Costa Marina 17th January - Canaries etc.
Ship - If anyone enjoys the very large ships then they should think carefully before booking on the Costa Marina as it doesn't take very long to walk from one end to the other, but it is a very nice ship and much friendlier than the large ones because if you get chatting to someone, then you are sure to meet up with them again. We got to know various couples and chatted quite a lot to an American man who was on his own. There is only a small plunge pool but there are three Jacuzzis.
Itinerary - Savona- Barcelona-At Sea-Casablanca-Agadir-Lanzarote-Gran Canaria-La Palma-Tenerife-Funchal-At Sea-Malaga-At Sea-Marseille-Savona
Journey to Savona - If you are flying from England, especially Northern England, then look carefully into the flights that Costa might arrange. We live in Preston and caught the 6 am flight with KLM from Manchester to Amsterdam, then to Milan, then over two and a half hours by coach to Savona. I did get a bit agitated because we only had an hour to catch the flight at Amsterdam and 45 minutes to catch the transfer coach in Milan and as we were sitting on the plaen at Manchester ready for take off the Captain announced there would be a delay because of conditions at Amsterdam Airport. I had read the day before that fog was forecast. Fortunately there was a half hour delay and a much shorter flight time so the flight was still boarding when we got to the gate. It was a relief when we finally got to the ship at 2.45 pm. We left on the coach for home at about 10 am and put the key in our door at 11.30 pm which was actually 12.30 going by Italian time. We arrived at Milan airport at 12.45 pm and our flight wasn't until 5.25 pm and then we had over two hours to wait at Amsterdam and an hours drive home from Manchester. Who would have thought it would take over 14 hours for a journey from Italy. It was a bit ironic because we decided not to go on a Caribbean cruise because I said I didn't fancy a long journey! People were joining the cruise at different ports and you just stayed on the next cruise until it reached the port you got on at. It would have been better to book cruise only and catch a cheap Easyjet flight to Barcelona and stay for a night or two but we didn't know you could do this.
Embarkation/Disembarkation - We just went straight on the ship when we arrived and waited in different lounges until the ship docked so we could disembark.
Cabin - We booked an inside cabin category 11 and for some reason were upgraded to category 14 on Venezia Deck. It served its purpose well, not particularly large, especially the shower room, but comfortable with plenty of wardrobe space.
Passengers - French were in a majority on this cruise but on the previous cruise Germans were in the majority. There were over 300 French, over 100 Italians, 90 British Passport holders and I don't know how the rest were made up. I didn't notice any rude, noisy Italians which a lot of people seem to complain about in reviews.
Cleanliness - Everywhere on the ship was kept very clean.
Smoking - Smoking was allowed in certain areas on the ship and I didn't notice anyone not complying with this.
Food - I had read a lot of very negative reports about the food on Costa Cruises but we really enjoyed the meals in the restaurant. Maybe it is because we are used to our cooking so anything else must taste better!! However we were on a table with two other couples and two singles and they all enjoyed the meals as well. We all got on well and had a good laugh. You could have water served from a jug at no charge and they have their own purifying system so it was OK to drink and were also served coffee afterwards. We only ate in the buffet three times when we were back too late in the afternoon for the restaurant and couldn't understand why the majority of people did so as the food was lukewarm and it was a much pleasanter experience in the restaurant for breakfast and lunch and the food was served hot. They did some really delicious soups. The buffet only opened for breakfast and lunch and closed either at 2 pm or 2.30 pm depending on the port, so if you were late back you would have to wait until afternoon tea at 4 pm to get something to eat. First Sitting 6.30 pm, Second Sitting 8.45 pm. As we are used to eating between 5 and 5.30 pm we would have hated waiting until the Second Sitting.
Drinks - Pricey! Mixers like Gin and Tonic 7.30 Euros, 25 cl beer 3.50, 40 cl 4.50, soft drink 2.60, wine £18-£20 a bottle, glass of wine 4.20, cocktails 6.25 or cocktail of the day 5 Euros - plus 15%. A lot of people sat in the bars without a drink in front of them and the bar staff wandered around looking for custom.
Shows - If you go on a Costa Cruise then you have to accept that the shows have to cater for a variety of different languages and make your mind up to enjoy them anyway. They were normally only for about three quarters of an hour or less but always worth going to. They had resident dancers and singers and also visiting ones. We had Latin American dancers, flamenco dancers, classical pianist, violins, ventriloquist etc. and if you come across Dannys Mime Show (think he was called Danny) then please don't decide you don't fancy a mime show as you will miss a real treat.
Evening Entertainment - Show at 7.30 pm and 9.15 pm. A nice duo or pianist in Harry's Bar plus Bingo and a trio and a male singer in the Marina Lounge where they had a lot of dancing, broken up during the evening with silly competitions with the Entertainment Team. Then there was a late night disco in the Laguna Club. On a larger ship you would have a lot more choice of bars.
Entertainment Team - They worked very hard organising a variety of different activities during the day and evening like dances, games, competitions quizzes. Certainly different doing a quiz when the questions and answers are in five languages.
Tours - Didn't do any as they are rather expensive and we enjoyed exploring ourselves.
TV - Only World News in English.
Dress Code - Gala/Elegant on first sea day, the evening we were at Gran Canaria and the third sea day. Only a small percentage of people in tuxedos or long dresses, but we wore ours anyway each time. Some people dressed very casually which was disappointing as I love to see everyone in their lovely outfits which makes it so different than being in a hotel.
Barcelona - Drizzle all day. Shuttle bus 6 Euros. The English Guide said it was 15 minutes walk but it took us 30 minutes to La Ramblas at a brisk pace. You can catch an open top bus which we did last time we were in Barcelona. Not the same atmosphere walking around in drizzle. We visited the Cathedral just off La Ramblas and could recommend going there - it costs 5 Euros.
Sea Day - Cloudy-Cool. Saw lots of Dolphins.
Casablanca - Sunny, Warm. There is no Shuttle Bus - long walk. It is 10 Euros for a taxi to the town. We shared a taxi with someone and had a tour round for two and a half hours with a commentary of the places we were passing and stopping at different places at a cost of 60 Euros between us. The ship tour was 55 Euros each.
Agadir - Sunny, Warm. No Shuttle Bus - taxis 8 Euros to town or long walk. We shared a taxi with a young Latvian Woman and an American man. It cost 45 Euros between us for four hours drive and stop. He took us to a shop which we managed to get out of quickly and to a Berber town which was really interesting and we felt we had seen Morocco rather than just a tourist town if we had walked around Agadir and we stopped at various places.
Lanzarote - Sunny, Very Warm. Shuttle 6 Euros, long walk. Taxis waiting - don't know the cost. We caught the shuttle bus and had a long walk around the resort which was very pleasant.
Gran Canaria - Rain, cloud, sun. It was quick stroll into town but it was a very long walk if you wanted to go to the cathedral area. You could catch an open top hop on and off bus for 15 Euros. You could turn right from the port and walk along a nice promenade alongside a beach or turn left and arrive at another promenade and beach and a harbour or ahead for shops. As it started raining in the morning not long after we had started walking we decided to go back and visit the Science Museum which was opposite the large shopping centre near the port gates. It was 3.50 Euros and most of the details by the side of exhibits were in English and if you asked at the ticket office you could get a mouse and have unlimited use of the internet at no extra charge. We went onboard for lunch and then for a walk in the afternoon.
La Palma - Cloudy, cool wind. 10 minutes walk or free shuttle bus. Taxis - 100 Euros for four hour trip to various viewpoints, 90 Euros for 3 hours or 60 Euros for 2 hours. We decided to catch the No 1 bus to Los Llanos on the other side of the island to have an opportunity of seeing some of the island. It cost 2 Euros each way for nearly an hours ride and the bus ran every hour on a Sunday on the hour. The Tourist Information is just near the port gates. There were lovely views on the journey over. Unfortunately with being Sunday most of the shops were closed but we enjoyed a walk around and arrived at Museum Street where there were large paintings on the side of some of the houses (turn left at main road from bus station, then right at large statue and left at tourist information). We caught the 10 am bus there and the 12.30 bus back and went on board to have our lunch and then off again to have a look round the town. There are some lovely buildings, especially round the O'Daly Street area. One thing that was really strange though was that we left Los Llanos in brilliant sunshine and when we came out of a long tunnel there was thick cloud and it was like that all day on that side of the island.
Tenerife - Cloud/Sun. Free shuttle or quarter of an hour walk to shops. Large City, no promenade along a beach like the other islands, but a very nice shoipping area. Taxis did trips to Puerto de la Cruz or you could catch a bus and takes about 40 minutes and runs every half hour. We decided to catch a bus to San Christobel de la Laguna which cost 1.30 Euros and took about 15 minutes. This used to be the capital of Tenerife and I am sure you would enjoy a visit. We caught the no 2 bus there and no 15 back. If you want to go then get a map of La Laguna from the tourist information so you know where to head for. Stay on the bus until you get to the bus station then head for the old church and look around the streets leading from the old church down to the cathedral which unfortunately was closed when we were there for renovation. It is worth having a look in the nice courtyard at the tourist information. It is about half an hours walk from the bus station to the ship but a couple we spoke to caught the tram which cost 2.45 return and runs frequently so that would be a better option. I don't know just which stop you would get off at though to be near the old part of the town.
Madeira - Sun/cloud/very warm. Didn't notice a shuttle bus. 10 minute walk to port gates, another 10 minutes to the start of the main promenade. Open top tour buses at a cost of 12 Euros. We have stayed in Funchal and enjoyed a walk along the promenade and round the shops and up the hill near the small park to where most of the hotels are.
Sea Day - Cloudy/Cool. Sea very rough overnight and most of the day. Not very pleasant, a lot of people sick.
Malaga - Sunny/Very Warm. Shuttle bus 6 Euros. Open top bus - don't know how much. 12 minutes walk to nice promenade alongside a beach, a few minutes longer to shops. Another very choppy night - quite frightening as there were lots of bangs and as our cabin was at the front of the ship we were very much aware of it rolling around but it settled during the morning. We just enjoyed a walk round Malaga.
Sea Day - Sunny/Quite Warm. What a relief to waken and realise it was morning and we hadn't had to go through what we had the previous two nights.
Marseille - Sunny, very cold wind. Shuttle 7 Euros. Very very long walk. Open top bus 20 Euros. Little train 7 Euros. We caught the shuttle and had a long walk round the coast road and then up to the Notre Dame Cathedral - fantastic - don't miss. It was so windy we could hardly stand up. We passed a fort on the way round which you can visit at no charge and there are nice views of Marseille.
Would we go with Costa again? - If it was a good itinerary, the dates fit in and the price was right, we would consider cruising with them again, but we didn't really like having to listen to five languages and it would have been nice at the open sittings for breakfast and lunch if we could have always been able to converse with the people on the table, and would have liked a comedian at the shows for a change, so maybe we would be better sticking to an English speaking ship. We did hear British people moaning and someone else could give a different review of the cruise, but I really don't know what there was to complain about, especially taking into account the extremely reasonable price we paid.