This whole cruise experience was awful in so many ways.
Cleanliness: In the hallway outside our cabin it constantly smelled like sewage. Our toilet malfunctioned several times, threatening to overflow into the bathroom floor. The white towels and bath mat had coin-size brown stains on them. Carpets are filthy and stained, dining linen does not appear to be changed, and we encountered crusty dirty plates, bowls and cutlery in the “clean” stacks at the buffet more than once. The whole ship is peeling at the edges and needs a refresh.
Staff: Our cabin steward was lovely but beyond that, the chances of finding any remotely pleasant staff were bleak. Bar staff were rude. Harried customer service desk staff were openly disinterested in helping anyone. Our dining room server seemed depressed.
Food: They were constantly out of so many things, including their advertised “special” beers and wines. We were served frozen entrees for dinner that seemed to have been barely microwaved. The coffee station was never open on time in the morning, although staff were going behind the ropes and helping themselves. The one day we ate the sit-down breakfast, we waited 30 minutes to order before we gave up and just had the specialty buffet breakfast in the same room. There was something so bad in what I ate there that I went back to the cabin and threw up immediately (into the toilet that was constantly backing up). The lack of proper food service hygiene and failure to manage the chaos at the buffet created by lack of lines, direction, etc was appalling.
Cash Grabs: They up-sell EVERYTHING ... there are an incredible number of non-included food items like the late night pizza and burger bar, room service, or coffee outside of breakfast times. The internet is overpriced and incredibly slow - don’t bother.
“Mandatory” Gratuities: We tried to settle our cash account on the second last day and were told it was “impossible” except at the wildly inconvenient time of 6:30 am on the last day. At that time, we lined up for half an hour before being sent around to 4 different places because we had requested the gratuities be removed due to our less than acceptable cruise experience. Everywhere we went we were told it was “impossible”.
These “mandatory” gratuities of €10/day per person were not disclosed up front. They are not in the fine print on your booking, but are buried in a faint hyperlink in the terms (so if you printed it out you can’t even see it). The Costa manager refused to remove these charges and was quite aggressive/bullying towards us about it, although any other major cruise line will allow passengers to remove it given it’s not a legally enforceable charge. It seemed really slimy to bury the misleading “mandatory” charges info in a hyperlink and then claim we had agreed to it. Costa tries to get around the law by calling it a “hotel service charge”. Haha, right. Only they are not a hotel; they are a marine vessel.
Be aware that your “gratuities” DO NOT go to staff, but into Costa’s coffers. It’s an offensive practice that’s bad for crew and customers alike. Costa, be better. Don’t try to avoid paying your corporate taxes, or to provide a fair living wage and benefits to employees with these kind of murky loopholes. If this is really mandatory and is really used to pay staff, then your company should have no problem being honest and transparent about it and include it as part of the initial cruise price right up front and in the open.
This was my third Costa cruise. I enjoyed the first two. Clearly things have deteriorated significantly since Carnival took over and I will never cruise with Costa again.