We decided to fly to Venice a day before our flight because we had heard that Marco Polo airport is sometimes fogged in and we did not want to miss embarkation of the Costa Fascinosa. The following day we did the usual trips around the canals on the Vaporettos or water taxis before heading to the cruise port with our cases to check in.
It had been foggy that morning but was clearing up when we arrived at the port. What we did notice was that there was no sign of the ship which is unusual because they are so big it is hard to miss them.
A lot of people were heading away from the terminal with their cases toward a large number of coaches. This should have given us a clue.
We were directed up escalators with our large cases and joined a queue supposedly to check in. After waiting about 20 minutes in the queue we reached the front and discovered that the Costa Fascinosa was in fact lying in Trieste and we were to go back down stairs cross the road and get on a coach. We were given a card with a number 10 on it and were told to wait until our number was called. When the number was called a while later we struggled down the stairs with our large cases then across the road to the waiting coaches. We left Venice and headed off towards Trieste a 2 hour plus journey. Unfortunately there was a serious accident holding up traffic on the way so the 2 hours journey was nearer 3 hours long. On arriving we saw the fabulous Costa Fascinosa sitting in the terminal next to an Italian aircraft carrier which looked very small next to the massive Costa ship.
We got off the coach expecting our cases to be taken away and on to the ship as they were all labeled and ready for the cabin. Wrong. We joined a large melee of passengers from other coaches all looking a bit confused with no one directing or giving instructions. It turned out we had to drop our bags off around the corner of the terminal building at a single X-ray security point one case at a time. While queuing a Costa person turned up and started handing out more numbered cards but without explanation of their significance . We shuffled forward to the corner of the building and through an iron gate and eventually saw our destination ahead as the funnel of passengers diminished until we reached the two porters loading cases on to a conveyor belt and an X-ray machine. We then were able to walk back around the crowd to the entrance of the terminal building. We sat down but at that point had no clue what was going on. After about half an hour, finally some one got on to a microphone and told us to wait for our number to be called so that we could proceed through to the next room. When our number was called we went through to the next room and joined another queue which to be fair was much more orderly and moved quite quickly to the front where four Costa personnel checked our paper work and took our photos and then told us to board the ship after the inevitable embarkation photograph. No room key cards had been given to us but we found out that the keys were on our beds in our state room which was unlocked.
The Costa Fascinosa is a beautiful ship and the internal decor is marble and polished wood and richly patterned carpets. There are a number of very nice bars, and two main restaurants, one amidships on two decks and one near the stern and a speciality restaurant which we did not use.
There was also a buffet on deck 9
The gym was very well equipped but also very busy.
We found the buffet very disappointing both at breakfast and lunch. Also the breakfast closed down very promptly at 10.30 and sometimes earlier and drink stations were also closed down. Although there was more choice during the lunch period the quality of food was disappointing.
We ate in the main restaurant the Otto e Mezzo on deck 3. Food was well presented but not very tasty and one meal of chicken was undercooked. The waiters in the restaurant were very good and because we were on the all inclusive package, our wine glasses always remained full and we did not have to ask for refills. On the last night the waiters gave an entertaining cabaret performance at the end of the meal. Versions of this can be seen on YouTube.
Apart from the waiters at dinner, most of the crew were efficient but not particularly friendly. The ship did not feel like a happy ship and crew members did not smile much.
One of the reasons for choosing this cruise was the itinerary. Starting off in Venice, well at least in theory, we sailed out of Trieste and down the Adriatic to Bari in southern Italy and then on to the Greek Islands before finishing in Dubrovnik.
Having purchased the drinks package, about 25 euros a day per person, the opportunity to enjoy some on board cocktails and glasses of wine was a definite bonus given the disappointing food. We enjoyed watching the enthusiastic dance couples on the Topkapi dance floor before dinner each night while enjoying cocktails. The casino had a few tables which seemed quite busy at times and there was an interesting selection of colourful Vegas Style slot machines.
We only caught the tail end of one show in the theatre. They looked very professional and we probably missed a good thing not seeing the shows in full.
We were able to sail back in to Venice at the end of the cruise and it was worth getting up early to enjoy the views as we passed St Marks Square. We had to be out of our cabins by 8 a.m. our luggage colour coded was left outside the cabin the previous night.
Disembarkation or debarking as some call it now was relatively well organised and we were off the ship by 10.30. We were through to the outside of building 107 very quickly and were able to leave our luggage at building 103 for 5 euros per bag. When we found building 103 which was close to the water taxi ticket offices we discovered that we could have our luggage taken to the airport for 10 euros per bag. This was really useful as we were able to leave not only our large cases but our smaller cabin luggage with the baggage handlers and we arranged to pick them all up outside departures at Marco Polo, 2 hours before our flight back to Gatwick. We were then able to spend some more time in Venice and enjoy the experience of walking along raised walkways through a flooded St Marks Square.
We had a really enjoyable cruise all in all. Being all inclusive helped and we had booked late on the Costa Cruises own web site, so got really good value. The free upgrade to a balcony was a big bonus. The itinerary was excellent but we feel we did not have enough time in each stop. Perhaps one less port and more time to get to sail between the rest with longer stops at each port would be better. The buffet definitely needs attention. We have never had such poor selections at breakfast and lunch or restricted access to tea and coffee stations before.
There were nearly 3,500 passengers on board and only just over 1050 crew so 3:1 which is may be too low. The crew are probably worked too hard and could be too tired to provide the best service and this may explain the lack of a relaxed atmosphere on board.
CabinWe had originally booked an outside cabin for two but our daughter was able to join us so we called Costa to add her in our room. As this was a two berth cabin they told us we had to be moved to a cabin for three. Much to our delight this new cabin turned out to be a balcony cabin on deck eight. A decent size cabin with enough space for clothing, and space under the bed for the cases,a safe and a good sized bathroom with shower, no bath. There was a fridge, but this was locked so could not be used for drinks brought back to the cabin from the bars. There were no tea or coffee making facilities in the room which would have been useful given the limitations on drinks stations in the buffet mentioned elsewhere.The cabin was very conveniently placed between the fore and mid ships lifts and one floor below the buffet on deck 9. We did get some noise in the mornings from people moving chairs about on the deck above but this was not really too much of a problem.The third bed was made up on the settee so it was not necessary for one of us to have to clamber up on to a pull down pullman type bed as is often the case in three or four berth cabins on some cruise ships. The TV set had multi language channels including BBC world service so we were able to keep up with daily events at home and abroad.
Bari is not somewhere that we had even heard of before let alone visited. We decided to go ashore without buying a ship’s trip and ended up on one of those tourist road trains so familiar in British seaside towns. This was quite good value at 20 euros which sounded a bit expensive but turned out to be good value with several stops and a personal guide who took us to various interesting places and gave us lots of information. We had only four hours in Bari so not much time and the road train trip fitted the bill and got us back to the ship in plenty of time.
The second stop was Corfu. Again only a few short hours to see the island so we chose to travel into Corfu town independently and managed to catch a local bus from the Port for only 1.5 euros. The ship had laid on a bus but this cost 6 euros so we were quite pleased to save the money and spend it on ice creams instead. We also walked up to the New Fortress which over-looks the town and Port and with an entry fee of only 4 euros which included a drink, beer, wine or pop and a toilet, it was well worth the climb and the views were spectacular including looking back toward our ship.A leisurely walk back down the hill took us straight to the bus stop for the return journey to the port and our ship.
Our next stop was Mykonos. There were a number of ship’s trips as usual but starting at around 50 euros per person the three of us decided to explore by ourselves. We had obtained tickets the previous day for the tender to shore which was provided by the Mykonos harbour rather than using the ship’s own life boats as we have done on previous cruises.The main town on Mykonos was quite compact so we were able to walk around it quite easily in the short time available. There were lots of small shops selling local nick-nacks, bags, pottery fridge magnets etc. We walked up to the four windmills, a popular photo opportunity, overlooking the harbour and on our way back stopped for a drink at a local bar called, you guessed it, Zorbas.
The next day we arrived in Santorini and again had to anchor offshore as there is no big harbour to accommodate a ship as large as the Costa Fascinosa at 115,000 tons.We caught the tender to shore and joined the queue for the 5 euro cable car up to the top of the village while some brave souls caught a donkey ride up the winding pathway which also leads to the town perched on the volcanic cliff top. The shops were similar to those in Mykonos but the pathways were slightly wider. We walked up to the top of the town to get the best views across Santorini and the bay with the Ship and a new volcanic island rising up out of the sea in the centre of the old caldera.We stopped off at a cafe called zafora, perched on the side of the cliff and enjoyed a selection of local Greek dishes and Greek beer for just under 30 euros for the three of us. The best food we had had since the start of the cruise!Walking down the winding path was an experience having to run the gauntlet of the dozens of donkeys and owners trying to persuade us to buy a ride down the steep hillside to the small harbour below. Back to the ship in plenty of time and watched as others were nearly left behind as the time to up anchor arrived.
Our last day was spent in Dubrovnik. Our daughter had visited previously to so she acted as our guide. Again the ship laid on a bus to town but we decided to use the local buses. On disembarking we saw signs for taxi trips to town priced at 10 euros per taxi so we decided to take one of these. As soon as we were in our large Mercedes taxi, the driver immediately offered us a tour to local highlights including a trip to the top of the local cable car station which he pointed out would cost us 15 euros each for the ride if we were to take the cable car from the town. With stops at view points before arriving at the city walls of Dubrovnik followed by a return to the ship he would only charge 50 euros all in, for the three of us. So we agreed and he took us off on a journey around the countryside and gave us a bit of history about the conflict in Croatia and told us about the partial destruction of the city within the walls. We drove up a windy road to the cable car station and we enjoyed spectacular views over the city and city walls. Then back down to the city itself and the city gate where we decided to pay off the taxi and make our own way in to the city. We went to the tourist office inside the main entrance through the city walls to buy a day ticket which gave us access to the city walls and a few local museums. We had very little time in Dubrovnik, and only had time to walk half way around the city walls and back down the centre of the towns main street pausing to buy local lavender and some dubious Russian quartz beads from a local before catching a ten euro taxi back to the port and our ship.