Good cruise, good value, excellent staff
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
We picked Costa having read tons of reviews ranging from horrible, would never go back experiences to rave reviews, so we went on the Costa Romantica with really no expectations and were pleasantly surprised. First of all, the Romantica was only 1/2 booked, which if you've cruise before that was a huge perk. There were no lines, no wait times and plenty of seats for everything. Our cabin (4049) was an ocean view and was really nice. I was surprised it had as much room as it did and a very large ocean view window. We usually book balcony rooms, but the Romantica only offers maybe 10-20 suites with balconies and with prices to match their limited selection, so we opted for an ocean view room and were not disappointed.
The staff was fantastic and cannot say enough enough about their service. Keep in mind, this is an Italian cruise line and English is the last language they speak. French, Spanish and even German were more popular than English which means the staff members More
who do speak English aren't fluent. Most of the staff members who do speak English are servers and are from the Philippines as English is taught through their schooling. The guest services reps don't speak English well and I would definitely opt for the 1 hour daily Q&A session with the English speaking rep for any help you may need. The food was very good, especially the pasta, but Costa was lacking with the grand meals to accompany the Gala evenings like Royal does, so that was a little disappointing.
The mixed drinks are terrible! Be forewarned, stick with beer , wine, or straight liquors drinks. The mixed drinks are nothing but mix and have very little alcohol despite their 6.75 euro price tag.
The ship excursions were run very well and a Costa cruise member travelled with each excursion to ensure it went well. See my port reviews for more details on ports. Avoid the Jeep Excursion in Mykonos!
Overall very pleased with the Costa Romantica and would sail Costa again. I understand they are remodeling the ship and adding more floors, 4x the number of balconies and activities like rock climbing walls which was definitely needed. My husband and I are under 30 and we struggled to entertain ourselves since the activities on the ship were really focused for a much older crowd, but Costa seems to know that and is working to remedy that on the ship. Less
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Cabin review: neoRomantica
Our cabin (4049) was an ocean view and was really nice. I was surprised it had as much room as it did and a very large ocean view window. We usually book balcony rooms, but the Romantica only offers maybe 10-20 suites with balconies and with prices to match their limited selection, so we opted for an ocean view room and were not disappointed.
Port and Shore Excursions
I love Athens on Sunday! Athens from what I understand is a very hectic city, but we lucked out and arrived on Sunday morning. There was no traffic and very few people out since it's a church day. The historical sites are free and very few people crowding them that early. We booked a private tour with Nikos of Private Greece Tours and Emmanuel was our driver. Could not have been more pleased. I highly recommend them for a tour. The cost was 150 euro for 4 people and he drove us around in a Mercedes taxi. Emmanuel is an English speaking guide from NJ but born in Athens, so he's a very good driver having lived in NJ :) The cost was very comparable to what was offered on the ship but we had the luxury of decided where we wanted to go, how much time to spend there, and when we wanted to return to the ship. Excellent tour!
Istanbul is the 3rd largest city in the world and it felt like it. All of the major tourist destinations are in one spot and you really don't need a ship excursion. We opted for the hop on hop off bus tour and despite the freezing weather, it was the best deal since it allowed you to see a lot of the city from the open air top. Buy your tickets in advance and you should be able to get on at the unofficial stop at the cruise port. You cannot buy tickets at this stop and must take a cab to the square at the Haga Sophia. The Sultanemet (Blue Mosque) and the Haga Sophia are right next to each other along with Topkapi Palace. Definitely go to Topkapi Palace, the sultan's jewels are there and they put the Hope Diamond to shame they're that big! The food in Istanbul is excellent and definitely try the kabobs, wow.
Take the Ephesus tour; it was amazing. Now, I'm a history major, but my family with me, who is not, still was really impressed with the ruins. Ephesus is one of the best preserved antiquities sites I've been to and I've been to Rome and Pompeii. The 2 story library will take your breath away. Our tour guide was excellent and gave such a very thorough history lesson on Ephesus.
The one excursion I would not recommend is in Mykonos. Mykonos is a tiny little island with nothing to do expect the shopping immediately around the port. We took the Jeep 4x4 excursion thinking we would get a more exciting adventure in Mykonos and we were wrong. The cost is around $500 per couple and it's not a Jeep, it's a Suzuki and it's tiny. You drive for 2.5 hours over the island and don't see anything it describes in the ad: no sunsets, no windmills, nothing. You see farm animals and local houses and it's boring. When paying $500, I expect a lot more and this is definitely the excursion to avoid. We definitely wished the ship spent the whole day at Santorini and skipped Mykonos altogether.
Civitavecchia is a very easy port to navigate and to get back to Rome. Take the train, you do not need to book a car service or a ship transfer. The cost is around 9,50 euro for the high speed train and it takes you to the end of the Termini station in Rome. The town itself was very nice.
Take the Oia Village tour! Oia is the best town in Santorini by far. The views are spectacular and the people are extremely friendly. There are shops with little eclectic treasures if you keep your eye out between the tourist shops; we bought a hand painted Christmas ornament. Also, be sure to buy a bag of the sesame covered nuts, they're delicious and everybody is trying to sell you a bag. We paid 1 euro and it was so worth it.
The town in beautiful and highly recommend this ship excursion from the cruise port in Messina. There is very limited transportation on Sunday from Messina to Taormina so I would recommend taking the ship excursion. We left the tour 1/2 way through since she had told us where we were meeting and when, and we went and had pizza and wine at a local restaurant which was fantastic. The town is very crowed but beautiful and you can get pictures of Mt. Etna from the amphitheater.
Volos is a fishing village and is a vacation destination for Greeks, not tourists. The shopping is mainstream, not touristy and the food is very authentic. Pick a cafe, sit down and have a wonderful lunch. Then afterwards, go to the bakery directly next to Sugar and have baklava with cream ice cream; simply amazing!!! You will not regret this :)