We joined the cruise at Amsterdam, having made our own way there and spending a couple of days sight seeing before we embarked. Embarkation was slow and a bit haphazard, but we eventually boarded around 2.30, having arrived at 1.30. Lunch was provided on arrival and our cabin was ready immediately, our bags arrived quickly too. All good news to start with.
The first impression of the ship is that is gaudy and glizzy - one might say full of bling. The colours used throughout are really bright, with loads of lights, which almost hurt the eyes to look at. Cabins, however, were light, bright and much less colourful! The standard of accommodation in the cabin was very good, it was always kept beautifully clean and everything worked, as you might expect on an almost new ship. We picked this holiday for the itinery - Tallin, St. Petersberg, Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen and back to Amsterdam so the programme was quite hectic with lots of time in port. We only did excursions in St. Petersberg and did our own thing in the other ports which worked out well.
Most times the ship was 'parked up' quite a way outside the town and Costa put on shuttle buses for passengers, which worked well but were quite expensive. There were times when staff at the tour desk were rather misleading of their description of how long it might take to walk into town, which meant that one bought a shuttle bus ticket when it was not necessary. The standard of the excursions we did was very good but because of the lateness of one arriving back to the ship we were unable to take another trip which we had booked, which was very annoying.
Days at sea were full of opportunities to do something but most of it was not to our taste. There were approximately 300 English speaking passengers out of 2200 (ship not full), the majority of the rest were Italian. This resulted in multi-language announcements which could get intrusive. For example, the 'card room' is actually an open space on the side of the biggest lounge area. Whenever cards were being played (e.g. Bridge), there would be a fashion show, quiz or someting else noisy going on right nearby which was irritating. Because of the open plan nature of the lounges as well, smokers were placed quite close to non smokers, so there was often a smell of cigarette smoke wherever you sat.
The evening meals were extremely good, although some of our table-mates were critical of the level of choice. Each dinner was at least five courses and some of them were 'themed'. We were on second sitting, which was not until 9 p.m. This meant that often we did not finish eating until 11, after which one could go to the disco or a show if one wanted. The self-service cafeteria was always a bit of a scrum and we ended up trying to avoid it for breakfast, going to the restaurant instead. Lunch was available at both locations too.
My biggest grip with Costa is that they try to get more money out of you whenever they can. From the minute you board the ship, they take photographs of you at every opportunity, for which they charge 9.99 euros each. Of course, you don't have to buy them, but it does become irritating. We also had a bottle of water in our cabin with a note saying that if we opened it, the price would be charged to our bill - about 1.30 euros, I think. This is petty when, had we paid full price, the cabin would have been 4000 euros between the two of us. There is also a fee-paying restaurant that one can use as an alternative (20 euros)and cappucino and espresso coffees are also charged as extras.
One lovely event is the 'elegant tea' which happened twice within our cruise, beautiful variety of teas, exquisite sandwiches and cakes with strawberries dipped in chocolate. Everyday afternoon tea was supplied in the self-service restaurant, but the elegant one was far superior. Disembarkation was well organised and our luggage easy to find when we got off. I wouldn't go with Costa again because I didn't really enjoy the daytime activities and wouldn't want to pay full price but I suspect that it would suit some people very well.