We are Americans who sailed on an August Mediterranean cruise which stopped in Palma de Mallorca, Cagliari (Island of Sardinia), Civitavecchia (Rome), Savona and Marseille.
The culture.....I had read numerous negative reviews about this cruise line by American passengers. I can only surmise that they have had minimal exposure to other cultures. Frankly, the offering of this cruise line is like any North American ship on which I've cruised. Unless you splurge on a high end line (i.e. Regent, Crystal, etc.), I'm sorry folks, every cruise is the same-- lots of human bodies, plentiful food, garish decor, entertainment galore, loud music, sun worshipping, waiting for elevators, the list goes on! Quite literally the only difference on Costa is that Europeans are the absolute majority-- with a healthy smattering of Asians, a small handful of people of color, and virtually a minuscule number of Americans. However my observation is that cruise passengers are exactly the same no matter the language they speak or the country from which they hale-- they simply enjoy this type of vacation. The only tangible differences that I noticed which may make some American travelers uncomfortable are increased smoking habits, a much later (and much louder) nightlife, and some Europeans who are not warm-fuzzy, dying-to-greet you types (although are universally receptive to your overtures). What's the cliché saying, "when in Rome...." I'd suggest embracing the variations in people and culture or stick with a North American cruise.
The cabins.....We had a triple balcony room. Plenty of space with 2 beds together to make a king and an additional twin. Sizable balcony with 2 chairs and table. Exceedingly generous closet space, but a bit short on drawers. Safe for valuables. Nice and varied lighting options. Two outlets, but only one that will accommodate your American electronics, so bring an adapter. Linens not luxurious but decent and plenty of towels replenished multiple times daily. Bathroom had generous shelving for toiletry storage and a drying line, but no outlet. Pool towel replacement, however, was quite spotty. Housekeeping, and I am super picky in this regard, kept the room spotless and did so at least twice daily.
The food.....Breakfast was cold continental: meats/cheeses/breads/yogurt/fruits. Lovely and fit the bill for us, but do not expect a full gargantuan American breakfast. This boat, and rightly so, caters to the majority of its customers for this meal. There is a sit down cooked-to-order breakfast option, as well, but we did not try it. Lunch is a wonderful varied selection for all palettes-- same as any North American boat. We dined at night during the early seating. Nice variation (albeit heavily Italian) and good quality. As Americans we were served water free of charge, as opposed to our European counterparts who are always charged for water because this is commonplace in restaurants in their countries. Service could be a bit spotty, but in their defense, the waitstaff seemed exceedingly taxed, rushed to flip the dining room for the second seating. They even turn the lights up to hurry you along! We did eat in the teppanyaki restaurant, for which you do indeed pay extra. It was fine, nothing particularly special, but a decent diversion if you need a change from the dining room. Of course, there are also various food offerings (some free, some paid) throughout the day to satisfy appetites any time.
The excursions.....We only booked 2 excursions through Costa. From Palma de Mallorca we visited Drach Caves with shopping for Mallorca pearls (which btw are artificial). Our trip ended up being combined English/French, which did not detract from the trip in any way whatsoever, as the tour wasn't guided in the caves (information provided simply during transport). Good value and as anticipated. Then there came the unfortunate events surrounding our planned excursion to Arles/St. Remy from the port of Marseille. I had read horror stories of English language trips being cancelled and there starts our narrative. I had booked this trip prior to embarking and was informed only the afternoon prior to the excursion that it had been cancelled due to lack of interest in an English language tour. Ughh, how aggravating and what inexcusably late notice. I had foregone a private tour to save money and I kicked myself for doing so! We considered opting for another language tour, but, unlike the cave tour in Palma, this would be a guided tour through the various stops (not just during transport); therefore the language barrier was indeed an obstacle. We ended up spending a small fortune for onboard (painfully slow) internet looking around for a last minute Sunday car rental. My unfortunate takeaway is that I would be highly unlikely to book a tour-type excursion through Costa in the future. You should also know that Costa distributes excursion tickets at the eleventh hour; I'm talking that they didn't show up until the morning of the trip. At the very least you should check in with the trips desk, as aggravating as that is, just to confirm that your plans are solid and as expected.
The entertainment.....ok let's be honest here. I've never seen a single performer who was headed to Broadway on a North American boat and the same holds true on Costa. The shows were fine, but our expectations are realistic. Lots to do by the pool during the day, plenty of children's activities, great separate opportunities for teens to socialize and of course your standard fare of bingo/trivia/wine tastings/dance lessons/etc.
The website.....hmmm, suffice to say that the site, clearly translated from Italian, could use a bit of work. For example, the itinerary on the website indicated that we'd dock in Palma both Day 2 and Day 3. Nope, Day 3 was a day at sea. Glad I had not planned a private excursion or rented a car which I often do. Another piece of information that was unavailable to us from the English language website was the ability to embark and disembark at various ports along the itinerary. We met many guests who did not do the 7 night round trip but various and varied timeframes. I suggest asking specific questions of the agent when booking and not assume the offer is the same as you might expect on a North American cruise line.
We choose our cruises based solely on dates and itinerary, so if Costa had an offering that intrigued us, we'd certainly choose it again.
There are cruise-provided shuttle buses (for a fee) and taxis available immediately upon disembarking. Private tour companies can also pick up right there. FYI the airport is about 30 minutes by taxi and costs 39 euros flat fee. It is possible to walk out of the port but the area is rather industrial and without services.
Easy exit from ship directly into town with a plethora of amenities. Cathedral and Caves of Drach enjoyable.
The port was actually CAGLIARI (on Sardinia). You disembark and wait a number of minutes (5-15) for a shuttle bus to take you less then a mile out of the port, where you can meet private tour companies and access town. FYI when I visited in August, there were many company representatives waiting for disembarking passengers with which you can book on the spot tours in the event you haven't done prior planning. Su Nuraxi and visit to wild horses of enjoyable.
You disembark and wait a number of minutes (5-15) for a shuttle bus to take you less then a mile out of the port, where you can meet private tour companies, find rental cars and access town. FYI when I visited in August, there were many company representatives waiting for disembarking passengers with which you can book on the spot tours in the event you haven't done prior planning. Option to avoid going into Rome is a road trip toward Tarquinia (Etruscan museum and necropolis) and Viterbo, where you can dip into thermal baths at Terme dei Papi.
There are both cruise-provided shuttle buses (for a fee) and taxis available immediately upon disembarking that can transport you into the center of Marseille. It is possible to walk out of the port but the area is rather industrial and without services. Also a few souvenir stalls right at disembarkation point. Exploration of Provence possible from Marseille, with Arles and St. Remy being lovely choices.