We are seasoned cruisers, 15 so far, but our first with Costa and having read numerous CC reviews decided to take a chance amidst much trepidation. We need not have worried, everything was great, better in fact in some instances from our experiences on Cunard, P&O, Princess and Celebrity. I feel extremely sorry for Costa and its staff for the disparaging feedback given by previous cruisers which I can't really understand, given our experiences on board. We flew out from Heathrow to Dubai, met by Costa staff at both airports and all went well until lengthy immigration delays and a problem with missing luggage which necessitated an hour's wait on board our coach, a lengthy journey through port embarkation also exacerbated our frustration but our luggage arrived very quickly after ourselves. Our stateroom was an outside one with restricted views but with a full length picture window so we were very pleased. It was spacious, comfortable and with lots of wardrobe, drawer space and a good size bathroom. Towels etc were changed daily and bed linen every 4/5 days. We had a complementary bowl of fruit each week and a Daily English newsletter delivered to the cabin as well as the normal daily bulletin showing activities aboard. According to my wife, who is the expert on such matters, this was the cleanest ship we had ever sailed on and everything in cabin and on board generally was spotless. The ship itself was about a year old and was somewhat garish in decor but surprisingly easy to navigate. All the public rooms were on Decks 2/3 and there were helpful signs indicating the direction of restaurants, lounges, theatre etc. Upstairs on Deck 9 was the self service restaurant, adjacent to the main outdoor deck areas, Gymnasium and Sauna and Children's Club. There was plenty of sitting areas, inside and out, and the pool attendants worked very hard removing towels from recliners where selfish passengers left them for lengthy periods to reserve their personal chairs. I have never seen so many beach towels changed during each day on a ship's deck! My only complaint with public rooms was the library, it was small and the choice of English books available was woeful, my tip is that if you are a reader, bring your own books with you. Internet access was available in the library but it was also limited and expensive. Costa provided a very useful Interactive Service at various points on the lower decks where you could validate your own credit card for on board settlement of your account and book excursions and shuttle buses with your cruise card, without having to queue at the relevant Desks. We ate on first sitting in the main dining room, a table for 8, with 6 Brits and 2 Aussies. Costa try to put all same language speakers together which is a good idea when you see the diversity of nationalities on board. We were extremely satisfied with the variety, quality and quantity of food available. The dining room was noisy and the tables rather close together but it didn't really inconvenience anyone other than the wait staff. Pasta were delicious and I was very pleased with the different types of fish in both starters and mains. I do, however, readily acknowledge that Costa could not approach the standards of steaks on offer on US cruise ships! We had breakfast and luncheon in the self service restaurant daily and were very happy with the quality and variety of food on offer, greater than we have experienced before. We took out the Costa X1 drinks package which provided beers, wines, soft drinks and bottled waters in unlimited supply at lunchtime and evening meal time. An extremely worthwhile purchase which I can strongly recommend. Bar prices were not cheap and attracted the US style 15% service charge on top. Costa did, however, on most days provide a "Happy Hour", 2 drinks for the price of one. Daytime activities were primarily adjacent to the pool on Deck 9 and were entered into with great gusto by a number of passengers. It was quite noisy but good humoured and entertaining to watch with lots of dance and exercise classes, team games and darts, table football/tennis competitions on offer. If it became too noisy there was always the option of moving to another outdoor part of the ship! The gymnasium was large and very well equipped but not used personally. There was a Children's Club on board but there were only a handful of small children on the cruise and we weren't really aware of their presence. Service was excellent, all members of the crew with whom we came into contact were polite, helpful and seemed cheerful at all times. Our cabin steward was "out of this world" in efficiency as were our 2 table waiters in the dining room and they took great pleasure in putting on impromptu entertainment on gala nights. Staff in the self service restaurants were always extremely quick to clear previously used tables and provide fresh cutlery. Evening entertainment was varied. The theatre was large and well laid out. The dance troupe were Russian and we have never seen a better choreographed group on board any ship, our only complaint was that we wanted to see them more often. There were singers, classical musicians, jugglers & acrobats and Arab dancers as well as a ventriloquist. All of these were acceptable but we have experienced better. Attendance in the theatre brought home the multi linguistic situation whereby the Cruise Director had to introduce and finalise the performances in 7 languages. Somewhat lengthy but after a while you got used to it! The ship stopped at 8 intermediate ports on its voyage from Dubai to Savona, Fujairah, Muscat, Salalah, Aden, Safaga, Sokhna, Alexandria and Naples. There were excursions organised for each different destination but we didn't avail ourselves of them, preferring instead to "do our own thing" with a like minded bunch of CC chums. We were only advised on the day before our departure that the stop at Sharm El Sheikh had been replaced by one at Sokhna which was somewhat of a surprise. As I can only provide a review on 6 ports, I will give a brief outline of the others we visited. Fujairah - very little on offer from Costa, most people opted for a shuttle bus into town and visited the hypermarket and Lulu's Department Store which did actually offer a wide range of bargain clothing etc. Verdict - poor. Salalah, Oman - again, not much on offer by Costa. We took a minibus for 14 and visited the Souk, Mosque and beach where we experienced a herd of camels being driven through our group! Quite an interesting photo opportunity. Verdict - not a lot to see. Sokhna - substitute port and nearer to Cairo than Alexandria so Costa organised more tours to Cairo etc. We had visited that city with Celebrity last October so decided not to bother. We used the shuttle bus to the port gates where we were virtually imprisoned whilst rival taxi drivers tried to sell their wares. It was so intrusive we decided not to bother and returned to the ship. Verdict - a complete waste of time. Savona - Destination Port - An extremely picturesque Italian seaside town with lots of history and culture. Can be seen quite easily in half a day. Verdict - A nice way to finish the cruise. Disembarkation wasn't until 13.30hrs so we were able to spend the morning strolling round Savona, relax on board then have lunch before leaving. Then came the disappointment as we patiently waited in the lounge to be cleared to leave. Someone obviously forgot to make the announcement and we were delayed by an hour. The coach driver outside was furious and we were late in reaching Milan airport for our flight back to Heathrow. The only redeeming feature was that we didn't have to spend so long in the airport and our flight to Heathrow landed 15 minutes early. In summary, our views of Costa are extremely positive, we will definitely be using them again on more than one occasion. They represent good value for money. But remember, they cater for many different nationalities and we are in the minority!!!! That said, our fellow passengers were a joy to be with.
Outside Cabin with restricted views, lifeboat! Full length picture window provided great view, we were between lifeboats so no major problem. On Deck 4 midships, port side, and very handy to lifts and most public areas. No major problems with noise. Bed large and comfortable, settee, lots of storage & hanging space. Bathroom roomy but no facecloths provided by Costa. Towels changed daily, bedding every 4 days. Scrupulously clean.
Dubai was the highlight of our cruise. We were fortunately able to go up the Burj Kalifa, tallest tower in the World, observe its lighted fountains displays in the evening, these are different every 30 minutes and explore the giant Malls with their exquisite shops, giant aquarium, indoor ski slope etc. Ensure you book for the Tower in advance otherwise it costs 4 times as much. Views over the city are terrific and well worthwhile. We bought a 2 day pass on the Big Bus, an open top exploration around the city and major hotels on 2 separate buses. Included also is a guided walking tour, a trip on the Dubai Creek and free entrance to Museums and other principal buildings. Not cheap but well worthwhile. If you are there for 2 days, buy a 2 day ticket which is much more cost effective and allows you to cover everything. You can see all the major sights and hop on/off as much as you wish.
Safaga is the jumping off cruise point for Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, a must see if you have not already done so. We had via a Nile Cruise so didn't relish a 4 hour each way coach ride. Those who did go were very impressed. Safaga port, like Sokhna is a dump! We took a minibus with Italians and Germans to Hurghada, some 45 mins away. Marketed as one of the main Red Sea resorts we thought it was like a downmarket Blackpool! We spent 2 hours on the main street being hassled by locals, found our way to the waterfront via a private hotel where the sea looked lovely and people were snorkeling etc. We were quite relieved to return to the ship after the ritual incarceration within a shop owned by the taxi proprietor and being forced to buy the usual junk before our return journey then being pestered for baksheesh! Not an experience to be enjoyed.
Ships tours to Cairo, 3 hours each way. Did that last year, too soon to repeat. Explored Alex by foot having run the gauntlet of taxi drivers, guides and various peddlers. Walked to the seafront and along the Eastern Harbour, ship docks in Western Harbour, then along the Corniche (promenade), past the Library. Very enjoyable, not many non-Arabs so we were highly visible but did not feel intimidated in any way. Adventurous trip on local bus, 10p each for lengthy journey. Stopped and observed wreath laying at Tomb of Unknown Soldier then walked back to ship. Lots of touristy stalls within dock confines near ship's berth and goods on offer decent quality and could be obtained at reasonable prices. Alexandria is an interesting experience.
Our biggest complaint was that we only had a 5 hour stay. We had been there on a number of previous occasions so decided not to join the official Costa excursions. The main ones were a train ride to Sorrento on specially hired train, a limited tour of Pompeii and a hired hydrofoil to Capri. We opted instead for an 8 person exploration of Naples on foot and made our way to the main square where we caught the funicular railway up the mountain to visit the castle. TIP - don't go on a Tuesday as the castle is closed!!!The views were however very nice and we eventually made our way back down by funicular, 1euro 10cents return, then checked over the Opera House and Grand Arcade before making our way back to the ship. A very interesting and economical excursion. The ship's departure was delayed by almost an hour an their official excursions were late back, unsurprising really as I didn't think their programme timings were realistic. Naples is a great destination and day visits to Herculaneum, Pompeii, Capri and Sorrento are well worthwhile, but you need at least one day for each.