We just got back from the Costa cruise, and I have a lot to tell you about. So, I'll take it in stages, so it will be easier. Just so you know, this is my 4th cruise.
BEFORE YOU GO Reasearch a little about the ports you will be stopping at. Costa is great about telling you where to shop and what beaches are available, but they aren't so great in letting you know about local cultures, sights to see, etc...
If you get to the ship right at 1 pm, you will wait about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to get on. Here's an alternative idea - Drop off your bags at between 11:00 & noon, go have lunch, walk around some stores, and return around 2:30-3 pm. This will get your bags on early [therefore to your cabin early], and you won't have sat in a crowded room for an hour or more.
You will find your Costa Cards [these serve as room key, ID, and credit card while on the ship] in your room. You do not need to register your credit card right away to use your Costa card to buy a drink or anything else on ship. Wait a day or two and then register your credit card to avoid the long lines.
Oh, and do know that you will have to pay a port surcharge on drinks bought while in port. [coffee, coke, alcohol]
Costa was good about getting our luggage to our rooms within a few hours, and we unpacked and had plenty of space. Even large suitcases will slide under the bed! We booked a room with a balcony [Costa frequently offers free balcony upgrades!] and it was really worth it! We found having the extra space and the ability to sit outside on our own balcony extremely enjoyable.
The first night was all about learning where things are on the ship. This ship is quite large with several different lounges, a disco, shops, a phenomenal gym and spa, 2 pools, several hot tubs, etc... Walk around with the little color coded map they give you and get comfortable - there is a lot to see.
They have a nice party at the pool for the sail away with music, and it's good fun.
DAY ONE AT SEA
My hubby and I got up, grabbed a quick bite at the buffet [all your fav American b-fast foods - egg, bacon, ham, cereal, orange juice, coffee, tea and water as well as cheese, meat slices, fruits, bread, pancakes, waffles, and more]. I'm sure you'll find something you like.
We then hit the gym [3 levels at the front of the ship]. It has an amazing view as well as many different types of equipment - treadmills, weight machines, steppers, bikes, and more. There is also a large jacuzzi, tanning lights, steam room and sauna available at no extra charge. They offer pilates and other classes for a small fee. Buy a package at the beginning of the trip if you want to get the best deal.
We took this trip after the Xmas and New Years cruises - on those cruises, there were over 500 children on board. For our cruise, there were around 150, so going to the pool in the afternoon or sitting out on the deck was quite relaxing. Costa has great programs for kids that keep them active and happy.
I bought a piece of art at the art auction - this is really one of the best deals I've seen on Costa. They only allow 3 bids to keep prices low, and if they have more than one piece, they will sell that piece to everyone who wants it at the third bid. Really, I bought a piece I have seen in a gallery for several hundred less and no tax! It was a bargain. And of course, they serve free champagne.
Dinner was fun with good food and service. This was the first formal night and almost every man was in a suit or tux and women wore lovely gowns. There was the captain's welcome party before and people got free cocktails and danced on stage in the Osirus Theater [beautifully decorated Egyptian themed theater]. They had a live band - I must tell you, music on this ship is excellent in the lounges and the theater. They do try to make these nights special. There were several photography sections and the photo prices were quite reasonable.
We were at the second dinner seating [8:30pm] - we sat at a large table and met some great people. I always recommend people to sit at large tables because you are traveling with people who are like you - they like to travel, see the world, meet people, etc... It's so much fun to discuss where you are, what you're doing, and where you've been with a group of people. Of course, if you don't like your group, you can get your table changed.
About the food and drink - the food was good throughout the trip; however, if anyone didn't like something, the waiter immediately took it away and replaced it with something else. More often, people really liked a dish and asked for seconds. They don't mind at all. So if you want that second lobster tail, steak or dessert, just ask for it!
Tap water on ice is free as well as iced or hot tea and coffee. However, sodas and alcohol are not. Costa offers a package of five bottles of wine and five bottles of water at a good price. My husband and I drink only a half a bottle a night, so they stored the extra and had it ready for us the next evening.
My friends brought their own bottles of wine on board. They brought them to the dinner table and the servers opened and served them without complaint. It was very nice.
The Time Machine show was worth the effort - a little hoaky, but great sets, and some talented singers and dancers. After was the midnight buffet - these are always worth a look see as they have some great dishes beautifully prepared.
DAY TWO SAN JUAN
We didn't arrive in San Juan until 4 pm which was a shame because the stores close early!
However, during the day, we did try something different - they have a high tea in the Bar Orientale with loose leaf high quality teas, finger sandwiches, and pastries. It was really nice.
What wasn't so nice was the BIOLUMINESCENT KAYAK TOUR - don't go - it's a waste of time and money. It was 1 1/2 hours on a bus in traffic, then 30 minures paddling, and then just tiny flecks of occasional light in the water - really! I had heard this was a great trip, but it is a farce, don't waste your money.
We were double disappointed because we couldn't see San Juan at all as the trip took all the time alotted for our stay.
We heard from others that the San Juan fort was interesting, shopping was good, and that the restaurants were great.
This evening at the midnight buffet, they had international night with four stations around the ship. Again, this was really worthwhile and great fun. Excellent pate at the France station and chocolate and churros at the Spanish station.
DAY THREE ST. THOMAS
We ordered breakfast in the room this morning and ate it out on the balcony. There isn't a huge selection for room service, but it was fun to have cereal, croissants [with butter and great jam], and coffee while looking at the lovely islands in St. Thomas.
This was a fun port where we had time for shopping in the morning [there are some great deals here - not steals - but good prices with no taxs and they double your allowance when you buy at St. Thomas so definitely know what you want to buy and go get it]. Costa has great shopping talks you can see live or watch on TV. Go talk to the port shopper as she can tell you where the best deals are as well as give you extra discount cards. There are some steals to be had in the back rooms of some of the large establishments.
The port itself was pretty if a little congested with traffic. I wanted to see more, but we had an excursion to get to.
We did the sail and snorkel to Christmas cove - this was good fun. The sail boat the St. Christopher was lovely with a fun crew and we took quite a few pictures while sailing. The snorkeling was pretty good with lots of parrot fish nibbling at the coral. They teach new people how to snorkel and let the ones who already know how off the boat first. On the way back, they serve rum punch to warm you up. Overall very fun!
This evening before dinner, we went to the Bar Roero in the Lounge Orientale and ordered a bottle of Prosecco [light Italian Champage]. They had a male Italian singer who was excellent and served canapes with the wine. This is a great bar and very relaxing with lovely ambiance. As we didn't finish the bottle, they held it behind the bar for us for the following evening.
Dinner was again lovely.
DAY FOUR CATALINA ISLAND
This is a great place for lying in the sun and just relaxing. There is swimming, snorkeling, hair braiding, as well as people riding bananas and intertubes while being pulled along by boats. Really an excellent beach day.
They have music and shopping just to the left and games. However, if you head down further to the left following the boardwalk, it gets quieter if you just want to relax. Drink staff walk along the beach and take orders, so you don't have to leave your spot if you don't want to.
Lunch was out on the island and they had great fruit, burgers, BBQ ribs and more as well as water, iced tea and coffee. Again, you have to pay for those sodas [they do have a soda pass for kids for a reasonable price - ask the first day!]
In the late afternoon we went to La Romana port in the Dominican Republic. The people on the ship tried to dissuade anyone visiting this port as there is a lot of poverty. My husband and I decided not to go; however, a couple at our dinner table went and said it was quite interesting. You exit the ship and get a cab driver who takes you somewhere to shop and actually goes into each shop with you. Then he takes you to a bar/restaurant. They said the food was 4-5 star and really worth it. However - getting in and out of the cab there are many beggars. The cab driver acts as guide and guardian, so an interesting experience if you are up for it.
Because we didn't go to La Romana, we went to the casino on board instead. There were lots of 25 cent slots and table games like poker, roulette, and black jack. They had a $5 blackjack table and you could use cash or your Costa Card to play. It was a good time and we played for 2 hours and actually walked away with more than we started with [that rarely happens though I must admit].
Tonight they had the carribbean party - this was great fun as they had steel drum music, then dancers, and then they did European line dancing which includes songs from South America and Europe. Its fun and you don't have to know how to do it - just jump on in. They give you a colored lei and let the fun begin.
A great midnight buffet with ice sculptures and excellent food out by the pool.
DAY FIVE AT SEA
A great day to relax by the pool, hit the gym, and do whatever. They have some fun activities and games - I went and did the line dancing - it is good fun and great exercise.
Oh, and I should mention on the pool grill they do have good hot dogs [no relish], hamburgers, and fries everyday. They also have pizza available all the time [look for the fresh parmesian cheese and red pepper]. They also have vanilla/chocolate soft serve ice cream available for free.
They had another auction today with new art - very fun, free champage, and they gave away quite a bit of art, so it was worth it.
Tonight was the second formal night - everyone really dressed wonderfully and we had prime rib and lobster - yum!
The show Solid Gold was great fun with very popular songs, cute songs, and good dancing.
DAY SIX NASSAU
This was lovely as we pulled into port past a little lighthouse and pink buildings. We went to have lunch at Senor Frogs - this is an adventure - they have an MC, music, karaoke and things happening the whole time. You can participate or not. I just enjoyed watching their antics as I sat by the water and looked across the bay and toward our ship. It's a bit pricey, but good fun.
Shopping in Nassau isn't as good as St. Thomas, but there were some deals to be had. The Del Sol shops sell nail polish that changed color in the sun. It's a cute gift and not too expensive.
Many people took cabs to the Atlantis resort which was beautiful and also had shopping in it.
There was a straw market, but not any real quality products that we noticed. It might have been better to get out of port and go to the beach.
Tonight was toga night - we didn't really know what to expect. Some people brought their own togas while others used the sheets provided. One great idea I saw was a woman wearing a re dress with the togas sheet draped over her shouler and belted in the middle. We alas did not toga, but it was fun to watch those who did.
We went to the Roero bar and ordered a bottle of prosecco, had a glass, and then took the bottle to dinner with us. They don't have a problem with this.
Dinner was good as usual.
Tonight was the passenger talent show called the Baccanal - I was surprised, but many passengers were quite good.
Then back to the room to pack. Our bags needed to be packed and outside the room by 1:00 am. Be sure you don't pack anything very valuable [jewelry] or medications in those bags. They are quite good but something could get lost!
DAY SEVEN DISEMBARKATION
They ask you be out of your room by 8:00 am and there is no room service for breakfast.
Because everyone is eating at once, there are long lines at the buffet. Go to the main restaurant and have breakfast there [second seating 7:45 am] - it is tastey, hot, and they have a good selection. Here you can relax until it is time for your group to leave.
A cab will cost $8 per person to the airport and is just as fast as Costa transport [and cheaper]
SOME THINGS TO NOTE
Alcoholic drinks are not very strong on board and quite expensive. If you want good margaritas, you might want to bring some tequila and mixer on board yourself. Again, if you have a favorite wine, bring it on board and they will open it and serve it to you for freee at a bar or restaurant.
The ship has great prices on bottles of alcohol, but they won't let you have them until the end of the cruise!
If you don't like something, send it back. They want you to have a good time and not everyone's tastes are the same.
Feel free to ask for a second pillow, more towels, etc... They do provide pretty good service, but you do need to let them know what you want.
Costa offers great discounts and you get your cruise for a lower price - the trade off is that there are fewer servers per person on board, so you probably won't get 5 star service. But then, you didn't pay for 5 star service.
I think this was a great ship with good food and service. The balcony rooms are very comfortable and kept tidy.
I disliked that we had too little time in most ports to do an excursion and see the port. However, if you like to stay on board most of the time, you'll love it.
The music is excellent and if you like to dance, you'll have a great time.
They have an excellent gym and fitness program and healthy food choices including sugar free desserts everyday.
There were many non-smoking areas that I appreciated and really I saw few people smoking anyway.
They had good prices on duty free bottles of alcohol on ship as well as clothes, tshirts, and more. The shopping on board was good.
The art auctions are definitely worth the time.
The casino has reasonably priced tables for play and lots of slots.
Check out some of the on board games and dances with the cruise staff, they are goofy but very entertaining.
The theater shows I think have improved since my last Costa cruise years ago - so that's nice.
They have a good variety of food and never complain if you want to send something back. Seconds are brought with a smile.
I guess that's all - Bon Voyage!