I am an American living in France. This was the fourth cruise that my girlfriend and I have taken together in the last two years. Two of the previous three were with Costa. The only significant difference on our part this time was that we had her nine-year-old son with us. Overall, we were disappointed.
We chose this cruise on the Costa Pacifica for two reasons:
1. We wanted a cruise where one could get by with French. (My girlfriend and her son don't speak English.) In the previous two Costa cruises we found that one could get by quite well with French.
2. We wanted to see what extra services a huge new ship such as the Pacifica could offer.
Re the first point: we found that the only two languages that worked on board were Italian and English. I didn't even bother to speak French to the crew after the first day since I quickly realized that it was a waste of time.
Re the second point: I didn't see one advantage that I could attribute to the larger size of the boat. The theatre was no better that one on a boat half the size, the pools were little more than wading ponds, the casino was stuffed into a narrow space on two sides of a corridor, there was no promenade deck... In fact, it became clear that the only purpose of the increased size was to squeeze in more passengers.
Layout of the Ship
Most of the decks were devoted to rooms with balconies. However, a deck with balconies can't have a promenade. The result is that there is no promenade deck on the Pacifica. It is unforgiveable that a brand-new ship of such a size doesn't have a feature that was considered standard for a respectable cruise ship fifty or a hundred years go: an outside deck where you could circumnavigate the entire ship.
We specifically chose a cabin w/o a balcony because of safety concerns with a nine-year old. (These were probably unfounded.) The room was acceptable but no more than one would expect on a ship half the size. I was disappointed that there was only a shower with a plastic curtain rather than a real door; on a previous Costa cruise we actually had a bathtub!
The entertainment was pathetic. In general, the level of the entertainment was what one would expect at a local charity fund raiser. There are two things everyone knows works with an international audience: show-tunes and pretty girls. Apparently they haven't figured it out since both were extremely scarce on this cruise. The shows were usually a single performer speaking only Italian and, if it was a singer, the songs were usually Italian favorites that the rest of us have never heard of. The dancers were attractive but only appeared a few minutes per evening, at best.
We convinced my girlfriend's son to try the children's club on the second day. He lasted one afternoon. The staff spoke only Italian, he had no idea what was going on, and he refused to return again.
There were supposed to be excursions at each stop in French, Italian, Spanish, German, & English, In fact many excursions in languages other that Italian were canceled or combined with excursions in other languages. One of our excursions was completely canceled and another was conducted in three languages: French, German, and Spanish!
Since this was a July cruise in the Mediterranean the quality of the pools was of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the three pools aboard were miniscule and completely unsupervised. One time I was in a pool where a dozen burly teenagers were roughhousing. One of them smashed into a little girl and her father started to reprimand him. I looked up and saw a ship's officer watching the whole thing w/o saying a word. I walked up to him and demanded whether the pool was their private preserve or whether the other [passengers had a right to enjoy it also. He finally woke up and put a stop to the nonsense. The jacuzzi were supposedly off limits to anyone younger than 16. In fact I saw infants as young as two years old in them. Even though there were three pools complexes none was reserved for adults.
The quality of the buffet was good. However, there was no attempt to supervise the customers. Many times I saw people who had obtained plates other than from the normal start of the line enter at the exit and start moving in the wrong direction. I know from experience that Europeans have a great deal of difficulty with the concept of a line but, still, you would think that anyone could figure out that you're supposed to start at the end where the plates are stacked.
At peak times it was often difficult to find a table after going through the buffet line. The frustration was aggravated by the fact that there were always many four- or six place tables occupied by only one or two people.
There was a rule printed every day in the daily newspaper that bathing suits are not allowed in the buffet. This rule was primarily observed in the breach. Try to enjoy your lunch while a fat shirtless boy, with breasts that would make any grown woman jealous, waddles by your table.
We only used the restaurant for dinner; breakfast and lunch were at the buffet. The food was not as good as that at the buffet, primarily because it was lukewarm by the time it arrived, and the service was very slow. Our table consisted of six French speakers but our waiter spoke no French. So, I had to act as the interpreter for the other five. We often left before the last course because we were tired of sitting in one spot for so long.
I like to gamble and I don't have to opportunity to do it much at home (in France.) So I was looking forward to trying out the casino. My game of choice is poker so I was happy to see that the casino had a Poker-Pro table. The first evening they offered two low-cost poker tournaments with the idea that, after the tournaments, players would stick around for a cash game. However, the customers in this cruise were too timid to play in a cash game so there were not enough people to get one going. Anyone with any sense would have realized that only tournaments were going to be successful on this cruise and would have offered as many as possible every evening. In fact there was none offered the second evening and it was only because I pestered the casino management that they finally started to offer them on a regular basis.
If you're Italian and your idea of a vacation is to lay around doing nothing when you're not stuffing yourself silly at the buffet, this is the cruise for you. Anyone else should look elsewhere.