I have tried to give a honest and balanced review with hopefully some helpful tips,my wife and I have cruised a number of times on different lines but this is our first with Costa, sorry if I go on a bit.
Flight- We flew with Emirates (A380) which were excellent with a stop at Dubai for 3 hours then onto Hong Kong with a 45 minute technical stop in Bangkok.
Please note that Costa say your luggage limit is 20 kilo and 5 kilo for hand luggage but if you check with Emirates they state you can take 30 kilo's plus 5 kilo's hand luggage, remember you do have to store this away !!!
Arrival- Collected our luggage and met Costa rep who was waiting,we were then directed to our coach and then a 30 minute ride to the ship.
Embarkation- This process went smoothly, we had our photo taken and collected our cruise cards then off we went to our cabin all within 10 minutes not as disorganized as I was led to believe.
Cabin- We were on deck 4 in cabin 4144,the cabin was clean and spacious but in need of some (ok a lot of) tlc,as we were low down I expected some noise as this was an old ship.
I'm a heavy sleeper but my wife is a very light sleeper and our cabin must have been over a storage deck as you could hear a pallet/fork lift truck warning beeps going off in early hours of the morning and last thing at night but there was not a lot of engine noise or vibration which was a bonus.
I would suggest deck 5 if your a light sleeper as deck 6 has some of the public rooms over head.
Our cabin was kept spotlessly clean by our cabin steward with towels being changed twice a day if required.Note that there is very little drawer space and fewer hangers (we always take some with us) also take a four plug socket as there is only one socket in the room under the desk.
Dinning - We requested a early seating (7pm) but was given a late one (9pm) but a quick trip down to see the Maitre D and we were changed without any problem, we were on a table of 8 and must say what a fantastic bunch they all were (you know who you are !).Nothing was to much trouble for our waiting staff who kept our glasses filled up with wine & beer (me and my wife were on the 'Extra All Inclusive Drinks Package' which was excellent value and is a must on a Costa cruise as prices are expensive (in line with American cruise lines).
The food itself was good and once again not as bad as I was led to believe, pasta dishes were very good plus you could have steak or chicken which was always available if there was nothing on the menu you liked, my wife saw the Italian Chef in the lift early on in the cruise and asked if the would be any curry dishes available (being English & in Asia)in which he replied let me know you table number and I'll send the Indian chef over, that evening the Chef made our table a chicken Biryani and throughout the cruise they gave us an extra option of a curry which we thought was fantastic service.
Buffet- This was the biggest surprise of all as I was expecting the usual bun fight, no seats ,smoking everywhere but no ! at breakfast and lunch (when we
were on board) it was all rather civilised, no pushing, tables always available with staff clearing away plates ,cups etc quickly, smoking kept to the designated areas.The food in the buffet was a bit hit and miss but in the main was okay food could have been hotter at times but this as always been the same on any cruise line I've traveled, the egg station was very good at breakfast,all made to order there and then.
On the subject of food here is an important note,unlike some ships you can not eat 24/7 on Costa(which is a blessing as I always put weight on)but opening times of the buffet can vary depending whether its a port/sea day so check your Today programe,here are examples below
La Trattoria (self service)- 6.30(7am)-(10am)9.30
Tivoli (No Seating reservations)-7.15(7am)-(8.45)9.30
In cabin (5 euro charge) 7am-10am
La Trattoria (self service)- 11.30-14.30
Tivoli (No Seating reservations)-11.30-13.00
Grill Al Fresco 11.30-14.30
La Trattoria (self service)- 16.00-17.00
Pizzeria La Tavemetta-17.30-19.00
La Trattoria (self service)- 20.30-22.00 (only open when in port overnight)
Tivoli (First Seating)19.00 (Second Seating)21.00
Pizzeria La Tavemetta (Table Service) 21.00-1.00
Midnight Snacks- Lounges decks 8&9
Public Spaces- The ship itself in my opinion is a lovely looking ship, its showing its age (if only Costa could do to this what they have done to the Romantica) but it looks like a cruise ship unlike some of these floating resorts they are building. The main bar (Piazza Navona) was a nice spacious area
with designated smoking area at the back in a well ventilated area and non-smoking signs on every other table which most people respected, in general it was a nice place to have a pre-dinner drink,tables were a bit harder to find when there was a cross over at diner with first sitting coming out and second sitting waiting to go in.Other bars were Puccini ballroom which had a larger area for smokers (as we are both non-smokers this was still a comfortable bar
to drink in),Colosseo foyer bar looked a nice little bar but didn't use it as this was a Cigar & Cognac bar, also Gaileo Disco which is set in probably the best but most under used area on the ship it's what ships would refer to as a crow's nest bar and was only used for the disco which was a shame.
Colosseo theatre was a good space which I attended some lectures it also doubles up as a cinema and of course used for the two evening shows.
Service-All the Costa staff (as on most ships I've been on)worked extremely hard,we did notice towards the end of our cruise some of the bar staff seemed to lose a bit of interest but this didn't affect us much. I had read a lot about the front of house staff (i.e customer services) and even tho we didn't have any major issues we did have some and found that they were dealt with in a polite and efficient manor but did witness a reason why they may be rude and that I'm afraid to say is down to the behavior of some passengers, banging on the counter and shouting your demands is a sure way of not getting what you want!
Ports of Call:
Hong Kong is a fantastic destination but didn't have enough time there,managed to see the harbour laser show which is shown every night at 8pm but we were tired from our flight and didn't make the most of the evening.The following day we were departing at 1pm so had very limited time unfortunately we were let down by the weather (very foggy) so a trip to Victoria peak was out of the question but the Star Ferry was worth taking and a trip to the shopping mall.I would suggest a pre-cruise stay of a couple of days would be worth doing.
Sanya arrived at 13.00.I had researched this place and the overall opinion was not to bother as we were there for only a few hours and you needed a visa to go a shore individually at a price of 26.50 euro,7E for the shuttle bus and 19.50E for the visa but if you take the ships tour you didn't need a visa,we decided to make the most of the ship which by all accounts was a good decision according to the feed back from people we spoke to.
Ha-long Bay (Cai Lan)arrived at 11am.This is a stunning natural wonder and the ship takes you past the islands to the bay itself were you tender to shore and i'm afraid this is where it becomes a bit of a let down,There wasn't a lot there. it would have been nice to go to Hanoi but Costa did not lay on a trip. A taxi did offer us with a 6 hour round journey. We wouldn't have got there until about 3.30 and felt we couldn't do it justice but you could be done if you really wanted to go to Hanoi.We did not realise we could have got a taxi so got off unprepared.Had we been prepared we may have done it. Taxis would take you to Hanoi for about $130 with a 2 hour tour.
It is important to know , even though the ship is staying overnight the last tender was at 21.30 and the visa that Costa supply (covers all Vietnam ports) only allows you to stay out up until midnight then you have to be back on the ship this only became apparent when we informed Costa we were staying overnight in Saigon and had to purchase a special visa at 21.50 euro pp.We departed Ha-long bay at 13.00.
Da Nang arrived 8am.We had booked our one and only ship organised (10 hour)trip to Hue.
We like to do our own thing but like Hanoi this was a 6 hour round journey and the ship wasn't staying overnight so didn't want to take any chances.
Hue itself is the cultural capital of Vietnam and also saw one of the most fierce battles of the Vietnam war which is still evident,the tour itself was well organised if not a little rushed (as with all ships tours)but the journey to and from Hue gives you a great insight to Vietnam as you pass fishing villages and paddy fields etc.For passengers who wanted to do their own thing in Da Nang there was a shuttle bus at a cost of 7Euros, it was much too far to walk into the city.Departed 19.30.
Nha Trang arrived 11.30. Once again shuttle bus available (7E) but taxi's are also available outside the port gates which is a short walk.We decide to have an easy day after our long day in Hue so decided to walk into the city with a couple of bar stops along the way. Head for the Louisina brewhouse. A nice bar with a pool and the beach. Drinks are pricey compared to other bars in vietnam. Departed 19.00.
Ho Chi Minh City (Navy oil port ,District 7)arrived 13.00.After cruising up the Saigon river which was an added bonus, the views were fantastic plus unlike the bigger ships we docked about 25 minutes by bus from the city centre.
We had booked a hotel overnight Prior to the cruise) to make the most of Saigon and we were so glad we did as this has to be one of my favorite places of all time ! my wife and I just feel in love with the place,it's just mad (in a nice way).We took the shuttle bus (7E) which dropped us by the famous Rex Hotel.Once again even though you're in port over night unless you have a special visa you have to be back on the ship at 24.00 also note that the last shuttle into Saigon was 17.30 & last one back to the ship 20.00. with the time we had available we managed to see most of the sights like Reunification palace, Post office,Notre-Dame Cathedral,War Remnants Museum etc,please note that most museum's close at 11.30 until 13.00.
Saigon is a compact city with a certain edge. it can be explored by foot if you're confident enough but taxi's are so cheap that they can get you about very easy. If going by foot be prepared for road crossing. Its takes some doing to put your trust in the bikes and be aware they drive on the pavement too. Not for the feint hearted. If you like a beer or two you can pay anything from 45p bottle in a bar to about Â£3.50 a bottle in the REX hotel. Departed 16.00 following day.
Bangkok (Laem Chabang)arrived 9.00.Because the port is a 2 hour drive from Bangkok I had booked a car with Oriental Escape prior to going on the cruise(who were excellent) to take us to our hotel.(also pre booked prior to the cruise) once checked in we purchased a BTS one day travel pass for the sky-train from hotel reception for 120 Baht (Â£2.50) and set off for some sightseeing,you can also purchase a all day river pass 150 baht(9.30-4.30 last tourist boat)from Sathorn central pier.If visiting the emerald Buddha Temple it is compulsory for men to wear long trousers and half sleeve shirts with women covering shoulders and with skirts over the knee,if you don't you will be refused entry and then have to que up to hire (200 baht per item which is returned) suitable clothing.Be aware that this is a very big city so be prepared that you will only get to see a small selection of what it has to offer in the time, even if you stay overnight.If you do intend on staying overnight book your taxi and hotel before you go. Costa do a trip overnight which is 219 eurospp. Our return cab was approx Â£80 3600 baht. Our hotel Â£35.
The other alternative is go to pattaya.
Singapore arrived 13.00.A nice ,very clean city with a excellent underground system. very easy to get around,if you like shopping this is the place to be,Orchard road has so many shopping malls you would need a whole day there alone.You have to visit Raffles Hotel for a Singapore sling but don't expect to see any change from Â£35 for a bottle of beer & a cocktail, Singapore is not a cheap place to visit.If you visit Clark quay expect to pay about $9 about Â£4.50 for a beer but that's only in happy hour usual price $18 (Â£9).I found to get a good perspective of the city on our second day was to take the hop on hop off bus for $27 (Â£13.50) which lets you use the 3 available routes.Places to visit Fort Canning, Little India, China town, Orchard road, Raffles Hotel.
Disembarkation- Cases left outside cabin the night before (1am) ready to go through customs.Collected cases at dock side then a 30 minute drive to the airport.
Summary-This cruise was about the itinerary and price with the added bonus of so many overnight stays which none of the other cruise lines offered. For us this was a big bonus to spend some overnights in port.
Costa isn't a luxury cruise line but I thought we got a great value holiday,as I read once before some people expect Cunard Service for rowing boat prices!! The ship needs some TLC but we liked the size and the friendliness. Our previous cruise was on the Ventura and although was a lovely ship lacked the intimacy of the classica.