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146 Costa Serena Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise as it was leaving from Venice and I had a wish to see Venice again, so we thought we would combine the trip with the cruise, even though we had been disappointed with various aspects of Costa before we hoped with the ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was leaving from Venice and I had a wish to see Venice again, so we thought we would combine the trip with the cruise, even though we had been disappointed with various aspects of Costa before we hoped with the Serena being a fairly new ship things might be better, how wrong can you be? We were 2 couples travelling together FOOD. Very poor quality! I enjoy my food as do all our party but really struggled to find something to eat let alone enjoy. As mentioned in other reviews the Italians are very pushy and don't believe in forming an orderly queue so beware if there is a gap in front of you, also at the buffet at all meal times they were very slow at replacing food as it run out, we had to ask the staff behind the counter more than once to replace the missing food. These staff seemed to be trainee waiting staff as they seemed unsure how to lay out and arrange the food. The meals in the Vesta Restuarant for a so called luxury ship and considering the amount we paid for the trip was absolutly dreadful, from the time it took to serve it (2.5 hours) we were leaving the the restuarant after 11pm still hungry. On the Gala night! we went to a lot of trouble to dress for the occasion at dinner we were offered the gala menu my sister in law and I could not find anything suitable to order, I asked the waiter to bring the (always available) alternative menu she informed me it was not available on Gala night, so I asked if we could just have grilled steaks with some veg she said she would have to ask the mai'trde to come over to speak to me, next thing I was presented with a menu 'he says you can choose from that' said the waiter it was the very obvi children menu anyway I ordered the chicken malelese with french fries when it arrived it was just an insult the dry chicken was very rubbery, inedible as if it had been reheated in a microwave and the frozen chips were undercooked, needless to say I told the waiter to take it away and asked to see the mai'trde the waiter returned to say we could have the grilled steaks this was such a poor show just not worth dressing up for. After this debacle we decided to use the buffet for dinner, even though we were there in plenty of time there was were little food left to choose from. Tea was always luke warm and the coffee was like dish water my sister in law drinks coffee and she had to buy it from the bars at a very inflated price. Another reviewer mentioned the rule about not bringing drinks on board they say something about health and safety, rubbish it is just so you are trapped into paying Costas riduculous prices for drinks soft and alcohol ones, there is a way round this but if Costa read this review they would soon put a stop to it! Another review talks about the adults only pool that children were allowed to use uncorrected we don't have a problem with children on holiday we all have kids and grandchildren ourselves, but considering there was 4 pools on board we don't think it's asking to much to enforce the adults only rule. The children were very boisterous around the pools just as you would expect,so it would have been nice to relax around a pool and have a swim to cool off instead of being banished to the dry decks. To Finish The other trips we had on Costa had very similer problems the first one we booked was at short notice my daughter and I took my Mother for her first and only cruise.The second one it was the only cruise line going to Dubai and the Emerites and as I said earlier I hoped things might have been better on the Serena. It was awful from the surly waiters to the dreadful food and vastly overpriced drinks, also if you were not Italian you were not quoted even at the muster when English was the last language to give instructions the Italians started to break rank and chatter loudly we could not hear the announcement. As we have found on other cruises the cabin attendents do the best job our room was always spotless and we received everything we requested. Finally we think the problem with poor service is the practice of compulsary paying gratuities which means staff do not have to work for tips. We will never be on a Costa ship again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
This was my third cruise with Costa. I have also cruised three times with Kristina Cruises. Normally I travel alone, but this time the trip was present from me to my mother. We came to Venice one day earlier. Transportation from the ... Read More
This was my third cruise with Costa. I have also cruised three times with Kristina Cruises. Normally I travel alone, but this time the trip was present from me to my mother. We came to Venice one day earlier. Transportation from the airport Marco Polo to Venice's bus station is very easy, fast and cheap. We lived hotel near to railway station. Location is perfect. There is Vaporetto station beside railway station. I love Venice and there is always something new to discover. Costa Cruises has organized free transportation from bus station to terminal. We left our hotel about eleven o'clock and arrived half hour later in the terminal 107. Because I have used Venice terminal earlier so it was easy to locate everything. About one o'clock they start to embark, which was nice because they do it one hour earlier which was informed us earlier. Costa Serena is nice and very clean ship. I have travelled also with Costa Concordia, so everything was familiar to me. First we went to buffet, which is located 9th deck. We also left our hand luggage to depository. After two o'clock was time to go and see how our cabin looks like. It was normal cabin, which has a balcony. On the bed were our key cards and a lot of other information. Because I belong to Costa Club, there was champagne waiting for us and fruits too. After we had unpacked our clothes, we went to use credit card registering machine. It was very easy procedure. Then we went to sit our balcony and watch when ship goes trough Venice. We ate in the first sitting in Vesta restaurant, which is located middle in the ship. We bought wine and water collection kit from the ship. It contains five wines and seven mineral waters. Every evening food was very good and our waiters were excellent. The second night we ate in the Bocca Restaurant. Night was very memorable. In the mornings we ate in the buffets and once we order breakfast to our cabin. There were always free places in the buffet if you noticed that there were tables also in the 10th floor. We never watch any shows, because they begin too late for us. But almost every evening we listened very talented live music in Cupido lounge. On the second day ship visited in Bari, but we didn't go anywhere. We enjoyed sun and warm (we have had very long and cold winter here in Finland). After we left from Bari, it was time to compulsory rescue drill. On the third day ship arrived Katakolon and we did go to Olympia with tour organized by Costa. You had very little time in Olympia, but we managed to see everything important. The tour included also local dancing performance and little snack. Fourth day we arrived to Izmir. From there we travelled to Ephesus. We had very good guide. It is place to visit once more in the future. On the fifth day we came to Istanbul. We take part tour called "Super Istanbul". Our English group contains only 6 people, so it was easy to move from place to place by small bus. Our guide was very good and helpful. I liked most the old water storage. We ate in the palace, which is now a luxury hotel. After lunch we take the boat trip to old city. We visited also in the great bazaar. After ten hour tour you feel that you need more days in Istanbul. The town was very beautiful. Tour was organized by Costa. On the sixth day in the afternoon we arrived to Dubrovnik. I have visited there earlier so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed great view. On last day we waited and watched in the grand bar when arrived in the Venice. After hour and half it was our time to disembark. I have bought transportation from the port to the airport from Costa. All went very well. In the airport was little chaos, because ash clouds affected by closing different airports. Luckily our flight was not cancelled and we got also upgrade to business class. It was the perfect end to our journey. Thank you very much Lufthansa. I like Costa Cruises atmosphere very much and have also reserved two news trips with Costa. I have always got very good service from Costa's staff. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was my second cruise on the Serena. First was 14 months ago. Overall, despite some problems and getting ill towards the end of the cruise, I still enjoyed it. Boarding Both times now, its almost as if its the first time Costa ... Read More
This was my second cruise on the Serena. First was 14 months ago. Overall, despite some problems and getting ill towards the end of the cruise, I still enjoyed it. Boarding Both times now, its almost as if its the first time Costa has ever boarded people on a ship. Despite the newish lounge in Savona (a place to get something to drink or nibbly bits would be nice), it was still fairly disorganized. This time round they tried having two boarding locations, but for some reason, when they got to number 10 or 11, they closed one of them. We were number 14. This meant everyone having to use the other point at the opposite end of the lounge area. As readers here will remember, some people in Europe have difficulty with queues of any sort so it was mayhem. Then, after standing in line for 15 minutes or so waiting to go through security, they decided to open the other entrance point again, and people there were breezing through. Identification Despite several calls to Costa before my last cruise and this cruise, they still insist on classifying me as American, despite the fact that I am Canadian and carry a Canadian passport. This is besides the annoying habit they have of classifying anyone from North America as American. When I got to immigration, the guy there chuckled, crossed out USA on his list, and wrote in "Canada", but not before second glancing at my Canadian passport and the info he had in front of him. You'd think that these days, Costa would be more careful about things like this. I was stopped by a police officer in Morocco who asked to see my Costa Card and my ID. The Costa Card said American, and the ID is from Canada. I had visions of spending time in a Casablanca jail, fortunately I was able to talk my way out of any problem as this police officer certainly seemed to have a problem with it. Guest relations didn't seem to care and would not reissue my card with the proper Citizenship on it. The Ship Serena is starting to show her age. I know from working on airplanes that never see enough ground time to be maintained properly that its a constant, usually losing battle keeping up with wear and tear. Some of this is due to guests that can't behave themselves and put cigarette burn marks on toilet seats, but other things like stateroom lights missing pieces off of them, silvering of mirrors and the balcony railing peeling were very noticeable. I know that some of the railings were being redone in different ports - they just never got around to doing ours on Deck 6 this time round. On the plus side, I think I'll ask Costa for some deck space the next time I need some furniture stripped. Salt water and sea air really works! Our first night at sea, I got up in the middle of the night and thought we'd had a flood as the carpet was soaked. The next day we left the door open which seemed to help (and as the AC didn't seem to be coming on) That night it was still wet so I called housekeeping and they brought a plumber who came, asked the stewardess if she'd shampooed the carpet, felt the carpet with his hand and declared "it's not wet". The clothesline of wet socks didn't appear to change his opinion on this. Guest relations called a couple of days later to check on the situation and again sent someone who said "it's not wet/damp", even though it was. Housekeeping gave us some slippers to wear as I don't wear shoes in my house at home and don't when I'm away, which helped, but I got tired of debating "wet/damp/dry" with staff. At one point, the head of housekeeping said she was going to bring in a fan to help dry it out. I don't know if she did or not as I didn't notice any difference. As the week wore on and we hit warmer weather, the AC seemed to come on more often which helped remove the dampness from the carpet. Wet or damp carpet I can deal with. Staff telling me it's not wet or damp, when I have 8 pairs of socks drying on the line, I can not. Passengers I can't help it. I'm a people watcher. I acknowledge that perhaps its my experience having to evacuate a burning airplane once, and a non--burning airplane once that people paying attention to emergency drill instructions is important. Why is it that during a lifeboat drill, before which, there are announcements in 5 or 6 languages, that some people still show up 20 minutes late? Or for some bizarre reason feel the need to talk on cell phones or text people during the drill. Yes there was the usual pushing and shoving that seems to be inherent with "European" style cruising. Smoke wasn't a problem except for while trying to enjoy my balcony and having someone else's cigarette smoke occasionally drifting into my space or cabin when I had the door propped open. 300 miles off the coast of Africa and all I could smell was someone else's cigarette smoke. Then there was what I call balcony bowling - people constantly moving their furniture around the balcony without picking it up. Makes a heck of a racket. I wouldn't have thought two chairs and a table could be moved that much. I noticed it last cruise, and thought it's probably not a huge issue for most people, when you're sick in bed for several days, you really notice things like this. Even ear plugs didn't help. Staff For the most part - wonderful! In fact, if you ever hear the word "no", it will usually be from an Italian staff member at the front desk. None of them seem to be very interested in assisting you in any way. The cabin stewards/stewardesses are all very friendly and say hi every time they see you. Our restaurant staff were amazing. Always going above and beyond what I'd expect of them. The one incident that bothered me in the dining room was the way the Maitre 'd treated our waiters. One night the soup was VERY salty. Now I love salt, but this was too much, even for me. I knew the servers were busy with other diners and the Maitre 'd was standing not 20 feet away doing nothing, so I called him over and told him that the soup was very salty - just wanting to let him know. No one at our table was eating the soup as a result. With that he disappeared and then 5 minutes later castigated our waiters about the soup. In front of everyone at the restaurant! I felt this was in poor judgement, especially since they didn't make the soup, they were just serving it! I apologized profusely to our waiters, as did most of the people at our table as we'd all seen his outburst. I told him I'd only mentioned it so that perhaps the second seating "batch" of soup could be fixed if necessary. One of the waiters told us that if there were any more problems, to let him know, and he'd tell the Maitre 'd. Sure there are the odd staff members who aren't "on" all the time, but that is to be expected when they're worked 18 hours a day or more for 8 months at a time. Medical facilities Unfortunately, I had to make use of this service this time around. Generally very positive and one of the Drs. was very helpful. The other, frankly, didn't seem to know what she was doing. Perhaps she is new on board but she just seemed out of sorts. One of the Nurses could give Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest a run for her money but fortunately, one of the other nurses more than made up for her grunting and pointing instead of giving instructions in any language. Food No complaints, except for the gastrointestinal problems I encountered later in the cruise, but that could be as a result of simply eating more than I usually do, and richer food than I'm used to. Not a complaint per se, but I can see where people who don't want to eat in the dining room are dismayed by the choices in the buffet at night. Pizza only, and it's not even marginally good. One bite was enough for me. Excursions Only went on one, which was in Lanzarote and was billed as an English speaking tour of Timanfaya. Our guide from the outset said she could not speak English well and would speak slowly. Didn't really help. Bless her, she really tried, but towards the end, I wondered if she was talking to herself or just spouting off random words in English that she knew. Many people were not happy and complained, both about her English skills and the hard sell of photos as the bus pulled into the port (late) and everyone wanted to get on board asap. I was told later that she would not be doing any more English tours for Costa. The only other excursion we wanted to go on was cancelled in Malaga - in all languages. A shame really as we'd wanted to go on it and were willing to listen to another language for 4 hours just to get to the destination. Ports of Call Enjoyed all of them except Casablanca, but that could be because of the run in with the Police/Guard I had there and my Costa Card displaying the wrong citizenship on it. Did not get off in Malaga as I was still under the weather and 5 hours did not seem long enough to warrant the trip into town from the port. Disembarkation It'd be funny if I'd filmed it. We were in the first group to get off, so we were waiting in the theatre. When they finally announced we could get off, there was staff directing us away from the Guest Relations desk, to the other side of the ship, but then no one on the other side to direct people which way to go. As a result, people were going every which way through the bar trying to get off. Mad house. As a result, we were about the 10th and 11th people to leave the theatre, but the first 2 people off the ship. Everyone else in front of us was wandering through the bar trying to get through the ropes to get off. Improvements I've noticed since last time If you have the X1, you can now obtain beer and wine in the Lido buffet areas. Bar staff circulate and take orders. This was an improvement as last time, we had to go to the restaurant to eat if we wanted to take advantage of the x1. They now have an "alternative" buffet in one of the restaurants for those that don't want to sit down in the Ceres restaurant for lunch, and don't necessarily want to do the buffet on the Lido deck. Nice to have the choice. Again, we could use our X1 package here as well. Suggestions for Costa Felt on the bottom of balcony furniture. This would help with noise migration from those that insist on moving their furniture around, or even when the Stewards/stewardesses have to clean the balconies. If the Survey you want everyone to fill out on the last day of the cruise is as inaccurate in English, or as poorly translated as the staff tell us it is, please re-translate it. Especially since any bonuses and the futures of your staff seem to hinge so critically on this survey. This would save your staff having to constantly tell people what the questions really refer to, and would perhaps lessen the chances of people just throwing it out in frustration or apathy. If you aren't starting something until say, 10:00, don't have staff standing at that location 20 minutes prior - looking ready to go, and then telling everyone that comes up to them to come back in 20 minutes. This happened all the time, especially with excursions. A crew member is standing there with the numbers you need to get off the ship, chatting with other crew members, and telling anyone that comes up to them to come back in 20 minutes. Why not go someplace else and come back in 20 minutes, or here's a wild idea - since you're there and the passengers are starting to show up, give them the numbers they need to get off. I noticed this on disembarkation day too. Ropes set up with staff standing at the ready to let people off, gates/doors open, but telling people they couldn't get off yet. Please tell your photographers that if someone asks not to have their photo taken, please don't sneer at them. There are several reasons I don't want my photo taken. One of which was I was not feeling well. You should have seen the looks I got from some of the photographers when I said, "no thank you". If looks could kill!. Your documentation in the Today, says that if you don't want your photo taken, to let the staff know. So why the attitude when you do? Change your designation of passengers from North America to "North America", not just "America, or American". Even "Americas" would be better. Again, be careful as American is not the same as Canadian, especially it would appear, to some police officers/immigration people in some of the countries on your itinerary. Advertise the 6.00 Euro a day "gratuity" charge more, in bigger print and through Travel Agents. I met many people from the UK who knew nothing about this charge until they got on board and frankly, don't think that the staff actually receive it. They saw it as nothing more than a cash grab. Conclusion In spite of what I may have written here, or the way it sounds, I enjoyed this trip very much. It's when things go wrong or slightly awry that I find Costa really disappoints. I know from first hand experience in the travel industry that things do go wrong and its often no ones fault in particular, but an apology and offer to make things right goes a long way to make most people happy, especially when they're on vacation. Denying a problem exists or inferring that the problem is in the customers head does nothing to help the situation and in fact, makes it worse. Costa will not be our next choice for a cruise. This of course may depend on itinerary. I'd like to experience another cruise line that I haven't travelled on for a change. "European style" cruising may not be to everyone's taste either. As much as I love travel, I found that 11 days with 3000 Europeans that don't necessarily speak to each other and push and shove you out of their way, to be exhausting towards day 8 or so. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Travel To Port of Embarkation * This was easy! We dropped off our car at the valet stand in Savona, got a ticket and paid in cash. They took our luggage right there. No hauling it around like we did in Venice :D One improvement here ... Read More
Travel To Port of Embarkation * This was easy! We dropped off our car at the valet stand in Savona, got a ticket and paid in cash. They took our luggage right there. No hauling it around like we did in Venice :D One improvement here would be to have some light refreshments gratuito in the waiting area. Hotel Info (if any) * No hotel used Stateroom * The room was small, cozy, and cleverly used the space it had. We were on deck 1 near the center of the ship, and there was not hardly any noise! It was so dreamy. My husband and I agreed that it was some of the best sleep we've had. We love the rocking motion of the ship and the complete darkness. Ship Info * The Serena is a grand ship! The interior is based on mythology, and it's vibrant if not a little bit over-the-top. But hey, you're cruising! It's an adventure! The layout was easy enough to get the hang of in a day. Dining * This was the big scary thing that the reviews had me worried about. A lot of English speakers had dinged Costa for the food. Well, we liked it a lot. It was very authentic Italian, and there were plenty of options each day. You could have a light breakfast delivered to your stateroom for free each morning, or hit up one of the buffets for more menu items, or go to a sit down breakfast for omelettes/etc made to order. What more could I ask for there? Lunch had buffet and sit down options as well. This was the only part where I felt that the buffet was kind of sad, but overall it was sufficient. Dinner was glorious. Our waiter, Brian D, was the best! And there was always something interesting on the menu that I was excited to try, or an old favourite. Co-ordinating our orders together, my husband and I were able to try everything we wanted to. Activities * Here's the part that maybe lacked the most for other English speakers, but we made the best of it! The staff all speak English and are willing to do their best to include you in any activity. I guess some people are shy to raise their hand and ask to be somehow specially included, but it was also a good chance to practice some new languages too! We did some trivia, some sports, and aquagym. There is a library with books of all languages to borrow, as well. We were never bored! - Children's Clubs * no children Service * Everyone was really happy to help however they could. Like I mentioned earlier, our waiter was amazing. The excursion desk lady (forgot her name!) was really kind as well. All of the support waiters and dining staff were nice. The only place this kind of went downhill was the sit-down breakfast. But it wasn't a big deal. Entertainment * The English language TV was kind of unruly. There were 2 channels, sometimes only 1, and it wasn't always the same channel, and that was the frustrating part. If they'd just leave BBC World on or something like that, consistently, it would have been better. As for the actual shows, they were hit or miss. The acrobats were pretty amazing, and the rest of it was quite cheesy, but that's all subjective of course. Port & Shore Excursions * Our biggest complaint about this cruise is something we should have realized before we booked it, if we were more experienced cruisers: 5 hour stops in a port are just too short. This was only our 2nd cruise, and we're used to independent travel. We thought we'd be fine, but we soon realized that the 5 hour ports were a hassle without an excursion from the ship. It's just too stressful to worry about "will I make it back in time?" with those short ones. Overall, the ports were amazing. Here is where we stopped: Barcelona, Spain (self) Casablanca, Morocco (self for morning, ship excursion afternoon) Lanzarote, Canary Islands (self for morning, ship excursion afternoon) Tenerife, Canary Islands (self) Madeira, Portugal (self) Malaga, Spain (ship excursion) Disembarkation *This went very smoothly. We turned in the ticket, got our car keys, found our car + luggage... then off we go! Summary * Overall this was a great itinerary, great value, great cruise! We made awesome new friends and will always have fantastic memories of the new places we visited! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Embarkation This was a breeze as we missed our flight and with it the original embarkation point at Savona. We eventually joined the ship at 2nd port of call at Barcelona. 10 mins after we produced our tickets at the security desk at the ... Read More
Embarkation This was a breeze as we missed our flight and with it the original embarkation point at Savona. We eventually joined the ship at 2nd port of call at Barcelona. 10 mins after we produced our tickets at the security desk at the port we were in our stateroom. The bags arrived 10 mins later. Only thing to add to this that is relevent to the review is that after we missed our flight we contacted Costa who were very helpful and understanding, and arranged for us to join the ship at Barcelona where they were expecting us when we arrived. First impression WOW! Ship is absolutely beautiful and spotlessly clean. The dEcor may be a bit over the top for some but we thought it was fantastic. Stateroom Again WOW! About what you would expect from a 5* hotel but a little more compact making very good use of the available space. Spotlessly clean and enough room for our party of 2 adults and 2 children. Good size flat screen TV with 1 English station plus BBC news. AV input but I could not get this to work. Small mini bar, large comfortable double bed and bunks for the kids. Small but welcome balcony. Room made up at least twice a day but sometimes 3 or 4. Food Breakfast Sit down at the Ceres restaurant, help yourself at the Prometeo buffet, late breakfast at Lido Urano pool area (all times very but the late breakfast in the Urano pool area started and finished around an hour or so later). We always used the buffet which was the same every day but plenty of choice for us to have something different every day. Hot selection included bacon, peperoni style sausages, hash browns, type of beans with added peperoni style sausage, grilled tomato, scrambled & boiled eggs although you could have freshly fried egg or an excellent omelet from the omelet station. Also there were pancakes and waffles with maple syrup, and also what I would call bolognese! Cold selection was typical continental stuff such as 3 or 4 different cheeses, ham, salami etc, yoghurt, jams, fruit, cakes, croissants and 5 or 6 different serial etc. Selection of different teas, coffee, hot choc, fresh squeezed orange or pineapple juice plus machine grapefruit and orange juice. I really likeed the breakfast. Lunch Ceres or Vesta restaurant (open sitting for around 1 and a half hours, times vary), Samsara restaurant (times vary and reserved for Samsara guests only), Prometeo buffet restaurant (self service for around 2 and a half hours and times vary). There were also the grill buffets in the Lido Sole and Lido Urano pool areas with the latter opening and closing around an hour or so later than the other (times vary). We did not use the sit down in the Ceres or Vesta restaurant as the buffet was fine for us. The grill had what you would expect and there was always a very good choice on the main buffet. Also available were specials of the day that had a different theme each day. A lot of nice deserts on offer too. Again, we really liked the buffet lunch. Tea Time We did not use this so don't know what was available (times vary around 16:00 - 17:00) Dinner We chose the 1st sitting at 18:15 with the 2nd at 20:45. We were allocated a more private 4 seat cubical table in the Ceres Restaurant which was perfect for us. The other restaurant being the Vesta. We did not use the Samsara (open sitting 18:30 - 21:00) or the Club Bacco (open sitting 19:00 - 21:30). At first we were very impressed but as the cruise went on were getting a bit fed up of the itallian and seafood dishes and the quality (which was for the most part very good) seemed to drop towards the end of the cruise. If you like Italian food and seafood you will love it but it got a bit much for our personal tastes. We would have liked a wider choice of international food and/or food based on the port of call. If you could not make your chosen sitting you could inform the Maitre D' who would try and get you in the alternative sitting. Our waitress Ria was simply excellent in the Ceres restaurant. And everything we ate was properly cooked and served at the correct temperature. I have a sample menu for a Gala dinner and if anyone would like to see you can send my a message. Midnight Snack We did not use this so don't know what was available (From 23:30). Snacking Pizza, pasta in sauce, and lovely deserts always seemed to be available when the buffet was closed. I used this once and found all to be very good. Drinking We purchased the X1 package before departure and it's a good job we did. A small glass of Carlsberg beer came in at 5.18 euro inc tax for a 40cl glass. The X1 worked very well for us as we don't go for spirits or cocktails and as a result we don't know the price of them. With the X1 you can have unlimited beer, wine, soda, and bottled mineral water at meal times. The beer was fine and the house wine was just about OK but not great. The X1 could be used in the Ceres and Vesta restaurants for the duration of the sitting, and at either Lido Sole or Lido Urano pool areas as long as the buffet was open. There was a two for one happy hour which at first was 20:30 - 21:30 but then half way through the cruise changed without warning to 16:00 - 17:00! Smoking Smoking was allowed only in designated areas and this was totally respected. We did not have a problem with this. There was also a pipe/cigar room. Staff All the staff that we came across just fantastic, extremely hard working and always had a smile. This included the front desk staff. Special mention goes to our dinner waitress Ria and our stateroom attendant Ive who were both outstanding. Entertainment There was as you would expect a whole day if different activities and entertainment planned but we didn't use any of it apart from the evening shows in the theatre. We were very impressed with the theatre. Very grand affair on two floors with stalls and baloney and had very professional sound and lighting. The only down side were the shows themselves. We enjoyed them and went to every one and the kids loved it but it was a bit too cheesy for it's surroundings. English was the predominant language after Italian and we had no problem knowing what was going on. Resident singers and dancers and a good variety of acts and lasted for about an hour. 1st show 19:15 & 2nd show 21:15. The bars and the music in them were very good and very popular, and there was a late night disco but we were never around late enough to see it in action! For the kids There looked to be a well run kids club but our two didn't want to try it prefering to stay with us. There was plenty for us all to see and do but we liked to be in and around the pools when at sea. Dress code and etiquette Casual throughout the ship with I would say 10% in tux, 10% smart casual, 5% casual and the rest in smart shirt and tie for the gala dinners. It was during school term time but there were still a good number of children on board. There was no sign of kids rampaging around the ship, in fact they were more courteous than some of their parents! The only problem we saw (although it didn't affect us) was children being allowed and even escorted into the juccuzzi by their parents even though there were signs at the entrance steps clearly stating in 4 languages that children were not permited. When ever a member of staff saw this they delt with it and got the children out but they could not police it all the time. I say the guests were made up mostly of Italian, German and French and perhaps 15% British. We found there to be some very rude and ignorant Italian, German, and French but we are used to this and we were prepared for it having seen it many times at land based resorts where british are a minority. Queuing is unheard of and at the buffet etc it's everyone for themselves! We accept that this is their way and it wasn't a major problem for us. Tours We found the price of the ships excursions to be extremely expensive for the four of us to the extent that if we had taken one at every port it would have spent almost as much as what the cruise cost. We therefore did everything independently and so can't comment on the tours. Barcelona As we missed our embarkation point at Savona we joined the ship here so didn't have much time. We had a walk up and down Las Ramblas and around the sea front. Total cost £0 Casablanca Having read bad reports about Casablanca our aim was to visit the mosque and then go to Rabat. At the port exit there was a mob of 30 or so taxi drivers waiting to pounce. As we required a taxi we had to talk to some of them. They were very pushy and would not take no for an answer. We eventually got the price down from £30 to £10 for a taxi to the mosque and back to Casa Port train station including an hour wait at the mosque. We were also offered tours of the city for around £30 and a tour to Rabat for £80. At the train station we got two adult and one child return tickets to Rabat Ville and with the under 5 travelling free this came to £19 for the four of us. The ticket seller spoke English and directed us to the train. Trains run every half hour and take an hour each way. Outside the station there was a large gang of taxi drivers and everyone else but inside everyone was courteous and friendly. The train was efficient, clean, and modern apart from the toilet. On arrival at Rabat Ville station we got a taxi to the Kasbah (£5) walked around here and had a mint tea and fantastic cake in the cafe. We then walked across the road and through the medina. Out of the other side we at first got a little lost but then found our way along Avenue Hassan 2 and then along the shops of the new town on Avenue Mohamed V which lead back to the station. Back in Casa it was a 10 - 20 minute walk back to the ship. The only time we felt uneasy was when we first encountered the mob of taxi drivers at the port exit. We felt very safe on the trains and around Rabat and we were never hassled once in the amazing medina or anywhere else. Oh, and (because of the kids!) we had a McDonald's just opposite Rabat station! Total travel cost £34. Arrecife Approx 100m from the ship on the dock side we hired a car from the kiosk (£35 for the day, inc). 10 minutes from leaving the ship we were driving out of the port. From here we drove to Timanfaya National Park, had a look around the visitor centre and went on the camel ride (can't remember price but around £20 for two camels!). On our way back to the port we called in at Puerto del Carmen and spent an hour or so on the beach. Just before the port we had to fill the car with petrol (£6). Total travel cost £41. Santa Cruz Here we caught the free shuttle to the port entrance. From here we walked along the main shopping St and around the old town and down to the "Africa Market". A further walk then to the auditorio and back along the seafront to the ship. Total travel cost £0 Funchal We walked from the ship to the port entrance and turned right along the seafront and through the beautiful park/gardens on the hill opposite. Continued then along the seafront to the cable cars (£25 single for the four of us). We had a look around Mont before descending back down via the basket toboggans (£37 for large family one!). We then walked the last 1K down to the lovely old town for lunch and a bit of shopping. Total travel cost £62 although the modes of transport were attractions themselves. Malaga Caught the shuttle bus from the ship to the port entrance (£6 per adult) and then walked up to and around the fort and then back into the old town for shopping and some churos. Total travel cost £0 as the bus drivers let us on for free, fort entrance around £7 if I remember right. Overall This was our 1st ever cruise and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. For us the Costa Serena is a magical ship and Costa as a company were great. The staff were fantastic and we liked most of the food even though I'm not a big fan of Itallian or seafood. It was OK but we wouldn't say it was great. We liked the pool areas and the buzz around them. We didn't have a problem with English being a minority but we like being part of a multinational hotel and we can speak a enough German, French, & Spanish for us to at least exchange a few words in passing. We did come across some very rude and ignorant Europeans but we have found this at most hotels and this is not the fault of Costa. We found the price of drinks and anything else that we had to pay for to be extremely expensive when compared with the price of the cruise. All in all we had a terrific time and we are already looking for our next cruise. Costa will definitely be included in our search but we will look at the whole price including on board spending for the next one. I have prices for tours and for treaments at the Samsara Spa, and also a menu from a gala dinner that I can forward to anyone who wants to see them. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Joined the Costa Serena in Savona, Northern Italy in Costa's very efficient cruise terminal. Boarding was painless and the ship spotless. The crew were excellent in every respect as was the food on board. However, if you did not want ... Read More
Joined the Costa Serena in Savona, Northern Italy in Costa's very efficient cruise terminal. Boarding was painless and the ship spotless. The crew were excellent in every respect as was the food on board. However, if you did not want to eat in the main restaurant in the evening, the only other option was the pizza buffet. The only drawback from a British point of view was the on-board daytime entertainment which was a little weak for British tastes. Although as over 80% of the clientele were Italian and who appeared to thoroughly enjoy this type of entertainment, there is little chance of it ever being changed to appeal to British tastes. The drinks on board are expensive and I would recommend you taking one of the drinks packages which are cheaper to book directly with Costa. For the money we paid for this relaxing pre-Christmas cruise, it was excellent and would recommend it to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We flew Gatwick to Milan Milpanese, landing at Terminal 2. There were no Costa personnel to greet us as we searched out the shuttle bus to Terminal 1 to catch the coach to Savona. The shuttle bus was a normal single decker bus with no ... Read More
We flew Gatwick to Milan Milpanese, landing at Terminal 2. There were no Costa personnel to greet us as we searched out the shuttle bus to Terminal 1 to catch the coach to Savona. The shuttle bus was a normal single decker bus with no luggage racks and was packed to the gills..... At Terminal 1, at least one of the Costa people was having a bad day and was quite abrasive to one passenger. They also said that wheelchair passengers were "nothing to do with them", so several people remonstrated with them. They refused to stop the coach en route to Savona until one passenger demanded a toilet break...welcome to Costa!!!!! This was my sixth Costa Cruise and probably my last. Granted they have reduced their prices assuming that you book through an Internet Agency at £450 per person whilst Costa were holding out for £875 for a lower class cabin. Cabin 2468, Class E2, right at back of the ship, slightly larger than E1 cabins at side of ship but very little storage/wardrobe space. Window but no balcony. Quite noisy when docking/leaving port as machines for stowing ropes were on the deck right below the cabin. Friends were in Deck 8 cabin and said that the noise from 6.30 a.m. onwards from trolleys being wheeled through the buffet on Deck 9 was horrendous...they complained and were moved to Deck 7. We were not impressed by the decor on the ship and there seemed to be an atmosphere amongst the crew for the first couple of days although our Vesta Dining Room staff were excellent. Costa charge a non-negotiable 6 Euro per day per passenger "Gratuity" and we are not sure whether this is passed on to the staff or, as somebody said, used by Costa to pay the wages. I think that this stifles a lot of enthusiasm in the crew as they assume that they will not get any more tips by providing good service. We could see that there have been many cutbacks in the food provided, particularly in the buffet and even more so after 9 p.m. in the buffet. Even the Pepperoni Pizzas had sausage instead of pepperoni and this is an Italian ship! The passengers on this cruise were probably 60+ on average comprising mainly Germans and French. You had the usual towels on sunbeds all day with no sign of ownership, no quarter was given in queues for buffet/theatre/disembarking and even Good Morning/Evening seemed to be beyond their capabilities when passing in the cabin passageways! Less than 200 Brits aboard out of approx 2,900 passengers, sometimes you heard the English announcements in the middle of the other 6 language announcements, sometimes you wondered if English was spoken onboard by any of the Entertainment/Front Office Staff....the Cruise Director was the loudest person I have come across in this role and seemed to shriek continuously and I won't even mention her Bingo calling! I would recommend a different shipping line in future and, preferably, with no flying involved....our flight left Gatwick at 7.15 a.m. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
As a soon to be retired married man we have traveled extensively in Europe/Scandinavia and even Russia, but I have never been on a cruise. My retired brother and his wife are old cruisers and convinced us to try a cruise. Flying has become ... Read More
As a soon to be retired married man we have traveled extensively in Europe/Scandinavia and even Russia, but I have never been on a cruise. My retired brother and his wife are old cruisers and convinced us to try a cruise. Flying has become such a hassle we decided to drive to Florida and make a side trip to see Mickey at Disney World. Then we met my brother in Ft Lauderdale at the Renaissance hotel for two nights before going to the embarkation point on the 13th. They had built a brand new terminal and had a very good check in system in place to handle the large volume of people that were going to be embarking and disembarking as the ship arrived at 7 that morning and was scheduled to start embarking at 2 that afternoon. The loading went quite well with very little crowding as they only allowed a limited amount of people on the gang plank at a time with no jam ups. (Trust me when I say they had a good system for you would not believe the jam ups I've been in at airports,bus terminal, and train stations.) There was a short wait to get to our cabins as this was a repositioning cruise and the ship had to go through customs and that slowed everything down. So we went and had a late lunch while we waited and in a short while our cabins were ready. So as not to belabor all of the things we did on this cruise I will take one point at a time. Our room stewards were exceptional they catered to our every need with only 1 hiccup which was not their fault. The cabin was more then I expected and I wish I could have gotten that bed in my suitcase. I've never slept so comfortably as in that bed. The bathroom was compact, the shower was quite roomy. The little perks that went with paying a little bit more were well worth the extra cost. (Hint) If you go cheap you get what you pay for and if you get a upgrade count your blessings We ate dinner in three of the specialty restaurants, and the rest of the time we ate in the main dining room. All of the specialty restaurants had fabulous food and were well worth the extra cost. The main dining room was more formal and the food was exceptional except for the Lobster. The Ocean View Cafe was awesome the food variety was exceptional,and plentiful. the food was well prepared and very well presented. The whole cafe was kept spotlessly clean and everywhere you looked they were cleaning. The spa was very well run the staff was courteous, professional and well trained. We used their services and the spa like everything else was kept spotlessly clean. There were numerous activities and entertainment opportunities everyday if you were so inclined. Or you could just lay around one of three pools and eat eat eat. Or drink drink drink. We took tours in San Juan and St Martin. They were fun and informative so next time I can skip them and just do a little shopping and laying around in the sun. The on board shopping opportunities were numerous , Just ask my wife. She bought me something to. :) I think the days at sea were the most enjoyable, most people try to crowd everything into to little time and they lose the enjoyment of the moment. I have found that having worked almost every day for most of my adult life that these vacation moments are to be enjoyed,cherished to the fullest. So saying it simply what do I want to do on vacation, nothing, Lay in the sun read a book and do nothing. We took the early disembarking and it worked out well.To wrap it all up as I first mentioned I have traveled abroad a lot. I've flown in every size plane and even jumped out of some. Rode trains at 100mph and on trains that had wooden benches. Tour buses that had no air conditioning or died every time It had to stop.But I have never been so well treated or fed or pampered as I have on this cruise and I blame you people in the cruise industry, you have done such a good job doing what you do that everyone expects everything to be perfect. You are not perfect but you are very very close. We are going to Dustin Florida in spring, Spain in the summer and we have booked our next cruise on the Celebrity ship Equinox in the late fall. HAPPY CRUISEING Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was my first cruise and I was afraid that I would get sea sick, as I get motion-sickness easily. I was very pleased to find that I didn't have an issue at all! The food was average. I always walked away full. However, at ... Read More
This was my first cruise and I was afraid that I would get sea sick, as I get motion-sickness easily. I was very pleased to find that I didn't have an issue at all! The food was average. I always walked away full. However, at the end of the trip I was looking forward to going home and eating something delicious. Desserts at the buffet were not my idea of what a dessert should be (two thumbs down). The staff was so very nice and helpful. The ship seemed very clean and I was pleased with my room. We didn't take any of the excursions. We are used to traveling and we decided to do our own thing. However I heard from an American couple that some of the English speaking excursions were canceled. I felt as if the entertainment was for older people. I watched more TV on the ship than I do at home. Which oddly enough I was fine with, it was somewhat relaxing. One thing that I found annoying was the people on the ship. They constantly tried to cut in front of you. They had no idea how to stand in line. Im sure its just a culture thing, but it was irritating. My major complaint is that we had two stops in Turkey during Feast of Sacrifice which is a major holiday and lasts four days. Lots of places were closed including the Grand Bizarre and the Spice Bizarre. I felt a little ripped off due to this. Why even have two stops in a county where places are going to be closed? No apologies for this or anything. Luckily, Ive been to Turkey already... On these nights we boarded the ship early. Ive decided that I will go on a cruise again. Overall my experience was pleasant. But Im not sure if Ill go on another Costa Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We travelled as a party of 4 adults, a couple, sister and cousin age range from 40 to 56. Of the the group 3 have cruise before with Thompson, but was a bit worried about the reviews. Arriving at Marco Polo airport Venice we found ... Read More
We travelled as a party of 4 adults, a couple, sister and cousin age range from 40 to 56. Of the the group 3 have cruise before with Thompson, but was a bit worried about the reviews. Arriving at Marco Polo airport Venice we found our transfer with ease, the problem was when we went to board the Costa Serena, that was our thought we did not listen that you had to wait for your number to be called, but it would help if they had a bigger sign with the number on and also give you printed information before your departure, so that you know what to expect. Once going through the boarding stage there were still more wall to wall of people. Once on board welcome, we asked where do you go to the cabin, yes and pointed to the lifts. We knew our deck and cabin number, but had to ask if the cabins were open. After that we found our cabins. The Cabins had plenty of space for clothes and a nice double bed, singles in the other cabin, much more room than on Thompson destiny. The cabin we found out did have a lot of virbration, we at the back of the ship, But we found sent us off to sleep. The cabin was spotless and our cabin steward very helpful. The ship overall was lovely, not as bright as we had seen in the photos. We found is quite easy to get around, yes we did go the wrong way at times. On our first day we been to the cabin, we went to bar in reception, still busy with people, drinks are expensive. I had house white wine which was 4.50 euros , but between 4 and 6 its buy one get free, larger was more expensive as it just bigger than half a pint. Spirts and soft drink was about 10 euros. We decided not to go to put money on your account, as it stated you could do this within 48 hours, then just go to reception. Warning they only take credit cards, not debit. Then we went to dinner, I check with my sister before hand we were all book for the the first sitting, but we had the first, they had the second. So another long wait sorting this out, eventually given a table for four. The food was small portions, but lovely, none of us complained. The Buffet on the other hand was like a cattle market at breakfast and lunch, if you could find a table, then you had to clear it yourself. By the time one of your party had some food, the other had eaten, they were no sauces to go with food, just a nightmare. We ended up ordering room service for breakfast for a service charge of 2 euros, well worth, then you can go up to the late sleepers buffet, not much choice, but at least you had something to eat. Entertainment, well Strictly Come Dancing, which was great to watch and join in once. If you love dancing like this which I wish I could do, learn some dances before you go on board and you will love it. They did have the Italian version of Butlins, but what cruises do not do that now days. Need to have more mordern music on board, disco only for teens. Bingo cost 20 Euros pp, need to lower the Jackpot and price of tickets more people would have a go, im not a bingo person. Casino, min bet too expensive. Bar and waiting staff quite good. Kids everywhere, but did not bother us. Would I recommed this ship, in certain ways yes, for the difference, we enjoyed ourselves, but never met any English speaking guess. As for the ports, going back on the ship at Bari was a nightmare, and by the way they did take the bottle of whisky I brought in the port. At all ports do you own thing, there are plenty of taxis, we only went on one excursion in Istanbul to the Blue Mosque cost 52 euros for 4 hours.. We ended up not going back to the bus for the ship, did a detour had lunch and a lot of walking, but saw a differnt peaceful side of Istanbul. The Spa was lovely paid 39 Euros for the day, it gave you access to the baths, steam rooms, tea and tanning room and relaxation area. Towels and robes were provided. Only one other niggle when it was the sea day the Ceres sit down buffet was closed, so yet again another nightmare at the buffet on deck 9. Hope you found this helpful Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
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
We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed. Having read some of the previous reviews I went ... Read More
We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed. Having read some of the previous reviews I went expecting lots of negatives but these were totally unfounded. From arrival to departure everything was well organised and the comfort of the passengers was always of primary importance - at least it felt that way. On arrival the terminal in Venice we were handed some numbers and our bags taken from us. We waited about an hour to board but there were drinks available and we were given the opportunity to decide which drinks packages to have - we had tried to buy the X1 card but had left it too late! These cards need to be bought 14 days before the cruise. As soon as we stepped on the ship we were approached by someone who heard us speak English to explain that there would be a meeting to explain things to us and who gave us the time and place and then directed us to our cabins. The cabins were immaculate and well laid out. We had booked relatively late and we had inside cabins but they were fine. As a previous reviewer stated we all slept exceptionally well. Being on the 9th level turned out to be a real bonus for granny as the buffet was on this level for breakfast and lunch. The food was great and plentiful. The Italians were quite pushy - no queuing in their culture obviously - but it wasn't a problem. They piled their plates high but there was never a shortage of anything for the rest of us. We ate lunch once in the restaurant but then discovered it spoilt our appetite for dinner so we didn't do it again. We discovered late in the week that there was different foods in different parts of the buffet, but again the kids were happy with the pizza and the rest of us were happy with the pasta of the day and salad. There was always plenty of fresh fruit available. The English speaking hostess was really informative and available each day for any problems. She hosted a drinks party for English speaking clients on the 2nd night, sadly not many of us turned up but the few that did were very friendly and it was nice to have nodding acquaintances. We chose a mixture of ship and self organised excursions. Starting in Bari we took the ship's cycle tour. This was quite a giggle but not much cycling and frustrating having to listen to the guide give the explanations once in English and again in Italian. Bari itself was beautiful and could easily be walked around with the map provided by the ship. In Katakalon we used George Letsios who was fantastic (www.taxikatakolon.gr). He could only take 4 in his taxi so granny and I stayed in the town but my husband and the kids went off to Olympia and said this was the best trip they did all week. They arrived ahead of the tour buses and really enjoyed the site and visit to the museum. George then took them to a beach and for a cold drink - real ***** service. In Katakolon we wandered round the town and had a drink, bought some postcards and took pictures. The cafes on the front all had wifi (but I had left my computer behind on board although it was only 5 minutes by foot from the ship to the town I decided not to bother as I was on holiday!). There was a small beach on the left hand side of the port area with showers and shade. Also, car hire and moto hire available just at the entrance to the port. For Izmir and Istanbul we organised trips using Burak Sansal as recommended on this site. These were very expensive - it would have been cheaper to take the ship tours - but we felt that the flexibility with granny made the expense worth it. Sadly neither of these excursions lived up to expectations. The guides were very nice but when we said we didn't want to go shopping we felt a definite change in their demeanour towards us. The first guide stated from the outset that she expected a tip - we always tip and don't really need to be asked! The first port of call in Istanbul was to the spice market and when we explained that we would rather look at sites in the cool of the day and do any shopping later we were made to feel that we were clearly out of order. We lost (!) our transport in Istanbul resulting in granny having to walk quite some distance which was a bit of a strain for her. We'd asked to look at some rugs and were taken to a rug shop where the prices started at over £1000 which was way way over our price range. My husband was furious. I don't mean this to sound petty but we are really experienced independent travellers and we left Turkey feeling that we hadn't seen the best of it. In Dubrovnik we took the ship's tour to the beach. This was a bit of a faff as we had to take the tender from the ship to the town and then another boat back to the beach which was a short distance from where the ship was tendered. It was so close in fact that my kids reckoned they could swim to it! This was not worth the money (58 euros each). It included a light lunch which consisted of 4 mussels a scoop of salad and a slice of bread. The Italians had arrived with sandwiches they made at breakfast to supplement this meagre offering!! Dubrovnik looked beautiful and I wish I had heeded the advise to look around the town but I thought the kids had had enough culture by now. Leaving Dubrovnik was amazing as you sail right past the old town and cliffs. When we got to Venice the disembarkation was well organised and we dumped our bags and took the water bus down to St Marks square. This was the icing on the cake according to granny! Suzanne, our English hostess, gave lots of information on those wanting to leave their bags at left luggage and how to get to town. This was our first ever cruise and all in all was an enormous success. The kids said it was the best holiday ever. Hubby had enough going on to keep him interested. Granny was delighted that at her age she was still able to visit new places and enjoy time with her family. I was happy to have ticked off some places I'd never visited before and, of course, that everyone else was happy. The ship was huge but never felt overcrowded - the only bottlenecks were around the central areas in the evenings - there were plenty of sunbeds. The shows were varied and on the whole quite entertaining. The drinks prices were not unreasonable. We bought the soft drinks vouchers for the kids, a water and wine package for the adults, and there was always water available from a machine. My husband used the spa and a few of us used the gym - there was an age limit but both my sons used the facilities without any problem. The kids loved the slide and the pools. Granny and I found lots of shady areas to sunbathe and read our books. The staff were fantastic - really friendly and accommodating - and the ship was immaculate. We would definitely consider another holiday with Costa Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
I went on holiday with my daughter, I thoughtly enjoyed it. It was a new experience. Things that I wished I had known. 1. Do not miss the induction as they have an English speaking person telling you all about the activities ... Read More
I went on holiday with my daughter, I thoughtly enjoyed it. It was a new experience. Things that I wished I had known. 1. Do not miss the induction as they have an English speaking person telling you all about the activities and when they are in English. 2. Buy the drinks vouchers and the soft drink vouchers, I tend to drink alot of soft drinks and I wished that I had brought two lots. 3.Do not leave your cocktail glass that you purchased, dirty in your room you do not get it back. 4. Do not buy the spa treatments before the trip, they have specials. 5. I booked nearly all the excursions, they was good very expensive and some was not necessary. 6. The Italians do not queue. 7. The nightlife was all Italian DJ and songs. Upload some films and music on your ipods 8. TV was in Italian. Reading back it sounds very negative but it was not, we met up with some lovely people on our table, they put all the English speaking people together. The guide excursion was in English. The staff spoke English. My room was an inside state room, but the sea air made us sleep. The spa was to die for, I brought a ticket to attend the spa. Read Less
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 July 2009
I have read many reviews on this web site about this ship and this literary, many complaining, I am now able to write my own experiences and I have no idea what ship the moaners were on.   Costa Serena is a smashing ship it has a ... Read More
I have read many reviews on this web site about this ship and this literary, many complaining, I am now able to write my own experiences and I have no idea what ship the moaners were on.   Costa Serena is a smashing ship it has a great atmosphere and amazing staff, they all seemed to speak English we did not feel that customer services or any other department had a problem with English; there is even an English speaking host on the ship although we had no need for her in any way.   Venice terminal is not like Southampton , its in Italy and our foreign friends do things differently to us , but we had no problems it was smooth and well organized, but it was not Southampton,   The ship was spotless and we had no problems with food, the buffet, long queues rude Italians or anything else. Look do your self a favor if you a typical  p and o cruiser who like to tut a lot and hates Johnny foreigner then don't go , but if your someone who likes to feel they have left dear old blighty for their holidays, then kill to get on board. If you want fun then get on board. There were loads of kids on board and they were fine we had no problems with excessive noise or kids running riot. All the moaners who have written other reviews must have lost the plot. There we places on board where you could find silence, we stuck to the main pool down by the buffet, yes it was busy, but there was loads going on, you could watch all the folks learning the latest euro dances, you could do stretch exercises or work outs and the buffet was a few steps away as well as a real nice bar.   Most days we had breakfast up here and lunch but every evening we had dinner in the main restaurant and our waiters Joel and Brian could not have been better. The gala night was fun and the Italian night even better I wont spoil if for you.  The shows were really good, and we even had a treat of a magician who was outstanding, the crew show was also really good.   We spent most nights in the grand bar where there was some sort of madness every night; the animation team were brilliant and made the whole trip such fun. .   Costa represents great value for money and there were guests from all over the world , I hated leaving the ship and if I could go again tomorrow I would , I would recommend this ship to anyone one without reserve, unless you a  tutter or someone who wants English beer and Sharon shouting oi Tracey to all her mates. I did not see one drunk, I did not hear anyone calling to their mates, and I had the time of my life.   The ports of call were stunning and everything worked like clockwork, this is one slick operation and Costa deserves to get some recognition of the great product they provide.   I could go on here for another 10 pages explaining it all but I am sure that would be boring, I have been on several cruise ships and I am so very pleased I picked Costa for this year's holiday it was just perfect. Please ignore the other moaners, its not pizza in the buffet, it's a wide mix of food; the afternoon tea is great with all the beautiful cakes. I wish they would have had baked beans for breakfast but that's it.   I don't see how you can not go on this ship, it's simply the best. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Just finished my first cruise with Costa. Have a lot of impressions to share. First, the best thing about Costa is the price. Because my wife and I have 3 kids, we have to book two rooms. This seems to be standard across the industry (no ... Read More
Just finished my first cruise with Costa. Have a lot of impressions to share. First, the best thing about Costa is the price. Because my wife and I have 3 kids, we have to book two rooms. This seems to be standard across the industry (no more than 4 to a room). So with Costa, we could afford to book two rooms for the family. We were 5 of the 48 Americans on Board (out of 3500 total on board) and we never met another one during the 8 days. So if you're going with the expectation of meeting people or socializing, get cozy with the cabin stewards (who speak English well), or learn Italian. No attempt was made to introduce us to any of the other English speakers. If you've traveled around Spain, France, and Italy, you know that people don't "queue" like they do in the UK and the US. Generally, people crowd around a counter and let "survival of the fittest" rule. Not a complaint, just the way it is. You have to decide for yourself if you want to be on a ship with 2000 passengers who don't like to wait in line. Also, leave your sense of personal space behind. I move through a buffet line pretty quickly, but I still had people close enough to be sharing my clothes and breathing down my neck. My advice is to get to the buffet at least 30 minutes before the crowd hits, and everyone seems to behave themselves. I wouldn't wish noon at the buffet on anyone. Dinner is more relaxing, with decent food served lukewarm. I'm not sure how long in advance the food was prepared. Main courses were generally competent, but the appetizers were hit or miss generally miss. Pasta courses are excellent. Desserts were definitely phoned-in. Their idea of a "sundae" is a scoop of ice cream with a cracker in it. I give them full marks for being able to recycle the same ingredients night after night with different descriptions. Which is the real problem with the food You just get sick of eating the same things after a few days. Smoke is everywhere, but you get used to it. Then again if smoke is a problem, don't vacation in Europe. Costa tries to make back their money on beverages. They are constantly selling booklets of tickets for (a) water (b) coffee (c) non-alcoholic beverages (d) wine. Those are all separate booklets. The plan seems to be to get you to buy these booklets and hope that you (1) don't use them all, or (2) forget to have them on your person at all times. More than once, I had to run back to the room to get the tickets so my kids could get juice at dinner. Once, they gave out free soft drinks for 30 minutes, and listed it as an "event" on the daily calendar. You will also get your picture taken a lot on the cruise. They are hoping you will spend 15 euro to buy it after it is posted on the wall in the main lounge. For example, you will get your picture taken every time you leave the boat, during the lifeboat drill, just about every night at dinner, etc. Cabins are huge and comfortable. Great shower. Lots of room for clothes. Ugly, ugly, ugly decor. It amazes me that they built the ship in 2007 and chose the "Miami Vice" color scheme. Cabin Service is outstanding. Even when my kids trashed a room, they cleaned it up perfectly. Costa hires a lot of non-Europeans for the service work, and they are the stars of the show. The American and European staff is mediocre, and I generally had the feeling they'd rather be somewhere else. Embarkation took forever. Disembarking was a disorganized mess (but exciting: Will I get my passport back?). As for kids on the cruise, they loved it. This is an inexpensive family cruise line, and you should expect to see a lot of families and kids. If seeing kids bothers you (as it apparently does from reading the reviews), go on an expensive cruise somewhere else. My expectations were low going into this vacation, and they were met. The saving grace of the cruise is that my kids loved it. Basically, there are parts of a cruise even Costa can't mess up the excitement of being on a big ship, visiting exotic locations, and spending a lot of time with family. All in all, this is a *perfect* cruise for kids, and it is something you would do *for* your kids. In fact, the whole experience was like spending 8 days at Disneyland take that as you will. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
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
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 November 2008
In November 2008 my wife & I made our own way to Venice to join the Costa Serena for a cruise visiting Bari, Katakolon [for Olympia], Izmir [for Ephesus], Istanbul & Dubrovnik. At Marco Polo airport the Costa staff were high ... Read More
In November 2008 my wife & I made our own way to Venice to join the Costa Serena for a cruise visiting Bari, Katakolon [for Olympia], Izmir [for Ephesus], Istanbul & Dubrovnik. At Marco Polo airport the Costa staff were high profile & extremely helpful even though we were not using their transport. They assisted relabeling our luggage for getting it to our cabin & told us where to catch the bus to Piazza Roma & where we would find the shuttle bus that would take us to the ship. For a couple of euros the public bus delivered us to Piazza Roma right at the link with the Costa shuttle bus. It takes around half an hour from the airport. The shuttle bus then delivered us to the port where it was a bit confusing as the signage was not particularly clear as to where to deposit the luggage. Costa staff again were helpful & once we located the spot to deliver our luggage it was effectively dealt with leaving us the rest of the day to explore Venice. We were told it would be better to embark later as when the embarkation starts there tends to be a rush. We returned around 4pm [the ship sailed at 6pm] & embarked without any hassle. The large hall had various stands offering opportunities to purchase various packages....... wine, water, excursions, etc. We purchased a wine package on the assurance that we could swap the red wines for white as my wife is unable to drink red wine. However, we were not informed that at the table you can purchase carafes of white or red wine for around 8 euros. Still the wine & water deal was not a bad one, equating to what I would have paid at a restaurant in London. The Costa brochure, & notices displayed in the hall pointed out that no food or drink could be taken aboard but this was enforced haphazardly as the couple ahead of us went aboard with the see-through plastic carrier laden with spirits, whilst later during the cruise other passengers had their Turkish Delight impounded & returned at the end of the trip! We were left to find our own way to our cabin which we did find after a few false starts! There were lots of staff around but nobody actually took you to your cabin as has been the case on other cruise companies. A good buffet lunch was available on embarkation day! The cabin [inside on deck 7] was perfect. Spotlessly clean, fairly spacious and more than enough cupboard space. Our stewardess, Jannet [yes it did have two "n"s] was a gem and kept our cabin marvellously clean. Towels, sheets, etc were crisp & each night she laid out a different pattern on our bed! The only downer in regard to the cabin was the TV which had quite a few channels but really only the BBC World News in English. I'm sure that this could be improved! The ship itself was also kept spotlessly clean but the decor, especially the huge figurines were tasteless! They must have cost a bomb but they really do the ship no service. Rip them out, please! There were enough lifts & we never had to wait long. The layout of the decks prevented you walking from end to end on all decks but using the maps provided you soon got the hang of it. The daily news letter gave full details of activities & events & was delivered to out cabin nightly. All the public areas well extremely well maintained & hosted by very friendly staff. However, the absence of Officer staff was noticeable. Entertainment was very good........knocked spots off the previous company I had cruised with. The theatre was large and we never had to struggle for a seat. Watching the daytime activities.......dancing lessons, exercises, etc did bring a smile to one's face! The bar were attractive but the prices, especially the 15% service charge did not go down well! Whilst the prices were not different from a London restaurant-bar I'm sure that a price reduction would secure increased purchases! Likewise the minimum bets in the casino for blackjack was high [5 euro minimum] & there was nobody around to give prospective punters a learning lesson. For roulette yes but for blackjack no! Lower the minimum bet......it is more expensive than Las Vegas! The pool areas needed some attention as the staff did not enforce rules preventing young children from using some pools & the jacuzzis. Also, the temperature really needed to be turned up for the jacuzzis as they were quite cool! There were more than enough beds & towels to go around. An added feature on the open deck were blankets that one could wrap up in to keep warm when it got chilly. We were allocated the Ceres Restaurant & we could not fault the staff at our late dinner sitting. Costa arranged it so our table of 8 were all English speakers & we all got on very well. If you wanted an extra dessert you just had to ask & you got it! The service & food was A1.........the only thing missing was a lobster dinner which seemed to have been a tradition on other cruises. The portions were not large but they didn't need to be when you are having 6 or 7 courses! They certainly were very tasty! Instead of purchasing bottle water do ask for a jug which is equally as good and free! The buffet on Deck 9 restaurant was also very good with themed days [Mexican, Greek, etc] & there always seemed to be pizza & pasta available at all times! Free coffee & tea was also available at the buffet restaurant & it was amusing to watch people filling up flasks to take back to their cabins! Occasionally there was a slow clear-rate of soiled crockery but it was liveable! My gripe would be with breakfast & lunch. For both we chose the restaurant to avoid a buffet scenario. For both we were not able to choose where we wanted to sit but were directed by staff to fill up tables. Service was invariably slow & the staff not as friendly as the dedicated staff at dinner! Breakfast was a mix of waiter service & buffet & very noisy. It was disappointing as had we wanted buffet we could have used the buffet restaurant on Deck 9. All the orders were served at once so I got porridge, eggs, kippers, etc all at the same time. The waiters seemed not to want to do table service and encouraged / expected you to use the buffet! Whoever is in charge here needs to address this problem as it lets the ship down! We had people going hither & thither all around us which did not do for a relaxing breakfast! Lunch was waiter service but slow & with no choice of seating. This certainly could be improved! We tolerated the photographers who appeared at dinner with various contraptions taking pictures which were not easily located in the mass of photos displayed in the photo shop & which were not cheap! The Captain's Reception in the theatre was bit boring but the lavish distribution of free glasses of sparkling wine or fruit juice more than made up for it! We did not purchase any of the excursions as we did them ourselves. Bari, Dubrovnik & Istanbul are easy to do by yourself. The towns are easily accessible from the dock & unless you want a speedy guided tour skip the organised excursion. At Dubrovnik the ship docked rather than the tender as per brochure, & you need to spent the 6 euros for the bus to get into the city, it is too far to walk. At Istanbul there is a tram stop fairly close to the dock which drops you right by the Blue Mosque. In Turkey you will need Turkish currency as most shops, tourist sites, cafes, etc will not accept euros or credit cards! We used an ATM to draw out Turkish lira. For the trip the fare was very cheap & the entrance token can be purchased at the tram stop but you need lira! For Olympia & Ephesus we disembarked as early as possible & got a taxi. At both places it cost 100 euros which equated to the excursion price but it did mean that we were able to stop off as & when we pleased, were one step ahead of the large ship parties, and could spend as much time as we wanted admiring any thing we wanted to. Had we organised it better we could have got another couple to share the taxi with us & then the cost would have halved for us. Still, it was enjoyable. A tip for disembarkation: get to the place early so you get off the ship ahead of the others. Regarding the large amount of passengers aboard the embarkation, etc processes went well. When embarking it's advisable to pack any food or drink purchases out of sight just in case the security guy impounds it to the end of the trip! And yes, in most ports you can buy water at a fraction of the price you pay on the ship! We bought ours & stored it in the mini bar so that it was nice & cold when we wanted a drink. I am sure that you could do the same with beers, juices, etc! Being an Italian liner the announcements were first in Italian. It was bit of a bore having to wait for the English version, which did seem much shorter, but then having cruised on another Italian line it didn't bother me too much! On the whole it was a good trip & I would recommend it to prospective travellers. Improvements in the areas suggested would make the ship ever better! Bon voyage! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This review is intended primarily for Americans and other English-speakers who are planning a Costa Cruise or perhaps another cruise departing from Venice. I will try to include information and tips that I found useful and other ... Read More
This review is intended primarily for Americans and other English-speakers who are planning a Costa Cruise or perhaps another cruise departing from Venice. I will try to include information and tips that I found useful and other information discovered through experience that I would have found useful. My wife Nancy and I are frequent European travelers and have taken a number of Mediterranean cruises (large ship) and river cruises (small ship). This was our first non-English speaking cruise but language was not a problem as all of the Serena crew (many of whom are Filipino) speak English. Since Costa is an Italian cruise line Italian was the primary language and the passenger distribution was mostly Italian who probably made up at least half of the approximately 3,800 passengers. English speakers accounted for about 350 passengers made up of Americans, British, and quite a few from Hong Kong. Most of the other passengers consisted of German, French, and Spanish speakers. We chose the Serena Eastern Med cruise because of the itinerary which included Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey. We booked the cruise with an on-line cruise company which we have used before and who was able to secure us a small discount above the best price offered by on-line booking directly with the cruise line. We booked cruise only and booked our own flight arrangements from Washington Dulles to Venice Marco Polo. We departed on Thursday for a Sunday sailing from Venice because we wanted a couple days to explore Venice prior to departure and also to ensure that we didn't miss the sailing because of a flight mishap. This was our first visit to Venice and it was a treat (http://europeforvisitors.com/venice/ was a great help to me as was the Rick Steve's guide to Venice). We stayed at the Olympia Hotel right across a canal from the Piazzale Roma (if you drive from the mainland to island of Venice this is where you leave the car or bus and switch to water transportation). The Olympia was perfect for easy access to the cruise terminal for our departure. Hotels near the Piazzale Roma are easy to access from Marco Polo airport via the ATVO bus service and less expensive than hotels near the Piazza San Marco. The ATVO ticket counter is in the airport terminal after you clear passport control and you catch the bus on the traffic island in front of the terminal for a half-hour ride to Piazzale Roma. You can see the Hotel Olympia from the bus stop - about a hundred-yard walk across the canal. The location is also convenient to ATMs (you need Euros in Venice) and to the vaporetto stop (public waterbus - think London tube on the water or use a water taxi if you're more into limo-priced transportation). Buy a 24, 48, or 72-hour unlimited pass for the vaporetto, which you must swipe across a terminal each time you board. Our favorites in Venice were: Piazza San Marco (Basilica di San Marco, and Palazzo Ducale), Gallerie del'Accademia, Rialto bridge, Frari church, and wandering the back alleys, small canals, and squares. Costa provides a free shuttle bus from the Piazzale Roma on the afternoon of sailing. The bus takes you to the Maritime terminal beside the ship where you will go through some cattle-car crowds and lines to check your luggage, register and board the ship. Boarding started at 1:30 and ended at 5:00 for a 6:00pm embarkation; we boarded at about 3:30 and were able to miss a lot of the initial crush of boarding passengers. Get used to the fact that, culturally, Italians appear to have no concept of queuing in line or waiting in turn for service or entry. This was frustrating for the various Brits, Germans and Americans who do wait in line for their turn. The Costa staff, who are mostly Italian, also seem oblivious to passengers who are waiting their turn and serve first whoever crowds to the front. Just get used to it, ignore personal space issues, and crowd forward with everyone else and you'll save yourself some frustration. Expect the same routine in buffet lines, customer service desk and anywhere there's a crowd. The Serena is a huge ship and not always easy to navigate from fore to aft when searching for a specific location but if you go to one of the passenger decks or deck 5 you can actually get from the bow to the stern. Our cabin, 7441, was on the starboard (right side of the ship) side near the stern. It was a spacious cabin with queen-size bed (high enough to stow suitcases under bed), couch, table, bathroom with shower stall, plenty of closet space and balcony with two chairs and a table. Our experience was that cabin steward and wait staff in the dining room were very attentive and excelled at providing whatever was wanted. We opted for the X-1 prepaid drink package (unlimited wine, beer and mineral water by-the-glass at dinner and lunch) which is about $14/person/day and we thought it to be a good value. At the first dinner in the dining room I tipped the waiter and advised him that there would be another tip at the end of the cruise and every night there were two bottles of wine (red and white) and a bottle of mineral water waiting at our table. For lunches we picked out an area near the buffet lunch and a bar where befriending the bar tender resulted in similar service for as many drinks by-the-glass as we wanted. The only drawback to the X-1 package is that the prepaid package is good only during meals in the dining room and at bars near the buffet areas and you may miss out on bar hopping the many other bars where drinks are pricey. I learned of the X-1 package from other Cruise Critic reviews (it is not to be found on Cost's web site and appears not to be advertised) I had the cruise booking company arrange it with Costa. Meals were good consisting of the following courses: appetizer, soup, pasta, entrEe, salad, cheese, and dessert - each course has several choices and you order as many or few as you like. If you are disappointed with a dish your waiter will bring you a different choice. The meals are comparable to what you would find in real Italian restaurants and are not geared to American tastes although there are always substitute dishes available such as steak or seafood (this is probably not your Mom's cooking). Because this was a short cruise and there were port calls on six of the seven days, we didn't use the exercise facility, jogging track or participate in much of the activities/entertainment which are conducted primarily in Italian. Here are some personal thoughts on the ports of call: On our cruise the Serena docked at all ports but sometimes in Katakolon and Dubrovnik the ship anchors off shore and tenders ferry passengers ashore which could present a bottleneck. We booked Costa tours in Izmir and Istanbul, you may find less expensive alternatives but you will want to make sure you get back to the ship on time. BARI, ITALY - small town, skip the tours and walk it yourself to see the fort and Basilica St Nicolas. KATAKOLON, GREECE - another small town, enjoy the shopping on foot or take a tour to Olympia, site of the original Olympics. We walked the town and had a fine time. IZMIR, TURKEY - Turkey's third largest city, we took a tour of Izmir museums and the ancient agora ruins and skipped the tour to Ephesus. Don't bother exchanging currency, Euros or Dollars work fine in Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Great city take a tour because there is too much to see on your own unless you already know what you want. Some highlights are: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia museum, grand bazaar, and Topkapi palace museum. DUBROVNIK, CROATIA - another small town, Costa provided shuttle bus service for a fee to the walled Old Town where you will want to go. Skip the tours and explore by foot, and don't miss walking the fortress wall which will provide some serious exercise as well as spectacular views. We found the Serena cruise to be a good value and enjoyable vacation that provided all that we expected, and our stay in Venice exceeded expectations. steve & nancy Read Less
Sail Date November 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
Having just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Costa Serena I felt that I should pass on a few words of warning to fellow cruisers. This was my first (and last) cruise with Costa and I have cruised with Celebrity, Princess and Royal ... Read More
Having just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Costa Serena I felt that I should pass on a few words of warning to fellow cruisers. This was my first (and last) cruise with Costa and I have cruised with Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean several times. This is the first time I have returned from a cruise feeling disappointed with the product I received. There were 700 British passengers on the ship and those we met during the course of the cruise and on the flight home had similar complaints to those I have set out below. Embarkation: We used the free shuttle bus to get to the port. Once we arrived at the dock side there were no porters or Costa reps to assist with luggage or to point us in the right direction. This resulted in us (and many other passengers) walking into the embarkation hall to discover that we had to double back on ourselves down to the ground floor and past the bus to drop off our luggage. The whole embarkation process is a farce with some people waiting around for their number to be called for 3 hours. Costa seem to have created an disorganized and ineffective embarkation procedure which has resulted in passengers queuing to embark the ship, then having to queue again to register a credit card. They do not operate a system which links your photo to your cruise card which means you have to carry your passport around with you when you are in port in order for you to get back on the ship! The Serena: This was far from the best ship we have been on. The layout doesn't seem to work, with Deck 5 being the only deck which you can walk from one end of the ship to the other. We've never felt so disorientated on a ship - you have to walk up and down stairs to get to where you want to go. The facilities on board are only just adequate for the number of passengers on board and we often felt that the ship wasn't really big enough for everybody on board. That said it is a clean and bright ship. Cabin: The cabins are clean and of a good size. We were in a Cat 5 inside and it was comparable to other cabins we have stayed in previously. Considering the ship is only a year old the cabins are a slightly older style to what we have experienced on other ships. Food: Food is usually the highlight of a cruise but not with Costa. The selection available for breakfast is unsatisfactory. On the first morning we visited the Ceres Restaurant for table service to discover that it was only the very limited choice of hot food which was served to the table with a buffet of cereals, breads etc in the centre of the restaurant. We ordered some items from the menu, only to wait for over an hour for them to arrive. The buffet is repetitive and doesn't cope well with the number of people passing through. There were often plates left on tables and empty spaces on the serving sections waiting to be filled. The menu for dinner was average and the food was hit and miss. We didn't have an evening where each course was of a good standard but some of the courses, though tasty, were nothing special. Overall the quality of the food was not comparable to what we have had on other cruise lines and was more comparable to an average 3* hotel. One thing they do get right however is the pizza, but then you can't live on pizza for a week! Service: The standard of service is mixed. We got the impression that the staff aren't as well looked after as they are perhaps on other cruise lines and maybe this shows in the level of service they deliver. The cabin steward, waiters, and bar staff did an excellent job and worked really hard. However, the staff at the Customer Services desk were not particularly courteous as well as some of the other general staff you see around the ship. The personal touch was somehow lacking with no 'good mornings' etc. Entertainment: There's not much to say about the entertainment as there wasn't much entertaining on board. The best entertainment was the waiters singing and dancing during dinner service in the restaurant. Some of the entertainment was only delivered in Italian and was not inclusive of the other nationalities on board. The piano and keyboard players in one of the bars played the same set every night and not much seemed to happen in the lounges. Smoking and behavior on board: There does not appear to be an enforced smoking policy which means that smoking seems to be allowed anywhere on board. Not good if you are non-smokers like us. There were groups of teenagers on the ship who would run around with no challenges from staff. This was sometimes dangerous in the buffet for example where people were walking around with hot drinks. Advice: If you haven't cruised before I wouldn't recommend Costa as it will give you the wrong impression of what cruising is about. Equally, if you have cruised with any other cruise line before you will likely be disappointed with Costa. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We were pleasantly surprised by our cruise on the Costa Serena - particularly after reading the reviews on this site. We found the cruise to be extremely relaxing, fun and Costa Serena's crew to be fantastic. We chose this cruise ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised by our cruise on the Costa Serena - particularly after reading the reviews on this site. We found the cruise to be extremely relaxing, fun and Costa Serena's crew to be fantastic. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the cost, we believe that it was excellent value and a wonderful experience. The Costa Serena was launched in 2007, whilst being relatively new the decor in the ship was a little loud (think Las Vegas casino) however after a few days we got used to it. Serena is a huge ship. our cruise was at capacity so there were about 3700 guests and over 1100 crew on board but the ship was spacious and we could find quiet places on board. There were about 1000 native english speaking passengers on the cruise and to be honest, I felt that many of the people I spoke to were being overly critical of the cruise, in particular many of them complaining that nobody on the cruise spoke english and there were too many Italians (it is an Italian cruise ship and it embarks in Italy - I don't know what they were expecting). I speak Italian and did not hear Italians complaining about any aspect of the cruise. The positives of this cruise were: A new ship - well maintained and very spacious. Staff - all members of staff that I dealt with were multilingual and spoke english (and Italian) very well, the staff were willing and able to assist, they were enthusiastic and extremely polite. Itinerary - we visited some beautiful places including Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik and the Mediterranean itself was very calm. Value for money - we got this cruise at a huge discount so we found it to be great value for money - make sure you shop around for a great deal. Extremely relaxing - we were able to find quiet places in the ship to relax Nice cabin - we had an inner cabin and it was spacious enough and was always well maintained, the balcony rooms looked wonderful Good food - the food was italian in style, lots of pasta, pizza etc but there were other types of food available reflecting the food of the port of call, some dishes in the restaurant were not particularly good but overall it was of a high standard and lots of food was available. Entertainment - overall we thought the night time entertainment was of a high standard particularly the singers in the main theatre. Activities - there was always something to do on board, dance lessons, games to play etc. The activities were run well by enthusiastic staff. Drinks packages - good value drink packages (wine and water, soda, water, espresso coffee) were available to be purchased prior to departure (and apparently on board), we found these to be good value. Quality of shore excursions: We went on 2 shore excursions (Ephesus, Olympia) as these two locations were about 45 mins to 1 hour away from the port. We found the tour guides to be professional, informative and the locations of the shore excursions very interesting. Please note that the ports of all the cities were within walking distance of the city centre, therefore you do not need to go on a shore excursion if you just want to visit the city that the boat is docked in. Special price for laundry service: 2 days before the end of the cruise a special laundry offer was made 20 euros for 25 items of clothing, it was a great service and fantastic value. Low points of the cruise: 3 small pools: The pools were small and were often crowded General rules were not adhered to by all passengers: Many passengers would wear only their bathing suits into the buffet area even though this was not permitted, children would go into the adult pools, children would ride elevators without supervision etc. Staff did not enforce the rules which was somewhat annoying. Crowded buffet areas: To be expected with this many people on board but still frustrating. My recommendation is if the buffet is extremely busy go to the restaurant for breakfast or lunch. Scantily clad sunbathers: This is not something that we were used to but it seems to be a european thing (I don't just mean Italians, lots of British people did not cover up either), it was somewhat off putting. Expensive shore excursions: The shore excursions were quite expensive particularly the ones that toured the city that we docked in e.g. Istanbul, Izmir, Bari, Dubrovnik. Announcements were made in 5 languages this can get a bit frustrating. There is no getting around this and it does happen in public areas (you can escape from it in your room). Children: There are lots of families on this cruise with children of all ages. Some children do participate in Squak Club (children's club) activities during the day and others don't, there is no getting around this. I suggest that people chill out a bit and tune the children out because you can't do anything about it. Katakolon: The town of Katakolon is not very interesting, it is a small town which focuses on tourism. I really suggest that you take an excursion at this port (or be willing to pay at least 50 euros for a taxi to the beach, 100 euros to Olympia) and see something nearby. Overall this was a great cruise, we would love to go on the Costa Serena again. 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
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
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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