The Concordia was getting some bad press on the boards so I was beginning to doubt my decision to cruise Costa. My fears were totally unfounded. My husband and I loved our Costa cruise and would definitely sail on the Costa Concordia again.
We reached Civitavecchia via train from Roma Termini (for €9 vs. €150 for a cab!) and after a brief, enjoyable walk to the port (easy with luggage on wheels), were bused to the waiting terminal via complimentary shuttle. The embarkation process was quick and painless. We were greeted in English by smiling Costa employees and arrived in our cabin in great spirits. The Concordia is a wonderful explosion of light, color, and Italian craftsmanship. There are contemporary murals and artwork in hallways and on landings. The warmth of polished and inlaid wood can be felt in the 12 bars (all with live entertainment). Floors were either carpeted or mosaic-tiled. Dining rooms are elegant and comfortable. There was a festive air throughout the ship.
The crew (mostly from the Philippines and Italy) spoke English and were pleasant and attentive. We were always greeted by crew members when passing in hallways. Dining room servers were pleasant and efficient without being effusive. I didn't need to have my waiter ask me about the details of my day or share in table conversation. He was trained to serve me my dinner and that's what he excelled at. The conversation we shared was totally about the food! The food. My experience of Italian "ristorante" food is that there isn't much of it. Compared to eating at a "trattoria," the quantity can be disappointing based on what Americans are used to when dining out. The evening meal aboard the Concordia was "ristorante" fare. The Parisi buffet (open for dinner as well as being the breakfast and lunch venue) was "trattoria" fare. Italians consider gluttony a sin. There is more pleasure to be had during a leisurely dinner than in an inhaling of piles of pasta (not that I didn't inhale piles of pasta while aboard . . .). Once I adjusted my palate to "Italian", dinners were fine. The food wasn't outstanding (my main complaint is that the soups were thin). The pizza served in Parigi, though, was very good and plentiful. One night (instead of dressing for dinner) we sat by a window in Parigi and pigged-out on pizza, drank a bottle of wine, and watched the world go by. A note on "formal" nights: they weren't the tux and gown evenings they can be on other cruise lines. Shore excursions were very well organized and tour guides, who spoke clear, understandable English, were personable and knowledgeable.
The worst experience was disembarking in Barcelona when we hadn't booked a shore excursion. There were plenty of buses, but only one person to supervise the boarding (via ticket) so only one bus was loaded at a time. Not very efficient. There were probably hundreds of Europeans (who aren't known for their queuing-up) all pushing to get on one bus! Finally, several buses opened their doors at once and the crowd disappeared. Final disembarkation was via the "silent" process. A fun touch was having crew members lined up to bid us farewell. We disembarked at 10:00a.m. and were in our rental car in Rome an hour and a half later (an hour of that was the train ride). Very efficient.
Overall, in my opinion, Costa is perfect for the European-oriented cruiser. My guess is that there was an 85% European (Italian, French, German), 5% Asian and 10% American passenger demographic. We loved being surrounded by foreign languages (and being able to practice our Italian). Those who are used to American cruise lines may be disappointed in the entertainment quality and amount of food at dinner. Personally, I think Americans, in general, are much more demanding and less appreciative than Italians in particular. We chose this cruise for the itinerary. We'll be sailing on the Celebrity Solstice next month for the ship. Stay tuned!