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
“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.
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
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.