The Ship This was our first cruise and so we have nothing with which to compare it. It was my wife who had wanted to try a cruise and I was the sceptical one. The boat was much bigger than I had imagined and much better appointed. We are used to minimalist Travelodge or cluttered country hotels but this room/cabin was cleverly arranged with lots of hanging and drawer space easily enough to accommodate the amount you could reasonably bring aboard if travelling by airplane. The lighting was first rate; how often we have grumbled about hotel bedrooms which have insufficient light to read by. The balcony was well worth the extra money. We were blessed with lovely weather and sitting outside with a starchart listening to the sea was a real priviledge I would advise taking clothes pegs and hangers. The hangers provided were not portable and drying on the balcony took very little time. There were ample lifts; they were efficient and we seldom had to wait long for one to appear going in the required direction. There were plenty of places for smokers but we did not find it intrusive. The gym etc was excellent. Even if you don't feel like using the gym, the showers there were far superior to the one in the cabin and a locker and lovely big towels were provided; you just had to sign for the key, Some of the equipment looked a bit tired, but it all worked. There was a nice hot bubbly pool without children or cool breezes and various hot rooms. The pools were rather small. The water fountains generally did not work. Considering the carpeting was in constant use, it was very clean. Indeed the whole ship was continuously cleaned and there were very few occasions when you sat down at a dirty table. We had benign weather and so I really cannot comment on the behaviour of the ship in rough conditions; I was hardly aware most of the time that we were at sea. The Food Plenty. We probably ate too much on the first few days. The seafood paella on embarkation was memorable. We tried all the variations for breakfast and lunch and preferred the less formal arrangements on Deck 9 to the multi-uniformed presentation in the Dining Area. There was also a Burger fest late afternoon and a rather quaint offering of afternoon tea. The evening meal was 7 courses, but I don’t think many people managed all seven we certainly did not. Having been allocated the early sitting 18:45, we quickly decided that the 20:45 sitting was a better option for us. There was no problem in switching. Having been there for more than a week we realised that they were working on a 7 day menu turnover. Considering how many they had to serve, the whole meal was remarkably quick, taking less than 1 ½ hours from entry to exit. The quality of food was good and there was choice. There were some exceptional courses like the Osso Bucco, most were far more adventurous than we would prepare at home for ourselves. The Drinks Do not envisage a Costa Cruise without taking the 19:50 euro drinks package. It made everything so easy. Coffee in the morning, beer at lunchtime, Cocktail in the afternoon, more beer, more coffee, pastis as an aperitif, wine with the meal, strega or whiskey to finish the day, whoops no we’ll have another one or two probably not very good for us, but neither is worrying about how much you are paying every minute. The Entertainment Lots to do and see. As many keep fit sessions as you could wish. Consistently high standard of background music in the main bars. The shows were varied, enjoyable and lasted about ¾ hour. We did not partake but gather that the partying went on well into the night. The Staff/Crew Mostly delightful and eager to please. We had a fantastic cabin steward Josephine, super waiters in Ktut and Jay. Customer services came up trumps with Antonio and Thomas who gave us a lot of their time. Oscar was good fun on the bar on deck nine. The maitre d’ Salvatore from Chorley was the almost perfect……. I won’t spoil it for you ….. but you will know who I mean. Value We reckon we got a great deal. It came to just under £2000 for 15 nights for two with balcony cabin to include 4 nights in Rhodes to start with and flights. I cannot see where you could match that in other sorts of holiday. The Drinks Package was of course extra as were the excursions. We did not use the Costa excursions, but the ones we chose were cheaper and extensive. The Holiday We were unfortunate. It became apparent in crossing London that my wife was experiencing severe lower back pain. We got to Rhodes OK and she could only lie down on one side. After our 4 night stay there, she could only sleep on her back and I had to push her in a wheelchair where I could get one. On the boat we managed after some persistence, to avail ourselves of a wheelchair which was fine for 7 days. When it became apparent she could no longer even lie down on her back, we realised we were in trouble. We therefore had to try to contact insurers, find timetables, communicate with Italian doctors and make our own way home. We managed just - and that is an exciting story in itself. The Gripes The difficulty of procuring water for the cabin was paramount. There seemed no problem in bringing bottles onboard, it was just that we did not go off ship as much as we might have done. In England water is on tap as it were and it was difficult to have to plan ahead. We had thought Premium Cabin meant Premium Service which it apparently does not. Almost all those we dealt with were very sympathetic to our predicament with the exception of one waspish lady obviously quite senior who accused us of changing our mind again about leaving the ship which was unfair. The difficulties in finding a suitable flight home were pretty extensive. Internet connection on the ship was poor to non-existent even using the ship’s facilities. We were fortunate in having someone in England who could arrange things for us. I would have thought that Post Concordia the applause and plaudits for our celebrated captain doubtless merited - could have been a bit more muted. Be aware that if you do have problems you will be dealing with non English speakers. The command of English and many other languages of many of the crew was quite humbling, but the fact remains that you will be trying to communicate detailed technical difficulties in other than your own language. As you are at sea for most of the time without communication the problems are exacerbated. Do not expect much useful help from your Insurance policy. The Verdict We would go again like a shot, health permitting.