We were tempted by the itinerary. Who wouldn't be? In particular, cruising over to the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius sounded very exotic. While the itinerary was exceptional, I am afraid the ship itself leaves a lot to be desired.
We had no issues with embarkation as is mentioned in other posts. We checked our bags in and continued shopping until we were able to board.
As is typical with all cruises, we were ambushed once on board by those selling beverage packages. We were disappointed but not surprised that any wine package purchased only incorporated Italian wines. We selected the premium package and must say the wine was not what we would call premium. It was average at best and for 5 bottles at $109 Euro was a bit of a rort. Plus service charge of course!!
The room was sufficient. Although I must say the bathroom was scungy with mould in the shower and behind the taps on the vanity. I did 10 rounds with the shower curtain on a regular basis and in the end decided it was a lot easier to shower without it. The toilet system is continually under stress which is most unpleasant. Many times, the toilet would not flush and there were occasions where the system was blocked. When we advised our hostess of this, she checked and advised us that this was OK, the entire level had the same problem!! For the next few hours, I needed to use the public toilets instead of our own and the smell was putrid. The choice of television stations is interesting. There is one English movie channel which plays movies at certain times of the day. Over the 3 weeks on the ship, the movies were repeated 3 times. Other selections other than European channels were Russian news being read in English and details of the ship. In other words, the TV service is what I would call substandard.
Other areas on the ship are tired and dated. While the leather chairs and sofas are a nice touch, the corners are worn and overall appear scruffy. I had to laugh when on the first day I ventured out to the pool deck for a quick drink. I kid you not, the pool is about 3m by 3m. More like a plunge pool than a traditional swimming pool. You cannot 'swim' in it. I just assumed that the other pool at the back of the ship must make up for this. No! It is exactly the same size. In all my time travelling, I have never seen anything so ridiculous to cater for 1,600 guests.
Our room was located directly across from the Emergency Exit. On the first and second nights, we had constant slamming doors as staff were using this exit to transfer baggage. In addition, all room service came up through this exit. Next to this exit was the cleaning cupboard. If you end up with room 7146, don't expect a good night's sleep. On the 3rd day, I approached the 'service' desk to inform them of the noise issue and to ask if there were any alternate cabins available that we may move to. The 'service' attendant stated that the ship was full and she didn't understand why I would have any issues with the noise. She said if I had an issue, I should tell the people responsible to be quiet. Hmmm, I thought that was their job. She then proceeded to tell me pointedly that noise can be expected on all cruises. Then she smiled and asked for the next guest enquiry. I guess that is what they call service.
The restaurant for dinner was the only option. We found this extremely inconvenient. Dress rules apply for dinner and it would have been appropriate to offer at least one alternate option (eg, the buffet) for dinner, especially considering the total number of days the ship was at sea. A pizza bar did open at 8pm each night, but one can only eat so much pizza. The one night we opted for pizza, the dough was not cooked and the while dish lacked flavour. Truly awful.
The food was average. The choices were varied and always contained vegetarian options. Seafood was available on a regular basis which was good. The best offering of the day was generally the buffet at lunch - a great deal of variety and specials. However, in the end I compared this buffet with that of a pig's trough. I learned quickly not to get in between a hungry European guest and the buffet. If you did, you were in danger of losing body parts. People consistently were rude, pushing in front and eating in gigantic proportions. Poor hygiene was on full display. The buffet obviously is unable to cater for the entire number of guests on board and it is frustrating when other guests treat this buffet as the social centre of the ship instead of being efficient and completing their meal so others could be seated. The breakfast catered mainly for the European guests on board. Toast was more like a Cruskit, but there were plenty of pastries available if you wanted. In fact, over half of the buffet consisted of these pastries. Salami seemed popular for breakfast! The quality was a lot less than what I have experienced in hotels and on other cruises.
The tours were limited for English speaking guests. This was further exaggerated by bilingual guests choosing the English speaking tours. We spoke with many other English speaking guests who had many of their tours cancelled. Worse still, it seemed that the cheaper tours were the ones cancelled (by cheap I mean $50 - $80 Euro) while the more expensive tours proceeded. There was a significant lack of organisation. Many tours were late and you were not kept informed by the tour organisers - just left sitting in the opera lounge waiting for your number to be called. On one tour in Seychelles, an announcement was made 15 minutes after the due departure time that we would be ready to go in 5 minutes. We were moved out 45 minutes late. For a $184 Euro excursion, an apology or explanation would have been nice. By this stage of our trip, we knew better.
The same old issues arose on our tours as happens on all of them. Ignorant and selfish guests were consistently late back to the bus. However, the worst incident of lateness was a Costa staff member. The guests waited on a bus in Reunion Island for 25 minutes for a Costa staff member and his partner. We applauded them when they finally made it back to the bus. His comment? "Don't worry, the ship won't leave without me". This pretty much sums up the attitude of the staff on board. I truly believe that they are indifferent to the experience of the paying guests.
The overall disorganisation by staff came to a head two days before we disembarked. Upon arriving at Mauritius, we were instructed to pick up our passports and that we would all individually undergo a customs interview with a Mauritius official. For those heading on tours for the day, we were asked to line up from 8am. Other guests wanting to go ashore were to follow at 8.30am. Knowing this could be a bit of a debacle, we started lining up at 7.30am. Already, there were around 12 people in front of us. Quite quickly the line grew and as usual, people consistently attempted to push in and get to the front of the queue. The Mauritius officials were late which added to the hysteria. Guests were shouting at each other, different nationalities were fighting each other, age was no barrier to aggression and I actually felt scared at one point that there was going to be an all in brawl. Finally at 8am, the Costa staff placed barriers up to stop people attempting to push in. The line ended up being from one end of the ship to the other. What a disgrace. This could have been organised so much better, I cannot believe with their experience that they would not intuitively understand how this frustrated some of the passengers. But again, as I have said, I really don't think they care.
Due to the cost of the tours, it was evident that a lot of guests chose to stay on board or do their own thing. We had many days at sea and I must say the entertainment budget must be very constrained. Entertainment consisted of trivia competitions (skewed towards European trivia of course), a professor providing history talks, sessions from the Spa about keeping your tan, losing your kilos or having the perfect abs (same thing every day and more or less just a sales pitch), and some religious activities. Prizes for winning competitions were limited to Costa notepads, mousepads and other cheap gadgets. We just kept to ourselves when at sea and lucky I had several books and an IPhone handy. The ship provides WiFi which is great, but at $24 Euro of 3 hours is absolutely a ridiculous price.
Some other things to note:
Alcohol is ridiculously overpriced - if you like a drink, be prepared for a massive bill;
Don't by any means get any laundry done unless you have a spare $150 Euro;
Be prepared for massive currency discounts when changing into Euro's - worse than an agent;
Take hand sanitiser with you - insufficient supplies on board.
The good points? The service staff and the actual places we visited.
We will never cruise with Costa again. When completing the feedback forms, we were told we were in with a chance at winning a free cruise. One, I do not believe Costa would give away something for free and two, even if I won, I would be loathe to take up the opportunity. Way better cruises available for similar prices.