This was a 9-night "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules" Mediterranean cruise on the Costa Favolosa. It was our first cruise on Costa (we live in the US and previously had been on Carnival and Celebrity in the Caribbean). We enjoyed ... Read More
This was a 9-night "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules" Mediterranean cruise on the Costa Favolosa. It was our first cruise on Costa (we live in the US and previously had been on Carnival and Celebrity in the Caribbean). We enjoyed the trip very much.
First, we chose this cruise primarily because of the ports (Malaga, Casablanca, Cadiz, Lisbon, Valencia, Barcelona) and had wanted to board in Barcelona, however that was sold out, so we booked the next day out of Savona, because we couldn't find any other cruises that competed with this one on ports. a bunch of great places to visit and we'd go back to any of them. (But come on Costa, leaving Barcelona at 13:00? That needs to be a longer stop.)
First question we had: how to get to Savona? We took the transfer to and from Nice train station. They take your bags onto the ship right from the bus as you board, but during disembarkation you must claim your luggage and take it to the bus yourself. I would highly recommend Nice as an "extra" place to visit if anyone is wondering how to get to Savona. We flew to Paris, took the train to Nice, and stayed 3 days before and 2 days afterwards. We did a day trip to Monaco (25 minute train ride from Nice) and explored Nice itself and the beach. The transfer was US $34/person if I remember correctly.
Cabin: we had an "inside premium" cabin, chosen for the important fact that it was the cheapest one. You don't get to choose your dinner time with this type of cabin, however we asked in the dining room to change (early to late) after the first night and they did. Cabin was fine, no complaints.
Food: There are two main dining rooms, and they serve dinner half an hour apart, at 18:30 and 19:00 for first sitting, and 20:45 and 21:15 for second sitting. You can also eat at the buffet from 19:00-21:00. We had the 21:15 sitting and found that dinner took around an hour. We had table mates for two days and the rest of the time were by ourselves at a big table, mostly likely due to the lack of other English speakers. Dinner has a theme each night, based on food from a region of Italy, and then there are "standard" courses that you can always order. There are three courses that together make up the main meal, and then dessert. We both got to try quite a few things we hadn't had before and had some great stuff, figuring if we don't like one course, it's just one, however we liked the vast majority of food we ordered. There's an optional salad. Some things will be marked either vegetarian or made from previously frozen ingredients. We ate at the buffet for dinner only once (due to wanting to be up early for Barcelona the next day), the food there was fine and comparable to lunch but not as good as the main dining room. We really enjoyed the food at dinner in particular.
There's a snack time with sandwiches (sometimes there's a vegetarian one, sometimes not) and pastries from 16:00-17:30 in the buffet (we had this every day due to the late dinner time), and breakfast and lunch are served in the main dining room and buffet. We ate one breakfast in the main dining room and every other breakfast/lunch at the buffet. When going to the buffet, always walk by ALL the lines (some are along the sides) as there can be ones with different stuff, and you risk filling your plate at the first line only to see someone walk by with something you like better that you didn't know was available. This includes the area with the pool and giant TV as they set up an extra buffet line here a few times. At breakfast, don't miss the egg/omelette station as the main buffet just has cold items. There, you can get an omelette to order, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns.
Check the times for meals in your newsletter, because outside the times mentioned, there are plenty of times when no "free" (included) food is available. So, if you have just come back on the ship after a day of walking around and are hungry and it's 17:20, get straight to the buffet as it's about to close and you'll have to wait until 19:00 for it to open up again! This is different from the two previous cruises we have been on, but we didn't find it to be a problem as long as we were aware of the time and schedule.
Drinks: If you booked through Costa USA (doesn't matter if you're a US citizen), you'll get "Waterusa" package included automatically, which gives you bottled water at mealtimes in the main dining room. If you don't have this package, you'll have to pay for water in the main dining room only. The buffet has water, regular and decaf coffee, and different teas included for everyone when it's open. Lattes, cappuccinos, etc aren't included and you'll have to pay for those if you don't buy a package that includes them.
We bought the "Pranzo and Cena" (lunch and dinner) drinks package which was I think €15 or €16 each per day. We don't usually pay for drinks even when eating out, however we though that we could get our money's worth with this package (and we did). It includes house red and white wine, and one type of beer, during mealtimes only (not snacktime) at the buffet and main dining room. Note that the package description simply says "beer and wine" and does NOT specify that you only get to the three choices I mentioned, so don't book it intending to try several wines/beers. I suspect that this is also true of the "next package up" which includes drinks at any time at the bar and some cocktails, because another couple we talked to implied they also just got the house wine/beer with their package, but I am not entirely sure of this. Note that if you have late dinner, you can head to the buffet at 19:00 and it's mealtime there so you can have a drink with your Pranzo & Cena package.
Dress code is in the newsletter (check the left hand side of the inside of the newsletter next to "Buona serata" written sideways). We had two "Formal/gala" nights, generic "informal" nights, and special informal nights: "Red/black", "all white", and "red/white/green" (plenty of passengers wore other colors on these nights, don't let that put you off). Even on the formal nights we saw a few people in the main dining room with shorts and t-shirts on (shorts are against the dining room dress code but I didn't see anyone turned away). There were also some people dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos, so it is really up to you. Buffet dress code is pretty much just "no swimsuits".
I can't say anything about the entertainment or activities as we didn't go to any. I noticed several advertised shows were marked as being in Italian so that keep that in mind if you like going to shows / activities and don't speak Italian.
Ports: Top notch. Great places. We booked on excursion in, you guessed it, Casablanca, after reading numerous other people's experiences online. We did the Rabat tour and enjoyed it. Our group was German/English and the guide repeated everything in both languages although the group was almost all German speakers. We saw other tour groups combined like this: "Italian/Spanish" for example. We ran into another couple who did a tour of Casablanca itself and they enjoyed that. In Valencia, we paid for Costa's bus which takes you into the city and thought it was worth while, even though we are usually the cheap do-it-yourselves types. You can wait for a free bus to take you to the port exit, but there was a big line for this and I'm not sure how frequently they ran, also the port exit is quite far from the city center itself. Our goal was to wander around exploring the city so the time savings helped. We walked from the ship and also took the metro in Barcelona and Lisbon. Time is very tight in Barcelona so the metro helped because the dock is some distance from the tourist parts of the city, and the 10-ticket combo is a good deal if you are going to buy more than 4 rides and multiple people can use it. In Malaga, Cadiz, and Lisbon the ship docked right close to everything and we had no problem walking to everything.
Internet access is available for €0.19 per minute for unrestricted, if you buy the "social media" 24 hr package, that one will restrict you to the listed sites (facebook, twitter and so on). Both "at-sea" days took us close enough to shore to pick up internet for at least a half hour (and get a good view of Gibraltar).
Now onto the "warning", if you haven't guessed it already, it's: Communication/organization issues. There are a lot of "oh, huh, didn't know that" moments. To help mitigate this: if you are unsure of something, have a question, or something seems "not right" (drinks package not correct on your card, no charge listed for excursion you know you booked), be very proactive and ask as soon as you notice there might be a problem so that they can fix it (which they did, for all the various small questions we had). It's entirely possible that things are explained a little more clearly or in more detail for the Italian speakers (who are most of the ship by far). Next most common are French, German, and Portuguese speaking passengers. I will say that EVERY crew member we spoke to spoke English, and on two occasions we overhead Italian passengers complaining about staff who didn't speak Italian. So despite being a tiny minority on the ship, when speaking to the crew we had no problems communicating, which was very fortunate.
Examples of things to watch out for:
The bus transfer from Nice train station says "in front of the station" but it actually is down the street a bit. Thankfully, the Nice Tourist Information Office *is* in front of the station, and they're well aware of this issue, and will direct you to the right place (we got the sense they're a little annoyed with Costa after doing this hundreds of times!).
We pre-booked a drinks package online which wasn't printed correctly on our cards when we boarded. I booked this on the last day possible, and it was after midnight in Italy when I did it, so I don't really fault them for not having it on the cards. But, it did take several "back and forth" trips between the customer service desk and the bar (each telling us to go to the other to resolve it), before the desk printed us correct cards. Check your card for this problem when you board.
Dinner on the first night was advertised as a half hour earlier than it actually was (due to dinner being advertised in both dining rooms as starting at the earlier time of the two, they're a half hour apart), leading to people hanging around by the door waiting. Then, later in the cruise, the newsletter advertised dinner at 21:30 (15 min later than normal), which we asked about specifically by stopping in the dining room in the afternoon, and were told, yes, it's 21:30. It turned out to be 21:15 after all, but fortunately we were not so late as to really miss out when we walked in.
There are frequent time zone changes due to the various ports, and these are well documented ahead of time in the newsletter, announcements, and we were reminded by the waiter at dinner as well. However, we saw a few times that the time shown on the TV in the room (on the ship's info channel) was incorrect, so don't rely on that to check your watch.
If you're not a European citizen, they will take your passport when you board and give it back to you at the end of the cruise. If you're a dual European/other citizen and you find out about this after you've booked, don't worry, you can change the citizenship information on the Costa website and hold onto your passport. There was a note telling people that if they want to leave the city of Casablanca on their own (not on a Costa tour), they need their passport for that time, so if that affects you (because they took your passport) make sure to find out what to do ahead of time.
Hope this helps some people who are looking into Costa cruises - I tried to provide plenty of information (especially the "wish we'd known" stuff) as that can seem like the hardest thing to find when you're looking at cruises and trying to find what to expect on Costa! Again, overall it was a great trip and we would recommend it.
Thanks for reading this far and happy cruising! Read Less