My wife and I travelled on the Costa Favalosa out of Venice on 23 September 2012 and visited Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. We had a standard inside cabin on Deck 7.
We initially chose this cruise because it fitted in with other plans we had in Europe. Having had read some of the previous reviews, we were concerned we had made a grave mistake, particularly in relation to the smoking as we are both committed non-smokers. After having now completed the cruise, I can say those concerns were unfounded and we found the whole experience very good.
We stayed in a hotel in Venice (Mestre) for two nights prior to the cruise. This was a good decision as the hotel (Hotel Tritone) was good quality and at a much more reasonable price that staying at a hotel in Venice proper. On the day of the cruise, we caught the train to the St Lucia Train Station with the intention of dragging the suitcases over to the Piazzale Roma and then catching the People Mover to the cruise terminal.
On arrival at the St Lucia Train Station, we were approached by a man who offered to take our cases and, for 5 Euro each, they would be delivered directly to our cabin on the ship. We had not been made aware that this service was available and so were very skeptical at first. After making some enquiries at a nearby information office and seeing the large number of cases being collected for a number of cruise ships, we decided to give it a go. Sure enough, the suitcases were delivered to the cabin as promised. Not having to drag the cases to the cruise terminal and through the boarding process was a bonus.
Our boarding process ran quite smoothly although I thought there should have been a few more signs to direct passengers to the various areas. We had to ask a few questions at the time but had no real issues.
Costa go to a lot of trouble to say that you are definitely not allowed to take food or drinks on board with you. We had some food related items from Australia as gifts for family members in Europe after the cruise. We mentioned it at boarding and the young lady seemed a bit confused by it but reinforced it wasn't allowed. In the end, we just took the items on board and nobody seemed to care.
We were very happy with our 'standard inside cabin'. They may be compact but they were fine as far as we were concerned. It had a king sized bed and everything we needed. The cabin was clean and spotless and was well serviced during the cruise. Some people have made mention of the drawer handles. There is no doubt they were a bad idea and should be replaced but a little ingenuity will solve the problem.
We had real concerns about the fact that smoking was allowed on the ship, especially after reading some of the reviews. Can I say that this did not cause us any issue whatsoever. We are early to bed and early to rise people and only spent limited time in the bars but, even when we did, it was not a concern. And we absolutely HATE smoking.
People in some reviews complained about the food. We had no problems with the food at all. It may not be top shelf cuisine but it was tasty, well presented and, from our perspective, a reasonable variety. This applied to the formal restaurants and the buffets. There was also plenty of it.
There is no doubt that English speaking passengers were in the minority. With the different nationalities, all announcements were given in English, Italian, French, German and, I think, Spanish. Because they had to say it all five times, it was often done very quickly by the same person (clever people). This did become tedious at times but what else can they do? Small price to pay.
We went on two excursions, at Katakolon and Izmir. This was mainly because the venues (Olympia and Ephesus) were quite a distance from the ports. I am not a fan of guided tours generally but these were acceptable under the circumstances. The process in organizing the passengers from the ship to the various coaches was well handled and ran quite smoothly.
The only costs we incurred on board were the mandatory service charge (tipping) of 7 Euros per day per passenger and we purchased three hours of internet. This three hours turned out to be just the right amount of time to last the seven day cruise but make sure you exit out of it after use. The instructions are not as clear as they should be so I would suggest you seek some advice from the Information Desk to make sure you are logging out appropriately, otherwise you will chew the time up very quickly.
Contrary to some of the reviews, we found the crew members were generally friendly and would often greet us and smile without prompting. The cabin steward was excellent, did a great job of servicing the cab and was at all times friendly and pleasant. Similarly, we had no problems with other passengers. In any group of people this large, you will some who are grumpy. Nevertheless, we were able to have pleasant interactions with people from France, Germany and Italy. The language differences just made it more interesting.
There was a Gala Dinner and a Cocktail Party (meet the Captain) but these were fairly average events. The Gala Dinner wasn't much different to other nights foodwise but they put on a bit of a show and gave the passengers a glass of wine. Meeting the Captain and the ship's officers was no big deal. We only went to one of the night time shows which we thought was well done.
I am an ultra marathon runner so, to try and fight off the inevitable increase in weight which follows these cruises, I would get up each morning and go for a one hour run. If you are of a like mind, I would suggest you go to Deck 4 and not the designated running track on Deck 12. The designated running track is fairly short and, on the mornings I was there, the wind was blowing a gale and the decks were wet from being washed down by the crew. In contrast, Deck 4 is sheltered, non slippy and longer. Even to this day, I am not sure if I was allowed on that deck because I never saw any other passengers there, just crew having a smoke. I just smiled, they smiled back and I kept running.
The only real problem we had with the cruise experience occurred after we had left the ship. When you are on the ship, you are required to provide credit/debit card details or a cash deposit to cover any expenses you have on the ship. In the case of the credit/debit card, the total amount is deducted from the card at the end of the cruise. Seems simple.
I provided the details of my debit card, on which I had deposited 600 Euros before I left Australia. I provided the details of this card to Costa to deduct any charges accrued during the cruise. These costs amounted to 125 Euros and this was duly charged against my debit card.
After leaving the ship and whilst still in Europe, I tried to withdraw money from my debit card at an ATM, only to be told I had insufficient funds. When I went online to check the status of the card, I discovered that a further 111 Euros had been put 'on hold' by Costa, effectively preventing me accessing the funds. This amount comprised four separate transactions of 14 Euros, 42 Euros, 54 Euros and 1 Euro. There was no indication what the charges were for.
I immediately sent an email off to Costa to get the matter sorted. To be fair, the lady I dealt with was very helpful but, surprisingly, was not able to give me any idea what the charges represented or why they were 'on hold'. She immediately made efforts to have the funds released but, even when this was done, she advised it was then up to my bank to give the final okay. Overall, this took 12 days and caused me some considerable inconvenience as I had to loan some money to cover my immediate needs. I still have not had a reasonable explanation from Costa why this occurred.
My only other 'whinge' about the whole process is that Australians have to pay triple what USA and Canadian citizens pay for exactly the same cruise. Nobody seems to be able to explain that to me either.
Overall though, my wife and I were very happy with the cruise and would be pleased to sail with Costa again.