As we checked in for our eastern Caribbean cruise on Costa 's Victoria, I was immediately concerned when I had to produce an ID at four separate points in order to board. Carnival checks you once, then takes your picture, and is very secure. Costa never took our picture, but seemed obsessed with having people who barely spoke English look at our birth certificates, over and over.
Once on board we proceeded to the bar, where we got burned for over $21 for three Bloody Marys, and then we continued to the buffet. I sampled picnic fare and stared down a large plate of kidney bean salad. Little did I know that this delight, as well as most of the others we saw, would be lurking at every buffet we attended.
The ship was as beautiful as it was overcrowded. Everyone was pushing and shoving like a cattle call. The deck was packed with lounge chairs that filled by 9:30 a.m. When people went to lunch, they left clothes and shoes on their lounges to reserve them. The hot tubs were full of Germans and French who pretended not to speak English -- and definitely did not understand deodorant use. These same congenial folk blocked the elevator doors and refused to let you off unless you grunted in their native tongue. Costa blew the wad on this ship -- it was loaded with lavish décor and impeccably maintained. They should have paid the staff a little more and spent a lot more on the food.
The staff was basically aloof. After I got friendly with a few of them and inquired about the general lack of courtesy, they explained: "If you think Costa treats you poorly, they treat us like dogs." Costa did not quite treat us like dogs, but they did, however, feed us like dogs.
Although I am not a gourmet, I am fat and I've been on a few ships. The restaurant's menu was very limited, and the selections were almost sure to disappoint. The waiters were the nicest people on the boat. They constantly steered me away from menu selections toward "better choices." Even with this safety policy in effect, I was treated to a series of Epicurean tragedies one after the other. If your idea of fancy food is a quarter head of lettuce in a cereal bowl, this is your ship.
Upon boarding we noticed a woman dressed as a cross between Snow White and Elvira. When I stole my glance away from her cleavage, I noticed her talking to my 5-year-old girl. She invited her to a "par-r-r-rty" at 9:00. My little girl shook in her shoes all day as she anxiously awaited her party with Snow White. When we got there, Snowvira was dressed in jeans surrounded by a sea of people. She was handing out consent forms and soliciting kiddie drink card sales. There was no party. There was no event at all for kids, just a sales pitch to parents. My little girl didn't understand why Snow White stood her up and cried herself to sleep that night. I will never forgive Costa for this.
Finally I encountered the straw that broke the camel's back. I was rudely ejected from the indoor pool for having kids under 16, even though the pool was full of young kids. All the other people just pretended to not understand and continued to allow their kids to swim. I decided to complain to the information desk. The lady I spoke with there seemed genuinely concerned about my complaint. After a minute, her apparent manager joined her. I outlined my concerns about the rudeness at the indoor pool and the fake Snow White party. She gave me a schedule of kids' events and continued to review it with me until I realized I was getting nowhere. When I asked to file a formal complaint, the underling asked if she should get a form and the manager replied with some gibberish in a foreign language. I expressed my fury at her speaking behind my back in a foreign language and she pretended not to understand me. Generally, nobody cared.
I spent the rest of the week trying to entertain the kids and waiting for the cruise to end. The more we tried to get a good meal, the worse the food got. The heavily-promoted midnight buffets turned out to be more kidney bean salad, unripe fruit and Sam's Club éclairs surrounded by intricate carvings of cantaloupe squirrels and honeydew bunnies. These people are obviously grossly mismanaged. Whereas the boat and décor are top-notch, it seems that nobody's at the wheel.
Save the trouble and cruise with a real line that cares.