This was my first time on a cruise, and I was told by others that other cruise lines are so much better. This is a summary of the good and bad of my trip:
- embarking/disembarking: Poor organization is the best way to describe this. The building to wait in before getting on the boat was over-crowded and loud, and we waited 3 HOURS to board! Finally I got fed up and got in line before our number was called because the boat was supposed to leave in 45 minutes. It was at this time that I noticed that no one cared what boarding number you had, and people were boarding regardless of how high their number was.
Getting off the boat was a little better. We found our luggage quickly, but the bus I was supposed to board refused to allow me on due to the luggage holding area being at capacity. After much confusion, Costa staff called a mini-van, saying it would take 20 minutes to arrive (it took 40).
- the ship: The ship is nice looking and seemed clean, though the layout could have been better designed. Certain places could only be accessed by a specific stair-well, so it's necessary to become familiar with the boat quickly.
Smoking areas are randomly placed where cigarette smoke can, and does, drift into non-smoking areas. Most of the common areas reak of smoke. The exercise room is small, and several of the treadmills were broken throughout the cruise. For some reason, a jacuzzi is in the middle of the exercise room, making the cramped room uncomfortably humid.
Our room was an interior room, which was ok, but I heard the rooms with balconies were quite nice. There is a 6 euro service fee per person per day - surprise! There are no public laundry facilities, so either hand wash clothes in the bathroom sink or risk letting housekeeping overcharge you to ruin your clothes. Don't bother to write any washing instructions; they will ignore them.
- food: This was the most disappointing part of the cruise. The buffet offered the same cafeteria-like food every single day. Everything was bland or stale, and people on the cruise didn't seem to understand how a line works (people would walk in and out of line, ignoring those who were patiently waiting). The ice dispensers and soft serve machines were frequently broken.
The restaurant food wasn't much better. Our waiter would disappear for 30 minutes between courses while we stared at our empty plates. Courses were tasteless and sometimes inedible. Dessert was the only reason to show up. When I booked the cruise, I was told 2nd seating is at 7pm. It's actually at 9:15pm, and luckily we were able to change to 1st seating at 6:45pm.
- activities/entertainment: Games and entertainment seemed mostly geared towards the very young or very old. There were no descriptions accompanying the bizarre names given to games, and the one time we went to play a game, no one else showed up. Bingo is 10 euro/card, which seemed overpriced.
There were shows in the theater most nights usually featuring singing and dancing. The "magic" show, and I use the word loosely since there were only a few tricks, was mostly Disney songs with occasional scantally clad dancers - what a weird combination. We only attended 2 shows since I couldn't imagine sitting through more without the help of alcohol.
There's a casino area with slots and some table games. We only walked through it since we don't gamble and the casino was a smoker's haven. There's also a disco, but young children hang out there in the evening and are replaced with teenagers around 11pm. The adults seem to go in after midnight, though don't be surprised if you see an 8 year-old sitting next to you at the bar at 1am.
There are 2 pools, with the covered pool being only for adults. Never did I see an adult in the adult pool, though I saw plenty of children using it. There are lots of chairs on the deck and conveniently located towels and blankets. There's a jogging track, but it's so windy up there that it seems like a runner would be at great risk of being blown off the track.
- ports: The stops were the only good part of the cruise. The ports included Civettechia, Alesandria, Limassol, Izmir, a stop in Rhodes, Pireus, and Katakolon. Some excursions were kind of pricey, but I recommend any of the Egyptian excursions. If you don't plan an excursion, it is possible to pick up a taxi or bus close to the port. Some ports are close enough to the city center to walk, as well. Regardless or your choice of transportation, get off the boat; there's nothing to do while it's ported.
One thing that is important to note is that we were scheduled to fly home 3 days after a volcano in Iceland spewed ash in North and Western Europe's air space. Planes were grounded and airports were closed for days. Our flight was canceled, so we were stuck in Genoa for 4 extra days. Initially the hotel told us that Costa would pay for the extra nights and some meals at the hotel restaurant. We were also moved to a different (nicer) 4-star hotel with other North Americans. When called, Costa representatives in Florida denied that Costa was paying for anything extra. It took 3 days for a Costa representative to finally speak to us as group. I don't understand why this took so long, since they seem to have a headquarters near to the hotel where we stayed, and there was no announcement that a rep would show up (we happened to be at the hotel when she arrived). The rep said that Costa would pay for our extended stay and try to fly us out as soon as possible.
I appreciated Costa absorbing the expense of having us stay at a nice hotel, but the communication was so poor that the extra days in Genoa were not very enjoyable. Needless to say, I will never cruise with Costa again.