We selected this cruise because of the itinerary and our positive experiences with the aforementioned Carnival owned cruise lines. Given Costa is a subsidiary of Carnival, Inc., we felt comfortable booking with what we anticipated was a proven commodity. It is also relevant to note that we expected some cultural differences and perhaps even some service level inconsistencies.
Between October 21st and October 28th, the Costa Romantica followed a seven day itinerary to include Messina, Izmir and three ports in Greece which included Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens. What we experienced was a reasonably positive experience with the front line staff (cabin stewards, waiters, etc.) and a tremendous amount of frustration with Costa policies, fees (notably drinking water), and an incredibly poorly conceived buffet (we understand this will be overhauled during dry dock).
Below you will find a bullet point assessment of what we felt was positive (the good), less than desirable (the bad), and what was downright miserable (the ugly). We cruise approximately every 18-24 months and are uncertain of our future with Carnival owned cruise lines given the very disappointing experience last week on Costa Romantica. We hope you take our feedback to heart and consider ways to improve the experience. While we recognize North American travelers compose a small proportion of the passengers on the Costa lines, we would be remiss in sharing that the views expressed in this letter were replicated in conversations we had with several other English speakers at the end of the trip. There was a growing consensus that Costa must exhibit significant improvement to earn the business of repeat North American travelers or avoid being negatively reviewed on popular travel websites.
Please note the feedback below.
Stanley and his assistant, server at Table 85, lots of fun, great service and attitude. Dinner "shows" with the wait staff were funny and energetic
Cabin was terrific, comfortable and large, bed was very comfortable
Sean, the English Liaison, was friendly and was an important reference for English speakers
The Ports of Call (with the exception of Messina) were good to great (Santorini was especially wonderful)
Dance/Entertainment team was very good and made attempts to cater to all major languages when possible
Formal Dining Room options / quality of food were as good as we've had on prior cruises
Bar wait staff was mostly friendly and attentive
"Afternoon Tea" snacks were enjoyable and provided a good bridge between lunch and dinner
We appreciated the English translations for announcements and the shows
Cabin steward consistently respected the privacy signage
Lunch wait staff was not unfriendly, but not particularly engaging. They looked exhausted at times.
Not being able to get off the boat in tender ports until an hour after Costa based excursions made us feel like second class citizens and we had much less time in port as a result
Toilet backed up, but was repaired quickly
Pool music played one song consecutively for three hours straight; this is not an exaggeration or inaccuracy. We asked customer service to send someone to fix it. It didn't get changed until we requested involvement from a supervisor on the pool deck staff.
All lounges (not the restaurants) were smoking areas that proved stifling for non-smokers and prevented us from enjoying entertainment areas or drinks without going outside. Smoke also seeps into cabin areas as there is little in the way of containing it in the lounge areas
Messina was largely a wasted port. Shops and venues were largely closed and it appears the only reason we stopped there was to pick up additional guests.
We really enjoyed Santorini, Izmir, and Athens, but we had little time to venture too far away given the very short port schedules. Another hour or two would go a long way toward making deeper port exploration possible
Cabin ran out of toilet paper without excessive use-bathroom should have been stocked with at least one extra roll
Cruise effectively shut down on the last day because of the pending dry dock. The buffet was closed which meant there was no water outside of required purchases of water bottles. Various goods were transferred to another boat the previous day while in Mykonos.
Alcoholic beverages were extremely expensive. Had they been less expensive, we would have felt we were receiving more value and would have had many more drinks. Drink margins would fall, but I suspect gross contribution would improve significantly with a higher volume strategy
Only one English television station (BBC) and Carnival parent company infomercials were looped throughout the trip. On the last couple days, a blank screen played with no programming on two channels limiting our already limited viewing options
Internet crashed many times while I tried to log on and it charged me for full minutes each time; accounted for the majority of my internet charges
Mini-fridge in cabin was locked the entire cruise
Customer service desk could not tell me how our tip monies were distributed proportionally to staff. This really made it difficult for me to apportion additional gratuities.
Gym was small and closed early in the morning and too early in the evening.
No laundry facilities onboard, passengers required to pay 20 euros to have clothes washed and ironed as an alternative. There are two formal gala nights without an ability for men to iron their formal wear
We were required to be back on the boat at 12;30 pm, yet, we didn't leave port until 1:45pm
Shows did not start on time and most port calls occurred at times different than the itinerary. Also, "All Aboard" calls were always 30 min earlier than departure, so itineraries overstate the amount of already limited time in port
The final night of the cruise featured crew members singing songs rather than providing a professional show. Many audience members walked out in frustration
Forced to buy water at all meals (water was provided in buffet until the last night of the cruise). We were forced to drink tap water at night in the cabins (no alternatives) and I got sick for three days; our dining room table-mates had the same problem. Customer relations told us to pay to see a doctor which cost 90 euros. Could not even buy cough syrup because Duty Free was closed back half of the trip. This is extremely upsetting and was a real turnoff to other North American travelers. Customer service was apathetic, at best. We heard from staff later that cabin water was not, in fact, potable and we should not drink it. Given we are captive at sea, it seems that basic life sustaining essentials like water should be plentiful and always free of charge.
The buffet is a disaster, poor quality food, and not properly managed logistically. Crowds move in all directions with little regard for safety or efficiency