This was our 2nd time cruising with Costa and we were really looking forward to it as we had a brilliant time on the Serena 2 years ago(our 1st cruise!).
It was nice to see more Brits on board and a good mix of Italians, Germans, French and various other Europeans.
Cabin: We got our first ever balcony so we were well made up and we got our request of portside. Cabin was fresh and clean as expected from a month old ship and everything in working order. No complaints at all.
Evening Dining: As always the waiting staff were excellent. However, we had not been allocated a table so we had to make a trip to see the maitre d to sort this and were given an early slot as we had hoped....however we did not expect to be sat with a Polish couple. They were lovely but coversation was limited to me and my wife talking to the husband and I felt sorry for his wife as she did not speak any English. Costa should not have allowed this - there were 15 Poles on board and they they put us on the same table as 2 of them. They came to the sit down meal only twice! Besides we wanted to share conversation with Brits and share experiences. We were missing our spice and one night they made us chicken curry which was nice(although they left the skin on). The food compared to the Serena was disappointing the rep suggested it could be the sourcing of the food in the middle east is not like the Med. Also no Pistachio ice-cream on demand - very disappointing! Overall, it was okay but not meeting my expectations of Italian cuisine. Our waiters Joneyl and Gerry were ace,however.
Self-Service Restaurant: This has been described to a tee by the previous reviewer.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the evening shows, however, it seemed towards the end they ran out of acts and cobbled together some shows like the 'Alpha Tours Folk Show' who were the tour guides used by Costa on the excursions - needless to say we didn't bother. More annoyingly was the Entertainment team who were constantly trying to rope you into some activity or other and bless them they were doing their jobs but trying to make me look like Bob Marley is not entertainment in my eyes. My wife got dragged up to play a game at the back end of the cruise in front of a grand audience of about 10 people to play 'Name That Tune' for Italian songs! Brilliant! I'm glad she didn't win as the prize was a Costa bum bag. Mixed bag for entertainment - some excellent shows like the acrobatic gymnast but followed by some lame stuff.
Drinks: We saw this coming from last time so we made sure we got the X1 drinks package. You could have wine at lunchtime and evening meal. For £67 a person it was well worth it (wine, water and soft drinks)- better that the J2 that would have cost £225 for all day drinks - useless when you are not on board. At lunch the bar waiters who float were reluctant to come back to you as the service charge is already paid so they won't earn extra. I did see a lady complain as her bar girl didn't come back for ages and she wanted her drink with her food. Very naughty. Great drinks package and if you are willing to use your nouse(pick a different waiter each time), you are quids in apart from my liver...
Customer Service: For some reason Costa were at pains to tell us that if your flight was not booked through Costa, you were classed as "Independent Travellers". We received absolutely no information from Costa or Virgin regarding our pick up from the port and transfer to our hotel, however, last time we booked through Virgin Holidays, they sorted everything out for us. The people working on the Customer Service desk were rude and unhelpful and refused to make any phone calls for us.
Excursions: There was a wide selection of Costa excursions available, however, they were very over-priced. The Tour Office on board were unwilling to assist with any enquiries regarding the ports of call, shore-maps etc and only became helpful if you wanted to discuss or book Costa excursions.