CnR featured a small library & internet cafe, an aft-facing nightclub, a tiny casino by US standards, two ballroom type lounges, and two pools surrounded by adequate deck space. I felt the pool areas were lovely and spacious with comfortable loungers and unlimited towels which was a nice touch. No signing in and out pool towels or having to return them to your cabin. At the very aft of the ship was an adults only deck and bar that featured a jacuzzi. This was a lovely space with luxury outdoor lounging areas and an incredible view. It was quiet and featured its own bar. The fact that children were not permitted provided an extra appeal. Unfortunately there were quite a few kids on this cruise, which frankly the ship wasn't designed to handle. There are no children's pools or facilities except for a small "Squok Club" for the toddlers. The kids had little to do except run rampant throughout the ship. The meeting room was turned into a teen center but it was completely inadequate for the task and Costa really needs to rethink the marketing for this ship. The families were disappointed because the kids had nothing to do, and the adults without children were disappointed because there were kids running all over the ship. I quickly learned that European kids are no different than American kids when left to their own devices. They can be equally if not more obnoxious. The running and screaming down the halls at all hours became tedious, and often times the parents were just behind the kids but ignored the fact that the kids were yelling at the top of their lungs well after midnight. Kids excessively screaming in any language is annoying! This aspect of the experience along with the cuisine that I mentioned earlier were probably the two biggest disappointments of the experience.
Special mention must be made of the Samara Spa. I hope you have the opportunity to view the photos I took of this area, because it's truly exceptional. In fact I would say it's the most beautiful and extensive spa I've experienced on any ship. When Costa made the decision to refurbish the COSTA ROMANTICA, they placed a great deal of emphasis on the spa. In fact the forward facing two level show lounge was removed entirely and in its place a multi-level spa with every amenity imaginable. Most of the crew will tell you that CnR is designed around the spa, and I believe it. The problem again is that Costa is not promoting this feature in any special way, so it goes unappreciated and unused by many passengers. Spa revenue is not meeting expectations so the experiment will not be repeated on sister ship COSTA CLASSICA or any other Costa ship for that matter. It's a shame and I feel only Costa itself is to blame. I had unlimited use of the spa and took full advantage of it for a couple hours each day. You are issued a water proof wrist band with an electronic sensor that unlocks all the doors in the spa and gives you full access. Two features I've never seen on any other ship are tanning beds and a cold room which you sit in after the sauna. Another feature I've only seen on QM2 is a foot soak and massager. In addition there are the usual steam and saunas (Thermal Suite), relaxation rooms, a wonderful "tea room" in which various teas are served while you enjoy a beautiful forward facing view, and fitness center and beauty salon. The centerpiece is a fantastic tiered therapy pool with amazing views. My partner and I befriended the Spa Manager Silvio, and we found him to be exceptionally friendly and greatly enjoyed his conversation. It was interesting chatting with him about the various challenges he faces with the multiple nationalities onboard, and also his experience as a crew member on the COSTA CONCORDIA when it struck the rock and capsized. We booked one service in the couples massage room which was lovely, and I greatly enjoyed my first hot stone message. I highly recommend it!
Believe it or not we actually visited some ports on this cruise as well. From Rome we sailed to Savona, Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Tenerife, and Malaga. We had pre-booked a few tours online before the cruise, and all were canceled except for one because of not enough English speaking participants. Credits for the canceled tours were applied to our onboard account. We didn't mind because generally we enjoy doing things on our own, but it's a warning for those that like to plan ahead. Don't count on your Costa arranged tour actually operating and you won't find out until the day before that it's canceled. This makes it difficult for people that like to plan everything out, and may be another reason to cross Costa off your list if you are English speaking and enjoy organized tours. I would recommend booking a reputable 3rd party tour operator that will guarantee operation of the tour. Casablanca was the only stop where we really felt the impact, as generally it's not a city you want to explore on your own and the best bet is to get out of the city altogether. We were offered a tour to Marrakech in English as a replacement, but spending 13 hours on a tour where over 10 hours is spent on a bus was not appealing to us. Many of our ports offered hop-on, hop-off bus tours and this is an excellent and inexpensive way to sightsee. We really enjoyed Funchal as well as Malaga, where we ventured to the beautiful seaside resort of Marbella. I would be happy to return to either of these cities for a more lengthly visit. Of course you can never go wrong with Barcelona and as usual we greatly enjoyed this charming city.
There were so many aspects of this trip that we really enjoyed, but several that missed the mark as well. While I loved the COSTA neoROMANTICA itself, certain aspects of the software such as the cuisine were disappointing. Experiencing the different style in which Costa operates compared to US based cruise lines was mostly enjoyable, but some components could be frustrating such as the tours being canceled and understanding exactly how things are done. Once you figured it out all was good, but getting to that point could be challenging at times. I truly hope to see Costa figure out how to successfully market CnR in a way that benefits her style and design, but for now she seems lost in a fleet that she is generally not compatible with. I don't see myself sailing on any Costa mega-ships in the future, as I might as well just cruise on Carnival, but I would love to return to the CnR given the right circumstances.
I'm happy to entertain any questions you may have, and please enjoy the extensive photos at the link below.
COSTA neoROMANTICA 4/22/2013 - a set on Flickr