We picked this cruise because the dates fitted our needs and it was departing from the UK. I've cruised extensively with multiple cruise lines, but this was only my friend's second time at sea having travelled with P&O last time. It was relatively inexpensive at around £680 for the week including a drinks package.
Embarkation was disappointing. We were 2 of only 65 guests joining the ship in Dover, the majority of people had set sail from Amsterdam a couple of days earlier. Being a five hours plus drive away from Dover, we'd stayed overnight at a local hotel. We'd been given an embarkation time of 2pm, but we had to vacate our room for 11am so we got to the port around 11.30. The ship was in, lots of guests had gone off on excursions etc and yet we had to sit in the terminal with our luggage for two and a half hours, with no hot or cold drinks available, not even water. Nobody from the ship was in sight until bang on 2pm when they came and set their stall up and checked us in. It seemed petty to not invite us onto the ship earlier so we could start our holiday, we would have understood if our cabin hadn't been available but it seemed petty to leave us kicking around in an empty terminal.
We'd looked on line before we sailed at excursions - our first port of call was Le Havre and we'd been hoping to visit Paris, but there were no listed excursions on-line for Paris and we didn't want to risk a 3hr train journey or independent excursion in case something went wrong, since it's 3 hours away from port. It turned out that excursions to Paris were in fact available once on board but by the time we got on the ship in Dover they'd all sold out. We bought tickets for the shuttle bus to Hamburg, for 10 Euros each only to watch lots of people who'd got off the ship without shuttle tickets being allowed on for free which was great for them but left us feeling cross. The shuttle driver who took us to a train station so we could get a train to Amsterdam later in the week told us the pick up point was the same as the drop off point and that was incorrect, resulting in us waiting over an hour in the baking sunshine for a shuttle that was operating back and forth from the other side of the station. It was just al really badly organised, verging on Chaos, and there were lots of annoyed customers, us included. The ports of call were miles from the actual cities, and two shuttles dropped us at a station where we had to catch a train in to both Amsterdam and Bruges...it was not convenient or easy and significantly diluted the pleasure of looking around somewhere new.
Oh dear. The food and dining experience in general was terrible. The food tasted okay but it was consistently lukewarm, in fact I'd go so far as to say we never had a hot meal the whole week we were away. The choice was far more limited than I've experienced on other cruise lines. The breakfast buffet was just awful with cold greasy bacon and very limited choice, and all clap cold. On two of the days they ran out of bread rolls and there was no cereal of fruit. We tried the formal serviced dining room one morning to see if it was any better but sadly is wasn't. Overall we were horribly disappointed with every single dining experience. The waiter regarded us as a pair of freaks for expecting hot food and a roll of the eyes was all out guaranteed every time we fed back that the food wasn't hot enough.
Service & standards
It was pretty inconsistent. A couple of the bars had friendly engaging waiters but generally they were miserable and even a bit sullen. Overall not great. One of the officers with 3 pips on his shoulder wandered around often with a shirt that looked like it had been slept in, with faded navy chinos on the bottom half, and a female officer who looked much smarter was more interested in looking at herself in the many mirrors than engaging with the guests.
We had a good time in spite of Costa. It's a safe bet that we will never ever travel with them again..it's not an experience we would wish to repeat.
Small but adequate