I think there is a lot less elegance and formality. If you want that you may want to choose one of the higher end more personable cruise lines. Costa is about as Italian as Franco American canned spaghetti.
I have a friend who was trained to cook in Italy. He was very disappointed in the food preparation and service on the Costa line. I have never sailed them because of his poor recommendation. Also their cabins are generally smaller than most other mainstream cruise lines.
I'd read a lot of ship reviews before I booked any costa ship.
I tend to disagree with you on the Costa line. I have sailed with Costa five times, Princess twice and Carnival twice and the cabins on the Costa Atlantica were very nice and larger than tPrincess. As for food, we are not hard to please and I always found things to be done well. Of course, cruising is like anything else in life....we are all different and wouldn't life be dull if we were not.
I too go way back on Costa line, Carla C, Flavia, Fredrico C, Eugenio C, Danae , Victoria, and Costa Classica. I reget to inform you that the excellent Italian food that they once offered is a thing of the past. While the new Costa ships themselves are very nice, the food I must rate as sub-par and a major dissapointment for anyone that remembers the "old" Italian food once served on board Costa(or the Italian ships, Home Lines, Sitmar and the Italian Line). If you truly want good Italian food, you might try MSC-(Mediterrean Shipping Company)(its a real real Italian kitchen staffed by Italian chefs) they have a new ship Lirica and I hear the Italian food on this line is very good.