Overview: We were attracted to this cruise by the reasonable price and interesting itinerary (visiting Italy, Egypt, Turkey and Greece). Before booking I read 'official' cruise guide reviews, which gave the ship a fairly good rating. I however became a bit concerned after reading a number of critical 'customer reviews'. I think it is however very much about perception and what sort of person you are. I can appreciate some regulars perhaps giving the ship a lower review if they have been on many cruises that they preferred, however it should be remembered that this is a mass-market cruise at a great price. For value for money, it was excellent.
The Costa Victoria is a modern, well-maintained ship. Everything looks like new and is spotless. Especially after walking around places like the interesting but hectic Alexandria, we were very pleased to see our beautiful white ship in the harbour on our return. I have only sailed with Orient Lines/NCL previously and there were areas that both companies excelled in. The crew on the Victoria seemed a little more rushed perhaps, especially during the dinner service. However none were unfriendly and my parents, who had never sailed previously, thought the service was fantastic. So much so that they have booked to travel with Costa again in September.
Food: I can honestly say that we never had a bad meal on board. The main restaurant served a 5-course dinner which featured quite a lot of fish and was Mediterranean in terms of oils/sauces etc. It was all of a high standard and the staff were really wonderful. It is however true that if you like, say, steak and hot puddings then these featured on rare occasions. I read a review stating that the pizzeria served frozen food, this simply isn't true. The poolside grill had lovely well cooked chicken and the cafes throughout the ship were relaxing and pleasant. Breakfast/lunch buffets could be a little busy but we always found a table somewhere. There was the midnight buffet (disappearing from some lines) that was outstanding. There was also complimentary coffee/juice most of the day at the back of the ship. It is worth buying a 'honeymooners card' (you don't need to be on your honeymoon) for a set number of drinks for one reduced price. Alcoholic drinks were quite expensive although the duty free shop did actually let you take your purchased back to your cabin for consumption, if you so desired.
Shows: The cruise featured 'the entertainment team' a group pf Italian performers, which it perhaps took a couple of days for me to get on to their wavelength, however they were very talented. Costa goes in for quite a lot of audience participation shows, which you either love or hate. They could be very amusing to watch and there was little pressure to join in.
Cabin: The cabin was a reasonable size and well designed. The hairdryer was damaged but I reported it to the reception and it was replaced with a whole new unit by the time we returned to the cabin.
Itinerary: This was a very interesting voyage. One negative was that in most ports, you had to travel some distance to get to the main attraction (eg Pyramids, Taormina, Olympia etc) however only in Alexandria and Messina did we feel we had little option but to take the official tour. On all other occasions we just took local transport. In Katakolon I would recommend taking a taxi, and in Piraeus, if you don't mind some walking then head around to the train station. On our cruise someone was taken ill while we travelled to Alexandria and the boat needed to turn around and due to the delay we missed out Rhodes. The situation was handled professionally although information could perhaps have been more forthcoming.
Misc. Others have commented about smokers onboard. As a non-smoker I feared the worst, but really there wasn't too much of a problem. Some bars could be a little smoky but I never saw anyone smoking in the corridors or waiting for the lift etc as others have reported.
Summary: I'm sure that many of the criticisms of Costa will be genuine (otherwise why would people write them) however I believe much is down to Costa being very different and very European. We met French, Germans and Italians on board, who were all very friendly. Yes, one couple did push in the queue in front of us on an occasion but this was very rare. Yes, all the announcements in different languages do take some time, but really - is it that such big a deal? If you are an average easygoing person, then I think you will like (and perhaps even love) Costa. If you want to moan and find fault with anything and everything then this is possible too.