After having read many negative reviews about Costa and the Concordia, we went on our cruise with no real expectations. Were we surprised and pleasantly so! Our balcony cabin was spacious and even on chilly days, we used the balcony and got the added bonus of a sunny day at sea on the return trip when we could sit out and enjoy the weather.
Costa service crew members frequently asked if we were enjoying the cruise, how was the food, etc., so I believe management monitors the forums and has been making improvements. We found no smoking signs on many tables in the various bars and I don't recall any smoking in the dining room, so they have addressed that issue there were plenty of smoke-free areas on board.
The food was far better than we were lead to believe. Soups still are a bit thin (but some were tasty nevertheless) and mixed drinks could use additional alcohol, but as for the food itself, we always found something we liked on the menu. Steaks were properly done and tasty.
We did a combination of Costa-sponsored shore excursions and our own and both were excellent. The Costa tour leaders provided excellent information at each stop.
For anyone looking for a guide in Izmir, I would recommend Evren (email@example.com). He provides a fabulous day-long tour of Ephasus and Izmir and has reasonable rates. We learned more and saw more on that particular day than any on the cruise.
Choice of ports is good and this was the reason we chose this particular cruise. We also enjoyed seeing the sights in cooler weather rather than the heat of the summer. Except for one stop, we were the only cruise ship in port so we weren't falling over hordes of tourists, another plus.
Kate, our English guide, was most helpful. We did not participate in a lot of the on-board activities but there were a wide range that would suit anyone.
Some English speakers have complained that the announcements on board are not in English, or when they are, they are not first. It is an Italian line so of course the first language is not English. We played a game to see if we could figure out the announcement before the English version came on. Those announcements that were in Italian (or any other language other than English) only were directed at specific passengers who spoke that language, so we didn't need to have a translation.
There was a negative or two along the way, but all in all, we were very pleased.