This was my first Costa cruise. I’ve cruised on nearly all the other cruise lines including MSC, another European cruise line. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised and very much enjoyed the cruise. The ship was in good condition, our oceanview room was fairly typical of other cruise lines, the main dining food was very good and the breakfast and lunch buffet was OK. The premium pay restaurant, Club Medusa, was excellent. The entertainment was in line with most US cruise lines. Keep in mind the Med cruises are very much different than the Caribbean cruises, so daytime entertainment is tamer. If you want to party, skip the cruise and head to Ibiza or Mykonos. The ship had several pools, hot tubs, Spa, excellent gym, shops, etc.
I think there are some differences between Costa and MSC, who mainly market to the Europeans, and the US cruise lines sailing in the Med. First, nearly all the passengers were from Europe so all announcements are made in six languages. The ship had roughly 2300 passengers and we met only two other Americans. Second, the only dinner option is the main dining area. No dinner buffet, so if you have the early seating and get back to the ship after 7pm, late night pizza or paid room service are the only options. Third, the shore excursion options may be limited since they will only offer an English speaking tour if there are enough English speaking people taking the tour. This didn’t affect us since we normally don’t take the cruise line shore excursions, but beware if you do.
Embarkation was very fast since we boarded off peak time in Heraklion, Crete. The port is right in downtown Heraklion. You may need to take a free short shuttle bus ride from the terminal building to the ship. You drop your luggage off at the terminal building before getting on the shuttle bus. There is an emergency drill your first night.
Similar to other cruise ships. Reasonable space with good storage.
Santorini: Everyone’s favorite Greek Island. I highly recommend the towns Oia and Fira. If interested in archeology, go to Akrotiri. Unless you are diehard beach bum, skip the beaches here and save for the other port of calls. The white washed villages hanging on the cliff sides are the main draw.
Rhodes: Old Rhodes town is one of the best and most scenic medieval walled cities in Europe and only a few minute walk from the port. Rent a car and go beach hopping or visit Lindos.
Crete: Fantastic! If you start/end your cruise here, plan to spend a few days if not longer. There is so much to do. At minimum, go to Knossos, Elounta/Spinalonga, Agios Nikolaos, Krista and Rethymno. Heraklion has excellent cafes and top rated museums. Rental cars are reasonable and there is a good highway that runs along the North shore to all the above mentioned places. Several nice tourist developed beach resorts lie along this region. There are great restaurants in all the places, good markets and wine tasting.