Ciao, Concordia

A new flagship cruises the Mediterranean

By: Ana Figueroa

Costa Crociere’s new flagship will sail year-round in the Mediterranean, so the company chose a name Costa Concordia representing the “harmony and brotherhood” of the European people. Ironic, then, that the ship’s inaugural festivities took place in Italy on the same July weekend as the World Cup Soccer Finals. Things were anything but harmonious as numerous invited dignitaries, European travel partners and ship’s crew members enjoyed a boisterous battle as they sat transfixed around the ship’s huge poolside LED screen.

Fortunately, Italy proved victorious in the end; an auspicious sign for a weekend focusing on Italian pride. Costa Concordia built at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard is not only the newest and largest addition to the Costa fleet, she’s the largest Italian cruise ship ever built.

Costa, of course, is a member of the Carnival Corporation family, and Costa Concordia utilizes the same platform as Carnival’s Conquest-class vessels. But the comparisons really end there. There’s something about the interior design of Costa ships that gives them an inherently Euro feel. They’re a tad more decadent, as if to emphasize that Europeans take their holidays more seriously than we do. They also like to see and be seen, and the ship provides plenty of venues for that, including 13 different bars.

The Costa Concordia’s design pays tribute to various architectural and design styles that flourished in Europe, and more than 6,000 works of art make Costa Concordia a veritable floating gallery. Public gathering places are particularly intense in their design concepts. The opulent, Art Deco-inspired European Atrium is done up in greens reminiscent of the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s the perfect place to linger over an espresso or cafe latte. The 1,200-seat Teatro Atene is a three-level tribute to Greek Classical architecture. Even the ship’s buffet restaurant is a colorful, Art Moderne showplace that has the feel of an elegant eatery.

The ship’s specialty, reservations-only restaurant, Club Concordia, is decorated in bright, geometric patterns, a nod to the Dutch “De Stijl” movement. Menus spring from the masterful mind of Italian Michelin-starred chef, Ettore Bocchia, creator of “molecular cuisine.”

Costa Concordia’s much-anticipated Samsara Spa is the largest at sea a two-level oasis that boasts a Rock Sauna, Aromatic Turkish Bath, Winter Garden, Tea House and Solarium to name a few features. A new category of accommodations, Samsara Cabins and Samsara Suites offer direct access to the Spa, as well as special decor, amenities and dining privileges at the Samsara restaurant, featuring spa cuisine. It’s a veritable wellness vacation, and you don’t need to wander far from your stateroom. But you might want to there’s so much more to enjoy on the ship.

An authentic Grand Prix race car simulator (not for the faint of heart) actually makes you feel like you’re taking off. For mere lounging around, it’s hard to resist the stunning Ponte Francia, a deck housing two pools with retractable roofs (the largest enclosable space at sea). It’s ablaze with yellow tiles that gleam like gold in the sun, a bit like the Emperor Nero’s palace in its heyday. No doubt it will be packed with beautiful people during the ship’s year-round Mediterranean cruises.

But you wouldn’t expect anything less from a Costa ship.


Company: Costa Crociere
Ship: Costa Concordia
Size: 112,000
Capacity: 3,000 lower berths

Hits: The ship is a true “floating spa,” thanks to the two-level, expansive Samsara Spa. Guilty pleasures include the Caffe Helsinki’s chocolate fountain.

Misses: No Wi-Fi, a disappointment for North Americans.

Itinerary: From now until the end of 2007, Costa Concordia will sail seven-night Western Mediterranean itineraries from Civitavecchia that will call at Savona, Barcelona, Palma, Tunis, Malta and Palermo.