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31 Costa Serena Family Cruise Reviews

As a soon to be retired married man we have traveled extensively in Europe/Scandinavia and even Russia, but I have never been on a cruise. My retired brother and his wife are old cruisers and convinced us to try a cruise. Flying has become ... Read More
As a soon to be retired married man we have traveled extensively in Europe/Scandinavia and even Russia, but I have never been on a cruise. My retired brother and his wife are old cruisers and convinced us to try a cruise. Flying has become such a hassle we decided to drive to Florida and make a side trip to see Mickey at Disney World. Then we met my brother in Ft Lauderdale at the Renaissance hotel for two nights before going to the embarkation point on the 13th. They had built a brand new terminal and had a very good check in system in place to handle the large volume of people that were going to be embarking and disembarking as the ship arrived at 7 that morning and was scheduled to start embarking at 2 that afternoon. The loading went quite well with very little crowding as they only allowed a limited amount of people on the gang plank at a time with no jam ups. (Trust me when I say they had a good system for you would not believe the jam ups I've been in at airports,bus terminal, and train stations.) There was a short wait to get to our cabins as this was a repositioning cruise and the ship had to go through customs and that slowed everything down. So we went and had a late lunch while we waited and in a short while our cabins were ready. So as not to belabor all of the things we did on this cruise I will take one point at a time. Our room stewards were exceptional they catered to our every need with only 1 hiccup which was not their fault. The cabin was more then I expected and I wish I could have gotten that bed in my suitcase. I've never slept so comfortably as in that bed. The bathroom was compact, the shower was quite roomy. The little perks that went with paying a little bit more were well worth the extra cost. (Hint) If you go cheap you get what you pay for and if you get a upgrade count your blessings We ate dinner in three of the specialty restaurants, and the rest of the time we ate in the main dining room. All of the specialty restaurants had fabulous food and were well worth the extra cost. The main dining room was more formal and the food was exceptional except for the Lobster. The Ocean View Cafe was awesome the food variety was exceptional,and plentiful. the food was well prepared and very well presented. The whole cafe was kept spotlessly clean and everywhere you looked they were cleaning. The spa was very well run the staff was courteous, professional and well trained. We used their services and the spa like everything else was kept spotlessly clean. There were numerous activities and entertainment opportunities everyday if you were so inclined. Or you could just lay around one of three pools and eat eat eat. Or drink drink drink. We took tours in San Juan and St Martin. They were fun and informative so next time I can skip them and just do a little shopping and laying around in the sun. The on board shopping opportunities were numerous , Just ask my wife. She bought me something to. :) I think the days at sea were the most enjoyable, most people try to crowd everything into to little time and they lose the enjoyment of the moment. I have found that having worked almost every day for most of my adult life that these vacation moments are to be enjoyed,cherished to the fullest. So saying it simply what do I want to do on vacation, nothing, Lay in the sun read a book and do nothing. We took the early disembarking and it worked out well.To wrap it all up as I first mentioned I have traveled abroad a lot. I've flown in every size plane and even jumped out of some. Rode trains at 100mph and on trains that had wooden benches. Tour buses that had no air conditioning or died every time It had to stop.But I have never been so well treated or fed or pampered as I have on this cruise and I blame you people in the cruise industry, you have done such a good job doing what you do that everyone expects everything to be perfect. You are not perfect but you are very very close. We are going to Dustin Florida in spring, Spain in the summer and we have booked our next cruise on the Celebrity ship Equinox in the late fall. HAPPY CRUISEING Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We travelled as a party of 4 adults, a couple, sister and cousin age range from 40 to 56. Of the the group 3 have cruise before with Thompson, but was a bit worried about the reviews. Arriving at Marco Polo airport Venice we found ... Read More
We travelled as a party of 4 adults, a couple, sister and cousin age range from 40 to 56. Of the the group 3 have cruise before with Thompson, but was a bit worried about the reviews. Arriving at Marco Polo airport Venice we found our transfer with ease, the problem was when we went to board the Costa Serena, that was our thought we did not listen that you had to wait for your number to be called, but it would help if they had a bigger sign with the number on and also give you printed information before your departure, so that you know what to expect. Once going through the boarding stage there were still more wall to wall of people. Once on board welcome, we asked where do you go to the cabin, yes and pointed to the lifts. We knew our deck and cabin number, but had to ask if the cabins were open. After that we found our cabins. The Cabins had plenty of space for clothes and a nice double bed, singles in the other cabin, much more room than on Thompson destiny. The cabin we found out did have a lot of virbration, we at the back of the ship, But we found sent us off to sleep. The cabin was spotless and our cabin steward very helpful. The ship overall was lovely, not as bright as we had seen in the photos. We found is quite easy to get around, yes we did go the wrong way at times. On our first day we been to the cabin, we went to bar in reception, still busy with people, drinks are expensive. I had house white wine which was 4.50 euros , but between 4 and 6 its buy one get free, larger was more expensive as it just bigger than half a pint. Spirts and soft drink was about 10 euros. We decided not to go to put money on your account, as it stated you could do this within 48 hours, then just go to reception. Warning they only take credit cards, not debit. Then we went to dinner, I check with my sister before hand we were all book for the the first sitting, but we had the first, they had the second. So another long wait sorting this out, eventually given a table for four. The food was small portions, but lovely, none of us complained. The Buffet on the other hand was like a cattle market at breakfast and lunch, if you could find a table, then you had to clear it yourself. By the time one of your party had some food, the other had eaten, they were no sauces to go with food, just a nightmare. We ended up ordering room service for breakfast for a service charge of 2 euros, well worth, then you can go up to the late sleepers buffet, not much choice, but at least you had something to eat. Entertainment, well Strictly Come Dancing, which was great to watch and join in once. If you love dancing like this which I wish I could do, learn some dances before you go on board and you will love it. They did have the Italian version of Butlins, but what cruises do not do that now days. Need to have more mordern music on board, disco only for teens. Bingo cost 20 Euros pp, need to lower the Jackpot and price of tickets more people would have a go, im not a bingo person. Casino, min bet too expensive. Bar and waiting staff quite good. Kids everywhere, but did not bother us. Would I recommed this ship, in certain ways yes, for the difference, we enjoyed ourselves, but never met any English speaking guess. As for the ports, going back on the ship at Bari was a nightmare, and by the way they did take the bottle of whisky I brought in the port. At all ports do you own thing, there are plenty of taxis, we only went on one excursion in Istanbul to the Blue Mosque cost 52 euros for 4 hours.. We ended up not going back to the bus for the ship, did a detour had lunch and a lot of walking, but saw a differnt peaceful side of Istanbul. The Spa was lovely paid 39 Euros for the day, it gave you access to the baths, steam rooms, tea and tanning room and relaxation area. Towels and robes were provided. Only one other niggle when it was the sea day the Ceres sit down buffet was closed, so yet again another nightmare at the buffet on deck 9. Hope you found this helpful Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed. Having read some of the previous reviews I went ... Read More
We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed. Having read some of the previous reviews I went expecting lots of negatives but these were totally unfounded. From arrival to departure everything was well organised and the comfort of the passengers was always of primary importance - at least it felt that way. On arrival the terminal in Venice we were handed some numbers and our bags taken from us. We waited about an hour to board but there were drinks available and we were given the opportunity to decide which drinks packages to have - we had tried to buy the X1 card but had left it too late! These cards need to be bought 14 days before the cruise. As soon as we stepped on the ship we were approached by someone who heard us speak English to explain that there would be a meeting to explain things to us and who gave us the time and place and then directed us to our cabins. The cabins were immaculate and well laid out. We had booked relatively late and we had inside cabins but they were fine. As a previous reviewer stated we all slept exceptionally well. Being on the 9th level turned out to be a real bonus for granny as the buffet was on this level for breakfast and lunch. The food was great and plentiful. The Italians were quite pushy - no queuing in their culture obviously - but it wasn't a problem. They piled their plates high but there was never a shortage of anything for the rest of us. We ate lunch once in the restaurant but then discovered it spoilt our appetite for dinner so we didn't do it again. We discovered late in the week that there was different foods in different parts of the buffet, but again the kids were happy with the pizza and the rest of us were happy with the pasta of the day and salad. There was always plenty of fresh fruit available. The English speaking hostess was really informative and available each day for any problems. She hosted a drinks party for English speaking clients on the 2nd night, sadly not many of us turned up but the few that did were very friendly and it was nice to have nodding acquaintances. We chose a mixture of ship and self organised excursions. Starting in Bari we took the ship's cycle tour. This was quite a giggle but not much cycling and frustrating having to listen to the guide give the explanations once in English and again in Italian. Bari itself was beautiful and could easily be walked around with the map provided by the ship. In Katakalon we used George Letsios who was fantastic (www.taxikatakolon.gr). He could only take 4 in his taxi so granny and I stayed in the town but my husband and the kids went off to Olympia and said this was the best trip they did all week. They arrived ahead of the tour buses and really enjoyed the site and visit to the museum. George then took them to a beach and for a cold drink - real ***** service. In Katakolon we wandered round the town and had a drink, bought some postcards and took pictures. The cafes on the front all had wifi (but I had left my computer behind on board although it was only 5 minutes by foot from the ship to the town I decided not to bother as I was on holiday!). There was a small beach on the left hand side of the port area with showers and shade. Also, car hire and moto hire available just at the entrance to the port. For Izmir and Istanbul we organised trips using Burak Sansal as recommended on this site. These were very expensive - it would have been cheaper to take the ship tours - but we felt that the flexibility with granny made the expense worth it. Sadly neither of these excursions lived up to expectations. The guides were very nice but when we said we didn't want to go shopping we felt a definite change in their demeanour towards us. The first guide stated from the outset that she expected a tip - we always tip and don't really need to be asked! The first port of call in Istanbul was to the spice market and when we explained that we would rather look at sites in the cool of the day and do any shopping later we were made to feel that we were clearly out of order. We lost (!) our transport in Istanbul resulting in granny having to walk quite some distance which was a bit of a strain for her. We'd asked to look at some rugs and were taken to a rug shop where the prices started at over £1000 which was way way over our price range. My husband was furious. I don't mean this to sound petty but we are really experienced independent travellers and we left Turkey feeling that we hadn't seen the best of it. In Dubrovnik we took the ship's tour to the beach. This was a bit of a faff as we had to take the tender from the ship to the town and then another boat back to the beach which was a short distance from where the ship was tendered. It was so close in fact that my kids reckoned they could swim to it! This was not worth the money (58 euros each). It included a light lunch which consisted of 4 mussels a scoop of salad and a slice of bread. The Italians had arrived with sandwiches they made at breakfast to supplement this meagre offering!! Dubrovnik looked beautiful and I wish I had heeded the advise to look around the town but I thought the kids had had enough culture by now. Leaving Dubrovnik was amazing as you sail right past the old town and cliffs. When we got to Venice the disembarkation was well organised and we dumped our bags and took the water bus down to St Marks square. This was the icing on the cake according to granny! Suzanne, our English hostess, gave lots of information on those wanting to leave their bags at left luggage and how to get to town. This was our first ever cruise and all in all was an enormous success. The kids said it was the best holiday ever. Hubby had enough going on to keep him interested. Granny was delighted that at her age she was still able to visit new places and enjoy time with her family. I was happy to have ticked off some places I'd never visited before and, of course, that everyone else was happy. The ship was huge but never felt overcrowded - the only bottlenecks were around the central areas in the evenings - there were plenty of sunbeds. The shows were varied and on the whole quite entertaining. The drinks prices were not unreasonable. We bought the soft drinks vouchers for the kids, a water and wine package for the adults, and there was always water available from a machine. My husband used the spa and a few of us used the gym - there was an age limit but both my sons used the facilities without any problem. The kids loved the slide and the pools. Granny and I found lots of shady areas to sunbathe and read our books. The staff were fantastic - really friendly and accommodating - and the ship was immaculate. We would definitely consider another holiday with Costa Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Ah where to begin...thanks to Cruise Critic I had a lot information going in to this cruise and yes there were many ups and downs about the trip, but overall I would say we had a really great time. We have never done a cruise so I'll ... Read More
Ah where to begin...thanks to Cruise Critic I had a lot information going in to this cruise and yes there were many ups and downs about the trip, but overall I would say we had a really great time. We have never done a cruise so I'll start with the positives. We had two cabins one for me and my husband and one for our two teenage boys ages 14 and 17.  Jocelyn was our cabin steward, she was cheerful, helpful, and got you anything you asked for.  She gets a 5 star rating from us. Christopher our table steward was another winner, gracious, informative, attentive and nice looking to boot.  Our cabin was spacious enough with American style outlets and a hair dryer. We opted for interior cabins as a way to reduce costs, but I really wish we had ponied up the money for a balcony, that's the way to go. The ship is beautiful, big and crowded. The theater will hold 1700 people and covers three floors if that is any indication. Take advantage of the kitchen tour and be sure to view the ships stats presentation, they were both fascinating. I also recommend taking some time to talk to the staff. They are eager to talk to you to since it helps them with their English.  They all have really interesting stories of how they landed on a cruise ship. We found out all sorts of interesting tidbits about life on the ship and it made us appreciate them all the more. Also we were put at a table with another American family who had two teenage daughters so that made dinner a nice experience for everyone. Our favorite ports were Katakolon, thanks to George our fabulous taxi driver. I booked him on the internet and he totally exceeded our expectations (www.taxikatakolon.gr) His cost was a little more than half of what a Costa Tour would have cost, more on that later. Our other favorite port was Istanbul. Again we opted for doing it on our own and we saved over half the cost doing it this way and we met two great guides to boot.  What surprised us about Turkey was how many people spoke English, everyone was willing to share what little language they had and it made it fun. Be aware the taxi rides in Istanbul are similar to the old E-ticket rides at Disneyland. Close your eyes until you get to your destination. Now for some of the negatives...the food was well passable. The dinner menu was extensive, but the same old cream sauce seemed to creep onto just about every dish I ordered, and no I tried to get it without the sauce and that wasn't happening. There were too many courses and so much wasted food.  I kept to three of the seven courses and skipped dessert most nights, so there was no worries about gaining any weight. Actually I like the breakfast menu better, it was buffet style with lots of choices. There were the same old eggs, waffles, bacon sort of thing, but I stuck to the cheese, great choices of fresh fruit, prosciutto, and my personal favorite "roll'em up fish" They were some sort of small herring (I think), wrapped around a piece of pickle with onion. When I asked what kind of fish it was I was told "roll'em up fish!" I was disappointed on the days they didn't have it.  We found the desserts disappointing, they seemed all the same and sort of spongy in texture. They did have delicious cream puffs one day, but that was it.  There is a chocolate bar where you can buy fruit slathered in chocolate from one of those chocolate fountain things, but I never took advantage of it. Their gelato machine was my favorite time of the day.  But you have to be fast it only seemed to operate from 12:00-3:00pm and 7:00-9:00pm so you had to be quick. Vanilla or strawberry gelato on cantaloupe was my favorite afternoon snack. We did not take advantage of the wine drink package mostly because you were limited to using it only at dinner and lunch in the restaurant and we were gone at lunch almost every day. Have no fear though every day there was a happy hour special  10:00 am to noon  (we didn't take advantage of that one) and 4:00 to 6:00 when we did. Buy one get two, so we were happy with that and saved a bundle. We would get something to drink and then go out on deck three and watch the waves. As I mentioned before the tour packages were pricey. We did the same tour in Instanbul , the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia for 90 euros for 4 of us instead of 212 e if we had taken the Costa tour. I know we did better, because  met two great guides; Mustafa was 82 years old, a retired English teacher plus a comedian to boot and Idriz who showed us the Blue Mosque and his carpet shop!  So if you are up to making your own way you will do better with saving your pennies because you will need them for the rug you will eventually buy- trust me!  Dubrovnik was a disappointment, there were two other smaller ships in port and the place was a madhouse and crowded with people.  We were tendered out after the Costa tours had left so we didn't get off the ship until almost 1:30 and had to be back by 4:30 at the latest. It took awhile to find the way to the top of the wall in order to walk around and get a new perspective on the town. We found the best little cafe (I had read about it here on a previous review) where we drank icy cold beer and the boys swam in the Adriatic, it was one of their highlights.  I would really like to go back and spend a week there and really get to know the place, it was just too short of a port stop. With about 3700 people on board it had its crowded moments. There were lots of kids which didn't bother us at all, but I know some people will be put off.  In the week we were on the ship we only stumbled upon maybe 100 people that spoke English, which was ok, but I think my boys would have liked it better if more kids had spoken it. We always said "hi" to everyone to try and figure out if that person would surprise us with some English. Most people that were not Italian would say hi, German, French, British whatever, but we found the Italians just didn't bother replying.  Embarkation was a nightmare- the night before was one of Venice's biggest celebrations the Redentore which celebrates the end of the plague in 1577.  There was so much partying the night before we think the whole city was hungover and that impacted the embarkation process. Disembarkation was a breeze in comparison. As I stated at the beginning we are not cruisers and I don't think we will try again, not because of Costa, but because it is just too crowded and not the vacation style we are most comfortable with.  However I will say we did get to see some great sights in a very short amount of time. It was a great experience and one we will remember for a long time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I have read many reviews on this web site about this ship and this literary, many complaining, I am now able to write my own experiences and I have no idea what ship the moaners were on.   Costa Serena is a smashing ship it has a ... Read More
I have read many reviews on this web site about this ship and this literary, many complaining, I am now able to write my own experiences and I have no idea what ship the moaners were on.   Costa Serena is a smashing ship it has a great atmosphere and amazing staff, they all seemed to speak English we did not feel that customer services or any other department had a problem with English; there is even an English speaking host on the ship although we had no need for her in any way.   Venice terminal is not like Southampton , its in Italy and our foreign friends do things differently to us , but we had no problems it was smooth and well organized, but it was not Southampton,   The ship was spotless and we had no problems with food, the buffet, long queues rude Italians or anything else. Look do your self a favor if you a typical  p and o cruiser who like to tut a lot and hates Johnny foreigner then don't go , but if your someone who likes to feel they have left dear old blighty for their holidays, then kill to get on board. If you want fun then get on board. There were loads of kids on board and they were fine we had no problems with excessive noise or kids running riot. All the moaners who have written other reviews must have lost the plot. There we places on board where you could find silence, we stuck to the main pool down by the buffet, yes it was busy, but there was loads going on, you could watch all the folks learning the latest euro dances, you could do stretch exercises or work outs and the buffet was a few steps away as well as a real nice bar.   Most days we had breakfast up here and lunch but every evening we had dinner in the main restaurant and our waiters Joel and Brian could not have been better. The gala night was fun and the Italian night even better I wont spoil if for you.  The shows were really good, and we even had a treat of a magician who was outstanding, the crew show was also really good.   We spent most nights in the grand bar where there was some sort of madness every night; the animation team were brilliant and made the whole trip such fun. .   Costa represents great value for money and there were guests from all over the world , I hated leaving the ship and if I could go again tomorrow I would , I would recommend this ship to anyone one without reserve, unless you a  tutter or someone who wants English beer and Sharon shouting oi Tracey to all her mates. I did not see one drunk, I did not hear anyone calling to their mates, and I had the time of my life.   The ports of call were stunning and everything worked like clockwork, this is one slick operation and Costa deserves to get some recognition of the great product they provide.   I could go on here for another 10 pages explaining it all but I am sure that would be boring, I have been on several cruise ships and I am so very pleased I picked Costa for this year's holiday it was just perfect. Please ignore the other moaners, its not pizza in the buffet, it's a wide mix of food; the afternoon tea is great with all the beautiful cakes. I wish they would have had baked beans for breakfast but that's it.   I don't see how you can not go on this ship, it's simply the best. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Just finished my first cruise with Costa. Have a lot of impressions to share. First, the best thing about Costa is the price. Because my wife and I have 3 kids, we have to book two rooms. This seems to be standard across the industry (no ... Read More
Just finished my first cruise with Costa. Have a lot of impressions to share. First, the best thing about Costa is the price. Because my wife and I have 3 kids, we have to book two rooms. This seems to be standard across the industry (no more than 4 to a room). So with Costa, we could afford to book two rooms for the family. We were 5 of the 48 Americans on Board (out of 3500 total on board) and we never met another one during the 8 days. So if you're going with the expectation of meeting people or socializing, get cozy with the cabin stewards (who speak English well), or learn Italian. No attempt was made to introduce us to any of the other English speakers. If you've traveled around Spain, France, and Italy, you know that people don't "queue" like they do in the UK and the US. Generally, people crowd around a counter and let "survival of the fittest" rule. Not a complaint, just the way it is. You have to decide for yourself if you want to be on a ship with 2000 passengers who don't like to wait in line. Also, leave your sense of personal space behind. I move through a buffet line pretty quickly, but I still had people close enough to be sharing my clothes and breathing down my neck. My advice is to get to the buffet at least 30 minutes before the crowd hits, and everyone seems to behave themselves. I wouldn't wish noon at the buffet on anyone. Dinner is more relaxing, with decent food served lukewarm. I'm not sure how long in advance the food was prepared. Main courses were generally competent, but the appetizers were hit or miss generally miss. Pasta courses are excellent. Desserts were definitely phoned-in. Their idea of a "sundae" is a scoop of ice cream with a cracker in it. I give them full marks for being able to recycle the same ingredients night after night with different descriptions. Which is the real problem with the food You just get sick of eating the same things after a few days. Smoke is everywhere, but you get used to it. Then again if smoke is a problem, don't vacation in Europe. Costa tries to make back their money on beverages. They are constantly selling booklets of tickets for (a) water (b) coffee (c) non-alcoholic beverages (d) wine. Those are all separate booklets. The plan seems to be to get you to buy these booklets and hope that you (1) don't use them all, or (2) forget to have them on your person at all times. More than once, I had to run back to the room to get the tickets so my kids could get juice at dinner. Once, they gave out free soft drinks for 30 minutes, and listed it as an "event" on the daily calendar. You will also get your picture taken a lot on the cruise. They are hoping you will spend 15 euro to buy it after it is posted on the wall in the main lounge. For example, you will get your picture taken every time you leave the boat, during the lifeboat drill, just about every night at dinner, etc. Cabins are huge and comfortable. Great shower. Lots of room for clothes. Ugly, ugly, ugly decor. It amazes me that they built the ship in 2007 and chose the "Miami Vice" color scheme. Cabin Service is outstanding. Even when my kids trashed a room, they cleaned it up perfectly. Costa hires a lot of non-Europeans for the service work, and they are the stars of the show. The American and European staff is mediocre, and I generally had the feeling they'd rather be somewhere else. Embarkation took forever. Disembarking was a disorganized mess (but exciting: Will I get my passport back?). As for kids on the cruise, they loved it. This is an inexpensive family cruise line, and you should expect to see a lot of families and kids. If seeing kids bothers you (as it apparently does from reading the reviews), go on an expensive cruise somewhere else. My expectations were low going into this vacation, and they were met. The saving grace of the cruise is that my kids loved it. Basically, there are parts of a cruise even Costa can't mess up the excitement of being on a big ship, visiting exotic locations, and spending a lot of time with family. All in all, this is a *perfect* cruise for kids, and it is something you would do *for* your kids. In fact, the whole experience was like spending 8 days at Disneyland take that as you will. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Costa Serena Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.0 3.4
Entertainment 3.0 3.4
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.6
Family 3.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.4
Enrichment 2.0 3.1
Service 4.0 3.8
Value For Money 3.0 3.6
Rates 3.0 3.6

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