We decided to use the opportunity of the low cost of cruising in 2009 by booking 4 different cruises on 4 different cruise lines in the Mediterranea in November and December.It took a lot of research,but finally we booked consecutive cruises on the Costa Victoria,the MSC Splendida,the Azamara Quest and the NCL Gem.Even though at first sight these ships seem to fall in different categories,the daily price for a balcony cabin was very similar ,so direct comparisons between the ships was realistic.
The cruise on the Victoria was the first one and we started it in Venice coming from Berne by train. Costa supplies a shuttle from the bus terminal to the ship but that shuttle is hard to find since there are no sign to indicate its location .
The embarkation process was one of the worse ones we have experienced so far. Even though we arrived at 15h50 at the check-in ,the process took 55 minutes before we sat foot in the ship .There were only 3 Costa staff members to complete the check-in and we had to wait in a dirty area without water and a distant toilet.What was surprising was that the disembarkation process was one of the best ones we have seen so far : everything was on time,fast and disciplined ! Since it was past 17h00 when we got to the restaurant,it was too late to grab a bite since they were all closed ! Our room was small when compared to the other ships; it does offer enough space for the clothing and the bathroom area is well used . We had some problems on the second day with the sink not draining and the toilet not flushing but it was the situation was quickly looked after and the service desk made 2 follow-ups with us afterward .The choice on the T.V. was the best we had on the 4 cruises even if there were channels in 5 different languages. The public rooms were a bit of mystery for us : the Buffet Bolero is way too small for the number of passengers,the restaurants Fantasia and Sinfonia are spatious and on this cruise ,the restaurant "Il Magnifico" was deserted !The Theater Festival is too small and 2 screens were added for spectators to see the shows and the Concorde Plaza is huge for the activities performed there.The Gym is small and overcrowded while the Casino is very big . The main lobby is grandiose and the areas around the pool are overcrowded when it is sunny ! The reading areas have both smoking and non-smoking portions ; it would be better to concentrate the smoking areas in a couple of locations on the ship . The entertainment was good as long as it did not involve comedians or magicians.It is about impossible to talk to an audience in 5 different languages. Most of the passengers on this cruise were Europeans,in fact 2104 out of a total of 2234 and while the majority was Italian speaking,there were a good number of French,Germans and Brits.It was a school break period so there were a lot of children on board,we found most of them to be respectable of the not so young and Costa had a lot of activities for them . The majority of the passengers was quite participative of activities proposed by Costa and it was a lively cruise around the pools and the bars .There were no seminars nor cultural presentations probably because of various languages . The quality of the food was mixed.Breakfast,lunch and dinner were not too good at the Buffet and very often not warm enough; breakfast in the restaurant was medium at the best ; lunch and dinner at the Sinfonia and Fantasia were very good, even though the cheese was served cold and desserts were limited in choice and quality .The wine package was a good bargain
Generally speaking,the service was very good ! The atmosphere around this ship is very lively and the crew participates a lot to it !The service in the restaurants is very personalized and the staff would remember our preferences.The management is available and people looked after our problems very effectively. The only negative point was that the nurse that I met for a bad cold did not speak English nor French ! The syrup she gave me was very effective though !Our room was very clean and our steward changed his cleaning schedule to accommodate us. Shore excursions were mixed ! In Santorini it was quite good but in Ancona,French and English speaking groups were joined under one guide making it impossible for both groups to ear the descriptions of the sites .Information on ports of call for passengers not taking the ship's excursions was non-existent. The price per day for a balcony cabin was the highest of the 4 companies we used during our trip . The itinerary was interesting but the stay in each port of call was short.The value for the money we paid was still good but this is probably exceptional for 2009 . We have sailed on the Costa Mediterranea in the past and it was much better than this ship. I will have to try another Costa ship before making a final judgement.