We selected a long cruise taking us through the Mediterranean, around the English Channel and through the Baltic sea to St Petersburg. The itinerary was good and because we selected an outside balcony cabin, we were quite comfortable throughout the journey. The ship itself is a large liner and pretty much to the standard you'd expect. Entertainment is, well, entertaining and our cabin staff were friendly and helpful as you'd expect. However it kind of goes down hill from there!
From day 1 the embarkation, on-board organisation and meal experience was disastrous.
(1) Embarkation was 3 hours standing in queues despite some elderly people we noticed having a lot of difficulty. There were no crew members checking on the health and happiness of guests and a bit of care and HR in this regard (maybe some water thrown in) would have done heaps toward the initial experience. Perhaps Costa should realise that the first experience is critical.
(2) Many waiters, bar staff and service centre staff are rude and should be made to walk the plank. We understand that working 11 hrs per day for 6 months on end, whilst (apparently) on minimal wages will toll heavily on most people. However, they're pretty much a surly unhelpful lot. It's hard to put this into words as no particular incidents stand out from the rest. Basically it's an attitude problem. With the exception of some, you get the feeling they just don't like you. Maybe they should go somewhere else? Maybe management should take a good look at this problem?
(3) Tours and Cost-a-lot. The magic show isn't restricted to the theatre. In-fact, there's lots of "slight of hand" when it comes to this part of the cruise. Cost-a-lot arranged shuttle buses in every port to take people to and from town centres for about Euros 15 each person. In most cases town was quite close and could be walked or public transport was available for 1/10th of that price. When querying this prior to docking, Cost-a-lot excursions desk referred you to the help desk and vice versa with no-one apparently knowledgeable of where they were heading or willing to give advice. The on-board shops were a rip off to which we fell victim. We purchased 2 Invicta watches, which were said to be discounted by 75%. During the purchase i asked if the discount was genuine or not. We were assured it was. It wasn't at all! When researched we found that we could have purchased these same watches from various retailers cheaper than what we did and without any discount. We also noticed that the alleged 75% off was offered to guests coming on board throughout different parts of the trip as a "once day flash sale". This is a good trick Cost-a-lot! In Australia, we call it lying.
(4) Food and Restaurants. OMG! The Bellagio Buffet (the zoo) is something to write about. The food from cruise start to finish is lacklustre and cold. Don't be late, though! If you don't covet a table and defend it with your life a good 45 minutes before it opens, you'll wait 20 minutes in line before you get something to eat. Pushing and queue jumping is normal. Piling food on plates is normal - then because it's too much to eat, discarded. One tip i have for "the zoo" is to have the salads in a different place to that of being before the hot food containers. This will alleviate people standing at the front of the line picking and choosing a bit of this and that cheese and lettuce whilst there's 200 people behind them waiting to get some hot food. The Bellagio needs a total revamp. Sit down restaurants were more civilised and the food was okay for the most part.
Nice comfortable room and bed, large enough for 2 persons only, always kept clean by our room guy.