We have little experience of cruising and our judgements are necessarily based on limited experience. The story so far ........ We went on our first ever cruise last October on Costa Mediterranea. If you read my review of that trip (October 2013) you will see that we had to abort in Savona a few days short of finishing the cruise from Rhodes to Marseille. My wife had back problems and we had a horrendous time getting off the boat and making our way to Nice airport. As I warned then, help from the Insurance company via the ship was pitiful and we were largely left to our own devices. I am sure we would have done better on a 'British' ship with a British doctor and speaking in English. We managed however with my limited Italian and rather better French (and help from friendly natives) to get home.
With persistence we managed to persuade the Insurance company to pay up, my wife had her operation and we thought to put the money towards doing the bit of the Med we had missed before the insurance premiums went up. This turned out to be rather naive as the company would not cover such a recent operation even though my wife was completely cured.
So off we went to Barcelona at the end of March only adequately insured; wife had forgotten her walking stick, but didn't seem bothered. I was. It's a great device for avoiding queues and eliciting sympathy. We had a night before the cruise in Barcelona, the weather was fine and the hotel central. I highly recommend getting to the cruise port the night before embarkation; it takes away a lot of stress even if it does cost a few pennies more in taxi fares. The letter we received from Costa gave the wrong embarkation time but we rolled up at the Cruise terminal at about 12:30 and were drinking our first cocktail an hour later. Barcelona embarkation is comparatively luxurious and has a good duty free section. Thus we managed a decent bottle of wine to celebrate, and a large bottle of water. Although we had booked the all inclusive, it is rather pleasant to have your own bottle of wine on your own balcony for when the extensive fire drills kick in at every port and everything shuts down. Embarkation at Rhodes had been primitive and slow. One for the Serena.