Costa Cruises is owned by Carnival but is an Italian cruise line. Most of the staff are required to know and speak Italian and even some
French. Costa attracts many Italian and French guests and English is not the first language of the ship. All ship announcements will be
in Italian first, then French, then Spanish, and if you're lucky they'll mention only emergency announcements in English. This left us
being very confused with port arrivals and when guests were allowed to depart.
We have cruised with Costa Cruises twice. Once in 2008 on the Costa Fortuna for 7 days in the Caribbean. It left from Miami and went to Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman.
We also cruised with them in December 2019-January 2020 on the Costa Magica for 14 days. We left from Guadeloupe and went to Martinique, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Maarten, Tobago, Grenada, Tortola, and Barbados. We went to Guadeloupe and Martinique twice which we really liked as we did something different each time.
Check-In and Muster Drills
I didn't compare the check-in and muster drills on any of the other lines as they were very quick and efficient. With Costa, we felt the check-in process was lengthy. It took at least an hour to drop off our bags, check-in and get on the ship. With other cruise lines, we've been on the ship in less than 15 minutes.
Also, Costa is the only line we've cruised with that takes your passport if you're American or Canadian and returns it after the ship. It felt a little uneasy to be cruising and going to different ports without our passport.
Costa is also the only line we've cruised within the last 10 years that has made guests bring and wear their life jackets during the muster drill. Every other cruise line does not require you bring your life jacket with you, nor wear it, but on Costa, it is 100% required and if you don't bring yours (as we did- because we didn't think we had to), they loaned us one to wear during the muster drill.
Costa also doesn't charge your credit card at the end of your cruise for purchases you've made while cruising. You need to go to a machine at Customer Service and load your credit card information onto your room key and charges are billed at the end of each day. This was something different than we hadn't experienced on other cruise lines.
Our rooms on Costa were very clean. I was impressed. The only complaint I have about the rooms was that they were very noisy. You could hear any noise in the hallway, so much that it felt like we were sleeping without a door to the room. We often used our room bathroom anytime we needed to use the restroom throughout the cruise, as we found the public restrooms were difficult to find and there weren't many on each floor.
All of the shows are in Italian and French which left us going to only a few singing/dancing shows due to those not having a huge language barrier. Costa did have a great show called The Voice where they had 3 judges from their singing department judge the contestants that had auditioned from Karaoke night. We enjoyed listening to the guests sing, but it was hilarious once the judges started talking and judging the guests because it was all in Italian. We truly had no idea what was going on!
The Costa excursions were a really great price compared to the other lines we've cruised with. We purchased a few excursion through Costa due to their price being cheaper than if we did the excursion on our own. The only downside is once you book the excursion you cannot cancel it ahead of time. Many other cruise lines allow you to cancel your excursions up to 24 hours but Costa did not allow this. Because of this, we often purchased our excursions a few days or the night before and hoped they would be available.
One thing we noticed about the Costa Magica was that the buffet lines were always crazy. I'm not sure the reasoning for this but
we tried to avoid the buffet a lot on this ship, where on other ships we never go to the Main Dining Room. The MDR also didn't
have a menu posted. Every other line we've cruised with will have the Dinner menu outside the MDR after lunch so you can
plan if you'd like to eat there, at the buffet, or at a specialty restaurant. If we were interested in knowing what was on the menu, I
would need to ask about 15 minutes before the MDR opened. Costa also had their buffet open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
and while they had 4 separate sections for their buffet, the sections always had the exact same food as the other sections. The food
available at the buffet also didn't vary much from night to night, so we often ate in the MDR as their menu changed.
For Breakfast Costa has open seating in the Main Dining Room. What's unique about their breakfast is a small buffet is set up in
the MDR. We loved this as we could avoid the buffet lines and still have the quiet atmosphere of the MDR. The only thing that
was awkward about breakfast was you were at a table with random people and due to the language barriers on the ship from so
many languages being spoken, rarely anyone at the table spoke. You could also order off of the breakfast menu if you waned
which was nice if you wanted pancakes, or an omelet or something else hot from the kitchen.
We noticed on Costa that in the MDR customer service was not a huge aspect of their culture. If we wanted or needed
something we had to ask for it. If we wanted coffee or juice, we would have to ask. If we wanted to order off the menu, we would
need to get someone's attention and ask to order something. Unlike the other cruise lines, the Costa staff did not willingly ask if
we needed anything, which was new to us as cruisers.
Costa always had a lunch buffet available but due to us being at a different island almost every day, we were never on the ship for
lunch. Thankfully they had tea time in the buffet from 4-5 pm that had small sandwiches, pizza, and a few desserts. We were
thankful for the tea time as getting a snack there held us over until our dining time.
One thing we didn't like about Costa was that Dinner was at 7 pm or 9 pm. We often eat between 5-6 pm and after being on an
island all day, we found waiting until our dining time at 7 pm was difficult even with the tea-time snacks. At Dinner, I believe
Costa tries to seat guests with other guests of the same language. During our first 7 days on the Magica, we were seated at a 10
person table with other Canadians and Americans. During our last 7 days on the Magica when those guests departed, we were
seated with European guests that might speak English and weren't Italian or French. It was nice to get to meet other guests from
all over the country. I think if we wanted to we could have asked to be seated at a table for 2 but we enjoyed meeting other guests.
We did notice that Costa was one of the only lines we've cruised on that still offers lobster and shrimp for free on specific nights
They also offered a free glass of champagne to each guest on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve during dinner.
Water in the MDR is not free to guests unless you are Canadian or American. Due to it being an Italian Line they charge other
guests a fee to bring them a container of water during their dinner. We also were really sad that Costa did not have ice cream
machines on their ships. On every other line we've cruised on we have always enjoyed getting a little cone of ice cream after lunch
or dinner. Costa did have a Gelato shop where you could purchase Gelato and it was very reasonably priced. We noticed that
Costa charged for many things the other cruise lines wouldn't, but their prices were reasonable. Outside of meals, water was
difficult to find on the ship. We would usually fill our water bottles with water for the day, but if we needed water between the
MDR and buffet being open, it was rarely available or only on one deck.
We were quite sad that Costa charged for guests to use their Adult only deck. It was 7 euros a day and they did not have a pool for guests to enjoy. We often hung out on a back deck on sea days, but finding a sea was much harder than we've experienced on other cruise lines.
I rate Costa a 3/10 for the cruises we've been on. I found they charged the same prices as the other cruise lines but didn't offer as many amenities. Customer services was often hard to find and if you only spoke English you often couldn't enjoy the entertainment.