I had transfers included with the package and was met in the arrivals hall by Costa Reps. Quite a hassle free experience and much better then the train option which I have done in the past. Journey time was an hour to the ship.
Boarding was fast . I have been a few times so am Costa Club. I was given a priority number for embarkation. There was a long line at the normal desk so being able to use the Costa Club desk was great. After filling out the medical form and having passports checked etc.. it was time to get on Pacifica. The staff were all very pleasant and helpful during this process.
I was in cabin 7372 and thought for what I paid it was perfect. Plenty of space and hangers in wardrobe. Electronic digital safe and decent bathroom. Only thing really annoying was the lack of power sockets. Only one on the vanity area. Cabin steward came and welcomed me. On my bed were my room key which doubles up as your ID and charge card. Various leaflets about the cruise and emergency drill credit card shaped tags which you have to hand in at the compulsory drill. For me this was at 5pm the evening of embarkation.
I was able to pre book a take for two in the New York New York restaurant as part of the Prem Balcony deal. I actually found this a huge benefit as I did not want to sit with anyone else other than my travelling companion. As soon as I boarded I went to check the table number and indeed it was a lovely table for two.
For the 7 nights cruise you could buy a spa pass for EUR79 or one visit for EUR38 . I actually only went for the one visit as being port intensive I would not get the use out of it. If there were a few sea days then I would have jumped at it as the spa really is a point where Costa scores well. The first stop was Savona and it was also a bad weather day. It rained all day and even snow at some times during the day. I got off for a few hours just to have a look around this very small and not that interesting port of call. I then spent the rest of the day in the spa so it worked out really well. I loved the winter garden where you could relax and drink herbal teas.
For those that dont want to pay for the spa there is a small Mens sauna next to the gym which is free to all. I presume there is also one in the Womens changing area. The gym is also free to all to use and quite good. Considering it was a off peak Winter cruise there were quite a lot of young people onboard mostly Italians. I would say aged between 5-21. The majority were aged between 30-70 though and 70% Italian and the rest a mix of Germans/French and around 5% British / Americans.
On the first day I also bought a few packages from the bar. All Inclusive for me was not an option as I do not really drink alchohol. I therefore went for the Boys and Girls package and the Water package. This actually lasted me the whole week and came to around EUR79 for both.
The food in the restaurants at night was ok and always something that I liked. It was not gourmet though and just run of the mill 3* standard. Breakfast was not bad again nothing amazing but hot items such as scrambled eggs/sausages/bacon/hash browns and pancakes with syrup. Bread/fruit and cereals were also available. The coffee was drinkable as was the orange juice. Something that MSC did not manage to provide so kudos to Costa for that. I did tend to buy proper strong coffee off the ship though when in port where you could always find a nice cafe for cappuchino and cake.
My favourite place to hang out was at the Chocolate bar where I often had a cappuchino and their lovely black forrest cake. This came drizzled with chocolate from the fountain. Way too addictive but I did that once every other day . The cake was only EUR2 which was well worth it in my opinion. Its a very interesting place to sit and people watch. I was surprised how many people just walked through this area just to get to different parts of the ship rather than actually sit down and enjoy the buzz. A lovely Girl from Jamaica called Karen always had a chat and we had a few laughs also. She was one of only three Jamaicans onboard. The crew tended to be Phillipinos,Indians and then a few from Peru. The top jobs were all Italians. One small point that I did not like was that I was next in line at a bar one evening and next to be served. Then up walked an officer and the barman ignored me and attended to him first. Not a big deal but made me feel that he valued crew before passengers.
The thing that Costa lacks is an alternative buffet dinner restaurant that you can find on other lines. If you didnt want basic pizza then your were out of luck. I felt they could offer maybe two main course choices with beef / chicken and rice and veg etc as an alternative to the dining room. The room service was included for me as a Prem perk. This too was very basic. bland chicken sandwiches which were quite dry as was the cake of the day.The salads were not upto much either.The room service coffee was decent though. These are all areas that Costa could improve on. With NCL or RCI you can order cheesecake and a burger etc... should you wish. One thing I will say is that by the pool aft of the ship they did a late breakfast until 11am which was great. Also mid ship by the pool area was a very nice place to have a snack around 2-4 . They had salads,hot dogs and burgers which were pretty decent. At all times when these buffets were open you could get free iced water or hot tea and coffee from the self service machines. Also at dinner iced water was plentyful from the waiters free of charge.
I did not take any shore excursions as I prefer to do my own thing. I did however take the Costa shuttle buses at Barcelona,Palma and Marseille. You could buy these for between EUR6-9 from the self service kiosks near the atrium/shops. Cagliari and Palermo are all walking distance from the ship and these were really nice ports of call.
Marseille : I had read reports of building work here and there is indeed a lot of work going on near where the ship docks but in the centre of Marseille and around Vieux Port ( marina ) there is nothing that you would notice and its a lovely city to visit. Shuttle bus is essential here and I would not recommend walking its way too far even for the fit.
Entertainment onboard was not bad at all. I went to the shows every night. The Spanish dancing got a bit boring after 20 minutes but the two singers from South Africa were excellent. The crew and staff also produce a show one night and it was very good and varied. They have an Italian version of the Bee Gees also and this was quite funny but actually quite enjoyable. I was actually surprised at the quality of the performances. They were not as polished as NCL or Celebrity but still acceptable. Various singers and musicians were at the numerous bars onboard in the evening and these were pleasant too.
The disco was a very interesting design which I liked but did not go as it seemed to be a teen attraction on this cruise. On other cruise lines you tend to get a mix but not on here. Im 37 but would most certainly have felt out of place amongst the 17-21 year olds.
Disembarkation was smooth. I left my cabin around 0845am and had to meet in a lounge for 10am where coloured tags were called. I got off the ship and my bag was waiting for me right away. As I came out of the baggage area I was directed to the transfer bus to take me to Rome airport.
So all in all it was a great cruise. It is something I would do once every few years and I still prefer the NCL RCI CEL style and product. I dont think I would pay full price for Costa but if another GBP199 offer came up again for a balcony and the ports of call were of interest I would certainly go for it. Because of various pick up points along the way you do seem to feel its like a bus rather than a cruise. ( that phrase was also used by a staff member I spoke to).One night you would see a few couples at surrounding tables only to be replaced by a new lot the next port of call. People were getting on and off at every port. Not a big deal but quite noticable.
Just a note on smoking. I am not a smoker but a lot of my family are. I dont like it but put up with it. I can understand why some people would be put off by it in some of the public areas as I did really notice it namely walking through the casino. It was very strong. Just a point for those who are concerned about health issues etc.. One point to add is that a member of crew I spoke to said the company was really suffering after the Concordia incident. As for the drills onboard I still felt it was rushed and amateur compared to other lines. People joining at all different ports add to this perception. You watch a quick video in a lounge then are taken for two minutes to your muster area and thats it. I just feel that on other lines you are part of a more thorough briefing rather than a video on a projector screen.
They also offered a behind the scenes tour for EUR60 which I did not take as I thought it was a lot for what it was and I guess Costa are trying to make money where they can these days. I noticed that too on the Gala night in the New York New York where at dessert they came around with trays offering to sell premium desserts for around EUR7. Just felt cheap to me.
Anyway hope you find this information useful and if you have any questions feel free to ask. I will be uploading sample menus etc.. shortly.