This review is primarily for British and Irish people who may be contemplating a cruise with Costa Cruises, although it may equally apply to English speaking natives of the USA, Canada and Australasia. I have tried to be as objective as possible, describing things as my wife and I found them although, inevitably, some subjectivity may be apparent.
My wife and I have just returned from a week on the Costa Favolosa's Middle East cruise, sailing out of Dubai. This was our 12th cruise -- our first with Costa Cruises -- having previously cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, P & O and Star Cruises (in the Far East).
First and foremost Costa is an Italian company aimed primarily at the Italian market. English speaking passengers we found were well down the pecking order.
Check-in -- Having, like many other passengers, flown from various parts of Europe on an overnight flight we arrived at the Dubai Cruise Terminal at 8.30am to be told the check-in process would not begin until 3pm and we would not have access to our cabin (stateroom) until 8pm. Furthermore, our luggage would not be delivered to our cabin until sometime between 8-10pm. This, we were told by Costa staff, is the norm for embarkation in Dubai. Needless to say a very long tiresome wait. The check-in process, unlike most other cruise companies, did not involve taking any proposed payment details (eg credit card). You had to do this within 48 hours once on board.
Ship -- The Costa Favolosa is Costa Cruises newest ship and we found it pleasantly decorated, indeed in places quite colourful, although not over the top. Seating throughout is extensively leather covered rather than upholstery. Sunbeds were plentiful and very comfortable but in certain parts of the ship, such as around the pools, it can become extremely crowded and noisy. Unlike many ships where the aft pool tends to be an oasis of calm, albeit perhaps quite busy, the aft pool on the Costa Favolosa was constantly like Piccadilly Circus (or Times Square).
Smoking is permitted throughout the entire port side of the ship except in the main restaurants and theatre. On the outside upper decks the smell of smoke is not too noticeable but around the enclosed areas of the pools and in the lounges the smell of smoke can be overwhelming, invariably drifting across to the starboard side of the ship. Non-smokers, like my wife and I, found this particularly aggravating.
Accommodation - We found our cabin to be spacious and comfortable and comparable to other ships we have sailed on. It was also well maintained by our cabin attendant. A major drawback in the cabins are the handles on the drawers and wardrobes. These are small pieces of ringed rope which are extremely difficult to grip (even a small finger cannot go through the loop). My wife found it almost impossible to open the drawers and wardrobes.
Staff -- On the whole the staff were pleasant -- particular mention must go to those in the Spa and Samsara Restaurant who could not have been more helpful and attentive. That said we did pay an extra 400 euros per person once on board to use the Spa (which included 2 treatments). This also permitted access to the Samsara Restaurant for all meals. One obvious fact in respect of bar service, almost entirely throughout the ship, was the shortage of waiting staff. This was particularly noticeable around the pool where, sometimes, one lone server could be found. It was invariably quicker to go the bar and get served.
Food and drink-- The food in the buffet restaurant, both in choice and quality, was truly awful - by far the worst we have ever encountered. Whilst we ate in the Samsara Restaurant, which was supposed to be superior in choice and quality to the main restaurants, we found it not particularly special and probably just on a par with the food in the main restaurants of other cruise lines. Certainly there was no evidence anywhere on the ship of the cuisine Italy is noted for. On a similar vein the cappuccino throughout the ship was probably the poorest we've ever tasted - anywhere!
Drinks and beverages are roughly the same price as on American cruise lines. Costa, however, offer an all inclusive drinks package costing 16.95 euros (+ 15% service charge) per day. This covers draft beer (Carlsberg), most spirits and mixers, many cocktails, house wine, soft drinks, water and coffee. It is really good value and I would recommend it to anyone who has more than 3 drinks per day.
Entertainment -- The shows in the theatre were poor with one themed "I have a dream" (crew members strutting their stuff) being more like a bad nightmare! Entertainment in the lounges was repetitive with the same musicians/singers doing the same routine every night. That said these musicians/singers were quite good. No musicians ever played at any of the pools. We never saw or heard the cruise director once during our entire trip.
Behaviour/Manners - Many Italian passengers on the ship showed no manners or courtesy whatsoever, particularly getting into or out of lifts. They invariably barged in before people had a chance to get out. Around the pool areas and whilst singers were performing many conversed in a highly animated and loud manner which was very off putting with no consideration for fellow passengers wanting either to enjoy the sun or entertainment as the case may be.
Question -- Did we have a really bad experience? In truth, "No". Despite the negatives outlined my wife and I enjoyed our cruise, enhanced perhaps by the beautiful weather and smooth sailing conditions. Would we take another cruise with Costa? Whilst I don't like to say 'never' I would say it is highly unlikely. Neither is it likely that I would recommend Costa to friends or family. As mentioned at the start of this review Costa Cruises, as an Italian cruise company, is aimed at the Italian market. In future I will cruise with the cruise lines we have sailed with previously, the English speaking companies.