Firstly, my first time flying with Emirates, but guaranteed it won’t be my last. I got a requested upgrade to fly out Business Class at what looked to be a heavily discounted price.
What an experience- it’s the first time I’ve ever been on a plane, had a holiday and could not wait to do the return flight! The added bonus was that Business Class also entitled me to a free chauffeur driven car from my home 70 miles away to Gatwick and back, as well as return Chauffeur transfers both ways in Dubai. Add that into the amount of lovely free champagne and booze I quaffed and it started to look like a bargain! Virgin and ESPECIALLY BA need to look to their laurels regarding this competitor- I recently flew longhaul with BA Premier Economy and it was awful… From what I can ascertain, Emirates Business Class is easily equivalent to BA and Virgin First Class.
Anyway having arrived in Dubai a couple of days early, I spent some time just getting used to the warmth of the sun on the creaking bones again- wonderful- I’d not considered the Emirates as a winter destination before but at between 6.5 and 7.5 hours direct flight it’s nearer than the Caribbean, and from what I have experienced of both, the weather seems more dependable.. They laughed at me in Dubai when I mentioned snow, saying they only get about 4 days rain a year!
Anyway, onto the cruise… there is not much about the destinations because I picked up bronchitis the day I left home, so this ended up being a very laid back chill holiday..because I KNOW I’m going back!
Another rather wonderful thing- I had booked a balcony but found just before going that Costa had upgraded me to a mini-suite- as a solo traveller I don’t tend to get such nice upgrades, so well done Costa!
Day 1 & 2
First impressions- strangely wonderful embarkation process- walk up to the deserted check in desk, they put a room number sticker on your passport,and fill in the health questionnaire- you walk through to the ship, they take questionnaire and your passport which you don't see again until the end of the cruise ( I think! If anyone spots a dodgy looking Deco wandering around Dubai, you'll know it's not me!), and you go to your cabin where your cabin key awaits. Painless.And no queues.
I did spend the first few days chuckling at what I thought was the Captain’s name - "Cordiali Saluti" , until it was pointed out to me that his welcome signed off with that greeting, followed by the words “Cordiali Saluti”! Doh!
The cabin is great and spacious- can't fault it at all. Nice touch that every door had a Christmas tree decoration.Slept perfectly when I eventually got to bed. The room has a coffee pod machine which is nice, if I can work it out- you only get 2 free pods however, so I shall be selective when I use them.. I live life to the edge eh?! Nice that the cabin had a bath as well as a shower, and more storage space than I’ve ever seen in a cabin before!
It's very eerie getting on Costa ships because people embark quite leisurely..our embarkation time was from between 3.30pm and 07.30am the following morning- no queues to embark or disembark. But it does the impression of a ghost ship at times!
Last night I unpacked and headed to the bar, to test out the all inclusive drinks package, which at 19€ a day still works out at the best drinks package at sea, incorporating coffees, teas, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks.
It seems impossible to walk more than about 20 feet without finding a bar with music playing, which is nice.Last night they must have felt they were playing to the guests of the Marie Celeste! I'm sure tonight will be busier as we are at sea through the night.
I've just been down to the a la carte restaurant for breakfast expecting it to be heaving with people.. There were maybe 15 guests, and approximately 25 waiting staff! Needless to say, no sooner was I seated than this procession of people appeared- the bread man, the croissant and pastry lady, the assorted juices lady, the cereals man, the coffee man, the man who took my breakfast order.. If it carries on like this, I'll be dead impressed! I'm more used to avoiding the buffet breakfast scrums on most ships!
As most of you know, I tend to be a 2 meal ( breakfast and dinner) person onboard, so I settled for a very beautifully cooked cheese and herb omelette which should see me through to dinner.
This ship has done away with early and late sittings so at meal times, the choices are buffet- which I had last night, ( tasty and fresh salady stuff mostly) , a Pizzeria with a small additional charge ,or open seating in the main restaurant . Looking at the restaurant this morning, it seems mostly set up with smaller tables, but I did like the fact that in the daily programme, there is an option to meet others who don't wish to dine alone ,at 6.30 each night. Having said that,knowing my luck, I'd get paired up with Fred Munster and Nigel Farage.. So maybe for tonight at least, I'll dine with my trusty Kindle for company!
Currently it's 9.30am here and I'm waiting for the lifeboat drill to occur in about 10 minutes, before we depart Dubai for Bahrain at 10.30.
Just heard the first of the obligatory 5 language cabin announcements, but as it's for the safety drill, I guess they can't afford to miss anyone out!
Well that was fun- I've never been on a ship where we had to line up in groups before- "and move to the left, move to the right".. I was expecting to be asked to do-si-do! I'd lost the will to live by the time we'd reached the 5th translation! However, it's done now. After this, only the essential announcements are relayed to cabins in all 5 main languages. Ok- 20 minutes later and I'm out by the pool- it's deserted!!! Hurrah! Unless they all know something I don't.. Bye bye Dubai, bring on Bahrain... I was sitting right by the ship's hooter when it went off!!! Jump?!!!! How high?!!!!!! Now to chillax....
Later that day…
A nice day in the sun- the ear that wasn't affected by my headcold has now been wind blasted within an inch of its hearing life- being ever the resourceful Brit, I resorted to wrapping my caribbean kaftan thing round my head to protect what's left of my hearing- I actually really don't CARE what it looked like! It worked.
Deck entertainment that I saw ( there was more but I only write what I see) was a deck side morning disco masquerading as an aerobics class-Gangnam Style was never Jane Fonda(!) and later they dragged a few holiday makers up, presented them with about 15 ingredients and challenged them to come up with the most innovative cocktail.. Lolol! Class or what?!!! Funny to watch the reaction of the tasters.
Got slightly distracted on way back to cabin by a coffee / tea bar offering 16 different teas ( yawn!) but a variety of coffees including Marzipan infused! Well, that was lunch sorted, together with my lemsip/ whisky hot toddy..
Decided to a la carte the dinner tonight - no problem getting a table although I think allocating me table 111 for 1 was rubbing it in a bit! 5 courses on offer- went for just 3- roast beef with artichoke, italian cheese and finally, "diplomatic cake"... I was really hoping that was a dessert telling me to embrace my curves and eat more.. Sadly this turned out not to be the case, but as a non pud eater it was luvverly!! Cream and some sort of pastry thing with a nod to health by the addition of a strawberry.
On to the show "Made in Italy" prefaced by an introduction to the international hostesses- German, French,Spanish, and finally Hannah,the english hostess who spectacularly announced that she is the language interpreter for every other language than French, Italian Spanish and German- good luck with that luv!
Still for my Costa doubting cruise friends, I think it's a really good facility to have.
Showtime was great- a mixture of all things italian from opera to dance to pop- including a v innovative Formula One dance to The Race..
I'd forgotten the joys of "applauso applauso " on Costa ships- it just makes me smile.
Sitting in one of the many lounges now, awaiting the "70s explosion"... Should be fun!
Bahrain tomorrow and I'm afraid I've opted ( on most of this cruise) for beach resort days- hey ho.
Day (non existent 3) & 4..
Oh well, after a fairly uneventful day 3 to due to this stupid cold, it looks like I shall be on board Xmas Day and Boxing Day- finally succumbed to the Doc today and he advised not to do my planned trips for next two days-bronchitis. Ho hum. At least he didn't confine me to cabin!!! Well at least I shall get to see Costa Christmas in all its glory- and let's face it, if you are going to be ill, you may as well be ill in the sun!! Not too impressed with his nurse that jumped back about 8 feet when I coughed!!!!! Although as backwards long jumps go, it was probably very proficient!
So, yesterday - as said earlier, a peg out day by the pool which was fine. The show was an entertaining comedy acrobat team who did some amazing human "slinky" thing, which thankfully did NOT involve them tumbling down the stairs- which was the only thing I could do with my slinky!
Back to the room last night to find this big box of panettone waiting- that and the prosecco will be coming home with me, otherwise I might explode before xmas day! We arrive in Abu Dhabi at 13.30 today and depart tomorrow at about 16.30, so I guess there will be a mass exodus this afternoon.Some are doing an overnight desert trip involving tents camels and bedouins. I don't think I was made for camels.. And I'm fairly sure they aren't made for me- girl has to know her limitations!
My plan ( in the absence of shore trips!) is to enjoy the day in the sun- temperature is a lovely 25 degrees, and then tackle the Christmas Eve Dinner- I am interested to see what we receive- then the Hip Hop Burlesque Show ( there's a juxtaposition!) followed by the Midnight Mass if I'm still awake. I did this last year and it was lovely - mostly the Filipino staff and a few of us Roman Candles- it's about the only time of year I go to church and I must admit I do enjoy it.
Signing off for now- I hope everyone has a happy and peaceful day- I may update later on
Day 5. Costa NeoRiviera
Firstly- MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
Thoughts for the day:
1) The hygiene and elf n safety standards on this ship are impeccable. I was watching today in the outdoor buffet area- if someone so much as drops a chip, someone is there to pick it up. The floors are constantly being mopped and all the buffet food has individual pick up tongs to reduce contamination
2) Sea water pools puts women like me at a severe disadvantage as regards swimming with any type of dignity.. No sooner am I in there then let's say my natural buoyancy takes over and the Mae Wests float to the top.. So you either go with that and float on your back looking like two atolls adrift at sea, or you fight it and people assume you are drowning... Just cold water showers poolside then for me..
3) The quality and freshness of the food I've encountered on here surpasses anything I have had on the "posher" lines.. I did wonder if Costa Serena was unique in this, but no, seemingly not.
4)The entertainment has been fine for coping with so many nationalities- if I want a West End Show I'll go to London. But for what you get, the professionalism of the dancers and singers is top notch, the humour is by necessity " in yer face"( which I'm fine with!) and it is wonderful to sit in a theatre that is never more than 70% full with massive legroom and little tables for your drink(s)!
5) This has rekindled my love of smaller ships- it has about 1600 passengers and 900 rooms.. You can walk end to end in about 5 minutes flat. You don't need to queue for lifts, and despite the rumours about "foreigners" not queuing, I have not seen even one instance of anyone pushing in.The rumours of Costa ships being smoke filled dens appears to be unfounded too!
6) The beds are "awesome" on here and I have slept like a log! Aside from the fantastic unexpected free upgrade to a mini suite, the cabins are well fitted out, clean and well maintained. I have never had a cabin with so much storage space! I found another cupboard yesterday when I pressed the hairdryer button my mirror- only for the whole mirror to swing open to produce a further huge cupboard housing a safe ( I had wondered where that was!) as well as says hairdryer! I have not forgotten my P&O balcony complete with blue plastic webbing, rusty rails and paint flecks all over it! That was the same cabin where the handle came off in my hand if you recall!
7) Their inclusive drinks package is the best at sea, and means that since I've been on here, aside from a bottle of Cloudy Bay which I treated myself to for yesterday and today , and a packet of crisps ( because I could!) I have no other onboard spend at all.
8)I wasn't a fan of freedom dining, preferring to inflict myself on others at dinner, but actually it's been ok. I think it's led to me meeting less people than normal, but I also believe the vast array of nationalities by definition makes that harder. I've enjoyed the freedom to eat when I choose as opposed to when it's prescribed and as long as I have my Kindle, I've been a happy Billy No Mates in the corner!
9)Here's the thing... For all of the above plus more, I am starting to think that Costa may be my favourite cruise line.. I still have a lot to try out, but for value for money , I find them hard to beat.
I'm interested in other opinions from fellow cruisers , and for non cruising friends, I'll shut up now!!!!!
Today is a people watching day- it is the first time that I've seen the decks fairly full- this is a definite advantage of having almost every day as a port day- people clear off to explore! Having said, as I say, today ( at least for the next couple of hours) the world and his wife are here.. Yes there are plenty of children but they are "contained" reasonably within a) a children's pool on deck 12 with slides and stuff and b) in one of the two adult only pools.. Well, it's Christmas eh? And they are all being well behaved if a little noisy...
The assorted deck walkers are funny to watch- there are the Sophia Loren and George Clooney beautiful people, the Middle aged stomach suckers-in squeezed into budgie smuggler speedos , the self conscious but willowy latinesque teenage beauties,giggling in little gaggles,and eying up the sullen moody boys, the sock wearing white hat & sandal brigade desperately seeking shade ( I wonder where they can be from?!), the dedicated yompers marching determinedly around the deck in anticipation of the Christmas dinner to come, eyes front and no deviation , the weary mothers who just look relieved that the sun is out and their children have playmates of all nationalities to play with, the teenage lads who really DO seem lost on here, and tend to sit quietly in corners scowling gently,pretending they can't see the giggly girls, the long suffering bar staff with their enforced uniform of Xmas hats which they wear with aplomb and a smile, dads pretending to read their papers and discreetly watching the girls go by without attracting the attention of their wives, who are watching them like hawks regardless anyhow..All the world is here.. I hear French, English, German, Arabic,Spanish, Italian as a gentle cacaphony of voices melding with the Christmas deck music.. It's strangely soothing.. I'm not a crowd lover, but even within all of this, it seems calm and peaceful... They say no man is an island.. I feel a little like one here, but surrounded by other islands, so it could be worse. Language is not hugely a barrier- smiles are universal and people are friendly enough. I'm not sure if I miss the big group table at dinner or not- I've met some interesting people by dining that way in the past, but actually , a table for one has been ok on this cruise.. Sad but true. I have my reindeer deely boppers ready to go tonight; bring it on!
Day 6 passed in a blur of sun sleep and .. Well that's it really! Oh except for the fact that I decided against my better nature to try italian Bingo.. Oh that's fun.. You push holes in the paper as opposed to using your dobber.. And you'd think , THINK, that with repeating each number in 5 languages, you'd have time to read a book Inbetween... Oh no sirree!!!! It was bloody hard to keep up and when I actually WON ( yes WON!!) I was so surprised and so slow that I nearly missed it! As it was, I had to go up front to "applauso applauso" in bare feet because I'd taken my shoes off... You could hear the tuts from the Jimmy Choo and Loboutin brigade.. I don't care- my tootsies looked lovely courtesy of my friend Angela at Image Salon so who cares?! Probably just jealous of my winning!
The show "Myths & Legends" wasn't probably going to be my thing so I pottered off to see the Arabian Night floor show. Highly entertaining if very basic humour, culminating in the crowning of Mr NeoRiviera... I rather like this sort of simple humour- you look around the room and everyone is laughing- similar to the first time I watched Penguin Racing on Fred Olsen.. There's not a lot more designed to make me cry laughing than grown men strapped to 6 foot tall MDF penguins whilst assorted punters throw the huge dice to get their penguin over the finish line.. Call me childish but I LIKE that sort of thing!
So, back to Mr Costa NeoRiviera.. Round one, basically a " You can take your hat off " routine to whittle from 20 down to 3.. Well a blind man could have worked out all 3.. There's been a fantastic Egyptian man who throws himself into everything, ( he really can dance like an Egyptian!), there was the obligatory italian stallion who just KNEW he was, ( not that I'm complaining!) and then this little tubby long haired grandad who was just hysterical to watch.. Ok.. So I guess before round two, you can already guess the winner? The game was to drag 3 (un ) willing women from the audience to act as Jane, to each man's Tarzan.. There was ONE extremely happy Jane there.. Then Tarzan had to beat up the cannibal with his fred flintstone cosh (applauso applauso) and swing through the jungle to rescue his jane.. Ok.. Silly but.. Egyptian man had either never heard of Tarzan or he'd been really badly dubbed in Egypt , as his cry came out like a cat with his bits caught in a mangle ( bye bye!), the Italian Stallion was so busy looking beautiful he forgot to act.. So step forward Mr Costa NeoRiviera- who threw himself into the part with what can only be described as gusto, and he looked totally in shock when he won .. Even though the animateurs had hoisted his Jane up between them and deposited her in his arms! Bloody funny- you had to be there to appreciate it!
Last night,there was ( boring but worth mentioning for potential Costa cruisers) an offer to wash and iron up to 25 items for a total cost of €20.. Normally this is €11 an item and so REALLY not of interest.. But €20 to get 9 dresses and 2 tops returned ready to pack? Oh yes! Returned to my cabin at 6pm tonight and straight in the case.. Thankyou Costa!
Dinner was tasty and I leave the ship at 9.30 tomorrow- interestingly at the disembarkation talk, you can keep your cabin on here until 3pm at no extra charge and even then you can continue to use the ship's facilities inc the restaurants until whatever time you are due to disembark.
To sum up, this is my second Costa cruise, and no they're not the poshest but I do seriously believe they are fun.. Life is what you make it.. Holidays are what you choose to make them.. I didn't see any of the Emirates because of this bronchitis, but I had a totally relaxing chilled holiday in the most beautiful weather.. The cabin was the best designed and most spacious of any ship I've been on, and the staff can't do enough to help. And I KNOW I will be back here. With Costa too.
For non cruising friends, I hope this hasn't bored you too much.. For cruise lovers friends, I hope you find this a useful honest review.