Launched in 2011, the 114,500 gross ton Costa Favolosa is Costa’s newest ship and the latest addition to the Concordia-class mega cruise liners, joining her sister ships Serena (of Cruise Diaries fame) and Pacifica. Costa Concordia was until 2012 the flagship of this class. In a sign of the growing prominence of the UAE cruise market and Dubai as a regional cruise hub, Costa based their newest ship out of the Gulf in 2012, with Fortuna and Serena taking her place for the 2013 and 2014 cruise season.
Cruise Arabia had planned to do a ship review of Costa Serena or Fortuna, but time and travel logistics enabled us to only view and tour the Costa Favolosa, which is part of the same class of ship. Costa Favolosa is an impressive ship, just looking at her one is struck by the proportions of this cruise liner, her sheer sides glimmering like cliffs of steel and her wide, dominant navigation bridge glaring as though inspired by the futuristic forward-facing appearance of the Star Ship Enterprise. But, it is the many thousands of lights that emanate from this vessel that reveal the fact she is a floating city, one of the largest cruise ships in the world. Cruise Arabia hopped aboard to see what can be done with 510 million euros and several thousand tons of steel.
Costa describe Favolosa as a castle on the water with more than a thousand rooms and public spaces filled with 400 original pieces of art and 6,000 reproductions. Indeed, the ship is a floating piece of art, with modern entertainment architecture aplenty. Her 26 ‘environments’ and seven different types of stateroom all have a different flare to them, making the ship as diverse and interesting as any of the modern mega liners plying the world’s oceans nowadays and 103 of her staterooms (twelve of which are suites) have direct access to the world-class Samsara Spa.
Where Favolosa differs from most modern cruise liners however, is in her exterior design, which is unusually pretty for such a large ship. While Carnival Magic, also launched in 2011, looks from some angles like a deformed sperm whale, Costa have resisted the temptation to pile viewing decks up at the front of the ship, so that her profile remains balanced. The accountants at Costa have also sacrificed some capacity for a prettily tapered stern so that Favolosa does not look like a floating apartment block at the stern. Such considerations are minor when one is on board ship, looking out from within, but for ship buffs with an interest in (dare we say love of?) modern cruise liners, exterior appearances are significant.
Favolosa is of the Concordia-class, but is highly modified with several additional features not found on any other liner in the Costa fleet. Guests who have sailed aboard Costa’s Concordia-class liner before will find the usual favourites, such as the Asian-themed Samsara Spa, the giant movie screen and sliding glass roof over the pool area and the Grand Prix driving simulator. But Favalosa also offer some new features, such as the Playground Area, which offers Virtual Golf in addition to the Grand Prix simulator (18 euros a pop) and a first-of-its-kind-at-sea 4D cinema. The 4D movies are limited in range though and only last ten to fifteen minutes, but are a memorable experience nonetheless. Six new suites will offer private verandas and Jacuzzis, with direct access to the spa, and the new teens area comes with an ice cream bar and dance floor, as well as the Costa-teen-favourite PlayStation World. A new outdoor Aqua Park with a pirate galleon also graces the upper decks.
Costa Favolosa’s Aquapark, with children’s area aft below
Favolosa is part of a major expansion program undertaken by Costa in 2007, when the line ordered Favolosa and her sister ship Fascinosa from Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. Another three ships are due to be launched from 2013 onwards, expanding Costa’s capacity by 50% at a mammoth cost of 2.4 billion euros. Decks 3, 4 and 5 (Hermitage, Versailles and Tivoli) are the ship’s three main public decks, with the majority of her five restaurants and 13 bars and lounges located here, while all her other decks are occupied solely by staterooms, although Decks 9, 10 and 11 (Villa Borghese, Escorial and Luxembourg) are a mix of both. Decks 12 and 13 (El Prado and Las Duenas) are dedicated to Favolosa’s expansive outdoor areas. Hermitage Deck (Deck 3) is where first impressions are made as one boards via the main passenger gangway, stepping into the slightly conspicuous elegance of the Harlequin-inspired Atrio dei Diamanti, the ship’s atrium lobby, the heart of the castle. Hundreds upon hundreds of precious stones are laid into the wall facades and in-laid lights in purple triangles stand like sentries, or several dozen eyes of Mordor.
The Atrium aboard Favolosa where guests board the ship
Interestingly, the Samsara Restaurant is also located here on Deck 3, eight decks down from the 6,000 square foot Samsara Spa, which is a defining feature of the Concordia-class Costa cruise liners. Early feedback from passengers has suggested that the Samsara Restaurant, which specialises in refined, low calorie lunches and dinners for post-treatment dining, could have done with being located closer to the spa. We tend to agree. Another issue with Deck 3, although its not in any way unique to Favolosa, is the layout, which necessitates the use of elevators or stairs to get from one end to the other due to the large authorised-access-only service areas.
Decks 4 and 5 (Versailles and Tivoli) are the entertainment decks proper, home to 18 of Favolosa’s various ‘environments’, as Costa likes to call them. We call them public rooms! At the stern, with lovely views of the ship’s wake is the Duca d’Orléans Restaurant, one of the ship’s two main dining rooms, the other being the sister restaurant Duca di Borgogna, further forward, but on the same deck. Sitting just aft of the impressive theatre, this restaurant is reportedly usually more quiet than the Duca d’Orléans, although both offer the sort of refined white-glove service for which ocean voyages are renowned. We’re not sure about the exuberant use of gold in the interior decor, or the dining chairs, which have a somewhat 70s look and feel to them.
Duca di Borgogna Restaurant
The ocean views from the Duca d’Orléans Restaurant are truly enchanting if you make it to one of the window tables for breakfast or lunch, or if the table you’re assigned for dinner happens to be near one of the windows. But, the design is such that even those in the middle of the dining room can look out and see the ocean sneaking by as you eat. As a point of interest, dinner is served aboard Favolosa in the tradition two sitting configuration with the first sitting at 19.15 and the second at 21.30. Just aft of amidships on Deck 5 (Tivoli) is the Porta d’Oro Cafeteria, where Costa will make passengers culinary dreams come true, according to promotional material. The buffet features an array of foods each day that are impressive, considering the number of people to which the galley staff are catering. The cafferteria is a bit of a paradox, as the variety is considerable, but does not change for the first two meals of the day.
Di Porpora Lido aft
A standard breakfast buffet features, among other things, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs (which are kept hot, a nice touch by Costa), sausage, bacon, Italian style cold cuts, various cheeses, bread rolls, sweet rolls, hot and cold cereal, yoghurt, sugar free cakes (particularly good) and fresh fruit. Another nice touch is the complimentary hot milk for those making their own café latte. Lunch is rather extravagant in terms of variety, with chicken burgers, beef burgers, hot dogs, pizza, pasta and salad and antipasto representing a portion of the delights guests can choose from. Waistline minded cruiser will like the selection of fresh fruit available every day at both breakfast and lunch.
That said, the buffet does fill up quickly at meal times and, during the breakfast and lunch ‘rush hours’ can resemble a school canteen or a mess hall aboard an aircraft carrier. For cruisers willing to wait for a table to open up and pounce on it, while being pushed and shoved by the hungry masses, this isn’t a major issue and can also be avoided by arriving early, or just before the end of the meal time. The chocolate fountain here is also a major draw for those travelling with kids and the world-class kids program offered on board, as well as the specially-designed teen’s areas and kids areas, will prove the perfect diversion when the sugar rush kicks in. Potential cruisers should note that Costa does not offer the kids program when the ship is in port, unless a very large number of children are aboard.
The Etoile Disco
Deck 4 (Versailles) is also home to much of the ship’s utility-type public rooms, such as the internet café and the chapel. The Hortensia Theatre, located all the way up forward, puts on broadway and cabaret-inspired shows, but is plagued by several blind spots, so cruisers should go prepared and arrive early for the first show of the cruise to make sure you get good seats. The Etoile Disco on Deck 4 and Pompadour Dance Lounge on Deck 5 are the ship’s primary dance venues in the evening, but each has a unique vibe after sundown. The disco is the ship’s nightclub, while the dance lounge is an elegant ballroom where guests can dance a slow waltz or a passionate tango to rhythm of the resident band. Such diversity is unique to all 13 of the ship’s bars, including the Lido di Porpora pool bar to aft overlooking the tapered stern, where a cold soft drink in the heat of the afternoon and an evening cocktail above an expanse of inky ocean creates an intriguing contrast. The ‘beating heart’ of the ship’s evening scene, according to Costa, is the Palatino Grand Bar, which sits just aft of the shopping area. Cruise Arabia reviewed the shopping area of Costa Favolosa’s sister ship Serena in our High Seas High Streets piece last edition, she’s in our top ten ships for shopping for good reason.
The pool areas, as on any ship, are the main venue for outdoor activities and self-improvement pursuits, from silly, but endlessly enduring pool games to aerobics classes and dancing. On the upper decks to stern and forward of the pool area there are additional sports facilities, such as a jogging track and courts for various pursuits. The Magrodome, a stylish self-propelled glass roof that entertains with videos and films on a giant 18 square metre screen also makes this area a favourite and provides shelter in the rain and fresh air in the sun. It is also up here that the 6,000 square foot Samsara Spa is located, offering a wide range of treatments in an environment designed (according to Costa) in such a way as to provide mental as well as physical wellbeing. This theme of unity between the physical and mental is one that runs through to the Samsara suites, the first of their kind at sea, with organic fabrics, calming colour tones and ocean view Jacuzzis forming an integral part of their design. Costa Favolosa sports four ‘lido decls’ or pool areas in total, one of which is specifically designed for children with a kids waterpark.
Palatino Grand Bar
Middle East-based cruisers that are particularly adverse to people smoking around them should note that smoking policies aboard Favolosa are fairly lax and some areas, such as the Palatino Grand Bar can become a little misty with nicotine. For smokers who try and be considerate to non-smokers, this can be an issue as well and the ship would probably be more comfortable for all if there were designated smoking lounges in which smokers didn’t have to feel uncomfortable about bothering others and where non-smokers could enjoy fresh air in peace. On an admittedly fragile related note, the ship could do with some ‘adults only’ areas where children are not allowed, so that adults can use the hot tubs, enjoy a drink or read a book in peace without being disturbed by kids that have every right to let loose to the same extent.
Costa Favolosa isn’t perfect then, but she’s certainly impressive and was one of the most advanced cruise liners ever to be based out of Dubai for the local cruise season last year, while this cruise season she will be offering a number of Western Mediterranean itineraries, with exciting Trans-Atlantic crossing and South American adventures on offer as well. She isn’t a ship for the elderly or those looking to expand their knowledge or partake in intellectual pursuits while visiting ancient ports and rediscovering history. She is a modern ship for the modern young family with children than need entertaining, stressed out moms and dads that need to relax and teenagers that need enough electronic gadgetry to put the Enterprise to shame. Favalosa is a family ship, it’s what she does well and it’s a role for which she appears to have been custom designed.
The Good –
For families, the kids facilities are excellent
Free dance classes and gym facilities
Megadrome theatre over pool area with sliding roof
Immense variety of public rooms (13 bars and lounges)
Very good Concordia-class shopping area
The Bad –
Loop of rope for handles on cabin doors and draws etc which can make life difficult
Blind spots in theatre
Smoking throughout the ship
Tendency for overcrowding in some restaurants
Only 3 channels in English on TVs in cabin (BBC news, a variety channel and an info channel)
Favolosa at a Glance
Refurbished (most recent): NA
Gross Tonnage: 114,500
Length: 950’ (289.5m)
Beam: 118’ (35.9m)
Capacity (total beds): 3,800
Categories: Ship Reviews