We have just returned from 3 weeks on the Costa Classica sailing from Dubai to Singapore. It was a bit like the Curate's egg - good in parts. We have cruised with Costa before, but on a newer ship and we found the Classica very basic and ferry-like (definitely not Italian-style!) and not really suited to expectations of modern cruising. The main plus points were the itinerary - fantastic (see more below) and we liked the evening entertainment (except for the few nights that they showed videos!). They had a good classical duo, two acrobats/aerialists, an illusionist, a ventriloquist, various singers, and excellent crew show and a couple of production shows, which were OK but a bit thin with just one singer, three male dancers (until one got injured and then there were just two!) and six female dancers.
BUT - the air conditioning in our cabin, along with many others we heard of did not work properly, despite repeated complaints and efforts to repair it, which made for a very uncomfortable time indeed in such a warm climate. It was probably because it was an old ship, but apparently there have been problems with cabins in some areas for months and (since it wasn't fixed) these will doubtless continue as Classica does her Far Eastern itineraries. Some cabins on our level (Deck 4) got flooded - at least we escaped that!
The food was generally poor, and I am not a fussy eater! The buffet was also totally inadequate and poorly designed, and overcrowding in the area was exacerbated by maintenance that shut one of the two exit areas for most of the cruise. There was also no food available after 9 pm apart from pizza on Deck 9 and room service (at a charge). Also no free tea, coffee and water after 9 pm, which is totally outrageous. The service in the restaurant was very poor and the food was badly presented and sometimes poorly cooked. Our waiter was the worst we have ever had (and since 'gratuities' are compulsory there is no opportunity to reflect that in your tipping!). His English was poor, he got orders wrong and then argued with you, then went off and argued with the assistant waiter, and some evenings was in a real strop, while other times he appeared to be high as a kite.
The cost of drinks was prohibitive; we bought a package of wine and water and got a 20% discount with our Costa Club membership, but it was still a very high price for very indifferent wines. My husband also had one beer, costing EUR5.18 (including compulsory 15% service charge).
The sun lounger issue was the worst I have ever seen. We went up on deck very early (cabin too hot!) and one morning at 6.20 there were 12 loungers already reserved in our favorite shady area, although they remained unoccupied for hours. By 7.30 you were lucky to get a lounger in a shady spot, although there were very few people actually in occupation!
Guest Services, with a few notable exceptions, were pretty unhelpful, as they tend to be on Costa. We had a problem with the disappearance of my husband's spectacles (which I am putting in more detail in the Answers section). The English Speaking Host, who was Italian, was rude, aggressive, unhelpful and unreliable, although at least he made Guest Services look relatively good!
The excursions were very expensive for what appeared to be pretty mundane trips. The port information for those looking after themselves was diabolical - the so-called maps had no scale, no indication of where the ship would be and one (Fujeirah) was actually incorrect. Any request for information once we left the Middle East was met with 'We have never been here before, we don't know'. Isn't it there job to find out if they don't know? Plus there was a port shuttle in a couple of places, but Costa didn't seem to know that, or if they did, didn't see the need to inform passengers!!
Anyway, back to the destinations, which were the real highlight! We mainly did our own thing - and it is the first time we have taken no ship's excursions in all our cruising trips!
DUBAI. We flew to Dubai for one night prior to embarkation. Having read on this site that you weren't allowed in your cabin until 8pm on the day of embarkation we booked an evening Desert Safari trip via the Internet and that was really good. By the time we got back at 9.30 pm we were able to embark immediately with no waiting. The next day we took a taxi back into the city to look at some of the museums and shopping areas that we missed the previous day. FUJEIRAH. Really not much to see here. Paid EUR6 each for a shuttle to a local shopping centre (one supermarket, a cafe, money changing and a few shops). We walked to the fort and museum from there, which wasn't too far, except that Costa's map was wrong! MUSCAT. Took a taxi tour with a Russian couple and the highlight was the Mosque (one of the biggest in the world). We also saw the royal palace, a fancy hotel, a couple of viewpoints and were dropped off at our request at the souk, which was within walking distance of the ship. MUMBAI. I have to say that Costa's organization of our immigration here was first class, with limited queuing, although how people managed to get that far without an Indian Visa I am not sure? The first day we walked to the Taj Mahal hotel for a drink, found an optician to make my husband a new pair of glasses (the English speaking host Nick was supposed to have found out about local opticians, but obviously hadn't and disappeared on a trip instead.). We then took the ferry to Elephanta Island, which we really enjoyed, came back and went the the Prince of Wales museum (which isn't called that anymore) and then had another drink at the Taj Mahal while waiting for the glasses to be ready. We then walked back to the ship. It was too late for our first sitting dinner, so we went to the buffet, which didn't open until 8 and then was overcrowded with people and not enough food or staff. The second day we took a taxi (driven by the very helpful Tony) to see the other bits we wanted like the Queen's Necklace, Ghandi's house, the hanging gardens, Dhobi Ghat, etc. An excellent trip. GOA. Filthy port, probably the worst I have ever seen. Bulk coal and brown stuff (that turned out to be sugar) were in great piles on the dock . It had rained and the mixture of water and what I presume was coal dust did not do much for our clothing. We got a taxi to a nearby beach and hired a boat to take us snorkeling, which was very enjoyable, even if visibility wasn't fantastic. THE MALDIVES. Beautiful! Tendered ashore and then avoided the expensive boat trips to tourist islands, took a $2 taxi ride (with a group of 6 Australians) to the other side of the island and took a ferry (USD1 for four people one way) to a local island. As it was a local beach, we had to cover shoulders and thighs, which was a bit odd, but the sea was beautiful to swim in with coral and loads of fishes. COLOMBO, SRI LANKA. Took a taxi tour of the city and area with a couple from Belgium, including a stop at the Galle Face hotel for a beer (less than half the price on the ship!) PHUKET. First day we stopped at Patong and tendered to the beach. It was a bit late to organize trips as we didn't arrive until the afternoon. We hired a couple of sun loungers and had a swim (and another beer - even cheaper!). We then had a walk round the shops and bars before going back to the ship. The ship moved overnight to an anchorage at Deep Sea Port (to the east of the Island) and we had to tender ashore again. We took another taxi tour with our new friends from Belgium, including the Wat Chalong temple, Phuket Town, Chinatown, shopping, Cape Promthep viewpoint and a stop at a beach for a swim and another beer. PORT KLANG. We weren't actually in Port Klang, but in the Star Cruises terminal about 20 minutes away, which rather sabotaged our plans for the day. The fact that there were no money changing facilities didn't help either (none on the ship for currencies for most of the places we visited). But it was nice to have the ship nearly to ourselves for an afternoon to swim and take our choice of sunbeds! No food was available between 2.30 and 4pm, however, which was a blow as I hadn't had any lunch before I briefly went ashore! We were threatened with a EUR1000 fine if we were late back (allegedly by the port authority, according to Costa), but I noticed the excursions were well over an hour late back, and I rather doubt they were all fined - so what was that all about? SINGAPORE. Spectacular arrival in Singapore and we moored under the Sentosa Cable Car. We had a whole day and night before we had to disembark and we took advantage of our position to spend the day on Sentose. I visited Singapore on business in 1995 and I couldn't believe the changes in the place. Sentosa looked like a huge building site! We went to Underwater World, Dolphin Lagoon (worst dolphin show we have ever seen, although the pink dolphins were lovely), the Merlion and had a swim. Disembarkation the next day was very easy as we were on our own and going to a hotel; we just had breakfast, collected our hand luggage from our cabin, walked off through immigration, collected our luggage, went through customs and into a taxi. We then had two more nights in Singapore before we came home.
Hope I haven't waffled on too long. In summary, we saw some amazing places all of which we enjoyed. If the ship had been comfortable it would obviously have been even better!! Would we travel with Costa again? Don't know. Certainly not on an older boat, unless the itinerary was truly unique, when we might consider it I suppose. And at least I had no problems with gaining weight because the food wasn't good - I have actually lost weight!