We were keen to cruise vietnam but when we researched cruises to this region that matched our 14 year old son's school holidays and were "teenager friendly " we were restricted to one _ the Costa classica. We eagerly booked but when we read the cruise reviews were tempted to cancel. Through desperation we decided to go ahead and decided to approach it with a potential "Fawlty Towers " attitude.
Happily we were pleasantly surprised. First up, this is not an expensive cruise and does not sell itself as a 5 star experience. So , if you accept this and move on it should be enjoyable.
Embarkation: was simple and quick and we easily found our cabins. My luggage failed to arrive but a quick visit to information produced said luggage which had lost it's tag. The tags Costa provide are inadequate BUT our travel agent was aware of this and so provided us with more heavy duty tags, In the end they still fell off so I guess Shit Happens.
Cabin: good size, very clean throughout entire trip but not the Ritz. Drank the tap water without any problems. TV reception poor, movies available poor. Our son took his PS3 and connected this to the TV so he was more than happy. AC fine. bed comfy. Steward very polite and helpful. Rooms a little noisy (read this in a review) so we packed earplugs and slept fine.
Food: plenty of it. Good variety. Not 5 star but then again that's not what we paid for ! Waiting staff bent over backwards to accomodate us and if we didn't like a dish we simply requested something else and it was gladly provided. Our 14 year old son (with the bottomless stomach) would order 2 or 3 mains and a couple of desserts and all arrived without question or drama.
Drinks; make use of the Happy hour and drinks packages and it's all quite reasonable. We did sneak a few cans of coke inside our rucksack and were not questioned. However, when we tried to bring in a dozen bottles of bottled water they were confiscated - just don't try to be greedy.
Entertainment: aimed at the older Italian market but once again make the best of it and it's fine. The poor acrobat did a commendable job. The seas were rough and we could barely stand up at times let alone balance on one hand.(pack the Kwells but it is ok once you get your sea legs) The Roving entertainment staff were energetic and fun and did the best they could with a sometimes apathetic elderly clientelle, In the end, make your own fun ! get involved with the frivolities and you'll have a good laugh.
Ports: all great except Sanya. China obviously is playing lip service to tourists. If you do visit- organise your own visa prior to the cruise and exchange money before you leave the ship. ( local authorities confiscate your passport and you cannot change money without it). We organised all our tours privately over the net before we left and this saved a lot of money and was more personal.
So , have realistic expectations and enjoy the trip. The ship is old and basic but the destinations and staff make up for this. Learn to say Thank you in Indonesian Chinese and Phillipine and watch the Faces of the staff light up in gratitude. Bon Voyage