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34 Costa Serena Cruise Reviews

BACKGROUND First up I have to declare that cruising has never really appealed to me. The thought of being stuck on a ship with several thousand strangers and being forced to don a tuxedo before being allowed to eat anything just ... Read More
BACKGROUND First up I have to declare that cruising has never really appealed to me. The thought of being stuck on a ship with several thousand strangers and being forced to don a tuxedo before being allowed to eat anything just wasn't my idea of fun. However having received glowing reports from numerous friends and relatives who have cruised recently, including the news that dress codes weren't as rigid as they used to be, I began to think that it might be worth a try. I managed to get some (unexpected) time off work to coincide with my wife's October holiday and decided I would surprise her with a cruise (it was her 50th birthday.) BOOKING Being forced to book at short notice and at a peak period I discovered my choice was pretty much limited to 7 nights onboard Costa Serena cruising the eastern Mediterranean. As there were limited places left I booked it there and then, having no more knowledge of this company or ship than a quick glance through the brochure in the TA's. At the time of booking (about 2 weeks before departure) Costa and the TA were unable to confirm availability, final price and times of the connecting flights so the booking was made on the understanding that if any of these were unsuitable then the holiday could be cancelled without penalty. Unfortunately I did not get this condition in writing as when the flight times were confirmed they didn't suit me and I tried to cancel. Both Costa and the TA then denied having agreed to cancel and refused to refund my money. Not a good start. Having accepted that I was sailing Costa I then started to do some research into the Serena and found Cruise Critic. Oh dear! The reviews on this site (and others) did not make promising reading. However we decided to approach the holiday as open minded as possible and make the most of it whatever. We decided the J2 drinks package might be worthwhile for us and contacted Costa to try to clear up exactly what was included. After being given three different versions we were none the wiser but decided to book it anyway, at which point Costa tried to raise the price. When I pointed out that they had already agreed a price (in writing this time - I learn quick!) they backed down and accepted the original price. FLIGHTS As mentioned we booked our flights through Costa and flew from Glasgow to Venice via Amsterdam with KLM. The only problem here, and the reason I tried to cancel, was that we had to be at the airport for about 3 am meaning no sleep the night before the cruise started. The flights themselves were perfect and all ran on time or better. One pleasant surprise when we arrived at Glasgow Airport was a Costa rep waiting to greet us and see us on to our flights. A nice touch. EMBARKATION On arrival at Venice Marco Polo we were again met by a Costa rep who directed us to our coach for transfer to the port. En-route to the port we were given instructions on the embarkation process. We were also advised that as we were early we should book in our bags, collect our boarding number then go and enjoy Venice for a few hours before boarding the ship. This was excellent advice as we were able to spend about four hours exploring Venice by which time our number had been called and we were able to walk straight onto the ship on our return. On boarding the ship we were pointed in the direction of the lifts and pretty much left to find our cabin by ourselves. It wasn't too difficult but given the size of the ship a little more assistance would have been appreciated. On arrival at our cabin our luggage was waiting for us - as was someone else's! One of our suitcases was also damaged. Costa did contact us regarding the damage, offering to carry out a temporary repair and give us a letter for our insurance company. We declined, as neither was necessary. CABIN We had booked an inside guaranteed cabin and expected to be allocated somewhere in the bowels of the ship next to the engine room. We were pleasantly surprised then when we found our cabin to be second from the front on deck eight. The cabin itself was slightly larger than expected, spotlessly clean with more than adequate storage space. The ensuite toilet/shower room was likewise immaculate with a good powerful shower that always had plenty of hot water. We did lose our water supply one night and the toilet also stopped working on one occasion, but both problems were quickly resolved when reported to the cabin steward. Talking of the cabin steward, he did an excellent job of keeping the cabin clean and tidy. It was almost as if he was in hiding waiting for you to leave and had the place spick and span before you returned. SHIP I thought the ship itself was superb. Ok the themed dEcor was a bit tacky in places but it was good fun and didn't offend me in the slightest (although others we spoke to were less impressed). Cleanliness in most areas of the ship could not be faulted. One exception to this was the buffet/pool dining areas where staff were sometimes a bit slow to clear tables making it almost impossible at times to find a clean unoccupied table. We were told that there were 3850 passengers on board which is slightly over the Serena's posted capacity and you did get the feeling that there were more passengers than the crew could comfortably deal with. Navigating about the ship was tricky at first but nowhere near as bad as some posters would have you believe. It is a very large ship and naturally it does take a bit of time to learn where thing are but after a couple of days it all starts to fall into place. I had read that deck 5 was the only deck that allowed you to go from one end of the ship to the other. This is simply not true. In fact most decks allow you to do this, the exceptions being decks 3 and 4 (split by the Ceres and Vesta restaurants) and a couple of the upper decks which don't actually run the full length of the ship. For example on deck 8 the corridor our cabin was in ran the full length of the ship (probably the longest corridor I have ever seen) and this was replicated on other accommodation decks. One area I thought the layout could have been improved was the positioning of the Casino. This is supposed to be an adult only area yet its position straddling the middle of deck 5 means that it is necessary to pass through it to reach other public areas. I have no doubt that this is a deliberate design ploy to encourage people to use the casino however the result was that there were always children within the casino and on occasions they were playing the slot machines. By positioning the casino at the rear of the ship and restricting access to adults this could be easily avoided. DINING I know this is a very subjective topic but for me this was one area where Costa and the Serena really fell well short of expectations. For me dining out is a large part of a holiday. I enjoy trying different cuisines and experimenting with food from the various countries I visit. My wife on the other hand is a fussy eater with a quite limited diet. Unfortunately the food on the Serena failed to satisfy either of us. For dinner we had opted for second sitting and were allocated a table for two in the Vesta restaurant. This was scheduled for 9pm but the restaurant rarely opened on time. The food was at best average and the service left a lot to be desired. Our waiters seemed to be covering about ten tables and nobody was served until all the tables had ordered. Thereafter the various courses (7 in total) were only served after every table in the group had finished the previous one. This meant that if you skipped a course you could have an incredibly long wait for the next one. If for instance you chose not to have the appetiser and soup it could be after 10pm before you received any food at all. It was also often after 11pm before you were finished. Another problem with this system was that the food was brought from the kitchen in large batches (great balancing act by the waiters incidentally) and then left at the side for long periods before being served. This I believe was the reason for much of it being lukewarm. After a couple of nights in the main dining room we decided to try the buffet instead. Big mistake. While there is a fairly good variety in the buffet (and poolside grills) at lunchtime, after about 3pm it is all removed and all that is available is pizza (and even that is not very good). Even the fresh fruit is removed and all of the ice cream machines are switched off. If you are expecting 24hr dining on this ship you will be very disappointed. ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment on board could be split into three categories: 1. The Theatre 2. The Animation Team 3. The musicians in the bars. The Theatre The theatre was beautiful although a lot of the seats had restricted views due to the positioning of various pillars and railings. The acts themselves did not really live up to the venue. The ships own onboard singers and dancers were very good but it was the guest performers who really let things down. To call them third rate would actually be quite complimentary and the shows were very short (30-40mins) although in some cases that was actually a blessing. Best show of the week for entertainment value was the staff show on the last night. A bit like week 1 of X-factor with Simon speaking Italian! The Animation Team Think failed Butlin's Red Coats and you have the Costa Serena's Animation (entertainment) Team. Can't really think of much more to say about them. Musicians Most of the bars at night had some kind of live musicians providing either dancing or background music. Most of them were quite good. My only criticism would be that some of the background musicians seemed to find it difficult to stay in the background and played at a volume that made conversation virtually impossible. CUSTOMER SERVICE Customer service onboard the Serena varied considerably from very poor to excellent. Strangely the higher up the pecking order you went the worse the service became. Without question the Phillipino crewmembers, who appeared to be allocated the lowest grade jobs, were consistently the friendliest and most conscientious members of staff. I had four dealings with the customer service desk. I could have had more, but there was always a long line of people waiting to speak to them so I let some things go rather than spend my holiday standing in a queue. On the first two occasions I was lucky enough to deal with the same member of staff. She spoke excellent English and was able to deal with my enquiries quickly and effectively. I began to doubt all those who have criticised Costa's customer service on this board. On my third and fourth visits I was not so lucky. The staff I encountered on these occasions were arrogant, defensive, and completely unhelpful. I might add that on no occasion did I approach the customer service desk in an argumentative or confrontational manner, although on the latter two occasions I certainly left that way! Suzanne, the English-speaking hostess, gave a couple of very informative talks and seemed very nice. However she was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard if you actually had to approach her with a problem. Her stock answer was to direct you to customer services and she seemed to be completely powerless to deal with anything herself. The Italian Officers were something else. They seemed to spend most of their time strutting about the various public areas of the ship in their dress uniforms looking very pleased with themselves. Better entertainment than the animation team actually. SMOKING I read a lot about smoking on this ship prior to sailing and it was something that really worried me. As a lifelong non-smoker and coming from a country where smoking in public buildings has been banned for a number of years, I am about as intolerant of cigarette smoke as it is possible to be. I really need not have been concerned. Yes there are some areas of the ship that are smoky. The casino is probably the worst and as previously mentioned you have to pass through it to get to other parts of the ship. At busy times this was quite unpleasant. However there are plenty of areas on the ship that are entirely smoke free. All of the restaurants, the theatre and the Cupido bar are completely non-smoking. All of the other bars have smoking and non-smoking areas and the ventilation system seemed to be completely effective at keeping the non-smoking areas smoke free. Likewise in the Lido areas one side of the ship was for smoking and the other non-smoking and the overwhelming majority of passengers stuck to the rules. Unfortunately this protocol didn't seem to apply to the outside sunbathing areas and occasionally we had smokers sit next to us which we could have done without. This could happen in any outdoor area ashore though so I don't know that it's really valid cause for complaint. Most importantly there was no hint of stale cigarette smoke in our cabin. CHILDREN Yes there were a lot of children and teenagers on this ship but I have to say it was rarely an issue for us. I never saw large gangs of kids running wild, as has been described elsewhere, and the vast majority of kids were well behaved and under the watchful eye of their parents (and grandparents and great grandparents in some cases - holidaying Italian style is definitely a real family affair!). We spent a lot of our time at the adult only pool at the rear of the ship and this was the only area where kids were a bit of an issue. Although the pool is advertised as adult only it would appear that the surrounds and the Jacuzzis are not. Also the adult only rule in the pool is largely ignored and although I did see Costa staff asking parents to remove kids from the pool on a couple of occasions, more often than not there were more kids than adults in it. Costa need to either tighten up on this one or else abandon it completely - at least that way you would know what to expect. ITALIAN MANNERS We read a lot on here about pushy Italians and their bad manners but having been to Italy before we had a good idea what to expect. Yes things are different to what you would expect in the UK or US but the secret is to accept it for what it is - a different culture with different rules - and don't let it upset you. People won't physically push you out of the way to get to the front of a line, but rest assured that if you leave a gap it will be filled. Personal space definitely has a different meaning in different countries. If you have ever travelled on the Rome underground system you'll know what I mean! It's nothing personal and you really shouldn't take offence - just learn to play by the same rules and you'll do fine. DRINKS PACKAGES Again we read a lot of pros and cons on here about the various drinks packages and were unsure which of any to take. We decided on the J2 package and overall it was the right decision for us, although not without its problems. While the bar and restaurant staff all seemed to have been fully briefed regarding the package the cabin steward did not have a clue. As a result the first time we used something from the mini-bar we were charged for it. I spoke to customer services who sorted this out and told me not to sign for anything else. Unfortunately there seemed to be no communication between them and the cabin steward who then refused to restock the bar unless I signed for the items I had used (2 cans of coke). This happened on the second day and we were basically denied use of the mini-bar for the rest of the trip - not a huge problem as we could obtain the same drinks from any of the ships bars, but an annoyance that should not have happened all the same. The other thing we encountered was that some of the bar/waiting staff were noticeably less keen to serve J2 holders than they were passengers who were paying for drinks on the ship. This was very apparent on the occasions that we were in company with 'paying' passengers. The contrast in service was striking. Value for money wise though J2 was well worth having and I would still recommend it despite the problems we encountered. If Costa got there staff trained properly and fully informed them of the services they are selling to customers then J2 would be excellent. Alternatively they could just reduce their drink prices to a more realistic level and then there would be no need for them to offer drinks packages at all - don't see that happening though. PHOTOGRAPHERS If you like posing for pictures you will love the Costa Serena. If not go elsewhere. The photographers onboard the ship are pushy and intrusive in the extreme. At mealtimes they have this bizarre ritual of arriving at your table with a person in fancy dress who works his way around the table sticking his face next to the guests, often while they are trying to eat, while the photographer merrily snaps away. I found this very annoying, and one passenger nearly came to blows with them when they refused to accept no as an answer. He never returned to the dining room after that. PORTS OF CALL/EXCURSIONS In general the ports of call were very good and the main complaint in most of them would have to be that the length of time in port was just too short. In particular the first stop in Bari only allowed for about an hour and half ashore and you definitely got the feeling that the main reason for stopping there was to uplift more passengers rather than as a point of interest for those already on board. The ship's excursions were very expensive and we decided to do our own thing at most of the stops - a decision we didn't regret. VENICE If you are boarding at Venice I would recommend that you either stay over a night before or after your cruise, or make sure your flight times allow you some leeway to explore the city before boarding or after leaving the ship. Venice lives up to all expectations and it really would be a shame to pass through without a chance to explore (as some passengers on our cruise had to do.) One top tip, given to us by a charming elderly Venetian gentleman who spotted us floundering with our map, is to buy a daily ticket for the waterbus. For 16 euros each this allows you unlimited access to the waterbus network for a 12 hr period. More than enough to let you see all the sights and a fraction of the price of a Gondola ride (120euros for 45 mins). Venice is very expensive, particularly the cafes around St Mark's Square, where the average price for a glass of coke was 8 euros and a beer 10 euros. Walk a little bit away from the square however and the price drops considerably. BARI By the time we managed to get off the ship here we only had about an hour and a half before we were due back on again. We had decided to just have a brief walk around the town but as we were leaving the port we encountered a number of open top tour buses and the green train offering a 1-hour sightseeing trip for 15 euros each and guaranteeing to have us back in time for our departure We decided that it was probably the best chance we had of seeing all the sites in the time available and it worked out pretty well. Having said that, as the tour progressed, it became obvious that most of the places visited were within walking distance of the port, although without knowing your way about you would probably have struggled to fit them all in on foot. KATAKOLON (OLYMPIA) Being big sports fans my wife and I were both keen to see the birthplace of the Olympics. I'm fairly confident driving abroad so we decided we would rent a car from http://www.rentacarkatakolo.gr/cars.htm, which we had seen mentioned on various posts on Cruise Critic. We arrived in Katakolon in the middle of a thunderstorm and the heavens really opened up as we were walking from the port. As we were sheltering from the rain we met a couple from Slovenia with their young daughter and agreed to share transport to Olympia with them. While they hid from the rain we ran for the car hire shop which is situated right outside the port entrance. The car rental guys were stars. When they saw us coming they ushered us into the shop and produced towels for us to dry ourselves. When I explained that we had friends still sheltering back in the port they immediately gave me a car to go and fetch them. I don't think the Slovenians had quite understood why we ran off from them so the look on their faces when I arrived back in my Fiat Punto to rescue them from the rain was a picture! The car rental was good value (53 euros incl. Fuel) especially when split with our new friends.The guys at Katakolo car rental also gave us a map and directions to Olympia and it turned out to be an easy drive on good quality roads. Olympia itself was very interesting although most of the site is very much in ruins and it can be quite difficult to visualise what you are looking at. There are very few signs to help you and if you do go without a guide I would recommend buying a guide book before you start your tour - they aren't expensive and are money well spent. Entry to the site and museum is about 9 euros each. We got back to Katakolon with about an hour to spare, which gave us enough time for a quick look around the town, which is really no more than a single street packed with tourist shops and cafes. IZMIR (EPHESUS) In her introductory talk Suzanne recommended Ephesus as the 'must do' tour of the week. As Ephesus was the best part of 100km from the port we decided it was probably safest to do the ship's excursion rather than risk being late back. We were well warned that the ship would only wait for latecomers if they were part of an official tour. I have to say that this trip was outstanding. Ephesus is an incredible place and our guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. I found the detail the guide provided to be more than I personally needed, however she constantly checked with the group to gauge what level she should pitch her talk at and the majority were happy to soak up all the information she could provide. This actually worked out ok for me as I could listen to her introductions and then jump about taking photos while the others were listening to her detailed accounts. On the way back to the ship we had the mandatory stop at a ceramic factory, where we were given a brief demonstration of the products being made before being shown to the shop where we could purchase the wares. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no hard sell during the visit and we were left to browse the shop in our own time with no pressure to buy whatsoever. We got back to the ship about half an hour after the posted 'all aboard' time so I was glad we had opted for the official tour. All in all highly recommended. ISTANBUL Istanbul was the only full day stop in the itinerary and the ship's excursions were very expensive. Pre trip research suggested that most of the 'must see' sights were in the same area and could be reached easily from the port by taxi so we decided that's what we would do. On leaving the port however we again encountered the waiting open top tour bus. This one offered a full tour of the European side of Istanbul with a hop on hop off service at various points around the city for a reasonable 20 euros each. This sounded pretty good value and from previous experience we new these tours are usually a good way of getting a feel for the layout of a city so we hopped on. The bus was equipped with headsets through which you could obtain a commentary in a number of languages. The English commentary was clear and concise and it turned out to be an excellent way of seeing the city. We hopped off at the Blue Mosque and decided to take a look inside (free admission). Prior to entry you must remove your shoes and ladies must cover their heads (scarves are provided for those who don't have their own). I was shocked and embarrassed by the number of western 'ladies' who removed their head covering once they were inside the Mosque. Such a lack of respect for the culture and religious beliefs of the country you are visiting is in my mind disgraceful and I was amazed that they weren't thrown out of the building. The Blue Mosque itself was a magnificent building and well worth visiting (but please respect the rules). We then headed over to the Grand Bazaar for some shopping. We had a bad experience a number of years ago in the Kasbah in Tangiers and we found the Grand Bazaar just too similar, with my wife in particular feeling quite uncomfortable, so we cut our trip short and headed back to the ship. This was more to do with us than the place itself and most of the people we spoke to onboard thoroughly enjoyed the experience of bartering for 'genuine fake watches' etc. Just be warned that if you're a bit claustrophobic you may find Istanbul to be a slightly overpowering. DUBROVNIK The ship had to sit at anchor outside Dubrovnik and we were ferried ashore in tenders. This took quite a while meaning time ashore was very limited which was a great shame as Dubrovnik is a really beautiful place and we would have loved to spend much longer there. There is really no point taking an excursion as everything worth seeing is within walking distance of the harbour. We tried to walk the city walls but had to stop half way round due to lack of time, which was a shame. Likewise there were lots of lovely looking cafes and bars that we would have visited had time been on our side. The people here were very friendly and the shops were cheap so it is worth getting some local currency. There are plenty of ATM's though so it's easy to get money when you arrive. Most of the shops would also accept Euros and their exchange rates seemed fair. You will need the local currency to pay for the wall walk though. DISEMBARKATION We had booked on a ship's tour of Venice on the last day, having some time to spare before we headed back to the airport. Unfortunately Costa cancelled the trip the day before due to lack of numbers. This was a bit of a pain as we had been relying on the trip to get us off of the ship in the first group! As it turned out we were allocated 10am disembarkation, which was only an hour later than planned so not a huge problem. This still left us time to leave our bags with left luggage and head into Venice for a few hours before our transfer to the airport. The disembarkation process itself went reasonably smoothly considering the number of people leaving the ship and the ground staff dealing with left luggage and transfers to the airport handled things very well. CONCLUSION Despite some of the negative comments in this review we did enjoy our week aboard the Costa Serena. A holiday is only ever going to be what you make of it: we went with the intention of having a good time and we did. The highpoints for us were the places we visited and the people we met and befriended on board the ship. Low points were the disappointing food and service and the apparent couldn't care less attitude of (some of) Costa's staff. Overall I don't think cruising is for us. For example we didn't enjoy the food on the ship. In a hotel that would not have been a huge problem, we could have walked out the door and gone somewhere else - not an option on a ship. So will our first cruise be our last? We met many regular cruisers on board the Serena and every one of them said the same thing to us - "Please don't judge cruising on what you have seen on this ship" With that in mind we probably will try another cruise sometime - but it won't be anytime soon and it almost certainly won't be with Costa. Read Less
Sail Date October 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
This was our second Eastern Med cruise. The previous cruise was with Celebrity and was fantastic. We were looking for a cruise that went to Istanbul and Costa had what we were looking for. We took a water taxi from our hotel to the ... Read More
This was our second Eastern Med cruise. The previous cruise was with Celebrity and was fantastic. We were looking for a cruise that went to Istanbul and Costa had what we were looking for. We took a water taxi from our hotel to the embarkation pier. There was a costa rep on the pier and he said to leave the luggage with him and he would look after it. We then went to the second floor of the building and were told to get a numbered tag from the desk. When your number was called you got on the ship. Embarkation was fairly quick and in no time we were in our cabin. The difference between Celebrity and Costa is that on Celebrity you are taken to your cabin, and with costa you find your own way. For those never having been on a large ship before this can be a little intimidating. Just ask for directions. The room was large and the balcony was also a good size. The room was well laid out, and there was storage for the suitcases under the bed. My negative in the room was that the beds were as hard as a rock. The same with the pillows. Even though the bathroom was clean, it smelled of urine for the whole trip. There were quite a few shelves in the bathroom, plenty of space to hold all our items. Our shower's water pressure was great, but our tablemates complained that theirs was weak and sometimes they had no hot water. We had breakfast in bed every morning. This is one of the romantic things about cruising. Cappuccino, coffee, fresh juice, croissants, Danishes, yogurt and milk. It was all good. Lunches were onshore during the excursions. Twice we ate at the free for all buffet..ie push and shove to get at the food you want. Pizza and pasta were nice. So was the fresh fruit salad. We had the early seating for dinner. This was the 6:30 seating. We aren't the wait until 9PM to eat kind of people. The only drawback to the early seating is that there were a lot of children at this meal. For the most part they were all very well behaved. The serving staff were great. They knew your name by the second meal. I gave both of the waiters a $20 tip during the first meal, and we were well taken care of for the rest of the trip. My wife and I had purchased drink cards before the cruise. These are called X1 and you need to phone Costa directly to get these. They give you unlimited bear, pop, and a bottle of wine at supper. Also you can use it for lunch. We were 10 people at our table for supper, and by the second night all of the others were wishing they had an x1 cards no one else had heard of it.. The meals were all 7 courses. Appetizers, soup, pasta, main course, salad, cheese plate and desert. The appetizers were ok, I am not a soup eater, so for most of the meals I started with a salad. These were of normal quality, until the last couple of days. The lettuce was beginning to turn brown by then. My wife enjoyed some of the soups. The main courses were pretty to look at but the portions were small and most of the meats (steak, roast, pork, rabbit, and duck) were all tough. I had to send back a couple of them. The pastas were good as well as the cheese plates. The desserts were very ho-hum. More than once I left the table still a little hungry. How to dress for the dinners was very confusing. There are 3 types of meals. Formal,informal and casual. This meant absolutely nothing for most of the passengers. On Celebrity formal was a tux or suit and a tie, informal was a jacket and tie, and casual was an open collared shirt. On this ship they all meant the same thing. Wear whatever you want to supper as long as it is not shorts or a t-shirt. There were jeans at formal night and hardly a tie in sight.The majority seemed to be more on the dressy side (what you would wear to a wedding) The daily information sheet (today Magazine) that was delivered to your cabin each night told you the dress code for the next evening meal. This obviously was only a suggested attire. The staff knew the rules on the ship, but never enforced them...ie kids on their parent's laps in the casino, kids at the adults-only pool. The staff knew english very well , but perhaps their Italian was not good enough to discipline other people's children! BARI.We docked around 11, and were off on the ship's tour at 12. It is a beautiful city. The tour was a great way to see a lot in a short time. I think there were 20-25 people on our tour and the guide's explanations of St. Nicholas and the castle were informative. We were happy we took the tour. We got back to the ship at 2. Very long lines to reboard, but there is a store to shop in if you don't like lines. Muster drill took a long time and the staff was not very patient. At the buffet and at the muster were the only times we noticed any pushing!! KATAKOLON Olympia Mythology and Modernity Tour met at 8:15. 30 of us on the bus. We drove 30 min through farming areas to the site and our guide explained a lot on the way. This guide was excellent. She took a bus 4 hours from Athens to give the tour. She studied archaeology in Germany and was very informative. The site was very crowded with tourists. The stadium was impressive. Very simple and understated, quite a contrast to the recent extravaganza in Beijing. Back in Katakalon we had a little shopping time, but since it was my birthday, we sat at a portfront table and ate Greek snacks and drank ouzo. The line-up was 1.5 hours this time when we boarded the ship. Formal night....most ladies in fancy shorter (knee length) dresses and some men in 2 piece suits. A few people in jeans though. The dining room gets very warm as the meal progresses. IZMIR We walked off the ship at 8:30. We had hired a private guide, Yildirim, to take us around Izmir as we had been to Ephesus before. We found the guide through ALLABOUTTURKEYDOTCOM, Burak Sansel is the owner, and the guide he organized for us was wonderful. We had emailed him with the sites we wanted to see and that is what we mostly did. It cost 200 USD. There was a big national holiday, and most of the downtown traffic was rerouted for a parade. Yildirim's English was great. He has a son who lives in Canada, 100 km from us and he has visited our area. We drove along the coastline for 30 min as he told us history and answered questions. Then we went to the old elevator. We were dropped off downtown near the Konak clock Tower and did a lot of walking in the Kemeralti district (this is what we asked for). We really enjoyed the market/ bazaar. There is a very clean bathroom there. Our guide paid for us to use it, I was glad not to squat over a hole.That option is there too if you are willing! We went to the guide's favorite spot for lunch and enjoyed kebabs, kofta, salads and it was less than 10USD for all 3 of us. Next door he bought us dessert. Yum. It was fun walking with him and he explained many Turkish and Jewish customs to us. He grew up in Izmir and so did his mother. He gave tours because he loves to teach. If we go back, I would hire him again. ISTANBUL - We docked quite early,no line ups getting off the ship. We met another guide hired through Burak's site "allaboutturkey.com". This guide's name was Bulent Aslan, and like our guide at Izmir, he was very well-travelled and spoke perfect English. Through email we decided what sites to visit in our 4 hour tour. (180 USD for 2 people) Our driver took us the scenic way on Kennedy Street around the harbor until we reached the Sultanahmet area . The views of the Sea of Marmara are nice. Bulent gave us a running commentary of sites and history as we drove. Our driver dropped us off at the Blue Mosque. After our walk through, we headed through an open park-like area that used to be full of buildings until a fire destroyed it all. As we walked, Bulent would tell us the best locations to take photos. The next site was the Haghia Sophia. Wow, we were here for a long time. There is a lot to see and a lot to learn. We had a glass of apple tea just outside the front gate. There is also a clean bathroom here at the exit with flush toilets and soft (?) tissue. Our next stop was the Basilica cistern. Then we met up with our driver and went to the Grand Bazaar. He took us to a few unique shops. He spent another hour with us here. Instead of going back to the ship. we wanted more time at the Bazaar. Bulent walked with us over to the "best" restaurant in the bazaar and we had a nice lunch. We were going to take a taxi back to the ship, but Bulent suggested we take the tram. He told us exactly where to go and which stop to get off at. The tram, which was very crowded, doubled back through the Sultanahmet area so we could see our favorite buildings one more time. We had a short walk from the tramstop back to the ship. No line-up at all to get on the ship. Again, I would recommend doing a tour in this way in Istanbul. I appreciated the fact that we could give either US dollars or euros to the guides and they would give us the Turkish lira for the stores that did not accept anything else. We did not need to change very much, but their rate was fair. AT SEA DAY-another formal dinner. The waiters put on a good show as well. DUBROVNIK -we took the ship's tour. The bus was full. We drove out of town a few miles first so we could get to an area where we were looking down into the harbor. We had 5 minutes to get off the bus, take our pictures and get back on. It was a little rainy and foggy, so the views were not as spectacular as they usually were. The bus dropped us off in town at the old walled city. This tour was a walking tour and some of the older folk had trouble. Our tour did not include walking on the wall "above" the city. Those who did the tour on their own really enjoyed it, but they said that they did not get much out of walking through town and through the churches as there were no signs to explain anything.Our guide spoke very good English. He had a bit of a cold and some passengers had trouble hearing him when we were in the churches. When the tour was finished we had a couple of hours to explore on our own. We had lemonade and bought a few items (excellent plum brandy).Then we could get on any Costa bus to go back to the ship. The lineup to get on the buses was very long. We walked into town a bit and looked into some other stores. When we got back, the lineup was even longer. We needed an icecream cone while we waited for the line to get shorter. The icecream store right beside the gate is great . 1 Euro for a huge scoop.The line of people waiting to take the bus back was even longer, so we decided to take a taxi. 10 Euros for 4 of us. No line up to get back on the ship today either. VENICE- It was foggy, so we could not dock right away. We were about an hour late getting in, but it still went very smoothly. One item I must comment on is the Italian women making PILES of sandwiches during breakfast. Once they finished their meals they went back to the buffet and loaded plates with piles of meat and cheese. The plates looked like deli trays. I am not sure if they were taking sandwiches for their train rides home or what, but it was surprising to see. This was happening at a few tables. All in all we got what we paid for. The price for this cruise was not expensive, And that is probably the reason there were so many children on board. For me a cruise is the romantic way to see the world. I like to get dressed up for supper and spend quiet time with my wife. Celebrity was just this, where Costa was a family vacation. I would probably not choose Costa again for this reason. ( this and the lack of good dinner meals). Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We made our own way to Venice arriving in Treviso, a 30 min bus ride from the plaza de Roma, the main transportation hub for venice (Bus and Train). The port is only a short walk away of about 10 mins. Unfortunately baggage check-in was ... Read More
We made our own way to Venice arriving in Treviso, a 30 min bus ride from the plaza de Roma, the main transportation hub for venice (Bus and Train). The port is only a short walk away of about 10 mins. Unfortunately baggage check-in was painful. It was in another Terminal from were the ship was docked.(No signs to tell where it was) Fighting in the queue to get our bags checked in so we could get an embarkation number. (Italians can't grasp the concept of how a line works they believe that they should be at the front. This was also true throughout the cruise.) Once you have got the number you then go to the other terminal were the ship is docked and you wait and wait and wait, a total of about 2 hours you then get on board after fighting your way past the photographers who set up shop so no one can get past. You don't register the credit card that you want to use until you get on board. The inside cabin we had was the largest of any cruise ship we have been on and as for the shower room positively cavernous compared to the others. WELL DONE COSTA FOR THIS a big pat on the back for you. For all the English speaking people who are considering Costa for a cruise. There is a very high proportion of Italians at least 70%, 25 % are other continental Europeans, and 5% others including the English speakers. As for the kids they were everywhere and at times ran riot, Bless their little cotton socks. Mind you this was school holiday time. The Ancient Treasures' ports of call were good and the tour in Istanbul we went on was well run, with a knowledgeable guide who was both friendly, approachable and he didn't chatter constantly. Again well done Costa. The food was of a very high standard with the bias being towards Italian food. Pasta with every meal, the buffet was again of a high standard although breakfast was a little disappointing as it didn't change all week. The Pizzas, as you would expect were good. However, there was a major downside, the evening meal service was appalling and disjointed waiting up to half an hour just to have our order taken, main courses arriving at different times up to 10 mins apart. The waitress and bus-boy were unfriendly and to be perfectly honest I don't think they knew what they were doing. On a more positive side I think Costa put all English speakers together on a table as a couple of other English people I spoke to all had English speakers on their table as well. Again well done Costa. The majority of staff seemed very uninterested and not that friendly. There were 3 staff that stood out for us our Cabin Steward and the 2 English hosts. Tips are charged to the room automatically, I must admit I don't like this way as the staff take them for granted and don't try as hard as they don't have to earn them. We managed finally after much debate and two complaint letters to withdraw our tips and then tip for good service the staff who actually deserved it. Overall, we were happy with the cruise and we would sail again with Costa but we would lower our expectations a little and not compare them with the likes of RCI, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity and the like. Happy Cruising. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
A review of our trip on Costa Serena to the Canaries, which was our second with Costa. We flew BA from Heathrow (no sign of a Costa rep) to Milan (where we met a Costa Rep) and then had a two and a half hour coach trip to the port to ... Read More
A review of our trip on Costa Serena to the Canaries, which was our second with Costa. We flew BA from Heathrow (no sign of a Costa rep) to Milan (where we met a Costa Rep) and then had a two and a half hour coach trip to the port to join the ship...longer than the actual flight from Heathrow! There were a total of 30 English speaking people on the coach, off several flights from UK some via Amsterdam and Paris. We felt the embarkation process was fairly disorganized ....but did eventually find our way on board...there was no one to greet us or tell us whether we could go to our cabins or indeed where the cabins were. I had to find someone to ask and then she just pointed to the lift!! So we found our own way to our cabin where we met our steward Arwin who was very pleasant and informative. It took a while to find our way around this ship...there are some decks midships which don't allow you to pass from front to back and vice versa...you have to go up a deck or two and then walk forwards or backwards....confusing at first. The cabin was on Deck 6 aft and was spacious with a nice en suite shower room. We had a balcony big enough for sun loungers and a table with room to spare but we only had small non reclining chairs (quite badly stained) and a table, which was a slight disappointment. The front 'wall' of the balcony was glass which gave a good view when it wasn't covered in salt from the spray! We could lie in the bed (huge and comfortable) and look at the sea! Plenty of storage space and a settee (which made into third bed) and table. The dEcor in the cabin was quite pleasant as opposed to the rest of this ship which (in my opinion) was hideous, gaudy and brash...way over the top with ten or more differing patterns/colors in each area. The cabin was kept clean by our steward who changed the towels daily and the sheets 3 or 4 times over the 11 days. The public areas were generally clean but the higher levels of the window frames (eye level) in the lido/buffet area were very dusty and the windows in that area were often smeared on the inside. Outside windows were cleaned regularly...our cabin windows were cleaned twice by hoses during the 11 days. The only lifeboat drill was on that first day so the passengers embarking on our day 2 at Barcelona did not have a drill until the day before they left the ship...it was carried out efficiently. The drinks prices are expensive on this ship so we didn't have any!!! The bottled water is 2.76 euros (inc 15 percent service charge) for a 1 liter bottle. At the Duty Free shop in Barcelona we bought 6 x 1.5 liter bottles for 8 euros and then in Madeira we bought another 4 x 1.5 liter bottles for 3 euros from the shop on the pier!!! The shop prices on the ship are also very expensive...for example a Murano glass heart pendant the same as I bought in Venice for 3 euros was on sale here for 32 euros!!!.the cheapest cigarettes we saw were in Lanzarote 18.95 euros for 200 Marlboro. On board 31 euros!!! There is no cinema on board although apparently one could buy films on the TV. There is a large screen in the lido where perhaps films could be shown as on Sea Princess. The evening shows were only OK apart from the crew show which of course highlighted the wonderful voices of some of the Filipino crew members. Language is quite a problem I think..apart from the tediousness of hearing all the announcements in a variety of languages...the English announcements were not always very clear....at reception although the young lady there spoke the English language she did not comprehend very well and when we had a query about whether our bill would be converted to sterling by Costa or by our credit card company she just couldn't understand what we were saying so we gave up and will just wait and see !! We went to the meeting place to see our 'English speaking hostess' on two occasions when she was supposed to be there but she didn't show up at all...in fact the first time we saw her was the day before we left the ship at the disembarkation talk. We had continental breakfast in our cabin each morning which is not charged for...we were left a menu each evening to leave on our door before we retired...we lunched in the lido buffet each day....this was very noisy and not really satisfactory for us but there was more choice than in the restaurant. Usually long queues especially on sea days, and people pushing and shoving in front rather than wait their turn! We mostly had pizzas or pasta and a vegetable (there was only ever one choice apart from salad) and I had melon for pudding. We invariably had to clear a table of its dirty dishes before we could sit down and then go on a hunt for cutlery. There is not 24 hour tea and coffee available in the buffet (we took our own kettle and tea bags!) Dinner we had in the Ceres restaurant which was OK but only OK...Service was slow... we struggled to find three courses we liked...again there was only ever one cooked vegetable .... one night it was artichoke and I asked for an alternative and was told there wasn't one!!! So I just had my quarter tomato garnish and small spoon of mash!!! Another night we chose steak which was nice but it came with half a small jacket potato 2 x 3inch strips of courgette and the quarter tomato garnish !!! However I did gain four pounds but it was probably all the pasta I ate to fill myself up!!! Our waitress Rosa from the Dominican Republic gave excellent service and really worked hard serving 21 guests each evening with her assistant. The dining room did seem overcrowded with the tables fairly close together and we were seated around the perimeter which had a low ceiling...the center tables had a much higher ceiling. We all had a red rose on St Valentines Night and there was an Italian evening where the dress code was red, white and green but not many people participated. On formal nights the dress was very informal and I didn't see any men at all in evening dress....a few women in long dresses ...one or two women even in jeans and t shirts and trainers eating in the main restaurant...there were three Gala/formal nights and it was the same very casual dress at all of them. There was the traditional Baked Alaska Parade on the next to last night. There were no antiseptic hand cleansers as you enter the dining room, buffet or as you board the ship which we found most surprising. We passed Thomson Destiny on the quayside at one of our stops and they had one at the gangway with a member of the crew ensuring that it was used. The ships photographers are forever pushing their cameras in front of you...and if you say 'no thank you' you get sarcastic comments... On reading the literature left in our cabin there are rules about photos/videos not being allowed in the theatre, no children under 18 allowed in the casino, children in the swimming pools to be supervised by parents, No children in the lifts unless accompanied by an adult , etc. None of these rules are enforced...many people took flash photos during the shows..one man even filmed the whole show on his cam corder...we saw children on the machines in the casino on more than one occasion and also young children doing hand stands in the Jacuzzi....there are no pool attendants in evidence. There appeared to be plenty of sunloungers but we missed the traditional promenade deck wrapping around the ship. The ship always felt very crowded especially on sea days when the weather was not good.....it was also very noisy...we usually returned to our cabin for some peace and quiet. There is a compulsory 'service charge' of 4.50 euros per person per day on this cruise as well as the 15 percent on bar services. We also gave our waitress Rosa and our cabin steward Arwin an extra amount as we felt they gave excellent service ... To sum up I felt that the negatives outweighed the positives and we will not be cruising Costa again... it felt as if perhaps they could not manage the amount of passengers they had to deal with. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
My wife and I went on a 11 day cruise on the Costa Serena February 9-20, 2008. Our Itinerary was departing from Savona, Italy, to Barcelona, Casa Blanca, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Madeira, Malaga, and returning to Savona. We had planned on ... Read More
My wife and I went on a 11 day cruise on the Costa Serena February 9-20, 2008. Our Itinerary was departing from Savona, Italy, to Barcelona, Casa Blanca, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Madeira, Malaga, and returning to Savona. We had planned on taking a safari in Kenya in February but that got cancelled due to the civil unrest there. We decided to take this cruise last minute because we were needing a vacation in February and the price was good. We are Americans living in The Netherlands, so planning the cruise last minute was pretty easy due to our close proximity to Italy. We flew Ryan Air to Pisa, Italy for a very cheap rate. From Pisa we took a 3 hour train ride to Savona. From the Savona train station it was a 15 Euro, 15 minute cab ride to the port. Savona was a good port and had a nice cruise ship terminal but a little complicated to get to, regardless if you are coming from Europe or the US. Genoa is the closest airport but still an hour train ride away. My wife and I are very comfortable using European trains but this may be an issue for North Americans not familiar with Europe train travel. Costa does offer a shuttle from Genoa airport but I am sure space is limited and the price is probably inflated. Once we arrived at the terminal we checked our baggage in and received a number to board. We had to wait about an hour to board, this was no problem, the terminal was nice and seats were available. We had a little lunch in the terminal and boarded the ship. I have heard many people complain about turning in passports but this did not really bother me, and is pretty standard in Europe from what I have seen on other cruises. It was pretty hectic getting it back the last day but not too much of a problem. Once onboard we found our room, the door was cracked open for us, our key cards on the bed. Our luggage was delivered shortly after. The room was very nice as was the service we received from our steward. While my wife took a rest I went up to register my credit card and change my dinning time to the early diner at 1815. There was a huge wait to meet with the Maitre d' to change your dining time. We ended up sitting at a 4 top with two other Americans and next to a 2 top that also had 2 Americans in the Ceres dining room at the aft of the ship. The food in the restaurant was typical Italian 5 course. The food and choices were good some nights and not so good other nights. Same goes for the service in the restaurant, some nights it was good, some nights it stunk. One disappointment for me is there was not a buffet dinner option every night. We are casual people and don't always feel like dealing with eating in the nicer restaurant every night, especially for 11 days. The only option was the pizza and snacks they had available in the buffet area. After a few nights that got kind of got old, I would have definitely liked to see more options for those who did not want to dine in the restaurant. Lunch was available at the buffet and restaurant but we always ate lunch at the buffet. Each day had a lunch theme along with the usual Italian food. We never made it to the restaurant for lunch but I do know it was a menu style lunch. Breakfast was the same as lunch, offered in the restaurant and buffet. The options for lunch and breakfast were hit or miss, kind of like the dinner. Because of the size of the ship it was very chaotic at lunch and breakfast. Long lines with people shoving and cutting, not always a lot of tables available. There is also a upscale dinner restaurant that you could pay extra to eat ala carte, but we never ate there. The bars on the ship were nice, although I felt drinks were extremely expensive. 14 Euros for 2 cocktails or 5.75 Euros for 2 cokes. Entertainment on board did not suit us very well, the events during the day were not really for us, the shows at night were OK some nights and pretty bad other nights. The pool areas were nice but the hot tubs were not hot at all, I thought that was weird and defeated the purpose of a hot tub. Other activities included the casino which I thought was nice. The gym was real nice as well, but a bit crowded and did not have the greatest hours. They offered spinning, yoga, etc. at a charge of 9 Euros, which I think is ridiculous that you have to pay. There is also the celebrated Samsara spa located next to the gym. We took a tour of the spa our first day, it was great. We both had facial treatments on one of our days at sea. This is where my opinion of the spa changed. I got the men's facial and shave for a rip off price of 71 euro. It appeared the mach 3 type razor the guy used was not changed or sanitized from the gentleman before me. After the shave I got a mask and a bit of massage, then he tried very hard to get me to buy the overpriced face products. When I got back to the room I noticed patches of facial hair that he missed! Seemed like a major rip off to me, I was extremely disappointed with my facial. My wife got a facial for 91 Euro, although she has never had one to be able to compare, she did not seem to impressed for paying 91 euro. I cancelled my other spa treatments after the disappointing experience. The shore excursions were OK, we went on two the entire trip, most ports we did our own thing, that is how we like to do it. Our tour in Barcelona was cancelled and we did not find out until we were about to depart, we took the same tour in French. Not a huge deal, especially given the small number of English speaking passengers, I just would have like more notice. Barcelona was nice, we had already been there. Casa Blanca was fun, I have heard many people complain that it is not nice and feels unsafe. I think that is ridiculous. It is comparable to any other large Arab city like Cairo, Istanbul, etc. Some people expect Disney World and are unhappy to see the reality. I agree it is not the nicest city, but I did not expect it to be. We saw the Mosque, went to a Hammam (spa), and my wife got Henna. It was adventurous and exciting to take in the city and its culture regardless of how nice the city was. Both Canary islands, and Madeira were great. We really enjoyed the beautiful and unique scenery of all the islands, especially their national parks. Malaga was probably my least favorite port call. Although the weather was bad, the city itself was kind of boring, not many great things to see or do. One other topic to touch on was the English speaking hostess, Deborah. I personally thought she was horrible at her job. Any time I saw her doing presentations her public speaking was horrible and presentations poorly put together. She seemed too busy trying to be a comedian. I caught some of the other presentations by the other language hosts, they seemed much better and much more informative. The thing that bothered me most about Deborah was this little speech she gave at the end of her last presentation. She was going on about not expecting too much out of life and there are children dying and wars going on, not rally what I want to hear on my holiday. I feel like she was doing Costa a disservice about her little blurb on not expecting much. When I'm cruising I expect a lot from the ship and its staff, that is what I paid for. I don't want to hear some lecture from a cruise host about life lessons, it really bugged me for some reason. The Costa Serena is a new ship that still needs to work out a few problems. Overall I think the Serena is a very nice brand new ship with some questionable décor. The overall service was not horrible but had much room for improvement. The food was so-so, drinks and bars too expensive. The worst part about this cruise was the other guests. They were extremely rude and annoying, mostly being European. Living in Europe for the last 3 years, I tend to think I have a higher tolerance to the cultural differences in Europe. In general people tend to be more rude than in the US, but after 3 years it is something I have learned to manage and live with. Being on this ship for 11 days even got to me, which is a lot to say. I see most North Americans getting frustrated very quickly with this ships rude guests. We paid $800 pp for and 11 day cruise(minus onboard expenses), which is less than $100 a day. Even with the things I did not like about this cruise, I fell it was worth it for that price. Some good information from our cruise: Daily "Today" programs listing activities, dining and bar info, port info, etc: http://www.mediafire.com/?dyn99dbmmct Shore Excursion info and prices: http://www.mediafire.com/?j7jvdcdmshc Samsara Spa info and prices: http://www.mediafire.com/?xuyjoqbhamz Sample menus from 2 gala nights: http://www.mediafire.com/?cm1vnmr1lp9 Basic drink menu with prices: http://www.mediafire.com/?jseb1mjxyyd Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
We chose this cruise because of the exotic destination of Casablanca. The ship sailed out of the port in Savona. If you hadn't previously booked your hotels and transfers through Costa it was a challenge to get to this port. Also ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the exotic destination of Casablanca. The ship sailed out of the port in Savona. If you hadn't previously booked your hotels and transfers through Costa it was a challenge to get to this port. Also flights in and out of Genoa which is the nearest airport only fly on certain days which makes it complicated. We opted to fly in and out of Milan. We took a bus into Milan to the train station and boarded a train to Genoa where we would spend the night. When we got to Genoa there were about 30 stairs to haul baggage down and then up to the exit. No elevators that were working or an elevator. Don't know how handicapped people would do this. We had booked a hotel around the corner from the train station - The Galata Hotel. Lovely people and very helpful. They tried to get us on a bus transfer with Costa, but no seats were available. I refused to climb those stairs again and we ended up taking a taxi for 90 Euro to the ship. Getting on the ship was mass confusion. Costa isn't very well organized and even though they gave out boarding card numbers we discovered if you fought your way through the crowds and gave the card to the Costa employee there was a good chance that you could exchange it for an earlier boarding. After two hours of waiting we finally boarded. Our passports were taken away for some unknown reason and not returned until the end of the trip. Noone ever told us we had to go and activate our on board account, but found another massive line and figured out what needed to be done. Our cabin which was an inside cabin was very nice and had plenty of space. The TV worked occasionally but it didn't matter since we only had BBC Europe and who wants to watch TV anyway. Went up to the buffet for a late lunch. Most of the food during the cruise was usually not kept warm. Cold dry pancakes or waffles, half cooked bacon, powdered eggs, and bad coffee for breakfast. One day there was a Mexican buffet which was probably the best meal. The dining room for breakfast is also a buffet, but there is a menu where you can order a few things. No chance for Eggs Benedict on this cruise (my husbands favorite). Americans don't expect to find iced tea at the buffet! Though we had requested early dining, we were assigned late dining at around 9:15pm. The wait staff is very limited and at times it was 11:15pm and we were still not finished with dinner. The entrees were usually OK. My husband didn't think they were too well seasoned. They had only two salads available every night and this came after the main course. Between the appetizer and soup they had a pasta course. Deserts which are usually so very exciting were dismal and ice cream was usually the best. One night there was a parfait which was something square on the plate with no flavor whatsoever. Butter is very difficult to obtain. We did get a pitcher of iced tea with dinner, but never were offered coffee at the end of the meal. We had booked our shore excursions on-line prior to departure. This meant nothing. The excursions were cancelled without notice at 2 ports. We were only in Barcelona for 4 hours and wanted to go to the park with the Gaudi art which is rather far from the port. This was the tour that they canceled because of lack of English speaking people. There was a shuttle bus that just took us to another side of the port where we were able to obtain a taxi, but this was a very close trip to make with time restrictions. Several other tours were canceled. People at our dining table had a tour to Fez cancelled. Can you imagine going all the way to Morocco and then not being able to see the area? We went to Marrakech on a tour with Spanish speaking people which was fine. At least we experienced it. This was so exciting and I recommend seeing it! It is so exotic and like a trip back in time. We also enjoyed our tour in Lanzarote and rode camels which was so much fun. They cancelled Tenerife and we just walked around. This was so frustrating as you can imagine. Funchai, Malaga and Madiera were were nice and the tours were fine. We visited Mijas on Malaga and it was such a charming little place. The activities on board were mostly conducted in Italian. Hard to play Trivia when you don't understand the question. The musicians were horrible and there is no orchestra to accompany the shows. They mostly had musical shows or acrobats. One night there was a ventriloquist. Very difficult to include 4 or 5 languages. One show was performed by the crew. Seems like Costa likes to cut corners where they can. We were able to get a bus through Costa to the Milan airport which was the best way to go. We had train tickets which we threw away. It was nearly impossible to get any information prior to departure. Disembarkation wasn't as bad but we had to recover our passports which happened just about as we were ready to depart. It was tense!!!! Loved the ports, but would not consider another Costa Cruise. They can't handle English speaking people and don't seem to care. For Americans it's not the best dollar value because they charge you in Euros but if something had been $1.00 you will pay 1 Euro ($1.47). Tips were included without question but they didn't have envelopes for special servers. Don't know if this is good or bad. Might reflect on the service. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
A little personal background. I am a early 50's male traveling with a female. I live in Canada, but born in Europe. I speak several languages. I have cruised with Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity (4), Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Now ... Read More
A little personal background. I am a early 50's male traveling with a female. I live in Canada, but born in Europe. I speak several languages. I have cruised with Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity (4), Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Now Costa. The lowest ranking Costa by far. I will try to explain why. It is a very nice ship, reminded me of the Carnival Pride. Fair size cabin and balcony. Now someone had a great idea, allow cellphones to work on the ship in port and at sea. The ship was full to the max. I think 3750 and 1008 crew. Phones were ringing non-stop including dinner. Many of the crew were standing around and sending test messages. Don't bring fancy dresses and tuxes. I saw 2 tuxes, you will stand out. Shirt and a jacket will do. It was my first cruise where I felt the food was poor. Mostly starches and salty meats. Very few veggies. I should have practiced my Italian before the cruise. 80% of the announcements are Italian only, you kind of feel left out. The itinerary has one to many ports. We were running late leaving Venice ( no fault of Costa ) but it was catch-up the rest of the way. The entertainment just plan poor. We did an excursion in every port. Bari is an old city and most of the old town is very close to where the ship docks. Save your money here, walk into town or take the little train at the end of the dock. I am still not sure why Costa has this as a stop. Katakolon we did the olympia tour, great tour. The only draw back is the very short time to do some shopping in town less that 30 minutes. We managed to purchase a few things. Izmir, we did the 'Homer' tour, again a very good tour, would have love more time in the town. We were very impressed by Turkey. Istanbul, we did a 9.5 hour tour, by far the best. Great lunch included. No doubt that Istanbul is the highlight of the cruise. Dubrovnik, save your money. Take the tender into town and treat you selves to a nice lunch in one of the small streets in town. We had a family group of 11 people. I did look at the wine packages, but found that it was kind of clear out the closet. Wine range from 17 euros and up, the low priced wine are very good. A pint of beer will cost you 4.5 euros. The big surprise to me was the service charges, 6 euros per adult per day total. This is very low :-). Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
7 Nt Eastern Med on the brand new Costa Serena (8 th Cruise). Embarkation in Venice was hectic and unorganized like on any Costa Cruise, as the just don't tell passengers that there simply is NO need to check in - the form delivered ... Read More
7 Nt Eastern Med on the brand new Costa Serena (8 th Cruise). Embarkation in Venice was hectic and unorganized like on any Costa Cruise, as the just don't tell passengers that there simply is NO need to check in - the form delivered with the travel docs needs to be filled in an go aboard, thats it... Venice harbour was closed due to a holiday so the ship was parked at Maghera and all 3800 pax were tendered to the Serena - surprisingly the bags were there when we arrived Cabin - quite large, very good stowage, unusually large bathroom and shower with curtain The ship... 3800 pax (ship was absolutely full) on a 112000 ton ship feels sometimes quite cramped, especially in the Buffet restaurant. 3 pools filled with saltwater but only 3.5 ft deep, one pool is adults only - thats the one with only kids in it (nobody cares) and they do nothing else but dive into the pool 10 times a minute... Sufficient deckspace and deckchairs - so never a problem to get one and sufficient towels as well. Ship was kept very clean all the time except for some rust in the pool where the color was just falling off (after only 8 weeks in service !). The decks are just plain steel covered with blue paint, which gets really hot (no wood). The interior - either you like it or you don't... the theme is mythology which means really nice decor in the hallways but quite dark in the atrium and other public rooms. Almost all of the public rooms are lighted by blue-green-red lights which are lighted in intervals to change the color all the time (just like on any newer Carnival ship). The atrium is 7 decks high, has 3 glass elevators, the top is like a sky with clouds having characters sitting on it - nice touch. Aircondition - On our cruise it was much too hot in the cabin and in public rooms. After complaining several times (Absolutely no answer if you just call Guest Services) it was a little better but it wasn't possible to get the temp in the cabin below 75 Fahrenheit... in the public rooms it was at some spots freezing cold and a few feet further boiling hot. By the way its allowed to smoke everywhere except in the dining rooms. The food - thats the very very very weak point of the story... the chef has obviously never heard about salt, sugar or any kind of seasoning. No lobster, no steak. Breakfast in the Self Service Restaurant: 1 sort of roll, butter, jam, 2 different cheeses, salami, pancakes, 2 different danish, hard boiled eggs, salmon, Fruit: greengage, plum and sometimes pineapple, terrible coffee, orange or grapefruit juice (thin with very chemical taste)... NO other eggs, NO omelettes. There are 8 Stations which all serve the same thing (6 Inside, 2 Outside) Lunch in the Self service Restaurant (only from 12 to 2pm): 2 large plates with pizza, 6 different salads, 6 different sides, one day prime rib the other day veal shank (alternating), 2 different desserts, usually jelly or very dry muffin shaped cake or ice cream (made of water) -- NOT more thats it... Coffee and water are free (only from 12 to 2 pm, thereafter they cover the machines). A small beer (8 oz) is USD 5,40 (thats the cheapest drink)... Dinner in the Restaurant, Service was absolutely top notch, food again terrible e.g. pasta just cooked in water without salt, sauce on top not seasoned at all, just tomatoes... fish was bland, desserts not sweet (felt like biting on cardboard). However they use very good ingredients but the preparation lacks... Pasta was always cooked too long, fish sometimes raw, meat always well done Midnight Buffet (3 times a week) - but always the same thing: 1 large plate with meat products, one with cheese and one with shrimp (no sauce of course) and some desserts (all tasteless). On the 3rd evening the buffet was made up in the kitchen, nice to see but quite smelly. Destinations: Bari - nice to see little south Italian town Katakolon - if you don't go to Olympia (Air Temp was 100 F) there are some nice Restaurants and Cafes on the shore Izmir - either visit Ephesos or take a walk and visit the Bazar Istanbul - lots to do... stay is almost too short Dubrovnik - always nice but Tendering with Costa is a pain (they ask all people who have not booked an excursion to be at a longer at a certain time to pick up tender tickets and then you must wait at the lounge until they call your Number - no announcement via the pa); No tender ticket - no tender... Entertainment - First of all the Cruise Director is the most useless person aboard this ship as he did absolutely nothing, no "Welcome Aboard" no "Goodbye" no "Welcome Aboard show" no "Farewell show", nothing.... At the Captains Gala Cocktail the Prosecco had to be paid at USD 7,80 per glass... what a shame The Shows we saw were very good, 2 production shows, ventriloquist, however the magician was absolutely nonsense. There is not much entertainment for people in the mid age except one pool party from 11 to 12 pm and the Sixties show at the same time. Strangely enough the last drink order at the Bars is at 1am as they close at 1:30 am; Compared to that the teen program was from 9 pm to 3 am... And if you wanted to dance classic (like Waltz etc) which was used the some elderly passengers there were 3 spots; However - no music or band at any of the pools or in the dining room However in general it was a cruise on an almost new ship, very good crew, nice destinations and horrible food. Would I recommend the route ? Yes - definitely Would I recommend the ship ? Yes - if you have to loose weight Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
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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