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Sail Date: July 2009
Ah where to begin...thanks to Cruise Critic I had a lot information going in to this cruise and yes there were many ups and downs about the trip, but overall I would say we had a really great time. We have never done a cruise so I'll ... Read More
Ah where to begin...thanks to Cruise Critic I had a lot information going in to this cruise and yes there were many ups and downs about the trip, but overall I would say we had a really great time. We have never done a cruise so I'll start with the positives. We had two cabins one for me and my husband and one for our two teenage boys ages 14 and 17.  Jocelyn was our cabin steward, she was cheerful, helpful, and got you anything you asked for.  She gets a 5 star rating from us. Christopher our table steward was another winner, gracious, informative, attentive and nice looking to boot.  Our cabin was spacious enough with American style outlets and a hair dryer. We opted for interior cabins as a way to reduce costs, but I really wish we had ponied up the money for a balcony, that's the way to go. The ship is beautiful, big and crowded. The theater will hold 1700 people and covers three floors if that is any indication. Take advantage of the kitchen tour and be sure to view the ships stats presentation, they were both fascinating. I also recommend taking some time to talk to the staff. They are eager to talk to you to since it helps them with their English.  They all have really interesting stories of how they landed on a cruise ship. We found out all sorts of interesting tidbits about life on the ship and it made us appreciate them all the more. Also we were put at a table with another American family who had two teenage daughters so that made dinner a nice experience for everyone. Our favorite ports were Katakolon, thanks to George our fabulous taxi driver. I booked him on the internet and he totally exceeded our expectations (www.taxikatakolon.gr) His cost was a little more than half of what a Costa Tour would have cost, more on that later. Our other favorite port was Istanbul. Again we opted for doing it on our own and we saved over half the cost doing it this way and we met two great guides to boot.  What surprised us about Turkey was how many people spoke English, everyone was willing to share what little language they had and it made it fun. Be aware the taxi rides in Istanbul are similar to the old E-ticket rides at Disneyland. Close your eyes until you get to your destination. Now for some of the negatives...the food was well passable. The dinner menu was extensive, but the same old cream sauce seemed to creep onto just about every dish I ordered, and no I tried to get it without the sauce and that wasn't happening. There were too many courses and so much wasted food.  I kept to three of the seven courses and skipped dessert most nights, so there was no worries about gaining any weight. Actually I like the breakfast menu better, it was buffet style with lots of choices. There were the same old eggs, waffles, bacon sort of thing, but I stuck to the cheese, great choices of fresh fruit, prosciutto, and my personal favorite "roll'em up fish" They were some sort of small herring (I think), wrapped around a piece of pickle with onion. When I asked what kind of fish it was I was told "roll'em up fish!" I was disappointed on the days they didn't have it.  We found the desserts disappointing, they seemed all the same and sort of spongy in texture. They did have delicious cream puffs one day, but that was it.  There is a chocolate bar where you can buy fruit slathered in chocolate from one of those chocolate fountain things, but I never took advantage of it. Their gelato machine was my favorite time of the day.  But you have to be fast it only seemed to operate from 12:00-3:00pm and 7:00-9:00pm so you had to be quick. Vanilla or strawberry gelato on cantaloupe was my favorite afternoon snack. We did not take advantage of the wine drink package mostly because you were limited to using it only at dinner and lunch in the restaurant and we were gone at lunch almost every day. Have no fear though every day there was a happy hour special  10:00 am to noon  (we didn't take advantage of that one) and 4:00 to 6:00 when we did. Buy one get two, so we were happy with that and saved a bundle. We would get something to drink and then go out on deck three and watch the waves. As I mentioned before the tour packages were pricey. We did the same tour in Instanbul , the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia for 90 euros for 4 of us instead of 212 e if we had taken the Costa tour. I know we did better, because  met two great guides; Mustafa was 82 years old, a retired English teacher plus a comedian to boot and Idriz who showed us the Blue Mosque and his carpet shop!  So if you are up to making your own way you will do better with saving your pennies because you will need them for the rug you will eventually buy- trust me!  Dubrovnik was a disappointment, there were two other smaller ships in port and the place was a madhouse and crowded with people.  We were tendered out after the Costa tours had left so we didn't get off the ship until almost 1:30 and had to be back by 4:30 at the latest. It took awhile to find the way to the top of the wall in order to walk around and get a new perspective on the town. We found the best little cafe (I had read about it here on a previous review) where we drank icy cold beer and the boys swam in the Adriatic, it was one of their highlights.  I would really like to go back and spend a week there and really get to know the place, it was just too short of a port stop. With about 3700 people on board it had its crowded moments. There were lots of kids which didn't bother us at all, but I know some people will be put off.  In the week we were on the ship we only stumbled upon maybe 100 people that spoke English, which was ok, but I think my boys would have liked it better if more kids had spoken it. We always said "hi" to everyone to try and figure out if that person would surprise us with some English. Most people that were not Italian would say hi, German, French, British whatever, but we found the Italians just didn't bother replying.  Embarkation was a nightmare- the night before was one of Venice's biggest celebrations the Redentore which celebrates the end of the plague in 1577.  There was so much partying the night before we think the whole city was hungover and that impacted the embarkation process. Disembarkation was a breeze in comparison. As I stated at the beginning we are not cruisers and I don't think we will try again, not because of Costa, but because it is just too crowded and not the vacation style we are most comfortable with.  However I will say we did get to see some great sights in a very short amount of time. It was a great experience and one we will remember for a long time. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
If you like Europe and can adapt to a European style of cruising then book a trip on the Costa Serena. This was my first cruise so I can only offer a review of how my trip went. I have no base to say if it is a good cruise ship or not, ... Read More
If you like Europe and can adapt to a European style of cruising then book a trip on the Costa Serena. This was my first cruise so I can only offer a review of how my trip went. I have no base to say if it is a good cruise ship or not, only how I see it. So here is a play by play of the trip, the ship and my thoughts. I stayed in room 7336 on a seven day cruise of the eastern Mediterranean. I am a 30 yom from California and have been to Europe numerous times. This was my first European cruise. Embarkation was an easy process. I caught the free shuttle from the bus stop in Venice. 15 minutes later I was checking my bag at the port and given an embarkation number. It was about a 1.5 hour wait to be called. If you plan on drinking alcohol listen up. There is a duty free shop on site. You can by one liter of hard alcohol and unlimited wine per person. Once you clear security they give you your booze before you get on the ship. After Venice you are not allowed to bring any liquids on board. Costa offers an unlimited beer and wine package, but it is only good during lunch and dinner service. They offer countless other packages but read the fine print before purchase My cabin was great and the steward was on the ball. Filled the ice and cleared the room twice a day. There is a 4 euro/person/day tip charged automatically Room service also will cost you 2 euro/delivery, so order a lot to make it worth it. The entertainment was good, considering the multi nation passengers. There were 3000 on my cruise with 400 english speakers. Announcements are given in five languages. If it does not concern you then you won't hear it in english. Don't travel Costa in the summer. Kids under 12 travel free. You can expect 500 to 700 kids on board running wild according to our english speaking cruise host. Apparently parent supervision is absent and kids are everywhere doing as they please. Breakfast was simple European/American blend. Same food is served in the buffet as in the table service restaurant. Same thing goes for lunch. I do recommend the restaurant seating because you will meet other english speakers. Dinner was mediocre at best, consisting of fancy presentation with frozen pre-prepared items. Very bland and often over cooked. I had one great dinner at the last gala night. Two of the nights I had a late lunch buffet and then got a pizza at night. Not the traditional American cruise cuisine. No steak, lobster, shrimp cocktail or fancy lavish buffets. Dinner was a big disappointment. No need to dress up. Slacks and a nice shirt will do. Bring a tie for the gala nights. Here is my run down on the ports of call. Bari: Don't buy an excursion. It's and easy walk to town and tours are offered off the boat at a cheaper rate by locals. I just walked around on my own and saw the old city in about two hours Olympia: Don't buy an excursion. Get off the boat and hire a cab to take you to the ruins. Once there look around for and English tour and just join in. I went to the end of the cab line and got a ride for 60 euro with and hour wait time. Not enough time to see everything. Try and catch a one way so you can stay for at least two hours or more. Then walk into town and catch a cab back. Izmir: Take the excursion to Ephesus. Well worth the money Istanbul: Take a cab to the palace in the morning and buy a self guided tour. Then return to the ship for lunch. Purchase the half day excursion from 1 to 5pm. However all the main sights are close so you can just spend the day on your own if you want to. I liked having a guided tour of the other big sights. Plus, if your tour is late getting back they will hold the ship for you. If you are out on your own they will leave you behind Dubrovnik: Don't buy and excursion. Take the shuttle to the city and just jump on an english tour or walk around on your own. The ship itself is very large but easy to get around. The amenities on board are simple. No big wow factor. The staff is always available to help you and was very nice. I did not find smoking to be an issue. The hot tubs were warm not hot and the pools were cold. The gym was great but I did not use the spa. There are two reservation only restaurants but I did not eat at either one. Try and get your room on the left side (even room number) of the boat. You get the best views of the ports. Be sure to watch to the two informational presentations offered in the beginning and end of the cruise. When you disembark, wait for your color. I left early and ended up standing around for two hours waiting for my luggage. I should have just stayed on the boat. Overall it was a very nice cruise. My only true complaint was the bad dinners. Everything else was fine. Just understand this is not a Carnival cruise ship, its Italian style cruising. If you can adjust to a European mindset then you'll have a good time. Read Less
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Sail Date: November 2008
Disclosure: I'm not a Costa employee, but all of my work experience has been in customer service, including many years as someone that had to say thank you when given sick bags, or worse :-) As a result, I have a tendency to have ... Read More
Disclosure: I'm not a Costa employee, but all of my work experience has been in customer service, including many years as someone that had to say thank you when given sick bags, or worse :-) As a result, I have a tendency to have high expectations with regards to customer service and am, not surprisingly, frequently disappointed. I had feared the worst when prior to our departure, I called Costa a couple of times and was given either incorrect or conflicting information about several things, including the free shuttle from Piazzale Roma to the Port. (I was told there was no free shuttle by Costa) I was also quoted 3 wildly different prices on the same day for the X1 package by 3 different people. I don't know what it is with cruise lines, but it seems like every cruise I've taken gives the impression that this is the first time they've ever done an embarkation process. Embarkation - We arrived at the Port of Venice using the free shuttle at 12:30. We did not have any luggage to check as we were travelling light. I didn't even see a sign telling anyone that was checking luggage where to do it. We went to the second floor and were then bounced around from one person to another, before being told we needed a number for boarding. Not having luggage to check appears to really throw them for a loop. We were given #18 even though we had been there early and had no luggage to check. As a result, we could not board until close to 4 pm. Honestly, I think it would have been faster if we DID have luggage to check. Staff - The vast majority of the staff are wonderful. They work under incredibly trying circumstances and I don't think I could do what they do. Certainly not for 6 months at a time. They usually had greetings in the hallway or if they were walking by somewhere. Certainly if we said hello first! Our Dinner waiters had our drinks waiting for us by the time we arrived at the table each night. I don't know what they are being paid, but whatever it is, it's not enough. The only staff I found somewhat unpleasant to deal with were the "Customer Service" staff. When I called and asked to speak with a supervisor as I had a billing complaint that had been unresolved - I was refused and she started arguing with me. The Internet connection on board is very slow. Expect to have to pay 1 or two Euros just to get some pages to load. Some people travelling with us didn't think having to pay 3 Euros for one page to load was reasonable. They complained to the Customer Service staff and were basically told 'tough'. These staff could have made a couple who cruise often happy by removing 1 or 2 Euro charges from their account. I saw their final bill. It was fairly hefty. So Costa probably lost a future customer over that. Had my own billing problem not finally been rectified by the Maitre 'd (of all people) I certainly would not have recommended Costa to anyone. The English speaking Hostess, Jazz, does try hard, though I personally wouldn't classify her has being fluent in English. Maybe it's just my experience with Canadian companies where it doesn't seem to matter how much you bastardize English as long as you're fluent in French. Passengers - much has been written about this already so I'll just say that its interesting. I like watching people and it's never dull here let me tell you. On most North American cruises, or with a majority of English speakers on board, everyone seems to be in a party mood. Saying hello to each other, regardless of whether they know each other or not. Here, most people who are strangers don't greet one another as they don't know what language the other speaks. Then there are those that treat the onboard staff like their personal wait staff. Motioning with a wave of the hand for them to get away from them, or to move a dish - stuff like that. Interestingly, I didn't hear any complaints about the "Gratuity" tax being applied to accounts on the last night. I figured 42 Euros was appropriate for the level of service we received from most of the staff we encountered. I tipped several of them in addition to this the night before disembarkation. They seemed surprised, which I thought was rather sad - as they do work hard. One of these days, the kids that run around in the buffet area or in the gym area (which is against the rules to begin with) are going to get hurt. I don't know how many times I came close to spilling hot coffee on some kid that ran in front of me or cut in front of me in line. Yes there is smoking on board, and it can get pretty smoky in the piano area on Deck 3 at night. Fortunately I was pretty much ready for bed after dinner so I didn't have to deal with the smoke except to walk through those areas. This trip had 1800 Germans, several hundred Italians, several hundred French and a smattering of English speakers on board. 2 Australians (very nice people) and a couple of other nationalities. Rooms - Our room had a balcony and was very clean, except for an odd smell in the bathroom, that I've encountered on other ships. Nothing too offensive, just odd. Our Cabin Steward was super friendly and worked his butt off all day. Introduced himself right away and asked if we needed anything. This was our first time with a balcony and I'll never be able to go back I'm sure. The only negative I found was that balconies sometimes meant noisy neighbors. Apparently some people like constantly moving furniture around without benefit of picking it up, and having loud conversations that meant keeping the door shut at night. A shame as I love the sound of the water as I sleep. The bungee cord I took really came in handy! Restaurant - We had the first sitting at 6:30 most nights. Am glad we did as I'd never be able to sleep with all the eating we did if we had the 2nd. Food was great! Most nights I didn't do all 7 courses as I often had just had lunch 4 hours previously. We usually had sit down lunch at the Ceres. Only ran into one waiter who really didn't seem to know what he was doing. He ended up charging us for beer that was supposed to be covered by our X1 package. Getting this sorted out entailed dealing with far too many people and grief to get it done. At dinner, our table and the next to it was all English speakers so we enjoyed that aspect as I found that Germans or Italians weren't too willing to converse with us at lunch when we were plunked at their table. Maitre 'd was nice, and arranged for our tables to have Caesar salad one night if we wanted it. The only negative thing about dinner was that they would dim or flick the lights at about 8:30 to signal to people to get moving and get out of the restaurant as the second seating was starting at 9. Through no fault of our own, we would usually still be waiting for dessert at that point. I only ate breakfast at the buffet. Yes, it's the same thing everyday, but I found that on other lines as well, and theres quite a variety to start with. Besides, I'm happy with some fruit, yoghurt and coffee, and there was plenty more to eat on the rare occasions I wanted more. The X1 package was a good idea, though I found that the wines that were served as part of this package were not up to par - and I'll drink just about anything! The Merlot was fine, but there was a Soave that was more like a Chardonnay. Still, at 5 Euros a drink, it's easy to get your moneys worth. Ports of Call - I stayed on board in Bari. Didn't do any Costa excursions as I prefer to make my own way for the most part. Got off in Katakolon and walked around the village, and explored Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik on our own as well and saw many of the same sites as those that paid for the excursions - but didn't get dragged to carpet shops ;-) The Ship - its a nice ship though the layout on a couple of floors are odd. Several times we couldn't remember how to get to our restaurant as you had to go up or down one floor, then forward and then up or down again to get to it. Certainly very colorful! We were told that Costa spent close to 500 million Euros outfitting and decorating the interior. A shame they didn't splurge a little on the sound system in the Vesta dining room. During the entertainment they do, it sounds horrible. Overall it was a great trip. Marred only by the disorderly embarkation process and the lack of customer service to quickly rectify an incorrect billing charge. We selected Costa primarily because of the routing and departure dates. Would I go on another Costa Cruise? Certainly. However, I would be inclined to try another Cruise line before then, unless only Costa had the destinations I was looking for. However, I would strongly recommend going with an open mind, things will be done differently. Be prepared to perhaps be in the minority as far as English-speaking guests go. As long as you're friendly and outgoing enough, I'm sure you'll meet up with others who are in the same boat (pun not really intended) Watch your bill and be sure to jump on any discrepancies immediately as it can take two days to get them sorted out. If it results from a problem in the dining room, see if the Maitre 'd can help you out. Go and have fun, thats what it's all about! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
Typically people who write reviews either have something highly critical to write or they have been overwhelmed by a wonderful experience. I am just detailing our experience with Costa Serena to help you decide whether or not cruising is ... Read More
Typically people who write reviews either have something highly critical to write or they have been overwhelmed by a wonderful experience. I am just detailing our experience with Costa Serena to help you decide whether or not cruising is for you and give some (hopefully useful) advice. We are in our 30s and have always loved the idea of getting a taster of many places without the hassle of travelling. I had always been nervous of sea sickness (occasionally getting motion sickness when in the back of a car) so avoided boats. My husband convinced me that the boat was so huge that I wouldn't feel anything at all. He was right! The Ship The Costa Serena is huge. It carries approx 4,000 people, 1,000 of which are staff. It is an italian cruise ship so do expect to hear a lot of Italian spoken. I loved this as it made me feel like I was truly on holiday. The ship mainly carries Italian, Spanish, German, French and British passengers and so in order to cater for everyone announcements are made in all languages (thankfully not in the cabin). If you wanted to escape there were always lounges, decks or areas around the ship away from people and noise. There are two pools neither of which were big enough for the ship. Both of us are keen swimmers but never got the chance to take a dip! The Cabins The cabins were spacious and immaculate. Our steward cleaned the cabins three times a day! Initially we weren't concerned as to whether or not we had an inside cabin / window or balcony but we really did appreciate being able to see outside our window and watch the world going by. Our bed was two single beds pushed together and although we asked for a proper double bed we were told that there weren't any. There are no tea or coffee making facilities in the cabin which was a shame but we discovered that for just 2 euros per order we could order as much as we wanted from a high quality room service! What a treat. The Staff The staff were mainly of Filipino origin and were so lovely. Every single one we had dealings with or spoke to were just so helpful and a pleasure to deal with. They work 7 days a week and stay on the cruise ship for 8 months at a time. There is no need to tip them as Costa arrange for a 42 euro gratuity charge for each passenger to be added to the final bill at the end of the trip. I sincerely hope this is passed on to the staff! The Entertainment What Costa did really well was to provide something for everyone! We don't have children and were concerned that our holiday would be overruled by rowdy kids. They were kept occupied in kids club and had their own dedicated pool. Passengers could go to Italian classes, watch ice and fruit sculpture, learn napkin folding, dance classes, quizzes and so much more. An itinerary for the day was delivered to our cabin each morning. Every evening there was a theatre production and more comedy entertainment involving passengers. Everything was included in the price. If you fancy slot machines or roulette there is a huge casino on board too. The Food There are many restaurants. We did realize though that the Italians didn't provide anything apart from Italian food so pizza and pasta was a plenty! The restaurants provided 8 course meals for both lunches and dinner! Be prepared to put on a few pounds. Still water and tea / coffee was free but there was a charge for anything else. The still water was very drinkable. We enjoyed the restaurant food. On the 9th floor there was the Prometeo Buffet with stacks of food. The quality wasn't as good and food was not always hot enough. I'm vegetarian but always found something appetizing to eat. One of the little touches that was really nice is that the staff had pre-planned where we would sit and put us next to English speakers of the same age group. We had very entertaining evenings with them. Dress Code Day - anything goes Evening - smart causal (though the Italians are generally very smart) Gala nights - two evenings where you dress up a bit more... women in smart evening dresses men in long sleeved shirt and trousers. Some men wore jacket and ties but they were generally older. The Excursions Starting in Venice, our ports of call were Katakolo (Greece), Izmir and Istanbul (Turkey) and Dubrovnic. We decided not to pay for the guided tours but to explore on our own and this worked out well for us (and much cheaper). With 3,000 passengers disembarking and embarking at each port, you can imagine that this was slight mayhem. If you paid for a tour you generally get off first. On a couple of visits we got just 2 hours on land which was a shame. This was the only time we felt as if were were hoarded like cattle. Still it was nice to get a taster of each place. Embarkation and Disembarkation What a nightmare! We had a few hours between arriving in Venice and the boat leaving so we had planned to get on the boat, leave our luggage there and explore Venice before the boat left. It took so long to embark and check in that we ended up not seeing Venice at all. (Be prepared). So we decided that we would see Venice at the end of the trip as we had 5 hours before having to catch our flight. The night before you are set to get off the boat they allocate various color luggage tags. Little did we know that this determined your pecking order for getting off the boat. We got black which we now know to mean last! We ended up having to wait for an extra 3 hours on the boat and missed Venice completely! Overall experience We really enjoyed it and would definitely go on another cruise. The concept is amazing and now I know that I don't get sea sick on large boats I'm keener than ever. Having done our first cruise we are now wiser and know what to expect. I hope this gives you a realistic idea of what to expect and doesn't put you off. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2008
Background: We are a family of five traveling together on this cruise; mom, dad, three boys, 17, 19 and 21. Our son's girlfriend, 21, joined us. We have cruised many, many times with Princess and RCI, usually mini suites or baloneys, ... Read More
Background: We are a family of five traveling together on this cruise; mom, dad, three boys, 17, 19 and 21. Our son's girlfriend, 21, joined us. We have cruised many, many times with Princess and RCI, usually mini suites or baloneys, depending on price. In addition to cruising we are a well traveled family. I mention this only so that it may give you an idea of how to judge our review in reflection of our/your experiences and expectations. Our oldest son was studying abroad in Pristina, Kosovo and we took this opportunity to meet him in Venice for a summer holiday before sending him and his brother - soon to be a college freshman - off to school in mid August. We had a very specific time frame to vacation because our son didn't finish classes until early August and we had to be back in the states by Aug 12. Knowing this, and the weakness of the dollar abroad, we decided our best and most affordable opportunity was to cruise from Venice. So the research began. It didn't take long to settle on the Costa Serena. 7 day cruise from Venice with great port stops at an unbelievable bargain. I came back to Costa again and again and ultimately settled on that trip. And decided on three inside cabins because it was such a darn good deal. I have never sailed on an inside, although we always put the boys across the hall in one. Then I began reading the boards. And boy was I worried. But again, how bad can it be? Telling the boys not to expect a Princess experience, and hoping I could adhere to that advice as well, we left the states in great spirits, anxious to meet our son in Venice and begin a family vacation. Friday, July 31, Overnight Cleveland / Venice with a layover in Paris. After a very long day of traveling, the layover allowing us to see Notre Dame and The Eiffel Tower - yes, LEAVE the airport, it's totally doable - we arrived in Venice without three bags. Mine and one of the boys. Honestly, who cares about his luggage? He has two brothers almost the same size. Missing mine was sending me into a quiet panic that I managed to ignore the first day. After several phone calls to Air France and Continental they assured me it would be on the ship when we boarded on Sunday. Not having a lot of confidence in that plan we proceeded to the port. After turning a corner, in the middle of a frenzied group attempting to check in luggage, there sat our three bags on a sidewalk as though they'd been thrown from a truck. Happily, I grabbed them. Embarkation: Good, not great. Long wait in the terminal. Either get there first, or wait until late in the day. We arrived in the middle and probably sat for 90 or more minutes. No big deal for us, although we started getting anxious to board. Once our number was called, we were on the ship within minutes. The ship is lovely. Yes, it's done in lots of red and golds. But it's lovely. Clean, clean, clean. Our cabins were wonderful and the shower was larger than any other bathroom we've had on RCI or Princess. And how did I like the inside cabin? I've never slept so well in my life!! Would I do an inside again? On this particular cruise, yes, because of the value. The next category up was more than double what we paid. But I'm looking forward to my next balcony! Dinner: We bought the x1 cards for my 21 year old and myself. My husband is more of a mixed drink guy. I was really the only wine drinker in the group, so I thought this would be fine for me. So thankful that we did this. Buy the boys and girls card for others in your party. Again, great value. The very first night our waiters brought us a bottle of wine, after asking if we'd prefer white or red, and never stopped bringing beers to our table for anyone drinking them. This x1 pays for itself many times over as long as you're happy with Carlsburg beer (what 21 year old isn't) and house wine. We never tried to have drinks at lunchtime, mostly because we weren't on ship, so I can't comment on how well the x1 works outside the dining room. I might mention here that the drinks on board are really expensive. With the weak dollar most cocktails are in the $10 range, almost twice as much as we're used to on other ships. Drink menus are in Euros so if the dollar was even, it'd be no big deal. We had a wonderful table by the window and were always one of the first to arrive and last to leave. We really enjoyed the dinners. Was the food the best we've ever had? No. But is WAS good. Sometimes even great. I'm the foodie in the group. Everyone else would probably give higher grades than me. The presentation lacked, but many times the flavor was there. My husband tipped our wait staff the fist night, and in addition to beer and wine waiting at our table each night, we were treated to bruschetta, and various other Italian goodies every single night piled high on platters in the middle of our table. An extremely pleasant experience and one of the best overall dining experiences on a cruise ship, but not necessarily because of the food. Announcements, Languages and Americans: From what I could tell, we were six of maybe 50 Americans (at most) on board. Fine with us. Maybe that's why we were treated so nicely. Having a pattern after dinner of stopping at the piano bar, then playing a little black jack in the casino, the bar and casino staff came to recognize us. They called us 'the family'!!!! We were always greeted with smiles by name, (obviously read our cruise cards when we paid for our drinks) and by the third night, the bar staff knew our order. This was by far the friendliest cruise staff we've encountered. The boys befriended some teenagers from a Spanish family and Tom and I found a group of three English couples that we enjoyed spending time with each evening after dinner. The pit boss would even open a black jack table for us so that we could all play together. Yes, they made announcements in many languages. But honestly, why is that such a big deal? If you don't listen for it, you may miss it. And isn't it kinda cool to try and recognize words from another language that you hear again and again. I mean we are the only country that educates in one language. The Buffets: Here's the biggest negative on the trip. Hated the breakfast, and even more so, the lunchtime buffets. Unorganized, chaotic, and crowded. Crazy hours; I swear from 12:00 pm to 12:30 pm nothing is open! It took us a while to figure out the buffet areas and we found that the buffet outside by the aft pool had the best overall situation. Different types of pizza type bread with toppings and some other unusual, but tasty, lunchtime food. Salad selections were not good. Or at least I didn't find any. The Italian yogurt was excellent by the way. The itinerary on the ship didn't have us on board many days at lunch which actually was a good thing. Ports: We never did get off the ship in Bari. The best laid plans......Too much fun the night before prevented us from even feeling like getting off the ship. Olympia: We hired George; I found out abouthim on these boards, and he met us right off the ship. We had a wonderful day viewing the Olympic ruins and the small town of Olympia. George even took us back to his home to meet his family. Very knowledgeable and friendly I would highly recommend him to anyone inclined to arrange their own excursion. TIP: The duty free shop right outside the ship has a very large 6 pack of water for 1.50E -if you're a water drinker don't pass this up. Izmir: Because I had trouble arranging our own excursion at this port, on board we booked with Costa for the Ephesus and House of the Virgin Mary tour. This was probably our favorite stop. It's a sleeper!!!! The ruins are incredible and more than anything point out existence of an ancient civilization that's very easy to imagine given the magnitude of the ruins. This isn't rocks poking out of the ground. Let's just leave it at that. Don't want to ruin the awe of it for anyone planning to visit this ancient wonder. Istanbul: Again, hired a private tour agency recommended from these boards and had a wonderful day touring Istanbul. It's an amazing place and we found the Turks to be so gentle and kind. The grand bazaar was grand! And fun, and loud and crazy!!! I expected it to be like the markets in Bangkok but it wasn't even close. Much crazier!!! But we loved it! Dubrovnik: By the time we arrived in Dubrovnik, we wanted a restful day. After walking around the city a bit, we found a wonderful cafe set on the edge of the rocks where we sat for hours sipping local beer while the boys jumped off the cliffs into the Adriatic. Oh, and by the way. I was concerned not having a Costa excursion booked for this port we'd be delayed getting off ship which would severely cut into our already short dock in Dubrovnik. We took the elevator down to the tender floor and walked off the ship shortly after docking. No questions asked. Try it. Leaving the Ship was easy. We took the Costa bus back to Piazza Roma and headed to our hotel for one last night. We left Venice very early the next morning with memories of a fantastic trip. Summary: We had a great experience with Costa. What made it great was the value. Had I paid for a suite on this trip I think I would have been more prone to disappointment with other aspects of the ship. Maybe we would have expected better dinners, or less crowded buffets, or better entertainment. But so many things about this ship were right on. And several experiences that hands down were better than Princess or RCI. But we went in with the right attitude and it paid off. Would we cruise Costa again? Under the right circumstances I think we would. I would probably not sail Costa in the Caribbean. We are booked on the Emerald at Easter time for 10 days and I do prefer Princess or RCI over Costa in the Caribbean. But having said that, give Costa a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
April 30, 2008-04-30 We just returned from a cruise on the Eastern Mediterranean aboard the Costa Serena. The cruise lasted one week (April 20-27, 2008). We are basically very independent people, not in favor of large crowds, and generally ... Read More
April 30, 2008-04-30 We just returned from a cruise on the Eastern Mediterranean aboard the Costa Serena. The cruise lasted one week (April 20-27, 2008). We are basically very independent people, not in favor of large crowds, and generally travel on our own. Reading reviews and commentaries by others before departure allowed us to adjust our expectations. I wish to thank all the people who wrote about their experiences on cruise lines. Their comments were of great help to us. . The result was a very enjoyable experience. We found the cabins very comfortable: we had a good bed with a solid mattress, enough storage space, a nice bathroom, and a neat balcony. The windows were washed in one port only, but, since we had decent weather, they remained clear throughout the trip. The cabin was cleaned twice daily. We were generally impressed with the overall cleanliness of the ship. The decorations are really not our style, but the ship is not my home. So.... FOOD If you wanted to, you could eat all day. Breakfast was very complete: eggs, bacon, cold cuts, cheeses, fresh fruits, yogurt, preserves, and an array of breads. True, the breads, although fresh every morning, are not the greatest. But, in my experience, Italians are not good bakers. On the other hand, their pastas and gelatos are superb. I found the meals always quite acceptable. After all, you cannot expect gourmet meals from a chef who feeds 3500 customers three times a day. We had also purchased Costa's X-1 wine, beer and water package for each of us and found that to be a good deal. DRINKS Anything at the bar as well as drinks in the restaurant if you do not buy a package ahead of time is very expensive. SERVICE My word, how those people work! Seven days a week, virtually no free time. And always with a smile. The people serving our table were outstanding, and our cabin steward excellent. EXCURSIONS Because we found the price of the excursions very high, we did not book any excursions ahead of time. We did our homework before departure and went exploring on our own and thoroughly enjoyed it. In Bari, Izmir and Istanbul the ship was anchored along the quai. In Bari you can easily walk into town. In Istanbul good walkers can do it on foot: one hour walking from the ship to Agia Sophia. There are also taxis waiting upon arrival, and there is a tramway. In Izmir we had booked the Costa excursion to Ephesus, because we had been unable to find adequate information on transportation available in the port. Upon arrival we found also there taxis waiting along the quay, advertising the ride back and forth for €90. Quite a difference with the 4x€65 for the Costa excursion. I must say, however, that the guide was excellent. She was knowledgeable about Ephesus, offered a lot of information on Turkey during the bus ride there (one hour) and often solicited questions from the audience. Both Katakolon and Dubrovnik are tender ports. If you wish to visit Olympia: a taxi ride back and forth from Katakolon to Olympia with one hour waiting time for the driver cost €90 for the four of us. Spiro, the driver, was very friendly, but thought he was flying an airplane. "I very good driver". Yes, he was, but we were happy to make it back to the ship safe and sound. Where Costa really needs to change its ways, according to us, is in the organization of getting passengers off the boat in the ports visited. That the people who have booked an excursion always get to leave the ship first is frustrating and a bit unfair towards the other guests. Queuing is unheard of by Costa. Pushing and shoving are almost a daily experience. Costa must learn to impose discipline. Costa Staff I was impressed with the cabin and restaurant crew. Not so with the Costa staff. During Credit card registration pushing and shoving were the rule: you had to take a number and presumable wait until your number was called. The order showed up on a screen, but the attendants served whoever was first at the counter. That was an absolutely disgraceful experience. The people at the excursions desk were poorly informed about the content of the excursions. At customer service, there were always lines.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
My wife and I, along with our 14 year old daughter, decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary on a Western Mediterranean Cruise. We had done another Med cruise on Costa in 2004, on the Costa Victoria, and in 2006 we did a Celebrity Cruise ... Read More
My wife and I, along with our 14 year old daughter, decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary on a Western Mediterranean Cruise. We had done another Med cruise on Costa in 2004, on the Costa Victoria, and in 2006 we did a Celebrity Cruise to the Baltics. We enjoyed the Costa cruise more so we chose Costa again this time. We left Savona on Dec 27 - we had a suite, which allowed us priority boarding, so the embarkation process wasn't too bad. The terminal was very crowded however - the Concordia (another large ship) was boarding at the same time and it looked like people from the previous cruises (from both ships) were still in the process of leaving. They had problems getting everyone onboard on time, so we were a couple of hours late and had to wait until about 7PM to do the lifeboat drill. The ship was full, with well over 3000 passengers. I'm not sure what the breakdown by nationalities was but there were only about 200 English speaking people. Many were American ex-pats; didn't see any other Canadians on board except for the English-speaking hostess (Audrey) was coincidentally was from a town just a few hundred kilometers from where we live. I've heard others on this forum complain about having to hear announcements in 5 different languages - I didn't find that too bad as it was fairly easy to tune them out. But the 5 language lifeboat drill was a bit much. We had a balcony suite on the 7th deck near the front. It was very clean and our butler and attendant gave us very good service. I was thinking that we wouldn't be able to make much use of the balcony in December, but it was actually quite pleasant. The room was fairly quiet except for a few youth who liked to congregate in and/or run up and down the halls. Our first stop was Barcelona, where we did the Gaudi tour which we quite enjoyed. Barcelona is a really beautiful city, much different from what I expected. Leaving Barcelona we passed Gibraltar (after an at sea day) at about 11 PM but we could make it out quite clearly even in the dark. Next stop was Morocco where did the Casablanca - Hassan II - Rabat tour. Next was another at sea day and we arrived in Madeira late evening on New Year's Eve. We pulled into the harbor and were treated to a truly amazing fireworks show. Apparently in 2006-2007 it set the world record for fireworks display. The next morning we got up and did an extensive tour of Madeira. It is a beautiful island with many narrow twisting (one lane) roads. Several times the bus had to back up in order to let a car going the other way pass. After Madeira it was Tenerife where we drove from Santa Cruz de Tenerife (which reminded me a lot of Honolulu) to Puerto de la Cruz (which reminded me a lot of Waikiki. Next was Lanzarote where we did the "Grand Tour of Lanzarote" which included a camel ride and lots of touring around the island, which is many areas resembles a moonscape. The last stop was Malaga, another beautiful city. The ship had some decor that took a lot to get used to. I felt like the decor had been chosen by a committee of designers who had just returned from a failed team building session in Las Vegas. In one 20 square foot area in the buffet, for example, we counted 20 different (unmatching) patterns on the floor, ceiling, walls, and upholstery. The ship was quite crowded and it was sometimes difficult to find a spot in the buffet area. We had dinner in the second seating (9:30 PM). The food was quite good, as was the service (except on a couple of nights when it was a bit slow). We had the usual baked Alaska show on the second-to-last night, and a very nice dancing and singing show put on by the waiters during the final evening. (There is a thread currently on the Costa portion of this site putting down dancing waiters, etc. but I really found this quite special. True, I wouldn't have liked to see it every night, but once was good.) Comparing our cruise experiences, I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as our first Costa cruise. I think this was due to the ship being a lot bigger than the Victoria, and a lot more crowded. I liked the food better than on Celebrity, which I found too rich. On Celebrity I found that the servers seemed much more like servants than equals - that made we feel quite uncomfortable. So I think I'll do Costa again, but on a smaller ship. I've posted some photos of our trip on my flikr site - see http://www.flickr.com/photos/msdwilkie/sets/72157603815769327/show/ Read Less
Sail Date: December 2007
We did the christmas cruise on the Costa Serena in December 2007. Summarizing, we had a very nice trip, enjoyed most of the ports and the new ship. There are some BUT's I would like you to observe, if you don't mind them, you ... Read More
We did the christmas cruise on the Costa Serena in December 2007. Summarizing, we had a very nice trip, enjoyed most of the ports and the new ship. There are some BUT's I would like you to observe, if you don't mind them, you will have a nice cruise. Overall, until now we did cruises only on american ships, on NCL and Royal Caribbean, so we tended to compare Costa with them. First of all, we travelled with my parents, booking two balcony cabins 8383 and 8385. Cabins are perfect (no wonder, the ship is nearly new) and spacious, enough space. I really advise to book balcony cabins. Some people say its a waste of money, we don't want to miss the balcony, its perfect top sleep with open doors and enjoy sunset on the balcony early morning. Ports: We loved Funchal (its the best), Barcelona, Malaga and Tenerife. Casablanca is a waste of time, its dirty and ugly. We only booked the Casablanca city tour since we did not want to tour there by ourselves (skip it, stay on the ship) and Malaga (since its a huge city its a waste of time to run around by yourself). In the other ports we walked around by ourselves and loved it. Now I compare the Costa ship with NCL and RCCL: - Buffets are really Italian style, very basic, lots of Pasta and Pizza. Breakfast is really VERY basic. we decided to eat in the restaurant where you at least can order different eggs. - Lunch buffet is little better but we preferred having lunch in the restaurant. Very good choices - Evening buffet was a waste of time, again, very basic. We had dinner in the main restaurant every night and really enjoyed it. Overall, service is not bad but 99 % of the staff miss "the last step". On US we are used to be greeted, smiling people everywhere. On Costa we met some of those nice people, but most of them seemed to us "doing their job". Don't expect towel animals in the Cabin, Costa does not do it. Passengers were mainly Italians. Yes, there is little bit less discipline, Europeans and especially Italian are not used to wait in lines, so waiting for something can be fun ! Yes, Italians smoke more, but it was OK, bit more smoke than on US ships but still enough space for non-smokers. Embarkation was done by numbers, we had to wait about 20 minutes, but then were on the ship very fast. You can go directly to the Cabin where you find the Cabin Cards. Within the next 5 days you can have your Credit Card registered. Disembarkation was also by colors, you wait in the lunge until your color is announced. That went very smooth. All public areas on the ship are very nice. We loved the Ships Samsara Spa, although its very pricey we had great massage at the portuguese masseur Henrique, he was perfect. we did not use the other facilities of the fitness center but it looked nice. Summarizing, on our next Cruise we would prefer NCL or RCCL again, we would take Copsta again only for a special super deal. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Suggestion would be to come in one night before the cruise so as to not be so tired. Embarkation went fairly smoothly as we arrived past the influx of passengers. Caught the bus from Piazza Roma and then had to lug our suitcases to the ... Read More
Suggestion would be to come in one night before the cruise so as to not be so tired. Embarkation went fairly smoothly as we arrived past the influx of passengers. Caught the bus from Piazza Roma and then had to lug our suitcases to the baggage area. In turn had to walk back to the place where we were dropped off and preceded to the cruise terminal. Cabin was very nice. Everything still looked new and fresh. My cabin was at the stern of the boat which was great for departing the port of calls and the balcony was a good size. Sometimes a little noisy from the engines/vibrations etc. The cabin space was a little narrower than other cabins on the same deck (7402) but their balcony was much smaller. Staff/Food: Room steward was fantastic and did a great job. We had early seating and Hugo and Roy were great for remembering little extras. The food was pretty good in that you did have some choices which often included a European flair (rabbit, quail etc). I have had better cruise food on the Princess but it was horrible. Pizza was good and so were the chicken cutlets. Since I am not a huge desert fan can't really much about it except the ice cream was yummy in the dinning room. Buffet was alright but not a huge buffet fan anyhow. Shows: Not super impressed mainly because English was the second language and I don't speak much Italian. Out of 3000 passengers there were about 400-500 English speaking passengers. We went on the cruise for the Italian flavor and it was a little different. Ports: Bari could be left off. Olympia was a nice port and we took a Costa excursion to the sight of the first Olympics. Nice bus ride but time was cut short due to other tardy and inconsiderate passengers. Constantine our guide was very knowledgeable and quite good. Izmir and Istanbul were wonderful. We ended up taking a private tour from Ekol Travel and had two fantastic guides, Yelda and Omer (Istanbul). For the little bit extra it cost, it was so worth the amount we paid. Three of us with a guide through Ephesus and next day in Istanbul where we had a guide for 6-7 hours was the way to go. It was so personal and much more relaxing versus having to wait for other people to catch up etc. Croatia: Beautiful city with the marbled streets. We didn't do a tour but just walked around and enjoyed the sights. Tendering off the ship wasn't bad and for the most part they were organized. If you had an excursion you got off the ship quicker. Disembarkation was actually smooth. In fact it was one of the quickest I have ever been on. Guess it helped to have a red label which got us off the ship in the 2nd grouping. We had a transfer to the airport for 15 Euros and well worth it as we needed to get back to the airport to rent a car for few days. Overall it was good cruise. I don't think I would take a Costa cruise again as I feel that there are better lines for my needs. There wasn't anything bad about the cruise but for me it will probably be the last one. Service was good, food not bad, ports were great (except Bari) and cabin was nice. Be warned the smokey cigarette smell gets a little old. They need better air cleaners in the 12 bars on the ship. Read Less
Costa Serena Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 3.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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