I booked this cruise days before it started because the price was unbelievable and it lets off in my home port, so I would be relaxed at the end of the cruise with no additional travel home. I have had wonderful vacations turn bad when air travel takes me from being fully relaxed to being miserable.
Embarkation, in Quebec City This was wonderful. The ship was docked for a day before it was leaving and I arrived on the first day around 4:30 p.m. The entire process took only minutes, and I never felt like I was waiting for anything. One thing that Costa does to expedite the process is that they do not require you to register a credit card for payment as part of the boarding process. They have a separate procedure, not really any more complicated that using an automated teller machine at a bank, to register your credit card while on board the ship. My room was already available and my luggage was delivered to my stateroom promptly.
The Cabin I was in an obstructed view balcony. The cabin itself is a good size (210 square feet if I recall properly) with three closets and enough drawers for two people to manage. The balcony itself is very small, and the two chairs and plastic table crowd the tiny balcony. The door can only open part way because it is obstructed by the furniture. For this cabin, the view is seriously obstructed. I would only recommend paying for this type of balcony if you want to smoke on the balcony. I was upgraded from a lower category without charge, so it was just a nice addition which I did not pay for. There was a small mechanical problem -- the air conditioning was not functioning correctly -- but my cabin steward took care of the problem promptly when I notified him, notifying the appropriate person and having the thermostat replaced. My cabin steward was excellent at his job, able to communicate well in English, and always a pleasure to speak with.
My first complaint I had been placed on a wait list for early dining (6:30) and was assigned to late dining (9:00) and wanted to have that changed. Because I arrived later than most guests that afternoon, I was told to go to the dining room at 6:00 to make the request. I went to the dining room at 6:00, but the doors were locked and there was no one to assist me. At 6:40 the dining room doors opened, but there were dozens of people waiting with requests concerning their dining and I did not have the patience to wait for another 40 minutes or so in order to get this addressed, as I knew that I would not be seated and fed in the early seating the first night. So, I bit the bullet and came back for dinner (after a lovely stroll in Quebec City) for the 9:00 seating. The doors opened a bit late, again, and I went to my table to find that I was the only English speaking guest at the table. I went to the front of the dining room and was told I must be mistaken, as the other people at my table were listed on the chart as being English speaking. I insisted that someone accompany me to the table to listen to the language being spoken. I did not like the attitude that the customer is never right. However, after a little negotiation I was placed at a table with a group from Canada. I was delighted to meet them and share the rest of my dinners at their table.
Overall condition of the ship For a ship that has been in service for many years, the ship is in excellent shape. When I boarded, all of the elevators were in working order. There were no off smells. Everything seemed clean and neat. This is a ship that caters to European clients and there are a few more designated indoor smoking areas than you might find on other ships, but people were smoking were they were allowed to smoke and were not smoking in no smoking areas.
Dining -- Food and Service Food varied from good to great. The best food seemed to be served at lunch in the dining room. I would have liked to have all of my lunches in the dining room, and I never ate in the buffet, but I was off the ship for several lunches. Breakfast was pretty good most of the time, although there was no special item that varied each day. The menu got boring by the 11th morning. Eggs, pancakes, french toast, cereal, smoked salmon, kippered herring and other items were well prepared. Orange juice was very good (might have been fresh squeezed) and cappuccino was excellent. They also deserve praise for offering hot milk along with coffee so your coffee does not go cold if you have milk poured into it. Service at breakfast was inconsistent, but for the most part it was slow and unprofessional as if the servers were all new to the job and had just started training. Dinner was a really mixed bag. Some of the food was pretty bad or made bad by substituted ingredients. Tomatoes were not in season, but fresh tomatoes were used everywhere. Couldn't they use sun dried tomatoes instead? Nasty, mealy California black olives were used in preparations which were designed for tasty Italian olives. Gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese tasted like macaroni with white cheddar. The wine list was good and includes a number of fairly priced bottles, but they do not know how to serve wine. I wound up pouring for myself and my dinner companions because no one came over to pour wine. A half-finished bottle, saved for a second night, was a real disaster. The waiter broke the cork when reopening the bottle, pouring both wine and cork into the glass. I pointed out that there was cork in the glass and the waiter said "I know." I had to speak with a supervisor, who replaced the wine with a "free" bottle of their cheapest wine. It bothers me that Costa imposes at 15% service charge on wine when there is not service involved. Soups were pretty bad. Deserts could use improvement. Cheese service should be researched and improved. Instead of doing as they did, serving large pieces of indifferent cheese (Cheddar, Gouda and Cottage Cheese paired together) with saltine crackers and a few nuts, they should serve small pieces of better quality cheeses with appropriate accompaniments. There are entire books devoted to cheese service. That much said, I did not go hungry and most of the food was pretty good, even though nothing was memorable.
My second complaint There appeared to be a virus which hit a large number of passengers. I did not get the virus, but spoke with many passengers who complained of being sick and confined to their cabins. Three people from my dinner table were sick with a virus during the cruise. The ship staff did not mention this problem.
The Ports The ports were well chosen. With two days in Quebec City and two days in New York City, what more is there to say.
Fitness Center I used the fitness center every day. Some of the best views from the ship are from the treadmills. There is a twenty minute per machine limit. A few machines were out of order. Most of the time there was no problem getting on a machine either immediately or in a couple of minutes. Machine instructions were in Italian only, so there was some guessing. Also, the jacuzzi in the middle of the fitness center makes the room far too warm and humid. I doubt this can be fixed.
Entertainment Not much for me to say here, as I often avoid cruise ship entertainment on all lines. I particularly enjoyed Roman night which offered the option of dressing in togas and, after listening to fellow passengers perform, deciding whether they should get our approval and be sent upstairs to the buffet and be punished and sent to the lions. Silly fun.
My third complaint We were instructed, during a debarkation talk, to complete our evaluations in a way I had never heard of before. If we were not severely disappointed we should consider everything excellent as that is the Italian way. If we checked off "very good" on the evaluation it did not mean "very good" but rather "very bad." The debarkation talk is videotaped by the cruise ship and aired on the in room televisions. Someone from Costa's headquarters needs to look into this.
Fellow Passengers Lots of Europeans. Lot of Canadians. A few from South America. Some Asians (although I don't know whether they were from Canada or from Asia). 10% or fewer from the United States. A really nice group to meet and travel with. I shared a van with two Brazilians and four Germans to drive around at one port stop and consider it a highlight of my trip. This was not a cruise full of picky passengers trying to criticize everything. Overall, people were happy to be there and glad to strike up a conversation.
My last complaint While it did not slow me down, immigration was handled poorly and Costa blamed U.S. Customs when it appears that they may have failed to coordinate properly with customs. Passengers were told that U.S. Passengers would meet in one area and Canadian passengers in another, but on the morning for immigration procedures everyone started out in one long line. Some Canadians told me they waited for hours to get through immigration that day. When we arrived in New York it took hours to turn the ship into the dock. I've been on many cruises which returned to the New York port and have never experienced that before. Costa needs to learn to admit when they make mistakes, not blame someone else automatically.
Overall impressions For what I paid, I would certainly repeat this trip. I enjoyed the pace, the ports, most of the food, and my fellow passengers.