Chose this cruise because of the hot deal of $400pp, the timing was perfect for us, and we had a need to pamper ourselves with downtime and get away from the awful year we had endured. Planned to relax in the sun on our balcony and while away the hours. We looked forward to a couple of familiar ports and good food and warm weather. The tour of Italy menu for the dining room interested us also. We figured we couldn't go wrong. Well, that was a huge assumption, it turns out.
First off, the kudos... Embarkation was an absolute dream. Ran our hand luggage through the scanner, walked over to the "line" to the desk attendant, who checked our passports and tickets, stamped the latter, and sent us on our way. There was the usual stop we bypassed for the embarkation photo, then up the ramp and onto the ship and down to our awaiting cabin! We have never seen anything like it. We met our cabin steward, a very pleasant young man with a wonderful smile. Our ship didn't sail until 11 pm. We boarded shortly after 2:30, and were told the buffet was ready on the lido, and we could pick up our key cards in our open cabin. It was great. We stowed our baggage, went to explore the ship. Our neighbors on either side of our balcony were chain smokers, and constant coughing hackers, which severely impeded our enjoyment of the balcony suite. Surely the ship could do better placing non-smokers together. An occasional smoke, okay, but this constant smoking and coughing was nauseating.
The ship itself was beautiful, very clean public areas, a comfortable theater with surfaces for beverages, just lovely. The casino was large and there was a glass-enclosed smoking area right there. Two bars on either end of the casino. There was a nice series of shops with the usual fare of jewelry and watches, tobacco and liquor, cruise clothing and overpriced goods for sale with huge discounts! Plenty of $25-30 tshirts and Tommy/CK/guess-branded stuff. Key rings and magnets $3-$10. Everything we don't buy. We walked through the wine bar and peeked at the dining room and ended up at the lido buffet for lunch. No alcohol was sold other than at the bar, where there were crowds of people waiting to order. This was another problem, if you will: no table wait staff at the bars, you had to go order and pick up your own. That said, it sure saved us money! Between the two of us, we had exactly eight drinks on this ten day cruise! I also noticed an area with signage posted that to use that area you had to pay for rental of the chairs. There was a small putting green with torn turf, and a tiny splash pool and outside playground area suitable for very young children.
There were six lido buffet stations. All six served the same exact food in the same exact placement on the buffet. Salad greens of three types, large chunks of tomato, cucumber slices, grated carrots, radishes and jicama, sunflower seeds, red onion slices, olives, and watery blue cheese, thousand island and French dressings. Oil and vinegar was available, but not located where the salad was. Italian cold cuts, a variety of three Italian cheeses to slice. Some baskets of sliced breads, and a few hot selections: eggplant, always an underdone pasta dish, whole fried smelts, chicken in some sauce, (with bones - ice cold on one end and lukewarm on the other end) steamed broccoli, cauliflower in pesto, very thin leathery pork chops and beef steaks all dried out. White rice mixed with egg and veggies, hard and crunchy. BBQ ribs you could neither cut with a knife or chew from the bone. Soups offered were lukewarm and horrible. The bean soup was similar to the liquid in a can of beans. We were initially under the mistaken assumption that this was just a quick way to feed a bunch of embarking passengers quickly. Wrong. Sadly,this was the evening and lunchtime fare we were offered every single blessed grueling day after day after day. There was pizza available occasionally, but we could never figure out when we were expected to pay for pizza. We only picked up slices when we noticed it was being cut for sampling, and our samples featured undercooked crust, no flavoring tomato sauce, if any, and certainly not anything that would entice us to order or pay for a custom pizza. During the noontime hours 12-4 each day, there was a station set up with pre-packaged chicken burgers, hamburgers, hot dogs, and baked steak-type fries. This station was moved every day, but was most often located near the indoor pool. This is what my husband finally decided on for the last several days of the cruise. he is not a picky eater by any stretch of the imagination - but the food offered at the buffet was unbearable for the most part. Hot foods were often chilly or downright cold; the ship prides itself on a program of low food waste, they ask people to sample before filling plates to hold the line on waste. They also state in printed tabletop material that their foods are precooked and frozen elsewhere and reheated before service with no impact on the taste. We beg to differ. If they are reheating frozen foods, they are doing a lousy job. Hot foods were often 'refrigerator' cold and only partially heated through. We both doubted anything on the buffet would pass USDA health inspection for temperature. Virtually nothing could be cooked to order. Water and iced tea were in one service area, which also provided hot tea and "American coffee". Other beverage stations were limited to water and ice. Once in a while there was a juice offered, but the orange juice I tried was overly sweet. So while I'm on this subject, I might as well give the run-down on breakfast at the Lido. Again, the same food everywhere every stinking day. Italian cold cuts, cheese, and sliced breads. Oatmeal the thickness of stew. Three cold cereals, I think frootloops was one, maybe Rice Krispies. Chunks of fresh grapefruit, bananas, oranges, melons, and apples. Cold croissants with a dollop of jam or chocolate on top. Reconstituted scrambled eggs, uncooked Sunnyside up eggs with crispy brown bottoms and glistening uncooked yolks and clear whites on top. Cooked rounds of scrambled egg folded over like an omelette, nothing inside, and pancakes - all cold. Nope, not just lukewarm. Cold. (The plates were warm, the butter melted on my plate, but not on the pancakes.) Bacon, thin fried leathery pork chops, cold mcDonalds-like triangular chunks of hash browns and fried fish. There may have been yogurt, but I almost think you had to buy it, as it was on ice with beverages that were for sale. The lido also had a few days of special chef offerings by the pool. We went three times, but chose not to eat the pasta offered one day, and tossed the selections the other two times after sampling - notably awful rice and cheese balls, cold in the middles. We were stunned at the lack of flavor and the abject failure in hot foods. Lots of the foods were mislabeled, so we learned not to trust any signage.
Dining room (evening meal) was by assigned seating. We met two of our dining companions at our table for eight; one couple showed up once; the other two we never saw. We were looking forward to the menus featuring a different region of Italy each night. We were only truly satisfied with one meal, however. One notable lack: Menus were not posted- you had to be seated at the table to see what was on the menu. The service was impeccable the first few times, but dropped off to the point where we were filling our own water glasses and using utensils and such from the unseated end of the table. (Twice we were approached by someone selling a sample platter of seafood which you could "order" for the following evening for a charge of $25 or so extra.). We enjoyed the company of Dave and Bob, and in comparing our experiences, all wholeheartedly agreed that our level of disappointment in the food was in alignment and not outrageous. Twice we walked out of the restaurant without finishing our meals. My chefs special lasagna bolognese exactly tasted like a chefboyardee can of ravioli, and it was cold in the middle. My husband's pastrami sandwich chefs special came with exactly two paper-thin slices topped with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing dripping and a slab of some sort of melted cheese. A true stomach turner. We did feel sorry for our waiter, who frequently offered other dishes to replace the sub-par fare, and we told him it wasn't his fault the food was so lousy. Oftentimes cold or half-heated main dishes. Very little remarkable except for the prime rib, the steaks, and the salt-cod appetizer. Sugar free desserts were surprisingly the best desserts offered. Most others we had were flat and flavorless, if, in fact, we made it all the way to the dessert course. Dining room was the only place to get ice cream. (Gelato offered in a specialty restaurant for upcharge.) We were appalled at the salads swimming in dressings...the only way to avoid it was to order without dressing and use the oil and vinegar on the table. Breakfasts in the dining room were on deck 2, once we were seated by ourselves at one long table, halfway through our meal another couple was seated at our table for four when the entire dining room was pretty much vacant, making for an awkward breakfast meal, as they spoke little English, our only language. We did establish they were dissatisfied with the entire cruise as well. I had noted eggs Benedict with crab on the room service menu, and asked for that in the dining room...no can do. Only menu items may be ordered. Opted for the Mexican breakfast with scrambled eggs. Husband was served his smoked salmon Norwegian breakfast long before I received my breakfast...which arrived with glistening orange uncooked yolks staring up at me from the plate. That was sent back immediately and we left the dining room.
The last day we were scheduled for 9:30 debark. We went to the dining room and witnessed a shocking event: the manager nearly came to physical blows with a waiter. We have no idea what precipitated this screaming Manager going after the waiter with fists raised flailing in the air. The waiter calmly asked the man to stop yelling at him and asked to take it into a side room if he had a problem. It escalated to the point where the poor waiter actually ran away from the enraged boss. This manager didn't let up for more than a minute before he began yelling across the dining room, and again went after the waiter, who, by that time, was standing calmly with his arms at his side and hands folded at his back. It wasn't busy, they had more than enough waiters and servers in the room, so it couldn't have been work-related as far as we could determine. I did make it a point to get the manager's name so I can report it on the survey we have been promised by the cruise line. (Two WEEKS post cruise now, no emails or surveys from Costa!). First time I ever lost weight on a cruise! Oh, I almost forgot-husband ordered a drink at dinner, was told he would have to go get it himself at one of the bars - they had nothing more than wine to offer in the dining room.
The treatment of staff in general was pretty darn poor. We witnessed several incidents of managers giving loud, dramatic reprimands to stewards and food service staff in front of guests in crowded dining areas or hallways with guests-for what infraction, we couldn't figure. It was appalling and extremely uncomfortable to witness. We were informed by more than one lower-level staffer that they were not supposed to engage in any conversation with guests for more than a couple of minutes. It could get them into a lot of trouble. We even shut our cabin down with the do not disturb posted so our steward could at least have a little bit of a break. We had seen him -and others- working all hours of the day and night. The final debark meeting with the cruise director was the confirmation we needed: he said the staff works anywhere from five to eleven months without a single day off. Horrific. He also encouraged all passengers to complete their reviews using nothing less than a 7 on the scale of 1-10, because anything less than a 7 counts as a zero. Pretty sad to have to lie and beg for scores.
Entertainment was pretty childish and uninteresting. We went to three events in the theater and stayed for only one: Comedian Jeff Tag the last night of the cruise, a funny guy who was flown in for the one late-night show (10:45 pm last night of cruise). This was the only show in English. Probably fifty people in that huge theater, but he made the best of it. Americans and Canadians had been encouraged to self-debark, carrying their own luggage the next morning: 7 am. The staged dancing we witnessed was pretty sad, there was also an acrobatics act with a man and woman, and a singer who struggled mightily with his selections. There is a fourD theater, which costs money, but they do give free tickets out just about everywhere. The features are shorts aimed at children, with dinosaurs, trains, etc. we weren't interested and couldn't understand the show times posted anyway. If the grandkids were with us, we probably would have tried it. There were several dance lessons on the lido deck, some party poolside games. Games were offered in the small library, but we never found anyone to play. The gym is well-equipped, the hydrotherapy pool is large and clean. Spa attendants are friendly. We didn't get into the public pools but did note diapered babies in the hot tubs...a dangerous threat to the infants' health, not to mention possible fecal contamination.
The ports: Amber Cove DR- never been here before so we opted for the $29pp shore excursion which promised shopping and rum tasting, booked when we booked the cruise. What a disappointment! Meeting in bar at 7:45. Off the ship at 8am and onto a nice Volvo coach bus, with Domingo, our guide, who spoke five languages. We were impressed with him, but as for the 8:45 rum tasting at the bottling plant, meh. Way too early. Too hot. Shopping was a few minutes at an amber and larimar jewelry store, followed by a trip to a piazza with closed shops and a cathedral we couldn't not enter. We were allowed 12 minutes. Then group was walked a couple of blocks to the Amber museum. We also visited a fort for a very few minutes - many pushy vendors pursuing customers across the grounds, as the area where they were set up was a small distance from our bus stop. At no time were we offered any place to get water or anything to drink in the four+ hours away from the ship on a tropical island. Poor treatment of/lack of concern for guests. Many of us had headaches when returning to the ship. (Additionally, our room service breakfast arrived three minutes before our tour was to meet in the staging area. Food was sent back, and we took the tour with no water and no breakfast, and no place to purchase anything.)
Nassau, Bahamas: we just got off the ship and wandered through the town and had some delicious food. We have visited before, and knew what we wanted to do ashore.
Grand Cayman...stayed on the ship.
Roatan was cancelled due to high seas preventing docking.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica- we walked down to the shops from the port. Excessive pursuit by cabbies and tour guides for about the first half mile. Town shops were busy, but most were too pushy for us. We found a fabulous restaurant 'Jam-Fusion' on the street, just a hole in the wall, nondescript, but excellent food and personable staff. Chef Maurice came out to speak to us, and we were happy to tell him how much we were enjoying our meals. We did take a walk through Turtle River Park and were glad to be approached by an employee who showed us local flora and fauna and even offered up some fresh almonds from the trees. We did give him a couple of bucks for a tip, but he made it clear he didn't need to be tipped - this was his full-time job. Very interesting park made much more interesting with his input. There was a man right inside the port next to the ship offering photo ops with his 30- year old parrot for passengers - our friend was bitten by this bird when he walked by...drew blood...not good.
Cozumel - never so glad to arrive anywhere! We were able to eat a great breakfast and terrific lunch on our six hour stroll through the area we are so familiar with. Very windy that day, which happened to be the day the two Carnival ships collided. We have been here several times so no need for excursions for us.
Debarking went smoothly, although we were somewhat confused by the scheduling: we were assigned 9:30 am, but when we went to our assigned gathering area, we were told that we should just get in line to get off the ship. Luggage was where it should be, easily gathered, and then customs. I still can't believe the amount of fruit that was confiscated...all to be destroyed. I must say that the pick-up points are arranged nicely, and easy to find once you get through the crowds who seem to come to a standstill upon exiting the building.
Would I recommend or sail again with this cruise line? Never. The two biggest reasons? The food was simply awful. We sincerely doubted the buffet or restaurant served food up to proper temperature. Secondly, the staff was treated poorly, and it made us very uncomfortable. Read Less