Costa Cruising-5 things you should know

Most people choose Costa as their cruise line of choice because the itinerary and timing is appealing or because the price is right.  And Costa does provide lively entertainment, good food, and a convivial atmosphere on newer ships with an Italian flair for style and design.  It’s for those who like a youthful international mix of families, couples, and mostly non-English speaking passengers.

If you’ve already made up your mind to cruise Costa (or if you’re on the fence), here are 5 tips that should help:

Reserve early dining-Late dining is just too late.  The seating begins at 9:15PM, and the dining room absolutely will not open until then.  Lines of people just stand around in the hallway waiting for the doors to open.  You will not finish dessert until 11PM.  That is too late for most folks, and on the first night, if your cruise is like mine, it will mean you will miss one of the best shows because it only plays once…and it starts while you’re still eating.  Plus, keep in mind some of the land tours begin at 7:30AM, which doesn’t give you much down time before you’re up and at ‘em.  Usually, I prefer the late seating.  Not on Costa.

Another word about dining: the actual “formal” dining room food is very good, but the casual eating you can get anytime is mediocre cafeteria-style fair at best.  I ate breakfast every morning in the cafeteria and the menu never changed…nor did the food quality.  That’s why the dining room experience is even more important.  Also, on Costa, the “formal” seating often includes a show, put on by the stewards and waiters, that is not to be missed!

Skip the provided tours-I spent big bucks on two tours (270 and 110 Euro pp) and I must say that, while they were very good, they had some major drawbacks as well.  One, when you finish your Costa tour, you are guaranteed to return at the exact same moment as thousands of other Costa passengers who did the same thing, and Costa is not prepared to handle the crowd.  No, instead of heading straight to your room after a long day walking, you’ll line up like cows in a pen waiting to go through a chute to get through security and board the ship.  That line is long….twenty to thirty minutes long.  If you do your own thing, you might still wind up back at the ship at the same time as everyone else, true…but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It isn’t even likely.

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Plus, of course the cruise tour is way more expensive than something you arrange on your own, and probably isn’t as good.  For example, I went on two tours during my recent Scandinavian cruise-one to St Petersburg, one the Stockholm.  

The St. Pete tour was by far the best, but even so, it had some flaws, like when the intercom system didn’t work on the boat portion, or when we went to lunch at a restaurant that served (very dry) turkey and cranberry for lunch, which may be authentic for American Thanksgiving, but not so much for Russia. 

The Stockholm tour provided us with a bag lunch which was just crap, and we were told to eat this inedible garbage during a 1 hour and forty minute break!  That’s right…we had almost two hours in Gamla Stan to explore on our own and to find a nice eatery, but instead we carried around a bag lunch and gulped it down on a park bench.  And I wish we had that time back, because at the end of the tour we had only about an hour at the Vasa Museum, which really deserved more exploration.

Do not miss the shows-They are broadway-style musicals and some amazing acrobatics and dancing.  Well worth seeing!  It’s one of the things Costa does so well!  Get there at least ten minutes early for the most popular shows, as the best seats fill up fast.

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Bring a multi-plug-I had a junior suite on the Costa Magica, so you’d expect to find more luxurious accommodations, and they were…except for the very few electrical outlets in the room.  There were three exactly: Two in the bedroom, one in the bath.  The two in the bedroom were so close together that I often found you couldn’t use them at the same time, depending on the charging device, and of course the one in the bath wasn’t suitable for sensitive electronics. 

To avoid an “outlet war” with your S.O., I’d recommend a three-way multiplug so you can both charge your cell phones/camera batteries at once.

Don’t go for the drink packages-I’m a drinker, and believe me, you can’t drink enough to make this pay for itself.  I had a nice bottle of wine almost every night plus drinks at the bars and even room service delivery of Champagne, and I was still money ahead of the equivalent drink package.

I hope these suggestions help to make your Costa cruise even more enjoyable.  Bon Voyage!

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