This was not our first Costa cruise. We went to the Carribbean on the Fortuna in 2010 so we knew what to expect. Again, we chose Costa because of the destinations and overall value. We were hoping for better food since the ship is domiciled in Savonna, Italy, but it was pretty much the same; good variety but bland! Even if you like Olive Garden it gets old after 11 days! (which we don't) What was lacking in food quality was made up for in service. We were concerned that the language may be a problem, but all of the staff we encountered were helpful and accomadating.
We spent several days in Rome before embarking so we did not use Costa to get to the Port. We took a taxi for about 90 euros. We arrived early and waited, but once the ship cleared customs we were on the ship in about 20 minutes. We left on time for Savonna where more passengers would board. We had the early seating in the New York New York dining room and noticed that the ship leaves port just as we were beginning to eat as evidenced by the rumbling engines!
Our first day we did the Monaco tour amid kid protests. The coach ride was 2 hours each way and there wasn't a whole lot to see except to say you've been to the real Monte Carlo & Hotel Paris(Vegas' MC obviously is not on the Mediterranean!)and seen the "rock" upon which Grace Kelly lived. Oh,and the Grand Prix course was a bonus. The scenery alone made it worth it and the weather perfect (sunny 65F) Anyone apprehensive about going in November (as we were) I would not discourage them. Also, the tour guides kept saying how we were so lucky that we could just walk into so many of the churches and sites as there were no lines and they were open!!
Our next day was at sea so we spent that time getting to know the ship. We did not take advantage of alot of the ships activites (spa,crafts,aerobics, etc.) Our kids did participate in the rec games on the top deck (volleyball/basketball) and the Squok Club. Kids went to the Squok club in the evening after dinner in leui of the entertainment. The Squok Club had themed activites and I thought they did a good job. They were multi-lingual so if you're kids are younger I believe their needs would be met; however, we brought walkie talkies to communicate since we didn't pay extra for international phone use. We were truly on vacation with no cell phone/internet access and limited English channels. Some ports had hot spots so we could catch up then. The upside was my kids actually read the USA Today we ordered to stay "connected"! As far as the tours, we are usually the adventureous type, but opted to book through Costa since we were first timers to Europe. I know we could have probably seen more but maybe not. We didn't want the stress and they offered reduced rates for children. The tours were grouped by language and despite being the English speaking minority this was not a problem. Booking the tours was easy & organized. I did not book in advance and for a the Olympia tour I booked the day before and they had room. I thought the guides were knowledgable and loved what they did. My favorite tours were Galilee and Jerusalem/Bethlehem. They were the most expensive but also the longest and included a lunch buffet that was very good. A much needed break from the European fare offered on the ship. The Pacifica did not go to the port of Ashdod due to security concerns. Instead we stayed over night in Haifa but this did not impact any of the tours. This cruise line and itinerary is not for everyone. My husband and I always wanted to visit these ancient places and were happy with the "snapshots" of the places we got to visit. We definitely want to return and visit more in depth. I would recommend this cruise to families who like adventure and want to immerse themselves in the culture. My children have a new appreciation for their home in the USA. Things we liked: Gelato, feral cats, porticos, olive trees. Things we hated: pushiness, driving in Rome, luke warm water, WC's.