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The Costa Delisioza // (c) 2010 Costa Cruises
Although summer is the popular season for European travel among North Americans, visiting Europe in the shoulder season and in winter has many advantages, as the authentic life of the cities comes into its own, the crowds of tourists disappear and airfares and cruise rates are considerably cheaper, not to mention the temperature, which is often much more comfortable than during the hot summer months.
Even in January, the coldest month, Rome’s average high is 52 and in December it’s 61; in Northern Italy and Venice, a year-round, land-based destination, the average high is 61 degrees by April.
Costa has wonderful itineraries of all lengths outside high season; an example is Deliziosa’s November 10-night sailings to Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece – an archaeologist’s dream. Rates in winter are a tremendous value; for instance, Costa offers a seven-night cruise to Greece and Croatia from $599.
In addition, Costa has a huge array of high-season sailings that can be used to tempt land-based travelers to book a cruise homeporting in their favorite cities. Among them are:
Northern EuropeThe 2,260-passenger Costa Deliziosa is Costa’s newest ship, launched in February 2010. Along with her sistership Luminosa, which debuted in 2009, she has a more restrained, elegant decor than some of the larger ships, and 68 percent of her staterooms have balconies. Exceptional marble, mother of pearl and Murano glass enrich the interior, and the art collection includes the work of leading contemporary Italian artists. Deliziosa, which will sail Costa’s 100-day world cruise at the end of 2011, has a 4D cinema, Playstation 3 (PS3) game consoles in every cabin, a roller-skating track and an 18-hole championship golf course simulator in addition to the signature Costa features including the Samsara spa and Grand Prix racing simulator.
Deliziosa will sail weeklong cruises roundtrip Copenhagen from June through September, calling in Talinn, St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm, with two days at sea to savor the ship.
To complete the Northern Europe experience, guests can combine this itinerary with the seven-day fjords cruises on the 2,114-passenger Costa Atlantica, offered May through August out of Copenhagen. The cruise calls in Hellesylt, Geiranger, Flam, Stavanger and Bergen, Norway; and Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany, with a day at sea.
Atlantica is the consummate Italian ship, themed to the great filmmaker Federico Fellini, with a world of colorful fantasy inside and artwork that would be more at home in a contemporary museum than in a cruise ship. From her debut in 2000 as the first of the new breed of Costa ships, Atlantica has developed an ardent following and introduced on board the Caffe Florian, an almost exact reproduction of the Venice’s most famous sidewalk cafe.
VeniceFor clients who want to spend time in Venice, the 3,000-passenger Costa Serena’s seven-night cruises sail to Bari, Italy; Katakolon, Greece; Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia, from April through November. Mythology is the theme of this ship, which debuted in 2007, its public rooms dedicated to appropriate gods and goddesses (Janus in the casino, Pan in the disco)
Two of the four pools have retractable roofs, so swimming is comfortable year round.
BarcelonaSistership to Serena, Costa Concordia, the ship that introduced spa staterooms to the cruise industry in 2006, offers seven-night cruises from April through October out of Barcelona with an itinerary featuring two nights in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, one of the most popular destinations in Europe for its beaches, culture and fabulous elegant shopping that has somehow stayed reasonably priced. Concordia also calls in Marseille, France; Savona and Palermo, Italy; and in Tunis, Tunisia, no slouch for shopping either.
Onboard cultureBesides becoming familiar with the wide-ranging Costa product, agents will need to explain to clients that the customs aboard Costa are much the same as those on land in Europe. Meals are scheduled later, with the main dining seatings at 7:30 and 9:30, and coffee is not taken afterwards in the dining room but in one of the lounges. Guests who choose alternative dining can eat earlier, and there is a room service menu, although there is a fee for it in Europe. Although there is no smoking at all in the restaurants and show lounges, Costa has smoking sections in most public rooms; guests also can smoke in their staterooms, as well as in designated areas on open decks and in the casinos.
In addition, travelers should know that, as on land, they don’t have to line up dutifully for anything on Costa ships; nobody else will.
During the high summer season, Southern Europeans party with exuberance on the Costa ships. The atmosphere is more sedate during the shoulder seasons and winter. At all times, the multicultural mix of well-dressed guests is fun to watch and even more fun to join. With all the passion for pleasure, there is a very romantic atmosphere on these ships and an enjoyment of life that is an international education in its own right.