quite a shame, very crowded, no bathrooms, no place to get a cold drink. Bring lots of water and sunscreen, its very hot and you will need to keep hydrated. The Cairo Museum was excellent. Very large collection from King Tut, that you will not see in America..you could easily spend 2 or more days exploring this museum. The Athens shore excursion is worth the effort to see the Acropolis and Parthenon, highlights of Athens. Other than that, I did not think Athens was anything special. Italy is alot nicer..Athens had a garbage strike while we were there so there was a lot of trash, but the city as a whole is dirty and is very crowded. I would also recommend the island of Cyprus, which has terrain reminiscent of California. Take the tour that goes to Omodus and temple of Apollo. Omodus small wine village in hills was a pleasant stop and good place to shop. Also island of Rhodes, you can easily walk around the walled city..good place to eat and shop too. We didn't use the exercise facilities so I will not comment on that, we generally just did alot of walking.
On the whole I liked the cruise. However, I would probably opt for a cruise with more english speaking people so we could chat. Most times at breakfast and dinner we were seated with people we could not converse with. We were very fortunate to have very good weather. No rain until we left. It was actually hot in Egypt the day we toured. Good walking shoes a must if you do this tour and the Athens tour, uneven surfaces so be prepared.