Well we're back! I have very mixed feelings about this cruise. It was a 7 day western Med cruise. The ports were pretty good. We did two ship excursions, one called the Principalities of Monaco, and it was terrific. One was in Tunis to the Souks and Carthage, which was just OK. The ruins of the Roman Baths in Carthage are a Unesco site and was fascinating, the souks were just not my cup of tea. These people drove us crazy trying to sell us stuff we had no interest in.
The ship is in very good condition. We have sailed the Carnival Liberty which is very similar in design and size. They do utilize some of the spaces differently in areas. This ship has a huge spa area, it is nicely equipped with a Thallasotherapy pool, heated ceramic loungers, steam and dry sauna rooms, relaxation room, tea room, treatment rooms, which encompass 2 floors and large expanse of space. I went to the spa twice it is about 35 Euro for a day pass, which seems a bit pricey considering that both times the dry sauna wasn't working and the ceramic loungers were out of service once. The steam sauna was terrific.
A word about the clientelle that Costa attracts in the Med. I read countless reviews warning of the rude "Italians", their inability to cue and that they feel entitled to cut in line in front of you or they can pile into an elevator like frat boys piling into a Volkswagon. Well to be perfectly fair about this subject, I found that this behavior was indeed rampant, BUT some of the Italians were as shocked by this behavior as we were. We did observe some Italians, but also many french. What cracked me up was their indignant expression when we would confront them and tell them to go take a hike to the end of the line. One of the other fun activities of the folks was lets trap the english speaking people in the back of the elevator and not let them off at their floor. Well my Husband had enough, after saying "excuse me, pardon me" a half dozen times after repeatedly being the victim of this game, he finally cleared an entire elevator as he took everyone blocking his way out with him.
Entertainment on this ship is pretty limited. If you are a ballroom dancer you may like it as they had a guy who played a keyboard along with digitally synthesized music for the balroom dancers. One night they had a guy in the theatre who made shadows on a screen with his hands in the theatre, another guest said she went in the theatre one night and found a bunch of dancing mushrooms on the stage, so if you have a fungi fetish, you're in luck with Costa lol. But aside from the theatre they just had a handful of single or duo acts that played a lot of pre-dubbed background music. It's kind of like watching professionals Karaoke all night.
Regarding the food, Costa's food garners a lot of mixed reactions... the best word I can think to use to describe it is "inconsistent". It is not horrible. It is not even close to the quality of food you will find on other mainstream cruiselines. One night I ordered Halibut, but got some other fish (but definitely NOT halibut), another night ordered the dark chocolate and white Chocolate mouse...but there was only white chocolate in the dish. You will not starve on this ship, but it may disappoint you if you are accustomed to RCCL, Carnival or NCL. Some nights it was OK, but others, not so good. The buffet was adequate, but plagued by fruit flies constantly. At night they would cover the juice and ice cream machines and the covers had tons of these bugs on them feasting on the sticky residue. BTW the buffet is not open for dinner, only pizza is served at that time. One very weird thing they did on early port days, was to set up a buffet in the main dining room, so no matter where you went for breakfast you were compelled to do the buffet service, though I understood some items could still be ordered if you insisted. When we mentioned to the MaitreD that if we wanted to eat "buffet style" we would have gone to the buffet, he got very loud and aggressive and was quite unprofessional.
We went to Club Concordia and tried the dinner there. It was good, but was what one would generally experience in the main dining room of the ships we have sailed on, it was not even in the ballpark of the Carnival Supper Clubs or NCL or RCCL surcharge venues. It was a good meal but not 30 Euros extra worth.
One thing that was great was the X1 package. Basically unlimited soda, wine or beer at meals.
Also, I liked our cat 10 Balcony, it was nice and very clean, our room steward Frances did a great job and we loved the room except it was very noisy at night, but earplugs helped that alot.
I'll come back in a bit and post a bit more as I remember stuff. I have to go get groceries... BRB
OK now I am back from the grocery store. Let's see what else was there... We had a great time in Palermo, Sicily. As soon as we got off the ship we were practically accosted by very aggressive cab drivers hawking a cab tour for 120 Euros. All I wanted was for someone to take us up to the Catacombs at the Capucin Monastery so we could take the tour there (very cool by the way for only 2 Euro) so after a few verbal confrontations with the cabbies who would not take no for an answer, I finally found a cab driver who agreed to take us there for a price of 18 Euro, so off we went. We ended up walking all the way back to the ship and stopping at the Cathedral and enjoying a nice lunch at a place called Giada. Palma de Mallorca was a nice place to explore too and we had a great time just walking around.
One thing I forgot to mention earlier is that one thing Costa does the very best of any cruise line is their kid's club hours. It is VERY flexible and convenient. The kids had a great time there and they make it easy to use their services.
We really didn't have anough time or energy when we flew into London from Chicago to do much, and so we used that time to recuperate from our jetlag. Virgin Airlines was nice and treated us very well. The next leg of our trip to Milan then to Rome (Ciampino) on Ryanair, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this no frills carrier, was extremely efficient and we had no problems or delays. Regarding Ciampino airport, it is a tiny airport with only one Bankomat (ATM machine) that does not work, and I needed Euro's but had no way to get any. Also I realized that we are quite spoiled here in North America, that we can use our cards to make purchases just about anywhere. Imagine my surprise when the man rudely turned his nose up at my credit card when I wanted to purchase a few snacks and drinks at the shop in the airport. So I asked the guy at the information desk to phone my hotel and the sent the shuttle to pick me up. We arrived at our hotel, where I had reserved a quad room, and found we only had three beds, but the kids ended up falling asleep and it was too big of a hassle to change rooms, plus the quad room was scary looking. Then we found out our toilet didn't flush, so d/h by this time was a little frustrated and he climbed up on the toilet and ended up getting the tank mounted high on the wall to fill so it would flush.
Our initial plan was to leave our hotel about 9 or 10 a.m. take the train from Ciampino to Rome Termini then on to the port... well that would have worked out beautifully except that we were still more jet lagged than we realized and ended up sleeping until Noon. Well the next train didn't leave Ciampino until 2:30 p.m. and then we still would have had a long train ride from Rome Termini to the port. We did not know at the time that the ship had been delayed because it had been hit by another ship in Palermo the previous day, so all of our rushing was for nothing.
We ended up taking a cab to Termini, which is HUGE. We could not find the ticket counter and was getting very stressed and frustrated because time was ticking away. This guy comes out of nowhere takes us to the ticket/information desk and stayed with us acting as our interpreter. I slipped him 10 Euro for helping us and he left as soon as we got our tickets. The cashier instructed us to get to the train as it was on the other side of the station, very far away and was leaving in just a few minutes. So we ran and made it 1 minute before the train left the station. Then we arrived about an hour and a half later in Civetavecchia. There was one cab in the entire town that had just left and never returned, so we waited a while then a guy came up and said there are no cabs, you have to walk to the port. So we commenced to walk with 4 bags and two kids in tow. about a block later the same guy is standing along the side of the road with a luggage cart offering to carry our bags for 5 Euro, so we did and it was fine. So if any of you ever take the train to the port, look for Mario and he'll handle your bags and help get you to the port. When we got to the port entrance we boarded the shuttle bus to the port building. Embarcation was fairly simple. Just frustrated by the fact hat you ended up having to fill out forms stating everything you had already filled out online with the preboarding registration on Costa's website. I had to say I was very impressed that our bags got to the cabin before we did.
Getting off the ship was very simple. We didnt feel like sticking around til our color was called. So as soon as people started leaving the ship, we just piled in behind them and walked off, then got our bags, hopped on the port shuttle then Mario was waiting on us and carried our bags back to the train station. We took the train back to Rome Termini then the Metro and walked to our hotel. We took the Metro to the Colliseum and enjoyed that very much, there is a huge archeological project in this area, with tons of ruins to be seen. We stayed there until it was nearly dark then went back to the hotel and ate dinner nearby, then to bed. The next morning we woke up got dressed the hotel served breakfast room service and we caught a cab to the airport, and flew to Belfast. We rented a car and drove it to Dublin, spent the night there then flew to Chicago on Aer Lingus, which was every bit as as nice as Virgin. So all in all it was a great trip. While the cruise had some low lights to it, we still managed to maintain our senses of humor, and loved the itinerary, and had great experiences.
I tell you it was definitely an experience! What was funny to me was the kid's reaction to seeing the colliseum in Rome. They really got into it. D/S now wants a Gladiator costume for Christmas and was quite upset I didn't buy him one there on the spot. We were quite awed by the Italian countryside as well and the Alps had their first snowfall of the season. It was breathtakingly beautiful to see the snow covered peaks on our way to Monte Carlo and Monaco from Savona.
OK now here's a mystery... why can't I find a wash cloth in European hotels? Oh and d/d was so excited by the small sink next to the big sink, I had to explain that the little sink was a bidet and not used for washing hands
You captured Costa in Europe very well. Love the comments about the rude Italians, especially the maitre D'.
I have had very few restaurant experiences in Europe where I would rave about the service. It is amazing Euro waiters do so well on US cruise ships.
I am sure you got a good deal, and got pretty much what you expected. The ships have beautiful dance floors, and they are functionally identical to Carnival ships in decor, but the mindset of the crew is very different.
Thanks Paul, I really did enjoy our adventure and I am so glad we got to go. D/H and I agree that we would like to see a different region of Europe and sail on either RCCL or NCL, or even Carnival though. No more Costa for us. I really don't know if we got a terrific deal on the cruise or not, but the dates were right for us. I had bought air when we had originally booked a transatlantic cruise on the Jade, then when NCL decided to keep the Jade in Europe they cancelled our cruise. I didn't want to waste the money I spent on the tickets I had booked already, so I went ahead and booked this cruise and then booked return air, and the pricing was decent. The best part though was how well the timing worked out. I guess Rome is flooded right now from recent torrential rains, the rioting that was going on in Greece is now spreading to areas in Italy and Spain, and the U.S. Dollar offered a great exchange rate compared to a few months before.
Looking forward to meeting you and the gang in NOLA!