Back in March 1948 Costa Cruises started operations when the Anna C, the cruise line’s first cruise ship, made her first voyage from Genoa to South America. 70 years later the Italian cruise line has 14 modern ships, sailing to 260 destinations offering a unique blend of Italian lifestyle, hospitality and cuisine under the motto ‘Italy’s Finest’.
While for Costa Cruises it all began over seven decades ago with a crossing from Europe to South America, we recently joined Costa Mediterranea for a brief exploration to Dover and Le Havre and to find out if Costa Cruises really offers the best of Italy at sea.
DAY 1 – BENVENUTI A BORDO
We started the day with another lesson learned: “Never trust the weatherman”. A warm sunny day with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius, and here we are in our shorts and t-shirts facing a cold sea breeze. Luckily we packed a warm sweater, which we grab from our bags before handing them over to the security guards. A quick check of our ID-cards and boarding passes and we’re good to go on the waiting bus that takes us to our floating Italian palace. Before we set foot on the boarding bridge another security guard checks our ID-cards again, scans our boarding passes, takes our photo and wishes us “Benvenuti a bordo, welcome aboard!”
We are on deck two – Ponte Tersicore – in the middle of the ten-storey high Maschera d’Argento atrium. It’s not so much the height of the atrium that surprises us, but rather the generous and colourful way in which the atrium is decorated. Under the motto “Mai visto niente di simile” (which means something like “you’ve never seen anything like this), the design of Costa Mediterranea was inspired by the old noble palaces of the Italian peninsula. An abundant use of marble, a collection of columns topped by a Roman God and Roman vases with Murano glass all in a rich palette of warm colors. The Italians have kept their word, we have not seen anything like it before!
Since we boarded the ship without a lot of formalities (we don’t even have an electronic key card to open our cabin) we head towards the reception. Turns out our Costa Card, the card that opens the stateroom door, is used to pay for purchases while on board and generally serves as your on board ID-card, is waiting for us in the cabin. Feeling a bit naked without our Costa Card (in all honesty we need the card to order a drink in one of the many bars), we rush towards the cabin.
We take the elevator to deck five, or as the Italians call it Ponte Cinque. A quick look at the control panel shows that the twelve decks on Costa Mediterranea are all named after mythological and historical figures: Circe, Tersicore, Bacco, Teseo, Orfeo, Narciso, Prometeo, Pegaso, Armonia, Cleopatra, Pandora and Medea. We exit the elevator on the Orfeo deck and look for a cabin 5151, one of the 1057 cabins on board.
Upon entering the cabin we are greeted by a blue-green carpet. On the left is the bathroom. Inside there’s a pretty spacious shower, a sink and a toilet. Above the sink is a large mirror with three glass shelves on both sides and a movable, magnifying shaving/make-up mirror. Costa also provides towels, washcloths, a box of tissues, soap, conditioning shampoo, shower gel and (this is a first and very much appreciated) after sun. Above the mirror is an electrical outlet for shavers.
On the right side of the room is a large wardrobe, a desk and some smaller storage spaces. The desk, which also serves as a make-up table, has four drawers (with a hairdryer in the upper drawer), a European and American outlet, and a light switch. The mirror above the desk has make-up lighting all around. The drsk area is also where we find the telephone, the minibar, the flat screen TV and a safe (which is opened and closed with the Costa Card).
Above the bed, which can be seperated into two single beds, is a light switch and a portrait of three Italian noble ladies. Next to the bed two bedside tables with drawers and copper night lamps. To the left of the bed a salmon-colored sofa, that can be used as a third bed, with two large storage drawers underneath.
After our close inspection of the cabin it is time to celebrate our introduction to Costa Cruises with an Italian cocktail. We settle down in the Maschera d’Argento Bar and order a Costa Wind and Costa Sky, two of the four house cocktails. Salute, to a successful cruise!
Before exploring the ship, and because it’s a cruise tradition, we decide to have a bite to eat in the buffet restaurant. A piece of meat, a bowl of pasta and two desserts later we start our discovery, how else, with a cocktail in one of the 12 bars.
Because every exploration requires a good plan, we eagerly use the map with the deck plans of the ship that we found in the cabin. Not only will it minimise the risk of getting lost, the folder is also a handy holder to store our Costa Card.
At the very front of the deck we descend into the cave-like theater and night club Salone Giardinoa Isolabella. During the day a quiet place, in the evening it is the place-to-be if you want to go all out on international pop and dance music.
Besides the already mentioned Maschera d’Argento Bar the Ponte Tersicore (deck two) also houses the Casanova Bar and Piazza. During the day this is where the entertainment team organises games and dance classes while in the evening ballroom dancing is on the agenda. The Canal Grande Bar in the Casino is a more quiet venue while the Talia Lounge is home to Latin music.
Maybe it is because they are located next to the library and the internet point, but the Roero Bar and Oriental Lounge on deck three are some of the more quiet venues onboard. The live piano music makes this (in our opinion) the most beautiful and relaxing bars on the ship. Next to the entrance of the main dining room is the ship’s champagne, the Dioniso Bar and Lounge.
It’s no surprise that the Armonia and Apollo Bar are mainly visited during the day as they are located on the pool deck. The Armonia Bar is located between the indoor and the outdoor swimming pool, the Apollo Bar is located at the back of the ship in the zone reserved for adults.
With the guests arriving back onboard and the ship preparing to leave, it’s time for us to finish our tour of the bars and get ready for our first night on board Costa Mediterranea.
First stop of the evening: the Rouro Bar and the next cocktail on the bar list. However, we don’t have a lot of time to lounge about as the show in the Teatro Osiris starts at a quarter to eight. Completely immersed in the dolce far niente lifestyle, we arrive a few minutes too late in the theater. Turns out that, however laid back those Italians in general are, when it comes to showtime they are extremely punctual. Half an hour and an opera revue later, we follow the crowds as they leave the theater on their way to the main dining room. On our way to the restaurant we squeeze in a quick stop at the Roero Bar where the piano player is entertaining guests with some easy listening music and a selection of international hits.
L’ITALIA IN TAVOLA – cucina tradizionale
In the “Ristorante degli Argentieri”, freely translated “Restaurant of the Silversmith” the menu offers a choice of Antipasti, Primi Piatti, Secondi Piatti, Insalata, Selezione di formaggi and Dolci. There are also a number of “I Piatti Semper disponibili” or dishes that are always available. For those who’s Italian is as limited as ours, the menus are also available in French and English.
It’s almost eleven o’clock when we finish our extensive and tasteful Italian meal. Just enough time for one last drink before we hit the sack. Join us tomorrow for our second day on board the beautiful Costa Mediterranea and our visit to the White Cliffs of Dover.