Age: 36 to 45
Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Costa
Ship: Costa Classica
Sailing Date: October 18, 1999
Itinerary: Western Mediterranean 7 days
My wife and I booked our (first ever) 7 day cruise on the Costa Classica 3 weeks before travel via an English Travel
Our package included return flights from London Stanstead Airport to Genoa in North Italy from where the ship was to sail, then to visit; Naples, Palermo, Tunisia, Palma, Barcelona, Marseilles and back to Genoa.
Once our tickets and detailed itinerary arrived we were slightly worried because over 5 hours had been allowed between arrival at Genoa airport and embarkation but only 30 minutes for the return journey.
We flew from Stanstead with Ryanair, which required a 6am check in! The plane was half an hour late leaving as I think they had mislaid the crew.
Embarkation at Genoa was a bad experience. After arrival at the Genoa docks we joined long queue to check it. We were informed that embarkation would not start for at least two hours (our bus had been late from the airport which did reduce the wait). Other passengers mostly, French, German, Italian, Spanish and American had arrived by different means and had varying delays. Promised free drinks never appeared and the Genoa terminal building has no facilities - it is a dump. On this day it was cold and raining. The only refreshments were available from a cafe outside the terminal. Our schedule showed our next meal to be 9pm that night. Between plane taking off at 7.30 am to 9pm no provision at all had been made for our comfort. Ryanair, do not even carry food on their planes.
Once on the ship we received a warm reception and were personally shown to our cabin, where our luggage was ready and waiting.
Our outside cabin was mid-ships on deck 7. It had a large double bed, television, two chairs, small table, safe, telephone, and bathroom, with shower and toilet. The bed was comfortable with no sags or lumps. The air conditioning was very responsive and easy to control. The cabin window although not huge, gave a good view even when sitting down. The cabin was well soundproofed and we heard no noise from neighboring cabins, and very little from the corridor outside.
Our Steward made up our room twice a day, although we did notice that the carpet only got vacuumed once or twice during the whole week.
We had been told that the ship was Italian with Italian crew. This was partly true. Many of the crew were Italian, but most were not. For example, our Steward, very friendly and helpful, if slightly unorganized, was Polish and many of rest of the crew were Phillippino. There common language was as much English as Italian. All announcements were made in 5 languages.
I need to explain that our holiday objectives were to use the ship as a floating hotel to visit some new places of interest. My wife and I are not great ones for participating in organised activities or entertainment, or eating round the clock. Dressing up for formal dinners fills us with dread. As this was an international boat, with the emphasis on informality we were confident that our needs would be met - mostly they were.
Breakfast could be taken in the dining room but we always used the buffet. Invariably there were queues. Fresh fruit was plentiful. Bread was dry. Coffee only luke warm, and the water provided to make tea just not hot enough to do so. Bacon, sausages eggs were also on offer.
Lunch was much better. Once again this could be taken in the dining room or at the buffet, where a barbecue was usually available. Apart from tea and coffee, drink had to be purchased from a waitress, and although they were usually very quick, on more than one occasion we had finished our meal before our drink arrived. We only ever ate in the buffet/barbecue, some of the food had obviously been good when prepared but by the time it was served was not - it is simply not possible to keep chips warm over a bain-marie
Dinner, was, for us, an unfortunate affair. Between 7pm and Midnight it was pretty impossible to get anything to eat apart from in the formal dining room. There was no buffet or similar. We had opted for the second sitting which was always between 9pm and 9.30. On more than one occasion we either did not want a full meal or did not want to eat so late, so did not bother.
Our waiters were very charming and amusing and it was almost worth visiting the dining room just to see them. They could not have been more helpful.
There was only one evening where the dress code in the dining room was formal, and in some ways it was fortunate that a storm gave us the excuse to retire to our cabin. On informal nights one or two wore a jacket and tie, but most just slacks and polo shirt or similar. Ladies mostly wore dresses, skirts that type of thing. As is usual, the Italians and Spanish looked elegant whatever they wore.
Room service was available, but we did not use this as the choice was limited to three different sandwich type things.
We visited one show during our trip. Technically good but not to our taste, being all song and dance and perhaps a little dated by British standards.
There were one or two activities arranged during the day, making paper flowers, cocktail mixing demo, etc. These rarely lasted more than 15 minutes and looked slightly embarrassing.
Every evening there was entertainment in the biggest bar. This was usually supplied by a singer and piano player. Quite good as background but as the Michelin guide would say not ‘worth a detour’.
This was a late season cruise, and as such we did not expect perfect weather, and so we were not surprised that on two evenings the boat did move up and down quite a bit. But one or two other passengers said that they had been on rougher seas and other ships were much more stable. At all times the ship was clean and tidy and everything worked.
Disembarkation entailed a lot of hanging around, with little information. We did get to the airport 20 minutes before the plane was due to depart, despite the tight schedule. Our plane was best part of an hour late, no reason or apology was given, so we had plenty of time to hang around - are Ryanair always this bad.
To summarize: The cruise fulfilled our objectives, but not our expectations. We were disappointed by the food and the dining arrangements. Without the 40% discount we would have felt cheated. We might go on another cruise, but perhaps we need to pay a bit more, and do a bit more research first next time.