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Costa Luminosa Review

3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating
171 reviews

Costa Luminosa: Great Itinerary/mixed bag onboard

Review for Costa Luminosa to the Baltic Sea
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10+ Cruises • Age 60s

Rating by category

Value for Money
Public Rooms
Fitness & Recreation

Additional details

Sail Date: Jul 2014
Traveled with children

Experienced cruisers all, our family of five embarked upon a 2 week cruise with Costa, enamored of the itinerary offered, to see the Norwegian fjords and the Baltic capitols, including St. Petersburg, with a reasonable cruise fare to boot. We knew ahead of time that this Italian cruise line would have a predominantly European clientele and therefore harbor a number of smokers, but took that into consideration. What follows are our recollections of the trip, from door to door, so perhaps TMI for some.

We departed our home on the coast of NC for the nearly 7 hour drive to Dulles Airport (IAD) in Washington DC on a Thursday evening, having booked a one night stay at the Homewood Suites at Dulles, which offers "Park, Stay, and Pay". This deal allows you to stay one night at the hotel either before departure or upon your return, AND leave the car parked at the hotel rather than the airport for the duration of your trip. Due to blinding rain on the majority of the drive, we didn't arrive at the hotel until almost 1am, so requested a late checkout, which was granted. To our great dismay, however, a fire alarm (set off by a housekeeper who burned some microwave popcorn) went off at about 6am, and couldn't be shut off until the fire department arrived about 15 minutes later. When we'd finally gotten back to sleep, with ringing ears, another fire alarm woke us at ~10am, so our short overnight sleep was thus curtailed. To top it off, the thermostat in the room read 84 degrees F despite having been driven down to a 64 degree set-point! So much for starting out our 2 week journey well-rested . . .

After the offered complimentary breakfast, we took the shuttle to the airport for our transatlantic flight. Very convenient. Our flight on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) was routine, a nonstop from Dulles to Copenhagen, where we took a taxi (driven by a madman) to the cruise departure on Ocean Key, the furthest from downtown and an expensive ride. There was nothing to do here but wait several hours to board, so we arranged with helpful staff to check in our luggage early and then simply waited. One of my teen-aged daughters was so wiped out, she simply laid down across a row of chairs and was lucky enough to get a couple of hours shut-eye! On weekdays, Bus #26 goes to the city center from about one block away, but on weekends, service was spotty and we didn’t feel we had enough time to go far afield. Checking in was easy, given that we had checked in on-line ahead of time, but it was curious that we weren’t asked for credit card details to be able to charge items to our account while on-board. It turns out, one needs to do this AFTER boarding on Costa, at the always-busy Purser's Desk (!?). We received Our cruise ID/charge cards were on our beds when we got into the cabin, and bright red cards were also provided that needed to be handed in at the Mustering Drill later that first afternoon, in essence, a way of taking attendance. In fact, those folks who missed handing in their red cards at the Mustering where obliged to attend a 9am meeting the next morning; we felt this was a just punishment, until the entire ship was awakened at 8:30a by an overhead announcement (in 5 different languages in succession) reminding those slackers to attend!

Cabin Review

Cabin I3

Upon entering our interior cabin, an entirely run-of-the-mill choice on Deck 7 Aft, it was clear that it was well laid out. There was a well-lit desk with pencil drawer and stack of 4 drawers and a stool that could be hidden under the desk, and then there was another counter under which were a mini-fridge and 3 shelves. The closet space had ample tall and short hanging space, with hangers, and shelves, and a safe. On both sides of the bed, there were matching nightstands with a top drawer and lamp. No clocks, so bring your own. The bathroom had a shower with curtain, adequate shelving both above and below the sink, and 2 hooks on the door. There were 2 hooks on the wall of the cabin as well, but I could have used more. The shower had a retractable clothesline for hanging wet bathing suits and such. There was a shower gel in a dispenser in the shower, but no other toiletries were provided. We had to ask for the ice bucket to be filled daily and for extra towels for my long hair and for a "Do Not Disturb" sign, but they were all readily provided by our cabin steward. Blue towels, for the pool, were provided but had to be accounted for in the cabin, or we'd be charged. Now for the downside: though I had made sure when booking that our cabin 7389 and that of our children 7388, on the parallel hallway, were not near any elevators or stairways, it turns out that they were BOTH immediately adjacent to an empty crew area. Well, we were unlucky enough to be awakened multiple nights during our 2 week cruise between 3-6am with an awful clanging and clanking, which occurred directly behind our headboard in our case, and immediately next to my eldest daughter's bed in Cabin 7388. What could this racket possibly be?? Upon investigation, I found in this bright white-painted smoke-smelling crew area that a legion of metal signposts (like those that the following day stood sentry upon disembarkation saying "No Exit this Way" or "To Shuttle Bus") was amassed along the wall, behind which my headboard was. And what was the response of Customer Service when we visited them? "You must call at the time the noise is occurring, so it can be duly investigated." And guess what happens at 4:30am when I am awakened but my husband is still asleep and I am supposed to call the front desk and then they send someone to "investigate" by knocking at our cabin instead of where the noise was coming from, but the noise is by then probably over? After several more nights of this, we even suggested that if these infernal signposts couldn't be moved to the deck where they are actually used (which would be the logical solution) the crew at least pad the walls with mattresses or other padding to dull the sound . . . to no avail. Our complaints fell on deaf ears, for TWO weeks! This to say nothing of the fact that when we, exhausted on our vacation by interrupted nighttime sleep, tried to catch an afternoon nap, we still couldn't rest due to incessant multilingual announcements and running/screaming children in the hallways.

Port Reviews


OSLOOur first full day on our 2 week Costa cruise, so jetlag and dreary weather with threatening showers may have tinged my memories. The ship docked within easy walking distance to Akerhus Fortress (which was closed), but the slight elevation provided a good vantage point of the harbor and ships below. We had intended to see the Oslo City Hall, which is greatly touted in Rick Steves' DVD on Oslo as it is the site of the award ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize, but a terrorist threat the day prior to our arrival caused it to be locked down. There were some carvings with concomitant explanations of Nordic lore along the outside walls, however, that were worth perusing. Then we just walked around the pleasant downtown area, astounded by the sky-high prices of eating out in Norway, and made our way to the National Gallery, which was free as it was a Sunday. Great artwork all around, lockers for bags, clean restrooms in the basement, and Munch's famous painting "The Scream"; surprising was how warm the ambient temperature and humidity was, given the priceless artwork displayed.


STAVANGERAgain, we docked and easily walked to the Old Town, with its colorful buildings and storefronts to window-shop, but our destination here was in particular the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Norway has been the lucky beneficiary of the discovery of huge oil reserves offshore and the economy reflects this wealth. The museum was fascinating and we spent several hours here, donning protective suits they use on oil rigs, taking interactive quizzes about the formation of and drilling for oil, and watching educational films. Right outside is a play area made up entirely of defunct oil industry gadgets.


BERGENHaving heard glowing things about Bergen, it was a bit of a disappointment, but this is relative when one is cruising the Norwegian fjords and every vista is breathtaking. Here, the first thing we did, frankly, was head to the public library to be able to access WiFi, as my teenagers were going through withdrawal! We never purchase internet packages onboard, as they are very overpriced and even more importantly, we enjoy the respite from constant technological interactions. The old wooden warehouses and shops in the Bryggen, with tight little alleys between them, were interesting to walk through, and we strolled through the Fish Market to see all that was on offer.


HELLESYLT/GEIRANGERThis was our fifth port day of the Norwegian fjords in a row, and we had to tender into port from a short distance away. The cluster of shops immediately at Geiranger’s harbor didn't greatly interest us (except for the Tourist Information office which had free WiFi in the immediate area!), so we walked along the street heading for the "waterfall walk" up to the museum. The tremendous force of water cascading down the mountainside was impressive; we climbed up the many metal stairs to the top--no need to go to the gym to do stair-climbing later in the day! The museum looking interesting, but seemed a bit expensive for our family of 5, so we continued to wander and saw signs posted with various hikes and their lengths. We chose the shortest one, but the path soon became quite muddy, causing us to turn back, but was just a taste of what other more adventurous hikers (equipped with better footwear) surely enjoyed. Hellesylt we only saw from the ship, as it was a quick stop to pick up folks who had done ship’s excursions and ended up there.


COPENHAGENWe had a early August Saturday in Copenhagen as the port day at the end of the Norwegian Fjord cruise and at the start of our Baltic Capitols cruise on the Costa Luminosa. It was a warm, muggy day and the city was overrun by tourists, but we didn't have a particular agenda and just walked around. We did buy a bus ticket (strip card with multiple tickets, good for families) at a 7/11 store and had an overview of the city's hustle and bustle. The Tivoli Gardens unfortunately don't have an entrance fee for the casual tourist who has limited time, so we passed on it. We walked over the bridge into Christiania, the Haight-Ashbury of Copenhagen, but found it somewhat seedy and depressing. No time or energy for museums, but we appreciated the fact that in Copenhagen the beer and Fanta were a great deal more reasonable than in Norway!


TALLINNWe docked and were able to walk into the old city. Cobblestoned streets. Churches that charged entrance fees. The museum we had greatly hoped to see (the Museum of the Occupation) was closed on Tuesdays. We thought it would have been VERY interesting to see the perspective of formerly occupied Estonians (Estonia still has a large number of Russians in their population), especially considering the recent Russian incursions into the Ukraine. A quaint city with a difficult past.

St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIAI have already separately reviewed our DenRus tour of St.Petersburg which, though not cheap, was well worth it in our opinion. We enjoyed a private air-conditioned van for our family of 5, with a well-educated English-speaking guide and attentive driver. Since our Costa cruise only stopped for one day (8a-12midnight) in St.P, we had to make the most of this limited time.First there was a driving tour of the city on the way to the Peter & Paul Fortress. Next, we went to the Hermitage, which was the highlight of the day. Though hot and crowded, our guide pushed her way through to show us the highlights and regaled us with the history and backstories all the while. We spent a whirlwind 2 hours here and then took a short break for lunch. We explained that given our time-crunch we wanted to have something quick and cheap and she brought us to a cafe/bar which perfectly fit the bill: meat and cheese and vegetable pies as well as fruit pies were on offer, and of course we had to sample a local beer! Then it was on to the Churches (the Spilled Blood, St. Isaacs, and St. Nikolas): mosaics, sarcophagi, gilded interiors, onion domes . . .The massive buildings of similar height lining the waterways, most done up in pastels, were grand and imposing looking, but left me somewhat cold. They almost seemed like facades, prettied up for the tourists and to bolster local civic pride, but the reality of Soviet life asserted itself as we drove through areas (between the port and the center city) where boxy concrete apartment complexes with broken windows and barbed wire at the top of fences sent shivers down my spine. Though we regret not having had more time to see other sights, it was with some relief that we reboarded the ship @ 5p, in time for dinner. A day and $ well spent.

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