This was our first cruise and we couldn't have been happier. We love visiting Europe and this cruise definitely had a European flair. Getting on the ship was very quick and easy and our luggage was delivered to our room later that evening. We had a interior cabin and it was bigger than I thought it would be. There were 3 closets with plenty of room for our clothes as well as night stands and a desk. Our empty luggage easily stored under the bed. The room had a 220 and a 110 outlet in it. I brought a power strip that made charging our cameras and electronics at night easy. Our cabin steward was very attentive. She made up the room each morning and turned down the bed each evening. Our cabin was on deck one and was very quiet. The TV had 2 English speaking channels (BBC and NBC Action) as well as channels with information about the next port of call and the web-cam of the front and back of the ship. There are also channels in French, Italian, German and Spanish. Since I speak French and am learning Italian I enjoyed watching some of those stations too.
We had the first dinner seating at 6:30pm each night. Second seating was at 9pm. Every dinner had a lot of food to choose from. Appetizers, salad, soup, pasta course, main course, cheese course, and dessert. If you didn't find a main course on the menu you wanted, you had the option of ordering standard items that were always available for the main course (Salmon, Spaghetti, Chicken, etc). There were vegetarian options marked. You could order as many items from the menu as you wanted. Two appetizers - no problem; three desserts - no problem. The often had "no sugar added" desserts that were an option - all very good. They also often offered fresh fruit in the dessert section. I always enjoyed my meals and the variety of options that were offered. One night the grilled tuna was dry but with so many other courses I didn't let that spoil my meal. If someone at the table didn't like what they got - a quick mention to the waiter and he would bring something else. The waiter always had a smile and the highest level of service I've seen anywhere. He was from Bali and spoke perfect English.
For breakfast we always ate at the buffet. There were omelet stations where omelets or fried eggs could be made to order. In the buffet line there was cheese, meats, hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, cereal, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, french toast, pancakes, waffles, fruit, rolls, toast and more. To drink there was coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk, juice and water. Breakfast could also be taken in the dining room.
Lunch could be taken in the dining room or at the buffet. The buffet offered grilled chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad, pizza, fruit, pasta stations, breads and more. They often had a midnight surprise dessert or a special activity with a buffet. The fruit included bananas, pears, watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, mango, apples, oranges, pineapple. One night they had peaches flambeé with ice cream.
Each evening there was a show in the theater. This included a magician, ventriloquist, juggler, acrobatics, singers and dancers. Some shows were better than others but all were entertaining. Pietro has a marvelous voice and since we missed his show in the theater we made it a point to hear him sing in the Piano Bar where he performed each night. We also enjoyed the violin player and the trio in the Wein Wein bar. There was music for dancing in other areas too.
There were activities during the day that kept us entertained. My wife attended a culinary demonstration. I attended 4 - 30 minute beginning Italian classes held during the cruise. They had dance lessons, bingo, Jacuzzis, pools, receptions for Rotarians/Lions/Kiwanis, and more. We used the jacuzzi that was on the top of the ship - even though the weather was a bit chilly. We also used one of the four jacuzzis on deck nine near the pools. Since this was early spring they kept the glass ceilings over the pool areas closed.
I worked out in the gym on a stationary bike most mornings. The bike had an individual TV that could be listened to with your own headphones. Most of the equipment looked out at the sea. Relaxing site early in the morning. They also had treadmills and weight machines available. The gym was generally open from 7am to 8pm - sometimes 10pm. Some days we had to meet for our excursion by 7:45 so I only had time for a quick workout in the morning before showering and going to the excursion. My wife walked in the early morning on the top of the ship. There is a short "track" where you can walk an oval path around the smoke stack.
The crew was always very polite and always greeted you with a hello, how are you today? Getting on and off the ship was efficient. You always passed through metal detectors and bags through x-ray machines but this went quickly.
There were people on the ship from many countries. I met people from France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Ireland, Australia and the USA. I even made friends with two Italian couples and we plan to stay in touch. The crew are recruited and trained in different areas of the world. There was a session where they gave an overview of the ship. They explained that cabin stewards are often recruited and trained in the Philippines. Many of the culinary staff were from Indonesia and India. The security crew were generally from India. The officers school was in Italy. I was constantly amazed at how well they did working with so many different languages. The entertainment, announcements, signs, etc were done in many languages. There was an English host who had regular hours if we ever needed to talk to a native English speaker from Costa. Our menu was always in English and our daily bulletin was in English. Of course the passengers who spoke other languages received their bulletins and menus in their own languages.
Most of the entertainment/bars were on deck 5. There were members of our group with cabins on deck 6 who heard the music quite loudly through the floor / walls until early in the morning. You might want to avoid deck 6 if you want a quieter cabin.
Overall we loved the itinerary. Savona, Olympia, Jerusalem, Galilee, Izmir/Ephesus, Athens and Rome were all wonderful. This was a great experience for our first cruise.