After reading all of the negative reviews for this cruise we were very apprehensive about our trip. Our experience was quite different than the reviews I read and I feel compelled to write my own. This was our 12th cruise. We have previously sailed on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, and MSC. This was our 3rd cruise out of a European port. The other two were on MSC and Royal Caribbean. We are from the US but have been living in Eastern Europe for the last two years. During our time living abroad we have visited 24 different countries. The first thing everyone needs to understand is that Costa is a European cruise line. It is not an American cruise line and really shouldn’t be compared to an American line. The level of service and the food were right on par with what we’ve come to expect when traveling throughout Europe. They cater to the European demographic as that is their main clientele.
It is not uncommon for European cruise lines to embark/disembark in each port. The announcements are first made in Italian but were all repeated in English (with the exception of a few where they announced “for crew only” at the beginning). Every crew member that we encountered spoke English. They were all friendly, polite, and respectful. The food was good and always served hot. Keep in mind that the food is prepared toward European tastes. We have found that they tend to use less spice and less salt. Also, butter is only served upon request because it’s not common for them to butter their bread and the butter will not be salted because salted butter does not exist in Europe (at least from what I have been able to find in the grocery stores). I cannot speak for breakfast dining because we opted to have breakfast delivered to our room every day - the crab eggs Benedict is delicious! As for lunch, there are multiple options available for sit down table service (two dining rooms offered table service every day) or buffet style. The schedule is listed in the Oggi each day. We chose to eat in our assigned dining room each night and did not feel the need to try the speciality dining. It is true that there is no free pizza, not even on the children’s menu. It is true that there are no free burgers on the dinner menu, but they are included on the children’s menu. Also, hamburger patties (no buns) are available in the family buffet on deck 16. There is also no free ice cream, again not even on the children’s menu. In fact they did not offer any special desserts for kids like cookies, brownies, or Jello. The gelato on board can be purchased for €1.5 per scoop which was cheaper than we found in any of the ports. It seems that the lack of table cloths is a complaint for many but personally, I’ll trade the elegance that they add for the positive environmental impact of not having them.
Our 7yr old went to the kids’ club several times and had a great time; she even found other children who spoke English. Our 13yr old was not interested in participating in the teen events and activities so I can’t provide any feedback there. The swimming facilities are definitely lacking for a ship this size. There is one small indoor pool and only four hot tubs; they were always packed. There are two small outdoor pools and the water is heated but again they were often crowded. The biggest disappointment for our kids was that we only saw the water slides open one time the entire week and unfortunately it was on our embarkation day so the kids never got a chance to try them out.
The gym appears to be somewhat small, but we went 5 times (always in the morning around 9 or 10) and it was not crowded. There were always open machines and the best selection of kettlebells I have ever seen on a cruise ship. We also used the jogging track 3 times and found that most people were respectful of it’s purpose and would move out of the way. Of course, like every other ship there were also the oblivious few who had no clue or no desire to move and the rudest of rude that think the jogging track is a good place to hang out and smoke.
We booked a balcony guarantee but were some how extremely fortunate and were assigned to a grand suite. The room was incredible! On Costa, when you receive a room upgrade, it does not include the upgraded amenities. However, for just a one time fee of €100 we were given the option to add the butler service. It was beyond worth it! Our butler and our room steward were fabulous. Our room was always spotless.
We had the Brindiamo drink package and found that it was sufficient for us. You don’t get to choose your wine - you get whatever red, white, or sparkling that they give you. We found that it did vary at times and while perhaps not the best it was definitely drinkable.
We only did one shore excursion which was Pisa on Your Own. It was a good experience and I’m glad we went. Two of the ports are “non-pedestrian” and a free shuttle is offered in those ports. Some of the other ports have an optional shuttle that is way overpriced. We chose to stay on the ship in Marseille as we had been before and didn’t feel it was worth the transportation cost to head into town. Barcelona is a fairly long walk but definitely doable and we chose this option. Palma de Mallorca is also a long walk. We took a taxi into town as it was WAY cheaper (at least for a family of 4) than the shuttle but we chose to walk back.
Overall, this was a great cruise!
We booked a balcony guarantee but were somehow lucky enough to be assigned to this grand suite. The room was incredible! There was a separate bedroom with a dressing area. The living area had a sofa that converted to a twin bed and a Pullman bed over it to create bunk beds for our kids. The bathroom was separated into two sections. One was a toilet with a sink and the other was a sink with a large fully enclosed shower. The odd thing though was that the separation was a glass door (frosted in the mid section) with an open hole as the door handle. The other oddity that I’ve seen mentioned by others is the glass wall of the shower that has a curtain on the room side. Again it’s frosted in the midsection but you definitely need to keep that curtain closed! As I mentioned above, when you receive a room upgrade on Costa, it’s just the room and not the amenities that go with the upgrade. However, for a one time fee of €100 we were given the option to add the butler service. This was beyond worth it for us. The butler service included breakfast in our room every morning, use of the Illy espresso machine in our room, the minibar which included bottled water, a bottle of champagne one day, a plate of canapés one day, and a fresh fruit basket every day, room cleaning twice a day instead of once, and robes and slippers. The balcony wrapped around the whole front corner of the ship. The room was very quiet with the exception of vibration noises during docking. The beds were very comfortable and we were able to control the temperature with three different thermostats (the bedroom, the living area, and the bathroom).
We took the Pisa on Your Own excursion in English
It wasn’t anything exceptional, but the guide on the bus did give a nice narrative on the way. We booked this excursion because our 13yr old really wanted to see the Leaning Tower. We felt it was too far from the port to risk going on our own. This excursion did exactly what we wanted and expected.