Everyone who complained about the cruise ( mostly the food ) said I couldn't really be objective about this ship as I was a newbie to cruising, therefore I had nothing to compare it to. While that might be valid I truly felt that it would be hard to find a more beautiful ship to cruise on. Nay sayers be darned!
As mentioned it was our first cruise. Found a great lot to leave our car ( Safe Parking Miami) and boarding was easy. Stayed in Coconut Grove for two nights before cruise at a B+B which was close enough to the port. Liked the fact that even though we didn't sail until 10 pm we boarded by 3 and had lunch and a tour of the ship, so excited to be on board! First night on board took some getting used to.. vibration and slight swaying of ship, my husband wore acupuncture bands on wrist and he was fine. We have been on many large ferries etc. but nothing compares to being on a large cruise ship with its opulence and services.
THE PEOPLE: Mostly European passenger i.e: Italians with a smattering of other nationalities, very few North Americans. We were basically in the minority as Canadians. All officers appeared to be Italian with rest of crew from basically all over the world. If you want to feel like you have arrived in Europe the Costa line is the way to go. A friend on board said Americans did not want to cruise on a ship that had any connection to the Costa Concordia. One aside was the presence of many Guadaloupean passengers. They were dropped off and picked up in Gaudaloupe, they got a seven day passage with a cheaper rate. Liked the fact that there were at least some Caribbean folk on the ship, but got the sense that crew wasn't too impressed with them, although they appeared to be bread and butter passengers for the ship as they formed a sizeable group on board. There was an incident of a fight between two family groups but it was quickly quashed. It happened just up the hall from our room. Security came quickly and I never felt it was a huge thing, just a lot of loud noise for about half an hour. Glad we made friends with some American people as it was hard to converse with most people as they did not speak English at least around us. Several other people we met were travel agents who got a special rate, said they probably wouldn't have taken this line if the price wasn't right for them.
Loved the balcony and all the storage room in our cabin. Stayed on sixth deck near stairs nearer stern which was convenient for climbing up to food deck and down to restaurant. Still not optimal location I guess but as we booked at last minute the extra fifty dollars to do this was worth it. Felt like we were staying in a small airstream vehicle. After staying in many hotels rooms this cabin would rate higher in comfort than most. Of course the view made all the difference. Fun to sit out there and watch for traffic on the 'high seas'. Next door neighbours were a little loud as sound seemed to echo but since they spoke in Italian it never bothered us. Several Miami stations on TV for Americans and some European channels but no Canadian offering. Did complain about lack of Canadian channel as even in Cuba the satellite got one Canadian channel. Response was that it was impossible, found that hard to believe. Didn't bother with Internet as it was super expensive but some news from home might have been nice.