Our family had wanted to do something special - The Holy Land Cruise was just the thing. We loved the itinerary of this cruise, with the sale price by Costa, it was too good to pass up.
1. EMBARKATION: We embarked in Civitavecchia in what seemed to be a warehouse on the pier. It took a bit of time, though not unreasonable. We were then directed to the ship and up the gangplank into the ship and directed to the elevator along with everyone else boarding, nobody bothered to check to see where our cabin was. So we had to figure out for ourselves that we needed to go back down the elevator to get to our lower level cabin by looking at the ships map.
2. ROOM: The room was very nice and larger than most ships we have been on. We were quite pleased with our accommodations. We had a nice sized window, a couch you could actually sit on an additional chair with room around the bed, storage was plentiful (there were additional drawers under the couch.
3. STEWARD: Throughout the cruise our Cabin Steward gave us excellent service. Our room was made as soon as we would walk out the door. He was friendly, helpful, informational and spoke English well. In fact most of the cabin stewards had a warm smile and would readily answer questions or direct you where you needed to be.
4. DINING: The dining room was another story. We have traveled and stayed in Italy and Europe at different times. We KNOW Italian dining or European style. Costa just does not LIVE UP to this. The food was not tasty. Many people on board were also unhappy with the meals. We had the late dining - food was served cold, over cooked, undercooked (risotto is not suppose to be crunchy) It seemed the brown sauce was the same on different meats. The exception would be seafood- we did have some good fish dishes. Dining service was not good. Our waiter rarely got the order correct. Twice we were not served our main course. I truly believe they are quite short staffed in the kitchen and dining room.
5. BUFFET: The buffet was basically the same meal each and every day. There would be a theme dish of some kind IF you were there at the right time and a few additional salads, etc. Breakfast was exactly the same each day. Plenty of bland food. Boring after a week. The pastry's were very good - but the same choice of 5/6 every day. Coffee, hot water for Tea and Ice & water are there all day. Juice only in the a.m.
6. PAY FOR FOODS; The Blue Moon restaurant (20 euro) had excellent service. They go all out to serve you and wait on you. The food was good. Unfortunately they have the same menu each night. Few Surprises. HAVE the icecream - it is made at your table! it is quite good.
Chocolate Bar - a selection of drinks, coffees, desserts and truffles. Tasty - but the costs add up after 11 days.
Ice Cream cart - hard to find it up on deck 9 back of the pool area. It is only there in the evening - but serves a nice sundae.
7. ONBOARD: There is really not much to do. I believe the waterslide was opened only twice for a minimal time, though our weather was very nice. The water aerobic class was available a few times. Dance classes were up on deck near the pool - a little cramped (would have been really nice in the ballroom). The Theater shows were ok. The lounge shows were very nice. A good selection of musicians was good. Unfortunately we kept missing the music. The schedule posted daily was often wrong. We had the late seating for dinner and would like to have listened to music at a lounge for a couple of hours but it really did not start up until 8:00 or 8:30.
Every announcement was made in several languages. We had an English speaking hostess. All of our tours had English guides.
Disembarkation was a NIGHTMARE let me repeat NIGHTMARE . This was the Port of Civitavecchia problem. We nearly missed our noon flight (there were 10 of us) I cannot believe that this port was so completely disorganized and unprepared for the passengers getting of the ship.
KATAKOLON; Interesting little fishing village. Lots of shops. If you choose to forgo the ship excursion, you can take a train to Olympia for 5 euro rt., it is a bit of a walk to the ruins - you may find a cab up there to take you. A bus at the edge of the port will take you to the ruins for 10 euro. The cabs were quite a bit more -- check out car rentals, there were plenty from 35 to 40 euro.
PIREAUS; ATHENS; We walked to the light rail from the port (abt. 15 min) It takes you right to the bottom of the ruins. A bit of a walk up the hill gets you to the Parthenon, Mars Hill, etc. A city bus will take you all the way up to the entrance. The entrance fee was 12 euro. Near the rail station is a market area with shops and coffee stands and cute bistros. Walk around and enjoy the atmosphere.
IZMIR: We had a private tour company take us to Ephesus. Very worth the trip. The ruins there are magnificent. Those on The ships excursions were equally pleased. Others went to the Bazaar near the port - it is quite a walk, so you may want a cab. Taxi's will also take you on a city tour and out Ephesus.
ASHDOD: We took the excursion to Jerusalem, and saw several museums, and the wailing wall, etc. Not near enough time at this stop!
CAIRO: There must have been 100 buses in the caravan. We went to Pyramids, Sphinx, lunch on river cruise, citadel & Mosque. Would not do that again - the lunch cruise was a laugh though the food was quite good. Should have gone to the Pyramids, Sphinx & Egypt museum where King Tut exhibition is. All the tours included a Papyrus institute visit - just very expensive souvenirs (disappointing). Take care at the pyramids - a 'free camel' ride will cost about $10 to get off. There are plenty of sellers there and you can find some inexpensive little gift items, if you are careful. There are some nice little gifts to be found at the Port of Alexandria if you have enough time after the very long day. 3/4 hours to the Pyramids, terrible traffic between each "site" then another 3/4/hours back to ship.