We booked this cruise in 2019 to sail in June of 2020, and we all know how that story ends. When the world shut down, we opted to take the voucher offered by Costa which offered us the ability to rebook a cruise with a suite #15010 (vs a terrace cabin which we originally booked) and have the highest-level drink package which covered all the soft drinks and alcohol we needed. The Suite guests have their own restaurant--the Bellavista and it is small and intimate. Being in a suite was a game changer for us in so many ways.
Embarkation in Barcelona was a breeze. We were on at 11:30 and in our room by 1. The ship is huge, but with passengers embarking at each port, there is never a rush of people getting on, or off. Our suite was lovely and perfect for our 2 teens. The bathroom and shower were huge offering a separate toilet room which was handy. Everything was super clean. Suite service includes minbar drinks, water, an espresso machine and fresh fruit daily. Also, breakfast room service is included (this is not the case for non-suite passengers). We had breakfast delivered each morning. The Bellavista restaurant offered a variety of delicious 4 course meals for all palates. Serving sizes were small, but that was a welcomed change for us! My teens found something each night that suited their taste. My daughter has a hazelnut allergy and they took great care to ask the chef about each dish. We did the Hibachi restaurant on our at sea day because my kids are fans of that type of food and the show there was amazing. The onboard entertainment was really great--impressed my teens who are normally hard to impress. Sure, there were crowds, but we could see the action even from the back or the top deck (level8) of the Coliseum theater area. We did not take part in any of the Costa shore excursions, opting to explore on our own--better for late sleeping teens. New Year's Eve was spectacular. We stopped off the coast of Sanremo to witness a magnificent fireworks show from our balcony.
All this being said, I can see where folks might rate this cruise poorly. The buffet restaurants were always teeming with people and really long lines and so we largely avoided them. And without a drink package I could see where drinks could add up. We are Americans and were some of the only English speakers on the ship. This was ok, in fact, we prefer it so our kids are exposed to the world that exists outside of the USA. Our only complaint is that the on-board app, which apparently contained a lot of helpful information, was not accessible by passengers from the US, some weird glitch that made it impossible to download. We managed with the paper schedule but it was annoying to be told "check the app" when we literally could not. We chose Costa because we honeymooned on a Costa ship 19 years ago, and we would for sure book again. Give the Smerlda a chance and booked a suite if at all possible!