Background/Itinerary: This was a Total Solar Eclipse cruise round trip from Tianjin, China. In addition to seeing the longest eclipse of the 21st century, we visited Jeju island (South Korea), Kagoshima and Kobe, Japan. There were too many days at sea, especially on this particular vessel, for me. Because it was summer time, the weather was not particularly good (overcast, hot, humid, and rainy) but we had one spectacular day for the eclipse.
Stateroom: The cabin provided good accommodations with adequate storage, a good sized bathroom and nice sink area, a large porthole window, and a very comfortable bed. However, there were cheap leather pulls on the drawers, some of which were broken. The décor was uninspired and furnishings were showing their age.
Ship: Although built in 1991 and supposedly refurbished, the interior of this vessel looked like something out of the 1950's or the Motel 6 of cruise ships. The two elevator areas were distinguished only by color—one yellow and one green—and people were constantly confused as to where they were and which direction they were facing (aft or forward). In addition, the areas had the appearance of something you would find on a freighter.
Chairs in the lounges and other public areas were very uncomfortable and old-fashioned "modern" but the seating in the dining areas was comfortable. Air-conditioning was hit-or-miss with some areas of the ship freezing and other areas unbearably hot.
Dining: The weakest aspect of this cruise was the cuisine, which basically was pretty bad. There was limited variety, freshness was lacking, and although visually appealing the food was often not particularly tasty. Appetizers and deserts were best; hamburgers and French-fries at the grill were good but French fries in the restaurant, which they seemed to serve with everything, were mushy. One positive aspect of the poor food was I did not gain weight on this cruise as I usually do when cruising. One would expect an Italian vessel to serve decent Italian pastas and main courses, but this was not the case here.
Services: A highlight of the cruise was the level of service from most of the staff. Our cabin steward and waitress in the main dining room were both very cordial and efficient. Other staff we encountered were usually friendly and helpful as well. Some of the newer crew in the dining room still need to learn to be more attentive to fill water and wine glasses and to offer and refill coffee cups. But this drawback was minor. Level of English among the crew was adequate for most purposes.
Entertainment & Activities: There were several groups and individuals who provided music aboard ship with great variability in their appeal to us. Yet, we managed to dance nightly for at least an hour. Since one of our favorite activities on cruises is ballroom dancing, we enjoyed this aspect of our cruise. The dance classes, however, provided instruction in dances that could not later be practiced because that type of music was never played and most of the dances were less well-known Latin dances. There were some other classes (napkin folding, and crafts such as making boxes, batik, and bookmarks) as well, which helped pass the time during our 5.5 days at sea out of a 12-day cruise (not counting eclipse day which provided its own entertainment). My husband, who is an amateur astronomer, did not find the eclipse/astronomy-related talks very interesting. Port information was minimal to incorrect.
There were shows nightly but not of particularly good quality. The dancers' routines often looked simply like posing to music and were similar from show to show. I did enjoy the Japanese local production during one of our Japan stops and an evening with a violinist playing mostly classical music.
Children's Activities: There seemed to be some good activities for different ages of children but we do not have children so were unaware of the specifics. Activities were provided by the ship's crew and by passengers related to the eclipse and astronomy. Embarkation/Disembarkation: Boarding the vessel was tedious because of the wait in a hot, crowded environment at the Port of Tianjin. This may have been the fault of the local port authority and facility rather than Costa Cruises, however. Leaving the ship was much easier. Transfers were efficient and on time.