We chose not to participate in most of the cruise-sponsored excursions since most of the towns appeared to be easily accessible to the ports. While we expected that those who chose to participate in a ship-sponsored excursion would get to leave the boat first, we did not expect to have to wait up to two hours (AFTER the stated disembarkation time for those not taking excursions) each day to leave the ship. Even after arriving early to receive a number, we still waited almost an hour for the boats to take us from the ship to shore. We waited even longer on the days we needed a bus. (These buses into town were More
recommended by Costa to help us "make the most of our time" (for an extra fee). Though we were tempted to find ground transportation on our own, it was not clear whether this was even possible at several of the ports and we did not wish to waste our time finding out. (We did take the Metro from Piraeus into Athens, which worked very well.) In short, we only had a few hours each day to enjoy our destination.
Had it been explained in the literature that Costa-sponsored excursions were strongly recommended, due to the the short duration of our stay, we would have felt much differently. The suggestion that Costa transportation would help us make better use of our time was misleading. When we appealed to the English-speaking cruise director about how to avoid the long wait, we received no guidance and were reminded (somewhat indignantly) that Costa had successfully transported 2,000 people off of the boat the day before. Apparently timeliness is not part of their definition of successful.
The ship itself was far from impressive, comparable to an outdated 3-star hotel. The rooms were satisfactory in size and comfort but the furniture, decor, and facilities were tired. Food was decent, with the exception of the buffet, which was a mundane spread that did not change all week. The dining rooms were quite noisy and often warm. Service was acceptable by European standards. Americans will be disappointed.
I went on this cruise with no expectation other than to sample a bit of Greece and Croatia. The transportation procedures were so disorganized that we barely had time to do even this. Further, the environment onboard was not pleasant and was compromised by frustrating encounters with staff, hours of waiting, and outmoded accommodations.