This is myself and my husbands second cruise with Costa (we had so much fun on the first one - South East Asia - 14 nights) and we decided to do it again but with a very different itinerary this time. We are from Australia and we travelled this time as a family group of 7 - which ranged in age from 5 to 63! We are 40 years old, so aged nearly in between! This included 2 children, under 11.
I have 7 areas that I think are the most important areas when choosing a cruise, as its a big holiday and you want to get the most out of it.
1: The Ships
Costa ships are beautiful! Yes the colors are bright, the decor is European Influence (it is an Italian cruise line) but the ship is so spotlessly clean, from top to bottom. The Atlantica is a huge ship and with nearly 3500 people on it (including staff) you would never know that there were that many, as everybody has room to find their space and relax.
2: The Staff
The staff are excellent. Very multi-cultural (lots of nationalities with the staff). Nothing was EVER too much of a problem. If you asked polity, you received simple! We got along fabulously with most of the staff that we met and they repaid us with with fantastic service. Common courtesy and decency go a very long way, no matter what language you speak.
3: The food was sensational! Maybe, being an Aussie, I am used to eating a lot of different foods but you had a variety of choice everyday. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can have at the buffet (self service) and the Lunch and Dinner menu had a different theme everyday IE: Italian/Indian/Greek/Asian/Portuguese. In the buffet, you have large melamine plates and plastic glasses and mugs (this is to stop the HUGE amount of waste instead of using disposable).
The Pizzeria was open nearly 24 hours a day and you could either have the standard Margarita (tomato and cheese) or what the different standard one that changed daily. If you didn't like either of the ones offered in the large sizes, at lunch and dinner, you could request a custom one (dinner plate size) made just for you. Tea/Coffee was available, 24 hours a day.
If you don't like the hop-o-bump-o style of buffet eating, your 3 main meals a day, could be taken in the Dining Room, where you had a menu to choose from, wait staff, china plates and real glasses. We chose to eat at the buffet for breakfast and lunch (if we were at sea) but enjoyed the dining room for dinner.
Also for lunch out on the pool deck, one side was a Tex-Mex buffet, so tacos and such and the other side was hot dogs and hamburgers and chips. Also for lunch if we were at sea, the would do a massive outdoor buffet running down each side of the pool deck! Afternoon teas, yes, in the buffet, it was cakes and biscuits but when we were at sea, at 4pm they would do "High Tea" in the Florian Bar and the deserts were to die for! The beauty of all of this too, is its all included in your fare. Seriously, for 7 of us to eat like kings up to 5 times a day for 20 days would have cost a fortune. Oh, and there are 8 "whippy" machines on the ship, which were constantly "under the pump" and the only reason that some may not have been working at the time when you wanted it was people had sucked it dry before you got there! Walk to the next one, that's what we did.
4: Drinks - Ah!
4.5 Euro for a 500ml Beer = $6.00 AUD Cheap as Chips!
8.0 Euro for a Mixed drink = $11.00 AUD - not much dearer at home
7.0 Euro for a Cocktail = $9.50 AUD Cheap as Chips!
And Happy Hour was 3 times a day, for sometimes up to 2 hours (?) where you can get mixed drinks and cocktails, 2 for the price of 1! Me not complain!
Get a Coffee package and a non alcoholic drinks package on board.
5: Ports and Excursions
The ports that we travelled to were very diverse, from the Bahamas to the Mediterranean. Some I would go back to tomorrow and other that I am glad that I have been to but they were all fun. Yes, excursions are expensive some times but they take you to so out of the way places that you just wont get to on foot or public transport. Study your excursions on-line before you go and book them online with Costa - don't wait until the day before on the ship because you will end up just booking anything and mostly only the more expensive ones are left they day before at the tour desk.
Less than $100 AUD per day, all of your transport on the ship, going from place to place (with some one else driving!) all of your food, all of your entertainment, what more can you ask for? As for the tips, $12 AUD per day, that we prepaid before the cruise. Seriously, if I had to give $1 tip to every staff member that I came in contact with every day, it would have cost me a cracker load more than that. There is a NO cash system on the ship, which is great and you don't feel the pressure to "cough up cash", every time you speak to somebody. I found that the staff are real, too, with no need to act for their tip.
If you are going on a cruise - CHILL OUT! Be prepared that some people are rude, obnoxious and generally do not give a hoot about anybody but themselves and believe that the whole ship is there for them and them alone! (Especially funny incidents involving pool lounges around the pool). Then you have the majority, who like to have a good time, can laugh at themselves, don't have to be entertained 24/7 and can make their own fun and be prepared to met some amazing people that you will stay friends with for the rest of your life, from all around the world. Yes, there were only about 11 children on the cruise but my nieces loved it, as they had the Squok Club Staff all to themselves everyday! The 2 cruises that we have done with Costa, tend to have been an older age group but for me personally, I am not into the nightclub or pub scene and I don't like to surround myself with loud and inebriated people, so this suits me just fine. I am on holiday to relax and have fun. If you are after the "party" ship, this ain't it!