This was our first ever cruise so it would be fair to say that any review we give must reflect the fact that we have nothing to compare it to. However we have been on enough holidays to know what we are talking about to some extent.
We joined to Costa Serena in Barcelona and the embarkation process was relatively painless if a little long. They started the boarding at 2pm but it was nearly 3 by the time our batch of numbered passes was called. When we got to our cabin, our bags were waiting for us as was the Costa Cards and the necessary itineraries and information sheets. As we were dog tired from 24 hours travelling we decided to grab some lunch and get our bearings. We found a hot dog/burger hatch serving near the mid-ships pool and this was fine to start with.
Dinner was at 7pm and our restaurant was at the other end of the ship. It didn't take us long to find our table and we were seated with another two British couples. The food in the restaurant all week was good, especially considering the volume of meals that must be served each evening, and there was a reasonable choice which varied daily. The service was excellent, friendly and charming.
Lunch was in the self service which was a but scrum-like but no more than some of the all-inclusive package hotels in Spain and Turkey we've stayed in. Breakfast was the same, though if you preferred you could have a sit-down partly-waiter service in the restaurant areas.
We checked out the theatre where each night there was a show of some sort. It was a little hit and miss but that comes from trying to please everyone. One night there was the winner of "Italy's Got Talent". A ventriloquist, which given the number of languages on the ship was an interesting choice. He carried it off well though, doing routines using smatterings of Italian, French, German, English, Spanish and even Portuguese. Given that many of the jokes were visual it worked pretty well and rarely got annoying.
There were a number of other bars that we used over the week, each with a different musical emphasis. The atrium had a pianist (who clearly was reading the lyrics in English as Delilah "stood there 'logging', I felt the knife in my hand and she 'logged' no more!"). There was a band in the rear bars, a singer in another, a couple playing dancing songs for the ballroom dancing (hats off to some terrific dancers among the passengers) and a couple of Spanish guitarists in the Chocolate bar.
We bought the all-inclusive which we would recommend highly as it meant we could order whatever we wanted without having to think about it. It included cocktails, and we tried plenty. (the Mojitos are lovely)
All in all we would recommend cruising and Costa. Sure the clientèle were mostly Italian and the entertainment was a bit cheesy sometimes but we were never bored, often delighted and highly satisfied.
We had a veranda cabin on Deck 9 and it was lovely, The balcony was a little small and not being a fan of heights I was a little wary, specially when docked in port but I expected that. It was clean, well cared for and the showers were hot and strong.