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Why my Costa Cruise Was HALF The Price of Other Cruise Lines

You may see cruises with Costa advertised with ridiculously cheap lead-in prices and wondered how their cruises can be so cheap – compared to other cruise lines.

In this article, we find out how Costa are able to charge such low prices and explore what you would actually get for your money if you booked a low-price cruise like this.

costa smeralda

Who Are Costa Cruises?

Costa Cruises are an Italian cruise line who are now part of the Carnival Corporation Group. They were founded in 1948 and joined Carnival in 2000.

For 75 years Costa Cruises has embodied Italian style and hospitality. With 9 ships in service, our headquarters are in Genoa and we operate at global level, mainly on routes in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, the Caribbean, North and Central America, South America, the Arab Emirates and the Far East. 

Costa Cruises

Why Are Costa Cruises So Cheap?

Carnival Corporation is a very large company.

They save money when ordering and paying for ships by using the same hull design across the Carnival fleet.

Costa Smeralda is an Excellence class ship.

These Excellence class vessels are used by many companies within the Carnival Group. The basic ship design is the same for:

  • P&O’s Iona and Arvia
  • Carnival Celebration, Jubilee and Mardi Gras
  • AIDAnova and AIDAcosma
  • Costa Toscana

These ships carry over six thousand passengers each – meaning that the price each passenger pays will be lower.

It makes sense, if a ship can only accommodate a thousand passengers, it will cost more to run.

The cruise line still has to pay for the crew, port fees, food, fuel etc – so the cost to each passenger will be considerably more.

costa smeralda entertainment acrobatics colosseum

You Can Board The Ship At Multiple Different Ports

This means that the itineraries can be very flexible. You can sail for three or four days, starting and ending in different ports, or stay on for a week or two, starting and ending in the same place.

Costa can attract passengers from multiple different countries, passengers can get onboard at their local port.

You will often find cheap deals on part cruises around the Mediterranean.

Cruise lines don’t want empty cabins, it is far better for them to attract passengers, as they can often make money on drinks and other extras once they are onboard.

Transatlantic sailing can also offer amazing value – but by the time you have added on the cost of the flights to and from the embarkation and disembarkation point, they aren’t so much of a bargain.

You might find you are better to book the trip via a travel agent with flights included instead.

What I like About Multiple Embarkation Points

  • It is completely flexible
    • If you are restricted in the amount of holiday/vacation time you can get off work, you can pick the day to embark that suits you best.
    • If flights are cheaper to larger airports, you can choose to board the ship in Barcelona for example, rather than the next day in Genoa, Italy where flights are more expensive and transfers more problematic
  • You don’t have to be off the ship first thing in the morning on disembarkation day.
    • This is a huge advantage. When i had late afternoon flights booked from Barcelona, the English Speaking Representative told us we could stay onboard until 4pm – just before the ship set sail.
    • Costa didn’t charge any more for late disembarkation, and we were able to continue to use our drinks packages and eat onboard as normal.

What I Didn’t Like About Multiple Embarkation Points

  • You will be aware of Muster Drills going on every day.
    • You don’t have to take part in these drills, once you have done yours, you can ignore them.
    • You might find the muster announcements going on daily slightly annoying!

The Costa Fleet

The Largest Ships Accommodating Around 6650 Passengers

  • Costa Toscana
  • Costa Smeralda
costa smeralda sports court sky walk

Mid Sized Ships Accommodating Approximately 5000 passengers

  • Costa Firenze
  • Costa Venezia
  • Costa Diadema

Smaller ships Accommodating between Three and Four Thousand Passengers

  • Costa Pacifica
  • Costa Fascinosa
  • Costa Serena
  • Costa Favolosa
  • Costa Fortuna
  • Costa Deliziosa

Ship Design

The ship’s public areas are all sparkly and brightly coloured – you could never say that the colours used are subtle or understated.

On the Costa Smeralda every single deck was decorated in a different, bright colour. This meant it was always very easy to find your cabin, you just stopped walking the stairs when you reached the right colour!

costa smeralda bathroom interior
Costa Smeralda public washrooms are my favourite of any I have ever found on a ship – Beach hut themed!

The Interior Design will vary from one ship to another – but all are fun, brightly coloured and sparkly.

I loved the fun statue in the Atrium of the Costa Luminosa. She now sails as Carnival Luminosa since her refurbishment in 2022. I’m glad they didn’t get rid of that statue…

The Most Recent Costa Cruise I Took

The most recent Costa cruise I took was on the Costa Smeralda. She is a very large ship, accommodating up to 6500 passengers.

I travelled in January, which is out of season in the Mediterranean. The prices were very low – they seemed too good to be true!

The advertised price started from £274 /$345 for an inside, guaranteed cabin for a week.

The cabins are comfortable, and the colours are not so bright.

My parents booked the cheapest cabin, and their only complaint was the drink stains on the carpet.

The carpets were plain coloured, and clearly something had been dripped onto the carpet, and no attempt had been made to clean it off but this was hardly a deal breaker.

I loved my balcony cabin, but it had one particularly quirky feature.

Find out more about that here:

Crew/ Passenger Ratio

I have read other reports saying that staffing on Costa ships is low, and criticizing the crew in general.

The cost of the crew is a large outlay for cruise lines, so if they employ fewer staff, they can maximize profits.

I found all the crew onboard Costa Smeralda to be lovely. They had to speak multiple different languages, because passengers were from all over the world.

We found that many seemed to be delighted that we spoke English, as many spoke English far better than they spoke Italian!

Most seemed to have a good working knowledge of Italian, Spanish, French and English – and the Cruise Director spoke many more languages besides!

We never found we had to wait long for drinks or meals – but we were of course sailing out of peak season. The staff might be more stretched in busy months.

I can only speak from my own experience, which was the staff – and the staffing ratio – was perfectly fine.

Food On Costa Cruise Ships

I have heard it said that the food on Costa Cruises is bad.

I enjoyed the included food – and there are extra “paid options” like Pizza or burgers available if you don’t want to eat in the main dining room.

costa cruises buffet food

Again, there are economies in scale here. The kitchens are producing thousands and thousands of meals a day – and savings can be made buy buying food and catering in bulk.

The speciality restaurants and paid food extras are very reasonable in price.

The food is typically Mediterranean – pasta, bread, salads – what you would probably expect.

Look at everything I ate on my Costa cruise in the article below. This will help you decide if Costa would suit you too:

Everything I Ate on my Costa Cruise (Photos and Menus) – Food Review

costa cruises main dining room food menu


Entertainment onboard has to suit guests speaking multiple languages – so don’t expect large Broadway-type productions!

Shows tend to be singing and dancing – where no dialogue is needed.

costa smeralda theatre

There is plenty of live music going on around the ship, and trivia is done in multiple languages – so can seem to take forever!

Find out more about life onboard, including the entertainment here:

Excellent For Families With Children

I have never seen so many families and children onboard a cruise ship!

Buggy’s/strollers lined every cabin corridor, and Italian families eat late and party late with the entire family it seems.

Costa offers VERY attractive pricing for children.

On Costa Cruises, children are considered to be children and will be charged a child price until they are eighteen.

This is very different from many other cruiselines where children can be charged an adult price from as young as twelve years old.

costa smeralda atrium colosseo

You Will Have Extra Charges Once Onboard

It is important to factor in extra prices you will incur once onboard.

Advertised Costa Cruise fares include very little – your travel, your cabin, your food and some entertainment.

The price advertised does not include:

  • Compulsory Daily Service Charges
    • Many American Cruiselines charge a daily gratuity or service charge.
    • These can be removed if you think the service you received is bad. On Costa Cruises this is an obligatory charge that can not be removed.
    • Many British Cruise Lines, such as P&O and Marella include gratuities within their fares. MSC – another Italian cruise line also include gratuities if you book from the UK.
  • Service charges are around 11 per day for adults, and 5.50 a day for children.
    • This is FAR cheaper than many other mainstream cruiselines
  • Cost of Drinks
    • There are very few free drink options available on Costa ships.
    • The buffet is not open for tea and coffee all of the time.
    • Even water in the main dining rooms is chargeable.
  • Speciality Meals/Restaurants
    • As with most cruiselines, Speciality Meals are available at an extra cost.
    • The buffet and main dining room food are always free
  • Excursions
    • Costa excursions prices are reasonable, compared to the prices charged by some American cruise lines.
    • You are able to buy an “excursion package” rather than buying an individual excursion too. This works out cheaper if you are considering more than one excursion.
    • Prices of excursion packages and excursions vary but can be booked via the Costa website or app or once onboard.

Are Costa Cruises Value For Money?

Costa may be a good cruise line for you if:

  • You don’t mind multiple languages being spoken onboard
  • You don’t mind a ship with quite a loud, party atmosphere
  • You are happy to eat Mediterranean-style food
  • You have children
    • The prices are very attractive for children, and the cruise line is very family orientated.
costa smeralda ship rear aft back glass floor

Maybe avoid Costa if:

  • You don’t want to be surrounded by children
  • You prefer American-style food – burgers/ hot dogs etc – or are a “foodie” who likes fine dining.
  • You would find it irritating to have announcements made in multiple languages or don’t want to be surrounded by people of many different nationalities.

Would I Sail With Costa Again?

Yes, undoubtedly.

We all had a great time, and they offered great value for money, wonderful destinations and the ship was beautiful – light, bright and modern.

Once i had paid for extras – like my soft drinks package and gratuities onbard, the flights to Barcelona and back, the cruise cost me around double the lead- in price.

I still consider that to be good value for money. You can pay a lot more for a similar cruise on an American cruise line – and still end up with a large bill for onboard spends at the end of your holiday/vacation.

Before You Go

Many people worry about cruising with Costa if they don’t speak Italian. Find out why speaking English isn’t a problem in the article below:

Can You Cruise With Costa Cruises Speaking Only English? (Entertainment, Staff & More)

MSC are another Italian cruise line offering good value cruises on modern cruise ships. Find out the main differences between a Costa cruise and an MSC cruise here:

7 Differences Between MSC and Costa Cruises – All Italian Cruise Lines Aren’t The Same

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 guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.

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 guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.