Exactly 7 days ago I returned from an 11-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise on Costa Concordia (Feb 23rd - Mar 5th). I travelled with my wife (both of us 30 yrs old) and our son (2 yrs old). My parents-in-law came along as well, who had booked an adjoining cabin. We're from the Netherlands, where virtually no one chooses a cruise as a holiday destination; people here assume cruising is for millionaires. It was our second cruise (the first one was our honeymoon with Costa Mediterranea in 2006) and it turned out to be our best holiday in a very long time.
Over the past years I've read many articles on Cruise Critic concerning Costa and in nearly all the articles there is a distinctive negative tone, as if Costa would be a budget cruise line filled with rude Italians who smoke everywhere. This is simply not true. First of all it was a pretty expensive cruise, so I resent every comment on Costa being cheap. Second, everything about the ship was luxurious: the atrium and lounges were beautiful, the cabin was very comfortable, the crew was outstanding and professional and the food was delicious. Our fellow passengers consisted mostly of Germans, with Italians and French coming in second. I was fortunate enough not to encounter any rude passengers; everyone waited in line and was polite (believe it or not). All the lounges were divided into smoking and non-smoking, so non-smokers like myself could easily pick a place to sit without being bothered by smoke. I never saw anybody smoke in the restaurant or theatre.
Actually, I enjoyed the ship more than I did the shore excursions. We used the official Costa excursions in Izmir, Limassol, Alexandria and Rome. Katakolon was boring (we had visited Olympia on our previous cruise). There were strikes in Athens causing the Acropolis to be closed. Izmir was all right; we had a funny tour guide (Ester) who entertained us on the entire trip to Ephesus by giving us an overview of Turkish culture and gastronomy (including 40 ways to prepare eggplant). Rhodes has a beautiful castle but the town was a tourist trap selling trashy souvenirs. The stop in Limassol was the least interesting of the entire cruise. We visited an archeological site which had nice mosaics, but we had just been to Rhodes where we had seen beautiful mosaics in the castle. The Cypriot village of Omodos was supposed to be picturesque but when we visited it rained, so it looked awful and apart from an unassuming church (very similar to other churches in the Mediterranean) there was absolutely nothing to see or do. Had I known this beforehand, I would have spent the money of this excursion on a Samsara Spa treatment. Alexandria and Cairo were truly exotic; the pyramids and the Egyptian museum were magnificent. In Rome we had persistent torrential rains but the architecture, the atmosphere and ice cream were so fantastic that it was one of the highlights of our cruise.
On board we joined in on all the Costa fun: Italian Dinner (including napkin waving, opera music and dancing with the waiters), Buffet Magnifico (truly amazing) and the Welcome and Farewell Gala dinners with the Captain. We were invited to the CostaClub cocktail, during which the Captain made a special tribute to a German couple who were on their 77th cruise with Costa. We visited all the evening shows except one featuring a ventriloquist. The second gala show (Celebration) and the crew amateur show (I Have a Dream) were fantastic. Beware of the Dancing Gauchos; they're dismal.
Prices of alcoholic drinks are crazy (4 euros for a small beer including service charge) as well as the cost of official photographs (15 euros each). Another downside was that our son was too young for the Squok Club, so he was only allowed in the Squok Club on port days. Also, there were no age-specific toys or entertainment options for him. On the other hand we did get priority embarkation because we were travelling with him, meaning getting on board the ship the instant our transfer pulled into Savona.
We would most certainly cruise with Costa again. The service, food, beauty of the ship and overall luxury were truly memorable.