After four cruises with four different cruise lines, all in the Caribbean (Norwegian, Carnival, Princess and Celebrity) I guess I had a reasonable idea of what to expect in a cruise. How wrong was I... this is nothing like the usual ... Read More
After four cruises with four different cruise lines, all in the Caribbean (Norwegian, Carnival, Princess and Celebrity) I guess I had a reasonable idea of what to expect in a cruise. How wrong was I... this is nothing like the usual US-based cruise in terms of efficiency, quality and customer service. You could have a nice time, and many passengers did, as long you forget what a really efficient and well organized quality cruise should be like.
The cruise left from Venice, a wonderful point of departure, and the terminal is practically within walking distance of the old city (assuming you are not lugging six months' worth of clothes with you, as so many people seem to...). There was an efficient bus transfer from Piazza Roma to the terminal, a mere 5 minutes away.
Once we left the bus, we kind of said good-by to civilization. There were no signs indicating how to approach the embarkation point, three different Costa uniformed employees who spoke barely any English gave wrong or conflicting information, and people were ambling in every direction trying to find their way. Once in the departure hall, again there was no proper signage explaining where to go and what to do, and the entire embarkation process was a complete shambles compared to what happens in ports like Miami, Fort Lauderdale or San Juan. Passengers needed to get a numbered card indicating their order of embarkation, but the cards were not always handed out in order of arrival. People arriving more than an hour later got cards entitling them to earlier embarkation. There were only a couple of clerks dealing with the embarkation process, so waiting up to a couple of hours was common.
Once on the boat, the interior is something of a shock if you expect anything stylish or elegant. The boat, although relatively new (2007) is decorated in a style that is liable to induce severe headaches in the more faint hearted. It is a style hard to describe, something of a mixture of a tacky second-rate Las Vegas casino where no amount of gold or red is too much, a gipsy boudoir, and the psychedelic dream of an aging hippy. Red, purple, silver and gold dominate, and instead of understated elegance, or indeed any elegance at all, the dominant impression is one of a down-market side show alley. How anyone could have paid good money for such awful design is entirely incomprehensible.
The cabins are spacious and well equipped, similar in size and amenity to Carnival's more recent ships (indeed, the ship was almost identical to, although much cheaper looking if possible, than Carnival Triumph on which we sailed before). As Carnival owns Costa, this is hardly surprising. The cabin staff (mostly Filipinos and Indonesians) were extremely efficient and helpful, and if possible, even more hardworking than on the US ships.
The public areas were similar in size and efficiency to Carnival ships, and there was some crowding at peak times in the buffet and the restaurant.
One huge difference to US based cruises was the clientele (mostly Italians). On the other hand, unlike on US cruises, there were lots of incredibly badly behaved and barely controlled, noisy and obnoxious children and teenagers. As a result, relaxation was often impossible near the pools, spas and in many of the public areas.
Although one of the pool areas were nominally reserved for adults only, in fact this was never monitored, and essentially there was no place on the ship where peace and quite could be obtained. This is a simple matter of getting security personnel to enforce this rule, but they seemed to be absent or looked on in amusement as teenagers were waterbombing the adults-only spas while adults were scampering to escape. Unless Costa urgently does something to keep some areas of the ship free from gangs of uncontrolled children and teenagers, anyone hoping for any peace or quite on their cruise should avoid selecting this ship.
Food was generally boring and predictable, ranging in quality from bad to tolerable, and nowhere near the standard one expects on US based ships, including on Carnival. No attempt was ever made to offer anything interesting or out of the ordinary. There was the usual unlimited quantity, but almost no real quality. The evening menus never featured any of the more unusual choices one finds on any carnival ship. Meat was often dry and overcooked, vegetables watery, the seafood rubbery and tasteless. In one word, very disappointing. The buffet functioned well enough in handing out copious quantities of food, but again, the menu was almost the same every day - lots of pastas, stews, pizza, salad but nothing really interesting and unusual. The food on my last cruise, on Norwegian Pearl, was incomparably better, and even Carnival Triumph was head and shoulders above Costa Concordia.
The entertainment was reasonable. The shows were of high quality, with good dancers (mostly russians) and the now standard russian aerial acrobats (one really wonders why circus artists and acrobats are still trained in such numbers in Russia - maybe this is an art from that was especially appreciated in times of dictatorship!?). However, any entertainment relying on language (eg comedians) was absent, as there was no common language all guests could understand. Most announcements were made in five languages, which can get tiring. Unlike on other cruises where the cruise director is everywhere, the cruise director on Concordia (a somewhat lumpy Italian woman) only ever appeared to announce and finish the shows, and could not be seen at any other time. The rest of the entertainment crew did a creditable job organizing activities and feigning enjoyment while dancing in the various venues at night.
There were a number of music venues at night, of variable quality. There were several venues with Latin music, which I personally find rather boring and repetitive, but it is a matter of taste of course. Unfortunately, there was not one place where one could dance to good old classic rock and roll, except in the central lobby, which is not a place made for dancing or indeed any kind of intimacy. So, despite the notion that Europeans are keen dancers, this ship was not different from a similar Carnival ship.
The itinerary was a mixed bag, and the stops were far too short in some places to properly see anything. The first stop was Bari, barely three hours, only enough to have a quick walk around before it was time to leave. The next stop, Katakolon in Greece, is really a one-street village, and it was impossible to get to nearby Olympia by any means other than an overpriced tour. Izmir was an interesting city, but again, one could only really get to Ephesus on a pre-booked, and extortionately priced tour. The city was interesting enough, with a nice old town, wonderful old mosques and an interesting bazaar. Istanbul, the next stop was of course everything one expects, and this time there was enough time to have a reasonable walk around, visit the Top Kapi palace, the Blue Mosque, the Agia Sophia and get lost in the bazaar, which we all did. Finally, Dubrovnik of course is a gem, and we were fortunate that we were taken right into the heart of the old city by tender boat. Dubrovnik is just the right size to see and experience in the few hours we had, and it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, evocative and interesting old seaside cities anywhere, despite the thousands of tourists (of whom I was, of course, one...). Disembarkation in Venice was reasonable fast. Overall we had a good holiday, saw some wonderful places, but it would have helped not to have the kind of expectations we had based on US cruises. Many of the problems could have been ironed out if only the ship had better management who paid more attention tod details. If you don't expect good food, elegant environments, peace and quiet, but are resigned to participate in a mass holiday experience which this undoubtedly is, you will have a nice enough time. The best way to describe Costa Concordia, this is like a Carnival cruise, with far worse decor and design, much worse food, much less efficiency... enjoy!!! Read Less