Costa Classica Far East Cruise 5/11/2010
I have just returned from a Far East cruise on the Costa Classica, taking in HongKong Manila, Kota Kinabalu, Brunei Singapore Ho chi Minh city Da nang & Sanya.
The review I am about to give is purely my opinion, with odd comments made by other passengers who asked me to include things in my review. It will be construed by some as 'petty' in some areas and that is deliberate, as all these irritations accumulatively made for some very unhappy passengers. We selected this cruise purely for the destinations which I will review in a separate article. I have tried to remain objective having cruised with other lines previously.
I had concerns from the outset about Costa, having read some poor reviews about this ship, but concluded that with only around 6 reviews (all bad) from literally thousands of passengers that it couldn't be that bad - How wrong I was. I was also well aware that that the ship had been involved in an accident 2 weeks before this cruise. This had no adverse effect on the cruise and has had no bearing on these comments.
I know that the ship is only rated 3* but I don't think it achieved that level.
From the outset things didn't bode well, boarding was laborious and time consuming with constant queuing just to get on the ship (1.5hrs). Once on the ship we were told we had to go ashore for 'face to face' immigration checks, which we had just done at Hong Kong airport (another 1 hour +queue) this set the pattern for the trip we queued for everything.
So to the ship:
The ship generally is VERY tired and in desperate need of a total refit. The carpets throughout were heavily water stained. The lifts between decks were too few and very slow to arrive, particularly at heavy traffic times.
Some areas of the ship smell fausty and there was a general feeling that areas were dirty. The decor is in need of refurbishment.
The water in the pools looked dirty, however I did see the pools drained and cleaned frequently.
There is no self service guest laundry facility, and the ships laundry is very expensive. (€5 for 1 shirt to be washed and ironed, €1.30 for 1 pair of socks etc. I can give a definitive list if you want)
Ship excursions were very expensive as with most cruise lines, an excursion at each port could add as much as €700per person to your on board bill. There were also hidden costs that were kept quiet until the last minute and added to your bill, like visas. No one in their right mind would expect to be able to go to some of these places without a visa but I believe that Costa could be more proactive in making passengers aware of these costs at the time of booking. It is information that is available, but well hidden in the small print. They were also poor at communicating that passengers wishing to go ashore at Sanya, MUST purchase an excursion or shuttle bus ticket well in advance or the Chinese authorities will not allow you ashore. This was only communicated the night before in the newsletter when it was too late to purchase the shuttle ticket. Quite a few passengers were consequently confined to the ship on this port day. The reception claimed that announcements were made and that it was published a few days earlier, we checked and it wasn't.
Costa always charge for shuttle buses average €6
There is the obligatory €6 per person per day compulsory tip (€168 per cabin).
There seemed to be a permanent fixture of a cabin services cart in the corridor outside my room, to a point where it was used as a land mark for passengers locating their cabin. On a serious note this would affect means of escape in an emergency.
The cabin was an outside stateroom on deck 5. It was spacious and relatively comfortable. However, the walls were paper thin creating difficulty sleeping. Some passengers complaining that they had been kept awake by adjacent passenger's conversations, TV sound, snoring and carnal activities.
We were unable to get cold water from the tap, which meant using bottled water for cleaning teeth. If you drew water to the sink it was tinged brown colour. All water from the ships system tasted foul.
The bathroom door had a defective catch, which during slightly rocky waters would open leaving no privacy, and cupboard doors also were prone to opening and shutting during the night.
There were no dressing gowns in the cabins
The TV was a waste of time, very poor quality, and very limited in English speaking channels.
The paper giving information on tomorrow's port was not arriving until 9pm the night before, which was creating problems for some passengers who were waiting for ship excursion information.
The food quality and dining arrangements on board leave a lot to be desired.
The hygiene arrangements were not rigidly applied. Whilst hand sanitiser was available there was no compulsory use by passengers or monitoring by ship staff as with other cruise lines (it was not even provided at the gangplank for use on entering and leaving the ship). Some passengers complained about others handling bread rolls to check freshness before replacing them even though tongs were available.
Self service food layout was very disorganised and required you to go different areas to put a meal together. The general quality of the food was poor and often cold. Some soups contained chicken bones and skin and very little else. (There were no soup spoons only dessert spoons) On one particular evening the food was dire, a very small appetiser of wafer thin sliced pineapple and 2 prawns, followed by duck & mushroom soup which contained 1 piece of duck and a quarter of a mushroom, skin and bones, main course was Tandoori chicken and rice. Chicken was borderline cooked and the rice was a solid ball which was almost impossible to break apart. The Italian Maitre D' was totally disinterested and dismissive to our complaint and became defensive and argumentative. The consensus on our table and among other passengers was that the food was generally very poor. Orange juice was only available until 10am and was more like squash. Coffee was not available 24/7 nor was food. After 10 pm the coffee was cold and usually no milk available. There was a wide variety of herbal teas but the water provided was not hot enough to make good cup of English breakfast tea.
Considering that this is an Italian ship, the quality of pasta dishes left a lot to be desired, most being stodgy in consistency.
There was no alternative to the dining room for evening meals, so on formal nights (3 occasions) the formal attire was no longer compulsory thus making a nonsense of the occasion.
It would take a long time to list all the complaints that I heard about food but suffice to say I actually lost weight on this cruise.
On a plus side the dining room service staff were absolutely wonderful happy smiling people who would do anything to try to make amends to unhappy passengers.
There are a number of bars around the ship where drinks are available at extortionate prices. €7.30 for a rum and coke, €4.50 for a glass of house red wine all plus 15% service charge. They do have happy hour from 12 til 1 & 5 til 8.30, where it is 2 for the price of 1, making it a little more reasonable. Soft drinks are €2.60 for a can and are not subject to happy hour. Water is €2.50 per bottle. The ship insists that no drinks of ANY description can be purchased ashore and brought on board, though a lot of passengers either brought stocks with them when they boarded or smuggled drinks on board. Purchase of drinks was via 'bar service' waiter/waitress staff who are obviously on commission due to the amount of staff who pester you throughout the day in all areas of the ship. However, in the evenings when the bars are busy it often appeared that only 4 staff were available for the whole bar and it could take a long time to get served.
The entertainment on board was very 'high di high'. This is not an area that interests me at all though we did venture to one show. General complaints were that the shows were only 40 mins and generally poor quality. There was little organised entertainment on sea days. Bingo was being played every night in the main Piazza bar. It was €25 per card and and top prize of €90 irrespective of the number of players. Non Italian speakers were at a distinct disadvantage as all games and quizzes were relayed in Italian first.
Every bar had music which was a little too loud to allow easy conversation and not everyone's taste. It was all 'musak' style and generally geared at older people. The same music was played every night.
Finally, it is a very noisy ship, and by that I mean that the passenger noise level is everywhere on the ship. The only sanctuary that we found where you could sit and read in peace and quiet was in the observation deck at the very top of the ship.
In conclusion I have to say that the staff of Costa seemed unable to deal with any form of complaint or disruption to the routine. They were unable to answer direct complaints or resolve them to satisfactory conclusions and were unable to provide a copy of their complaints procedure when asked for it by some passengers.
I would have to say to anyone considering a Far East cruise that the destinations were all I expected them to be, but would never recommend Costa. Hunt around for another cruise line.