Pluses of the cruise: - Great interiors with plush look and feel: provides an overall relaxed atmosphere. - Excellent staff: courteous and polite staff - from the waiters to the room service; definitely a high-point of the trip. We did not like the meals in the evening (in "My Way" restaurant) and the staff ensured we got a customized menu based on what we desired to eat on a daily basis. - Child-friendly: Costa's Squok club ensured that our child was constantly engaged and we had a lot of time to ourselves for both excursions and casino activities. Our waiter in the evening took special care catering to our four year old daughter and she was always delighted to join us.
Negatives of the cruise: - Expensive excursions: Rip-off and not worth the money spent; we only took an excursion in Cyprus. We talked to a few who took excursions at other locations and felt that they were way too expensive - Missing key ports: Due to bad weather (as mentioned by the captain), we did not disembark at Alexandria and skipped the port. Instead the ship was diverted to Palermo. This resulted in a lot of upset people as most of us were looking forward to the Pyramids. There was very little explanation provided and Palermo (Sicily) was a big disappointment to all cruisers (mostly Italian who ran a signature campaign demanding a refund). Overall, it was disappointing that Costa did such a poor job in communicating to its customers that they were cancelling such a key port and replacing it was an incomparable alternate.
My take on the excursions and the ports of call: - Katakolon: Olympia is the only key location worth looking at. If you do not wish to take the excursion, hire a taxi from the port. We paid 80 Euros for 2.5 hours. For a group of 4 persons, this was much cheaper than the 50 Euros/ head we would have paid for the tour. - Piraeus: a cab to Acropolis costs around 15 Euros. We arrived on a Sunday - entrance is free on Sundays. There is also cheap public train service that can be leveraged. - Rhodes: beautiful city that can be explored on foot. Obtain a local map from Costa and check the city on-foot. I would not recommend an excursion unless you would like to check placed beyond Rhodes. - Limassol: this is a port where I would recommend an excursion. There is not much to see in Limassol and we took a tour to Omodos and Kurian. Nice cultural locations in Cyprus - considering the time that the ship docks for, it is too risky to go for a DIY tour and the taxis would end up costing as much. - Civitavecchia (Rome): there is a train (12 Euros return include public transport in Rome) that runs to Rome Central. An option to the excursion would be to take the train and then do the city on your own.
Overall, it was a great vacation and we enjoyed the Costa hospitality. We loved the personalized care and the friendliness of the crew. However, do watch out for the money spent on the casinos (a number of our friends lost a lot of money) and the money on the excursions. As Costa used a cashless system, the numbers can add up really fast if you do not manage your finances well.
We took a taxi to Acropolis. Entrance was free on a Sunday. We beat the excursion crowd and managed to shop in Plaka as well. Finally, we took the train back to Piraeus.
A great port with a fantastic view of Athens from the Acropolis
You can rent a taxi from the port (approx 80 Euros) - bargain hard. Else, you can rent a car as well.
We found the Catacombs spooky and interesting - not to be visited with kids though.