My husband and I have taken many cruises, (and quite a few with Costa) in the past, and we have always been impressed with the cruise line, its staff, and the services provided. We belonged to Costa’s Loyalty program, and were quite high up due to our numerous cruises. We also have been Carnival Shareholders for a number of years.
Never before have we been so disappointed in a cruise or a cruise company! Our daughter (who traveled with us) was appalled how awful the treatment (and lack of services) was. We were let down and embarrassed to say that we had previously recommended Costa to friends and family.
First, upon embarkation, we learned that our status on Costa’s loyalty program had been reduced significantly. While we had previously been almost at the top tier of the program, we were informed that our status had dropped down to the basic tier. Any perks we had accumulated were lost. We were told that this had happened because we hadn’t cruised with Costa for three years. A demotion such as this has never occurred with any of the other cruise lines that we have sailed with.
At dinner the first night, we were informed by our waiter that if we wanted to drink water during our meal, we would have to purchase it. We told the waiter that we were comfortable with tap water, but he insisted that tap water was unavailable. He explained that if we wanted to drink water with our meal, we would have to purchase mineral water. This is ludicrous as we have never had to pay for water on a cruise.
On the first evening of our trip, we were not served coffee or tea after dinner, nor were we asked if we wanted any. Seeking some coffee, we proceeded to the buffet to obtain some. Once there, I noticed that there were no coffee or hot water machines. I asked a waiter in the buffet area where the coffee was, and was told that there was none available (and if I wanted coffee, I would have to “purchase” it). Once again we were amazed. All cruise lines that we had cruised on (except Costa) have, at a minimum, hot coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available complimentary throughout the day.
We went to the reception area to speak to Guest Services. Upon asking for clarification about the above issues, a very disrespectful customer services associate us that our status had been downgraded because of not cruising with Costa for a period time. She also told us that we would have to pay for water during meals and that if we wanted coffee it would have to be purchased (except at breakfast and tea time when it was free).
My husband explained that, in the future, to circumvent the water/coffee situation, we would fill up empty water bottles with tap water from our cabin, and bring them to the dining room for meals. He also stated that we would get several of the “complementary” cups of coffee at breakfast, bring them to our cabins, and when it was dinner time, bring them to the dining room. This would enable us to have basic beverages with our meal.
How ludicrous that Costa’s policies would force us to engage in such unusual behavior (although the customer services associate thought it was an acceptable arrangement). We were also informed that we could purchase a coffee/cappuccino package if we wanted to get hot beverages with dinner.
Having never heard of such draconian policies, we asked to speak with a manager. We were told (as did other crew members throughout the cruise) that it didn’t matter, we “would get the same response.”
After expressing that we never heard of having to pay for basic beverages on a cruise before, the associate told us this had been Costa’s practice for the last two to three years. She also stated that only food (and not beverages) was included in the price of the cruise. After we said that this wasn’t evident when we booked the cruise, she arrogantly instructed us that we should have read the contract!
Dissatisfied with this person's continued brash responses and the gross cutbacks in beverage services, we requested a meeting with the Hotel Director and left.
The next morning, we went to the dining room for breakfast. My husband ordered regular coffee, and I, decaffeinated with lactose free milk. The waiter informed me that “I” would need to go to the adjacent restaurant since the waiters there had a better understanding of food allergies. When I said that I didn’t want to eat in the adjacent restaurant while my husband was eating in the restaurant we were currently seated in, the waiter finally conceded to bring me some lactose free milk.
Next, I was brought hot water with a packet of decaf coffee on the side. To my dismay, I found that Costa does not brew decaffeinated coffee; I could only get instant. I also found that in order to get cold cereal for breakfast (while my husband was having eggs), I had to get up and get it myself from the adjacent restaurant.
Other mornings, we found the dining experience to be as bad, if not worse. Only one menu for three people was available, so we all had to take turns passing around, and sharing, the menu.
No substitutions or changes were possible, and individual preferences could not be accommodated. For example, my husband wanted eggs benedict with a hash brown. He was informed that eggs benedict did not come with a hash brown, and if he wanted one, he needed to order the English breakfast (which included one egg, bacon, sausage, beans, a mushroom, a tomato, and a hash brown). So he had to choose between getting a breakfast he didn’t want (to get the hash brown), getting eggs benedict without any hash brown, or ordering both breakfasts (just to take the hash brown from the unwanted English breakfast). What a waste of food, and a lack of individualization and flexibility when one has to order two full breakfasts just to get a hash brown.
Lactose free milk for my coffee and/or cereal was often difficult to obtain. Oftentimes, I was told that the ship did not have it (which I knew wasn’t true). Other times it took up to three requests until we were served it. It appeared that the wait staff either was unaware that lactose free milk was available, or they didn’t want to take the time to obtain it.
Wanting to make our trip a little more enjoyable, and so that we could get hot beverages, our daughter (who was on the cruise with us) decided to buy us a cappuccino package (which cost over $73). About fifteen to twenty minutes prior to dinner, she went to one of the bars (which is where she had been told to go) to order the package. This resulted in a lengthy and cumbersome experience. She wanted to personally pay for the package, but upon finding that her Costa card was linked to our credit card (as we were paying for her cruise), she was directed to Guest Services. She waited there for quite a while before being able to speak with someone.
She was subsequently apprised that her credit card (or cash) could not be accepted, and that the only way she could purchase the package for us was to take our credit card off her room charges and replace it with hers instead. Since there appeared to be a lack of flexibility, and since she was becoming quite late for dinner, she relented and asked the employee to make the switch to her card.
Thinking that she had settled the issue, she didn’t expect to be sent back to the bar to complete the transaction. Next, when she returned to the bar to make the purchase, she was informed she could not attach the package to our account, despite having previously been told she could. This then prompted another trip to Guest Services. The purchase of a cappuccino package should have been seamless and streamlined; such a transaction should be able to be accomplished in one simple trip, instead of four.
Furthermore, actually getting the cappuccino was a difficult task, fraught with unnecessary confusion. We were told by our waiter at dinner that he was unable to get us cappuccino (as he would have to leave the dining room and go to a bar to obtain it). Accordingly, if we wanted an after-dinner coffee/cappuccino (which was already pre-paid), it was unavailable in the dining room. Instead, we were informed we would have to leave the dining room and travel to a bar to get it. This was not my idea of a relaxing meal or cruise.
Many of the staff didn’t know how to process a cappuccino order at breakfast or at lunch. Some waiters were able to order three cappuccinos, and charge it (against the package we had purchased) on just one of our Costa cards. Other waiters insisted that they needed each of our three individual cards (we linked the cards together). There was much confusion on their part, and no consistency.
Our experiences with Costa only worsened. While at home, prior to the cruise, we booked shore excursions for 5 of the 6 ports, for all three of us (a total of 15 tours). At our first port, Palma de Mallorca, we found that we had a bilingual guide; we were told the tour would be explained in both Italian and English. Although the tour was interesting, we were disheartened to learn that 75% of the cruise was spoken in Italian, and only 25% spoken in English. We were not able to understand the guide 75% of the time, as none of us knew Italian. The rest of the tours we took were done in ½ English, and ½ in a foreign language (German, Spanish, and French), a major disappointment.
The shore excursion booking form that we used on line never stated that the tours would be in two languages. If we had known this, we would have booked independent tours with a reputable company, such as Viator. In addition, the “tour order form” received upon embarkation, (and also available at the Shore Excursion desk) lists seven individual languages, so that passengers can check which language they speak/understand for the appropriate tour selection. Nowhere on the form did it state that tours would be done in more than one language. On Costa’s excursions, we wasted a significant amount of time listening to foreign explanations instead of learning in our own native language.
We went to Guest Services to advise them of the difficulties we were experiencing and requested that the Hotel Director contact us. She never did. Instead, later on, the manager of Guest Services called my husband. After a lengthy discussion that didn’t resolve our concerns, she told him that she would attempt to arrange a meeting between us and Hotel Director the next day, at 6 p.m.
The next day, after not being contacted regarding whether the meeting was still on, I phoned Guest Services about at 5 p.m. to find out what the status was. I was advised that someone would get back to me. Forty-five minutes later (15 minutes prior to the pre-scheduled meeting), I called once again for confirmation. I subsequently was informed that the Hotel Director wouldn't meet with us. I still don’t understand why I, a passenger, had to attempt to confirm a meeting with upper management. Neither Guest Services (including the manager), nor the Hotel Director, bothered to confirm a tentative meeting and/or set up another date/time.
The next day, we found a bottle of champagne with a brief note from the Hotel Director in our cabin. We do not drink champagne. We would have much preferred coffee with our meals and, or at a minimum, a meeting with the Hotel Director. We returned the champagne, and never heard from the Director for the duration of our trip.
The first night of the cruise, we had requested that two daily information sheets (Diario di bordo) be delivered to our cabin each evening. Despite requesting this three times from Guest Services, not once did we get the two copies. Furthermore, we often didn’t receive even one copy until 11 p.m. (making it inconvenient to learn what time our tour the next day would start, and where we needed to meet). Several times, we stayed up late waiting for next day’s planner to be slipped under our door.
Regarding tours, we had two other major issues with the Shore Excursion Department. The first occurred after I became ill on the cruise. We had two 9 hour (all day) excursions booked for the next two days. I felt I wouldn’t be able to get a refund for the next days’ tour, but I wanted to get a refund for the tour the second day (giving over 48 hours’ notice for cancellation).
That morning, I went to the Shore Excursion desk to request a refund for the tour scheduled two days later. I was informed that it was impossible to cancel a tour and get a refund, no matter how many days’ notice I would give. On every other cruise line that we’ve travelled on, tours could be refunded (for any reason) if 24- 48 hours’ notice was given. We ultimately found that Costa could cancel one of our tours (with no penalty to Costa), but we couldn’t cancel a tour without being penalized for the total cost.
I asked to speak with the Manager of Shore Excursions (who, not unexpectedly, was unavailable). The crew member at the excursion desk took my name and cabin number, and told me he would have the manager contact me.
Late that same afternoon, we learned that the tour “Roman Treasures: Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s, the Colosseum and the Forum” (at a cost of $336 for three), booked for the next day, had been cancelled. We were informed that it was cancelled because not enough “English speaking guests” had signed up (which was unusual since all of the tours we took throughout the cruise were spoken in a foreign language 50-75% of the time). Staff from the Shore Excursion desk recommended and encouraged us to book a different tour (“Premium tour: the Vatican from the Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo to the museum and the Sistine Chapel”) instead, since it would be in English. We agreed to take the tour because the primary reason for taking this cruise was to see the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We paid a total of $379.95 (significantly more than the cost of the cancelled tour) for this replacement tour.
The next day, we took the substituted tour, and found that lunch wasn’t included. Lunch cost us about $35, so the total cost for the day was $414.95 ($379.95 + $35). This was $78.95 more than our original tour. To summarize, we wound up paying close to $80 more for a tour that we really didn’t want to take, which was spoken half in a foreign language that we didn’t understand. We believe that the tour information was misrepresented, since the Shore Excursion staff did not inform us that lunch wasn’t included, resulting in additional costs.
That evening, because I was feeling sicker, we went to the Shore Excursion desk to cancel my tour for the next day (in La Spezia). My husband and daughter (who were still planning to take the tour) were reminded by one of the Shore Excursion staff to pick up a “Basket lunch” the next morning (prior to the tour). While we were there, since we hadn’t been contacted by the Manager of Shore Excursions (as previously requested), we again asked to speak with her. When we were told she was unavailable (again), my husband requested that she personally contact him.
Prior to the tour the next day, my husband and daughter arrived in the theatre to get their lunch, as they had been directed. However, they were told they weren’t eligible for a Basket lunch. Not wanting to miss their tour, they unhappily accepted the information and proceeded to take the tour. Lunch, while on tour, cost them $25.
Late that afternoon when my husband and daughter returned from the tour, he advised me of the lunch ordeal. Again, we went to the Shore Excursion desk to express our concerns. We provided to the staff that day’s Daily sheet (Diario di bordo) which stated “*Tour with Basket Lunch included: we kindly ask to pick up the Basket Lunch at the entrance of the Emerald Theatre…from 8.30am to 9.15am by showing your Excursion Ticket.”
After much discussion amongst the staff, one member agreed with us. She apparently tried to make a monetary adjustment on her computer to rectify the situation, but told us that she wasn’t able to do so. Another shore excursion staff member then said since we purchased this shore tour on line (prior to the sailing), we were not eligible for the supposedly “included” Basket lunch. The fact that we were ineligible was not evident on line, or in the Daily program.
My husband asked the staff to obtain a letter from the Shore Excursion manager stating that lunch was not included in the tour, as he wished to bring up the matter more formally at a later time. He was denied this. Eventually the Assistant Manager of Shore Excursions appeared. She argued with us, saying since we paid $5 less for the tour (by booking on line), we shouldn’t get lunch. Specifically she said “if you had booked on board, you would get the lunch.” Even after we showed her the daily program, she was relentless. We felt “nickeled and dimed” by Costa’s inflexible practices.
We advised the Assistant Manager that we had requested a meeting with Shore Excursion management twice, but that no one had called to speak with us. She answered by saying that she hadn’t received either of the two messages (which had been generated by her own staff as per our requests).
We were never treated so poorly and with such disrespect, than we have during this cruise. We are insulted that (among other things) Costa wouldn’t reimburse us the cost of two “five euros” lunches, especially when it cost us $25 to buy our own.
Costa cruises has dramatically changed over the year, all negatively. In addition to the above difficulties/obstacles that we experienced, we have found that Costa has cut back (and is no longer providing) the following complementary items that it once had:
Brewed decaffeinated coffee
Fruit in cabin
Consolidated daily newspapers from the US (had to pay to receive papers)
Hand lotion in cabins
Ice cream (must pay for). Ice cream not available at dinner
Pizza (must pay for)
Hamburgers (must pay for)
US television channels (all foreign news programs)
A “library” that had no books
Must pay for room service
Water with meals
Coffee at meals
We were saddened to find that Costa had changed so much all to the negative.
Upper management, in our opinion, is unenlightened and inaccessible. Instead of problem-solving issues, they rebuff passengers. They are either unwilling, or unable, to address and rectify concerns in order to make the cruising experience enjoyable.
Front line managers were unable to accommodate requests, and could not make minor adjustments/reparations to please the passenger. Likewise, much of the crew is restricted from veering from rules, as evidenced by their inability to accommodate minor meal modifications, or to provide tap water at dinner. They often seemed to be placed in the middle of trying to please passengers while adhering to directives. In essence, they appeared to be paralyzed by Costa’s rules that often didn’t make sense.
Crew that we encountered on other cruise lines were typically jovial and friendly, demonstrating camaraderie and a sense of working together. Sadly, we didn’t see this on Costa.
Waiters appeared to run around trying to do the best job possible, while much disorganization and inconsistency was evident. At breakfast and lunch, we had to ask for menus; usually this is the first thing offered to diners once seated. The new computerized menu ordering system worked at times, but waiters (at lunch) usually regressed to the old “paper and pen” system due to supposedly “slow connections” between the dining room and the kitchen. Passengers were unable to be seated at lunchtime unless their entire party was present and ready to be seated.
While our dining room waiter and our cabin steward(s) were excellent and accommodating, other crew generally seemed unhappy and discontent. Staff in any organization should be empowered, and should have the necessary tools, organization, and support to do their jobs efficiently and most effectively. Unfortunately, this was not evident on Costa.
In conclusion, we had experienced more issues/difficulties during this short 7 night cruise than we have experienced in all of our 65+ cruises (some as long as 50 days) combined. The type of service we received on the Diadema was unacceptable, and is certainly not appealing to the US market. Read Less