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Jun21 - Arrived at Venice Marco Polo airport and took ATVO bus to Piazzale Roma (bus terminal) in Venice. (Their ticket booth is just outside the baggage claim area, to the left.) We booked a night in the Ca Doge Hotel, which is located just beside the Autopark, found at the perimeter of the Piazzale Roma. (no need to go up and down bridges to get to your hotel.) The Ca Doge Hotel was a wonderful choice and I have posted a review of it on Trip Advisor. Spent the day in Venice and needed lots more time to enjoy the city. Jun22 - Caught a free Costa shuttle from the Piazzale Roma to the Port. (Take the shuttle, otherwise you can take the half-hour walk but it's a pain with luggage.) Off the bus, we spotted a Costa rep who told us to drop off our luggage before we went into the terminal building. Unfortunately, with her limited English, we couldn't figure out where to actually drop off the luggage. We eventually followed a bunch of people behind the building to a mountain of luggage, found a Costa-looking worker lifting some baggage and dropped off our luggage with him. (No English, again) We then followed the Costa check-in signs to the main door of the terminal building. Up the escalator and turned left. (MSC Cruise lines shares the building and they are on the right.) Again, mass chaos!! No instructions, no signage, nothing!! After waiting in 4 separate lines, we found out that a 5th line was handing out numbered tickets and that a person at a 6th line was calling them out sequentially. Made our way, with our ticket, to that 6th line and waiting 45 minutes for our number to be called. Once our number was called, we ducked under a couple of rope barriers to get to the counter. (We were severely scolded, in broken English, by one of the Costa reps for ducking under the ropes. Great start to a cruise!!) Check-in took about 10 minutes then we were whisked through security, then straight onto the ship. For those of you who manage to make it onto the ship before 1:30pm, just go straight to the buffet. Your room key won't be available until after 1:30pm when you will find it on your cabin bed. Also the ship doesn't leave until 6:00pm so you've got plenty of time to catch the free Costa shuttle back to Venice for some last minute sight-seeing. Jun23 - What a waste of a port stop! Disembarkation at Bari begins at 11:45 and we had to be back on the ship by 1:45pm. Would have been better to have a sea day... As well, once we get off the ship, there was absolutely no signage directing us to the old city of Bari. And with Costa not providing us with a map of the city, it was pretty difficult to navigate. Still, we managed to make our way through many of the narrow alleyways of the town before we had to be back on the ship. Jun24 - Again, another short day on land. Try to get off the ship as soon as you can since the ship is only here from 8:00am to 1:00pm (which means you, effectively have from 8:30pm to 12:30pm for touring). I know you'll want to spend as much time as possible in Olympia, but you've got to give yourself at least 45 minute to shop in Katakalon, which proved to be the best souvenir shopping port on the cruise. Since time is of the essence, hustle and take the 5 minute walk straight into town and go right to the only car rental place. We were charged $80 Euro's for the day for an 8-seater van (only $45 Euro's for a regular car) and offered the option of an extra $10 Euro's for a tank of gas. (Don't take the $10 Euro gas option! Cheaper to stop in at a gas station on the way to Olympia. Gas was $1.30 Euro/litre and you'll only need about 3litres to cover the 76km round trip to Olympia and back. Once you arrive in Olympia, make sure you purchase the 9 Euro combo ticket which covers entrance into the museum, as well as into the ruins of Olympia. Unfortunately, Olympia does not offer any local tour guides so you are pretty much on our own. (We managed to find an English speaking tour already in the park, so we just paid him a few dollars and some of us joined on.) The signage is very good, however, so you'll have no problem navigating through using the Olympia provided map. Re washroom facilities, there are only 2 stalls in the Women's so be prepared to wait! (There were other available facilities in the museum but they were ALL out of commission when we were there.) Jun25 - Izmir is a lovely port, but once again, you've got very little time. You are able to get off the ship by 9:00am and make sure that you keep track of the disembarkation card that is handed to you by the staff. You'll need it when you return by 2:30pm. It was over 90°F so some of us passed on the tour to Ephesus. Those of us who braved the heat to make it out there were overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the ruins. So the lesson learned here is, do take a tour to Ephesus. Cheapest is to grab a taxi at the port (and share with another couple, if possible) rather than use the ship's tour. For those of us who couldn't handle the heat, we took the 30 minute walk over to the Izmir Bazaar. Not quite as big as the one in Istanbul, but the vendors were a lot more eager to bargain with us. By checking a local map, we discovered the existence of a two century old synagogue, tucked behind the Bazaar on Havra Sokak street. All the vendors seemed to know about it so if you get lost, like we did, just ask the locals for directions. Jun26 - Istanbul is the highlight of this cruise. Get off the ship as soon as possible because you'll want to spend your morning touring and your afternoon shopping, before the ship sails at 6:00pm. Make your way out of the terminal area to the main street. There you will find lots of taxis that would be happy to take you, for 10 Turkish Lira or less, to the Sultanahmet Square. Once there, quickly head over to the Topkapi Palace and Harem rooms where the entrance fee will set you back 10 Turkish Lira for each. After that, make your way over to the Blue Mosque. Admission is free but be prepared that you will be asked for a donation at the end of your visit. If you have time and the line-ups aren't too long, try and squeeze in a visit to the Hagia Sophia Mosque. If not, catch a cab back to the ship and catch a quick lunch before you head out to the Bazaar. The Bazaar is 6km away, perhaps a 45 minute walk mostly uphill, but time is of the essence, so grab a cab on the main street, for 10 Turkish Lira, and get over to the Great Bazaar. I must confess that I was overwhelmed with the expanse of the Bazaar, and with barely 4 hours to shop, I came away with few purchases. Also found that the vendors would not bargain "properly" with us. They seemed content to lose a sale rather than negotiate with us. (Again, Izmir proved to be a far better "bargain".) And don't despair if you just can't find that perfect souvenir at the Bazaar. When you return to the port, there are street vendors galore, with prices cheaper than the BazaarJun27 - In our previous cruises, we usually look forward to our day at sea to rest and enjoy the facilities of the ship. But, once again, Costa proved a great disappointment. Nothing to do!! Aside from sitting in sun and staring up to the sky, there are no activities whatsoever, unless you call a 10 question multilingual trivia session an activity. Boring, boring, boring…… Jun28 - Dubrovnik was our only tendered port so try and give yourself plenty of time to go back and forth. You've got a good ½ a day here so if you keep up a good pace, you can see a couple of the major sights and still have an hour or two left to shop. Walking the length of the walled city was a highlight for part of your group and it only takes ½ hour, but a special caveat that the only drink vendor on the wall will take advantage of you by up-charging his merchandise threefold. Beware and buy your drinks before you go up. It was over 90°F when we were there and you desperately need to have some liquid refreshment while you are walking the wall. Another warning that the shop keepers in this town that we met were unscrupulous, constantly shortchanging us with every purchase. Remember to count your money at all times!! Also, there's no need to convert your currency into Croatian money. Everyone takes Euros. Jun29 – Back in Venice and supreme chaos reigns as we go through the disembarkation process. Despite what the Costa website says, the ship actually arrives in Venice at 9:00am, with the expectation that movement of passengers off the ship begins at 9:45am. We had to catch a 12:45pm flight back to Toronto so we begged the staff to let us off in the first round. The whole process is “managed”, like most cruise ships, with the issuance of coloured tickets and each colour represents a different disembarkation time. In our case, the ship actually docked later than expected, so rather than inform the passengers of the delay, they allowed hundreds of people, with all sorts of coloured tickets, to cram into the Theatre to await the announcement of their colour. Surprise, surprise that when the first colour (our colour) was called, everyone headed straight for the exit. And by the way, that announcement was made only in Italian, but we didn’t wait, we moved with the herd. No checking of the ticket colours, just a mass stampede!! We followed the crowd and somehow ended up in the baggage claim area, where it was every man for himself. Luggage was flung everyone, complete and utter chaos!! After climbing over the belonging of fellow passengers, and perhaps the passengers themselves, we retrieved our bags and made a mad dash for the line of taxis in front of the terminal building. No time to negotiate the price to the airport, we got inside the first one and told him to step on it. Needless to say, we made it to the airport on time. Never again!!!! General Ship Comments: I’ll start with the few good points about the ship. The staff, although completely clueless about most things, were friendly enough. They tried, within their limited ability to help, but it was a complete and frustrating waste of time. The cabin rooms were lovely and were kept immaculately clean. And my husband, who is an amateur magician, thought that Magic Martin, one of the evening’s entertainers, was especially talented. The bad points, and there were many of them, focused on the details that you take back with you as you remember the cruise. Firstly, that this is the first cruise ship that I remember where ice tea is NOT FREE. It is considered part of the Drinks Package and you must pay for it. Only water is free and I expect that to disappear as Costa continues to nickel and dime its repeat customers. (Oh, did I mention that this was our 2nd Costa cruise? What were we thinking…) Remember to bring your own shampoo with you. Again, this is the first cruise ship where the shampoo was so horrible that we resorted to using the bar of soap instead to wash our hair. And if you think you will gain lots of weight by stuffing your face at the buffets, forget it. The food is so bland that a couple of us actually lost weight during the week. Don’t waste your time with the Kids or Teen club. We were traveling with a 5 year old and a 15 year old. They both tried the clubs and it was a complete waste of time. The counselors didn’t speak English and the facilities were practically non-existent. So the kids spent a lot of time by the pool which would explain why the pools were always filthy. One of our group, who simply wanted to spend some time in the room, watching the available TV programs was in for a rude awakening. The only English speaking programs aired were Euronews and BBC News. Very entertaining!! We were glad to get home. Bitterly disappointing.

Beware of Costa!

Costa Serena Cruise Review by Laurel Wiseman

Trip Details
Jun21 - Arrived at Venice Marco Polo airport and took ATVO bus to Piazzale Roma (bus terminal) in Venice. (Their ticket booth is just outside the baggage claim area, to the left.) We booked a night in the Ca Doge Hotel, which is located just beside the Autopark, found at the perimeter of the Piazzale Roma. (no need to go up and down bridges to get to your hotel.) The Ca Doge Hotel was a wonderful choice and I have posted a review of it on Trip Advisor. Spent the day in Venice and needed lots more time to enjoy the city. Jun22 - Caught a free Costa shuttle from the Piazzale Roma to the Port. (Take the shuttle, otherwise you can take the half-hour walk but it's a pain with luggage.) Off the bus, we spotted a Costa rep who told us to drop off our luggage before we went into the terminal building. Unfortunately, with her limited English, we couldn't figure out where to actually drop off the luggage. We eventually followed a bunch of people behind the building to a mountain of luggage, found a Costa-looking worker lifting some baggage and dropped off our luggage with him. (No English, again) We then followed the Costa check-in signs to the main door of the terminal building. Up the escalator and turned left. (MSC Cruise lines shares the building and they are on the right.) Again, mass chaos!! No instructions, no signage, nothing!! After waiting in 4 separate lines, we found out that a 5th line was handing out numbered tickets and that a person at a 6th line was calling them out sequentially. Made our way, with our ticket, to that 6th line and waiting 45 minutes for our number to be called. Once our number was called, we ducked under a couple of rope barriers to get to the counter. (We were severely scolded, in broken English, by one of the Costa reps for ducking under the ropes. Great start to a cruise!!) Check-in took about 10 minutes then we were whisked through security, then straight onto the ship. For those of you who manage to make it onto the ship before 1:30pm, just go straight to the buffet. Your room key won't be available until after 1:30pm when you will find it on your cabin bed. Also the ship doesn't leave until 6:00pm so you've got plenty of time to catch the free Costa shuttle back to Venice for some last minute sight-seeing. Jun23 - What a waste of a port stop! Disembarkation at Bari begins at 11:45 and we had to be back on the ship by 1:45pm. Would have been better to have a sea day... As well, once we get off the ship, there was absolutely no signage directing us to the old city of Bari. And with Costa not providing us with a map of the city, it was pretty difficult to navigate. Still, we managed to make our way through many of the narrow alleyways of the town before we had to be back on the ship. Jun24 - Again, another short day on land. Try to get off the ship as soon as you can since the ship is only here from 8:00am to 1:00pm (which means you, effectively have from 8:30pm to 12:30pm for touring). I know you'll want to spend as much time as possible in Olympia, but you've got to give yourself at least 45 minute to shop in Katakalon, which proved to be the best souvenir shopping port on the cruise. Since time is of the essence, hustle and take the 5 minute walk straight into town and go right to the only car rental place. We were charged $80 Euro's for the day for an 8-seater van (only $45 Euro's for a regular car) and offered the option of an extra $10 Euro's for a tank of gas. (Don't take the $10 Euro gas option! Cheaper to stop in at a gas station on the way to Olympia. Gas was $1.30 Euro/litre and you'll only need about 3litres to cover the 76km round trip to Olympia and back. Once you arrive in Olympia, make sure you purchase the 9 Euro combo ticket which covers entrance into the museum, as well as into the ruins of Olympia. Unfortunately, Olympia does not offer any local tour guides so you are pretty much on our own. (We managed to find an English speaking tour already in the park, so we just paid him a few dollars and some of us joined on.) The signage is very good, however, so you'll have no problem navigating through using the Olympia provided map. Re washroom facilities, there are only 2 stalls in the Women's so be prepared to wait! (There were other available facilities in the museum but they were ALL out of commission when we were there.)
Jun25 - Izmir is a lovely port, but once again, you've got very little time. You are able to get off the ship by 9:00am and make sure that you keep track of the disembarkation card that is handed to you by the staff. You'll need it when you return by 2:30pm. It was over 90°F so some of us passed on the tour to Ephesus. Those of us who braved the heat to make it out there were overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the ruins. So the lesson learned here is, do take a tour to Ephesus. Cheapest is to grab a taxi at the port (and share with another couple, if possible) rather than use the ship's tour. For those of us who couldn't handle the heat, we took the 30 minute walk over to the Izmir Bazaar. Not quite as big as the one in Istanbul, but the vendors were a lot more eager to bargain with us. By checking a local map, we discovered the existence of a two century old synagogue, tucked behind the Bazaar on Havra Sokak street. All the vendors seemed to know about it so if you get lost, like we did, just ask the locals for directions. Jun26 - Istanbul is the highlight of this cruise. Get off the ship as soon as possible because you'll want to spend your morning touring and your afternoon shopping, before the ship sails at 6:00pm. Make your way out of the terminal area to the main street. There you will find lots of taxis that would be happy to take you, for 10 Turkish Lira or less, to the Sultanahmet Square. Once there, quickly head over to the Topkapi Palace and Harem rooms where the entrance fee will set you back 10 Turkish Lira for each. After that, make your way over to the Blue Mosque. Admission is free but be prepared that you will be asked for a donation at the end of your visit. If you have time and the line-ups aren't too long, try and squeeze in a visit to the Hagia Sophia Mosque. If not, catch a cab back to the ship and catch a quick lunch before you head out to the Bazaar. The Bazaar is 6km away, perhaps a 45 minute walk mostly uphill, but time is of the essence, so grab a cab on the main street, for 10 Turkish Lira, and get over to the Great Bazaar. I must confess that I was overwhelmed with the expanse of the Bazaar, and with barely 4 hours to shop, I came away with few purchases. Also found that the vendors would not bargain "properly" with us. They seemed content to lose a sale rather than negotiate with us. (Again, Izmir proved to be a far better "bargain".) And don't despair if you just can't find that perfect souvenir at the Bazaar. When you return to the port, there are street vendors galore, with prices cheaper than the BazaarJun27 - In our previous cruises, we usually look forward to our day at sea to rest and enjoy the facilities of the ship. But, once again, Costa proved a great disappointment. Nothing to do!! Aside from sitting in sun and staring up to the sky, there are no activities whatsoever, unless you call a 10 question multilingual trivia session an activity. Boring, boring, boring…… Jun28 - Dubrovnik was our only tendered port so try and give yourself plenty of time to go back and forth. You've got a good ½ a day here so if you keep up a good pace, you can see a couple of the major sights and still have an hour or two left to shop. Walking the length of the walled city was a highlight for part of your group and it only takes ½ hour, but a special caveat that the only drink vendor on the wall will take advantage of you by up-charging his merchandise threefold. Beware and buy your drinks before you go up. It was over 90°F when we were there and you desperately need to have some liquid refreshment while you are walking the wall. Another warning that the shop keepers in this town that we met were unscrupulous, constantly shortchanging us with every purchase. Remember to count your money at all times!! Also, there's no need to convert your currency into Croatian money. Everyone takes Euros.
Jun29 – Back in Venice and supreme chaos reigns as we go through the disembarkation process. Despite what the Costa website says, the ship actually arrives in Venice at 9:00am, with the expectation that movement of passengers off the ship begins at 9:45am. We had to catch a 12:45pm flight back to Toronto so we begged the staff to let us off in the first round. The whole process is “managed”, like most cruise ships, with the issuance of coloured tickets and each colour represents a different disembarkation time. In our case, the ship actually docked later than expected, so rather than inform the passengers of the delay, they allowed hundreds of people, with all sorts of coloured tickets, to cram into the Theatre to await the announcement of their colour. Surprise, surprise that when the first colour (our colour) was called, everyone headed straight for the exit. And by the way, that announcement was made only in Italian, but we didn’t wait, we moved with the herd. No checking of the ticket colours, just a mass stampede!! We followed the crowd and somehow ended up in the baggage claim area, where it was every man for himself. Luggage was flung everyone, complete and utter chaos!! After climbing over the belonging of fellow passengers, and perhaps the passengers themselves, we retrieved our bags and made a mad dash for the line of taxis in front of the terminal building. No time to negotiate the price to the airport, we got inside the first one and told him to step on it. Needless to say, we made it to the airport on time. Never again!!!! General Ship Comments: I’ll start with the few good points about the ship. The staff, although completely clueless about most things, were friendly enough. They tried, within their limited ability to help, but it was a complete and frustrating waste of time. The cabin rooms were lovely and were kept immaculately clean. And my husband, who is an amateur magician, thought that Magic Martin, one of the evening’s entertainers, was especially talented. The bad points, and there were many of them, focused on the details that you take back with you as you remember the cruise. Firstly, that this is the first cruise ship that I remember where ice tea is NOT FREE. It is considered part of the Drinks Package and you must pay for it. Only water is free and I expect that to disappear as Costa continues to nickel and dime its repeat customers. (Oh, did I mention that this was our 2nd Costa cruise? What were we thinking…) Remember to bring your own shampoo with you. Again, this is the first cruise ship where the shampoo was so horrible that we resorted to using the bar of soap instead to wash our hair. And if you think you will gain lots of weight by stuffing your face at the buffets, forget it. The food is so bland that a couple of us actually lost weight during the week. Don’t waste your time with the Kids or Teen club. We were traveling with a 5 year old and a 15 year old. They both tried the clubs and it was a complete waste of time. The counselors didn’t speak English and the facilities were practically non-existent. So the kids spent a lot of time by the pool which would explain why the pools were always filthy. One of our group, who simply wanted to spend some time in the room, watching the available TV programs was in for a rude awakening. The only English speaking programs aired were Euronews and BBC News. Very entertaining!! We were glad to get home. Bitterly disappointing.
Laurel Wiseman’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 6429
Lovely room. Far enough away from the elevator not to be disturbed by its noise, but close enough to get around the ship. Room was immaculately clean
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