Travel To Port of Embarkation * This was easy! We dropped off our car at the valet stand in Savona, got a ticket and paid in cash. They took our luggage right there. No hauling it around like we did in Venice :D
One improvement here would be to have some light refreshments gratuito in the waiting area.
Hotel Info (if any) * No hotel used
Stateroom * The room was small, cozy, and cleverly used the space it had. We were on deck 1 near the center of the ship, and there was not hardly any noise! It was so dreamy. My husband and I agreed that it was some of the best sleep we've had. We love the rocking motion of the ship and the complete darkness.
Ship Info * The Serena is a grand ship! The interior is based on mythology, and it's vibrant if not a little bit over-the-top. But hey, you're cruising! It's an adventure! The layout was easy enough to get the hang of in a day.
Dining * This was the big scary thing that the reviews had me worried about. A lot of English speakers had dinged Costa for the food. Well, we liked it a lot. It was very authentic Italian, and there were plenty of options each day. You could have a light breakfast delivered to your stateroom for free each morning, or hit up one of the buffets for more menu items, or go to a sit down breakfast for omelettes/etc made to order. What more could I ask for there? Lunch had buffet and sit down options as well. This was the only part where I felt that the buffet was kind of sad, but overall it was sufficient. Dinner was glorious. Our waiter, Brian D, was the best! And there was always something interesting on the menu that I was excited to try, or an old favourite. Co-ordinating our orders together, my husband and I were able to try everything we wanted to.
Activities * Here's the part that maybe lacked the most for other English speakers, but we made the best of it! The staff all speak English and are willing to do their best to include you in any activity. I guess some people are shy to raise their hand and ask to be somehow specially included, but it was also a good chance to practice some new languages too! We did some trivia, some sports, and aquagym. There is a library with books of all languages to borrow, as well. We were never bored!
- Children's Clubs * no children
Service * Everyone was really happy to help however they could. Like I mentioned earlier, our waiter was amazing. The excursion desk lady (forgot her name!) was really kind as well. All of the support waiters and dining staff were nice. The only place this kind of went downhill was the sit-down breakfast. But it wasn't a big deal.
Entertainment * The English language TV was kind of unruly. There were 2 channels, sometimes only 1, and it wasn't always the same channel, and that was the frustrating part. If they'd just leave BBC World on or something like that, consistently, it would have been better.
As for the actual shows, they were hit or miss. The acrobats were pretty amazing, and the rest of it was quite cheesy, but that's all subjective of course.
Port & Shore Excursions * Our biggest complaint about this cruise is something we should have realized before we booked it, if we were more experienced cruisers: 5 hour stops in a port are just too short. This was only our 2nd cruise, and we're used to independent travel. We thought we'd be fine, but we soon realized that the 5 hour ports were a hassle without an excursion from the ship. It's just too stressful to worry about "will I make it back in time?" with those short ones. Overall, the ports were amazing. Here is where we stopped: Barcelona, Spain (self) Casablanca, Morocco (self for morning, ship excursion afternoon) Lanzarote, Canary Islands (self for morning, ship excursion afternoon) Tenerife, Canary Islands (self) Madeira, Portugal (self) Malaga, Spain (ship excursion)
Disembarkation *This went very smoothly. We turned in the ticket, got our car keys, found our car + luggage... then off we go! Summary * Overall this was a great itinerary, great value, great cruise! We made awesome new friends and will always have fantastic memories of the new places we visited!
Quiet, comfortable bed, clever use of space, not noisy from above, middle of ship
Barcelona itself is amazing. Stopping here for 5 short hours however, was not ideal. We took a cab to Papabubble (a hip candy store), then rode the hop-on-hop-off bus to admire the Sagrada Familia briefly, then head back to the Placa Catalunya and stroll down La Rambla. By then it was time to head back to the ship already. We thought we'd get more HOHO bus in, but looking back, that was kind of a waste.
We went with the ship excursion here because seeing the Timanfaya park was very important and we didn't want to risk fouling that up with some independent traveler shenanigans :) You know how it goes sometimes.... The excursion was for the PM, so we had the morning to wander around, get our ATM card eaten by a machine and then try to get it back again. It was kind of exciting! The excursion around the park was great. The terrain is other-worldly. Our guide was bi-lingual, leading both the German and English speakers on our bus, and very knowledgeable of the island.
We rented a car with friends, split the cost, and head out to Puerto de la Cruz for some coffee and site seeing. Then we drove through the Mount Teide national park, which was gorgeous and yet still very different from the volcanic terrain from the day before. Renting the car was tricky because getting it back to the port required a tricky turn at the end, but we brought our GPS (luckily!) We were amongst the last people back on board. whew!
We went with a large group and split a taxi tour of the island. This was a good way to cover a lot of ground quickly and get the inside scoop on what we're seeing. The cable car ride up the mountain was a no-go due to too much mist/fog blocking the view. We did the basket ride, which was novel but I wouldn't do it again. Too expensive! We finished our day with the Blandy's tour, which was pleasant, inexpensive, and we learned a lot too.
Grenada is kind of close to Malaga, which is not appearing in the drop down menu as an option here.
Since the stop was so short again (5 hours) we went with a ship excursion to go horseback riding in the Mijas Mountains. This was fantastic! We started with a short minibus ride up to the ranch, through great scenery. The ride was relaxing, and our horses were really well kept. After hitting the trails, we had a wonderful snack waiting for us at the ranch, and lots of local wine! I never did get to see Malaga much, but that's fine. There's always next time...