I want to preface this review by saying I'm not often a big complainer. I can roll with most annoyances with ease and I rarely feel the need to make an issue. But this was by far the WORST CRUISE in my entire life.
Why did we go? Never been to Europe before and Costa had numerous itineraries, dates, and prices to choose from so it was the sheer availability of options that other lines simply did not offer. Next, I've cruised with Costa twice in the past (both in the Caribbean) and it was wonderful. The price was right compared to other US-based lines.
Where did it go? Understand that this cruise, and I assume all others, are basically a 7-day ferry service to various ports. Folks will embark and disembark at different ports during the week, so it's not a traditional everyone gets on and leaves at same port. That being said, we boarded and left at Civitavecchia (Rome's port). We visited Savona, Italty; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; and Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. Having not been to Europe before, these were appealing ports because most were places I would not ordinarily visit on a first time.
What did I know BEFORE Leaving? This is important and you have to do your own research before leaving. I knew that the bulk of passengers were Europeans and English speaking guests were likely in the minority. I knew that passengers embarked and disembarked at various ports throughout the week. I knew that lifeboat safety drills were done at every port. I knew that entertainment on-board was likely geared towards European passengers and the language would be mostly in Italian. All this being said, I went on this cruise with a positive outlook and knowing it would be very different than a traditional North American cruise.
Next, let's talk about why this cruise was horrible. I will discuss positives at the end and other general issues like cabin, ship, ports, etc, but this is really what English-speaking guests need to know before going on this cruise.
I. CANCELLED EXCURSIONS and DISCRIMINATION TOWARDS ENGLISH SPEAKING GUESTS
This is by far the biggest complaint and totally ruined this cruise. I can understand an excursion cancelled due to lack of participants because an outside company is used and if only a few folks select that excursion, than obviously it won't go forward. The problem lies in how a participant is defined. On this ship, a participant is not simply defined by having a human body but rather defined on the language spoken by the human.
In short, the number of excursions available to English-speaking guests is far less than what is available to Italian speaking guests. YOU WILL HAVE NOT THE SAME OPTIONS AS OTHER GUESTS AND WILL BE TREATED DIFFERENTLY.
In Savona (our first port), we pre-booked a seemingly wonderful sounding excursion only to find out, on embarkation day, that it was cancelled with no explanation so we were forced to choose another and had a very limited number of available options. At the excursion desk we were told we had about 3 to 4 to choose from for English speaking guests; which told me that if I spoke Italian, I would have had more. The excursion we ended up with was mostly ok, but it was not one we would have selected. Details on the excursion will follow later on.
In Barcelona (our third port), we pre-booked an excursion that sounded great on paper, only to find out the night before that it was being cancelled. Once again, the same process was repeated at the excursion desk BUT this time we found out that our original selection was cancelled because there were not enough English-speaking guests who selected that particular excursion. The excursion was ended up having to pick was nothing short of a pointless, waste of time, and ended up costing MORE MONEY than the original one we wanted.
Finally and the most incriminating of all was that Costa offered a behind the scenes tour of the Diadema on the at-sea day. A copy of the excursion description is attached. Once again, the night before we found out that we would NOT be able to do the ship tour. However, the ship was kind enough to provide a written letter explaining why. At the same time, the letter (also attached) completely confirmed by suspicion that English-speaking were clearly being discriminated against and proof lies in the letter.
Whether you speak English, Italian, French, German, or Spanish; everyone pays to be on this ship and have the same options as everyone else. The ship tour is conducted entirely by Costa; unlike the shore excursions. The ship tour was made available to everyone, for a price, which we were willing to pay. There is NO EXCUSE for us not being to take advantage of this exclusive tour but for we were English-speaking guests. It was confirmed to me later on that the ship tour did in-fact go forward and the original Barcelona excursion also went forward.
Remember that Costa is owned by the Carnival Corporation (a US company). Costa is mostly an Italian-oriented cruise line but you cannot treat English-speaking guests differently simply because there's not many of them. It's not my problem that not many English speakers booked this nightmare of a cruise.
I personally addressed the cancelled excursions, with emphasis on the ship tour, with the shore excursions manager and the guest services people (who are mostly pointless) and it was confirmed that the ship defines participants based on the language they speak. The shore-based excursions are limited if you're an English speaker and you will not the same options as everyone else. Even on your tour (assuming it goes forward), English speakers will be grouped with another language, so the tour operator does the tour in both languages. The ship-based tour, however, is 100% within the control of the ship and an accommodation should have been made. The Diadema flatly DENIED us the ship tour, we were willing to pay for, simply because not enough other English-speakers wanted to do it. This amounts to a form of discrimination based on national origin and I will formally address it with Carnival.
In short, ENGLISH-SPEAKERS please know that you will be treated differently. You will be in the minority. Expect an excursion or two, or three, to be cancelled due to lack of other participants who also speak English. You will not have the same tour options as other guests.
II. GROSS INEFFICIENCY
On Deck 3 there is a desk called Hospitality Service Desk which is staffed by mostly pointless individuals who cannot do a damn thing except tell where you need to go to address your problem. These same individuals also give conflicting information and clearly have no idea what's going on half of the time.
The first instance was an embarkation day. We wanted to exchange some USA currency to Euros and were told we could do so but only before 5pm which left us 10 minutes. So we raced to our room, got the cash, went back down, waited in line, only to be told that it had to be done before 4pm and we cannot do until after Marseille (2 days later). Keep in mind we were at the same desk, just talking to a different person. How is it that a group of people working at the same desk can be on two totally different understandings?
The next instance involved the complaints with our cancelled excursions. The hospitality desk told us we need to talk to the excursions department. What the hell is the point of the hospitality desk if they cannot address passengers concerns.
The final instance was on disembarkation day when we had to deal with several issues on our final bill. After waiting in line, the hospitality service guy said we needed to talk an individual sitting at a setup desk, with a laptop, to address the billing issues. Let that sink in...a sole individual, sitting at a setup desk, with only a laptop, to address ALL account issues for ALL passengers disembarking in Rome. After being told this, we flatly yelled at the hospitality service people saying, "You people are pointless!"
So, before going, know that the Hospitality Service Desk is relatively pointless. The resolution you'll get will be them telling you to go some place else and talk to whoever else. Also, you will get conflicting information because clearly these people do not talk amongst themselves. I've never seen such gross inefficiency, lack of communication, and lack of clarity onboard a ship. Overall, a complete waste of time.
III. Horrible Food
I'm not a food critic. I have no idea what's supposed to be good and what's not. I can only go by whether I liked it or not, the portion size, temperature, availability of options, and if I'd order it again.
In short, the food in the main dining room was awful. They are all about presentation but the accompaniments, such as sauces, drizzles, etc) were small and mainly just there to look nice; even though they were actually GOOD and should have been in greater quantity. Service took forever. Our waiter was very difficult to understand. The food itself was mostly forgettable and gross.
The best meal we had was in the Samsara Restaurant, for which there was a charge. The buffet breakfasts were mediocre and the concept of cooked bacon is elusive as another English-speaking guest. Lunch in the formal dinning room, which we did on the at-sea day, was equally gross. The buffalo mozzarella cheese they pride themselves on looked like a white ball of gelatin and was disgusting. The buffet lunches on the Lido Deck were so-so, and by the time you found a seat, good your drink, and were ready to eat your food was cold.
Out of all the dinners we had in the formal dining room, only ONE was excellent. Do yourself favor, eat in port if you can.
Overall, the worst food and the worst dining I've ever had....and I'm usually content eating at places ranging from Pizza Hut to a 4-star restaurant. Compared to other cruises, this was by far the worst.
IV. WARM ROOM
I've preface this part by disclosing I'm from Florida. Therefore, I'm used to constant air conditioning and cool indoor environments. Also, this may be an issue that's more specific to me and not representative to everyone. That being said, on prior cruises, the ventilation and thermostat in the cabin was mostly comfortable. Not here! For the first FOUR DAYS we made daily complaints to the un-Hospitality Services Desk about the lack of airflow in our cabin and the perpetual stuffiness. You could feel cold air coming through the vent but it wasn't forceful. The technician told us they would increase the air flow and seemed to acknowledge there should be more air. The issues didn't seem to resolve itself until about day 5. Thus, for over half of this cruise, we spent in a stuffy room and waking up sweaty and gross.
V. GENERAL THOUGHTS
Overall, the cabin size was adequate and roomy. No major complaints other than the AC issue. The bed was somewhat comfortable BUT the pillows were thin and I need 2 in order to actually lay flat. Even then, the pillows were hard and I ended up using the one of the pullout couch. Don't bother with the TV because there's only a few English channels ranging from business news (who cares), BBC News, and a movie station that's actually Italian but plays with English movies. Closets and storage spaces were plentiful. The bathroom was what you'd expect. Adequate shelving. However, the shower curtain doesn't go all the way down to the floor for some unknown reason so water gets all over the floor from the water dripping down the curtain and from splashing out. I tried moving in the limiting room available to avoid the water splashing out; it looked like a Cirque du Soleil in there. The cabin steward was very good and the room was kept clean and orderly.
THERE IS NO TURN DOWN SERVICE and no cute towel animals. Not a major issue but just something to know.
2. Entertainment an Activities
Not much say to here because we didn't do anything except see a few shows. Know that Mediterranean cruises are heavily port-insensitive so days started early and we were mostly tired by the end of them.
Most shows were done in Italian with little english thrown in so we didn't bother. The production shows were good and enjoyable. The acrobatic stuff was cool. They could have had more universal type shows so everyone could enjoy regardless of language; such as magicians, variety acts that do not involve speaking, or anything you see an AGT (America's Got Talent) that involves dancing, light acts, etc.
By now, you've already read and understood the excursions issue we had so this bit is more on the specific ports and our experiences with the tours we had.
A mostly pointless port as the bulk of excursions were to Genoa, so why not just go there? I would have liked to have seen the Cinque Terre, Portofino, and Genoa but the availability wasn't there [for English speaking guests]. The excursion we ended up took us to two small towns which were wonderful and charming. But I would rather seen the Cinque Terre. Stopping in Genoa, La Spezia, or Livorno would have lent itself to more cooler excursions and things to see; assuming of course they aren't cancelled.
Would I return to this port, NO. Select a route that goes to Genoa, La Spezia, or Livorno.
There is a lot here and our pre-booked excursion actually went forward! We were in a tour with another language so heard the information twice. The guide was wonderful and I appreciated the time she took having to do double the work. I would have liked more time to see Marseille but our excursion took us to two small towns in Provence (Arles and Saint Remy).At each town, you had at least an hour of free time. Overall, this was an enjoyable day and no major complaints or issues.
Would I return to this port, YES...on another cruise of course.
Barcelona has A LOT to offer and A LOT to see. I would suggest booking your own excursion with an outside company. We separately booked tickets for the Sagrada Familia before we left and planned accordingly. You want to see the inside of this church as it is magnificent.
Our original excursion would have taken us to different landmarks around the city an allowed free time. It was only 4 hours in the AM, which left us enough time to make it back to the Sagrada for our tour inside. The excursion we ended up with was a complete waste of time. You saw Barcelona's treasured landmarks from a bus, but I was sitting on the wrong side so I didn't get to see them. And there was no let-off time to actually see them. We did better exploring on our own.
My advice, if you're in Barcelona for a long time, look for an outside company that can do a tour in 5-6 hours. Or, do a ship-based excursion that allows you to see the major sights BUT do not miss seeing the inside of the Sagrada Familia.
Would I return to this port, absolutely YES. I would return here on my own.
Palma de Mallorca -
Palma is on the island of Mallorca, which is part of Spain and right off the coast from Barcelona. This is a truly wonderful port and was the highlight of the entire cruise. We pre-booked the dragon caves tour and it went forward (yay). The excursion was great, nicely coordinated, guide was wonderful, and only lasted 4-5 hours which left you the entire afternoon to see an explore Palma on your own. There was a stop to a pearl factory but I could less about glass pearls so it mostly yawn time for me.
Do not do a full day tour here. You want time to explore Palma and eat at the local restaurants. For me, the food in Palma was among the best food I had during the cruise...because it wasn't that garbage served onboard.
Would I return to this port, YES. I would combine this with a Barcelona vacation in a heartbeat.
Cagliari is the capital city on the island of Sardinia which is part of Italy. We did a walking tour of the city which was helpful because we dropped out of the tour about 3/4 of the way and went back to see stuff on our own and eat at the local restaurants which were very good. There is a lot of shopping and nice sights; but the city itself is rather grimy (graffiti on the walls, poorly cared for buildings, etc) but whatever. The beaches in Sardinia are supposedly beautiful but we didn't see any. There is a nearby beach called Poetto which is the main beach for Cagliari, but the island's more prettier beaches are about 45 minutes outside of the city. Overall, this was an average port and worthwhile seeing.
Would I return to this port, POSSIBLY but not in a hurry. If I did, I would want to see the beaches on the rest of the island.
4. The Ship Itself
Despite all the issues, the Diadema is a gorgeous ship. The atrium lobby is breathtaking. The colors and design are very nice and what I expected based on two prior Costa cruises. The public spaces were nice. The pool areas were nice. There seemed to be adequate deck space for chairs, but we didn't use the pools at all because it was mostly chilly this time of year. The ship was kept clean and despite the prevalence of Europeans, there was not a lot of smoking and no indoor smoking permitted.
There is no promenade deck that encompasses the ship! In prior cruises, we would enjoy strolling on a deck (usually around decks 6 to 4) that takes you all around the ship. That doesn't exist on this ship and the only promenade deck to speak of is actually up the pool and you have to go up and down various stairs and you have no access to the bow of the ship.
The main dining room was not as lavishly decorated as you'd expect and the main theater was a bit underwhelming. The casino is SMALL compared to other ships.
The embarkation process varies from port to port, so I can only talk about Civitavecchia and it was a breeze, efficient, and hassle-free. The terminal building is a new and construction remains ongoing but the inside was sleek, clean, and had adequate seating (upstairs ONLY). We had our bags relatively quickly. Overall, no major issues or complaints.
The ship's disembarkation process structure was fine and I have no complaints. The process of reconciling your account is an absolute disaster and goes back to issues of gross inefficiency addressed above.
Remember the terminal I discussed above? Herein lies the problem, if you are disembarked and waiting for a car service or whatever, there is NO PLACE TO SIT INSIDE OR OUTSIDE. All the seating is upstairs past security. We weren't 100% of exactly when we would be able to leave the ship so we told our car service to pick us by 11, but we were actually off by 9:30 so we waiting around for over an hour with no place to sit except the ground.
My advice, if you are pre-arranging a car service, give them the hour after the ship pulls into port. For example, if you're arriving in Civitavecchia at 8am, tell the car service 9 and then request the earliest disembarkation time (I was told you could do that).
VI. CONCLUSION and FINAL COMMENTS
I would never again go on another Costa cruise; even if they gave me a free cruise or credit towards another. Compared to my last two Costa cruises, this was horrible. My next Mediterranean cruise will ONLY be on a US-cruise line such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, or grudgingly NCL.
If you're considering a first time Mediterranean cruise, I would highly recommend leaving from Civitavecchia because you will want a few days to explore Rome. Rome itself is at least an hour from Civitavecchia so any Rome-centered excursions will be a full day and you'll be paraded through the major sights at rushed speed. We spent 4 full days in Rome before the cruise even left; there's just so much to see and you don't want to be rushed.
I would seriously reconsider any thoughts you might have about going on this ship. Do your own research, read the comments and reviews, and know what to expect before you go. If you've never done a Mediterranean cruise, I would look for a US-based line instead because if you go with Costa, you will be disappointed and frustrated every day.
I would definitely NOT recommend this cruise to anyone and it was an overall disappointment and a blight on my entire cruising experience.
If anyone wishes to contact me directly with specific questions or concerns, I'm happy to respond. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "Costa Review" in the subject line.
Relatively pointless port as described above.
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