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35 Venice Costa Serena Cruise Reviews

The embarkation went smooth; we waited only a couple of hours. When we entered the boat, I was really surprised how strange it was, almost to say ugly. The interior is colorful, with so many different designs, a lot of plastic and ... Read More
The embarkation went smooth; we waited only a couple of hours. When we entered the boat, I was really surprised how strange it was, almost to say ugly. The interior is colorful, with so many different designs, a lot of plastic and lights. We did not even bother to go to the front office as it was crowded. The staff spoke very poor English so we managed to get around due to our previous cruise experience. The entertainment was cheap and too fussy, only the light show in the main theatre was great. The SAMSARA SPA was nice (the interior), a bit crowded, but really liked it. But the pools were just awful. It was cold so they were all closed on the ceiling. The entire interior was yellow and green, full of plastic and linoleum and awfully plastic flowers. Even I am a smoker, I found it really strange you could smoke in a closed pool area. Also there was food served in the area (as well as prepared somewhere close by) so the smell of chloral, grilled food and smoking was not a great pool experience. The outside area of the top decks was as if you were on a ferry - empty blue steel all around and some chairs bucked up. Nothing special and really not appealing to spend your time there. The rooms were great, we had a balcony one and was really happy with it. The food in the main dining room was mediocre, the service was good. I really like trying out new food but there were often moments when I just did not even want to taste what was given on the plate. Not to mention the food in the self service restaurant -- was just like a company cafeteria. As I cruised the Royal Caribbean before, I expected to have a variety of food throughout the day but this was not the case -- you had it at specific hours and if you could not make it, you were to order room service or wait for the next meal. Also, there were no free soft drinks on the boat -- except water, and you could not find it in a lot of places -- guess they are trying to increase the beverage consumption on board. We spoke to some of the bar staff -- they were not happy campers, all coming from third world countries and some of them earning less than 1000 USD per month including tips for all the hard work they do! The ports we visited were ok -- our choice, but would definitely move Bari out of the list. The place we liked the most, in Greece, we stayed really short, only for a couple of hours. All in all, a pretty average cruise experience and if I have not cruised on other companies before, I would be pretty disappointed with cruising and would probably not do it so soon again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This review covers three trips totaling 19 days, Adriatic/Aegean, November, but the experience was similar on all three trips. These were end-of-season trips, with a large number of new staff joining, before repositioning to South America. ... Read More
This review covers three trips totaling 19 days, Adriatic/Aegean, November, but the experience was similar on all three trips. These were end-of-season trips, with a large number of new staff joining, before repositioning to South America. The ship holds about 3500 people, with only 5-10% being English-speakers. The English hostess said 25% is normal for high season. I've only included detail on the items I particularly noticed. SMOKING AND HEALTH FACILITIES: There was a remarkable lack of smoking except in the casino, perhaps 100 hardcore smokers. It was rare to see more than a couple of people smoking at any one time. There was also a remarkable lack of grossly fat people, most people seemed to be quite health conscious. I was told at one point, there was a queue out the gym door to use the fitness equipment. My informant was astounded, neither he nor I had seen this before on any ship. The ship was very clean and well maintained. DINING: If your priority is wanton gluttony, then Costa is not a good choice, but generally the food was quite good, certainly for the price I paid. There were a few duds on the menu, but also some very nice dishes. Breakfast and lunch buffets were perhaps not lavish, but quite decent. There were breaks in opening hours, so it was necessary to read the daily program. The buffet area was no more crowded than other large ships (I always avoid peak times, on any ship). I found the main dining room to be comparable to at least a mid-level restaurant on land. I would expect to have paid at least 30 Euros for a comparable set menu meal. Service was not unduly slow by European standards, although there did seem to be a larger number of new staff than usual. However, if you did not want a full restaurant meal in the evening, the only alternative was pizza. I was able to sample the Samsara restaurant, which is a premium, open seating alternative to the main dining room (note that Costa uses the term "Samsara for several different things). A separate menu was offered, mostly superior to the restaurant, although there were fewer choices, notably salads. The main menu was available. Service and noise levels were difficult to assess as the area was almost empty. CABIN: I was booked in the smaller, upper/lower berth inside cabins. They are ample for one person. Europeans tend to prefer firmer mattresses than Americans, but otherwise, everything was entirely comparable to other ships I have been on. ENTERTAINMENT: I travel with Costa because of the nightlife, and was not disappointed. There are as many as 6 live music venues, with lots of choice of music. Some theme nights started as late as midnight, and the dance floor was packed. The Apollo lounge, the main lounge, has continuous music from 6 PM to 1 AM, except for bingo and (very popular) half-hour cruise staff games and entertainment. I don't like bachatta and can live without mazurka and Viennese waltz, but they were very popular. Although "ballroom dancing" when it was listed in the program just meant no theme, the groups, especially Duo Venus, were willing to play very nice dance music on request during quieter periods. The quartet did have the fault common to live groups of playing far too long- six minutes for a Viennese Waltz. The rear lounge, Luna, has a much improved layout from the earlier Fortuna design, and offered various theme nights. The lobby bar is the equal of the main lounge on most ships. There are two additional lounges with live music, plus a keyboard player near the "Chocolate Bar" (it has a chocolate fountain). I did not particularly like the string trio, but their contract may finish soon. The disco was not very popular. The DJ played the usual six-minute "dance mix" music, very boring and repetitious. Given the small number of smokers on board, the designated smoking areas were far larger than required. I did not go to any of the shows, but the comments I heard were generally positive. POOLS The Serena has a retractable roof over the midships pool, unlike the earlier ships, which meant the area was quite tolerable even on cool days. The hot tubs were not really hot. As nearly as I could discover, the temperature measured is that of the inflow water, not that of the water in the tub. They also closed quite early. PORTS Costa tends to have shorter port stops than most cruise lines, but I've never been able to understand how an extra couple of hours makes much difference, visiting a city like Istanbul or Valetta. If I'm seriously interested in visiting some place, I'll go for several days. VALUE: Value was outstanding. Even using budget hotels and restaurants, I had a hard time meeting Costa's per-day cost on my land travels between trips. I believe I got the best value for my money I could have gotten, visiting this part of the world. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We had a fantastic cruise and could not be happier. I admit that we went with pretty low expectations having read all the criticism on the forums based in the US and UK. I would like to set the record straight as we feel that Costa gets a ... Read More
We had a fantastic cruise and could not be happier. I admit that we went with pretty low expectations having read all the criticism on the forums based in the US and UK. I would like to set the record straight as we feel that Costa gets a lot of bad press which from our experience is completely unfounded. I have previously cruised with Princess and Royal Caribbean and Costa is certainly in the same league and should not be under-estimated. 1.Food and Drink • Breakfast - room service is only free for breakfast and includes cappuccino / expresso coffee which has a charge in the restaurant. So we ordered free cappuccinos plus juice from room service at 7am and then went to the restaurant for breakfast. There is a menu or buffet in the Ceres restaurant on deck 3 plus the extended buffet on deck 9. Breakfast is also available at the Urano grill for late risers. In the Ceres restaurant there are huge windows at the back which provide a superb view of the ship's wake as you are tucking into your breakfast. The waiters don't expect you to order off the menu in the restaurant as most diners prefer the buffet set up in the middle but we ordered items not in the restaurant buffet which included corned beef hash, Lyonnais potatoes, smoked salmon, omelettes and smoked haddock. • Lunch - There are several lunch options from waiter service in the restaurant (Ceres deck 3), to an extensive buffet in the Prometeo buffet, with additional grill choices at both the indoor pools (deck 9). We tended to eat in the buffet at lunch and were really impressed how they changed the hours to ensure passengers could still eat on board when port stops hit the lunch hour. In Dubrovnik we arrived at 12.15pm, so the full buffet was available from 11am. Similarly in Izmir our port visit was the morning so the restaurant service was from 1pm - 2.30pm so passengers didn't miss out. • Afternoon tea - served 4-5 in the Prometeo buffet, little sandwiches and cakes. One afternoon they also offered a selection of Chinese teas (I recommend the cinnamon and the ginger) as well as the herbal teas, regular tea, coffee and iced water which are always available. • Evening meal - We had a table for four at 6.15pm (first sitting) in the Ceres restaurant situated at the back of the ship. There was always a basket of freshly baked bread rolls and bread sticks on the table when we arrived. The menus were in English with the Italian name above it if you wanted to order in Italian instead. The evening menu consisted of 6 courses, starter, soup, pasta / risotto, main course, cheese and dessert. There was a good choice and the food was consistently very good. Take your waiter's advice if he recommends something, more than once he suggested a course that I wouldn't have ordered and I was delighted that I did. The children were given a children's menu eat night with some items such as burgers, spaghetti bolognaise and fish fingers always available and others such as pork escalope, lamb chop, beef escalope changed daily. In addition, children are able to order from the main menu and our two both did during the week. We had a jug of iced water every evening with our meal and decided not to opt for the various drinks packages. Several evenings the waiters put on a show before the dessert course, singing, dancing and creating a real party atmosphere with diners swirling their napkins above their heads and clapping. Waiters were helpful and professional throughout and nothing was too much trouble. Alternatively the pizzeria offers waiter service from 9pm - 1am, with buffet pizza available early evening. • Midnight buffet - There were several midnight buffets during the cruise but we were usually tucked in bed by then. I did make it to one with the vegetable and fruit carvings and the ice sculptures were phenomenal. That night the midnight buffet was pineapple flambE and ice cream plus there were waiters walking round with trays of food. I had a doughnut ball from one waiter which was delicious and the flambE was tasty. 2. Cabin Wi-fi was available on all decks. We had a four berth outside cabin on deck two. We had a double bed (twin beds put together), a sofa bed plus one bunk above the sofa bed. There was ample storage space, in fact we had more storage space than in our mini-suite on Princess or balcony cabin on Royal Caribbean as there were two huge drawers below my daughter's bed. Suitcases fit comfortably under the bed. The safe opens and locks with any magnetic strip card so we used my husband's cabin card. We brought a four bar plug socket with us which proved very handy to recharge everything. There was only one European socket and one US socket which were so close together it is doubtful whether you would be able to use them both. The bathroom had a shower with shower gel and soap provided. Towels were changed throughout the day if required and our cabin steward made a variety of towel animals during our stay. 3. Daily programme I was really impressed with the daily programme on Costa as there were always things to do (the only problem was trying to decide what to do when things were on at the same time!) The Sole Poolside on deck 9 below the big screen was a main area for activities such as tournaments, games, dance classes (I did the cha cha cha class), stretching classes and dancing. They also celebrated the Oktoberfest here. The Pan Disco on deck 5 was the main location for the Art and Craft sessions which were offered am and pm. During the week I designed a t-shirt, made jewellery, decorated a fan and painted a ceramic pot which all made great keepsakes from the cruise. Aqua aerobics was in the Urano pool. I also went to an Italian class and one of the seminars on health and beauty in the Samsara spa which resulted in me getting a free facial as I happily volunteered. There was a chocolate demonstration, ice sculptures by the pool and seminars in English about the ports and the ship. 4. Pools There were two main indoor pools on deck 9 each with 2 Jacuzzis (for 16 years and above). The indoor pools had a retractable roof. There is also an outside pool and a swirly slide. The Samsara Spa has an adult only pool. 5. Evening entertainment The Giove Theatre is on decks 3, 4 and 5 at the front of the ship. The invited entertainment was very impressive and the acts were all worthy of being on the television they were so professional. On the first night Dennis Bullock an American singer / saxophonist blew us away. The second night we were entertained by Duo Deltai, who did a balancing and acrobatic act which couldn't have been easy as that night we had high winds. Adam Medini did a show called Voyage one night and seemed to be able to do everything (juggling, playing the xylophone with a ping-pong ball using his mouth, tumbling from ribbons suspended from the ceiling, hand shadow puppets, handstands with one hand holding his body horizontal to the floor!) and in the middle of the week we saw Connie Boyd a female magician who has won awards in the USA for her act and we could see why. The dance troupe and singers did the show a couple of nights, the male lead singer was excellent and the black male dancer was superb. In addition, every bar and lounge had musicians and singers entertaining everyone, including easy listening in the piano bar, ballroom music in the Apollo Bar and disco music in the Pan Disco. With eight venues for musical entertainment in the evening there was certainly something for everyone. 6. Children's club Our children were in the Mini (3-6 years) and Maxi (7-12 years) Squok club and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They met the captain, visited the kitchens, went on a Treasure Hunt, took part in a pirate parade and had a variety of games, craft and free game time. The children earned Squok money during the sessions for winning competitions or sitting and listening nicely and then at the end of the cruise they swapped their Squok money for prizes. The children both got a Squok baseball cap, a bag and a sticker with their money. Squok club have two themed evening dinners that coincide with the formal nights. In addition, they can have lunch at Squok (they just need to be signed in by 10am that day). We enjoyed eating as a family but let the children have one Squok lunch and dinner during the cruise. The club hours are 9am -11.30pm and if you have an excursion with Costa that leaves early, club will open 15 minutes before your excursion. We never used this service but especially on the day we went to Izmir many children stayed in club while their parents visited Ephesus. At 4.30pm they have snack time which is not a biscuit but slices of pizza upstairs in the buffet! Goodness knows how my two were hungry for dinner but they were. 7. Languages and Costa This was one area that I thought Costa really excelled. Perhaps they have taken heed of previous criticism because our experience was extremely positive. There were 3100 passengers onboard from all over the world. 342 were English speakers and a surprising 1700 passengers were French including a French group of 700 from the Lorraine region. We had a Welcome on board talk on the first day with the English Hostess Helen. The talk was entirely in English and Helen explained useful information about the ship such as which decks run from the front to the back of the ship. For example, if you are on deck 3 at the front and eating in the Ceres restaurant on 3 you need to go up to 5 and down again. Deck 5 and 9 are the main walk through decks. Helen was available every day and the times were always posted in the Today information delivered to your cabin. She was also available at the excursions meeting point to answer any questions. We attended a port lecture also delivered entirely in English with the port Lecturer Marco which was very informative about what to do and visit if you are not on a pre-booked excursion. He obviously delivered the same talk at different times in other languages so everyone was equally informed. Helen also gave a disembarkation talk on the sea day. The talks were recorded and then available to watch on the television in your cabin later if you preferred. There were occasions when you had all languages spoken one after the other and the only time it was long winded was the fire drill and let's face it there is no way they can get round that! The cruise director was hilarious and always did a closing couple of sentences in every language after the show, but because he put in a little curtsy or funny noise in each time it was really funny waiting for repetition in each language. He made the multiple languages entertaining, not irritating and made everyone laugh. English did seem quite a dominant language on the ship even though the ship is Italian. The bar and restaurant staff were mostly from the Philippines and therefore spoke English. The Art and Craft lady was from China and explained the activities in English (which I then translated into French for the francophones) 8. Excursions The excursions are organised according to your language so your guide will only speak English if you are on an English tour and likewise for other languages. We only did one Costa excursion and did the rest of the ports independently. Our excursion to Olympia was excellent. The guide was enthusiastic and spoke from the moment we boarded the coach giving us information about Greece and the local area before we got to the archaeological site. We also had much longer because we were on a tour. Boarding time was 12.15 and our coach didn't get back until 12.40. Let's just say we were glad we were on an official tour! 9. Embarkation and disembarkation We dropped off our suitcases in the morning at 10am at the port and collected a boarding number. We were then free to go off and explore Venice. When we returned in the afternoon we were able to board immediately and walk passengers who had been waiting for two hours! Fruit juice was available for free in the terminal building and there were representatives from the bars selling packages and Squok so you could find out information before boarding which was good. We organised an early disembarkation and were told to be in the theatre for 9.30am. At 9.30 we were able to disembark and find our suitcases in the luggage area of the terminal building. Both embarkation and disembarkation were hassle free for us but I understand that with only 3 or 4 Costa staff checking in passengers the wait for some may have been quite frustrating. 10. Final impressions The Costa Serena is a beautiful ship that is extremely stable. We had high winds and rough seas a couple of days and you would hardly know as it felt so smooth. It is decorated with a Greek mythology theme and the main hall has glass lifts that zoom up to the top decks past all the decorative gods which our children loved. It was very easy to find your bearings on the ship and a free cup of tea, coffee or iced water was never far away if you were on deck 9. We found the cabin corridors very wide and spacious and although the ship was full it never seemed over-crowded. The staff were all polite and friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be working for Costa. Costa clearly values all its crew and make sure that you know how important all the people behind the scenes are which was good to see. It is also a very green ship and recycles most of its waste on board. I am pleased to say that I would highly recommend Costa Serena to anyone who enjoys crusing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We booked this cruise a week before sailing mainly due to price; we were originally going to sharm el sheik!! We completed the booking and rushed round the low cost airlines for flights, booked a hotel and we were done. We flew in the ... Read More
We booked this cruise a week before sailing mainly due to price; we were originally going to sharm el sheik!! We completed the booking and rushed round the low cost airlines for flights, booked a hotel and we were done. We flew in the night before the cruise on Ryan air (should be called riot air - but more on that later). We took the bus to plaza roma then walked for about 10 mins past the train station to our hotel for the night, the Locanda di Orsaria.A nice little hotel, rooms a bit on the small side but aren't all mid rage hotel rooms in Venice. After a good continental breakfast - the cappuccinos are wonderful we explored Venice for the morning. We returned to the hotel to collect our cases and walked back to the plaza de roma. We took the free Costa bus and within minutes we were at the port terminal. Dropping off our cases was a bit of a scrum (4 big ships including ours embarking) and we collected a number and sat patiently in the waiting area for our number to be called. Free cold drinks and a paid for bar were available if you so wished. When the number prior to ours was called we made our way towards the desks and when our number was called we were at the front of the queue, 2 minutes and we were on the ship. Here we encountered our 1st little gripe with Costa. Your picture is taken as you stand on the boardwalk just after the gangway. Not a good idea when it's 90 deg and you're queuing for 10 mins, this should have been done in the nice air con building below. First impressions were good; we liked the bold design features of the impressive atrium. Even though it was only 2pm we thought we'd see if our room was ready. We found the cabin and our key cards were on the bed waiting for us. Others that boarded from 3pm onwards complained of large queues to get on the ship so we'd made the right decision getting on early. Went to the main pool area for lunch and sat and enjoyed a bit of sun. FOOD: Food is a very subjective subject but in the main we ate in the buffet/pool area at lunch and the MDR for dinner. At lunch you have the usual fare, burgers, chicken fries and pizza along with stations offering a different choice every day.Octopus, shrimp and mussels as well as always available pasta. In the MDR the food was good on the whole with a choice of fish, meat or veggie the sweets on the other hand were poor and underwhelming. The Gala nights offering seemed no different or special than normal nights. Food was on the whole above average but not to the standard of Holland America. SHOWS: These were in the main poor. First night was a colored gentleman from the states, with dreadlocks playing the saxophone and singing jazz. A bit of an acquired taste no doubt. He also tried singing Elvis and frank Sinatra for good measure!! 2nd night the best of the week. A male gymnastic duo that were very good. Be warned there was a 10 minute interlude in the middle using the impressive theatre lasers. No warning on the program so I hope they're ok for people with epilepsy!! 3rd night a female magician who was obviously known to the Italian audience. Not a bad show but not very inspiring. 4th night usual big band show, if you've seen one you'll know what I mean. 5th night a mythical theatre show from the singers and dancers, not very good. 6th night. Where do I start? A small gentleman again obviously known to the Italian audience. Started off juggling, dropped his juggled items at least 5 times in the 1st couple of minutes. The crowd for reasons only apparent to them continued to applaud loudly? He then broke into a bit of marso marso case pushing. Then did a bit of trapeze that was in the whole not bad. Finally as we were walking out he started juggling a cuboid shape under fluorescent lights whilst wearing a loin cloth. Final night was the crew show. On Holland America this was a bit of culture from the countries of the crew. On Costa it was the paid dancing cast and singing staff in the main highlighting how good they and Costa were. A bit of dancing for 5 minutes from India and that was it. The animators work very hard around the ship be it around the pools or in the main bars.Most of the none theatre entertainment was in the main bar.get there early or it will be standing room only, If you think butlins meets Benny hill your not far wrong,slapstick and funny noises and games popping ballons. The Italians seem very self effacing and take the Michael out of stereo types be they large woman with small husbands or Koreans who don't speak any English.They also don't take themselves too seriously, You have been warned. The italians also like to get up and dance whenever theres music playing be it in the pool or the bars.encouranged by the animators there were usually 150 + up linine dancing,I think they must all practice at home because the all knew every dance!! Bar prices were steep and I would recommend the x1 package to lighten the blow. 20 euros for a bottle of asti. We didn't use any Costa tours as we always do our own thing.50 euros for a bus to the beach on one of the stops did seem a bit steep though. We on the whole enjoyed this cruise immensely. We always take the rough with the smooth and don't let anything spoil our holiday. The aft grand balcony we slept in was heaven on earth and we had to dragged out of it at the end of our holiday kicking and screaming!! Only 300 English speakers out of 3800 passengers can be challenging but you have to allow for that fact and enjoy what was a wonderful itinerary and a beautiful ship. We departed the ship late, collected our luggage easily and took the free bus to plaza de roma. Took the water taxi to our hotel for 2 nights the best western ala. Very good hotel and well worth the extra for a superior room over our 1st night's hotel. A lot of people complained about the accessibility of the free wi fi. the hotel organised a free motor launch to take us to murano and back.We had this to ourselves,we sat at the back,weaving our way down the grand canal before cutting through the narrow canals at the centre,we could just imagine ourselves in a james bond movie.Murano is worth a visit for the day not just to see a glass works. At the end of our stay we took the waterbus back to Marco polo. The staff of Ryan air vociferously attempted to earn their bonuses by catching anyone with an oversize or over weight cabin bag.(for those who believe I'm being a bit cynical they caught loads and checked mine 5 times without success) We queued at the gate patiently about 5th person back. The throngs rose from their seats as the cabin staff arrived thinking that walking to the front of the queue was the correct procedure. I made it quite clear to those around me that none shall pass and as the gate opened we passed quickly through. Those that paid for priority must have been miffed as the gates opened together because they were late. I sprinted across the tarmac to and headed up the steps just as my dear wife appearing out of the terminal. Suggestion: get your bag in the overhead locker quickly as there aren't enough to go round. Uneventful flight home and our holiday was done. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
I am writing this review to give you our experience of the Costa Serena. If you like to travel with well mannered British passengers and speak English all the time then I suggest you read no further and travel on a British ship from the ... Read More
I am writing this review to give you our experience of the Costa Serena. If you like to travel with well mannered British passengers and speak English all the time then I suggest you read no further and travel on a British ship from the UK. However if you want a more European style fun ship and an amazing itinerary then this might be the ship for you! We have travelled with Costa before and booked this trip at fairly short notice. If you fly to Marco Polo (Main Venice airport) then you can get an ACTV bus to Piazzale de Roma, Venice and then Costa run a regular shuttle to the ship. As we arrived around noon there were still passengers disembarking but we were able to board immediately with minimal fuss. In less than half an hour from arriving in Venice we were on deck having lunch and looking down over the city. Luggage was in the cabin by 1pm and my aunt had her swim suit on and beat the Italians to the Jacuzzi! SHIP Costa Serena is a large modern ship which is easy to negotiate and has pleasant dEcor. The theme of the ship is ancient mythology so apart from the atrium the colour schemes were pleasant to the eye. Despite the sailing being full there was still plenty of space inside the ship although the outside decks were busy on sea days. The Dining room was very good and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had a lovely table for 4 and very good service there. The quality of the food was very good with nice sized portions, good variety and 7 courses every night if you can eat that much. There were 2 formal nights but there were not black tie. My Dad just wore a shirt & tie but we girls were still able to dress up. In Europe anything goes. The buffet on Lido deck was open most of the day. I preferred Room Service for breakfast but the early risers in the group were up at 7am for their full English. The lunchtime buffet caters for Italians/Europeans so there was loads of fresh sea food, pizza, amazing pasta and grilled meat/burgers & chips at the outside grill. Although there's greater variety on the American ships we all managed nice meals every day. There was afternoon tea with sandwiches from 4-5pm. We ate in the Dining room every night although buffet was open and then Pizzeria open from 9pm-1am. There were at least 2 big outdoor gala buffets at midnight and they also served snacks around midnight in the lounges. As Costa club members we also got a basket of fruit, champagne and chocolates in the cabin plus free photo and reception with the captain. Drinks are quite expensive and the packages are probably best. The ship is Italian so all announcements will be made in Italian then in around 6 languages. All literature we received was in English and we had a daily newspaper. The guests were mostly Italian, Spanish and French but there were groups from Russia, USA, Japan and Turkey so Costa did a good job in catering for everyone. It is different to being with mainly British or American tourists so you just have to get your elbows out, join in with the crowd and have a laugh. Although there were 350 English speaking guests on our sailing we rarely bumped into them! However there is a hostess, called Helen, for English speaking guests who was very friendly and really helpful. Although we didn't need to ask her much she frequently came to our dinner table to check if we were OK and went out of her way to chat to us all. The shows in the theatre were not great and after a few we stopped going. In the evenings we loved to people watch and join in some of the activities in the lounges. Lots of dancing, music and catering for holiday makers from 2-102. The entertainment staff (Animators) were very lively and we joined in on a lot of activities. Dad loved the daily quiz and even though it was multilingual he still won a few prizes. He also tried out the formula one simulator which he really enjoyed. On sea days Mum & I tried out the Arts and crafts which was fun and Mum even tried the Brazilian line dancing. In general we didn't have time to try most activities and I didn't even get to open the novel I bought at the airport! From the cabin attendant to the captain we experienced friendly efficient service from all the staff on the ship. PORTS OF CALL This was a fabulous chance to experience some historical sites in the eastern Mediterranean from the comfort of a European ship. We travelled 2500 nautical miles past amazing coastlines and across 2 continents. I am an intrepid explorer and just love the challenge of finding my own way so we used public transport or explored on foot in most ports. Costa have a good range of tours ranging from 50euros VENICE Words can not describe the view you will see from the ship as she goes through the Guidiccea canal and you look down on Venice. Be sure to reserve a spot on the left hand side of the ship and you will not be disappointed as you glide past St Mark's square. We cracked open some bubbly and congratulated ourselves for choosing this itinerary. BARI This is a small town in Puglia right at the heel of Italy. As you walk off the ship you can jump on a local tour bus. My mum & aunt took that 2 hour trip for 10 euros whilst Dad and I walked the same itinerary: Norman fort, main piazza, opera house, city walls, Basilica of St Nicholas and the beach. It's a compact little town with friendly locals so you can't get lost. KATAKALON (Olympia) There was a group decision not to visit Olympia as our time in port was limited and the beach seemed more attractive. As you walk out of the port turn left and there is a small beach with umbrellas, chairs and a beach bar. It is pebbly like many beaches in Greece but you can't beat the location. There is also a sandy beach about 20 mins walk on the other side of town. The ship provided us with beach towels so we had a great relaxing morning at the beach with a nice swim. The town in small, but some nice souvenir shops and lovely tavernas overlooking the harbour. We just wished we had longer in port IZMIR This is a large industrial harbour but the dock is only 5 mins walk from the city. Our group split here with 2 hitting the shops and 2 of us taking an organised tour to Ephesus and Virgin Mary's house. If you like Greek history and archaeology then this is the place for you. It takes about an hour's drive through beautiful countryside to reach Ephesus. Our bus was only for English speaking guests and the guide was very knowledgeable about the local history. Ephesus is HOT but well worth the visit and the journey up to Selcuk to the site of early Christianity and Mary's house was very peaceful and interesting. On returning to the ship the shopaholics had bartered with their euros and filled the cabin with shoes, handbags and sunglasses and also had a fab day. ISTANBUL The journey through the Dardenelles and sea of Marmara is wonderful and as you see the minarets in the skyline it does feel as though you are approaching a new continent. After some research I opted for public transport. There is a tram stop close to the port but you need Turkish Lira to buy tokens. It takes 5 stops to the Blue Mosque (Sultanamhet). Get off here and you can enjoy the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Hippodrome with beautiful gardens and views over the Bosphorus. 2 tram stops further is the Grand Bazzar but we just walked there. It's truly amazing to visit these sites and the day just flew by. After a day's walking and weary legs we enjoyed the view leaving Istanbul from the Jacuzzi on deck with Bocelli playing-magical. DUBROVNIK After a full day at sea we were refreshed and ready to go again. The ship anchors at sea so you have to be tendered in. I was expecting caos but we only waited about 10 mins in one of the lounges to be escorted in an orderly fashion to the tender. The views of Dubrovnik harbour and the old city from the sea were picture postcard. You can explore this city on foot very easily and mingle with the locals and other tourists. IN SUMMARY We will definitely travel with Costa again and would even do the same itinerary on their new ship. This cruise gave us a chance to see places we might not visit independently from the luxury of our big white ship. We felt Costa gave us excellent service and very good value for money. As a family of different age groups we like cruising Italian style. However if you want 5 star luxury or British etiquette then it's probably not for you. Look at the price, the itinerary and it's a great deal. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We chose this cruise as it was leaving from Venice and I had a wish to see Venice again, so we thought we would combine the trip with the cruise, even though we had been disappointed with various aspects of Costa before we hoped with the ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was leaving from Venice and I had a wish to see Venice again, so we thought we would combine the trip with the cruise, even though we had been disappointed with various aspects of Costa before we hoped with the Serena being a fairly new ship things might be better, how wrong can you be? We were 2 couples travelling together FOOD. Very poor quality! I enjoy my food as do all our party but really struggled to find something to eat let alone enjoy. As mentioned in other reviews the Italians are very pushy and don't believe in forming an orderly queue so beware if there is a gap in front of you, also at the buffet at all meal times they were very slow at replacing food as it run out, we had to ask the staff behind the counter more than once to replace the missing food. These staff seemed to be trainee waiting staff as they seemed unsure how to lay out and arrange the food. The meals in the Vesta Restuarant for a so called luxury ship and considering the amount we paid for the trip was absolutly dreadful, from the time it took to serve it (2.5 hours) we were leaving the the restuarant after 11pm still hungry. On the Gala night! we went to a lot of trouble to dress for the occasion at dinner we were offered the gala menu my sister in law and I could not find anything suitable to order, I asked the waiter to bring the (always available) alternative menu she informed me it was not available on Gala night, so I asked if we could just have grilled steaks with some veg she said she would have to ask the mai'trde to come over to speak to me, next thing I was presented with a menu 'he says you can choose from that' said the waiter it was the very obvi children menu anyway I ordered the chicken malelese with french fries when it arrived it was just an insult the dry chicken was very rubbery, inedible as if it had been reheated in a microwave and the frozen chips were undercooked, needless to say I told the waiter to take it away and asked to see the mai'trde the waiter returned to say we could have the grilled steaks this was such a poor show just not worth dressing up for. After this debacle we decided to use the buffet for dinner, even though we were there in plenty of time there was were little food left to choose from. Tea was always luke warm and the coffee was like dish water my sister in law drinks coffee and she had to buy it from the bars at a very inflated price. Another reviewer mentioned the rule about not bringing drinks on board they say something about health and safety, rubbish it is just so you are trapped into paying Costas riduculous prices for drinks soft and alcohol ones, there is a way round this but if Costa read this review they would soon put a stop to it! Another review talks about the adults only pool that children were allowed to use uncorrected we don't have a problem with children on holiday we all have kids and grandchildren ourselves, but considering there was 4 pools on board we don't think it's asking to much to enforce the adults only rule. The children were very boisterous around the pools just as you would expect,so it would have been nice to relax around a pool and have a swim to cool off instead of being banished to the dry decks. To Finish The other trips we had on Costa had very similer problems the first one we booked was at short notice my daughter and I took my Mother for her first and only cruise.The second one it was the only cruise line going to Dubai and the Emerites and as I said earlier I hoped things might have been better on the Serena. It was awful from the surly waiters to the dreadful food and vastly overpriced drinks, also if you were not Italian you were not quoted even at the muster when English was the last language to give instructions the Italians started to break rank and chatter loudly we could not hear the announcement. As we have found on other cruises the cabin attendents do the best job our room was always spotless and we received everything we requested. Finally we think the problem with poor service is the practice of compulsary paying gratuities which means staff do not have to work for tips. We will never be on a Costa ship again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
This was my third cruise with Costa. I have also cruised three times with Kristina Cruises. Normally I travel alone, but this time the trip was present from me to my mother. We came to Venice one day earlier. Transportation from the ... Read More
This was my third cruise with Costa. I have also cruised three times with Kristina Cruises. Normally I travel alone, but this time the trip was present from me to my mother. We came to Venice one day earlier. Transportation from the airport Marco Polo to Venice's bus station is very easy, fast and cheap. We lived hotel near to railway station. Location is perfect. There is Vaporetto station beside railway station. I love Venice and there is always something new to discover. Costa Cruises has organized free transportation from bus station to terminal. We left our hotel about eleven o'clock and arrived half hour later in the terminal 107. Because I have used Venice terminal earlier so it was easy to locate everything. About one o'clock they start to embark, which was nice because they do it one hour earlier which was informed us earlier. Costa Serena is nice and very clean ship. I have travelled also with Costa Concordia, so everything was familiar to me. First we went to buffet, which is located 9th deck. We also left our hand luggage to depository. After two o'clock was time to go and see how our cabin looks like. It was normal cabin, which has a balcony. On the bed were our key cards and a lot of other information. Because I belong to Costa Club, there was champagne waiting for us and fruits too. After we had unpacked our clothes, we went to use credit card registering machine. It was very easy procedure. Then we went to sit our balcony and watch when ship goes trough Venice. We ate in the first sitting in Vesta restaurant, which is located middle in the ship. We bought wine and water collection kit from the ship. It contains five wines and seven mineral waters. Every evening food was very good and our waiters were excellent. The second night we ate in the Bocca Restaurant. Night was very memorable. In the mornings we ate in the buffets and once we order breakfast to our cabin. There were always free places in the buffet if you noticed that there were tables also in the 10th floor. We never watch any shows, because they begin too late for us. But almost every evening we listened very talented live music in Cupido lounge. On the second day ship visited in Bari, but we didn't go anywhere. We enjoyed sun and warm (we have had very long and cold winter here in Finland). After we left from Bari, it was time to compulsory rescue drill. On the third day ship arrived Katakolon and we did go to Olympia with tour organized by Costa. You had very little time in Olympia, but we managed to see everything important. The tour included also local dancing performance and little snack. Fourth day we arrived to Izmir. From there we travelled to Ephesus. We had very good guide. It is place to visit once more in the future. On the fifth day we came to Istanbul. We take part tour called "Super Istanbul". Our English group contains only 6 people, so it was easy to move from place to place by small bus. Our guide was very good and helpful. I liked most the old water storage. We ate in the palace, which is now a luxury hotel. After lunch we take the boat trip to old city. We visited also in the great bazaar. After ten hour tour you feel that you need more days in Istanbul. The town was very beautiful. Tour was organized by Costa. On the sixth day in the afternoon we arrived to Dubrovnik. I have visited there earlier so we stayed on the ship and enjoyed great view. On last day we waited and watched in the grand bar when arrived in the Venice. After hour and half it was our time to disembark. I have bought transportation from the port to the airport from Costa. All went very well. In the airport was little chaos, because ash clouds affected by closing different airports. Luckily our flight was not cancelled and we got also upgrade to business class. It was the perfect end to our journey. Thank you very much Lufthansa. I like Costa Cruises atmosphere very much and have also reserved two news trips with Costa. I have always got very good service from Costa's staff. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was my first cruise and I was afraid that I would get sea sick, as I get motion-sickness easily. I was very pleased to find that I didn't have an issue at all! The food was average. I always walked away full. However, at ... Read More
This was my first cruise and I was afraid that I would get sea sick, as I get motion-sickness easily. I was very pleased to find that I didn't have an issue at all! The food was average. I always walked away full. However, at the end of the trip I was looking forward to going home and eating something delicious. Desserts at the buffet were not my idea of what a dessert should be (two thumbs down). The staff was so very nice and helpful. The ship seemed very clean and I was pleased with my room. We didn't take any of the excursions. We are used to traveling and we decided to do our own thing. However I heard from an American couple that some of the English speaking excursions were canceled. I felt as if the entertainment was for older people. I watched more TV on the ship than I do at home. Which oddly enough I was fine with, it was somewhat relaxing. One thing that I found annoying was the people on the ship. They constantly tried to cut in front of you. They had no idea how to stand in line. Im sure its just a culture thing, but it was irritating. My major complaint is that we had two stops in Turkey during Feast of Sacrifice which is a major holiday and lasts four days. Lots of places were closed including the Grand Bizarre and the Spice Bizarre. I felt a little ripped off due to this. Why even have two stops in a county where places are going to be closed? No apologies for this or anything. Luckily, Ive been to Turkey already... On these nights we boarded the ship early. Ive decided that I will go on a cruise again. Overall my experience was pleasant. But Im not sure if Ill go on another Costa Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We travelled as a party of 4 adults, a couple, sister and cousin age range from 40 to 56. Of the the group 3 have cruise before with Thompson, but was a bit worried about the reviews. Arriving at Marco Polo airport Venice we found ... Read More
We travelled as a party of 4 adults, a couple, sister and cousin age range from 40 to 56. Of the the group 3 have cruise before with Thompson, but was a bit worried about the reviews. Arriving at Marco Polo airport Venice we found our transfer with ease, the problem was when we went to board the Costa Serena, that was our thought we did not listen that you had to wait for your number to be called, but it would help if they had a bigger sign with the number on and also give you printed information before your departure, so that you know what to expect. Once going through the boarding stage there were still more wall to wall of people. Once on board welcome, we asked where do you go to the cabin, yes and pointed to the lifts. We knew our deck and cabin number, but had to ask if the cabins were open. After that we found our cabins. The Cabins had plenty of space for clothes and a nice double bed, singles in the other cabin, much more room than on Thompson destiny. The cabin we found out did have a lot of virbration, we at the back of the ship, But we found sent us off to sleep. The cabin was spotless and our cabin steward very helpful. The ship overall was lovely, not as bright as we had seen in the photos. We found is quite easy to get around, yes we did go the wrong way at times. On our first day we been to the cabin, we went to bar in reception, still busy with people, drinks are expensive. I had house white wine which was 4.50 euros , but between 4 and 6 its buy one get free, larger was more expensive as it just bigger than half a pint. Spirts and soft drink was about 10 euros. We decided not to go to put money on your account, as it stated you could do this within 48 hours, then just go to reception. Warning they only take credit cards, not debit. Then we went to dinner, I check with my sister before hand we were all book for the the first sitting, but we had the first, they had the second. So another long wait sorting this out, eventually given a table for four. The food was small portions, but lovely, none of us complained. The Buffet on the other hand was like a cattle market at breakfast and lunch, if you could find a table, then you had to clear it yourself. By the time one of your party had some food, the other had eaten, they were no sauces to go with food, just a nightmare. We ended up ordering room service for breakfast for a service charge of 2 euros, well worth, then you can go up to the late sleepers buffet, not much choice, but at least you had something to eat. Entertainment, well Strictly Come Dancing, which was great to watch and join in once. If you love dancing like this which I wish I could do, learn some dances before you go on board and you will love it. They did have the Italian version of Butlins, but what cruises do not do that now days. Need to have more mordern music on board, disco only for teens. Bingo cost 20 Euros pp, need to lower the Jackpot and price of tickets more people would have a go, im not a bingo person. Casino, min bet too expensive. Bar and waiting staff quite good. Kids everywhere, but did not bother us. Would I recommed this ship, in certain ways yes, for the difference, we enjoyed ourselves, but never met any English speaking guess. As for the ports, going back on the ship at Bari was a nightmare, and by the way they did take the bottle of whisky I brought in the port. At all ports do you own thing, there are plenty of taxis, we only went on one excursion in Istanbul to the Blue Mosque cost 52 euros for 4 hours.. We ended up not going back to the bus for the ship, did a detour had lunch and a lot of walking, but saw a differnt peaceful side of Istanbul. The Spa was lovely paid 39 Euros for the day, it gave you access to the baths, steam rooms, tea and tanning room and relaxation area. Towels and robes were provided. Only one other niggle when it was the sea day the Ceres sit down buffet was closed, so yet again another nightmare at the buffet on deck 9. Hope you found this helpful Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
BACKGROUND First up I have to declare that cruising has never really appealed to me. The thought of being stuck on a ship with several thousand strangers and being forced to don a tuxedo before being allowed to eat anything just ... Read More
BACKGROUND First up I have to declare that cruising has never really appealed to me. The thought of being stuck on a ship with several thousand strangers and being forced to don a tuxedo before being allowed to eat anything just wasn't my idea of fun. However having received glowing reports from numerous friends and relatives who have cruised recently, including the news that dress codes weren't as rigid as they used to be, I began to think that it might be worth a try. I managed to get some (unexpected) time off work to coincide with my wife's October holiday and decided I would surprise her with a cruise (it was her 50th birthday.) BOOKING Being forced to book at short notice and at a peak period I discovered my choice was pretty much limited to 7 nights onboard Costa Serena cruising the eastern Mediterranean. As there were limited places left I booked it there and then, having no more knowledge of this company or ship than a quick glance through the brochure in the TA's. At the time of booking (about 2 weeks before departure) Costa and the TA were unable to confirm availability, final price and times of the connecting flights so the booking was made on the understanding that if any of these were unsuitable then the holiday could be cancelled without penalty. Unfortunately I did not get this condition in writing as when the flight times were confirmed they didn't suit me and I tried to cancel. Both Costa and the TA then denied having agreed to cancel and refused to refund my money. Not a good start. Having accepted that I was sailing Costa I then started to do some research into the Serena and found Cruise Critic. Oh dear! The reviews on this site (and others) did not make promising reading. However we decided to approach the holiday as open minded as possible and make the most of it whatever. We decided the J2 drinks package might be worthwhile for us and contacted Costa to try to clear up exactly what was included. After being given three different versions we were none the wiser but decided to book it anyway, at which point Costa tried to raise the price. When I pointed out that they had already agreed a price (in writing this time - I learn quick!) they backed down and accepted the original price. FLIGHTS As mentioned we booked our flights through Costa and flew from Glasgow to Venice via Amsterdam with KLM. The only problem here, and the reason I tried to cancel, was that we had to be at the airport for about 3 am meaning no sleep the night before the cruise started. The flights themselves were perfect and all ran on time or better. One pleasant surprise when we arrived at Glasgow Airport was a Costa rep waiting to greet us and see us on to our flights. A nice touch. EMBARKATION On arrival at Venice Marco Polo we were again met by a Costa rep who directed us to our coach for transfer to the port. En-route to the port we were given instructions on the embarkation process. We were also advised that as we were early we should book in our bags, collect our boarding number then go and enjoy Venice for a few hours before boarding the ship. This was excellent advice as we were able to spend about four hours exploring Venice by which time our number had been called and we were able to walk straight onto the ship on our return. On boarding the ship we were pointed in the direction of the lifts and pretty much left to find our cabin by ourselves. It wasn't too difficult but given the size of the ship a little more assistance would have been appreciated. On arrival at our cabin our luggage was waiting for us - as was someone else's! One of our suitcases was also damaged. Costa did contact us regarding the damage, offering to carry out a temporary repair and give us a letter for our insurance company. We declined, as neither was necessary. CABIN We had booked an inside guaranteed cabin and expected to be allocated somewhere in the bowels of the ship next to the engine room. We were pleasantly surprised then when we found our cabin to be second from the front on deck eight. The cabin itself was slightly larger than expected, spotlessly clean with more than adequate storage space. The ensuite toilet/shower room was likewise immaculate with a good powerful shower that always had plenty of hot water. We did lose our water supply one night and the toilet also stopped working on one occasion, but both problems were quickly resolved when reported to the cabin steward. Talking of the cabin steward, he did an excellent job of keeping the cabin clean and tidy. It was almost as if he was in hiding waiting for you to leave and had the place spick and span before you returned. SHIP I thought the ship itself was superb. Ok the themed dEcor was a bit tacky in places but it was good fun and didn't offend me in the slightest (although others we spoke to were less impressed). Cleanliness in most areas of the ship could not be faulted. One exception to this was the buffet/pool dining areas where staff were sometimes a bit slow to clear tables making it almost impossible at times to find a clean unoccupied table. We were told that there were 3850 passengers on board which is slightly over the Serena's posted capacity and you did get the feeling that there were more passengers than the crew could comfortably deal with. Navigating about the ship was tricky at first but nowhere near as bad as some posters would have you believe. It is a very large ship and naturally it does take a bit of time to learn where thing are but after a couple of days it all starts to fall into place. I had read that deck 5 was the only deck that allowed you to go from one end of the ship to the other. This is simply not true. In fact most decks allow you to do this, the exceptions being decks 3 and 4 (split by the Ceres and Vesta restaurants) and a couple of the upper decks which don't actually run the full length of the ship. For example on deck 8 the corridor our cabin was in ran the full length of the ship (probably the longest corridor I have ever seen) and this was replicated on other accommodation decks. One area I thought the layout could have been improved was the positioning of the Casino. This is supposed to be an adult only area yet its position straddling the middle of deck 5 means that it is necessary to pass through it to reach other public areas. I have no doubt that this is a deliberate design ploy to encourage people to use the casino however the result was that there were always children within the casino and on occasions they were playing the slot machines. By positioning the casino at the rear of the ship and restricting access to adults this could be easily avoided. DINING I know this is a very subjective topic but for me this was one area where Costa and the Serena really fell well short of expectations. For me dining out is a large part of a holiday. I enjoy trying different cuisines and experimenting with food from the various countries I visit. My wife on the other hand is a fussy eater with a quite limited diet. Unfortunately the food on the Serena failed to satisfy either of us. For dinner we had opted for second sitting and were allocated a table for two in the Vesta restaurant. This was scheduled for 9pm but the restaurant rarely opened on time. The food was at best average and the service left a lot to be desired. Our waiters seemed to be covering about ten tables and nobody was served until all the tables had ordered. Thereafter the various courses (7 in total) were only served after every table in the group had finished the previous one. This meant that if you skipped a course you could have an incredibly long wait for the next one. If for instance you chose not to have the appetiser and soup it could be after 10pm before you received any food at all. It was also often after 11pm before you were finished. Another problem with this system was that the food was brought from the kitchen in large batches (great balancing act by the waiters incidentally) and then left at the side for long periods before being served. This I believe was the reason for much of it being lukewarm. After a couple of nights in the main dining room we decided to try the buffet instead. Big mistake. While there is a fairly good variety in the buffet (and poolside grills) at lunchtime, after about 3pm it is all removed and all that is available is pizza (and even that is not very good). Even the fresh fruit is removed and all of the ice cream machines are switched off. If you are expecting 24hr dining on this ship you will be very disappointed. ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment on board could be split into three categories: 1. The Theatre 2. The Animation Team 3. The musicians in the bars. The Theatre The theatre was beautiful although a lot of the seats had restricted views due to the positioning of various pillars and railings. The acts themselves did not really live up to the venue. The ships own onboard singers and dancers were very good but it was the guest performers who really let things down. To call them third rate would actually be quite complimentary and the shows were very short (30-40mins) although in some cases that was actually a blessing. Best show of the week for entertainment value was the staff show on the last night. A bit like week 1 of X-factor with Simon speaking Italian! The Animation Team Think failed Butlin's Red Coats and you have the Costa Serena's Animation (entertainment) Team. Can't really think of much more to say about them. Musicians Most of the bars at night had some kind of live musicians providing either dancing or background music. Most of them were quite good. My only criticism would be that some of the background musicians seemed to find it difficult to stay in the background and played at a volume that made conversation virtually impossible. CUSTOMER SERVICE Customer service onboard the Serena varied considerably from very poor to excellent. Strangely the higher up the pecking order you went the worse the service became. Without question the Phillipino crewmembers, who appeared to be allocated the lowest grade jobs, were consistently the friendliest and most conscientious members of staff. I had four dealings with the customer service desk. I could have had more, but there was always a long line of people waiting to speak to them so I let some things go rather than spend my holiday standing in a queue. On the first two occasions I was lucky enough to deal with the same member of staff. She spoke excellent English and was able to deal with my enquiries quickly and effectively. I began to doubt all those who have criticised Costa's customer service on this board. On my third and fourth visits I was not so lucky. The staff I encountered on these occasions were arrogant, defensive, and completely unhelpful. I might add that on no occasion did I approach the customer service desk in an argumentative or confrontational manner, although on the latter two occasions I certainly left that way! Suzanne, the English-speaking hostess, gave a couple of very informative talks and seemed very nice. However she was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard if you actually had to approach her with a problem. Her stock answer was to direct you to customer services and she seemed to be completely powerless to deal with anything herself. The Italian Officers were something else. They seemed to spend most of their time strutting about the various public areas of the ship in their dress uniforms looking very pleased with themselves. Better entertainment than the animation team actually. SMOKING I read a lot about smoking on this ship prior to sailing and it was something that really worried me. As a lifelong non-smoker and coming from a country where smoking in public buildings has been banned for a number of years, I am about as intolerant of cigarette smoke as it is possible to be. I really need not have been concerned. Yes there are some areas of the ship that are smoky. The casino is probably the worst and as previously mentioned you have to pass through it to get to other parts of the ship. At busy times this was quite unpleasant. However there are plenty of areas on the ship that are entirely smoke free. All of the restaurants, the theatre and the Cupido bar are completely non-smoking. All of the other bars have smoking and non-smoking areas and the ventilation system seemed to be completely effective at keeping the non-smoking areas smoke free. Likewise in the Lido areas one side of the ship was for smoking and the other non-smoking and the overwhelming majority of passengers stuck to the rules. Unfortunately this protocol didn't seem to apply to the outside sunbathing areas and occasionally we had smokers sit next to us which we could have done without. This could happen in any outdoor area ashore though so I don't know that it's really valid cause for complaint. Most importantly there was no hint of stale cigarette smoke in our cabin. CHILDREN Yes there were a lot of children and teenagers on this ship but I have to say it was rarely an issue for us. I never saw large gangs of kids running wild, as has been described elsewhere, and the vast majority of kids were well behaved and under the watchful eye of their parents (and grandparents and great grandparents in some cases - holidaying Italian style is definitely a real family affair!). We spent a lot of our time at the adult only pool at the rear of the ship and this was the only area where kids were a bit of an issue. Although the pool is advertised as adult only it would appear that the surrounds and the Jacuzzis are not. Also the adult only rule in the pool is largely ignored and although I did see Costa staff asking parents to remove kids from the pool on a couple of occasions, more often than not there were more kids than adults in it. Costa need to either tighten up on this one or else abandon it completely - at least that way you would know what to expect. ITALIAN MANNERS We read a lot on here about pushy Italians and their bad manners but having been to Italy before we had a good idea what to expect. Yes things are different to what you would expect in the UK or US but the secret is to accept it for what it is - a different culture with different rules - and don't let it upset you. People won't physically push you out of the way to get to the front of a line, but rest assured that if you leave a gap it will be filled. Personal space definitely has a different meaning in different countries. If you have ever travelled on the Rome underground system you'll know what I mean! It's nothing personal and you really shouldn't take offence - just learn to play by the same rules and you'll do fine. DRINKS PACKAGES Again we read a lot of pros and cons on here about the various drinks packages and were unsure which of any to take. We decided on the J2 package and overall it was the right decision for us, although not without its problems. While the bar and restaurant staff all seemed to have been fully briefed regarding the package the cabin steward did not have a clue. As a result the first time we used something from the mini-bar we were charged for it. I spoke to customer services who sorted this out and told me not to sign for anything else. Unfortunately there seemed to be no communication between them and the cabin steward who then refused to restock the bar unless I signed for the items I had used (2 cans of coke). This happened on the second day and we were basically denied use of the mini-bar for the rest of the trip - not a huge problem as we could obtain the same drinks from any of the ships bars, but an annoyance that should not have happened all the same. The other thing we encountered was that some of the bar/waiting staff were noticeably less keen to serve J2 holders than they were passengers who were paying for drinks on the ship. This was very apparent on the occasions that we were in company with 'paying' passengers. The contrast in service was striking. Value for money wise though J2 was well worth having and I would still recommend it despite the problems we encountered. If Costa got there staff trained properly and fully informed them of the services they are selling to customers then J2 would be excellent. Alternatively they could just reduce their drink prices to a more realistic level and then there would be no need for them to offer drinks packages at all - don't see that happening though. PHOTOGRAPHERS If you like posing for pictures you will love the Costa Serena. If not go elsewhere. The photographers onboard the ship are pushy and intrusive in the extreme. At mealtimes they have this bizarre ritual of arriving at your table with a person in fancy dress who works his way around the table sticking his face next to the guests, often while they are trying to eat, while the photographer merrily snaps away. I found this very annoying, and one passenger nearly came to blows with them when they refused to accept no as an answer. He never returned to the dining room after that. PORTS OF CALL/EXCURSIONS In general the ports of call were very good and the main complaint in most of them would have to be that the length of time in port was just too short. In particular the first stop in Bari only allowed for about an hour and half ashore and you definitely got the feeling that the main reason for stopping there was to uplift more passengers rather than as a point of interest for those already on board. The ship's excursions were very expensive and we decided to do our own thing at most of the stops - a decision we didn't regret. VENICE If you are boarding at Venice I would recommend that you either stay over a night before or after your cruise, or make sure your flight times allow you some leeway to explore the city before boarding or after leaving the ship. Venice lives up to all expectations and it really would be a shame to pass through without a chance to explore (as some passengers on our cruise had to do.) One top tip, given to us by a charming elderly Venetian gentleman who spotted us floundering with our map, is to buy a daily ticket for the waterbus. For 16 euros each this allows you unlimited access to the waterbus network for a 12 hr period. More than enough to let you see all the sights and a fraction of the price of a Gondola ride (120euros for 45 mins). Venice is very expensive, particularly the cafes around St Mark's Square, where the average price for a glass of coke was 8 euros and a beer 10 euros. Walk a little bit away from the square however and the price drops considerably. BARI By the time we managed to get off the ship here we only had about an hour and a half before we were due back on again. We had decided to just have a brief walk around the town but as we were leaving the port we encountered a number of open top tour buses and the green train offering a 1-hour sightseeing trip for 15 euros each and guaranteeing to have us back in time for our departure We decided that it was probably the best chance we had of seeing all the sites in the time available and it worked out pretty well. Having said that, as the tour progressed, it became obvious that most of the places visited were within walking distance of the port, although without knowing your way about you would probably have struggled to fit them all in on foot. KATAKOLON (OLYMPIA) Being big sports fans my wife and I were both keen to see the birthplace of the Olympics. I'm fairly confident driving abroad so we decided we would rent a car from http://www.rentacarkatakolo.gr/cars.htm, which we had seen mentioned on various posts on Cruise Critic. We arrived in Katakolon in the middle of a thunderstorm and the heavens really opened up as we were walking from the port. As we were sheltering from the rain we met a couple from Slovenia with their young daughter and agreed to share transport to Olympia with them. While they hid from the rain we ran for the car hire shop which is situated right outside the port entrance. The car rental guys were stars. When they saw us coming they ushered us into the shop and produced towels for us to dry ourselves. When I explained that we had friends still sheltering back in the port they immediately gave me a car to go and fetch them. I don't think the Slovenians had quite understood why we ran off from them so the look on their faces when I arrived back in my Fiat Punto to rescue them from the rain was a picture! The car rental was good value (53 euros incl. Fuel) especially when split with our new friends.The guys at Katakolo car rental also gave us a map and directions to Olympia and it turned out to be an easy drive on good quality roads. Olympia itself was very interesting although most of the site is very much in ruins and it can be quite difficult to visualise what you are looking at. There are very few signs to help you and if you do go without a guide I would recommend buying a guide book before you start your tour - they aren't expensive and are money well spent. Entry to the site and museum is about 9 euros each. We got back to Katakolon with about an hour to spare, which gave us enough time for a quick look around the town, which is really no more than a single street packed with tourist shops and cafes. IZMIR (EPHESUS) In her introductory talk Suzanne recommended Ephesus as the 'must do' tour of the week. As Ephesus was the best part of 100km from the port we decided it was probably safest to do the ship's excursion rather than risk being late back. We were well warned that the ship would only wait for latecomers if they were part of an official tour. I have to say that this trip was outstanding. Ephesus is an incredible place and our guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. I found the detail the guide provided to be more than I personally needed, however she constantly checked with the group to gauge what level she should pitch her talk at and the majority were happy to soak up all the information she could provide. This actually worked out ok for me as I could listen to her introductions and then jump about taking photos while the others were listening to her detailed accounts. On the way back to the ship we had the mandatory stop at a ceramic factory, where we were given a brief demonstration of the products being made before being shown to the shop where we could purchase the wares. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no hard sell during the visit and we were left to browse the shop in our own time with no pressure to buy whatsoever. We got back to the ship about half an hour after the posted 'all aboard' time so I was glad we had opted for the official tour. All in all highly recommended. ISTANBUL Istanbul was the only full day stop in the itinerary and the ship's excursions were very expensive. Pre trip research suggested that most of the 'must see' sights were in the same area and could be reached easily from the port by taxi so we decided that's what we would do. On leaving the port however we again encountered the waiting open top tour bus. This one offered a full tour of the European side of Istanbul with a hop on hop off service at various points around the city for a reasonable 20 euros each. This sounded pretty good value and from previous experience we new these tours are usually a good way of getting a feel for the layout of a city so we hopped on. The bus was equipped with headsets through which you could obtain a commentary in a number of languages. The English commentary was clear and concise and it turned out to be an excellent way of seeing the city. We hopped off at the Blue Mosque and decided to take a look inside (free admission). Prior to entry you must remove your shoes and ladies must cover their heads (scarves are provided for those who don't have their own). I was shocked and embarrassed by the number of western 'ladies' who removed their head covering once they were inside the Mosque. Such a lack of respect for the culture and religious beliefs of the country you are visiting is in my mind disgraceful and I was amazed that they weren't thrown out of the building. The Blue Mosque itself was a magnificent building and well worth visiting (but please respect the rules). We then headed over to the Grand Bazaar for some shopping. We had a bad experience a number of years ago in the Kasbah in Tangiers and we found the Grand Bazaar just too similar, with my wife in particular feeling quite uncomfortable, so we cut our trip short and headed back to the ship. This was more to do with us than the place itself and most of the people we spoke to onboard thoroughly enjoyed the experience of bartering for 'genuine fake watches' etc. Just be warned that if you're a bit claustrophobic you may find Istanbul to be a slightly overpowering. DUBROVNIK The ship had to sit at anchor outside Dubrovnik and we were ferried ashore in tenders. This took quite a while meaning time ashore was very limited which was a great shame as Dubrovnik is a really beautiful place and we would have loved to spend much longer there. There is really no point taking an excursion as everything worth seeing is within walking distance of the harbour. We tried to walk the city walls but had to stop half way round due to lack of time, which was a shame. Likewise there were lots of lovely looking cafes and bars that we would have visited had time been on our side. The people here were very friendly and the shops were cheap so it is worth getting some local currency. There are plenty of ATM's though so it's easy to get money when you arrive. Most of the shops would also accept Euros and their exchange rates seemed fair. You will need the local currency to pay for the wall walk though. DISEMBARKATION We had booked on a ship's tour of Venice on the last day, having some time to spare before we headed back to the airport. Unfortunately Costa cancelled the trip the day before due to lack of numbers. This was a bit of a pain as we had been relying on the trip to get us off of the ship in the first group! As it turned out we were allocated 10am disembarkation, which was only an hour later than planned so not a huge problem. This still left us time to leave our bags with left luggage and head into Venice for a few hours before our transfer to the airport. The disembarkation process itself went reasonably smoothly considering the number of people leaving the ship and the ground staff dealing with left luggage and transfers to the airport handled things very well. CONCLUSION Despite some of the negative comments in this review we did enjoy our week aboard the Costa Serena. A holiday is only ever going to be what you make of it: we went with the intention of having a good time and we did. The highpoints for us were the places we visited and the people we met and befriended on board the ship. Low points were the disappointing food and service and the apparent couldn't care less attitude of (some of) Costa's staff. Overall I don't think cruising is for us. For example we didn't enjoy the food on the ship. In a hotel that would not have been a huge problem, we could have walked out the door and gone somewhere else - not an option on a ship. So will our first cruise be our last? We met many regular cruisers on board the Serena and every one of them said the same thing to us - "Please don't judge cruising on what you have seen on this ship" With that in mind we probably will try another cruise sometime - but it won't be anytime soon and it almost certainly won't be with Costa. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed. Having read some of the previous reviews I went ... Read More
We were a family of 6 - granny aged 80, myself and my husband, plus 3 teenagers (17, 15, 13). We chose this cruise ship because it catered for us all and we were not disappointed. Having read some of the previous reviews I went expecting lots of negatives but these were totally unfounded. From arrival to departure everything was well organised and the comfort of the passengers was always of primary importance - at least it felt that way. On arrival the terminal in Venice we were handed some numbers and our bags taken from us. We waited about an hour to board but there were drinks available and we were given the opportunity to decide which drinks packages to have - we had tried to buy the X1 card but had left it too late! These cards need to be bought 14 days before the cruise. As soon as we stepped on the ship we were approached by someone who heard us speak English to explain that there would be a meeting to explain things to us and who gave us the time and place and then directed us to our cabins. The cabins were immaculate and well laid out. We had booked relatively late and we had inside cabins but they were fine. As a previous reviewer stated we all slept exceptionally well. Being on the 9th level turned out to be a real bonus for granny as the buffet was on this level for breakfast and lunch. The food was great and plentiful. The Italians were quite pushy - no queuing in their culture obviously - but it wasn't a problem. They piled their plates high but there was never a shortage of anything for the rest of us. We ate lunch once in the restaurant but then discovered it spoilt our appetite for dinner so we didn't do it again. We discovered late in the week that there was different foods in different parts of the buffet, but again the kids were happy with the pizza and the rest of us were happy with the pasta of the day and salad. There was always plenty of fresh fruit available. The English speaking hostess was really informative and available each day for any problems. She hosted a drinks party for English speaking clients on the 2nd night, sadly not many of us turned up but the few that did were very friendly and it was nice to have nodding acquaintances. We chose a mixture of ship and self organised excursions. Starting in Bari we took the ship's cycle tour. This was quite a giggle but not much cycling and frustrating having to listen to the guide give the explanations once in English and again in Italian. Bari itself was beautiful and could easily be walked around with the map provided by the ship. In Katakalon we used George Letsios who was fantastic (www.taxikatakolon.gr). He could only take 4 in his taxi so granny and I stayed in the town but my husband and the kids went off to Olympia and said this was the best trip they did all week. They arrived ahead of the tour buses and really enjoyed the site and visit to the museum. George then took them to a beach and for a cold drink - real ***** service. In Katakolon we wandered round the town and had a drink, bought some postcards and took pictures. The cafes on the front all had wifi (but I had left my computer behind on board although it was only 5 minutes by foot from the ship to the town I decided not to bother as I was on holiday!). There was a small beach on the left hand side of the port area with showers and shade. Also, car hire and moto hire available just at the entrance to the port. For Izmir and Istanbul we organised trips using Burak Sansal as recommended on this site. These were very expensive - it would have been cheaper to take the ship tours - but we felt that the flexibility with granny made the expense worth it. Sadly neither of these excursions lived up to expectations. The guides were very nice but when we said we didn't want to go shopping we felt a definite change in their demeanour towards us. The first guide stated from the outset that she expected a tip - we always tip and don't really need to be asked! The first port of call in Istanbul was to the spice market and when we explained that we would rather look at sites in the cool of the day and do any shopping later we were made to feel that we were clearly out of order. We lost (!) our transport in Istanbul resulting in granny having to walk quite some distance which was a bit of a strain for her. We'd asked to look at some rugs and were taken to a rug shop where the prices started at over £1000 which was way way over our price range. My husband was furious. I don't mean this to sound petty but we are really experienced independent travellers and we left Turkey feeling that we hadn't seen the best of it. In Dubrovnik we took the ship's tour to the beach. This was a bit of a faff as we had to take the tender from the ship to the town and then another boat back to the beach which was a short distance from where the ship was tendered. It was so close in fact that my kids reckoned they could swim to it! This was not worth the money (58 euros each). It included a light lunch which consisted of 4 mussels a scoop of salad and a slice of bread. The Italians had arrived with sandwiches they made at breakfast to supplement this meagre offering!! Dubrovnik looked beautiful and I wish I had heeded the advise to look around the town but I thought the kids had had enough culture by now. Leaving Dubrovnik was amazing as you sail right past the old town and cliffs. When we got to Venice the disembarkation was well organised and we dumped our bags and took the water bus down to St Marks square. This was the icing on the cake according to granny! Suzanne, our English hostess, gave lots of information on those wanting to leave their bags at left luggage and how to get to town. This was our first ever cruise and all in all was an enormous success. The kids said it was the best holiday ever. Hubby had enough going on to keep him interested. Granny was delighted that at her age she was still able to visit new places and enjoy time with her family. I was happy to have ticked off some places I'd never visited before and, of course, that everyone else was happy. The ship was huge but never felt overcrowded - the only bottlenecks were around the central areas in the evenings - there were plenty of sunbeds. The shows were varied and on the whole quite entertaining. The drinks prices were not unreasonable. We bought the soft drinks vouchers for the kids, a water and wine package for the adults, and there was always water available from a machine. My husband used the spa and a few of us used the gym - there was an age limit but both my sons used the facilities without any problem. The kids loved the slide and the pools. Granny and I found lots of shady areas to sunbathe and read our books. The staff were fantastic - really friendly and accommodating - and the ship was immaculate. We would definitely consider another holiday with Costa Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
I went on holiday with my daughter, I thoughtly enjoyed it. It was a new experience. Things that I wished I had known. 1. Do not miss the induction as they have an English speaking person telling you all about the activities ... Read More
I went on holiday with my daughter, I thoughtly enjoyed it. It was a new experience. Things that I wished I had known. 1. Do not miss the induction as they have an English speaking person telling you all about the activities and when they are in English. 2. Buy the drinks vouchers and the soft drink vouchers, I tend to drink alot of soft drinks and I wished that I had brought two lots. 3.Do not leave your cocktail glass that you purchased, dirty in your room you do not get it back. 4. Do not buy the spa treatments before the trip, they have specials. 5. I booked nearly all the excursions, they was good very expensive and some was not necessary. 6. The Italians do not queue. 7. The nightlife was all Italian DJ and songs. Upload some films and music on your ipods 8. TV was in Italian. Reading back it sounds very negative but it was not, we met up with some lovely people on our table, they put all the English speaking people together. The guide excursion was in English. The staff spoke English. My room was an inside state room, but the sea air made us sleep. The spa was to die for, I brought a ticket to attend the spa. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Ah where to begin...thanks to Cruise Critic I had a lot information going in to this cruise and yes there were many ups and downs about the trip, but overall I would say we had a really great time. We have never done a cruise so I'll ... Read More
Ah where to begin...thanks to Cruise Critic I had a lot information going in to this cruise and yes there were many ups and downs about the trip, but overall I would say we had a really great time. We have never done a cruise so I'll start with the positives. We had two cabins one for me and my husband and one for our two teenage boys ages 14 and 17.  Jocelyn was our cabin steward, she was cheerful, helpful, and got you anything you asked for.  She gets a 5 star rating from us. Christopher our table steward was another winner, gracious, informative, attentive and nice looking to boot.  Our cabin was spacious enough with American style outlets and a hair dryer. We opted for interior cabins as a way to reduce costs, but I really wish we had ponied up the money for a balcony, that's the way to go. The ship is beautiful, big and crowded. The theater will hold 1700 people and covers three floors if that is any indication. Take advantage of the kitchen tour and be sure to view the ships stats presentation, they were both fascinating. I also recommend taking some time to talk to the staff. They are eager to talk to you to since it helps them with their English.  They all have really interesting stories of how they landed on a cruise ship. We found out all sorts of interesting tidbits about life on the ship and it made us appreciate them all the more. Also we were put at a table with another American family who had two teenage daughters so that made dinner a nice experience for everyone. Our favorite ports were Katakolon, thanks to George our fabulous taxi driver. I booked him on the internet and he totally exceeded our expectations (www.taxikatakolon.gr) His cost was a little more than half of what a Costa Tour would have cost, more on that later. Our other favorite port was Istanbul. Again we opted for doing it on our own and we saved over half the cost doing it this way and we met two great guides to boot.  What surprised us about Turkey was how many people spoke English, everyone was willing to share what little language they had and it made it fun. Be aware the taxi rides in Istanbul are similar to the old E-ticket rides at Disneyland. Close your eyes until you get to your destination. Now for some of the negatives...the food was well passable. The dinner menu was extensive, but the same old cream sauce seemed to creep onto just about every dish I ordered, and no I tried to get it without the sauce and that wasn't happening. There were too many courses and so much wasted food.  I kept to three of the seven courses and skipped dessert most nights, so there was no worries about gaining any weight. Actually I like the breakfast menu better, it was buffet style with lots of choices. There were the same old eggs, waffles, bacon sort of thing, but I stuck to the cheese, great choices of fresh fruit, prosciutto, and my personal favorite "roll'em up fish" They were some sort of small herring (I think), wrapped around a piece of pickle with onion. When I asked what kind of fish it was I was told "roll'em up fish!" I was disappointed on the days they didn't have it.  We found the desserts disappointing, they seemed all the same and sort of spongy in texture. They did have delicious cream puffs one day, but that was it.  There is a chocolate bar where you can buy fruit slathered in chocolate from one of those chocolate fountain things, but I never took advantage of it. Their gelato machine was my favorite time of the day.  But you have to be fast it only seemed to operate from 12:00-3:00pm and 7:00-9:00pm so you had to be quick. Vanilla or strawberry gelato on cantaloupe was my favorite afternoon snack. We did not take advantage of the wine drink package mostly because you were limited to using it only at dinner and lunch in the restaurant and we were gone at lunch almost every day. Have no fear though every day there was a happy hour special  10:00 am to noon  (we didn't take advantage of that one) and 4:00 to 6:00 when we did. Buy one get two, so we were happy with that and saved a bundle. We would get something to drink and then go out on deck three and watch the waves. As I mentioned before the tour packages were pricey. We did the same tour in Instanbul , the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia for 90 euros for 4 of us instead of 212 e if we had taken the Costa tour. I know we did better, because  met two great guides; Mustafa was 82 years old, a retired English teacher plus a comedian to boot and Idriz who showed us the Blue Mosque and his carpet shop!  So if you are up to making your own way you will do better with saving your pennies because you will need them for the rug you will eventually buy- trust me!  Dubrovnik was a disappointment, there were two other smaller ships in port and the place was a madhouse and crowded with people.  We were tendered out after the Costa tours had left so we didn't get off the ship until almost 1:30 and had to be back by 4:30 at the latest. It took awhile to find the way to the top of the wall in order to walk around and get a new perspective on the town. We found the best little cafe (I had read about it here on a previous review) where we drank icy cold beer and the boys swam in the Adriatic, it was one of their highlights.  I would really like to go back and spend a week there and really get to know the place, it was just too short of a port stop. With about 3700 people on board it had its crowded moments. There were lots of kids which didn't bother us at all, but I know some people will be put off.  In the week we were on the ship we only stumbled upon maybe 100 people that spoke English, which was ok, but I think my boys would have liked it better if more kids had spoken it. We always said "hi" to everyone to try and figure out if that person would surprise us with some English. Most people that were not Italian would say hi, German, French, British whatever, but we found the Italians just didn't bother replying.  Embarkation was a nightmare- the night before was one of Venice's biggest celebrations the Redentore which celebrates the end of the plague in 1577.  There was so much partying the night before we think the whole city was hungover and that impacted the embarkation process. Disembarkation was a breeze in comparison. As I stated at the beginning we are not cruisers and I don't think we will try again, not because of Costa, but because it is just too crowded and not the vacation style we are most comfortable with.  However I will say we did get to see some great sights in a very short amount of time. It was a great experience and one we will remember for a long time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
I have read many reviews on this web site about this ship and this literary, many complaining, I am now able to write my own experiences and I have no idea what ship the moaners were on.   Costa Serena is a smashing ship it has a ... Read More
I have read many reviews on this web site about this ship and this literary, many complaining, I am now able to write my own experiences and I have no idea what ship the moaners were on.   Costa Serena is a smashing ship it has a great atmosphere and amazing staff, they all seemed to speak English we did not feel that customer services or any other department had a problem with English; there is even an English speaking host on the ship although we had no need for her in any way.   Venice terminal is not like Southampton , its in Italy and our foreign friends do things differently to us , but we had no problems it was smooth and well organized, but it was not Southampton,   The ship was spotless and we had no problems with food, the buffet, long queues rude Italians or anything else. Look do your self a favor if you a typical  p and o cruiser who like to tut a lot and hates Johnny foreigner then don't go , but if your someone who likes to feel they have left dear old blighty for their holidays, then kill to get on board. If you want fun then get on board. There were loads of kids on board and they were fine we had no problems with excessive noise or kids running riot. All the moaners who have written other reviews must have lost the plot. There we places on board where you could find silence, we stuck to the main pool down by the buffet, yes it was busy, but there was loads going on, you could watch all the folks learning the latest euro dances, you could do stretch exercises or work outs and the buffet was a few steps away as well as a real nice bar.   Most days we had breakfast up here and lunch but every evening we had dinner in the main restaurant and our waiters Joel and Brian could not have been better. The gala night was fun and the Italian night even better I wont spoil if for you.  The shows were really good, and we even had a treat of a magician who was outstanding, the crew show was also really good.   We spent most nights in the grand bar where there was some sort of madness every night; the animation team were brilliant and made the whole trip such fun. .   Costa represents great value for money and there were guests from all over the world , I hated leaving the ship and if I could go again tomorrow I would , I would recommend this ship to anyone one without reserve, unless you a  tutter or someone who wants English beer and Sharon shouting oi Tracey to all her mates. I did not see one drunk, I did not hear anyone calling to their mates, and I had the time of my life.   The ports of call were stunning and everything worked like clockwork, this is one slick operation and Costa deserves to get some recognition of the great product they provide.   I could go on here for another 10 pages explaining it all but I am sure that would be boring, I have been on several cruise ships and I am so very pleased I picked Costa for this year's holiday it was just perfect. Please ignore the other moaners, its not pizza in the buffet, it's a wide mix of food; the afternoon tea is great with all the beautiful cakes. I wish they would have had baked beans for breakfast but that's it.   I don't see how you can not go on this ship, it's simply the best. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
If you like Europe and can adapt to a European style of cruising then book a trip on the Costa Serena. This was my first cruise so I can only offer a review of how my trip went. I have no base to say if it is a good cruise ship or not, ... Read More
If you like Europe and can adapt to a European style of cruising then book a trip on the Costa Serena. This was my first cruise so I can only offer a review of how my trip went. I have no base to say if it is a good cruise ship or not, only how I see it. So here is a play by play of the trip, the ship and my thoughts. I stayed in room 7336 on a seven day cruise of the eastern Mediterranean. I am a 30 yom from California and have been to Europe numerous times. This was my first European cruise. Embarkation was an easy process. I caught the free shuttle from the bus stop in Venice. 15 minutes later I was checking my bag at the port and given an embarkation number. It was about a 1.5 hour wait to be called. If you plan on drinking alcohol listen up. There is a duty free shop on site. You can by one liter of hard alcohol and unlimited wine per person. Once you clear security they give you your booze before you get on the ship. After Venice you are not allowed to bring any liquids on board. Costa offers an unlimited beer and wine package, but it is only good during lunch and dinner service. They offer countless other packages but read the fine print before purchase My cabin was great and the steward was on the ball. Filled the ice and cleared the room twice a day. There is a 4 euro/person/day tip charged automatically Room service also will cost you 2 euro/delivery, so order a lot to make it worth it. The entertainment was good, considering the multi nation passengers. There were 3000 on my cruise with 400 english speakers. Announcements are given in five languages. If it does not concern you then you won't hear it in english. Don't travel Costa in the summer. Kids under 12 travel free. You can expect 500 to 700 kids on board running wild according to our english speaking cruise host. Apparently parent supervision is absent and kids are everywhere doing as they please. Breakfast was simple European/American blend. Same food is served in the buffet as in the table service restaurant. Same thing goes for lunch. I do recommend the restaurant seating because you will meet other english speakers. Dinner was mediocre at best, consisting of fancy presentation with frozen pre-prepared items. Very bland and often over cooked. I had one great dinner at the last gala night. Two of the nights I had a late lunch buffet and then got a pizza at night. Not the traditional American cruise cuisine. No steak, lobster, shrimp cocktail or fancy lavish buffets. Dinner was a big disappointment. No need to dress up. Slacks and a nice shirt will do. Bring a tie for the gala nights. Here is my run down on the ports of call. Bari: Don't buy an excursion. It's and easy walk to town and tours are offered off the boat at a cheaper rate by locals. I just walked around on my own and saw the old city in about two hours Olympia: Don't buy an excursion. Get off the boat and hire a cab to take you to the ruins. Once there look around for and English tour and just join in. I went to the end of the cab line and got a ride for 60 euro with and hour wait time. Not enough time to see everything. Try and catch a one way so you can stay for at least two hours or more. Then walk into town and catch a cab back. Izmir: Take the excursion to Ephesus. Well worth the money Istanbul: Take a cab to the palace in the morning and buy a self guided tour. Then return to the ship for lunch. Purchase the half day excursion from 1 to 5pm. However all the main sights are close so you can just spend the day on your own if you want to. I liked having a guided tour of the other big sights. Plus, if your tour is late getting back they will hold the ship for you. If you are out on your own they will leave you behind Dubrovnik: Don't buy and excursion. Take the shuttle to the city and just jump on an english tour or walk around on your own. The ship itself is very large but easy to get around. The amenities on board are simple. No big wow factor. The staff is always available to help you and was very nice. I did not find smoking to be an issue. The hot tubs were warm not hot and the pools were cold. The gym was great but I did not use the spa. There are two reservation only restaurants but I did not eat at either one. Try and get your room on the left side (even room number) of the boat. You get the best views of the ports. Be sure to watch to the two informational presentations offered in the beginning and end of the cruise. When you disembark, wait for your color. I left early and ended up standing around for two hours waiting for my luggage. I should have just stayed on the boat. Overall it was a very nice cruise. My only true complaint was the bad dinners. Everything else was fine. Just understand this is not a Carnival cruise ship, its Italian style cruising. If you can adjust to a European mindset then you'll have a good time. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Disclosure: I'm not a Costa employee, but all of my work experience has been in customer service, including many years as someone that had to say thank you when given sick bags, or worse :-) As a result, I have a tendency to have ... Read More
Disclosure: I'm not a Costa employee, but all of my work experience has been in customer service, including many years as someone that had to say thank you when given sick bags, or worse :-) As a result, I have a tendency to have high expectations with regards to customer service and am, not surprisingly, frequently disappointed. I had feared the worst when prior to our departure, I called Costa a couple of times and was given either incorrect or conflicting information about several things, including the free shuttle from Piazzale Roma to the Port. (I was told there was no free shuttle by Costa) I was also quoted 3 wildly different prices on the same day for the X1 package by 3 different people. I don't know what it is with cruise lines, but it seems like every cruise I've taken gives the impression that this is the first time they've ever done an embarkation process. Embarkation - We arrived at the Port of Venice using the free shuttle at 12:30. We did not have any luggage to check as we were travelling light. I didn't even see a sign telling anyone that was checking luggage where to do it. We went to the second floor and were then bounced around from one person to another, before being told we needed a number for boarding. Not having luggage to check appears to really throw them for a loop. We were given #18 even though we had been there early and had no luggage to check. As a result, we could not board until close to 4 pm. Honestly, I think it would have been faster if we DID have luggage to check. Staff - The vast majority of the staff are wonderful. They work under incredibly trying circumstances and I don't think I could do what they do. Certainly not for 6 months at a time. They usually had greetings in the hallway or if they were walking by somewhere. Certainly if we said hello first! Our Dinner waiters had our drinks waiting for us by the time we arrived at the table each night. I don't know what they are being paid, but whatever it is, it's not enough. The only staff I found somewhat unpleasant to deal with were the "Customer Service" staff. When I called and asked to speak with a supervisor as I had a billing complaint that had been unresolved - I was refused and she started arguing with me. The Internet connection on board is very slow. Expect to have to pay 1 or two Euros just to get some pages to load. Some people travelling with us didn't think having to pay 3 Euros for one page to load was reasonable. They complained to the Customer Service staff and were basically told 'tough'. These staff could have made a couple who cruise often happy by removing 1 or 2 Euro charges from their account. I saw their final bill. It was fairly hefty. So Costa probably lost a future customer over that. Had my own billing problem not finally been rectified by the Maitre 'd (of all people) I certainly would not have recommended Costa to anyone. The English speaking Hostess, Jazz, does try hard, though I personally wouldn't classify her has being fluent in English. Maybe it's just my experience with Canadian companies where it doesn't seem to matter how much you bastardize English as long as you're fluent in French. Passengers - much has been written about this already so I'll just say that its interesting. I like watching people and it's never dull here let me tell you. On most North American cruises, or with a majority of English speakers on board, everyone seems to be in a party mood. Saying hello to each other, regardless of whether they know each other or not. Here, most people who are strangers don't greet one another as they don't know what language the other speaks. Then there are those that treat the onboard staff like their personal wait staff. Motioning with a wave of the hand for them to get away from them, or to move a dish - stuff like that. Interestingly, I didn't hear any complaints about the "Gratuity" tax being applied to accounts on the last night. I figured 42 Euros was appropriate for the level of service we received from most of the staff we encountered. I tipped several of them in addition to this the night before disembarkation. They seemed surprised, which I thought was rather sad - as they do work hard. One of these days, the kids that run around in the buffet area or in the gym area (which is against the rules to begin with) are going to get hurt. I don't know how many times I came close to spilling hot coffee on some kid that ran in front of me or cut in front of me in line. Yes there is smoking on board, and it can get pretty smoky in the piano area on Deck 3 at night. Fortunately I was pretty much ready for bed after dinner so I didn't have to deal with the smoke except to walk through those areas. This trip had 1800 Germans, several hundred Italians, several hundred French and a smattering of English speakers on board. 2 Australians (very nice people) and a couple of other nationalities. Rooms - Our room had a balcony and was very clean, except for an odd smell in the bathroom, that I've encountered on other ships. Nothing too offensive, just odd. Our Cabin Steward was super friendly and worked his butt off all day. Introduced himself right away and asked if we needed anything. This was our first time with a balcony and I'll never be able to go back I'm sure. The only negative I found was that balconies sometimes meant noisy neighbors. Apparently some people like constantly moving furniture around without benefit of picking it up, and having loud conversations that meant keeping the door shut at night. A shame as I love the sound of the water as I sleep. The bungee cord I took really came in handy! Restaurant - We had the first sitting at 6:30 most nights. Am glad we did as I'd never be able to sleep with all the eating we did if we had the 2nd. Food was great! Most nights I didn't do all 7 courses as I often had just had lunch 4 hours previously. We usually had sit down lunch at the Ceres. Only ran into one waiter who really didn't seem to know what he was doing. He ended up charging us for beer that was supposed to be covered by our X1 package. Getting this sorted out entailed dealing with far too many people and grief to get it done. At dinner, our table and the next to it was all English speakers so we enjoyed that aspect as I found that Germans or Italians weren't too willing to converse with us at lunch when we were plunked at their table. Maitre 'd was nice, and arranged for our tables to have Caesar salad one night if we wanted it. The only negative thing about dinner was that they would dim or flick the lights at about 8:30 to signal to people to get moving and get out of the restaurant as the second seating was starting at 9. Through no fault of our own, we would usually still be waiting for dessert at that point. I only ate breakfast at the buffet. Yes, it's the same thing everyday, but I found that on other lines as well, and theres quite a variety to start with. Besides, I'm happy with some fruit, yoghurt and coffee, and there was plenty more to eat on the rare occasions I wanted more. The X1 package was a good idea, though I found that the wines that were served as part of this package were not up to par - and I'll drink just about anything! The Merlot was fine, but there was a Soave that was more like a Chardonnay. Still, at 5 Euros a drink, it's easy to get your moneys worth. Ports of Call - I stayed on board in Bari. Didn't do any Costa excursions as I prefer to make my own way for the most part. Got off in Katakolon and walked around the village, and explored Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik on our own as well and saw many of the same sites as those that paid for the excursions - but didn't get dragged to carpet shops ;-) The Ship - its a nice ship though the layout on a couple of floors are odd. Several times we couldn't remember how to get to our restaurant as you had to go up or down one floor, then forward and then up or down again to get to it. Certainly very colorful! We were told that Costa spent close to 500 million Euros outfitting and decorating the interior. A shame they didn't splurge a little on the sound system in the Vesta dining room. During the entertainment they do, it sounds horrible. Overall it was a great trip. Marred only by the disorderly embarkation process and the lack of customer service to quickly rectify an incorrect billing charge. We selected Costa primarily because of the routing and departure dates. Would I go on another Costa Cruise? Certainly. However, I would be inclined to try another Cruise line before then, unless only Costa had the destinations I was looking for. However, I would strongly recommend going with an open mind, things will be done differently. Be prepared to perhaps be in the minority as far as English-speaking guests go. As long as you're friendly and outgoing enough, I'm sure you'll meet up with others who are in the same boat (pun not really intended) Watch your bill and be sure to jump on any discrepancies immediately as it can take two days to get them sorted out. If it results from a problem in the dining room, see if the Maitre 'd can help you out. Go and have fun, thats what it's all about! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
In November 2008 my wife & I made our own way to Venice to join the Costa Serena for a cruise visiting Bari, Katakolon [for Olympia], Izmir [for Ephesus], Istanbul & Dubrovnik. At Marco Polo airport the Costa staff were high ... Read More
In November 2008 my wife & I made our own way to Venice to join the Costa Serena for a cruise visiting Bari, Katakolon [for Olympia], Izmir [for Ephesus], Istanbul & Dubrovnik. At Marco Polo airport the Costa staff were high profile & extremely helpful even though we were not using their transport. They assisted relabeling our luggage for getting it to our cabin & told us where to catch the bus to Piazza Roma & where we would find the shuttle bus that would take us to the ship. For a couple of euros the public bus delivered us to Piazza Roma right at the link with the Costa shuttle bus. It takes around half an hour from the airport. The shuttle bus then delivered us to the port where it was a bit confusing as the signage was not particularly clear as to where to deposit the luggage. Costa staff again were helpful & once we located the spot to deliver our luggage it was effectively dealt with leaving us the rest of the day to explore Venice. We were told it would be better to embark later as when the embarkation starts there tends to be a rush. We returned around 4pm [the ship sailed at 6pm] & embarked without any hassle. The large hall had various stands offering opportunities to purchase various packages....... wine, water, excursions, etc. We purchased a wine package on the assurance that we could swap the red wines for white as my wife is unable to drink red wine. However, we were not informed that at the table you can purchase carafes of white or red wine for around 8 euros. Still the wine & water deal was not a bad one, equating to what I would have paid at a restaurant in London. The Costa brochure, & notices displayed in the hall pointed out that no food or drink could be taken aboard but this was enforced haphazardly as the couple ahead of us went aboard with the see-through plastic carrier laden with spirits, whilst later during the cruise other passengers had their Turkish Delight impounded & returned at the end of the trip! We were left to find our own way to our cabin which we did find after a few false starts! There were lots of staff around but nobody actually took you to your cabin as has been the case on other cruise companies. A good buffet lunch was available on embarkation day! The cabin [inside on deck 7] was perfect. Spotlessly clean, fairly spacious and more than enough cupboard space. Our stewardess, Jannet [yes it did have two "n"s] was a gem and kept our cabin marvellously clean. Towels, sheets, etc were crisp & each night she laid out a different pattern on our bed! The only downer in regard to the cabin was the TV which had quite a few channels but really only the BBC World News in English. I'm sure that this could be improved! The ship itself was also kept spotlessly clean but the decor, especially the huge figurines were tasteless! They must have cost a bomb but they really do the ship no service. Rip them out, please! There were enough lifts & we never had to wait long. The layout of the decks prevented you walking from end to end on all decks but using the maps provided you soon got the hang of it. The daily news letter gave full details of activities & events & was delivered to out cabin nightly. All the public areas well extremely well maintained & hosted by very friendly staff. However, the absence of Officer staff was noticeable. Entertainment was very good........knocked spots off the previous company I had cruised with. The theatre was large and we never had to struggle for a seat. Watching the daytime activities.......dancing lessons, exercises, etc did bring a smile to one's face! The bar were attractive but the prices, especially the 15% service charge did not go down well! Whilst the prices were not different from a London restaurant-bar I'm sure that a price reduction would secure increased purchases! Likewise the minimum bets in the casino for blackjack was high [5 euro minimum] & there was nobody around to give prospective punters a learning lesson. For roulette yes but for blackjack no! Lower the minimum bet......it is more expensive than Las Vegas! The pool areas needed some attention as the staff did not enforce rules preventing young children from using some pools & the jacuzzis. Also, the temperature really needed to be turned up for the jacuzzis as they were quite cool! There were more than enough beds & towels to go around. An added feature on the open deck were blankets that one could wrap up in to keep warm when it got chilly. We were allocated the Ceres Restaurant & we could not fault the staff at our late dinner sitting. Costa arranged it so our table of 8 were all English speakers & we all got on very well. If you wanted an extra dessert you just had to ask & you got it! The service & food was A1.........the only thing missing was a lobster dinner which seemed to have been a tradition on other cruises. The portions were not large but they didn't need to be when you are having 6 or 7 courses! They certainly were very tasty! Instead of purchasing bottle water do ask for a jug which is equally as good and free! The buffet on Deck 9 restaurant was also very good with themed days [Mexican, Greek, etc] & there always seemed to be pizza & pasta available at all times! Free coffee & tea was also available at the buffet restaurant & it was amusing to watch people filling up flasks to take back to their cabins! Occasionally there was a slow clear-rate of soiled crockery but it was liveable! My gripe would be with breakfast & lunch. For both we chose the restaurant to avoid a buffet scenario. For both we were not able to choose where we wanted to sit but were directed by staff to fill up tables. Service was invariably slow & the staff not as friendly as the dedicated staff at dinner! Breakfast was a mix of waiter service & buffet & very noisy. It was disappointing as had we wanted buffet we could have used the buffet restaurant on Deck 9. All the orders were served at once so I got porridge, eggs, kippers, etc all at the same time. The waiters seemed not to want to do table service and encouraged / expected you to use the buffet! Whoever is in charge here needs to address this problem as it lets the ship down! We had people going hither & thither all around us which did not do for a relaxing breakfast! Lunch was waiter service but slow & with no choice of seating. This certainly could be improved! We tolerated the photographers who appeared at dinner with various contraptions taking pictures which were not easily located in the mass of photos displayed in the photo shop & which were not cheap! The Captain's Reception in the theatre was bit boring but the lavish distribution of free glasses of sparkling wine or fruit juice more than made up for it! We did not purchase any of the excursions as we did them ourselves. Bari, Dubrovnik & Istanbul are easy to do by yourself. The towns are easily accessible from the dock & unless you want a speedy guided tour skip the organised excursion. At Dubrovnik the ship docked rather than the tender as per brochure, & you need to spent the 6 euros for the bus to get into the city, it is too far to walk. At Istanbul there is a tram stop fairly close to the dock which drops you right by the Blue Mosque. In Turkey you will need Turkish currency as most shops, tourist sites, cafes, etc will not accept euros or credit cards! We used an ATM to draw out Turkish lira. For the trip the fare was very cheap & the entrance token can be purchased at the tram stop but you need lira! For Olympia & Ephesus we disembarked as early as possible & got a taxi. At both places it cost 100 euros which equated to the excursion price but it did mean that we were able to stop off as & when we pleased, were one step ahead of the large ship parties, and could spend as much time as we wanted admiring any thing we wanted to. Had we organised it better we could have got another couple to share the taxi with us & then the cost would have halved for us. Still, it was enjoyable. A tip for disembarkation: get to the place early so you get off the ship ahead of the others. Regarding the large amount of passengers aboard the embarkation, etc processes went well. When embarking it's advisable to pack any food or drink purchases out of sight just in case the security guy impounds it to the end of the trip! And yes, in most ports you can buy water at a fraction of the price you pay on the ship! We bought ours & stored it in the mini bar so that it was nice & cold when we wanted a drink. I am sure that you could do the same with beers, juices, etc! Being an Italian liner the announcements were first in Italian. It was bit of a bore having to wait for the English version, which did seem much shorter, but then having cruised on another Italian line it didn't bother me too much! On the whole it was a good trip & I would recommend it to prospective travellers. Improvements in the areas suggested would make the ship ever better! Bon voyage! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This review is intended primarily for Americans and other English-speakers who are planning a Costa Cruise or perhaps another cruise departing from Venice. I will try to include information and tips that I found useful and other ... Read More
This review is intended primarily for Americans and other English-speakers who are planning a Costa Cruise or perhaps another cruise departing from Venice. I will try to include information and tips that I found useful and other information discovered through experience that I would have found useful. My wife Nancy and I are frequent European travelers and have taken a number of Mediterranean cruises (large ship) and river cruises (small ship). This was our first non-English speaking cruise but language was not a problem as all of the Serena crew (many of whom are Filipino) speak English. Since Costa is an Italian cruise line Italian was the primary language and the passenger distribution was mostly Italian who probably made up at least half of the approximately 3,800 passengers. English speakers accounted for about 350 passengers made up of Americans, British, and quite a few from Hong Kong. Most of the other passengers consisted of German, French, and Spanish speakers. We chose the Serena Eastern Med cruise because of the itinerary which included Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey. We booked the cruise with an on-line cruise company which we have used before and who was able to secure us a small discount above the best price offered by on-line booking directly with the cruise line. We booked cruise only and booked our own flight arrangements from Washington Dulles to Venice Marco Polo. We departed on Thursday for a Sunday sailing from Venice because we wanted a couple days to explore Venice prior to departure and also to ensure that we didn't miss the sailing because of a flight mishap. This was our first visit to Venice and it was a treat (http://europeforvisitors.com/venice/ was a great help to me as was the Rick Steve's guide to Venice). We stayed at the Olympia Hotel right across a canal from the Piazzale Roma (if you drive from the mainland to island of Venice this is where you leave the car or bus and switch to water transportation). The Olympia was perfect for easy access to the cruise terminal for our departure. Hotels near the Piazzale Roma are easy to access from Marco Polo airport via the ATVO bus service and less expensive than hotels near the Piazza San Marco. The ATVO ticket counter is in the airport terminal after you clear passport control and you catch the bus on the traffic island in front of the terminal for a half-hour ride to Piazzale Roma. You can see the Hotel Olympia from the bus stop - about a hundred-yard walk across the canal. The location is also convenient to ATMs (you need Euros in Venice) and to the vaporetto stop (public waterbus - think London tube on the water or use a water taxi if you're more into limo-priced transportation). Buy a 24, 48, or 72-hour unlimited pass for the vaporetto, which you must swipe across a terminal each time you board. Our favorites in Venice were: Piazza San Marco (Basilica di San Marco, and Palazzo Ducale), Gallerie del'Accademia, Rialto bridge, Frari church, and wandering the back alleys, small canals, and squares. Costa provides a free shuttle bus from the Piazzale Roma on the afternoon of sailing. The bus takes you to the Maritime terminal beside the ship where you will go through some cattle-car crowds and lines to check your luggage, register and board the ship. Boarding started at 1:30 and ended at 5:00 for a 6:00pm embarkation; we boarded at about 3:30 and were able to miss a lot of the initial crush of boarding passengers. Get used to the fact that, culturally, Italians appear to have no concept of queuing in line or waiting in turn for service or entry. This was frustrating for the various Brits, Germans and Americans who do wait in line for their turn. The Costa staff, who are mostly Italian, also seem oblivious to passengers who are waiting their turn and serve first whoever crowds to the front. Just get used to it, ignore personal space issues, and crowd forward with everyone else and you'll save yourself some frustration. Expect the same routine in buffet lines, customer service desk and anywhere there's a crowd. The Serena is a huge ship and not always easy to navigate from fore to aft when searching for a specific location but if you go to one of the passenger decks or deck 5 you can actually get from the bow to the stern. Our cabin, 7441, was on the starboard (right side of the ship) side near the stern. It was a spacious cabin with queen-size bed (high enough to stow suitcases under bed), couch, table, bathroom with shower stall, plenty of closet space and balcony with two chairs and a table. Our experience was that cabin steward and wait staff in the dining room were very attentive and excelled at providing whatever was wanted. We opted for the X-1 prepaid drink package (unlimited wine, beer and mineral water by-the-glass at dinner and lunch) which is about $14/person/day and we thought it to be a good value. At the first dinner in the dining room I tipped the waiter and advised him that there would be another tip at the end of the cruise and every night there were two bottles of wine (red and white) and a bottle of mineral water waiting at our table. For lunches we picked out an area near the buffet lunch and a bar where befriending the bar tender resulted in similar service for as many drinks by-the-glass as we wanted. The only drawback to the X-1 package is that the prepaid package is good only during meals in the dining room and at bars near the buffet areas and you may miss out on bar hopping the many other bars where drinks are pricey. I learned of the X-1 package from other Cruise Critic reviews (it is not to be found on Cost's web site and appears not to be advertised) I had the cruise booking company arrange it with Costa. Meals were good consisting of the following courses: appetizer, soup, pasta, entrEe, salad, cheese, and dessert - each course has several choices and you order as many or few as you like. If you are disappointed with a dish your waiter will bring you a different choice. The meals are comparable to what you would find in real Italian restaurants and are not geared to American tastes although there are always substitute dishes available such as steak or seafood (this is probably not your Mom's cooking). Because this was a short cruise and there were port calls on six of the seven days, we didn't use the exercise facility, jogging track or participate in much of the activities/entertainment which are conducted primarily in Italian. Here are some personal thoughts on the ports of call: On our cruise the Serena docked at all ports but sometimes in Katakolon and Dubrovnik the ship anchors off shore and tenders ferry passengers ashore which could present a bottleneck. We booked Costa tours in Izmir and Istanbul, you may find less expensive alternatives but you will want to make sure you get back to the ship on time. BARI, ITALY - small town, skip the tours and walk it yourself to see the fort and Basilica St Nicolas. KATAKOLON, GREECE - another small town, enjoy the shopping on foot or take a tour to Olympia, site of the original Olympics. We walked the town and had a fine time. IZMIR, TURKEY - Turkey's third largest city, we took a tour of Izmir museums and the ancient agora ruins and skipped the tour to Ephesus. Don't bother exchanging currency, Euros or Dollars work fine in Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Great city take a tour because there is too much to see on your own unless you already know what you want. Some highlights are: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia museum, grand bazaar, and Topkapi palace museum. DUBROVNIK, CROATIA - another small town, Costa provided shuttle bus service for a fee to the walled Old Town where you will want to go. Skip the tours and explore by foot, and don't miss walking the fortress wall which will provide some serious exercise as well as spectacular views. We found the Serena cruise to be a good value and enjoyable vacation that provided all that we expected, and our stay in Venice exceeded expectations. steve & nancy Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our second Eastern Med cruise. The previous cruise was with Celebrity and was fantastic. We were looking for a cruise that went to Istanbul and Costa had what we were looking for. We took a water taxi from our hotel to the ... Read More
This was our second Eastern Med cruise. The previous cruise was with Celebrity and was fantastic. We were looking for a cruise that went to Istanbul and Costa had what we were looking for. We took a water taxi from our hotel to the embarkation pier. There was a costa rep on the pier and he said to leave the luggage with him and he would look after it. We then went to the second floor of the building and were told to get a numbered tag from the desk. When your number was called you got on the ship. Embarkation was fairly quick and in no time we were in our cabin. The difference between Celebrity and Costa is that on Celebrity you are taken to your cabin, and with costa you find your own way. For those never having been on a large ship before this can be a little intimidating. Just ask for directions. The room was large and the balcony was also a good size. The room was well laid out, and there was storage for the suitcases under the bed. My negative in the room was that the beds were as hard as a rock. The same with the pillows. Even though the bathroom was clean, it smelled of urine for the whole trip. There were quite a few shelves in the bathroom, plenty of space to hold all our items. Our shower's water pressure was great, but our tablemates complained that theirs was weak and sometimes they had no hot water. We had breakfast in bed every morning. This is one of the romantic things about cruising. Cappuccino, coffee, fresh juice, croissants, Danishes, yogurt and milk. It was all good. Lunches were onshore during the excursions. Twice we ate at the free for all buffet..ie push and shove to get at the food you want. Pizza and pasta were nice. So was the fresh fruit salad. We had the early seating for dinner. This was the 6:30 seating. We aren't the wait until 9PM to eat kind of people. The only drawback to the early seating is that there were a lot of children at this meal. For the most part they were all very well behaved. The serving staff were great. They knew your name by the second meal. I gave both of the waiters a $20 tip during the first meal, and we were well taken care of for the rest of the trip. My wife and I had purchased drink cards before the cruise. These are called X1 and you need to phone Costa directly to get these. They give you unlimited bear, pop, and a bottle of wine at supper. Also you can use it for lunch. We were 10 people at our table for supper, and by the second night all of the others were wishing they had an x1 cards no one else had heard of it.. The meals were all 7 courses. Appetizers, soup, pasta, main course, salad, cheese plate and desert. The appetizers were ok, I am not a soup eater, so for most of the meals I started with a salad. These were of normal quality, until the last couple of days. The lettuce was beginning to turn brown by then. My wife enjoyed some of the soups. The main courses were pretty to look at but the portions were small and most of the meats (steak, roast, pork, rabbit, and duck) were all tough. I had to send back a couple of them. The pastas were good as well as the cheese plates. The desserts were very ho-hum. More than once I left the table still a little hungry. How to dress for the dinners was very confusing. There are 3 types of meals. Formal,informal and casual. This meant absolutely nothing for most of the passengers. On Celebrity formal was a tux or suit and a tie, informal was a jacket and tie, and casual was an open collared shirt. On this ship they all meant the same thing. Wear whatever you want to supper as long as it is not shorts or a t-shirt. There were jeans at formal night and hardly a tie in sight.The majority seemed to be more on the dressy side (what you would wear to a wedding) The daily information sheet (today Magazine) that was delivered to your cabin each night told you the dress code for the next evening meal. This obviously was only a suggested attire. The staff knew the rules on the ship, but never enforced them...ie kids on their parent's laps in the casino, kids at the adults-only pool. The staff knew english very well , but perhaps their Italian was not good enough to discipline other people's children! BARI.We docked around 11, and were off on the ship's tour at 12. It is a beautiful city. The tour was a great way to see a lot in a short time. I think there were 20-25 people on our tour and the guide's explanations of St. Nicholas and the castle were informative. We were happy we took the tour. We got back to the ship at 2. Very long lines to reboard, but there is a store to shop in if you don't like lines. Muster drill took a long time and the staff was not very patient. At the buffet and at the muster were the only times we noticed any pushing!! KATAKOLON Olympia Mythology and Modernity Tour met at 8:15. 30 of us on the bus. We drove 30 min through farming areas to the site and our guide explained a lot on the way. This guide was excellent. She took a bus 4 hours from Athens to give the tour. She studied archaeology in Germany and was very informative. The site was very crowded with tourists. The stadium was impressive. Very simple and understated, quite a contrast to the recent extravaganza in Beijing. Back in Katakalon we had a little shopping time, but since it was my birthday, we sat at a portfront table and ate Greek snacks and drank ouzo. The line-up was 1.5 hours this time when we boarded the ship. Formal night....most ladies in fancy shorter (knee length) dresses and some men in 2 piece suits. A few people in jeans though. The dining room gets very warm as the meal progresses. IZMIR We walked off the ship at 8:30. We had hired a private guide, Yildirim, to take us around Izmir as we had been to Ephesus before. We found the guide through ALLABOUTTURKEYDOTCOM, Burak Sansel is the owner, and the guide he organized for us was wonderful. We had emailed him with the sites we wanted to see and that is what we mostly did. It cost 200 USD. There was a big national holiday, and most of the downtown traffic was rerouted for a parade. Yildirim's English was great. He has a son who lives in Canada, 100 km from us and he has visited our area. We drove along the coastline for 30 min as he told us history and answered questions. Then we went to the old elevator. We were dropped off downtown near the Konak clock Tower and did a lot of walking in the Kemeralti district (this is what we asked for). We really enjoyed the market/ bazaar. There is a very clean bathroom there. Our guide paid for us to use it, I was glad not to squat over a hole.That option is there too if you are willing! We went to the guide's favorite spot for lunch and enjoyed kebabs, kofta, salads and it was less than 10USD for all 3 of us. Next door he bought us dessert. Yum. It was fun walking with him and he explained many Turkish and Jewish customs to us. He grew up in Izmir and so did his mother. He gave tours because he loves to teach. If we go back, I would hire him again. ISTANBUL - We docked quite early,no line ups getting off the ship. We met another guide hired through Burak's site "allaboutturkey.com". This guide's name was Bulent Aslan, and like our guide at Izmir, he was very well-travelled and spoke perfect English. Through email we decided what sites to visit in our 4 hour tour. (180 USD for 2 people) Our driver took us the scenic way on Kennedy Street around the harbor until we reached the Sultanahmet area . The views of the Sea of Marmara are nice. Bulent gave us a running commentary of sites and history as we drove. Our driver dropped us off at the Blue Mosque. After our walk through, we headed through an open park-like area that used to be full of buildings until a fire destroyed it all. As we walked, Bulent would tell us the best locations to take photos. The next site was the Haghia Sophia. Wow, we were here for a long time. There is a lot to see and a lot to learn. We had a glass of apple tea just outside the front gate. There is also a clean bathroom here at the exit with flush toilets and soft (?) tissue. Our next stop was the Basilica cistern. Then we met up with our driver and went to the Grand Bazaar. He took us to a few unique shops. He spent another hour with us here. Instead of going back to the ship. we wanted more time at the Bazaar. Bulent walked with us over to the "best" restaurant in the bazaar and we had a nice lunch. We were going to take a taxi back to the ship, but Bulent suggested we take the tram. He told us exactly where to go and which stop to get off at. The tram, which was very crowded, doubled back through the Sultanahmet area so we could see our favorite buildings one more time. We had a short walk from the tramstop back to the ship. No line-up at all to get on the ship. Again, I would recommend doing a tour in this way in Istanbul. I appreciated the fact that we could give either US dollars or euros to the guides and they would give us the Turkish lira for the stores that did not accept anything else. We did not need to change very much, but their rate was fair. AT SEA DAY-another formal dinner. The waiters put on a good show as well. DUBROVNIK -we took the ship's tour. The bus was full. We drove out of town a few miles first so we could get to an area where we were looking down into the harbor. We had 5 minutes to get off the bus, take our pictures and get back on. It was a little rainy and foggy, so the views were not as spectacular as they usually were. The bus dropped us off in town at the old walled city. This tour was a walking tour and some of the older folk had trouble. Our tour did not include walking on the wall "above" the city. Those who did the tour on their own really enjoyed it, but they said that they did not get much out of walking through town and through the churches as there were no signs to explain anything.Our guide spoke very good English. He had a bit of a cold and some passengers had trouble hearing him when we were in the churches. When the tour was finished we had a couple of hours to explore on our own. We had lemonade and bought a few items (excellent plum brandy).Then we could get on any Costa bus to go back to the ship. The lineup to get on the buses was very long. We walked into town a bit and looked into some other stores. When we got back, the lineup was even longer. We needed an icecream cone while we waited for the line to get shorter. The icecream store right beside the gate is great . 1 Euro for a huge scoop.The line of people waiting to take the bus back was even longer, so we decided to take a taxi. 10 Euros for 4 of us. No line up to get back on the ship today either. VENICE- It was foggy, so we could not dock right away. We were about an hour late getting in, but it still went very smoothly. One item I must comment on is the Italian women making PILES of sandwiches during breakfast. Once they finished their meals they went back to the buffet and loaded plates with piles of meat and cheese. The plates looked like deli trays. I am not sure if they were taking sandwiches for their train rides home or what, but it was surprising to see. This was happening at a few tables. All in all we got what we paid for. The price for this cruise was not expensive, And that is probably the reason there were so many children on board. For me a cruise is the romantic way to see the world. I like to get dressed up for supper and spend quiet time with my wife. Celebrity was just this, where Costa was a family vacation. I would probably not choose Costa again for this reason. ( this and the lack of good dinner meals). Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Having just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Costa Serena I felt that I should pass on a few words of warning to fellow cruisers. This was my first (and last) cruise with Costa and I have cruised with Celebrity, Princess and Royal ... Read More
Having just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Costa Serena I felt that I should pass on a few words of warning to fellow cruisers. This was my first (and last) cruise with Costa and I have cruised with Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean several times. This is the first time I have returned from a cruise feeling disappointed with the product I received. There were 700 British passengers on the ship and those we met during the course of the cruise and on the flight home had similar complaints to those I have set out below. Embarkation: We used the free shuttle bus to get to the port. Once we arrived at the dock side there were no porters or Costa reps to assist with luggage or to point us in the right direction. This resulted in us (and many other passengers) walking into the embarkation hall to discover that we had to double back on ourselves down to the ground floor and past the bus to drop off our luggage. The whole embarkation process is a farce with some people waiting around for their number to be called for 3 hours. Costa seem to have created an disorganized and ineffective embarkation procedure which has resulted in passengers queuing to embark the ship, then having to queue again to register a credit card. They do not operate a system which links your photo to your cruise card which means you have to carry your passport around with you when you are in port in order for you to get back on the ship! The Serena: This was far from the best ship we have been on. The layout doesn't seem to work, with Deck 5 being the only deck which you can walk from one end of the ship to the other. We've never felt so disorientated on a ship - you have to walk up and down stairs to get to where you want to go. The facilities on board are only just adequate for the number of passengers on board and we often felt that the ship wasn't really big enough for everybody on board. That said it is a clean and bright ship. Cabin: The cabins are clean and of a good size. We were in a Cat 5 inside and it was comparable to other cabins we have stayed in previously. Considering the ship is only a year old the cabins are a slightly older style to what we have experienced on other ships. Food: Food is usually the highlight of a cruise but not with Costa. The selection available for breakfast is unsatisfactory. On the first morning we visited the Ceres Restaurant for table service to discover that it was only the very limited choice of hot food which was served to the table with a buffet of cereals, breads etc in the centre of the restaurant. We ordered some items from the menu, only to wait for over an hour for them to arrive. The buffet is repetitive and doesn't cope well with the number of people passing through. There were often plates left on tables and empty spaces on the serving sections waiting to be filled. The menu for dinner was average and the food was hit and miss. We didn't have an evening where each course was of a good standard but some of the courses, though tasty, were nothing special. Overall the quality of the food was not comparable to what we have had on other cruise lines and was more comparable to an average 3* hotel. One thing they do get right however is the pizza, but then you can't live on pizza for a week! Service: The standard of service is mixed. We got the impression that the staff aren't as well looked after as they are perhaps on other cruise lines and maybe this shows in the level of service they deliver. The cabin steward, waiters, and bar staff did an excellent job and worked really hard. However, the staff at the Customer Services desk were not particularly courteous as well as some of the other general staff you see around the ship. The personal touch was somehow lacking with no 'good mornings' etc. Entertainment: There's not much to say about the entertainment as there wasn't much entertaining on board. The best entertainment was the waiters singing and dancing during dinner service in the restaurant. Some of the entertainment was only delivered in Italian and was not inclusive of the other nationalities on board. The piano and keyboard players in one of the bars played the same set every night and not much seemed to happen in the lounges. Smoking and behavior on board: There does not appear to be an enforced smoking policy which means that smoking seems to be allowed anywhere on board. Not good if you are non-smokers like us. There were groups of teenagers on the ship who would run around with no challenges from staff. This was sometimes dangerous in the buffet for example where people were walking around with hot drinks. Advice: If you haven't cruised before I wouldn't recommend Costa as it will give you the wrong impression of what cruising is about. Equally, if you have cruised with any other cruise line before you will likely be disappointed with Costa. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We were pleasantly surprised by our cruise on the Costa Serena - particularly after reading the reviews on this site. We found the cruise to be extremely relaxing, fun and Costa Serena's crew to be fantastic. We chose this cruise ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised by our cruise on the Costa Serena - particularly after reading the reviews on this site. We found the cruise to be extremely relaxing, fun and Costa Serena's crew to be fantastic. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the cost, we believe that it was excellent value and a wonderful experience. The Costa Serena was launched in 2007, whilst being relatively new the decor in the ship was a little loud (think Las Vegas casino) however after a few days we got used to it. Serena is a huge ship. our cruise was at capacity so there were about 3700 guests and over 1100 crew on board but the ship was spacious and we could find quiet places on board. There were about 1000 native english speaking passengers on the cruise and to be honest, I felt that many of the people I spoke to were being overly critical of the cruise, in particular many of them complaining that nobody on the cruise spoke english and there were too many Italians (it is an Italian cruise ship and it embarks in Italy - I don't know what they were expecting). I speak Italian and did not hear Italians complaining about any aspect of the cruise. The positives of this cruise were: A new ship - well maintained and very spacious. Staff - all members of staff that I dealt with were multilingual and spoke english (and Italian) very well, the staff were willing and able to assist, they were enthusiastic and extremely polite. Itinerary - we visited some beautiful places including Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik and the Mediterranean itself was very calm. Value for money - we got this cruise at a huge discount so we found it to be great value for money - make sure you shop around for a great deal. Extremely relaxing - we were able to find quiet places in the ship to relax Nice cabin - we had an inner cabin and it was spacious enough and was always well maintained, the balcony rooms looked wonderful Good food - the food was italian in style, lots of pasta, pizza etc but there were other types of food available reflecting the food of the port of call, some dishes in the restaurant were not particularly good but overall it was of a high standard and lots of food was available. Entertainment - overall we thought the night time entertainment was of a high standard particularly the singers in the main theatre. Activities - there was always something to do on board, dance lessons, games to play etc. The activities were run well by enthusiastic staff. Drinks packages - good value drink packages (wine and water, soda, water, espresso coffee) were available to be purchased prior to departure (and apparently on board), we found these to be good value. Quality of shore excursions: We went on 2 shore excursions (Ephesus, Olympia) as these two locations were about 45 mins to 1 hour away from the port. We found the tour guides to be professional, informative and the locations of the shore excursions very interesting. Please note that the ports of all the cities were within walking distance of the city centre, therefore you do not need to go on a shore excursion if you just want to visit the city that the boat is docked in. Special price for laundry service: 2 days before the end of the cruise a special laundry offer was made 20 euros for 25 items of clothing, it was a great service and fantastic value. Low points of the cruise: 3 small pools: The pools were small and were often crowded General rules were not adhered to by all passengers: Many passengers would wear only their bathing suits into the buffet area even though this was not permitted, children would go into the adult pools, children would ride elevators without supervision etc. Staff did not enforce the rules which was somewhat annoying. Crowded buffet areas: To be expected with this many people on board but still frustrating. My recommendation is if the buffet is extremely busy go to the restaurant for breakfast or lunch. Scantily clad sunbathers: This is not something that we were used to but it seems to be a european thing (I don't just mean Italians, lots of British people did not cover up either), it was somewhat off putting. Expensive shore excursions: The shore excursions were quite expensive particularly the ones that toured the city that we docked in e.g. Istanbul, Izmir, Bari, Dubrovnik. Announcements were made in 5 languages this can get a bit frustrating. There is no getting around this and it does happen in public areas (you can escape from it in your room). Children: There are lots of families on this cruise with children of all ages. Some children do participate in Squak Club (children's club) activities during the day and others don't, there is no getting around this. I suggest that people chill out a bit and tune the children out because you can't do anything about it. Katakolon: The town of Katakolon is not very interesting, it is a small town which focuses on tourism. I really suggest that you take an excursion at this port (or be willing to pay at least 50 euros for a taxi to the beach, 100 euros to Olympia) and see something nearby. Overall this was a great cruise, we would love to go on the Costa Serena again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Typically people who write reviews either have something highly critical to write or they have been overwhelmed by a wonderful experience. I am just detailing our experience with Costa Serena to help you decide whether or not cruising is ... Read More
Typically people who write reviews either have something highly critical to write or they have been overwhelmed by a wonderful experience. I am just detailing our experience with Costa Serena to help you decide whether or not cruising is for you and give some (hopefully useful) advice. We are in our 30s and have always loved the idea of getting a taster of many places without the hassle of travelling. I had always been nervous of sea sickness (occasionally getting motion sickness when in the back of a car) so avoided boats. My husband convinced me that the boat was so huge that I wouldn't feel anything at all. He was right! The Ship The Costa Serena is huge. It carries approx 4,000 people, 1,000 of which are staff. It is an italian cruise ship so do expect to hear a lot of Italian spoken. I loved this as it made me feel like I was truly on holiday. The ship mainly carries Italian, Spanish, German, French and British passengers and so in order to cater for everyone announcements are made in all languages (thankfully not in the cabin). If you wanted to escape there were always lounges, decks or areas around the ship away from people and noise. There are two pools neither of which were big enough for the ship. Both of us are keen swimmers but never got the chance to take a dip! The Cabins The cabins were spacious and immaculate. Our steward cleaned the cabins three times a day! Initially we weren't concerned as to whether or not we had an inside cabin / window or balcony but we really did appreciate being able to see outside our window and watch the world going by. Our bed was two single beds pushed together and although we asked for a proper double bed we were told that there weren't any. There are no tea or coffee making facilities in the cabin which was a shame but we discovered that for just 2 euros per order we could order as much as we wanted from a high quality room service! What a treat. The Staff The staff were mainly of Filipino origin and were so lovely. Every single one we had dealings with or spoke to were just so helpful and a pleasure to deal with. They work 7 days a week and stay on the cruise ship for 8 months at a time. There is no need to tip them as Costa arrange for a 42 euro gratuity charge for each passenger to be added to the final bill at the end of the trip. I sincerely hope this is passed on to the staff! The Entertainment What Costa did really well was to provide something for everyone! We don't have children and were concerned that our holiday would be overruled by rowdy kids. They were kept occupied in kids club and had their own dedicated pool. Passengers could go to Italian classes, watch ice and fruit sculpture, learn napkin folding, dance classes, quizzes and so much more. An itinerary for the day was delivered to our cabin each morning. Every evening there was a theatre production and more comedy entertainment involving passengers. Everything was included in the price. If you fancy slot machines or roulette there is a huge casino on board too. The Food There are many restaurants. We did realize though that the Italians didn't provide anything apart from Italian food so pizza and pasta was a plenty! The restaurants provided 8 course meals for both lunches and dinner! Be prepared to put on a few pounds. Still water and tea / coffee was free but there was a charge for anything else. The still water was very drinkable. We enjoyed the restaurant food. On the 9th floor there was the Prometeo Buffet with stacks of food. The quality wasn't as good and food was not always hot enough. I'm vegetarian but always found something appetizing to eat. One of the little touches that was really nice is that the staff had pre-planned where we would sit and put us next to English speakers of the same age group. We had very entertaining evenings with them. Dress Code Day - anything goes Evening - smart causal (though the Italians are generally very smart) Gala nights - two evenings where you dress up a bit more... women in smart evening dresses men in long sleeved shirt and trousers. Some men wore jacket and ties but they were generally older. The Excursions Starting in Venice, our ports of call were Katakolo (Greece), Izmir and Istanbul (Turkey) and Dubrovnic. We decided not to pay for the guided tours but to explore on our own and this worked out well for us (and much cheaper). With 3,000 passengers disembarking and embarking at each port, you can imagine that this was slight mayhem. If you paid for a tour you generally get off first. On a couple of visits we got just 2 hours on land which was a shame. This was the only time we felt as if were were hoarded like cattle. Still it was nice to get a taster of each place. Embarkation and Disembarkation What a nightmare! We had a few hours between arriving in Venice and the boat leaving so we had planned to get on the boat, leave our luggage there and explore Venice before the boat left. It took so long to embark and check in that we ended up not seeing Venice at all. (Be prepared). So we decided that we would see Venice at the end of the trip as we had 5 hours before having to catch our flight. The night before you are set to get off the boat they allocate various color luggage tags. Little did we know that this determined your pecking order for getting off the boat. We got black which we now know to mean last! We ended up having to wait for an extra 3 hours on the boat and missed Venice completely! Overall experience We really enjoyed it and would definitely go on another cruise. The concept is amazing and now I know that I don't get sea sick on large boats I'm keener than ever. Having done our first cruise we are now wiser and know what to expect. I hope this gives you a realistic idea of what to expect and doesn't put you off. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We made our own way to Venice arriving in Treviso, a 30 min bus ride from the plaza de Roma, the main transportation hub for venice (Bus and Train). The port is only a short walk away of about 10 mins. Unfortunately baggage check-in was ... Read More
We made our own way to Venice arriving in Treviso, a 30 min bus ride from the plaza de Roma, the main transportation hub for venice (Bus and Train). The port is only a short walk away of about 10 mins. Unfortunately baggage check-in was painful. It was in another Terminal from were the ship was docked.(No signs to tell where it was) Fighting in the queue to get our bags checked in so we could get an embarkation number. (Italians can't grasp the concept of how a line works they believe that they should be at the front. This was also true throughout the cruise.) Once you have got the number you then go to the other terminal were the ship is docked and you wait and wait and wait, a total of about 2 hours you then get on board after fighting your way past the photographers who set up shop so no one can get past. You don't register the credit card that you want to use until you get on board. The inside cabin we had was the largest of any cruise ship we have been on and as for the shower room positively cavernous compared to the others. WELL DONE COSTA FOR THIS a big pat on the back for you. For all the English speaking people who are considering Costa for a cruise. There is a very high proportion of Italians at least 70%, 25 % are other continental Europeans, and 5% others including the English speakers. As for the kids they were everywhere and at times ran riot, Bless their little cotton socks. Mind you this was school holiday time. The Ancient Treasures' ports of call were good and the tour in Istanbul we went on was well run, with a knowledgeable guide who was both friendly, approachable and he didn't chatter constantly. Again well done Costa. The food was of a very high standard with the bias being towards Italian food. Pasta with every meal, the buffet was again of a high standard although breakfast was a little disappointing as it didn't change all week. The Pizzas, as you would expect were good. However, there was a major downside, the evening meal service was appalling and disjointed waiting up to half an hour just to have our order taken, main courses arriving at different times up to 10 mins apart. The waitress and bus-boy were unfriendly and to be perfectly honest I don't think they knew what they were doing. On a more positive side I think Costa put all English speakers together on a table as a couple of other English people I spoke to all had English speakers on their table as well. Again well done Costa. The majority of staff seemed very uninterested and not that friendly. There were 3 staff that stood out for us our Cabin Steward and the 2 English hosts. Tips are charged to the room automatically, I must admit I don't like this way as the staff take them for granted and don't try as hard as they don't have to earn them. We managed finally after much debate and two complaint letters to withdraw our tips and then tip for good service the staff who actually deserved it. Overall, we were happy with the cruise and we would sail again with Costa but we would lower our expectations a little and not compare them with the likes of RCI, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity and the like. Happy Cruising. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Background: We are a family of five traveling together on this cruise; mom, dad, three boys, 17, 19 and 21. Our son's girlfriend, 21, joined us. We have cruised many, many times with Princess and RCI, usually mini suites or baloneys, ... Read More
Background: We are a family of five traveling together on this cruise; mom, dad, three boys, 17, 19 and 21. Our son's girlfriend, 21, joined us. We have cruised many, many times with Princess and RCI, usually mini suites or baloneys, depending on price. In addition to cruising we are a well traveled family. I mention this only so that it may give you an idea of how to judge our review in reflection of our/your experiences and expectations. Our oldest son was studying abroad in Pristina, Kosovo and we took this opportunity to meet him in Venice for a summer holiday before sending him and his brother - soon to be a college freshman - off to school in mid August. We had a very specific time frame to vacation because our son didn't finish classes until early August and we had to be back in the states by Aug 12. Knowing this, and the weakness of the dollar abroad, we decided our best and most affordable opportunity was to cruise from Venice. So the research began. It didn't take long to settle on the Costa Serena. 7 day cruise from Venice with great port stops at an unbelievable bargain. I came back to Costa again and again and ultimately settled on that trip. And decided on three inside cabins because it was such a darn good deal. I have never sailed on an inside, although we always put the boys across the hall in one. Then I began reading the boards. And boy was I worried. But again, how bad can it be? Telling the boys not to expect a Princess experience, and hoping I could adhere to that advice as well, we left the states in great spirits, anxious to meet our son in Venice and begin a family vacation. Friday, July 31, Overnight Cleveland / Venice with a layover in Paris. After a very long day of traveling, the layover allowing us to see Notre Dame and The Eiffel Tower - yes, LEAVE the airport, it's totally doable - we arrived in Venice without three bags. Mine and one of the boys. Honestly, who cares about his luggage? He has two brothers almost the same size. Missing mine was sending me into a quiet panic that I managed to ignore the first day. After several phone calls to Air France and Continental they assured me it would be on the ship when we boarded on Sunday. Not having a lot of confidence in that plan we proceeded to the port. After turning a corner, in the middle of a frenzied group attempting to check in luggage, there sat our three bags on a sidewalk as though they'd been thrown from a truck. Happily, I grabbed them. Embarkation: Good, not great. Long wait in the terminal. Either get there first, or wait until late in the day. We arrived in the middle and probably sat for 90 or more minutes. No big deal for us, although we started getting anxious to board. Once our number was called, we were on the ship within minutes. The ship is lovely. Yes, it's done in lots of red and golds. But it's lovely. Clean, clean, clean. Our cabins were wonderful and the shower was larger than any other bathroom we've had on RCI or Princess. And how did I like the inside cabin? I've never slept so well in my life!! Would I do an inside again? On this particular cruise, yes, because of the value. The next category up was more than double what we paid. But I'm looking forward to my next balcony! Dinner: We bought the x1 cards for my 21 year old and myself. My husband is more of a mixed drink guy. I was really the only wine drinker in the group, so I thought this would be fine for me. So thankful that we did this. Buy the boys and girls card for others in your party. Again, great value. The very first night our waiters brought us a bottle of wine, after asking if we'd prefer white or red, and never stopped bringing beers to our table for anyone drinking them. This x1 pays for itself many times over as long as you're happy with Carlsburg beer (what 21 year old isn't) and house wine. We never tried to have drinks at lunchtime, mostly because we weren't on ship, so I can't comment on how well the x1 works outside the dining room. I might mention here that the drinks on board are really expensive. With the weak dollar most cocktails are in the $10 range, almost twice as much as we're used to on other ships. Drink menus are in Euros so if the dollar was even, it'd be no big deal. We had a wonderful table by the window and were always one of the first to arrive and last to leave. We really enjoyed the dinners. Was the food the best we've ever had? No. But is WAS good. Sometimes even great. I'm the foodie in the group. Everyone else would probably give higher grades than me. The presentation lacked, but many times the flavor was there. My husband tipped our wait staff the fist night, and in addition to beer and wine waiting at our table each night, we were treated to bruschetta, and various other Italian goodies every single night piled high on platters in the middle of our table. An extremely pleasant experience and one of the best overall dining experiences on a cruise ship, but not necessarily because of the food. Announcements, Languages and Americans: From what I could tell, we were six of maybe 50 Americans (at most) on board. Fine with us. Maybe that's why we were treated so nicely. Having a pattern after dinner of stopping at the piano bar, then playing a little black jack in the casino, the bar and casino staff came to recognize us. They called us 'the family'!!!! We were always greeted with smiles by name, (obviously read our cruise cards when we paid for our drinks) and by the third night, the bar staff knew our order. This was by far the friendliest cruise staff we've encountered. The boys befriended some teenagers from a Spanish family and Tom and I found a group of three English couples that we enjoyed spending time with each evening after dinner. The pit boss would even open a black jack table for us so that we could all play together. Yes, they made announcements in many languages. But honestly, why is that such a big deal? If you don't listen for it, you may miss it. And isn't it kinda cool to try and recognize words from another language that you hear again and again. I mean we are the only country that educates in one language. The Buffets: Here's the biggest negative on the trip. Hated the breakfast, and even more so, the lunchtime buffets. Unorganized, chaotic, and crowded. Crazy hours; I swear from 12:00 pm to 12:30 pm nothing is open! It took us a while to figure out the buffet areas and we found that the buffet outside by the aft pool had the best overall situation. Different types of pizza type bread with toppings and some other unusual, but tasty, lunchtime food. Salad selections were not good. Or at least I didn't find any. The Italian yogurt was excellent by the way. The itinerary on the ship didn't have us on board many days at lunch which actually was a good thing. Ports: We never did get off the ship in Bari. The best laid plans......Too much fun the night before prevented us from even feeling like getting off the ship. Olympia: We hired George; I found out abouthim on these boards, and he met us right off the ship. We had a wonderful day viewing the Olympic ruins and the small town of Olympia. George even took us back to his home to meet his family. Very knowledgeable and friendly I would highly recommend him to anyone inclined to arrange their own excursion. TIP: The duty free shop right outside the ship has a very large 6 pack of water for 1.50E -if you're a water drinker don't pass this up. Izmir: Because I had trouble arranging our own excursion at this port, on board we booked with Costa for the Ephesus and House of the Virgin Mary tour. This was probably our favorite stop. It's a sleeper!!!! The ruins are incredible and more than anything point out existence of an ancient civilization that's very easy to imagine given the magnitude of the ruins. This isn't rocks poking out of the ground. Let's just leave it at that. Don't want to ruin the awe of it for anyone planning to visit this ancient wonder. Istanbul: Again, hired a private tour agency recommended from these boards and had a wonderful day touring Istanbul. It's an amazing place and we found the Turks to be so gentle and kind. The grand bazaar was grand! And fun, and loud and crazy!!! I expected it to be like the markets in Bangkok but it wasn't even close. Much crazier!!! But we loved it! Dubrovnik: By the time we arrived in Dubrovnik, we wanted a restful day. After walking around the city a bit, we found a wonderful cafe set on the edge of the rocks where we sat for hours sipping local beer while the boys jumped off the cliffs into the Adriatic. Oh, and by the way. I was concerned not having a Costa excursion booked for this port we'd be delayed getting off ship which would severely cut into our already short dock in Dubrovnik. We took the elevator down to the tender floor and walked off the ship shortly after docking. No questions asked. Try it. Leaving the Ship was easy. We took the Costa bus back to Piazza Roma and headed to our hotel for one last night. We left Venice very early the next morning with memories of a fantastic trip. Summary: We had a great experience with Costa. What made it great was the value. Had I paid for a suite on this trip I think I would have been more prone to disappointment with other aspects of the ship. Maybe we would have expected better dinners, or less crowded buffets, or better entertainment. But so many things about this ship were right on. And several experiences that hands down were better than Princess or RCI. But we went in with the right attitude and it paid off. Would we cruise Costa again? Under the right circumstances I think we would. I would probably not sail Costa in the Caribbean. We are booked on the Emerald at Easter time for 10 days and I do prefer Princess or RCI over Costa in the Caribbean. But having said that, give Costa a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
After booking my cruise, I then found this site. To say the least, I was nervous about this cruise after reading the reviews. I kept an open mind while boarding even when we had problems with our luggage tags...we weren't off the a ... Read More
After booking my cruise, I then found this site. To say the least, I was nervous about this cruise after reading the reviews. I kept an open mind while boarding even when we had problems with our luggage tags...we weren't off the a good start, so I became even more worried. We got on the ship, everything ran smooth. The ship was beautiful, very big though...almost too big. We found our cabin, it was nice and roomy wasn't at all the small cabins like I have been in before, plenty of room. The staff was spectacular throughout the entire cruise, I can not say enough about them! The programs and shows were great and highly recommended, whenever anyone spoke it was at a minimum of 5 different languages...this did however, make the Captains Cocktail party a tad long, but still nice. Recommendations: If you are an American and have not experienced European "ways of life" I would not recommend this cruise or even this cruise line to you. I am sad to say and even embarrassed by other fellow Americans that have left the bad reviews about Costa. They are the true meaning of what the europeans feel about us, which is "Spoiled Americans" I know this, because I used to be one. I currently live in Europe with the military and realize the european ways and found this cruise to be spectacular! I would highly recommend this cruise and any other cruise on Costa to all "non-spoiled American's". Downfalls: I did not like the chaos that was caused with the lines. Most of the passengers were not patient and lines were not their forte' they would push and cut in front of you...although, that again is normal for Europe, they cutting in front of you...I will have to say the only time I've experienced the actual physical pushing has been in Italy everytime I've been. So that is something to be aware of. However, if you just sit back and let them "fight it out" to the front and wait 15 to 20 minutes you can walk right up to where your going and what you want to do without any problems. Excursions: I felt them to be highly expensive, I cancelled one the first day and went on my own and saved 100+ euro and went out on my own for the rest of the time...always going the same places the tour buses went, just half the price. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Costa Serena Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 3.0 3.4
Entertainment 3.0 3.4
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.6
Family 3.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.4
Enrichment 2.0 3.1
Service 4.0 3.8
Value For Money 3.0 3.6
Rates 3.0 3.6

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