Following Doug's heart bypass surgery at the beginning of the year, we both needed a good holiday. We had never cruised before so decided on a cruise to Canada and Alaska in June 09. However, due to a lack of interest, that cruise was cancelled. Then one day a brochure arrived through door advertising a Costa Cruise to the Far East which outlined a fabulous itinery for October 09. By this time, we really needed a good holiday to recharge our batteries.
The problems started with the Costa web site when we tried to book excursions and check in on line. What an user unfriendly site. However we managed but needeed to make numerous phone calls to sort booking problems out. On line check in was a waste of time anyway. We still had to stand in endless queues to check in at the port. It took an age. We had spent 2 fabulous nights and 3 days in Hong Kong with a smashing guide named Jain who really kept us entertained with jokes, anecdotes and much information about Hong Kong
Once on board the Classica, the nightmare started and continued throughout the cruise. We were allocated a cabin on Deck 4 after paying £900.00 for an upgrade to get an outside cabin with a port hole. The cabin was dirty, the toilet seat was loose, the bathroom door didn't close and lock and the wardrobe doors banged constantly and the cabin was so noisy, it almost drove us out of our minds. Each time we arrived at a port, we heard very loud banging but was unable to identify the source. We explained the problem to our English speaking staff member who said it could be the air conditioning and the ceiling in the cabin would have to be taken down to remedy the problem. But, nothing was done. Then later that first week, we were rudely awakened by a continous banging at 4 am. By 7.30, we were going crazy. The problem was brought to the attention of the English speaking staff member once again and eventually we were allocated another cabin on Deck 6. We asked for help in moving our luggage to our new cabin and had a good laugh when a man arrived with an empty tray saying he was ready to deliver something to our new cabin. this was another example of poor communication and total incompetence.
Our first stop was Manila. The guide on the organised excursion can only be described as a bigot who was blatantly anti American, pro Marcos and believed that life would have been better if the Japanese had won the war in the far east. Our tours of Borneo and Brunei were better and more informative.
Our next port of call was Singapore which was to me to be, the highlight of the whole cruise. I was really looking forward to visiting Raffles and anticipated having afternoon tea there. We got to see the Raffles Hotel from the coach which stopped approx 200 yards from the front door and moved on within 2 minutes by our guide. What a let down. To make matters worse, we only had 40 minutes shopping time in the port. The guide on that excursion was uncaring and unsympathetic to our problems of exchanging or obtaining currency, preferring to spend time on his mobile phone.
From Singapore, we cruised up to Ho Chi Mihn City and encountered the Typhoon which had devastated Manila. We then continued on to Da Nang. Then up to Sanya in China before heading once again to Hong Kong.
There was no Bureau de Change on board our ship and we were left to sort out our own currency exchange problems. Classica staff were useless in problem solving not only with currency problems but everything. To go ashore was like an Alice in Wonderland adventure. It was a marathon paper chase from one deck to another. More than a third of the passengers were British but the staff's command of understanding English was appalling. This was obvious in the information sheets published daily. The information was very confusing at times especially when it was time to disembark. Staff were worse than useless at times unless they were taking your money, then they understood perfectly.
The food on board was generally good and the waiters were very efficient and attentive, always willing to go the extra mile to please cruisers. The drinks, however, were extortionate. A pint of beer was close to £10 and a bottle of poor wine cost approx £20.
The only stress free periods for us were the days spent in Hong Kong.
Most of the evening shows were very amateur and presented on a poorly lit stage. The dancers, in our opinion were like cart horses who couldn't keep time with each other.
Our first cruise will probably be our last. The cruise was presented as a five star rated cruise but in fact was only barely a 2 star. Discussion with other passengers revealed like minded thoughts and similar complaints to our own.We will certainly not be sailing with Costa Cruises again nor will we be recommending them to anyone. We need a holiday to get over that experience.