By good fortune we now have had contact with passengers on the previous Europa cruise. And guess what? They were treated almost as badly as we were.
Their cruise ran to schedule up to Mombasa until, on the Sunday while supposedly sailing towards Nosy Be, things started to unwind. Around 11.30am the ship slowed noticeably and shortly afterwards changed course perceptibly. It later became apparent that this was the point at which the ship's senior management decided to abandon all calls in Madagascar.
At 4.30pm, at Richard Wünsch's presentation on Madagascar for English-speaking passengers but seemingly before he'd delivered it, a passenger took the microphone, said that he'd heard that the ship would now no longer be calling at Madagascar and demanded an explanation from the captain. This all sounds horribly familiar, doesn't it? By 6pm a letter was delivered to cabins announcing the new, non-Madagascar schedule and containing neither apologies nor explanations, i.e at least 6-7 hours after the change in course and after rumours had swept the ship - maybe the 'Communications Officer' was busy doing more important things.
At Monday's lecture by Richard Wünsch he gave a short speech about what had gone wrong, how the decision to scrap the visits in Madagascar had been made in Genoa and the limited choices available to the captain. It wasn't clear whether this was an 'official explanation' or whether Mr Wünsch was simply trying to be helpful on his own initiative. I believe the latter, althought cynics amongst the passengers believed that he was doing the captain's dirty work.
By noon on Monday anger had built up and it was announced that there would be a meeting at 3.30pm in the theatre, attended by the captain. The meeting started early and was a shambles, with no control, angry words from the 'Hotel Director' and the captain standing back in Pontius Pilate mode. There was no translation going on at all.
Eventually, an English passenger took the microphone, gave a reasoned speech and asked that the 'hosts' provided translation. Another passenger, who sounded like a lawyer, did the same in French and Spanish and also did a good job. The hosts did do some translation, some better than others. The English-speaking host tended to reduce everything to a brief summary to the effect that the captain was aware of everyone's feelings and had passed these on to Genoa. Head Office, it was alleged, had told him to hold a meeting, canvas the views of passengers and report back.
This sounded far too flimsy to the aggrieved and increasingly irritated passengers. The captain and crew were asked to leave so that a private meeting of passengers could be held. Apparently, you couldn't see Costa's finest for dust as they fled.
In the subsequent meeting, which like ours was hampered by language difficulties, a letter was agreed that asked Costa for compensation. This was passed to the captain who forwarded it to Genoa. Genoa's response? Hard luck, no compensation, get used to it.
So, like us, they missed out on the Comoros Islands and Madagascar, although we also lost Réunion. However, Costa saw no reason for the passengers to be worthy of any compensation whatsoever and took the attitude that they would just have to put up with it all.
At one of the last dinners a feisty French lady went around distributing slips of paper with e-mail addresses and the senior restaurant management tried angrily to stop her. To her credit she persevered, and we should thank her for giving us this link to the 1500+ customers of the cruise before ours and for demonstrating to us that we weren't hit by unavoidable problems. Costa's whole management structure, from the Europa's pathetic leadership right up to the top in Genoa, lacks customer focus in a truly dreadful way.
I been in touch already with, I think, the nice lady who stood up to Costa's bullying managers, and I will ask her if she would like me to publicise her contact details here.