Costa neoRomantica Entertainment & Activities
Mine was a port-intensive cruise with only one full day at sea (the last). The cruise director's staff are called "animators," and so they are. They must liven things up in five or six languages, and they succeed admirably.
There are few planned activities, and rarely are two scheduled to happen concurrently. More often than not, there's time between activities. If you don't want to miss anything, you won't.
There are competitions like ring toss, passing a hula hoop from one person to the next while holding hands, and kicking shoes into a wastebasket affixed to a higher deck. For the more sophisticated passengers, there are group dance lessons. There are also trivia quizzes (quite a feat, given the languages spoken). Each language has its own host.
Each evening there was a show in the Opera Theatre. It was given twice -- an earlier pre-dinner show for the late seating, and a later post-dinner show for the early seating. In order to appeal to the greatest number of people, the acts were mostly visual. There is a resident song and dance troupe, and there are other entertainers who rotate among Costa's fleet. On my cruise there were several singers, a magician and a contortionist(!). The singers and dancers performed enthusiastically, but the sound level was deafening.
In the Tango Lounge each evening, a talented Macedonian couple played musical instruments and sang to a click track. There was a pianist who played cocktail music in the Piazza. There's jackpot Bingo daily, though, alas, no art auction.
Cocktails and other beverages are served at the Capri Bar (midships pool area); Grand Bar; Juliet Bar; Terrazza Bar; Tango Ballroom; Opera Bar; and Diva Club. Prices are fair for mixed drinks (5 to 6 euros [$6 to $7.20]). Italian drinks like Grappa and Limoncello are available, and all bars serve Lavazza cappuccino and espresso, regular and decaf, for a nominal charge (under $2). Children (and adults not too proud to ask for a "children's card") can have a card that entitles them to 20 juices or soft drinks (but not mineral water) at a discount. As it is an Italian ship, Costa Romantica's wine list runs heavily to Italian wines. While a few wines are expensive, there are many to choose from at between 17 and 19 euros ($18.40 to 20.80) per bottle. Half liter carafes of wine are available at 8 euros ($9.60), and wines by the glass for 4.50 euros ($5.40).
The video arcades contain a large number of games that cost .40 euros ($.48). There are also shove ha'penny and hockey games that are free. The Excelsior Casino has one dice table, three blackjack tables (minimum bet: 3 euros [$3.60]), one Caribbean stud and one Caribbean draw table, roulette and .10, .20, and .50 euro slot machines. The casino is quite small and not crowded on European sailings. The Tango Ballroom is an aft-facing lounge with tiered seating. This is the ship's alternative show lounge, which offers musical acts and a small floor for ballroom dancing. There is a bar (with bar stools).
Are religious services "entertainment?" Three religions had major observances the week I was onboard. Muslims observed Mawlid an Nabi, the Prophet Mohammed's birthday. Despite there being Muslim passengers and crew onboard, there was no mention of the holiday in "Today." Jews observed Passover. There was also no mention of the holiday in "Today." A nice touch would have been an offer on the part of the ship's company to provide Jewish passengers with the necessary foods for a Seder and to offer space for one. Christians observed Holy Week and celebrated Easter. The ship's resident Roman Catholic priest offered the customary services, but he apologized for not speaking French, English or German and told the Spaniards they could understand Italian (which I'm sure came as news to them). The ship's accommodation of religious observance was, given the particular week of my cruise, inadequate. The ship was decorated with white crepe paper bells and Styrofoam cutouts of doves -- which were intended to be Easter decorations -- and each cabin door was decorated with a crepe paper egg. On Easter Eve passengers were given large Lindt chocolate Easter eggs in their cabin.
Costa neoRomantica Public Rooms
The ship is quite easy to navigate. There are thirteen decks and each passenger deck has a number and is named for a European city; stairway landings are decorated with each city's coat of arms. The two major stairways are open and made of marble. There are two banks of elevators, with four elevators apiece. Most public rooms are on Decks 8 and 9. On Deck 13 there's the Diva Disco, an underused circular room with panoramic views of the sea. (The room is mostly given over to teen activities, except for late at night.)
On Deck 9 from fore to aft are the upper level of the Opera Theatre; the Opera Bar; the Via Condotti, which contains four shops; the Romeo and Juliet Bars; two video arcades; the Casino Excelsior; and the aft facing Tango Ballroom. The Opera Theatre is a two level show lounge, built in the style of a Roman amphitheater. The stadium seating affords everyone a good view, except for those seated behind pillars. The seats are bolt upright and very uncomfortable. The other spectators are often more entertaining than the show on offer. There is no provision for service of drinks in the theatre.
The Opera Bar is a sit down bar (no bar stools) and the only indoor place onboard for cigar smoking. The Romeo and Juliet Bars overlook the Piazza below. The Romeo Bar doubles as the Pizzeria, while the Juliet Bar is the ship's wine bar.
The ship's shops include the photographer's shop, where you may pay for photographs, download digital photos, buy supplies and (surprisingly) mail letters and postcards. (This last service costs 1.50 euros [$1.80] per postcard or letter to the USA, which makes the 2 euros [$2.40] for a digital postcard seem like a bargain! Postcards, which are not stocked free in the cabin, cost 1.50 euros [$1.80].) Photos cost 11.95 euros ($14.40).
Other shops include a duty-free store for liquor, perfume and cigarettesa a shop that sells Murano glass jewelry and other fashion items, and another that sells other jewelry and watches. Interestingly, there is no logo shop, per se -- the duty-free carries a limited line of Costa souvenirs -- and none of the usual Swarovski and Lladro.
The pubic rooms on Deck 8 from fore to aft are the lower level of the Opera Theatre, a small Roman Catholic chapel, two meeting rooms, the Piazza Italia, card rooms, and the library and Internet center. The chapel has an icon of the Virgin Mary, a free-standing altar and stations of the cross. The two meeting rooms are used by affinity and incentive groups. (An English language movie was screened in one of the meeting rooms once during my cruise.) The Piazza Italia is the focal point of the ship and reminds one of a plaza, er piazza, in a European town. There is a dance floor and a space for musicians, and the ship's main bar, the Grand Bar, is also located here. With marble floors it is a noisy, but joyful space.
The card rooms each have four bridge tables (cards and games are available from Reception). The library has four bookcases divided by language: Italian, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English. Most books are paperbacks that appear to have been left behind by previous passengers. Passengers may access books for one hour only each day.
In the Internet Center there are six computers with flat-screen monitors. As this is the only place on the ship for internet connectivity -- there is no broadband in the cabins, nor Wi-Fi anywhere -- the number would have been inadequate, and the situation was made inexcusable when the system crashed on the second day of my cruise and was not restored thereafter. The cost for surfing the Web is .50 euros ($.60) per minute. The Lobby is located on Deck 5 where reception and the tour office are situated. The pursers at reception have the daunting task of answering questions in many languages. They wear pins with flags representing the languages they speak.
There are laundry and dry cleaning services, but no self-serve launderettes.
Costa neoRomantica Spa & Fitness
There are two swimming pools, one aft on Deck 10 where children are not allowed, and one amidships on Deck 10 where they are welcome. There are four hot tubs behind the aft pool, which were well patronized. The gym, while compact, offers all the standard machines: cross country skiing, stationary bicycling, rowing, resistance training, together with free weights. Exercisers overlook the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows. Passers-by can watch the workers-out from the corridor through large circular windows.
There are saunas with male-only, female-only and mixed times (bathing suits must be worn). There's a Ping-Pong table and two outdoor Foosball tables. There are no other outdoor sports areas: no shuffleboard, no quoits, no ring toss, no basketball, no skeet shooting, no putting green or driving range. A jogging/walking track circles part of Deck 11, but it can become impeded by deck chairs. There's a sufficient number of good quality metal sun loungers and a particularly nice arrangement of them in tiers around the aft pool. Both pools are protected against the wind. Pool towels and blankets are available from pool attendants.
Forward on Deck 11 there are padded wicker basket chairs that provide charming vantages from which to view the sea.
The gym and spa are located on Deck 11. The spa is franchised to Steiner Leisure, the London salon operator, and features their usual price scale: e.g., Elemis Face & Body Therapy (160 euros [$192]), Aromapure Massage (50 minutes: 99 euros [$119]), Deep Tissue Massage (45 minutes: 105 euros [$126]).
Costa neoRomantica For Kids
I cannot sing the praises of this ship highly enough when it comes to accommodating families with children and teens. Because my cruise sailed during a school holiday, there were hundreds of children and teenagers onboard. While this could be cause for alarm for adults without children, it was actually a pleasant experience. The children's animation staff coped admirably with the added number of kids.
The Squok Club is the line's name for its children's program. It's divided into Minis (ages 3 to 6) and Maxis (ages 7 to 11). Activities were scheduled in blocks from 9 a.m. to noon, 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight. The children's room was far too small (though it is filled with fun, colorful stuff) to contain the number of children, so counselors improvised with excursions around the ship, using public rooms during off-hours for children's activities. (The line also offered staffed activities for children between 3 and 11 during port calls, so parents could take excursions without their children.)
Teenagers were divided between juniors (12 to 14 years) and seniors (15 to 18 years). There were socials and contests scheduled for this group, but the teens seemed happiest just hanging out with each other around the pool, in the video arcade or in one of the public rooms. (I never saw a rowdy teenager.) It was heartening to see young people enjoying a cruise. It made me believe there would still be cruisers in the future. (I went on my first cruise when I was 14 and was hooked for life.)