Embarkation was super quick & we were on the ship within 30 minutes!! Our room was ready & our luggage was to our room by noon. Unlike Carnival & NCL, they don't process your on-board credit account there. They have set up several machines around the ship to swipe your Costa card and your credit card. Done - 2 minutes and you have 2 days to get around to doing it! Debarkation was just as easy!!
What I experienced was that it is multi-cultural. Everywhere you went, you were hearing different languages - Italian, German, Spanish, English, etc. On our other cruises, the staff was from all over the world but mostly the passengers were American. This time, the passengers are from all over the world and 50%+ of the staff were Italian and the rest seemed to be mostly from India and the Philippines. Very few American or Canadian staff.
Staff are more flirty than on the other lines. You may have a hard time with the "behind the scenes" staff, as a lot of their English was so-so but all the staff that worked with you, all spoke English.
The food isn't fatty and they have amazing pasta!! The desserts were really good (I have a sweet tooth and didn't like the desserts on the others ships). We were at table 242, 1st seating at the Michelangelo Dining Room and the food was ok but our waiters were really, really bad and didn't give us a good opinion of that portion of our experience HOWEVER, the waiter on the next set of tables was very attentive and our experience was the waiter & not the cruise.
The Lido deck opens in shifts for each meal. It was constantly being switched from one section to another. With the constant time changes, it confused me a bit as to where I could eat ;) On the very back of the Lido deck (deck 9), they had the "healthy choices" breakfast - including soy milk and sugar free juices. I didn't find the food to be listed as "spa menu" but it certainly wasn't hard to make healthy food choices. In our group, we had 13, 17, 42, 43 & 68 yr olds with a variety of food tastes. My 68 yr old aunt is a country girl from rural Nova Scotia and always found good food. Even our 13 yr old boy enjoyed the food selection.
Beverages were hot milk (great for hot chocolate) in the morning and ice tea the rest of the day. There was always a variety of teas, cold milk, coffee & decaf (which was pretty good). It's worth it to buy the $22 non-alcoholic drink package. It gives you 10 drinks of either soda or their virgin bar drinks. It includes the 15% gratuities. If you buy it when you're in port the first day, you have to pay $3 service fee but not if you buy it on-line or the next day. They have the same thing for coffee - 25 coffee for $32 but it's not brewed but espresso coffee.
The entertainment on the ship was the same as the other lines. If you've been on one before, it's all the same.
The spa will offer you $10 off massage treatments the first day but they go down by $20 mid-week (25 min massage - $59; 25 min massage with facial - $99). Manicures were $25 and near the end they offered manicure & pedicure for $50. Usually I don't use the spa but 4 of the 5 of us had treatments and enjoyed it. Both my aunt & I have back problems and worry about other therapist working on our backs. But Jacki was amazing & certainly knew her stuff!!
They have a gym and my husband said it was pretty good (not much for free weights but the machines were good) and there are several treadmills & bikes. Our ship had both a dry & wet sauna with a hot tub.
The ship was really, really clean and I always found the staff pleasant. I've read some Costa comments that said the staff were nasty and I would honestly take that to be a reflection of the one making the comment. The service desk was amazing & I never waited in line more than 5 minutes and the staff were always wonderful. Debarkation morning was smooth and NO huge line ups - even at the buffet!!
Can't comment on the excursions desk because we did our own thing once in the port and for 1/2 the money the cruises charge.
The thing I like the most about this cruise was the amount of activity. There were always people around!! We found on Carnival, everything shut down early & passengers weren't around. My husband & I are going to take dance lessons. There were always passengers dancing in the Grand Bar and it certainly wasn't the "high school waltz!"
I'm 100% about service and expect 100% quality service. I'm a pretty tough judge and certainly not a fluff ball that things everything is roses & sunshine. If I weren't impressed, I'd say so (I was really upset at NCL Spirit & wrote a 4 page letter!) Would I recommend this line? Absolutely and it will be our next cruise after Bermuda in August.
Have fun and enjoy this beautiful cruise line! Elizabeth