My husband, two sons (age 15 and 12) and I just returned from our March Break cruise. Our first time cruising with Costa was somewhat disappointing. Having cruised eight times previously, mainly with Royal Caribbean, our expectations may have been higher than those who have not cruised before.
Before setting foot on the ship we encountered some difficulties with the Costa web site: all pages were not accessible; the site's claim that Canadians require a visa was incorrect; and we had problems filling in on-line forms, so we had to call Costa and complete the information over the telephone.
The ticket package mailed to us also contained copies of a Costa guide, shore excursion booklet, gift order form and brochure, and the U.S. Border Security Act for each passenger, even though we are all of the same family. I thought this was a waste of printed materials and postage.
The embarkation process went well. Having all the documents in order for each family member will expedite the process.
On board we were met by a member of the "kids program" and given printed information. Our first impression was that the ship was somewhat overdone. We found it to be glitzy and very ornate, bordering on gaudy. Our outside cabin was of the expected size. We had an obstructed view due to the lifeboats.
We set out to explore the ship. We asked for directions to the on-board shops and casino from two different staff members, only to be given a nod and a finger pointing -- which turned out to be incorrect both times. This was our first indication that the service may not be all that it should be.
We felt the ship was not well laid out. The buffet areas on Deck 9 were sometimes confusing. There were several locations, but often some were closed or offered different items. Pizza was always good and available.
The buffet food was average. Our biggest complaint was the lack of beverages that were included in the package. Iced tea was sometimes unavailable, but there was regular coffee and decaf as well as orange juice and grapefruit juice and water. Sometimes these dispensers were empty or "out of service." There was no lemonade. Sodas cost $2.30 plus a tip.
The afternoon tea service was very nice, with a server offering a variety of loose teas to choose from.
A "Boys and Girls" coupon booklet for $40 plus tip for 20 beverages (which includes non-alcoholic frozen drinks) was available, and the boys took advantage of it since the frozen drinks were normally $4.75 plus tip. Milkshakes were also supposed to be included, but my boys couldn't find anyplace including the dining room where they could be obtained. My son eventually made his own from the soft ice cream and milk.
Distribution of the luggage to the various decks was something to behold. I repeatedly witnessed baggage crew members unloading the luggage by pushing the entire cart-load of luggage, piled several feet high, onto the floor. At one point the entire floor space between the elevators was covered with a pile three suitcases high! I could not believe my eyes and was concerned for the contents of my luggage.
I went to the information desk to report this and was asked if my luggage was damaged. I had not yet received my luggage but when I did, an hour and a half after departure, sure enough, a brand new can of salon hair mousse exploded inside my suitcase. I had even taped the lid to the can to keep it from coming off, and wrapped it inside a heavy plastic bag; still, some of the contents got onto some of the clothing. Luckily not much damage resulted.
I reported this to the guest services and they requested the empty can. When I returned to the cabin to get it, the very efficient cabin steward had emptied the trash and the can was gone -- hence I was not offered any compensation and my hair was FLAT for the whole trip. Bummer!
The shipboard account credit card registering is left to passengers to decide over a three-day period. This is done in a very small room where there was no number assignment and big crowds. Perhaps they could allow passengers to pre-register online as other companies do, or at least before embarkation.
The cabin, despite comfortable beds, especially the bunks, was noisy. There was a cracking and snapping sound as well as a clanging of metal in the walls and the floor near the balcony doors. It sounded almost as if there was a stress on the walls. This only happened when the ship was in motion; it was not continuous but happened often enough to be an annoyance. Sometimes it even woke us from sleep, even when I used earplugs. Just when we would get a break from it all, the maintenance crew would hose down the lifeboats from the deck below in the morning, with the water spray hitting against the balcony doors.
We reported all this; it was investigated, and crew members confirmed there was indeed a problem and had a plan to fix it. However, even after they unscrewed the panels in the walls and tightened things up, the noise continued. I eventually gave up reporting the problem since I was tired of explaining the situation over and over to guest services. Sometimes I had to repeat the complaint in various terms to the same person before they could comprehend what the problem was. This is another area that needs improvement: communication ability.
The cabin's mini-bar was often not restocked fully even when my husband requested it.
Despite the availability of "service" in five languages, often we encountered crew who did not speak English well enough to provide appropriate assistance to passengers. It was annoying at times to have every announcement and game and introduction coming across the loudspeakers in all five languages, especially since most passengers on this particular cruise were English-speaking.
The dinning room staff was the exception. Everyone we encountered there was excellent in all ways, and the food was always very good, hot when it should be, and delivered in a timely manner. We were assigned the second seating, which we found very late for our family as often dinner did not start until 9 p.m.
The itinerary for this Eastern Caribbean cruise included San Juan, which we felt was a wasted stop since we arrived at after 4 p.m. and were unable to go ashore until after 5 (not great for those on the first seating). There was little to do there and the ship left at 1:30 a.m.
Casa de Campo was also a waste of time, since we arrived at 6 p.m. and departed at midnight. Some of the shore excursions were cancelled.
St Thomas was great as always, and Catalina Island was a beautiful spot with lots to do and a great barbeque provided by Costa.
We opted for only two shore excursions and were glad we did not book more. The snorkeling adventure in St. Thomas was OK, but not as good as others we have experienced. Many people had problems with the masks and snorkels, myself included. I eventually gave up. The lady in the "dive shop" instructing everyone upon our arrival was in desperate need of a lesson in courtesy -- she barked at our group as we entered the shop, for no apparent reason except that they were very busy.
The Blue Lagoon in Nassau was a spectacular place -- a paradise. However, it took an hour from the time we met in the theater until we arrived by boat, then we only had an hour and a half there before we had to return to the transport boat. This was most unfortunate, as this was undoubtedly a place one would want to spend the day. For the price, it was not good value -- nice to visit but I would not do it again unless we had more time there.
The on-board entertainment was not as good as any we have experienced in the past. The magic show the first night was very good. Personally I enjoyed the Italian tenor, but many people left once the show started. The steel drum band was also enjoyable, but the Costa dancers and performers were well below the level of those on other ships. During the talent show, crew members were fooling around behind the backs of passengers who were brave enough to get up and perform, which I felt was inappropriate. This was the first cruise where we were not wowed by the entertainment.
The lines to get off the ship at ports of call were not supervised and sometimes people were pushing and shoving. There were some very rude Europeans who felt they were above taking their turn like the rest of us. When another passenger pointed out to these people where the end of the line was -- after four of them pushed in front of others -- one of them threw his hands up, made a face and remained where he was. I heard stories from fellow passengers about this being a regular occurrence.
One thing I did enjoy was the opportunity to take Italian language lessons. They were given by a Canadian (Martina) from Quebec, a lovely girl who spoke the five languages fluently.
My older son enjoyed the evening teen get-togethers. Maybe the fact that he was getting cozy with a girl on board contributed to this.
Getting off the ship was the usual experience. The only complaint here was that we were allocated to the theater, as were most passengers, where none of the public announcements could be heard. I called Guest Services to advise them of this, and they thanked me, but the announcements still couldn't be heard in the theater. We were advised by a crew member when it was our color's time to leave.
Overall, I would rate the experience a 6 on a scale of 10, and give the ship a 3.5 out of 5. We will not cruise with Costa again as we found it a little too European for our tastes.