We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed.
Having read some of the previous reviews I went expecting lots of negatives but these were totally unfounded. From arrival to departure everything was well organised and the comfort of the passengers was always of primary importance - at least it felt that way.
On arrival the terminal in Venice we were handed some numbers and our bags taken from us. We waited about an hour to board but there were drinks available and we were given the opportunity to decide which drinks packages to have - we had tried to buy the X1 card but had left it too late! These cards need to be bought 14 days before the cruise.
As soon as we stepped on the ship we were approached by someone who heard us speak English to explain that there would be a meeting to explain things to us and who gave us the time and place and then directed us to our cabins.
The cabins were immaculate and well laid out. We had booked relatively late and we had inside cabins but they were fine. As a previous reviewer stated we all slept exceptionally well. Being on the 9th level turned out to be a real bonus for granny as the buffet was on this level for breakfast and lunch.
The food was great and plentiful. The Italians were quite pushy - no queuing in their culture obviously - but it wasn't a problem. They piled their plates high but there was never a shortage of anything for the rest of us. We ate lunch once in the restaurant but then discovered it spoilt our appetite for dinner so we didn't do it again. We discovered late in the week that there was different foods in different parts of the buffet, but again the kids were happy with the pizza and the rest of us were happy with the pasta of the day and salad. There was always plenty of fresh fruit available.
The English speaking hostess was really informative and available each day for any problems. She hosted a drinks party for English speaking clients on the 2nd night, sadly not many of us turned up but the few that did were very friendly and it was nice to have nodding acquaintances.
We chose a mixture of ship and self organised excursions. Starting in Bari we took the ship's cycle tour. This was quite a giggle but not much cycling and frustrating having to listen to the guide give the explanations once in English and again in Italian. Bari itself was beautiful and could easily be walked around with the map provided by the ship. In Katakalon we used George Letsios who was fantastic (www.taxikatakolon.gr). He could only take 4 in his taxi so granny and I stayed in the town but my husband and the kids went off to Olympia and said this was the best trip they did all week. They arrived ahead of the tour buses and really enjoyed the site and visit to the museum. George then took them to a beach and for a cold drink - real ***** service. In Katakolon we wandered round the town and had a drink, bought some postcards and took pictures. The cafes on the front all had wifi (but I had left my computer behind on board although it was only 5 minutes by foot from the ship to the town I decided not to bother as I was on holiday!). There was a small beach on the left hand side of the port area with showers and shade. Also, car hire and moto hire available just at the entrance to the port.
For Izmir and Istanbul we organised trips using Burak Sansal as recommended on this site. These were very expensive - it would have been cheaper to take the ship tours - but we felt that the flexibility with granny made the expense worth it. Sadly neither of these excursions lived up to expectations. The guides were very nice but when we said we didn't want to go shopping we felt a definite change in their demeanour towards us. The first guide stated from the outset that she expected a tip - we always tip and don't really need to be asked! The first port of call in Istanbul was to the spice market and when we explained that we would rather look at sites in the cool of the day and do any shopping later we were made to feel that we were clearly out of order. We lost (!) our transport in Istanbul resulting in granny having to walk quite some distance which was a bit of a strain for her. We'd asked to look at some rugs and were taken to a rug shop where the prices started at over £1000 which was way way over our price range. My husband was furious. I don't mean this to sound petty but we are really experienced independent travellers and we left Turkey feeling that we hadn't seen the best of it.
In Dubrovnik we took the ship's tour to the beach. This was a bit of a faff as we had to take the tender from the ship to the town and then another boat back to the beach which was a short distance from where the ship was tendered. It was so close in fact that my kids reckoned they could swim to it! This was not worth the money (58 euros each). It included a light lunch which consisted of 4 mussels a scoop of salad and a slice of bread. The Italians had arrived with sandwiches they made at breakfast to supplement this meagre offering!! Dubrovnik looked beautiful and I wish I had heeded the advise to look around the town but I thought the kids had had enough culture by now. Leaving Dubrovnik was amazing as you sail right past the old town and cliffs.
When we got to Venice the disembarkation was well organised and we dumped our bags and took the water bus down to St Marks square. This was the icing on the cake according to granny! Suzanne, our English hostess, gave lots of information on those wanting to leave their bags at left luggage and how to get to town.
This was our first ever cruise and all in all was an enormous success. The kids said it was the best holiday ever. Hubby had enough going on to keep him interested. Granny was delighted that at her age she was still able to visit new places and enjoy time with her family. I was happy to have ticked off some places I'd never visited before and, of course, that everyone else was happy. The ship was huge but never felt overcrowded - the only bottlenecks were around the central areas in the evenings - there were plenty of sunbeds. The shows were varied and on the whole quite entertaining. The drinks prices were not unreasonable. We bought the soft drinks vouchers for the kids, a water and wine package for the adults, and there was always water available from a machine.
My husband used the spa and a few of us used the gym - there was an age limit but both my sons used the facilities without any problem. The kids loved the slide and the pools. Granny and I found lots of shady areas to sunbathe and read our books. The staff were fantastic - really friendly and accommodating - and the ship was immaculate.
We would definitely consider another holiday with Costa Cruises.