So I just got home from my first Costa Cruise (Feb. 2020/SE Asia). There was SO much question about Costa going into it. We choose Costa because, quite frankly it was the ONLY ship that went to our desired destination at the exact time we could go. Otherwise, honestly, after reading reviews on Costa, I would have chosen any other line if offered by another line as my husband and I are Princess, Celebrity, loyals. I read and read and read and read some more reviews on Costa trying to mentally prepare for what to expect. What I learned was either you love it or hate it. So I set my bar very low hoping I wouldn't spend 14 days being ticked off at a cruise line. So now that we're home and I can mentally chew on what we just experienced, let me tell you my long-winded take on Costa, because frankly, it's complicated.
I'll first explain the oddities that we found quirky, then I'll explain what Costa does REALLY well toward the end! So please read to the end. I will have good things to say about Costa, really I will, because there are lots of good with Costa too. I'll just start with what I found to be the negatives. Things that if you've cruised other mainstream lines before, you might find frustrating on Costa. I found that if I could mentally prepare for these oddities before I boarded (by reading reviews), I got less frustrated vs. being totally blindsided at the differences.
First, Costa is NOT a Princess, Royal, or Celebrity cruise. Just get that out of your head going into it. There ARE differences. Some good, some frustrating, but nothing so frustrating that I wouldn't sail with them again. We WOULD sail again with them after this experience (I'm shocked at my own statement too!) I really went into this thinking (after reading all the negative Costa reviews beforehand) that we'll get through this cruise, see the ports, and never step foot on Costa again. Again, we only booked this because it literally was the only ship in this area at the exact time we could go. So what we found is Costa is not as "catering" to the passengers as the main stream lines. But that doesn't mean their customer service is bad, it's just different and you have to learn how to get "around" the way they do things, if it frustrates you. And actually their customer service is excellent, but DIFFERENT! I'll try to explain, and quite frankly it's hard to explain, but I'll do my best. For instance, when we first got to our cabin, the bathroom wasn't totally set up, meaning, we had 1/2 roll of TP and no back up, and no tissues. I waited for our cabin steward to introduce him/herself, so I could let him/her know. It took quite some time, but she did show up to introduce herself & restocked it upon our request. What I found is, she is our cabin "attendant" but not like on the other lines. If I need something on lets say Princess, I have a button on my phone that directly calls my steward and either talk to them or leave them a message and within minutes it typically is dealt with. Not on Costa, you have to call the pursers desk and wait in line with all the other people asking general questions, to finally get someone to pick up the phone so you can request your TP or soap or whatever. Sometimes it was a fast call, sometimes, if calling at a busy time, it could be a 10+min wait on hold. But once you get someone to answer, they will happily send someone to help you, maybe not immediately, but whatever you requested will arrive! A tad frustrating when you're dealing with a 1/2 roll of TP, (as you can tell, this did happen to us a few times, lol) but eventually they got the idea that we like a back up roll of TP in our cabin bathroom, and it was always provided from then on out. Sometimes I left notes for our cabin attendant to leave extra this or that, and it was nicely done when we returned.
So, about our cabin on Fortuna. The room was spacious & comfortable, the balcony was not. The door was old school and swung open vs. a sliding door. Didn't obstruct the view like I thought it would. However, it did limit the deck space we could use as we had to move our chairs away from the "swing" area each time. We typically like to leave our sliding door open when we sleep, that never happened this trip. Why? Because smoking is allowed on balconies on Fortuna, and I'm assuming all Costa. I'm HIGHLY sensitive to smoke. And if our neighbor wasn't smoking, SOMEONE around us was and yes you could ALWAYS smell it, maybe I should say almost always, it was rare if we didn't smell smoke while on our balcony. Oddly, I did get used to the smell, and it didn't bother me as much even a few days into it, as when we first boarded. But, still wish it was banned on balconies and limited to certain areas on the ship like other lines. But I don't think that will be a policy any time soon, if ever. Another small oddity was the bathroom, our ship didn't provide washcloths, upon request of one or two, that was just a total unknown item to them. They provide 2 bath towels, and 2 hand towels, 1 floor mat/towel and 2 pool towels. A small bar soap was provided for the sink and a body wash/shampoo dispensary was provided in the shower. Our shower curtain hung about 6-8" from the floor, so there was no way to not flood your bathroom floor when showering, we tried every way possible to avoid this, and it just flooded our bathroom floor every single time. Luckily there was a very slow drain that would eventually drain it, but we did have to use our floor towel/mat to soak it up or a used bath towel. Speaking of which, your room cleaning and towel supply is done mid-morning. That is it. One time a day and no refreshers the rest of they day. That was fine, except for when you had a wet bath towel from your evening shower and had to use one to soak up your bathroom floor and would like to take a morning shower. Or you used your pool towel mid day and wanted a totally dry pool towel for your next day trip (which you went on before your cabin refresh the next day) You would have to request a new towel via the pursers desk. Which, like stated above, they would happily provide. Our fix, was to simply request extra pool and/or bath towels the night before so we had fresh/dry towels for the next day. Easy enough, if you remember ahead of time to request it. It just took us a few days to figure that trick out. So just simply ask before you need it.
Another oddity was balcony maintenance. Our cabin was on the Lido deck, so we got a notice the evening before saying that there will be balcony maintenance the next day so we might want to close our curtains. Sure enough, at 7:30am, someone was on our balcony (I found the time of day odd, not the maintenance), Really, 7:30am you are doing maintenance on my balcony on my vacation? Could it not wait until after 9am??? We took a 14 day cruise, so sure enough, on the second half of the trip, we got no notice, but once and again we were woken in the early morning to our balcony chairs being moved for more balcony maintenance. Ummmm, how much maintenance does a balcony need????? Not sure if everyone had this maintenance or just because we were on the Lido deck. I'm not sure I've ever had balcony maintenance on other lines outside of cleaning our window. It was just, it's odd.
Poolside/Bar: Poolside "service" is nill. We are typically used to lounging by the pool and having servers asking if they can bring us drinks. None of that on Fortuna. We had Costa staff clearing used drink glasses, but not drink servers, you had to go to the bar and get it yourself. About bars on Fortuna, they are not as plentiful as on most ships. Typically on other ships we've been on, around the pool you have a few bars on different levels, close to the pool. Not on Fortuna, you had 1 bar next to the pool, and 1 the level above, but toward the front of the ship. That said, most of the customers were European and didn't seem to swarm the bar like on other ships we've been on. It never was a long wait to get a bar drink. So even though there aren't as many bars on this ship as other ships we've been on, most bars were not overly busy. Most passengers were ordering coffee instead of alcoholic drinks. Another note for the pool area, was lounge chairs were plentiful. We never had a problem finding a chair. Maybe not directly next to the pool, but there are so many levels around the pool on this particular ship, that there were tons of chairs. However we were out by the pool by 8 or 9am. If you came later, you probably had to find a chair further away from the pool. Activities around the pool were plentiful as well. Lots of games, and dance instruction, and exercise classes. There was always something going on around the pool. Never a dull moment.
About the Bar options. Ive seen lots of questions about drinks, that I couldn't find answers to before we cruised. I'll do my best to inform you now that I have a better idea. We had the Brindiamo drink package. They have a very straight forward drink menu at all bars that are color coded and you can see what you can and can't order with this package. Basically mixed cocktails were not included in our package, however most hard liquor was included, by itself. There were some very basic mixed drinks such as gin and tonic, rum and coke, basic things like that were included in our package. But things like a margarita or pina colada, daqueri's, were not included in our package. There were some Bacardi Breezers (wine coolers in various flavors) were included. I got creative one day and ordered a strawberry Breezer, a glass of ice and a shot of tequila and mixed my own margarita on the rocks, all separately included in my package. Not perfect, but it did taste like a strawberry margarita. If I had requested them mix it, there would have been a charge. These Breezers were my version of a cocktail this cruise, quite frankly, because it was my only free option. So there you have it. However, there was 1 optionfor beer, Heineken. That was the only beer on the entire ship. You couldn't even pay for a better beer, because there was no other option on the ship. Since my hubby is an IPA guy, he was very disappointed, but survived drinking Heineken all cruise. We sailed SE Asia, and there were no better options on shore either, but he survived nonetheless. Water: Bottled water was provided with this package IF it was poured by the waitstaff into a glass, you could not take a bottle of water with you. If you wanted to get a bottle of water to go, that was an extra charge. If you wanted bottled water, there was no fee for them to pour it into a drinking glass for you, but you could not take the bottle. Go figure that reasoning. They would ask you if you wanted "natural" or "gas" meaning bottled water or sparkling water such as Perrier. Same for dinner. If it was poured into a glass for you, it was included in your package. I never ordered "gas" water, so actually don't know if that's included or not in our package. I don't think so, I think that was an up-charge. Now, there was a water/ice/tea dispensary area by the main pool. However, the ice was almost always gone. I could never figure out if it was an ice maker, or if the staff had to fill it. If they had to replenish it, it wasn't done as needed, vs a schedule, because sometimes there was ice, most of the time, it was empty. There was almost always a line for this water & ice machine, and if there was any to get, it was a slow process. The staff that would wander by, would happily try and assist you to push the correct button getting ice, but wander off before they could notice that it was empty, ALWAYS empty. So eventually we just figured out to go directly to the bar, order a few glasses of ice and a few glasses of "natural" water to fill our own hydro-flasks each morning and avoid the no-ice ice maker chaos each day.
Coffee: It was EXCELLENT. I've never been able to label cruise ship coffee as excellent, but Costa knows coffee!!! Of course, it's an Italian line, so that shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did, and I'm a bit of a coffee snob. There was a espresso maker and every bar. But since it was mostly geared to Europeans, ordering American-type coffee was perplexing to the staff. I like strong espresso with a dash of cream or sometimes, I like a non-sweetened latte. So at first I started ordering a latte, which I thought would be easier for the staff to understand. I ended up figuring out my "latte" was about 90% steamed milk with a tiny shot of espresso. Since I really wanted it the other way around, more coffee with a dash of milk. I figured out (by watching others order) to order a cappuccino instead, which ismostly espresso with a dash of steamed milk. But nothing was sweetened. They had white & brown sugar dispensers on the counter for you to sweeten to your own liking as needed. This unflavored coffee was included in my package. However they did have flavored syrups if you wanted, however if I wanted a syrup flavoring in my coffee, that was an up-charge for that kind of coffee.
Food: In the dining room, it was AMAZING. It was European prepared dishes. Very different than what we are used to on Princess/Royal/Celebrity. But it was amazing when you opened your mind to it not being geared to Americans. Of course there were some dishes I didn't like, but very few. You could order at dinner as many as you like. No limits as far as I could tell. Waitstaff was excellent & energetic. What do I mean by this? Every other day it seemed, there was a "production" or some sort of entertainment in the main dining room. Music and dancing by the staff that encouraged guests to join in. All of it was sung in Italian, and the majority of the passengers seemed to know the songs well, but it was fun for us to join in dancing and clapping along even though we didn't understand the songs. I've never seen this on another line before, not to this level of entertainment during dinner. The energy and entertainment factor in the dining room was fantastic and plentiful. It was FUN!!! Hard to describe, but simply awesome. This is a strong suit for Costa!!! Fun & energy is their strong suit!! Be forewarned that dinner times are later than typical, at 7pm and 9:15pm. We typically opt for the later dinner due to the fact we don't want to rush back to the ship just to eat. However, 9:15pm IS a long wait for dinner. But 7pm came too early for us, so I didn't love the dinner time options on this cruise. However the food was great. BUFFET: As an American, I found the buffet food just OK. Not bad, not great, just ok. I always could find something to eat. And we mostly only ate in the buffet for breakfast. Here's the oddity. The buffet is only open certain hours, maybe an hour and a half to two hours, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Part of our choosing the late seating dining option was under the idea that if we got too hungry, we could always get a snack at the buffet before dinner, but on Costa, not always an option because it wasn't open very long. Sometimes everything was closed. So keep that in mind if you cruise Costa. The buffet hours were printed on the daily bulletin. However we mainly ate breakfast at the buffet. Most mornings, pancakes were an option, but no butter or syrup most days. When asked about butter, they looked perplexed then eventually took me to the other side of the buffet to an empty platter, pointed at it and then just wandered off. However butter was provided following days on both sides, and one day there was syrup provided, one day. Syrup is obviously not a norm as it was placed at the beginning of the buffet by the forks and spoons, so after you got your pancakes, you had to go back to the start of the line to wiggle in to get some syrup. But most days, it was not out, we just used the jams provided to top our pancakes most days. No biggie, just different. GRILL: Like the buffet, the grill was open limited hours by the pool at lunch and dinner. Hot dogs and hamburgers and fries. This was included in your fare. Pizza, was not located around the pool, but located back by the buffet, and was an up charge, we never ordered one, so not sure of the price. Gelato was the "ice cream" option by the poolside bar and was an up charge. We never ordered one, so don't know the price unfortunately. But overall, I'd rate the food as EXCELLENT on this ship.
Entertainment: Energy!!! Tons of dancing and music options in lounges around the ship. If you've never been around Italians (this was our first experience) generally speaking based on this experience, they have tons of energy and are a louder bunch. At first we were taken aback by this, but eventually learned to embrace the guests energy and grew to love it. The energy around the ship by both staff and passengers was high! Lots of talking and laughter and dancing! Music by the staff and dancing into the night by the passengers. More so than we've seen on any Princess/Celebrity we've cruised with. Yes the other lines offer this, but this was ramped up and everywhere! This is another strong suit for Costa in my opinion, energy around the lounges & all over the ship. Probably because most of the passengers were European and their energy was high, so Costa meets it. COSTA. IS. FUN. You really have to be a fuddy-dudy to not enjoy this level of energy this ship provided. My advice, get a drink and plant yourself in the middle of a lounge and join in the dancing and music, or if nothing else just enjoy your drink and enjoy everyone else dancing, visiting, & having fun. People having fun is plentiful and everywhere. There were no quiet lounges anywhere to be found, energy was everywhere, and it was fun, once you get used to it!!! My husband and I are more keep to ourselves type people and find a quiet lounge, listen to jazz music and have a drink. Even though that wasn't an option on this ship, we found we did embrace the change of pace and really grew to love the energy this cruise & passengers provided.
Theater productions: Great as well. Different though! We didn't get the same ol' same ol' that you can expect from the main stream cruise lines. For instance on a main stream line you can expect roughly a comedian, magic show, on board production, some sort of Cirque du Soleil-type acrobatic show, etc. But this Costa offered totally different options, a bubble show, a man taping & swinging balls on ropes, a tenor singer, indeed an onboard production by their own dancers. These options not overly impressive when reading about them on the daily announcements or on this review, but once at the show, it was highly entertaining, mostly because it was new and fresh! Entertainment that I'd not seen over and over again on other cruise lines. Again, kudos to Costa for offering something different! That said, most songs & shows were in Italian. Every once in a while they would repeat something in English, but most of the time, most everything was in Italian.
Language: Onboard announcements, were done in multiple languages, you just have to wait for your language. English typically was the second language announced. Most crew members can speak basic English, so you can get your point across. There was an English-speaking welcome session shortly after we boarded the ship in the theater, which explained a bit on how Costa works. Recommend attending this!
So, my long winded take on Costa, from an American's point of view..... it was FUN, but only after I got used to the quirks.... and there are quirks! But if you gear yourself mentally for these quirks, before you go, I found that I could remind myself during the times when things were going oddly, that I was expecting some oddities, and move on without getting too frustrated. If you focus on the quirks, you will be ticked off with Costa and not enjoy your cruise. But if you embrace the quirks and focus on their strong points (& they have a lot of great things to embrace) you will have a great time, because there's a lot to enjoy on a Costa cruise. Will I choose Costa first next time if another line is offering the same itinerary??? I'm not sure yet. But I do know that if I choose Costa again, I will miss some of the luxuries that some of the main-stream lines like Princess and Celebrity offer. But if I choose Princess and Celebrity, I will miss the energy that Costa offers. So choose a Costa cruise with an open mind. We travel to experience new things and cultures, and with Costa, you get a little of both....embrace it and have fun right along with them! You're in for a real treat. Read Less