Thank goodness we did NOT read the reviews of the Costa Classica before setting sailing. Otherwise, we may not have decided to go and could have missed out on a wonderful experience.
The itinerary was outstanding - 9 ports of call - and at an unbeatable value. It would have taken us 3 times the price to see them all via flights and on-shore hotels,so cruising was the perfect option.
The embarkation process was easy. The staff at the Cruise Centre in Singapore was fast with tagging our luggage and we waited only a short 15 minutes to board the bus that would take us to the ship. We did not mind that the ship docked 15 minutes from the Cruise Centre. In fact, we did not mind at all that at some ports of call we were 2 hours from big cities. In fact, we were happy for the added chance to see that part of the country from a very comfortably appointed and cool coach. There was some paperwork to fill out prior to boarding the vessel, but we were under marquees and the wait was about another ten-fifteen minutes. Nothing we couldn't handle.
And then the fun began - Our room was lovely - big, clean, comfortable and a nice large porthole through which we could gaze at the ocean. Our cabin staff was beyond excellent - friendly and professional, working so hard to keep our room in order twice a day.
We loved the food options, particularly the restaurant. We didn't use the self-service as much because the restaurant was so impressive. The menu selection was enormous at dinner, and the Italian, Asian, and international food were delicious. Indeed, the "Italian-ness" of the whole cruise was the charm. The Italian staff were very attentive and courteous. The food was wonderful, and the cappuccinos were excellent. We bought the non alcoholic boys-and-girls package, one of the wine packages, and the cappuccino package. They served us very well. The packages are the way to go if you drink, even mildly. My package had 4 bottles of wine and 7 bottles of water. It took me 3 days to finish a bottle of wine, so it was perfect. They kept your wine for you and brought out the remaining portions at each meal until you finished it. Great service. Eating in the restaurant, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was the highlight of our cruise. The restaurant staff are so good, and they come from everywhere - Philippines, India, Peru, China, etc. Always smiles, and very professional.
The entertainment on board was something we looked forward to after getting used to it. The Afro Arimba dancers with singer Myles Hartman were technically very good and well choreographed. We were less happy with singers Angela Benn and Alberto Jelmoni - the former was off-key a fair number of times and the latter was just too theatrical and over-the-top. The Fuego Flamenco dancers were great, the Chinese acrobats were entertaining, and the magician Simone Shapland was a good dancer, too. We didn't think the Romanian gymnast/comedian all that funny - but he was easy on the eye. Overall, the entertainment has a certain homey, family-style, and yes hokey feel. But the acts are all well-intentioned and the dancers certainly give their 120 percent. I liked how the cruise director Monja Salvati could speak a dozen languages so well , and how she opened and closed each evening's entertainment. In general, we loved how the announcements were made in all these different languages - and the cruise was a great time to practice our French, Italian, and Mandarin Chinese. We also had entertainment during dinner, which was superbly provided by some very talented wait staff.
The animation team - this group of young, talented, and beautiful people who could dance, etc - really tried to get people involved in the activities onboard. They did a great job - and people really seemed to enjoy themselves with the animation team. I think you need a group like this to make passengers feel like they are connecting with cruise staff. We felt very connected to the staff throughout our trip - from wait and cabin staff, to the bar staff, the security staff, and the customer service staff. We felt looked after and protected. They really treated us like family.
We took many excursions, and they were well thought out. Expensive, but you were well looked after and did not need to keep checking your watch to make sure you made it back to the ship on time. If you want a relaxing time, take the excursions and pay a bit more. It's worth it. A lot of guests seemed bent on seeing how cheaply they could organize their own excursions in groups of 8 or 10, but we didn't feel like haggling with locals, or looking for people we liked spending time with. Dinner conversations with these so-called "independent travellers" were consequently rather dull - "Ooh we paid $X for our tour and we saw yadda, yadda, yadda. Costa charges so much...."
And that brings us to the one thing that was less than stellar on this cruise - some of the passengers who appeared so picky, trivial, rude, and penny-pinching. And they were of many different nationalities. We were stuck with some very negative people at dinner, and we really should have changed tables. But we didn't, and now we know to do so in future. Fortunately, the crew, staff, and service made up for annoying passengers. We will never see these passengers again, but we would certainly take another cruise with Costa to experience once again the warmth, professionalism, and excellent service of this company.
Ports visited, but not in cruisecritic's list of ports