Costa Magica Casts Its Spell

Ship’s ambiance is full of European charm

By: Ana Figueroa

GENOA, Italy A grand piano floated in the air, outside my stateroom balcony. But I thought nothing of it. This was, after all, the christening voyage of the Costa Magica, Costa Cruises’ new flagship.

Magic, it seemed, was everywhere, from the time we boarded the ship in Genoa, Italy, where Costa is headquartered. We cruised overnight to Barcelona for the christening ceremonies, a fantastical spectacle that included not only floating pianos, but graceful dancers, operatic arias and performers scaling the side of the ship. What else would you expect from a ship called Magica?

The three-day festivities in Barcelona, Spain, marked the first time in Costa’s history that one of its ships was christened outside of Italy. But, Barcelona is a key port for Costa (Europe’s number one cruise line), and it has invested millions in upgrading the terminal there. During the event, officials from Genoa and Barcelona frequently mentioned that the two cities share one favorite son, Cristobal Colon. To us, he’s Christopher Columbus, the explorer from Genoa who sailed out of Barcelona on behalf of the Spanish crown. There’s a giant statue of Columbus on Barcelona’s waterfront, his hands pointing to the New World. On our first night in Barcelona, the stars twinkled like a jar of glitter shaken over the port, a good omen for a ship christening, I decided. Though modern-day passengers may not be as intrepid as Columbus’ crew, we do have a love of the sea, travel and adventure in common. The Costa Magica captures that feeling, conveying “The Magic of Italy,” in details great and small. At 105,000 tons, the 2,720-passenger Magica is, along with her sister ship the Fortuna (which debuted in 2003), the largest ship ever built for an Italian company.

Costa Cruises became part of industry giant Carnival Corporation in 2000, and the Magica’s layout seemed familiar to me, having recently sailed on the Carnival Victory. (The Magica is built on the Destiny-class ship platform.) But the comparisons really end there. Costa has held steadfast to its “Cruising Italian Style” directive, and the Magica is Italian in ambience, style and attitude.

The ship will ply Mediterranean waters year-round, departing from Costa’s gorgeous new Palacrociere Terminal in Savona. The ultramodern facility looks more like a designer showcase than a cruise terminal. With flat-screen televisions, sleek Italian furnishings, a free Internet cafe, magazine stand and a snack bar serving espressos, pastries and grilled Panini, the Italian experience begins before boarding the ship.

Once onboard, architect Joe Farkus, who designed the Carnival fleet, has included touches on the Magica that leave no doubt that we’re in Europe. Inlaid woods, fabric-lined walls, plush velvets and brocades grace the public areas. I wandered from room to room, admiring the beautiful mosaic tile work on floors, ceilings and counter tops, works of art in and of themselves. There are 11 bars on the Magica, which, more than anything, contribute to the sense of being in Italy. Each bar features a gleaming espresso machine, usually surrounded by handsome men in Italian suits engaged in animated conversation with stylishly dressed women. With Italian pop music playing in the background, the bars on the Magica capture the ambience of a street corner bar in Rome.

The Grand Bar Salento holds the largest bar and dance floor on any cruise ship (except the equally large Grand Bar Savoia on the Fortuna, that is). There’s live music each evening, and if our christening cruise was any indication, the Grand Bar will be a lively nightspot. Europeans make up the primary passenger contingent on Costa ships in the Mediterranean and, Europeans love to dance.

Cabins on the Magica bear some unique design details. More than 500 of the ship’s 1,380 cabins have balconies, which is an impressive number for a European ship. My cabin, with ocean view and a balcony, was a generous 210 square feet, decorated in honey-colored woods, and a pleasant melon color on the sofa, bedspreads and curtains. The lampshades and wall sconces were pointy, reminding me of a wizard’s cap. The leather loop-like pulls on the drawers and closets were a nice touch, though they took a bit of getting used to. Whimsical copper “cut-out” designs adorned the tops of the walls.

The cabin, complete with mini-bar, ample closet space and a television, was comfortable for one or two people. For your clients who want to really travel in style, the Magica offers 58 suites in three different variations. All of them with whirlpool baths.

The Magica’s public spaces were so colorful and fun, I didn’t spend much time in the cabin. Bars, restaurants and lounges are all designed as tributes to famous destinations in Italy, from Lombardy to Sicily. The Capri Lounge features cobalt blue fixtures and neon blue lights, yellow stone walls and wavy blue borders on the tops of the furnishings. It’s easy to sit in a leather booth, and imagine yourself in Capri’s famous Blue Grotto.

The three-deck Urbino theater evokes a Renaissance palace, with inlaid wood pilasters, plush upholstered banquettes, a golden dome and a gorgeous Murano glass chandelier. For late-night revelers, the glass-walled Grado Disco is one of the most popular spots on the ship. The disco’s beach umbrellas, “sand” floor under glass, and wave-like mosaic tiles are designed to resemble a nightspot on Italy’s Grado Coast.

Though I’m not much of a gambler, I loved walking through the ship’s casino. It features an incredible display of 65 hand-made Sicilian puppets, enclosed in glass cases. The puppets are elaborately costumed as medieval knights, damsels in distress, court jesters and magicians, a tribute to the days when puppeteers passed tales and legends from generation to generation. Passengers might expect a full measure of relaxation and pampering from a European line. The Magica doesn’t disappoint. The ship’s Saturnia Spa includes a wellness center, sauna, Turkish baths, and a fitness center with the same state-of -the art Technogym equipment that I have to wait in line for at my local gym.

Three Lido areas feature several Jacuzzis and four beautiful pools, including a children’s pool. The delicate, colorful tile work and mosaics around the pools are as lovely as those inside the ship. One of the pools has a retractable glass roof, so guests can swim when it’s a little chilly outside.

It took me a few days to discover all the artwork onboard. I was always noticing something new around a corner, staircase or hallway.

The Italia Magica atrium also holds a whimsical mural of the Italian countryside, and a set of glass elevators. Unlike the sterile reception areas of other cruise ships, this atrium was a bustling hub of activity. Every evening, we’d gather for pre-dinner cocktails at the large bar, and people watch, as passengers headed for dinner.

The Magica offers delectable Italian and continental fare at its two main restaurants, the Costa Smerelda and Portofino. The dining rooms, staffed with attentive, well-trained waiters, serve breakfast, lunch and two dinner seatings. The ship’s buffet option, the Bellagio, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well. The selections at the buffet have a European flair, with delicious pizzas, fresh seafood and made-to-order pasta dishes. Room service continental breakfast and a small sandwich selection is available 24 hours a day, for a 2 euro charge. Our last night onboard, we tried the Vincenza Club, the ship’s alternative dinner restaurant. An elegant supper club with marble floors and a giant skylight, the restaurant features live entertainment and an amazing menu from one of Genoa’s most famous eateries. There’s a service fee of 23 euro, and reservations are a must.

Our dinner stretched into the wee hours, fueled by several cups of espresso. When I finally made it back to my cabin, I wondered how I would ever get to sleep. As I stared at the ceiling above my pillow, I noticed a painting over my head for the first time. Fairies, elves and gnomes danced gleefully there, waving magic wands, as if to cast a spell on weary travelers. It worked like a charm, and I soon fell fast asleep. It was like magic.


Ship: Costa Magica
Gross Tonnage: 105,000
Company: Costa Crociere
Length: 272 meters (892 feet)
Year Built: 2004
Passenger Capacity: 2,720
Phone: 800-462-6782
Hits: The ship’s 11 bars are more than just a place to get a drink. They’re vibrant and lively gathering spots, serving European aperitifs and espressos on gorgeous, gleaming tile counters. It’s La Dolce Vita on the high seas.
Misses:If there’s one downside to a European cruising experience, it’s the fact that Europeans still smoke. A lot. Costa prohibits smoking in the main dining rooms and show lounges of its vessels. The Magica’s bars, lounges, Vincenza Club specialty restaurant and Bellagio Buffet Restaurant have specially designated smoking areas. But, the lines got a little blurred, at least on our christening cruise. For the most part, the ship’s air filters work just fine, but be prepared to occasionally find yourself in direct line of a smoker, with little recourse.


This is a ship for clients looking for a European experience, not a floating American hotel. Fellow passengers on the Costa Magica will primarily be Europeans, and onboard announcements are in several languages. Sophisticated travelers who are comfortable in Europe will appreciate the Magica. The ship even has a nice children’s facility, for parents who want to give little their little travelers a taste of Italy.

From now until April 26, the Magica sails an 11-day Eastern Mediterranean itinerary. The ship departs from Savona, Italy, with calls in Naples; Alessandria, Egypt; Limassol, Cyprus; Rhodes, Greece; Marmaris, Turkey; and Pireus and Katakolon, Greece. The only exception is the beginning of March, when the Costa Magica will offer an eight-day cruise to Greece, Malta and Tunisia.

From the end of April until November, the Magica will offer a seven-day Western Mediterranean itinerary departing from Savona. The ship will call in Barcelona and Palma de Majorca, Spain; Tunisi, Tunisia; the island of Malta; and Palermo and Civitavecchia, Italy.