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Cruise Ratings
Sail Date: November 2011
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 2010
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
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Sail Date: October 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: July 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: June 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: May 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: November 2009
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: October 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
Costa Serena Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 3.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 0.0
Enrichment 2.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 3.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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