My wife and I sailed on the November 16th Romantica sailing to Cantania, Athens, Izmir, Mykonos, and Santorini. First, the ports of call are the reason we booked the cruise, and they were amazing. Also, we were driven by the price, as this was the cheapest cruise we have ever taken.
Getting to/from Civitavecchia We took the train from Roma Termini to the port without any issues. Just went to Termini in Rome, bought tickets and a self-service machine, and took the 45 minute ride to Civitavecchia. We took the express train, and used 1st class; the car was mostly empty. From the station in Civitavecchia, take a right out of the station and it’s a 10 minute walk to the ship. We used Costa’s transfer on the way back to the airport, which was on $20 USD each. About 1 hour drive from port to the airport.
Ship Overall the ship was clean and well maintained. It is a small ship (55k tons) and lacked a lot of public spaces; we have been on smaller ships (Carnival Holiday for instance) that actually had more public spaces. The cabins appeared to be recently remodeled, as they were very clean and modern for a cruise ship; we were actually surprised the cabins were in such great shape given the age of the ship. Of course winter in Europe it was cooler, so we did not use the pools (they are not covered as on other ships in cooler climates), but did use the hot tubs; as this was very port intensive the pools were not much of a big deal. Overall, a decent ship with nice cabins for its size and price.
Food This is the first cruise I had been on where food was difficult to come by at times. Bear in mind this is an Italian cruise ship, NOT American. Italians apparently do not stuff themselves 24x7. The buffet was awful – very small, food was terrible; overall the worst buffet I’ve seen on a cruise ship. It is only open for breakfast and lunch. No dinner; no 24x7 buffet as on most ships. The dining room was much better, still not to the quality of American ships but I was able to find something to eat every meal. I think some of my issues with dining room food were more due to the fact that it was Italian style, not American, thus I cannot fault the ship for this as I expected an Italian experience.
People Italians are a different bunch – I thought they were rude, loud, and very inconsiderate of others (we spent several weeks in Europe traveling all over and have no complaints other than with Italians). They smoke everywhere…..smoking is very bad on the ship. Apparently breathing oxygen is optional in Italy. This is by a million miles the worst I have seen smoking on a cruise ship.
Surprisingly there were large numbers of Americans on the ship – far more than I expected. Our dining table was all American, and it appeared assigned by age, which we found to be great. Despite being a ship dominated by Italians, I think we had the best table group on any of the cruises we have taken. The excursions were organized by language, and we were mostly with Americans. Overall, that piece was well organized by Costa.
Ports We choose this cruise for the itinerary above all else, and were not disappointed. We used all Costa excursions (in the Caribbean we always go it alone, but on port intensive cruises such as this, Alaska, and a few others we went with the ships excursions). The excursions were in English, mostly attended by Americans. I have no complaints on any of the excursions we took – they were all worth the money.
Catania: Did the 4x4 up Mt. Etna. Actually was off road, did a nice hike around Mt Etna. Supposed to be a 4 hour excursion, was closer to 6. We were happy with this excursion.
Izmir: Our favorite port, not at all what we expected. Did the 9 hour Ephesus, House of the Virgin Mary, and St Johns excursion. Well worth the money. Ephesus is one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, and it is well deserved.
Santorini: Did the Oia Village, which I think was the only worth while excursion here. Oia is very pretty and we got great photos….it is what I picture when I think of Greece. The village where the ship actually ports (different than if you take an excursion) is just a typical cruise shopping place, nothing special. Mykonos: I think this is really a beach stop, but in November and at 6-11 pm there was nothing to do. No ship excursions, which is the first time I’ve been to a port with an excursion being offered. We got off, walked around went back in maybe 30 minutes time.
Athens: Took the Acropolis and Museum excursion. Museum was boring, nothing special to see. If I had to do it again, I would just take the Acropolis excursion. The Acropolis is very cool, with nice views of Athens. But it pales in comparison to Ephesus.
Overall we had a great time on the cruise. Given the price ($299 pp) and itinerary, it was well worth the trip. The key is to remember it is an Italian ship, not an American. Of course, as you are in Italy, this should be expected…..yet many Americans still think it will be like America wherever they go. As long as you book based on itinerary and expect an Italian experience, I think anyone would enjoy this cruise.