Booked this well in advance and decided to upgrade to a balcony premium room as also taking teenager with us. Given the reviews of Magica and Costa (read them after booking...) I was concerned that we may regret choosing this - but the itinery was fab and we have been on a couple of cruises before in eastern med with Royal Caribbean - so checked re package and location of cabin carefully - got a single bed sofa sorted rather than bunk bed - and chose Deck 9 as close to bars/buffet/pool etc.
We had a fantastic week - and this is why I am writing the review (given the majority of very negative ones!) - as we really rated the following:
- the dining room/food ! we were seated at an English speaking table and we had a laugh from the off. Hello Steve and Trish and John and Bev if you are reading this!
- the staff - we found everyone helpful and friendly - far more than previous cruises - we enjoyed the gala night - it wasnt formal or stuffy and the whole set up is very relaxed and casual - if you want formal dont book this ship!! Norbert was excellent
- the premium room - spacious and spotless all week - decent shower and loads of storage space. Decent bed including the single one - the sofa bed wasnt a hassle and just stayed down along wall all week which was ideal.
- embarking/disembarking - all very straight forward - no waiting getting on or off and the same throughout at various stop offs. We got a public bus from central station when arrived at Stockholm - after gettting Arlanda Express from airport - takes 30 mins and cheap!
- the itinery - we chose this primarily as we wanted to get as much time in St P and Stockholm as possible - we booked our own shore excursions in St P and did our own thing in other cities. We had a brilliant time in St P as we wanted to do more specific history and politics tours so used Ulko Tours to go to the Political History museum (fantastic - you could spend 5-6 hours there - ask for english speaking tour guide before you go) and also smaller KGB museum. Also did general city tour 1 day with Advertura - very good. These were costly - so it does add a lot to the overall cost of the holiday which we didnt realise when booking cruise.
We booked our own flights to and from Stockholm separately so this gave us an extra day in Stockholm - otherwise we would have had to leave the ship by 4.30am on the last day. So this worked out for us and accomm in Stockholm was reasonable - stayed at Park Inn - a couple of stops on metro which was excellent.
So overall we were impressed with Costa and would use them again. Yes - the majority of the passengers are Italian/Spanish (no surprise there then) and yes it was loud and noisy in all the public bars/spaces. The entertainment was as to be expected (!) and yes Costa makes the staff try to sell all sorts so there is too much selling at the info sessions - but we found the overall service and the dining experiences great. Just one thing Costa - please add water to the drinks package - its madness not being able to get a glass of water but as many spirits/wine/beer as you wish.
Spacious - 3 of us staying - 18 year old had the sofa bed which remained made up all week and did not reduce the space available for all of us. Loads of storage space - 3 big wardrobes and stored cases under very large comfortable double bed.
Shower/bathroom all fine.
Very clean and housekeeping very good all week.
Beach towels supplied in room. Towels refreshed as required.
Little bit noisy with door slamming but no engine noise as deck 9!
Great as very close to pool bar/buffet/lifts and we preferred this to being out of the way on lower decks.