We picked this 9 night Norway Cruise for it's ports, not for the ship, as part of a celebration for our son's high school graduation. We splurged on a panorama suite for a little more room and services since there were 4 of us, my husband, 18 yr old, 1 yr old and myself. We reviewed all Costa's shore excursions prior to sailing and through research determined we could do most of their excursions on our own or through another company for half the cost. We booked 0 excursions through Costa and did all sight seeing and excursions on our own.
BERGEN: We easily walked from port to town while walking by colorful houses to Floyen Mountain funicular (lift/gondola). Once on top, beautiful views await with easy walking trails, friendly goats and playgrounds galore (don't miss the wooden one in the trees to the left when you get up there. There's a little zipline that's part of the playground too). Definitely a spot for all age groups. Go there early as the lines get long for the funicular. Cost was reasonable, about $20 round trip. You can also hike up and down at no cost, but it's not for everyone and I would rate it difficult because of the incline and length to get up there.
HELLESYIT: we didn't dock. Stopped for an hour for the views. You could only get off IF you booked an excursion that took you to the next town, Geiranger. At the high cost, It didn't sound worth it.
GEIRANGERFJORD: coming into this Fjord is the excursions. Save your money and wake up early (by 6am) and watch the majestic waterfalls and ridges roll by as they narrow while approaching Geiranger. At port, we checked out a few port shops along the water, walked around towards town (about 5 minutes) and walked backed. It looked like you could rent a boat there for a few hours. That would have been fun. It ended up being a very overcast day. We ended up back on the boat somewhat early for a nap.
ANDALSNES: My favorite! I originally wanted to take the train excursions Costa had on the Rauma Railway but at almost $200 a person, I thought not.
I found the train actually had a website of it's own, but the tickets were sold out for that date and time (Costa's excursions bought them out no doubt). So we rented a nice car for $60 and went to all the same places on the excursions, literally following the train as it paralleled the road we drove (a huge cost saving and so much better than fighting for space with all the other tourists). MUST SEE Trollstigen (winding, steep road with waterfalls to a beautiful mountain top park with easy trails to overlook). Come back towards town and drive up the other side along the Rauma River to Romsdalen. On your way take a side road off the beaten path for a few minutes. We saw moose and an incredible unattended roaring waterfalls.
OLDEN: we took the local bus (turned school bus after 3pm) for a few NOK (maybe $10 per person round trip) to Briksdale Glacier. You must do this early to allow for time to get there and for walking the park and return before the buses stop running. There was no cost to get into the park, just for the shuttle cart (big golf cart) to bring you towards the top of the park to avoid some uphill hiking. We loved the 1 hour walk up and the challenge. Bring a raincoat or sweater, it does get cold (you're walking to a glacier).
STAVANGER: We really wanted to do the Pulpit Rock excursions with Costa, but again $200 a person was ridiculous. You can do it on your own for around $40, if you're in port a full day. You just need to get up early and be off the ship to catch the 1 hour fairy over to Tau and bus to Preikestolen Mountain. Once there, you'll need to leave at least 4 hours for the hike (add more for decreased fitness level) and plan what fairy you need to be on to return to the boat in time. We missed this opportunity because we stalled getting off the ship. Instead I watched jelly fish swim along the boat docks as we walked into town with LOTS of SHOPPING. We eventually decided to WALK to the swords. I definitely recommend NOT doing this. It was easily a 4 mile/6 kilometer, 2 hour walk through the neighborhood, a park and along a highway, with nothing special to see, only to get there half starving, take a few pictures, with just enough time to figure out how to get a taxi in the middle of a very residential area back to the ship. DON'T DO THIS! Wake up early and get to Pulpit Rock.
BREMERHAVEN: port is far away (20+ minute drive) to the city. We stayed on the ship.
Language: They announce in 5 languages. It doesn't seem annoying as they do it quickly and efficiently. The cruise director will announce in the 5 languages as well. The crew generally understands english. The majority of the passengers I interacted with spoke only Italian or another language besides English.
The boat: decor. Lots of colors, but very clean and tasteful. Hardly felt us mice through the Norwegian waters.
Bars/lounges: didn't usually have to wait long when ordering directly at the bar. Sometimes lounge seat service took a bit. Bar staff was accommodating and willing to try to make what you wanted off the menu. Mark at the lounge was good at understanding drinks off the menu. Dont expect a typical Cadillac margarita as they don't squeeze the lime/lemon fresh, they use a mix which they say is lemon juice with sugar added. The best Margarita I had was with their fresh squeezed orange juice.
They put the best duo singing band (2 guys) that play mostly American songs in the worst lounge. It's not a bad lounge it's actually really comfortable, but the walk way to the MDR and elevators separates the stage/bar from the seating so everyone is always walking through. Any of the ships other lounges would have been better for this.
Theater: very nice 3 story theater. Lower level walk in on the first floor and multilevel (with stairs) highback chair seating on the others. All offered pretty good views of the stage with some piller obstructions throughout. The first two rows are reserved for suite guest, with no specific seats being assigned relating to your cabin. They can be taken 5 minutes before showtime by anyone. Staff does not monitor the reserved seating. The show's are about 90 % Italian related and they sing about the same in Italian.
Tips: download the Costa app on your phones prior to the cruise. For some reason Norway would not let us download the app ( it was unavailable in your area).
Butler Service: We did not receive an orientation from our butler (Julio). He never told us what services we could use him for, I believe in part due to the language barrier. We struggled a bit when we'd try to order drinks from him, but he always tried really hard to understand. We call an extension on our phone and they either take our request or more commonly, send the butler to find out what we'd like. One morning I ordered two hot chocolates with the person at the extention. The next day I ordered it at the extension and she said it was not included, even after telling her it was yesterday. She sounded irritated and said "mama is there anything else?". I said, I guess just orange juice. It was definitely included as we had their best drink package and butler service.
Three days before cruise end, we were given a second butler that explained the services included.
Club Restaurant: Medusa was the highlight of the service we received. Kind staff when dining with a 1 year old made all the difference. Kevin, Julie, Neal... made sure we got good service and were always chatting with the baby when he got fussy, many times avoiding having to leave as the baby responded happily to them. The food was usually good. I asked the servers what things looked better on the menu as it was hard to tell by the name what would be good. One night they had lobster bisque, it was anything but. More like cream fish broth gravy. I know they have limited ingredients to make a variety of things, but sometimes the food names on the menu are not exactly what we know that item to be. So just ask a lot of questions prior to ordering at the restaurant to avoid disappointment and food waste. Most servers are happy to explain if they can understand your questions.
Restaurants/buffets: this cruise had very selective hours for their buffet. It seemed they were only open 2 hours for dinner and not until 6pm, if you were hungry between 3 and 6, room service was generally the only option. I'm used to having food available 24/7. Everytime I went to the buffet, I had to wait in line about 5 mintues before I could get any food. I also struggled every time to find a table. Pizza from the buffet area cost extra. They act like it's a specialty restaurant.
Spa: the spa was complementary for suite guests. We were under the impression that we'd each just get one day at the spa, but was informed that we could go everyday by Christine (english speaking guest relations). The have a co-ed jacuzzi, just like the ones on deck. Each male and female side have their own turkish spa (steam room) and a sauna. They also have nice showers that have multiple side shower heads.
Cabin Suite 6158 (Panoramic Suite): We comfortably fit 4 of us. Our 18 year old on the couch bed, our 1 year old in the provided crib and my husband and I in the big bed, which was easily a queen, if not bigger. The beds were more on the firm side, with a bit of pillow top mattress that was very comfortable.
We booked this based on Costa's websites layout of the room. It showed there was two lounge chairs on the balcony AND a table with 4 chairs. There was no table. So we were not able to comfortably have meals on our deck as we had liked (especially with the baby). It also stated a jetted tub was in the bathroom which is a another BIG reason we booked this room. For me to relax and to be able to easily bathe the baby. When brought to their attention the women at the service desk offered to give us a free phone call to pr travel agent. It wasn't our agents fault, we used Costa's website to decide on the room based on features THEY LISTED. Finally a supervisor called us and apologized saying they did remodeling and it looks like the website was not updated to reflect that. There was no offer to move us to a room that had those things or to credit us a bit for the inaccuracies. They did not make it right and I felt like we were bait and switched on the room. Especially having paid more for this suite to include those things.
Intedore Drink Package: included all drinks $9 or under.
Kids Activities/squawk club: I only know of secondary room for 3 and under. They have a nice clean space for babies to crawl around and play with electronic toys, legos, trains and foam alphabet. This room has a bathroom for changing and toilet. They had a variety of the same two electronic toys, however only one out of 7 worked. When I asked staff, they said they don't have a screw driver. I called our butler, he said the cabin steward might have one. An attendant for the squawk club came by and said the batteries die in a day. I said "wow, in 1 day?". He said "well in a few days". I explained they haven't been working since we got on board, that if they have toys they can and should work and all but 1 is working. He said he understood and would fix them. This is the only area my baby has to crawl freely. They stayed dead the entire cruise.
Favorites: fresh squeezed orange juice, sligjtly larger rooms in comparison to other ships I've been on. Room steward (Noel) had great attention to detail, keeping the room fresh and clean. Club Restaurant staff were great.
Cabin Suite 6158 (Panoramic Suite): We comfortably fit 4 of us. Our 18 year old on the couch bed, our 1 year old in the provided crib and my husband and I in the big bed, which was easily a queen, if not bigger. The beds were more on the firm side, with a bit of pillow top mattress that was very comfortable. They're was adequate storage and multiple closest for all of us. The room provided a little extra elbow room over the standard balcony, more counter and floor space. *Room disappointments We booked this based on Costa's websites layout of the room. It showed there was two lounge chairs on the balcony AND a table with 4 chairs. There was no table. So we were not able to comfortably have meals on our deck as we had liked (especially with the baby). It also stated a jetted tub was in the bathroom which is a another BIG reason we booked this room. For me to relax and to be able to easily bathe the baby. When brought to their attention the women at the service desk offered to give us a free phone call to pr travel agent. It wasn't our agents fault, we used Costa's website to decide on the room based on features THEY LISTED. Finally a supervisor called us and apologized saying they did remodeling and it looks like the website was not updated to reflect that. There was no offer to move us to a room that had those things or to credit us a bit for the inaccuracies. They did not make it right and I felt like we were bait and switched on the room. Especially having paid more for this suite to include those things.