I recently returned from a cruise to the Baltic Capitals on the Costa Allegra. After booking the trip, I found this web site and read that CruiseMates did not recommend Costa cruises to Europe. I was concerned, but felt I could overlook some minor problems in order to see the places I wanted to see. The itinerary was the main reason that a traveling companion and I chose this cruise.
Never again will I go on a Costa cruise to any destination.
There were 800 passengers on this cruise, and only 40 were English-speaking (including 22 from the United States). While this afforded some interesting experiences, the public announcements in five languages did grow tiresome.
Not until two weeks before the cruise did I receive most of the information, tickets, transfers, etc. from Costa. A pre-cruise stay in Amsterdam at the Hilton Hotel was excellent. It's A Lovely hotel with excellent staff and food. The transfer to the ship went smoothly. At the dock there was a little confusion about boarding the ship but that was minor.
What a disappointment! I knew this was not a luxury vessel before I went aboard, but I wasn't prepared for what I encountered. Most of the public areas were fairly well decorated, but in need of cleaning or a total redo. There was no lounge where one could sit and read or view the passing scenery. On the seven floors accessible to passengers there were a total of two public restrooms for men and two for women -- and these often had "out of order" facilities. By far my worst experience on this ship was the nauseating sewer smell constantly encountered in the hall outside my room, and in the hall outside the theater. The daily newsletter always had a cautioning paragraph about the rules of using the bathroom facilities. I found it impossible to believe that a well functioning ship would have such terrible plumbing problems -- and then seem to blame it on the guests!
The room size and closet space were adequate. A bowl of fresh fruit was brought to the room each day. I had asked for a non-smoking room. Although I didn't detect any smoke odor, my room had an ashtray and cigarette holes in the carpet and curtains. The beds looked like something one might expect at Boy Scout camp. The beds were attached to the walls and consisted of a flat wooden panel with two legs that looked like unfinished wood. On top of this panel were two very thin mattresses. The top mattress was tufted with hard pieces of plastic that scraped your body while you slept. The bathroom couldn't possibly have been smaller. The shower floor had mildew growing around it, and it was impossible to take a shower without getting the whole bathroom covered in water.
The crew was very friendly and courteous, and spoke English well enough to answer questions fairly easily. The restaurant staff was excellent.
While not first class, the food was good. There were usually enough selections on the restaurant menu that one could find something pleasing to eat. The buffet was fair. But the layout of the buffet was poor -- it made for a harrowing experience trying to get your food and drink and find a place to eat without being run over by numerous other guests trying to do the same thing.
Entertainment was provided by six dancers, a singer and an acrobat. The dancers were adequate, and the acrobat was quite good. Unfortunately, all of their shows looked and sounded similar. After the second show I gave up. Feedback from others told me all I needed to know. I doubt anyone was there for the last show.
At last, the good part. Most of the excursions and the guides were excellent. None were bad. The longer itinerary of this cruise, 14 days, meant that we had adequate time in each port for sightseeing. With so few English-speaking people, we often were on a tour bus with a guide who gave information in two languages, but this worked well. I didn't notice anyone complaining.
Don't go! Travel companion says "Ditto".