Costa Cruises

Italian Flavor: Entertainment, activities, and cuisine are presented with European (mostly Italian) flair. Plus, most of the officers are Italians, too.

Very Active, Very Fun: There are a lot of activities, and Costa passengers love to participate, creating a festive and social environment morning to night (could be all those espressos that keep the adrenaline up!).

Budget-Friendly: These cruises start out at prices that won't break the budget, and there are often discounts available that make them even more reasonable.

Family-Friendly: Much like Carnival, Costa caters to families with kids of all ages with dedicated Kids and Teens programs and plenty of diversions to keep the little ones happy.

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Cons

Smoking: While the idea of sailing with lots of people from the Continent sounds romantic, there.

Can be culture clashes on a variety of issues, and the largest issue for many Americans is the smoking. (Smoking is allowed on deck and on balconies, and even bars have special sections for smokers. )

Crowding: These ships are rambunctious, and they're not the right fit for travelers looking for a quiet vacation away from crowds. Expect long lines for, well, pretty much everything. Announcements: Every day, every announcement on every sailing is made in a variety of languages over the loudspeaker system. A simple, one-minute announcement can stretch to four or five minutes, depending on how many different nationalities are onboard.

Overview

These inexpensive cruises require you to lower a few standards but with bargain basement deals available, you just might be willing to do that. This Italian line, now sadly most famous for the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, is owned by Carnival Corporation, so some of the very Italian things once found onboard (such as fab pasta) are in the past, though you can still get thin crust pizza as well as Italian espresso, charcuterie, and cheeses.

EXPERIENCE

For years, Costa has played up its Italian heritage as the main element that distinguishes it from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and the rest even though the line is part of the Carnival Corporation empire, and many members of the service staff are as Italian as Chico Marx. Still, there's an Italianate essence here, with more pasta dishes on the menu than on any other line; more classical Italian music among the entertainment offerings; activities facilitated by a young, usually Italian, and ridiculously attractive animation staff; and a huge number of Italian Americans among the passengers. The interiors of the line's newest ships are by Carnival's designer-in-chief Joe Farcus, who took inspiration from Italy's traditions of painting and architecture but still stuck close to his signature more is more style think Florence by way of Vegas.

Costa cruises the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, as well as the Red Sea; Dubai/United Arab Emirates sailings; and as far east as the Indian Ocean and Mauritius and into the Far East. Costa also cruises in the Baltic and the Norwegian fjords. Closer to home, you can find Costa in the Caribbean and into South America as well.

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