If you are considering a cruise with Costa cruise line you might be wondering what is included in the cruise fare. I have taken two Costa Cruises, one on Costa Luminosa ( now Carnival Luminosa) and the much newer, larger ship, Costa Smeralda.
Costa has really upped their game with the newer ships, offering modern ship design and good food – at a very budget-friendly price.
During this post, we will cover everything that is included and everything that isn’t – so that you can budget for your Costa cruise.
Do Costa Cruises Include Meals?
All Costa cruises include all meals as standard. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available in either the buffet or main dining room which are included in the cruise fare. There are also some other options that cost extra but these are optional.
It is possible to cruise with Costa and only eat in the complementary restaurant and buffet.
The Food in The Buffet is Included
I have to be honest, I wasn’t very impressed with the buffet on Costa Luminosa and preferred instead to eat in the main dining room. However, I only paid around £40 per night for that cruise, so I find it amazing that any food was included at all!
The food in the Costa Smeralda buffet was far, far better. Every afternoon we went down to the buffet for a snack of hot churros, which were lovely!
They serve lots of pasta dishes, wonderful bread, cold and cooked meats – and mini pizzas. I never found a full-sized pizza on offer though, probably because Costa would prefer you to pay extra and eat in the speciality pizza restaurant onboard.
There was a great selection of food available in the Costa Smeralda buffet.
The Buffet Is Open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
The buffet is open at various times throughout the day for Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon Snacks and Dinner.
The times may vary from one cruise ship to another, but the following times are examples of the times the buffet was open. In between these times the buffet was shut.
- 7:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Breakfast
- Noon to 3:00 p.m – Lunch
- 4.30 – 5.30 pm – Afternoon Snacks
- 8 – 10.30 pm Dinner
What Drinks Are Available In The Buffet on a Costa Cruise?
- Water is included in the buffet all day. I found it SO difficult to get the water machine on the Costa Luminosa to give me water – when I did get it to work I would fill multiple cups. No such problem on the Costa Smeralda though, I would get water from the machine or order a soft drink from the waiters.
- Tea/Coffee is only included in the buffet at breakfast and during the afternoon tea hour, the rest of the time it is closed.
The Main Dining Room Food is Included
The main dining room was open for breakfast, dinner and occasionally lunch.
Is Water Free on Costa Cruises?
Unlike other cruise lines, Tap water isn’t free in the main dining room on Costa Cruises. Water is free in the buffet.
On our first Costa cruise, we ended up having to buy a water package to have with our meals.
When we went on the Costa Smeralda we decided that a soft drinks package was essential for us. It cost us around £23 a day – quite an outlay when the cruise fare was only £38 per night.
This soft drinks package did include soda, juices, tea, coffee and mocktails.
Costa is the only cruise line I know of that doesn’t provide free tap water in the main dining room. It does, however, provide free water in the buffet.
Breakfast is Always Included
For breakfast on Costa Luminosa, I went to the main dining room. There was the option to have waiter service but there would also often be a buffet section in the middle of the restaurant.
This was my favourite option during my cruise as it meant I had a table but also could select my own food.
On Costa Smeralda, I went to the buffet for breakfast every day. I am not a breakfast person, so grabbing some fruit or a bread roll is always my preferred option. The buffet on Costa Smeralda was SO much better than that on Costa Luminosa.
Lunch Is Always Included
I ate mostly in the Buffet at lunchtime. Sometimes the main dining room was open for lunch, and I took that option instead.
There Are Multiple Options For Dinner
Dinner is a big deal on Costa cruises. The food served is traditionally Italian and there are many courses you can choose from.
The food in the main dining room was of good quality on the Costa Luminosa. The portions were pretty large. To read my full review of the cruise, including the food, check out this post: Costa Luminosa Review 2019
On Costa Smeralda, the food in the main dining room was very good. I was able to look at the food available either on a paper menu, or in the cruise lines App.
I was so impressed by how the waiters could serve guests speaking multiple different languages, just swapping from one language to the next with ease.
To find out about everything I ate onboard Costa Smeralda read this article next:
Costa Mostly Have Fixed Dining
On Costa Luminosa, a table was assigned to us for the duration of the cruise and this is your every dinner.
A similar thing happened on Costa Smeralda – although originally my parents and I were given separate tables as we had made two separate bookings.
They were very good at sorting this out for us, and from the second night, we were assigned a table and early dining. (The first night, we also sat together, but at a different table that happened to be free.)
Costa has two seatings of dinner per night and it is possible to select which one you would like before the cruise. If for some reason you get onboard and realise you have the early seating and would like late, or vice versa, Costa will try and change this for you onboard.
On the Costa Luminosa, we sat at a large table with guests that spoke English.
On the Costa Smeralda in 2023, our group of four had a table to ourselves. This could be because of changes made since the Covid pandemic, or the fact that Smeralda is a much newer, less traditional cruise ship.
Two Costa Ships Have Flexible Dining
English Speaking Representatives
All Costa ships have an English-speaking representative onboard.
We could call them anytime if we had any questions or problems – which we did. Our representative was always available and regularly checked with all of the English-speaking guests that the cruise was going well.
Our flight home from Barcelona at the end of our Costa Smeralda cruise wasn’t until the evening. We spoke to our representative Shannon, and she let us know that we could stay on board later if we wanted to.
We stayed onboard until 4 pm on the last day, and we were still able to eat and use our drinks packages. I have never had that on any other cruise line.
Costa has guests embarking and disembarking at every port, so as long as we were off of the ship before she sailed away, they were happy.
Only 4% of guests spoke English on our Costa Smeralda cruise. It didn’t cause us any problems, but there were certain cultural differences regarding meal times and bedtimes – we found that Italians eat late, and party even later!
If you are concerned about the language barrier when onboard, don’t be! It never caused us a problem. Read the article below where I talk more about this:
Extra Charges For Food Items On Costa Smeralda
The Salty Beach – Street Food – Additional Charge Fast Food Restaurant
The Salty Beach is an additional Charge Fast Food Restaurant under the dome on deck 16 on Costa Smeralda.
Here you can order either a meal – burger or toasted Panini with fries and a cake for €5 – or just a burger or toasted Panini for €3.50.
At time of writing, this is around $5.50/£4.50 for the meal or $3.80/ £3 for just the burger or panini.
Pummid’Oro Pizzeria – Additional Charge Pizzeria
They serve a selection of Pizzas, and you pay per item, as in a normal restaurant on land.
The pizzas we chose were €9 and €11.
You could, of course, save yourself the money, and go to the buffet and have two mini pizzas instead!
Costa Cruises do have room service but each item has an individual charge, unless you are staying in a suite or premium cabin.
Room service is available 24 hours a day
There is an element of upselling on Costa cruises. That said, I was amazed that any food was included for the price that we paid for our cruises!
If you don’t want to spend any extra money on food during your cruise that is completely fine.
I have to admit I did keep some biscuits and snacks in my cabin (bought on land) for the times when the buffet wasn’t open. I do tend to always take a packet of “emergency biscuits” – or cookies, just in case anyway.
To learn more about my First Costa cruise on Luminosa, watch this live stream I did when I came back:
Other Speciality Restaurants
There are a variety of different Speciality restaurants onboard all of Costa’s Fleet of ships.
There is an additional charge to be paid when you eat in all of these restaurants.
You can find details about the restaurants available on your particular ship on the Costa App or the daily schedule delivered to your cabin in the evenings
The Costa App
We found the Costa App to be very useful and better than some other ship Apps we have used.
We particularly liked the Chat feature, which enabled us to contact other members of your party. This is particularly useful on a big ship like Smeralda, where you might struggle to ever find your friends and relatives again!
Find out all about cruise line Apps, and what they can be used for in the article below:
Is Costa a Good Cruise Line for Families?
I have never seen as many children onboard a ship, as when I sailed on Costa Smeralda!
Costa has a very good included kids club, many kid’s activities, and Peppa Pig even made an appearance – she was talking Italian of course…
Costa is a Cruise line that is very popular with families. I have never seen so many pushchairs and strollers lining the cabin corridors as on Costa Smeralda!
Costa does offer very attractive fare promotions for children. Children can be booked onboard at a child’s price right up until they reach eighteen, which is not the case with many other lines.
This makes Costa an attractive and affordable proposition for many families.
To find out all about my cruise on Costa Smeralda, and find out whether a Costa cruise might suit you, watch this video next:
Before you Go!
To find out all about my “interesting” balcony cabin onboard the Costa Smeralda, read this article next:
My parents booked the cheapest cabin on the same cruise. It cost them £279 ($330) for the week! To find out about the cabin they were allocated and whether they were pleased with it, read this next:
Another Italian cruiseline that people often compare to Costa are MSC. They also provide value cruises at affordable prices. I picked MSC when taking some friends on their first ever cruise. The cruise fare was only £320 ($410) for six nights. Find out how we got on, and whether they enjoyed it here:
Book A Cruise
If you are watching my videos and you’d like to book anything that you see, my friendly, knowledgeable partner travel agents can help!
They can help you find the cruise that will suit you and your family. It never costs more than booking directly with the cruise line, and you get impartial advice, and often a better price or added extras – like onboard credit -that you wouldn’t get booking direct.
Fill in the form below and we will get back to you.
Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources
Book a Cruise
Get Travel Insurance
Shop Cruise Gifts and Merchandise
Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide
Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.
This free email course will show you everything you need to know to find, book and enjoy your perfect cruise.