Embarkation was from the Costa terminal at Savona and was both efficiently and professionally handled. Within an hour we were on board and in our cabin with our luggage and Costa cards. Aesthetically pleasing initially, the cabin soon revealed some unpleasant surprises. There was a strong odor of former passengers which persisted throughout the first half of the cruise, and only dispelled through the constant use by ourselves of a disinfectant and air freshener. The bed linen too, was also "tired" and the mattress and pillows too hard for comfort. The bathroom towels were also very well used and quite gray in color from frequent use. Our feeling was that the cabins at least were in dire need of refurbishment. We also discovered that our cabin had an inter-leading door into the next cabin, and even though it was locked, did not block out sounds from next door.
Our first overall impression of the ship met with our expectations and indeed, the decor in the public rooms on the Costa Mediterranea lives up to its four star status. The wooden paneling, luxurious furnishings and Murano light fittings faithfully live up to its theme of a Venetian palace. Unfortunately, one major disadvantage is that there are too few areas designated for non-smokers, and this proved to be most unpleasant throughout the cruise. Smoking and non-smoking areas run alongside each other, and therefore one is forced to inhale smoke even in a non-smoking area.
Generally the food is of an acceptable standard although presentation in the main dining room, compared with three other cruises we have enjoyed during the past five years, was not very imaginative. Breakfasts in the self-service buffet were the same every day, and did not meet the four star standard of the ship. Being an Italian vessel, Mediterranean type dishes and pastas were excellent, but when it came to catering for those requiring a low cholesterol diet, it was often difficult to find anything suitable on the menu. The afternoon teas were enjoyable and very welcome to those returning from a day's outing on shore. The drinking cups and glasses provided in the buffet area were plastic, and more suitable for children, whereas even melamine could have been more preferable.
The entertainment provided in the theater was very limited and we only truly enjoyed four of the thirteen performances during the whole cruise. At least three of the shows were frivolous and more suitable for a child's matinee, while the overall production and choreography of the musicals lacked imagination and professionalism.
We also found that some of the port visits were too short to enjoy, such as in Mykonos, Izmir and Yalta, and better planning is required in future to make the most of these visits. Very often, passengers who had decided to explore on their own, were told to return to the ship at a certain time, only to find that the ship's organized tours ran up to an hour after the designated times, thus delaying timeous departure.
Being an Italian vessel, even though Costa is owned by the American Carnival Corp, the majority of the passengers are Italian. The balance of the passengers on this cruise were French and German. We did not come across any Americans and the few English speakers were from Australia and the United Kingdom. Even though each passenger had to pay the same fare for the cruise, we came across many instances where non-Italian speakers were not catered for, such as the many fun events in making costumes for a carnival and the deck games. All the officers and members of the entertainment team are Italian and most of them only have a smattering of English to converse with. Unless one greeted an officer, they would walk right past one without even an acknowledgement.
Overall, having spent a considerable amount on this cruise, we decided to make the most of the situation we found ourselves in, and our choice of ports of call played an important role in our enjoyment of the cruise. However, we would urge all those who prefer to speak English to be cautious when selecting a Costa cruise, and we ourselves would certainly not consider another one.
Whilst our allocated time to visit Rome was very short (9 hours), and even though we have been to Rome on several different occasions, the "Eternal City" is always worth a visit. On this occasion, we elected to travel from the port to the city by train, and opted for the "hop on hop off" bus tour which enabled us to see many of the famous sights during the shortest time possible.
Mykonos is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating Greek islands, and worthy of a visit. Not only is it picturesque, but has some wonderful little restaurants and shops. Try to select a cruise where one can spend a full day on the island which allows one to enjoy the sandy beaches as well.
With the limited time available to us in Izmir, (5 hours), one has to make a choice of travelling to Ephesus (a wonderful experience) or of shopping for bargains in the Kemeralti market. On this occasion, we chose the latter, and had a most enjoyable time shopping, especially knowing that the Grand Bazaar in our next port of call, Istanbul, would be closed (being a Sunday). The selection of every conceivable item such as leather ware, shoes, handbags, etc. was more than satisfying.
We had a most enjoyable day in Istanbul. Having previously visited the Blue Mosque and the Haggia Sophia, we opted to visit the Topkapi Palace including the Harem, and found this to be most fascinating. We had an pleasant lunch of local fare (a wrap filled with lamb similar to Souvlaki) and enjoyed shopping in some of the city stores.
Yalta - After sailing through the Bosphorus - a truly memorable experience - we visited Yalta in the Crimea. Situated on the Black Sea, Yalta is certainly worth a visit, and has many splendid palaces, the most famous of which is Livadia Palace, summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, as well as being the venue for the signing of the Yalta agreement whereby the leaders of Great Britain, Russia and the United States divided Europe into the Western and Eastern blocs towards the end of the World War II.
Odessa, also on the Black Sea, is worth a half day visit, as it has many beautiful buildings and promenades. Thereafter, we visited Athens (always a pleasure to visit) and the tiny Greek island of Katakolon/Olympia , a really quaint little island, worth a half day visit.
Disembarkation was once more at Savona, and within an hour we had collected our luggage and were on our way again without any problems.
All in all an interesting cruise itinerary, but maybe next time with another cruise line!