So you are thinking of taking a Costa cruise... I hope this review helps you decide a bit. This is my review of our time on the Costa Magica in April of 2013 in the Eastern Mediterranean. I am in no way being paid by Costa for this review. This is just our experience on the cruise. I will not be held liable if you don't have a good time. That is completely your own fault. Happy travels!
When booking the cruise, I didn't realize that the company Costa was the same Costa that we had been hearing about in the news, as in the Costa Concordia, the large cruise ship that capsized off the western coast of Italy on January 13, 2012. Images of the ship laying on its starboard side in the Mediterranean filled my eyes. Oh crap. Did we just make a mistake? I spent hours surfing cruise review sites reading tons of negative reviews for the cruise line. There were a few good ones out there, but I was definitely getting nervous. I looked up the safety record for Costa and that put my mind at ease a little more. As we got ready to go, I just told myself that the cruise part of the vacation wasn't that important, that we were just using the boat as an easy way to get to Italy, Greece, and Croatia. So needless to say, I went in with low expectations.
We boarded the Costa Magica in Venice and upon arriving on the ship I was a little dismayed. All the literature about the cruise in our cabin was in German! Our dinner menus were in German. Even the information broadcast on our in-cabin televisions was in German. It was no problem for Matt, but for me and the kids, we were a little lost. Matt had bought our tickets through the German customer service line and so our language entered on our customer information profile was German. Matt quickly contacted passenger relations and informed them that we preferred English as our language. On the second day into the cruise our cabin steward asked where we lived. "Heidelberg, Germany," I answered. He replied back with, "Really? That's amazing because your English is fantastic. You speak impeccable English, without even a trace of an accent!" I smiled and basked in the glow of being told how good I speak a language. After months of struggling to nail down German pronunciation (still can't master the umlaut) it felt so good to be told I speak impeccably. Yes, it was my own native language, but he didn't know that. I finally told him that I speak such impeccable English because I was an American. Rest assured that no matter what language you speak, they will try to accommodate you. They do the announcements in Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish. The waiters, cabin stewards, and bar tenders all spoke pretty good English and we had no problem communicating with them. They have customer service representatives that wear the flags of the countries of the languages they speak and they were easily accessible.
The boat was large, but easy to get around. Our cabins were on the inside of the 8th deck out of 11 decks. The pools and buffet were on the 9th deck so we didn't have to go far to access the good stuff. I woke early almost each morning to watch the sunrise. I would go out and have the ship almost to myself, except for the army of people cleaning it. The ship was immaculate. They were constantly polishing, scrubbing, hosing down, and wiping everything on the ship.
One thing that the I read in the reviews that people were unhappy with was the food. I don't know if they changed the menu, but we thought the food was great. Every morning they had a large breakfast buffet with several varieties of fruit, bacon, sausages, cured meats, waffles, pancakes, french toast, every kind of roll or croissant or bread item you could think of, hard boiled eggs, an omelette station with fresh veggies, meats, and cheeses, yogurt, orange juice, apple juice, milk, coffee, tea, and water. And that was just the buffet. They also offered a sit down breakfast in the dining room.
After the breakfast buffet, they would set up a pizza, hot dog, hamburger, chicken sandwich, and ice cream buffet that was always open. We often ate lunch at that when our time on the boat allowed us to. Every night we were served a seven course meal of Italian fare in the sit down dining room. We would have 3-4 choices for each appetizer, soup, salad, pasta course, meat course, cheese course, and finally the dessert course. We were never unhappy with the food.
There were two pools on board and both were refilled every morning with filtered sea water pumped right out of the Mediterranean. Sometimes the water was a little chilly, but not so cold that water acrobatics couldn't be done.
The decks were large and well stocked with lounge chairs and clean towels for those who wanted to dry off, or for those who wanted to cover their face and take a nap.
"Why are you bothering me?"
"Leave me alone and let me return to my unlimited food induced coma!"
Our cabins were cleaned three times a day. Each time we left our steward would go in and clean up the tornado we left behind. They were polite, kind, and funny. Gold star for service.
We went to three shows on the boat. A cabaret show, a strong man acrobatic show, and a magic show. All three were well done. The majority of the songs sang in the cabaret show were in English and were from popular American movies such as Top Gun and Chicago. We were thoroughly entertained each time.
Now the not so good. It's funny to say, but the hardest part of the cruise is that there are so many different nationalities and different languages on board. It can make for some confusion or difficult situations. In America, we love the line. We respect the line. You wait your turn. In line. After living in Europe for a year I have figured out that Europeans in general take waiting in line more as a suggestion, than the rule that Americans live by. If they feel they can, they will wiggle in front of you if you give them the chance. Here is my advice. Stand as close to the person in front of you as you can. Seriously. If you provide space, someone will take it. I had a couple of people try to get in front of me at the buffet but I came prepared. I stood my ground and tapped them on the shoulder and said, "No. Back of the line." With a firm thumb pointed over my shoulder. I would laugh when they would pretend they didn't see the line. "Oh! So sorry." Yeah, right mister.
Another difficult part was the tendering off process. Tendering is taking a small boat from the large cruise ship into a port that is too small to accommodate your ship. You would have to wake up early to stand in line for your tender number. To go to Dubrovnik, I was second in line out of like 500 people. As the time for the numbers to be handed out came closer, people started congregating at the doors close to the front, thinking they could bypass the line. These two Polish teenagers that were right behind me taking the number three slot would have none of that. Each person that came up to the front got a dirty look from them and were told "Back of the line," and then called something that rhymes with mouche-bag. They were serious. Nobody was butting in front of them. But once you got your number the tendering process went quickly.
But the absolute worst part of our cruise was the first night we were on the boat. Right next door there was a cabin full of 18 year old, loud, drunk, Italians. I love Italians, but this was definitely not the kind of Italian I liked. Finally I could take no more. I got up, went out in the hall and pounded on their door. When they answered, I yelled the only Italian word I could think of. "SILENZIO!" They got the point. Unlimited alcohol and idiots are never a good combination. When we complained to customer service, they didn't seem too worried or concerned that we were being kept up by loud, drunk, Italian teenagers. Maybe that's par for the course on this cruise line.
So is a Costa cruise right for you? Here is what you should remember.
1. Costa is a budget cruise line. It is not a 5-star cruise. If you need opulence at every turn and need to have your butt kissed by the staff, I don't suggest you go.
2. Costa is an Italian cruise line that has many Italians and Europeans that use it. If you have traveled in Europe before and you are familiar with the different European cultures, then you will be fine. If you feel uncomfortable standing in an elevator or sharing a table with people who speak another language than you. Don't go.
3. Costa caters to many different demographics. We saw teenagers out for their first solo trip. We saw families with young kids and babies. We saw people who were close to retirement. If you want a cruise that is exclusively older and quieter people, this isn't it. If you want a cruise that is party-party-party-meat-market all the time? This isn't it either.
4. If you want to get the most out of your dollar/Euro (Euros are the currency used on board) and really are interested in seeing different areas of the world, this might be the cruise for you.
This was our first cruise so we have nothing to compare it to, so maybe it really sucked and I don't even know it. But we did have a great time. Would we take another Costa cruise? Already have two in the works. We found it a great and cheap way to get around. All our food was provided on board and we could see different areas without having to pack ourselves and four kids up each time we moved on to a new destination. Also, with each adult ticket you buy, you get one free child so that was a great incentive for us. Check out their "Kids Sail Free" details on their website. I only wrote this because we really did enjoy it and I want to share how easy it was for our family of six to get out and see these places. Our friends The Point Family also thought the cruise was great and a fantastic way to get out and see the world with four kids in tow.
If anyone out there is considering taking a Costa cruise and would like more details on our experience, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is the Costa Cruise website. Travel on my friends!
* Loves all travel. Whether by cruise ship, by car, by plane, or by train. Cruise ships are just extra nice because of all the desserts.