Your vacation and cruise experience is ultimately what you choose to make it and is dependent on your initial expectations. When considering booking with Costa, I read many reviews of this particular ship and itinerary. Many were less than flattering so I couldn't help but wonder what the expectations of those travelers were and what our experience would be. No matter what, there are going to be some people who experience some type of difficulty or "small situation" as the Jamaicans say and it is prudent to keep that in mind. A huge determinative factor in going ahead with this cruise was the almost ridiculously low price. Here's how the week stacked up....
I had Costa make our airline and transfer arrangements because they could actually get us plane tickets at a reasonable rate during spring break week, which I could not do myself. Everything went very smoothly; we were on board the ship within about one hour of our plane landing - very unexpected to do so that quickly.
The accoutrements of the ship were comparable to those of Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean which we have sailed in the past. A cabin is a cabin.... Our room steward performed an industry standard job taking care of us. No towel creatures, though. :-( For a Caribbean cruise, we found the area devoted to pools to be inadequate. Of particular note, there were no toiletries provided other than hand and shower soap.
A huge negative were all the people who "reserved" lounge chairs around the pool for the day. Most of these people would leave for hours on end. I know, I walked the decks, regarding all the reserved-by-towel, -book, or -sandal chairs and finally simply appropriated one for myself. I stayed in that spot for roughly 3 hours and noted the chairs that no one ever claimed. Fortuna staff should have regularly made the rounds and taken up all the towels and personal belongings. Passengers should not feel they have a right to do this - they don't. I understand this is a problem industry-wide and people need to start figuring out they are not the only ones who paid for a vacation. Advice: appropriate whatever lounger you want. There is not enough open deck space on decks that are not connected to pool and food service areas, further congesting guests who just want to be outside. Oddly, there seemed to be many closed off, reduced access sections in a number of places.
The entertainment overall was first rate. The dancers were spectacular each evening and the guest performers were all marvelous entertainers as well. All were definitely worth watching and enjoyable. Poolside, daily exercise classes were offered several times a day. I appreciated not having to pay extra to participate in an organized group fitness class; facilitators did a bang up job.
Since the passenger list on Costa is purported to be more international than those of her more domestic counterparts, we anticipated meeting people from other parts of the world. In that we were not disappointed. We spent most of the week with our new friends from Australia. We heard an abundance of foreign languages spoken. It's interesting to try to have broken language conversations with others and try to get your message across! Be friendly to people!
We had also expected a greater diversity and enhanced flavoring to foods prepared on board. Alas, cruise food is cruise food. It was good but not great. There were more limited choices in the buffet line than we have experienced on other ships. Entree choices were varied in the dining room, but still lacked flavor. They do NOT know how to prepare a rib-eye steak. I have never seen so much candied citron used in my life. Custom made omelets were tough and not worth waiting in line for. Beware some of your choices when you order breakfast in your cabin. A “breakfast roll” is last night’s dinner roll.
This cruise seemed more crowded than any other we have taken, either in the Caribbean or elsewhere. If I recall correctly, the in-cabin ship info indicated there were well over 3000 passengers rather than the 2700 noted in any online or published information. If true, that would explain the overcrowded feeling. It would also explain why it seemed there were fewer crew to serve the needs of the passengers. Food service was much less apparent, attentive, and responsive on this ship than others we have sailed. In the buffet and poolside areas, there is normally a plethora of crew to keep tables and dining areas clean and well-stocked, and see to any additional needs a passenger may have; not so on the Fortuna. There were few bartenders making their presence known poolside for drink orders. When ordering a drink pretty much anywhere except barside, it took forever to get that drink delivered and then off they went with my Costa card for another extended period of time. Made me not want to order at all. Somewhere along the line, nobody has bothered to teach the bartenders which glasses go with which drinks. In the dining room, we drank our water out of wine glasses and our wine out of the larger water glasses each night. Gin and tonic was also normally served in a stemmed water glass. Go figure.
Some other reviewers have said there were no beverage packages offered on board. This is not true. You can get a wine and water package and a soft drink package on board. Both a good deal and recommended. They also said that water was not available at all times. Not true. Come on now, think about this. There would be a huge health/safety liability in not allowing passengers to hydrate regularly at no additional cost. Okay, so the water tastes really bad, but it is perfectly safe to drink if you choose not to pay for bottled water.
Different from other cruise lines we have sailed, passengers who booked excursions with Costa meet on board the ship and then all leave the ship together to begin the excursion. When we got to Grand Cayman, the announcement was made that we had to tender in an alternate location because of rough seas. Don't lie to your passengers, Costa, you knew all along we would be in the second group porting there that day and have to use the alternate location. But I guess that's the only way they can get away with making us each pay cab fare to the central location where the first ship arrivals get to tender/dock. And that's bad form.
Grand Caymans. Beautiful place. Expensive. A round of drinks (3 margaritas and a beer) should not cost $41 USD. Turtle farm much smaller than anticipated, especially for the entrance fee; nothing at Hell but a shop; the samples of rum cake at the stores have an extra infusion of rum that the purchased cakes do not. Easy to create your own excursion with all the guides hanging out portside. Should have planned to hang out at the beach. Looks like it could be anywhere on the Australian coast, according to our travelmates.
Ocho Rios. Climb the waterfalls! You'll want a couple of bucks to tip your guide. The plantation was interesting if you like that kind of stuff. We booked a tour that included both of these places and probably could have done as well getting transportion portside. There was almost not enough time to climb the waterfall, but our tour guide, Joy, made sure we were accommodated and made it back to the ship in a timely fashion. Don’t rent the water shoes to climb the falls; pack your own that you get for like $5.00 at Academy.
Nassau. Be sure you see Atlantis at Paradise Island. Get a cab. Ridiculous lines in the hot sun to get back onboard the ship. Never had that experience before or since.
Cozumel. Snagged a cab for the day a good rate. Be sure to check with several drivers and move just outside the secured area for quicker service and better price. If you don't want to spend all day traveling and still get to see some ruins, head over to San Gervasio. Your driver can recommend a great Mexican restaurant where you can probably also see a Mariachi band and maybe even Ballet Folklorico performance at no additional charge. More than enough places to souvenir shop. Also close to shopping is a new supermarket if you like to check out what is available for locals in different countries.
Overall, was the cruise a good bargain for the money spent? Yes. Would we sail with Costa again? Possibly, but it certainly wouldn’t be my first line of choice; reasons being the overcrowded feeling and lower quality of service experienced in the public areas of the ship. Also consider how important your time in port is to you. All portages were on the short side for us. Remember, your experience is what you make it; travel with an open mind and plan to enjoy yourself.