Embarkation We are in our 50's and have cruised about 28 times. We were attracted to the itinerary (Savona to Naples, Port Said, Suez transit, Sharm el Sheikh, Safaga, Aqaba, Aden, Salalah, Muscat, Fuijuirah and Dubai with 2 nights on the ship) and the fact that this is a new ship. Neither disappointed. We flew to Nice and took a Costa transfer to Savona which was very handy and reasonably priced. As costa club members we had priority embarkation and this was swift and smooth.
Public areas The ship itself was absolutely beautiful with plenty of public space, on this occasion it was 2/3 full. The public areas are on 2 and 3 and the buffet and pools on 9. We never had to queue for lifts, to get on or off the ship or food. The library was absolutely pathetic and Internet connection was very bad resulting in high charges. The Spa was absolutely gorgeous with wonderful facilities you can read about elsewhere, but as the days wore on I got fed up seeing enormous leering fat Italian men in the fabulous Thalassotherapy Pool or listening to them snoring in the serene relaxation room. Initially the Spa was quiet but then Costa offered daily specials and it became too crowded for me. There were plenty of sun loungers on the outer decks and the pool areas were attractive. We never used the gym which seemed adequate. There was a jogging track and roller skating track on 10 and a wrap round promenade deck on 3. There was a gorgeous chapel with mass everyday. A major design fault is in the star trek type doors for the toilets. They are opened by passing your hand over a laser beam. Men can be seen using the urinals as the doors take some time to close, perhaps this is the reason for women hanging about outside the gents!!!??? -
Cabins We were upgraded to a Samsara inside cabin but were not permitted the perks. However I purchased a spa package at 199 euros which gave me 1 treatment and access to the spa for the 19 nights which was very good value. We were offered Samsara dining at 180 euros per person but did not avail of that. Samsara cabins include tea and coffee making facilities but ours were removed from the room which I thought was very mean. Little gestures sometimes mean a lot and Costa I feel let themselves down here and also in not giving us the disposable slippers given to occupants of those cabins. May I add we would not have used the tea/coffee facilities, it just seemed mean. The cabin was small but nicely appointed and having visited an interior on level 1 which was very generous in proportion I certainly would not pay the exorbitant extra charge for a Samsara cabin, especially as everyone is offered the Spa package, so avail of that and another cabin unless you want to use the restaurant. The cabins are positioned above a party area which meant sleep was difficult on the nights it was used. TV coverage in English was limited to the BBC news. Our cabin Steward was very attentive and our luggage both delivered and removed promptly.
Entertainment There was 1 English quiz which our team one, yeah!!! We were disappointed that the English speaking host could not manage to arrange another or an equivalent during the 19 days, we wondered what she was employed to do. What a pity because this was a great way to meet other English speaking guests on a ship where we numbered maybe only 5%. The Theatre was badly designed as the upper sections had limited views as the seats had high backs but aesthetically it was more than pleasing. Shows varied, some excellent, some poor and some were only suitable for the Italians or French. The dancers were fantastic and the lighting innovative. Drinks were not sold in the Theatre. The lounge entertainment I thought was poor though many people enjoyed the dancing before and after dinner. We did not use the casino which was often busy, nor the kids club or disco. The golf simulator, 4D cinema and Ferrari Racing Car were all extras and we did not use them either. Various parties were arranged in the evenings but they were very much geared towards the Italians and the French so we rarely took part and can't comment on them.
Dining Food was freely available all day and I assume from the Pizzeria most of the night. We ate in the buffet during the day and in the lovely dining room in the evenings. Breakfast was seriously disappointing, food was often cold, our dining companions complained about it every night and although they mentioned it to the Maitre D it never did improve to any great extent. At lunch I found the food outstanding, plenty of variety and sooooo tasty. During sea days there were plenty of individual stations offering delicious pasta and pizza was available all day everyday and although some thought it was poor we found it delicious. Ice cream was available alomost all day from self service machines but generally it was found to be tasteless. In the dining room the menus were geared towards the Italians, some nights there was little for us to chooses from but generally the food was good. We had a table for 8 and an excellent Maitre D who was extremely attentive and went to all lengths to please our table, in some cases for very little thanks I thought. Generally what we ate was very tasty but the choice was much poorer and very different from other cruise lines and the cuts of meat were cheaper and fatty. Our waiter was one of the worst I have encountered, surly at times and certainly not eager to please. This is a reason for objecting to the mandatory gratuities Costa insist upon. This guy will never learn as his tips will never reflect his service and he will not be hit where it hurts, in his pocket. We did manage to have him serve us tea and coffee after our meal though. On one night of open dining we had excellent service so I guess we were just unlucky. The midnight Buffet was one of the nicest I have ever seen. Afternoon tea was good, on sea days an elegant tea was served in the Luminosa restaurant which charges a fee for dinner, we did not use it except for the afternoon tea. Tuxedos were not generally worn on formal nights and very few long dresses for the women.
Excursions We took only one Costa excursion to Luxor which was excellent, lunch was included and it was top notch also. No cancellations are allowed. We arranged other excursions ourselves with other cruisecritic members. We visited St Catherine's monastery at Mount Sinai from Sharm el Sheikh which was terrific, took a private trip to Petra and Wadi Rum with a mad schizophrenic driver cum tour guide in Jordan, availed of taxis outside the ports of Muscat, Aden, Fujuirah and Salalah and used the free bus to the malls in Dubai. In Port Said we wondered round on foot.
Extras Drink charges were so high hardly anyone was drinking on board. Costa must be missing out on this. Even a coke was about 3 euros. I would advise anyone travelling to consider a drink package prior to boarding. I pitied the Bar Service staff who must have missed out on tips. We were able to bring on soft drinks and knew several who brought booze onboard, even bringing a bottle of their own wine into the dining room every evening which was great. The photographs were expensive, ranging from I think 20 euros, the photographers were slapdash as well as glum and surly.
Disembarkation Disembarkation was wonderful. Our flight was at 2.30am and as independent travellers we disembarked when it suited us and we were allowed to use our cabin until 4.30pm. We then at dinner in the restaurant and left the boat about 9.30pm. This was an great perk and one for which Costa deserves full marks. I doubt if any other cruise line would allow it.
Conclusion This was a wonderful cruise on a beautiful ship with an interesting itinerary. The Italians predominated of course and they were rude, unmannerly and loud, but this is an Italian line. They did not stop us enjoying the cruise. Our cruise experience was enhanced by the cruisecritic companions we sailed with. They were great company, really wonderful people. I would certainly sail on this ship again, the crew were generally attentive and pleasant and the ship absolutely fabulous.