What I liked:
-Wonderful, friendly staff from many countries
-Ship was beautifully decorated
-Good entertainment program with heaps of different activities all day
-Buffet restaurant had good quality food
-Cabin was good value for money
What I didn't like:
-Embarkation was slow, frustrating and poorly organised
-Food in the main restaurants was very ordinary
-Drinks were very expensive
-Shore excursions were good, but expensive for what was included
-Kids were allowed to run amok all over the ship with little supervision
-Announcements in 6 languages gets annoying after a while
This was my first cruise of more than a day or so and I didn't really know what to expect. Overall I was very impressed, glad that I did the cruise and would happily do it again tomorrow. I am an Australian living in Germany and I went with my partner (we are both mid 20s) and my parents (both about 60) who had come to Europe to visit me.
I do, however, think there were a few things which could have been a lit better.
Embarkation was very slow and frustrating. The information given to us beforehand on the port was not very detailed so we spent a bit of time walking around looking for where we were supposed to drop our bags and what we were supposed to do next. They give a number and say that you can board when the number is called. There were lots of people walking around trying to sell drinks packages but not many to answer questions amongst the confusion.
We ended up sitting and waiting for about 3 or 4 hours until we could board. I couldn't see why they couldn't have just told us what time we were going to board when they sent the ticket by email a week earlier so that we could have been exploring Venice rather than sitting in their waiting area.
Once we got on the ship we were very impressed. The decoration and elegance of the ship's interior was just wonderful.
Our cabin was right down the bottom of the ship and on the inside, so nothing special, but that is what we'd paid for. I don't see the point of paying an extra 1000 euro or so for a balcony when I can just go upstairs and experience it that way. The balcony rooms looked very nice for those who are happy to pay double the cost. The cabin we had was comfortable and served our purposes well. Indeed, it was better than many hotels I have experienced.
Dinner was also a little frustrating as we had to wait until 9:00, but I can understand why they do it this way. The restaurant was also wonderfully decorated and looked much more expensive than any restaurant I had ever been. The service was also wonderful; the two waiters we had for the week were fantastic. The food however, was nothing special. We got to choose about 7 courses and obviously some were better than others, but overall the food was not as good as the quality of the restaurant would suggest.
I actually found the food in the buffet a lot better so we went up there to eat a few times. The only problem then is that the kids seem to have free run of the entire ship and it gets pretty frustrating to those of us without kids. They would push in line, run around everywhere in the restaurant, make as much noise as they like and often had little or no supervision from their parents. Of course this is not the fault of Costa, but it would be nice if they could ask the parents to take care of their kids rather than letting them annoy everyone else.
Drinks were decent quality (other than the wine) but were very expensive. Looking at about 5 euro for a beer, 5 euro for a wine and about 7 or 8 for a cocktail. I guess it's not anymore expensive than a good bar on land. Technically you are not allowed to bring on any food or drink but we quickly discovered that in reality they don't actually check anything. We brought on softdrink, vodka, scotch and wine in our bags and they never stopped us despite seeing it clearly on the x-ray.
The shore excursions were nicely organised but often only went for a few hours. With a group of 4 people, we would have been better off just organising stuff on our own (a taxi is cheaper with that many) but we didn't know in advance. Still, it was nice to have a few things organised for us.
Being an Italian ship most of the people were Italian. However there were people from many countries and all the announcements were done in about 6 languages. This became really annoying but I guess there isn't really a better alternative.
Overall I was really happy with the cruise and was quite disappointed to get off at the end. It was a great experience and I would happily do it again.