It was with horrified curiosity we entered the cruise terminal in Singapore. We had read many cruise reviews saying that everything would be a nightmare from start to the end with memories that you probably would need a shrink to help you deal with afterwards. So standing there in Singapore we wondered if we should take two weeks at the nearest prison instead of going on a cruise and if we did go on the ship, would we have a chance to survive for two weeks?
We entered the ship and everything turned out to be just great and we had a wonderful time with visits to many interesting places. However, I do feel sorry for all of them in the past that did not have the wonderful time we had on our cruise.
The reason to why we choose this cruise was the interesting ports of call during the cruise. We have cruised several times before but never in Asia and this was something we wanted to do. Also the pricing for the cruise was very good and based on that we could not expect a 5 star cruise ship with all its comfort but we did get a very good value for our money.
The check in procedure was very smooth. The staff where very helpful and there were no queues at all. It was easy to find our cabin and our bags arrived just after a little while.
The cabin it self was clean and comfortable and it was kept like that during the whole cruise. The only issue, from all the negative reviews we had read, that bothered us was if there would be a problem with the water. In some reviews it sounded like "the thing" coming out from the tap was closer to mud than water and this could be an issue for us since we had to be able to do gruel for our daughter in the cabin. But even this turned out to be not as bad as we thought it might be. The cold water was perfectly OK and clear, the hot water was slightly brown in the beginning but not after a couple of seconds and all three of us survived drinking this water for two weeks.
On the deck there were plenty of sun chairs so you could always find a bed when you wanted. The pool is very tiny but it was never crowded. They did have a lovely children's pool, which was almost as big as the ordinary pool, where we spent a lot of time in and we were almost the only one in this pool during the whole cruise.
The food was really great and the buffet manager was just wonderful, a lovely person who really did his best to make sure that everybody was satisfied. It was many different dishes to chose from and I had one or two that maybe wasn't in my taste but you can not eat a 5 course meal for two weeks with out having something that you do not like that much. And after all it wasn't Costa's fault that I do not like everything I ordered, I could have chosen something else instead but I like to try new things.
We did spend a lot of time at the Squok club with our daughter and the staffs were just great and she loved them, especially June who really gave everything to satisfy our kid. The days were filled with activities and "workshops". It was games, masquerades, snack breaks, bowling, basketball, T-shirt painting and all other stuff you could think of. They also had a special time for the kids to meet the captain and have cake with him which our daughter just loved.
We thought that all the cruise staff were very helpful and friendly - even the management team. Maybe the captain did not stay for a long time when you saw him but on the other hand, who really cares? We did go on this cruise to se new places not to chat with the captain, (even if I did and he was really nice).
So wasn't there anything that we did not like? Well of course there is always something you can improve. First of all, I am amazed that smoking is aloud inside the ship! This is definitely not acceptable on a cruise in 2010! Second, taking photo during the security drill is not something you should do in my opinion, it doesn't give me a feeling that they take I serious. And the third, everything they said was repeated in 6 or 7 languages. I guess it was great for them who new all these languages but for the rest of us it took for ages before all information was finished. I think it would be enough with just Italian and English.
And finally the pricing on board. Yes, it is not cheap but the cruise it self is cheap and I am sure that the Costa cruise line is not into charity so they have to make money some way. On the other hand you can find 2 for 1 deal in the bars from the afternoon and during the whole evening if you just chose the right bar. You can buy coupons for wine to make it cheaper. You do not need to buy their excursions or transfer if you do not feel like it is the best option for you. Otherwise do some searching yourself before the trip and you can do the same excursions in a much cheaper way. So for us the pricing was totally OK.
So do not be afraid from reading all the negative reviews, go on the cruise and have a wonderful time and see new interesting places!
Some tips on the ports we wisited:
1, Saigon - The ship arrived at Navioil port. We booked a city tour on the internet from home which was the best you could get. I can really recommend www.asianatravelmate.com they did a wounderful job. The contact Ms Kristal really knows how to be serviceminded. Out private guide and driver picked us up outside the port. Our guide's english was excellent so there were no problem at all. They took us to all interesting places and also some shopping and selected an outstanding restaurant for lunch.
2,Da Nang - There are taxis at the port but the price are more or less fixed and it is very hard to deal with them. We paid USD 80 for a trip to Hoi An, a stop for swimming at China beach and some shopping in Da Nang. The driver could not speak english so we did not get any information at all. I would definately recommend to book a tour from home with a local comapany since it will be cheaper and more informative.
3, Hong Kong - We arrived in the middle of the city so it was very easy to take the Star ferry or the metro to all the interesting places
4, Manila - You could easaly walk to Intraminus but we took a ride with a horse and carridge for USD 5. They showed us all interesting places inside Intraminus for 30 minutes and we could then have a closer look at it after we were dropped off. We did some shopping, visited a park and stolled along the beach walk.
5, Kota Kinabalu - We walked to the boat taxi pier, it is not far but it is really hot to walk. We took a boat to Sapi island for swimming and it was just great. The taxi in the city was expensive and outside the pier but from the shopping mall back to the ship the price was easy to negotiate.
6, Brunei - The ship docks 45 minutes away from the city center. The shuttle service Costa offered were EUR 32 per person. A taxi outside the port were USD 50 to 100 for one way. However if you walk outside the port and take left in the roundabout and then left again at the next roundabout and keep walking you will find a bus station (open parkinglot) were local small bussses goes into town and you only pay 1 singapore dollar or 1 USD (depending of what you have). It is nor far to walk and it is easy to take the bus back again. We took a 30 minutes boat ride to the water willage etc and paid 20 Singapore dollar for all of us.
7, Singapore - The ship docks at a mall and it is easy to take the metro from the mall or a taxi which is really cheap.