This was my second cruise on the Serena. First was 14 months ago.
Overall, despite some problems and getting ill towards the end of the cruise, I still enjoyed it.
Both times now, its almost as if its the first time Costa has ever boarded people on a ship. Despite the newish lounge in Savona (a place to get something to drink or nibbly bits would be nice), it was still fairly disorganized. This time round they tried having two boarding locations, but for some reason, when they got to number 10 or 11, they closed one of them. We were number 14. This meant everyone having to use the other point at the opposite end of the lounge area. As readers here will remember, some people in Europe have difficulty with queues of any sort so it was mayhem. Then, after standing in line for 15 minutes or so waiting to go through security, they decided to open the other entrance point again, and people there were breezing through.
Despite several calls to Costa before my last cruise and this cruise, they still insist on classifying me as American, despite the fact that I am Canadian and carry a Canadian passport. This is besides the annoying habit they have of classifying anyone from North America as American. When I got to immigration, the guy there chuckled, crossed out USA on his list, and wrote in "Canada", but not before second glancing at my Canadian passport and the info he had in front of him. You'd think that these days, Costa would be more careful about things like this. I was stopped by a police officer in Morocco who asked to see my Costa Card and my ID. The Costa Card said American, and the ID is from Canada. I had visions of spending time in a Casablanca jail, fortunately I was able to talk my way out of any problem as this police officer certainly seemed to have a problem with it. Guest relations didn't seem to care and would not reissue my card with the proper Citizenship on it.
Serena is starting to show her age. I know from working on airplanes that never see enough ground time to be maintained properly that its a constant, usually losing battle keeping up with wear and tear. Some of this is due to guests that can't behave themselves and put cigarette burn marks on toilet seats, but other things like stateroom lights missing pieces off of them, silvering of mirrors and the balcony railing peeling were very noticeable. I know that some of the railings were being redone in different ports - they just never got around to doing ours on Deck 6 this time round. On the plus side, I think I'll ask Costa for some deck space the next time I need some furniture stripped. Salt water and sea air really works!
Our first night at sea, I got up in the middle of the night and thought we'd had a flood as the carpet was soaked. The next day we left the door open which seemed to help (and as the AC didn't seem to be coming on) That night it was still wet so I called housekeeping and they brought a plumber who came, asked the stewardess if she'd shampooed the carpet, felt the carpet with his hand and declared "it's not wet". The clothesline of wet socks didn't appear to change his opinion on this. Guest relations called a couple of days later to check on the situation and again sent someone who said "it's not wet/damp", even though it was. Housekeeping gave us some slippers to wear as I don't wear shoes in my house at home and don't when I'm away, which helped, but I got tired of debating "wet/damp/dry" with staff. At one point, the head of housekeeping said she was going to bring in a fan to help dry it out. I don't know if she did or not as I didn't notice any difference. As the week wore on and we hit warmer weather, the AC seemed to come on more often which helped remove the dampness from the carpet. Wet or damp carpet I can deal with. Staff telling me it's not wet or damp, when I have 8 pairs of socks drying on the line, I can not.
Passengers I can't help it. I'm a people watcher. I acknowledge that perhaps its my experience having to evacuate a burning airplane once, and a non--burning airplane once that people paying attention to emergency drill instructions is important. Why is it that during a lifeboat drill, before which, there are announcements in 5 or 6 languages, that some people still show up 20 minutes late? Or for some bizarre reason feel the need to talk on cell phones or text people during the drill.
Yes there was the usual pushing and shoving that seems to be inherent with "European" style cruising. Smoke wasn't a problem except for while trying to enjoy my balcony and having someone else's cigarette smoke occasionally drifting into my space or cabin when I had the door propped open. 300 miles off the coast of Africa and all I could smell was someone else's cigarette smoke. Then there was what I call balcony bowling - people constantly moving their furniture around the balcony without picking it up. Makes a heck of a racket. I wouldn't have thought two chairs and a table could be moved that much. I noticed it last cruise, and thought it's probably not a huge issue for most people, when you're sick in bed for several days, you really notice things like this. Even ear plugs didn't help.
For the most part - wonderful! In fact, if you ever hear the word "no", it will usually be from an Italian staff member at the front desk. None of them seem to be very interested in assisting you in any way. The cabin stewards/stewardesses are all very friendly and say hi every time they see you. Our restaurant staff were amazing. Always going above and beyond what I'd expect of them.
The one incident that bothered me in the dining room was the way the Maitre 'd treated our waiters. One night the soup was VERY salty. Now I love salt, but this was too much, even for me. I knew the servers were busy with other diners and the Maitre 'd was standing not 20 feet away doing nothing, so I called him over and told him that the soup was very salty - just wanting to let him know. No one at our table was eating the soup as a result. With that he disappeared and then 5 minutes later castigated our waiters about the soup. In front of everyone at the restaurant! I felt this was in poor judgement, especially since they didn't make the soup, they were just serving it! I apologized profusely to our waiters, as did most of the people at our table as we'd all seen his outburst. I told him I'd only mentioned it so that perhaps the second seating "batch" of soup could be fixed if necessary. One of the waiters told us that if there were any more problems, to let him know, and he'd tell the Maitre 'd.
Sure there are the odd staff members who aren't "on" all the time, but that is to be expected when they're worked 18 hours a day or more for 8 months at a time.
Unfortunately, I had to make use of this service this time around. Generally very positive and one of the Drs. was very helpful. The other, frankly, didn't seem to know what she was doing. Perhaps she is new on board but she just seemed out of sorts. One of the Nurses could give Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest a run for her money but fortunately, one of the other nurses more than made up for her grunting and pointing instead of giving instructions in any language.
No complaints, except for the gastrointestinal problems I encountered later in the cruise, but that could be as a result of simply eating more than I usually do, and richer food than I'm used to. Not a complaint per se, but I can see where people who don't want to eat in the dining room are dismayed by the choices in the buffet at night. Pizza only, and it's not even marginally good. One bite was enough for me.
Only went on one, which was in Lanzarote and was billed as an English speaking tour of Timanfaya. Our guide from the outset said she could not speak English well and would speak slowly. Didn't really help. Bless her, she really tried, but towards the end, I wondered if she was talking to herself or just spouting off random words in English that she knew. Many people were not happy and complained, both about her English skills and the hard sell of photos as the bus pulled into the port (late) and everyone wanted to get on board asap. I was told later that she would not be doing any more English tours for Costa.
The only other excursion we wanted to go on was cancelled in Malaga - in all languages. A shame really as we'd wanted to go on it and were willing to listen to another language for 4 hours just to get to the destination.
Ports of Call
Enjoyed all of them except Casablanca, but that could be because of the run in with the Police/Guard I had there and my Costa Card displaying the wrong citizenship on it. Did not get off in Malaga as I was still under the weather and 5 hours did not seem long enough to warrant the trip into town from the port.
It'd be funny if I'd filmed it. We were in the first group to get off, so we were waiting in the theatre. When they finally announced we could get off, there was staff directing us away from the Guest Relations desk, to the other side of the ship, but then no one on the other side to direct people which way to go. As a result, people were going every which way through the bar trying to get off. Mad house. As a result, we were about the 10th and 11th people to leave the theatre, but the first 2 people off the ship. Everyone else in front of us was wandering through the bar trying to get through the ropes to get off.
Improvements I've noticed since last time
If you have the X1, you can now obtain beer and wine in the Lido buffet areas. Bar staff circulate and take orders. This was an improvement as last time, we had to go to the restaurant to eat if we wanted to take advantage of the x1.
They now have an "alternative" buffet in one of the restaurants for those that don't want to sit down in the Ceres restaurant for lunch, and don't necessarily want to do the buffet on the Lido deck. Nice to have the choice. Again, we could use our X1 package here as well.
Suggestions for Costa
Felt on the bottom of balcony furniture. This would help with noise migration from those that insist on moving their furniture around, or even when the Stewards/stewardesses have to clean the balconies.
If the Survey you want everyone to fill out on the last day of the cruise is as inaccurate in English, or as poorly translated as the staff tell us it is, please re-translate it. Especially since any bonuses and the futures of your staff seem to hinge so critically on this survey. This would save your staff having to constantly tell people what the questions really refer to, and would perhaps lessen the chances of people just throwing it out in frustration or apathy.
If you aren't starting something until say, 10:00, don't have staff standing at that location 20 minutes prior - looking ready to go, and then telling everyone that comes up to them to come back in 20 minutes. This happened all the time, especially with excursions. A crew member is standing there with the numbers you need to get off the ship, chatting with other crew members, and telling anyone that comes up to them to come back in 20 minutes. Why not go someplace else and come back in 20 minutes, or here's a wild idea - since you're there and the passengers are starting to show up, give them the numbers they need to get off. I noticed this on disembarkation day too. Ropes set up with staff standing at the ready to let people off, gates/doors open, but telling people they couldn't get off yet.
Please tell your photographers that if someone asks not to have their photo taken, please don't sneer at them. There are several reasons I don't want my photo taken. One of which was I was not feeling well. You should have seen the looks I got from some of the photographers when I said, "no thank you". If looks could kill!. Your documentation in the Today, says that if you don't want your photo taken, to let the staff know. So why the attitude when you do?
Change your designation of passengers from North America to "North America", not just "America, or American". Even "Americas" would be better. Again, be careful as American is not the same as Canadian, especially it would appear, to some police officers/immigration people in some of the countries on your itinerary.
Advertise the 6.00 Euro a day "gratuity" charge more, in bigger print and through Travel Agents. I met many people from the UK who knew nothing about this charge until they got on board and frankly, don't think that the staff actually receive it. They saw it as nothing more than a cash grab.
In spite of what I may have written here, or the way it sounds, I enjoyed this trip very much. It's when things go wrong or slightly awry that I find Costa really disappoints. I know from first hand experience in the travel industry that things do go wrong and its often no ones fault in particular, but an apology and offer to make things right goes a long way to make most people happy, especially when they're on vacation. Denying a problem exists or inferring that the problem is in the customers head does nothing to help the situation and in fact, makes it worse.
Costa will not be our next choice for a cruise. This of course may depend on itinerary. I'd like to experience another cruise line that I haven't travelled on for a change. "European style" cruising may not be to everyone's taste either. As much as I love travel, I found that 11 days with 3000 Europeans that don't necessarily speak to each other and push and shove you out of their way, to be exhausting towards day 8 or so.