Long renowned for cruising “Italian Style,” Costa Cruises is the largest cruise line in Europe and one that attracts an international crowd drawn to its fun and flamboyant style.
As part of Carnival Corporation, Costa has access to the parent company’s deep pockets; as a result, Costa has one of the most active shipbuilding programs of any brand in the industry.
The line has used that money well to build one of the most modern fleets in the Mediterranean and beyond. Almost all of these are post-Panamax behemoths registering over 100,000 tons, but a couple are of the Panamax variety and small enough to fit through the locks of the Panama Canal.
Costa Cruises’ International Mix
Mostly modeled on Carnival ships—the newest even share the same interior designer—the Costa vessels distinguish themselves with their Continental themes and Italian spirit. Passengers are an international mix, more so than on most North American-based cruise lines, so announcements are made in a variety of languages including English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish, and the currency onboard is typically the euro rather than the dollar.
The Ambience On Costa Cruises
You can enjoy classical music aboard Costa ships, but also plenty of rock, pop, and other genres. Menus are heavy on pasta and Italian-style cooking, served up alongside other culinary delights to provide a mix of cuisines and flavors. Even the names of the ships have an Italian flair. Entertainment is designed to bridge different languages and nationalities, uniting passengers from around the world.
Activities stress audience participation and the young, bouncy and attractive cruise staff encourages everyone to celebrate and have a good time, Italian style. Late-night theme parties and contests are always well attended and guaranteed to get passengers laughing out loud. Overall, the ambiance can best be summed up in one word: Exuberant.
Costa Does The Med & More
Costa keeps most of its ships in its home waters of the Mediterranean year-round, but also deploys them throughout the globe. One or two vessels are always positioned in the Caribbean for the North American winter, and the line has recently been a pioneer in developing the United Arab Emirates as a regional homeport by positioning some of its newest tonnage there—one ship, the Costa Deliziosa, was even christened in Dubai.
Costa indeed travels far and wide: The line was the first international cruise brand to offer regularly scheduled cruises from China, and recently offered a seasonal program of cruises from the U.S. East Coast to Canada/New England. But while the ships and destinations may change, one thing is always found aboard a Costa cruise liner: Its famous Italian signature of love, laughter, and la dolce vita.
Costa Deliziosa Cruise Review: Sunglasses & Short Skirts, A Full Italian Immersion
by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.
On board Costa Deliziosa en route to Naples, Italy.
After 24 hours on Costa’s brand new Deliziosa, two things become apparent:
Deliziosa feels like a Carnival Corporation ship, which, of course, it is. Those who have cruised Carnival Corp.’s other brands, particularly Carnival Cruise Lines or Princess Cruises, will feel at home on Deliziosa.
There are about 1,000 people, or a little more than half of the population on this preview cruise, who look as though they’ve just stepped off a Milanese catwalk and onto the ship — and perhaps they have.
That’s because Deliziosa (is it just me or does the name sound like a cocktail or an entree at Olive Garden?) is an Italian ship through and through. On board, it’s not unusual to see people wearing sunglasses, indoors and in winter, mind you; or skirts so short, and with so little material, that it makes one wonder if the seamstress was fired before finishing her job.
There is a style and finesse that is indisputably Italian and all the things that Italy represents to the rest of the world, concisely characterized perhaps in the phrase, la dolce vita. With some imagination, Deliziosa, in fact, could well be just another small town in Italy.
“With Costa, there is a natural continuity between being on the water and being on land,” says Costa President and CEO Maurice Zarmati, explaining that Costa’s on board experience is similar to the experience guests might have if they were touring Italy.
Yes, there is the pizza and the pasta, the busy coffee shop, an appropriately ornate chapel, and the language. Filipino crew members greet guests with Bon Giorno! Presented in six languages, the muster drill is agonizingly long but handy if you’re attempting to master various European languages.
Customer service staff wear pins with flags depicting the languages they speak. I saw no one behind the desk with fewer than five flags, and one staff member proudly waved six from his lapel.
For the North American market, Costa may just be the least appreciated cruise line sailing Europe. We North Americans simply don’t think of Costa. The concept of “Cruising, Italian Style” never quite caught on, despite years of marketing to us. Does Costa deserve a second look for Americans considering cruising in Europe?
In answer to that, Zarmati asks rhetorically, “Is it better to sell an American on an American ship to a European destination, or could it be more attractive to sell an American on a European ship to a European destination?” Obviously, he believes Americans are better served by fully immersing themselves in European culture by cruising on a ship where they don’t represent the majority. Pack your sunglasses and short skirts and explore Europe the European way.
The Avid Cruiser Meets The ‘Real Housewives’
On last night’s episode of Bravo’s popular “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” series, the stars of the show said “ciao” to the Garden State and “buongiorno” to Italy aboard Costa’s newest ship, the Costa Deliziosa. Last February, the famous Italian American housewives were among the first guests to sail on the Italian ship as she set sail on her maiden voyage, and the Avid Cruiser was there, apparently, according to my daughter, appearing briefly in last night’s show.
Housewives Teresa Giudice, Jacqueline Laurita and Caroline Manzo took a well-deserved getaway from the drama of the series’ second season by cruising with Costa from Venice to Naples. The ladies boarded the ship just two days after it was delivered. Giudice was joined by her husband, daughters, parents and in-laws. Laurita and her husband, who is also Manzo’s brother, brought their two children and Jacqueline’s parents. Manzo was joined by her husband and parents.
“We were thrilled to welcome the housewives of New Jersey and their families as some of the first guests to sail aboard the Costa Deliziosa,” said Maurice Zarmati, president and ceo of Costa North America. “They really made the most of the vacation experience by taking in the sights of Venice while ashore and relaxing onboard with spa treatments, Blackjack games in the casino and dancing in the disco. You could tell they were all very close and family oriented.”
by Ralph Grizzle. An award-winning travel writer, and recognized cruise ship expert.
A few weeks ago, I left Asheville, North Carolina, for Venice, Italy. Up to 18 inches of snow had blanketed the North Carolina mountains in the days preceding my flight. I was lucky to get out, connecting via Atlanta and Rome to Venice.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of a winter cruise around the boot of Italy. In December, I sailed Silver Spirit from Monte Carlo to Barcelona. Weather was chilly, but not bone-chilling cold. On such a short cruise, we had little time to take in the shoreside attractions, so my experience was limited to the ship. The Venice trip would be different. We would have time ashore in Venice, Naples and Florence on the four-night cruise to Savona.
As the Alitalia flight descended, I could see a blanket of snow covering the flat stretches of land surrounding Venice. The sky was cobalt blue, the sun bright. Stepping outside the terminal to chilly weather, however, I was hoping that our transfer (I was traveling with two other journalists) was not by water taxi. Luckily, we transferred in a warm Mercedes van.
We arrived at the Venice Cruise Terminal just before noon. Boarding was not possible until 12:30, and the ship’s departure was at 5. With little time to explore the city and jet-lagged from the transatlantic flight, I opted out of venturing into Venice. Others who had arrived the day before I did, however, told me they had an enjoyable day exploring the city.
With no rain and temperatures ranging from the freezing point to the mid-forties, a jacket was all that was required to shake off the chill. The crowds in St. Mark’s square were thin, lines to the basilica were non-existent. What a contrast to summer. Moreover, Venice functioned as usual. Gondoliers were at work in the canals, shops were open, and the city was as romantic as ever.
The next day was a sea day, followed by a mid-morning call in Naples. The weather was considerably warmer, and again, all that was required was a thin jacket to get out and explore the sites. Some from the ship went to Pompeii to explore the ruins without the crowds. Others went into the city for tours, and others took the ferry to Capri. Those who went to Capri said that many of the shops were shuttered, but there were a few restaurants open, and again, no crowds.
The story repeated itself on a tour from Livorno to Florence and Pisa.
On board Costa Deliziosa, activities were not limited to indoors. The outer decks and public areas were open and in use, though there were no bikini-clad sunbathers. The magrodome was used during a late-night, pool-deck performance by Kid Creole & the Coconuts. There were fewer kids on board than on summer cruises, and the passenger base was dominated by Europeans, as is the case on all Costa cruises in Europe.
The concept of winter cruising in the Med was introduced several years ago, as cruise operators looked to expand the traditional spring-through-fall Mediterranean season by offering sailings in the off-season.
In 2004, Costa Magica was the first new ship to begin year-round Mediterranean service. Costa is currently offering 11-day and longer cruises from Savona to the Canary Islands. In 2011, Magica will launch a new series of seven-day Med cruises from Savona to Marseille.
Barcelona is one of the most popular departure ports for winter cruising. Royal Caribbean operated year-round Med voyages from the Spanish city on Brilliance of the Seas in 2009. For the winter of 2010, NCL will place Norwegian Jade in Barcelona to sail alternating 12- and nine-day cruises from Barcelona.
José Campos, an American who lives in Barcelona and is secretary general of MEDCRUISE, an organization of member ports, says that North Americans are increasingly coming to the Med in the off months. Airfares are typically much more of a bargain, Campos says, adding that “savvy repeat cruisers look to visit European destinations with less crowds and milder weather.”
That certainly sums up my experience on winter cruises in the Med.