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This was our first ever cruise and hence our first review on this site. A couple of earlier reviews of this ship on this website were very helpful for us so thank you for taking the trouble - they really helped us prepare and set expectations. We chose this particular cruise as a 'floating hotel' to see the fascinating places it stops at (Dubai / Muscat / Khasab / Abu Dhabi) rather than for a cruise experience per se. We booked several excursions through cruisingexcursions.com - I wouldn't use them again. Before we arrived we received conflicting/confusing information about embarkation procedures, as did others. Many disgruntled folk had been transferred to the port from the airport in the morning but did not know that they were not allowed into their cabin till 8pm. Cabin was clean and pleasant inside (an outside cabin with small balcony) with plenty of storage space. The balcony was a bit grubby and many people used their balcony for smoking which made sitting outside rather unpleasant for a non smoker as the smell of cigarette smoke wafted down the length of the ship. The ship is decidedly Italian and the décor awesome but not in a good way. The interior design team should have been sacked at an early stage in the process but were seemingly allowed to realise their nightmare visions unrestrained. Such extreme design is bound to irritate a good proportion of any audience and that included me. That together with the wretched music in every public area of the ship made our cabin a welcome retreat. Still the holiday was cheap (I kept telling myself). We were told that the average passenger consumes 5.2 meals per day on the ship. The food was certainly plentiful and some of it was really good and much of it healthy also. But looking at many of the passengers, taken together with the statistics, I concluded that dietary self control is a serious problem on cruises like this. The level of food waste, especially in the self service restaurants, was disturbing as some people piled vast quantities on to their plates only to leave much of it. The evening five course dining experience was varied with some excellent dishes and others less so. But not bad overall once we realised that it wasn't compulsory to eat every course. The service from staff varied considerably between wonderful and non existent. At times staff would walk at you as if you weren't there, whilst at other times staff were genuine and really made an effort to be friendly and helpful. Unlike the number of places in the lifeboats, there weren't enough sunbeds to go round. This provided excellent people-watching opportunities. I've never before seen people steal others' clean towels from sunbeds and replace them with their own dirty ones. The Giove Theatre seemed bigger than many UK provincial theatres. The nightly shows were glitzy and clearly had taken significant effort and resources to stage. They just got a bit samey and weren't all that entertaining judging by the efforts needed to get the audience to respond. We had a couple of 'hot stone' massages in the spa centre - a truly excellent service there. Wonderful. A disappointment for me was the complete cultural separation between the ship and the outside world - no attempt was made to educate or inform about the places being visited - no talks, no experts in middle east culture, art, religion etc to help us get more out of the experience. Just bar staff selling drinks packages and shops selling stuff you can get in a duty free shop anywhere. The excursions were a wonderful relief - these were the windows to get out and make the most of the short period in each of the fascinating places we stopped. The Costa excursions seemed much better organised but considerably more expensive than the cruisingexcursions.com trips we had booked. However we experienced various difficulties with ours (one excursion was cancelled without telling us and another left several people behind). The information and process for disembarkation was reminiscent of our experience of the Italian railway system at Pisa last year. None of what we were told actually happened in practice and we ended up carrying our own cases off the ship at 6am on our last day. Overall - would we go on a Costa cruise ever again? Absolutely not. Interestingly everyone we spoke to on the ship said the same. Should we be put off ever going on a cruise again? Most people said there were great cruising experiences to be had so we'll keep looking.

First ever cruise - and last?

Costa Serena Cruise Review by Spotthedog

Trip Details
This was our first ever cruise and hence our first review on this site. A couple of earlier reviews of this ship on this website were very helpful for us so thank you for taking the trouble - they really helped us prepare and set expectations.
We chose this particular cruise as a 'floating hotel' to see the fascinating places it stops at (Dubai / Muscat / Khasab / Abu Dhabi) rather than for a cruise experience per se. We booked several excursions through cruisingexcursions.com - I wouldn't use them again.
Before we arrived we received conflicting/confusing information about embarkation procedures, as did others. Many disgruntled folk had been transferred to the port from the airport in the morning but did not know that they were not allowed into their cabin till 8pm.
Cabin was clean and pleasant inside (an outside cabin with small balcony) with plenty of storage space. The balcony was a bit grubby and many people used their balcony for smoking which made sitting outside rather unpleasant for a non smoker as the smell of cigarette smoke wafted down the length of the ship.
The ship is decidedly Italian and the décor awesome but not in a good way. The interior design team should have been sacked at an early stage in the process but were seemingly allowed to realise their nightmare visions unrestrained. Such extreme design is bound to irritate a good proportion of any audience and that included me. That together with the wretched music in every public area of the ship made our cabin a welcome retreat. Still the holiday was cheap (I kept telling myself).
We were told that the average passenger consumes 5.2 meals per day on the ship. The food was certainly plentiful and some of it was really good and much of it healthy also. But looking at many of the passengers, taken together with the statistics, I concluded that dietary self control is a serious problem on cruises like this. The level of food waste, especially in the self service restaurants, was disturbing as some people piled vast quantities on to their plates only to leave much of it. The evening five course dining experience was varied with some excellent dishes and others less so. But not bad overall once we realised that it wasn't compulsory to eat every course.
The service from staff varied considerably between wonderful and non existent. At times staff would walk at you as if you weren't there, whilst at other times staff were genuine and really made an effort to be friendly and helpful.
Unlike the number of places in the lifeboats, there weren't enough sunbeds to go round. This provided excellent people-watching opportunities. I've never before seen people steal others' clean towels from sunbeds and replace them with their own dirty ones.
The Giove Theatre seemed bigger than many UK provincial theatres. The nightly shows were glitzy and clearly had taken significant effort and resources to stage. They just got a bit samey and weren't all that entertaining judging by the efforts needed to get the audience to respond.
We had a couple of 'hot stone' massages in the spa centre - a truly excellent service there. Wonderful.
A disappointment for me was the complete cultural separation between the ship and the outside world - no attempt was made to educate or inform about the places being visited - no talks, no experts in middle east culture, art, religion etc to help us get more out of the experience. Just bar staff selling drinks packages and shops selling stuff you can get in a duty free shop anywhere.
The excursions were a wonderful relief - these were the windows to get out and make the most of the short period in each of the fascinating places we stopped. The Costa excursions seemed much better organised but considerably more expensive than the cruisingexcursions.com trips we had booked. However we experienced various difficulties with ours (one excursion was cancelled without telling us and another left several people behind).
The information and process for disembarkation was reminiscent of our experience of the Italian railway system at Pisa last year. None of what we were told actually happened in practice and we ended up carrying our own cases off the ship at 6am on our last day.
Overall - would we go on a Costa cruise ever again? Absolutely not. Interestingly everyone we spoke to on the ship said the same. Should we be put off ever going on a cruise again? Most people said there were great cruising experiences to be had so we'll keep looking.
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