I booked a cruise on the Costa Fascinosa for my wife and I, and our 12 year old son. This was our first cruise as a family.
I made the booking late in 2013 for a departure in August 2014. My travel agent in South Africa recommended the cruise especially as it met our requirements in terms of dates, duration and destination. The prices were competitive, and we received a significant discount for booking in advance.
However, as we started to make our plans in respect of the procedures, the "do's and don'ts", excursions and other questions first timers would naturally have, I started reading the reviews on Cruise Critic. I now wish I hadn't as it is clear that the majority of reviews were written by people who are quite simply never satisfied. In some cases I wonder whether the reviews are not written by competitors because they are just so misleading.
In my short note here I would like to dispel several untruths. We had a fantastic week on the Costa Fascinosa, and will not hesitate to cruise again, and will happily use Costa if it fits our requirements.
Language:- Yes, it is an Italian cruise line so Italian is first choice. But messages in the other major languages are always repeated and we never had any problems in this regard. There is a dedicated English speaking host, and all instructions are repeated on the dedicated English TV channel, with video's running on a loop setting out important instructions.
The majority of the staff are actually not from Europe (India, Brazil, Malaysia, Philippines etc), so most of them try really hard to converse in English, as well as Italian and other languages.
Food:- the food was plentiful and delicious. The evening meals were outstanding and of a very high standard. We were amazed at not only the quality but also the variety and the creativity.
Breakfasts and lunches are always going to busy in a buffet environment, but take some time to study the different service areas and you will find different areas with wide choices and selections.
The Italian guests can be a little "pushy", dare I say rude at times, but we always got what we wanted and never stood in any queue for longer than a minute.
We never went hungry, and even if you missed lunch or breakfast, there would still be places serving late meals or burgers and hot dogs.
Bars and Service:- Don't hesitate to buy the unlimited drinks package. No surprises, and no worries about hidden costs. Once again - the bars are busy, so be prepared to make wait a little in prime times. However, once again, we rarely waited for any unreasonable period of time. The drinks package gives you ample choice, as well as coffees, cream coffee (delicious), cocktails etc.
I read about how some people found the waiters rude? All I can say is that we treated the waiters and bar-men with dignity and respect, and we received exceptional, efficient, personalized service in return. Many of the staff got to know us by name and came rushing to serve us when they saw us. Maybe a little lesson in that!!
Rooms:- We took a room with a balcony which proved to be the best choice when cruising in scenic places like the Greek Isles, Dubrovnik and Venice. We were able to enjoy views from the luxury of the cabin while getting ready in the morning etc. Maybe not a must for all cruises , but I must say having daylight, fresh air and a view is worth the extra expense.
Embarkation:- The embarkation process was not unorganized or chaotic as I have seen reported by some people. Again, these people need to board over 3000 people in a relatively short period of time. As you arrive you drop your bags, and receive a number. You walk upstairs to an air-conditioned hall, with plenty of seating and wait for your number to be called. There is a small coffee bar with snacks, as well as staff selling certain excursions and packages. When your number is called it is human nature that everyone stands up and walks to the front. Be patient and file into the queue and you will get served in reasonable time. I think Costa could put one or two extra people on the check-in desk, but once again, I also think they need to consider how fast they can filter people onto the boat. Disembarkation is also well explained, but my advice it to take a long leisurely breakfast, and take your time.
Excursions:- I think planned excursions will suit some people more than others. We were not on a budget, but we felt the excursions were expensive and we decided to do our own thing. We were very happy with our decision, and felt that we probably saw a lot more on our own than had we been bussed around in a tour bus. Don't feel intimidated to take the excursions - you will find taxi's or public transport normally at much cheaper prices.
The shows:- go and watch all of the evening productions. High quality shows and good entertainment. This is not like a Club Med where the staff put together a pleasant, but fairly amateur production. These are professional singers, dancers, magicians and acrobats.
Some of the lounge singers unfortunately know how to ruin some English songs, but pleasant enough background music for the bars and while you just sit people watching.
Deck Chairs:- yes, the deck chairs are always going to be in short supply, especially around the "adult pool" at the back of the boat. You are going to get the twits who try to "book deck chairs" all day. However, maybe we got lucky, but we normally managed to find deck chairs without too much hassle. The staff did try to move towels occasionally and sometimes we just sat at the bar until space opened up. we witnessed one rather aggressive fight, where some younger adults claimed they had booked chairs hours in advance. They did not however receive much sympathy from fellow passengers or staff.
Some general advice:-
There are no ATM's on-board so make sure you have cash or credit card when you go on the excursions. However, the ship is completely cashless and you don't need any cash on board. The only exception is the Casino where you do need some cash. The Costa Card works very well, and is billing was accurate.
Dinners are more formal, so men take some long pants and shirts with collars. There is a gala evening and it is nice to dress up, as well as some theme evenings. Therefore take variety of clothes and be prepared to get dressed up and party a little. One evening the theme was "all white". Obviously you are under no pressure to dress up, but you feel under dressed if you don't participate.
I am sure I will think of many more things to add later, but that is enough for now. Quite simply - don't believe everything some "reviewers" write. Costa Fascionosa was a wonderful experience
We took a room with a balcony which proved to be the best choice when cruising in scenic places like the Greek Isles, Dubrovnik and Venice. We were able to enjoy views from the luxury of the cabin while getting ready in the morning etc. Maybe not a must for all cruises , but I must say having daylight, fresh air and a view is worth the extra expense. The room was more than adequate, even for three people. No complaints whatsoever. Bed was comfortable, TV had a few English channels, the interactive services worked well. Our room was nicely positioned closer to the rear which was appropriate for dining and the adult pool area.