Embarkation: Smooth as silk pie. Incredibly easy and simple. The people at the pier were friendly and helpful. Best check in I've ever had, hands down.
I had booked a Grand Suite on this ship because the price was affordable and I wanted the space. The room was clean and orderly but for a suite seemed rather small. The layout was awkward with the bathroom in the middle that really cut off the space. Removing the little wall around the vanity would have opened up the space tremendously. Closet space was adequate for a 7 night voyage but wouldn't want to try it on a longer trip or with 3-4 in the room. The balcony was MASSIVE, completely wrapped around the back of the ship and awesome. Loved it! My biggest problem with the room was the light switches everywhere. I never did figure them all out.
So, The general layout of the ship is fairly straight forward with 2-3 main decks in the bottom of the ship housing most of the activities but what I did find odd is that the pools and hot tubs were consistently small. The water slide was open for very brief periods. We would joke that it was open from 10 to 10:10 and not a minute more except that it really wasn't that consistent. Some mornings it would be open and then not again till the next afternoon.
My Room Steward and Butler were extremely attentive, almost to the point of being overbearing and apparently they didn't talk to one another because as soon as one would leave the other would show up with the same questions and if I asked for something from one that wasn't within his job specs it didn't get done 50% of the time. The AC in the room was....bad... it would barely cool off enough at night for me to sleep if I did so "au natural" and above the covers. The first time I mentioned this I was told it was because we were in port and part of the ships AC required us to be moving. The second time I complained I was told it was because all my windows were uncovered and to cover the windows with the black out curtains. I admit this helped slightly. Finally on my third and fourth complaints maintenance came down and did something that didn't really help. I talked to my neighbors and it seemed to be an issue on the entire back half of this deck. You could feel a temperature change from the elevators to the hallway 10 feet away.
Food: now I realize food is entirely subjective so take this with a grain of salt. Food was usually over or under cooked and almost always cold. The Bread could have been used as bullets and I can only imagine the amount of dental work required by the people getting off the ship. Surprised there wasn't a dentist on board, Costa could make some money. Buffet was slightly below typical cruise standards. But at least it was warm right? Buffet design had no logic as you had to wander the entire buffet to find all the stations. And the buffet hours seemed a little odd and when it was time for them to close, they closed, period, whether there were people waiting to eat or not. The service in the main dining room was good, for the most part. But you could tell that about half the waiters did not have an assistant waiter so waiting on tea and water refills could take a while. We did have 2 minor incidents with the dining room staff... the first was when I asked for A1 steak sauce the second night of the cruise and I was brought a bottle and told it was the last bottle and there was very little left. I turned the bottle up to find there was none left. So I asked again if there was another bottle somewhere and the waiter replied no, it was the last bottle. Now, wait a minute, this was the last bottle of A1 on the entire ship and it was only the second night?! I was willing to let it slide but one of my table mates was not and he asked flat out if the waiter meant to tell us that this was the last bottle on the entire ship? The waiter disappeared for a minute and returned with an entirely full bottle. The second incident came when we ordered coffee after dinner. After 10 minutes we still had no coffee nor coffee cups. So, we asked again, another 10 minutes and still no coffee nor cups. Finally on the third time, my same boisterous table mate demanded to see the head waiter. I won't repeat what he said but, needless to say we got coffee when we wanted it from there on out.
Spa: I like to pamper a little when on a cruise ship so I usually order a mani/pedi and a massage. This cruise I only did the manicure. The woman doing it was friendly but seemed depressed and wasn't good company while she was working on my hands. She did a decent job but her depression was off putting and I canceled the rest of my services because I do expect the spa services to be things that lift my spirit not bring me down.
Bar Service: The bar service was....odd. If a bar, in the course of its day, ran out of a particular liquor they did not restock it until the bar closed for the night. So....if you were all comfortable drinking Crown, or Grey Goose Martini's and they ran out of those you had to go to another bar to get your drink. I've never seen a bar run like this and at times they would run out of a liquor at 2 pm and never replace it all day.
General Service: the Italian staff at times was foul tempered, rude, and condescending to the point of being unhelpful. There were several instances of them snapping at other staff right in front of guests. The non Italian staff was friendly and accommodating but as soon as an Italian would walk by they would clam up and look scared. I have an example here, a new friend I made on the ship accidentally left his ID/credit cards in some pants he sent for laundry. He did not realize his mistake immediately but when he did he set about getting his stuff back since we were in port that day. Ok, so he calls the front desk, who tells him to come down in person. So he does and waits in line, when he gets there the woman behind the desk from Romania is very sweet and calls the laundry but no answer, so she leaves to go to the laundry. She comes back and before she can say anything to him the other woman at the desk, an Italian, starts berating her for leaving her post. The woman tries to explain but the Italian lady is just tearing into her, promising to report her and that she should have sent my friend away until they had time to deal with the problem. Finally, my friend comes to her rescue and interrupts to find out about his stuff. The Italian shoots him a dirty look and turns back to her customer. Now all this happened in front of 10-20 people in the MAIN lobby and no, it was not a quiet exchange. Finally, the flustered Romanian woman says yes they had found the stuff but it was in the laundry manager's safe and he won't be back on the ship till 3:30. 3:30 rolls around and only the Italian is on duty now. He goes back and she tells him that she doesn't have time to go get his stuff that he should come back during dinner when the line is shorter, there were 4 people in line at this point. Finally at dinner he leaves his meal and goes to the desk and his property is returned, by the Romanian woman.
Debarkation was quick easy and orderly...no problems at all was off the ship and waiting for a taxi within 15 minutes of my color being called.
Overall: if you are extremely budget minded and get this cruise for free or almost free, go. But really and I don't say this lightly...I'd rather do Carnival.