Cruising with Costa was perhaps one of the worst travel experiences I have ever had, from lousy service to overpriced (and terribly translated) excursions. My best friend and I went with an open mind despite what we read about it, taking into account it was an Italian cruiseline. We are seasoned inernational travellers, and we realize different cultures, different countries provide different levels of service. But nothing prepared us for what we experience on the Oct. 21-28 eastern Med cruise from Rome to Greece and Turkey.
We found out after we boarded that the ship, Costa Romantica, was on its final cruise before going to dry dock for an overhaul. Though I suspect the new version of Costa Romantica will have the same problems as the old version.
The initial boarding was like a cattle call, with a climb up steep steps. Disembarkation was the same. For older folks and the disabled, this proved to be difficult. The ship has the ability to allow folks to use a gang plank, of sorts. But you had to demand to use it to get on and off the ship at the main embarkation and disembarkation at the port in Rome.
Be warned, unlike other cruise lines, this one charges for water. And the price for water is astronomical (think airport prices in the U.S.). As you can't drink the water from the tap, you are essentially held hostage for water. There is a water dispenser in the buffet, though access to it is limited. Also, we found the price of alcohol was more expensive than other cruise lines.
A word of advice, don't prepay your excursions with Costa. You can get better deals once you get onboard and they won't refund the difference. Also, you can't get out of them after you discover the overall poor quality of the tour guides. Two of the tours, including one of its big sellers -- the Parthenon -- were terrible. During the tour to the Black Madonna in Messina, we resorted to buying a guidebook in English rather than depend on the tour guide ... whose English was poor. That said, the Euphesus and Santorini tours were fantastic!
The Romantica excursion staff took no responsibility for the quality of its excursions even after receiving a number of complaints from English speakers who complained heavily about tours in Messina and Athens. The excursions office manager told us that she would check with the tour company and then offered no solution. She took the word of the company over dozens of complaints by the people who were actually on the tour.
The room was a fantastic size, and the oceanview we had was fantastic. Our cabin steward was also great. That said, there were problems with the plumbing and hot water. Nothing like being forced to take an ice cold shower two days in a row.
A day before we docked, our last full day at sea, the staff was already preparing to dry dock the ship ... and therefore a number of services were not available.
There seemed to be a greater concern by the English liaison officer, Sean, about tipping the staff rather than addressing any legitimate issues we brought to him. During his final shipboard presentation, he said that the staff works hard in tough conditions. But there seemed to be little recognition that many folks taking this cruise worked hard, in tough conditions ... in order to save money to take this cruise.
Perhaps the most telling thing about the cruise -- an Italian cruiseline -- is that even the Italians we met complained about the service. And veteran cruisers told us not to base our experience on Costa.
For those considering a Costa Cruise, you have been warned...