Costa Cruises adds to its ‘Italian-style’ fleet

By: Ana Figueroa

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Costa Serena's inaugural celebration
took place at the port of Marseilles.
If this is the summer of the Mediterranean, then Costa Cruises has a distinct advantage. It’s slogan, after all, is “Cruising Italian Style,” and in that respect, the line delivers as promised.

“Costa is for someone looking for more international flavor. It’s not ‘American Italian.’ It’s Italian Italian,” said Carnival Corp. & plc chairman and CEO Micky Arison during a pre-inaugural tour of Costa’s new flagship, Costa Serena.

Indeed, Costa may be owned by the giant Carnival Corp., but manages to maintain a uniquely European flair. Take one step aboard the new 114,00-ton, 3,000-passenger Serena, and you’ll know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Espresso machines line the bar counters, food is tailored to the European palate and announcements are made in Italian (as well as English). Music and dancing are a big part of the Costa experience, with entertainment going on well into the night.

“Cruising Italian style” also includes some distinctive service. Staff greet guests with a “Buon Giorno” or “Buona Sera,” depending on the time of day. Room service orders arrive via white-gloved waiters, and morning coffee is poured from white porcelain pitchers with a companion pitcher of steamed milk.

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French actress Marion Cottillard
served as Costa Serena's godmother.
Costa is the leading cruise line in Europe, attracting not only Italians, but Spanish, French and a fair number of North Americans (approximately 20 percent). The line’s newer ships are known for their bold interior design, and Costa Serena is no exception. Her design theme is classical mythology, and the ship’s public spaces are decorated in multi-colored, multi-textured tributes to an appropriate god or goddess.

The disco, for example, is named for the mischievous Pan (and his flute); the main restaurant, for the goddess of the hearth; the sports bar for Victoria, the goddess of victory; and the beauty salon for Venus. Elevators are adorned with a handsome image, said to be Jupiter, the father of the gods, and the Greek key symbol is repeated in carpeting, banisters and trim. But the ship’s atrium is where the gods are really smiling. A series of “costumed sculptures” hang suspended from tufts of clouds, intended to symbolize a modern-day “pantheon of the gods.”

The strong design theme makes an appropriate background for a vessel designed to sail in the Mediterranean. The Serena, like her sister ship the Costa Concordia, which launched last year, is specifically designed for year-round cruising. Two retractable magrodomes enclose two pool areas, allowing guests to lounge by the pool and wander to the nearby buffet restaurant, even if the weather isn’t cooperating. The opportunity to cruise the Mediterranean even in winter is one of the Serena’s biggest selling points.

The ship also shares some splashy features with Concordia, such as an authentic Grand Prix race car driving simulator, a giant poolside movie screen and 13 bars, including a chocolate bar. The ship’s specialty restaurant, Club Bacco, features the cuisine of Michelin-starred Italian chef Ettore Bocchia.

The most noteworthy feature Costa Serena shares with her sister ship is definitely the Samsara Spa. Encompassing more than 20,000 square feet, the spa is one of the largest at sea. Its two decks feature a thalassotherapy pool, wet and dry saunas, a tea room for post-treatment relaxation and a tanning area. Glass windows (and in some places, ceilings) provide panoramic Mediterranean views.

For the ultimate in pampering, 99 Samsara Suites feature a subdued design decor, special Elemis spa toiletries and flat-panel TVs. They also include separate access to the Samsara Spa, by way of a dedicated elevator and stairway. Samsara Suite guests can thus meander in and out of the spa in their bathrobes and slippers, enjoying private lounge areas, treatments and consultations that are included in the price of their cabins (about 20 percent higher than the normal fare).

At mealtime, Samsara Suite guests dine in their own Samsara Restaurant, enjoying lighter spa fare or ordering off the dining room menu if they prefer. It’s like having a spa cruise within a cruise, and that translates well in any language.


From June to November, Costa Serena will sail seven-day Mediterranean cruises from Venice, calling on Bari, Olympia, Izmir, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. In winter 2007-2008, Costa Serena will offer 10- and 11-day cruise vacations to the Canary Islands, departing from Savona.