This was our "LUCKY" 13th cruise in the past four years and our fifth on Costa ships. We have sailed once on the CostaVictoria and three times on the CostaRomantica, thus we know what "Cruising Italian Style" means. The all white Costa ships with their sleek silhouettes and yellow stacks emblazoned with the navy blue "C" are easily recognized both in port and at sea. In the face of the new boxy style Gigaships, the Costa Line has remained true to the classic liner shape and the new CostaAtlantica is more of the same on the outside, but radically different on the inside. She has the elegance of the CostaRomantica, including the extensive use of marble, granite, fine fixtures and art work.
However, the CostaAtlantica is not sober elegance as expected from traditional Italian design, but she is more glitzy and busy in details as in the style characteristic of the Carnival ships decorated by Joe Farcus. But we think that Pier Luigi Foschi, the Costa Crociere President, has put together a large group of artists who definitely created the Italian atmosphere throughout the ship.
The overwhelming quantity of artwork in every public area, corridor, elevator, etc. is so extensive that it requires a 221-page book, CostaAtlantica ARTWORKS, enumerating and describing the huge art collection on board: representing various cultures, styles and ages from original venetian style glass works and museum quality copies of Botticelli and Titian to replicas of Pompeian frescos; from modern pieces of art to the repetition of design achieved with the use of glass, marble, mosaics, ceramic and teakwood.
Now we know why ships are called SHE, because they are like women, each to be appreciated for her uniqueness, and the CostaAtlantica lives up to her reputation as no other ship you have ever seen, due to the undeniable richness of its decor -- MAGNIFICENT! Although the grandiose scale of the Eagle Class gigaships of RCCL, Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas, is not found in the smaller 84,000-ton CostaAtlantica, the attention to detail and the overwhelming abundance of art and artisanship combine to make her the crown jewel of the Costa Lines.
FIRST IMPRESSIONSDocked at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, CostaAtlantica seemed much like the other Costa ships but larger, except for the five decks of balconied cabins (80% of the cabins have ocean view and most of theses have private verandas). Once on board you immediately know she is different. It is detail, detail, detail that dazzles the eye! And it continues to amaze you all week with newly noticed detail.
EMBARKATIONAs we had booked a suite, we had prority boarding and were processed in less than five minutes and then were sent to a waiting area because we had requested a wheel chair. In five more minutes we were on board and escorted to our suite in a total of ten minutes in all (Costa welcomes passengers aboard better than all other lines). On the way up in the glass cage elevator (there are three of them), we were struck by the beautiful Pompeian style mural which covers the eight deck high Atrium wall. Looking up we saw the crystal stairway leading from Deck 9 to Deck 10 and the alternative dining Club Atlantica.
CABINSOur Panoramic Suite with veranda #6219 (360 sq. ft.) on deck 6 gave the impression of a Captain's quarters on an 18th century galleon: The 12" teakwood ceiling molding capped the entire room. When entering, on the right there is a mirrored wall with three teakwood pillars, with ebony cone-shaped capitals. Then follows a desk and a refrigerated minibar with granite countertops and beyond that a beige leather sofa which converts to a queen size bed and finally a coffee table. When entering on the left, there is an ante room with a lady's dressing table and a lighted wall of mirrors opposite a huge armoire; beyond that is the bathroom with double sinks and again mirrored wall, full bathtub/shower with Jacuzzi (again all granite counters and marble walls with mosaic trim). VERY NICE! We found complimentary white Costa robes and bathroom slippers.
Exiting the bathroom and going left there is a wall console with the safe, bar, TV and another huge armoire (a double closet with bureau). There is a queen size bed with a granite shelf on the headboard and another mirrored wall. The three end tables and the desk had beautiful venetian blown glass and copper table lamps and there were two beautifully framed original pictures "Le Amiche" ("The Friends") by Ciferri and the "Paesaggio con Neve" ("Landscape with Snow") by Corradin.
The entrance floor is parquet and the carpeting is beige and coral, with a houndstooth design of charcoal. The far wall is mostly glass, with a door leading onto the 8'X15' veranda which holds two teak reclining chairs and a small table to which Marianela, the butler, added a lounge chair. All the other ships we have cruised on had plastic or metal veranda furniture: The wood was much more elegant looking. The ambiance is nautical in a subdued and Italian Style.
We feel the difference between cabins and suites is more than the cost difference. Whenever possible we book a suite; although, we did visit our son's oceanview cabin with veranda #8226 (210 sq. ft.) and it was nice, but the appointments of our suite were much more impressive for the cost difference.
When we arrived in our cabin we found a bottle of Prosecco Spumante chilling with two glasses and a bowl of fruit. Throughout our cruise, Teresa, our stewardess, and Marianela were efficient and non-intrusive. Every morning Marianela set the breakfast table with a white cloth, and, with our order, she always included freshly squeezed orange juice which tasted better than the reconstituted one. THANK YOU MARIANELA!
THE SHIPThis new ship was inaugurated July 15, 2000 and is fresh and crisp in appointments with an attention to detail that is incredible. Each public area has a theme that is carried out exquisitely and the overall theme of homage to Fellini and his movies is one that allows for nostalgia and a unifying backdrop for the entire ship.
On Deck 3 the Paparazzi Bar has a display of larger than life candid pictures taken in Rome during the filming of some Fellini's films of the 1950s & 1960s, depicting famous stars like Marcello Mastroianni, Ava Gardner, David Niven, Anita Ekberg, Jayne Mansfield and many more.
The decks are named after Fellini films (ie. La Strada, La Dolce Vita, Amarcord, 8 1/2, etc.) giving continuity to the theme. The decor is a nice introduction to Italy and things Italian for those who have never been there, and a trip down memory lane for those of us familiar with Italy.
The Café Florian is a replica of the famed Venetian tea room of the same name and there is much to admire in its three separate rooms of differing decor: the first room is a portrait gallery of famous Venetians (Marco Polo, Goldoni, Sarpi, Orseolo, Pisani etc.). Check out the optical illusion created from looking through its open window into the next salon and through the next window into the third salon which has an equal sized mirror on the far wall -- all are aligned to give the effect of six rather than three rooms. VERY INTERESTING! The middle room ceiling has portraits of figures seated on clouds (the Goddess Roma and a figure of Italia holding a S.P.Q.R. sign). Those passengers who enjoy a good puzzle may try to identify these mythological figures (the Muses etc.).
Another area which we found beautiful is the arcade corridor on Deck 3 leading to Virtual World (video game room, Deck 4), Pinocchio's Room (the children's hangout, Deck 5) and the Chapel. This terracotta paved flagstone walk holds twenty or so arches covered in Morning Glory and Stephanotis vines and huge round windows flanked by small mosaic topped tables and rattan chairs with velour pads and lighted wall sconces. By day, one can sit and watch the ocean, and by night it presents a beautiful site for sitting or strolling. We were there several times and had it all to ourselves. The long walk also provides a lesson in art perspective, since the arches are repeated so many times.
Most cruisers enjoy the shows and the busy swimming pools or the night clubs, however, we also enjoy quiet at times and the library on the CostaAtlantica is quiet and elegant in the manner of a Gentleman's Club: Four internet stations, of Hewlett Packard L1800 model computers ($6.00/15 min.), a paucity of books (it needs to be improved with more books on a greater variety of subjects), but great decor: Teak bookcases with pillars, green glass urns and torches topped with crystal fern fronds, a matching crystal chandelier and walls of green water silk taffeta with the frond motif repeated.
The Madam Butterfly Lounge had thirty or so crystal geishas in niches encircling the room. This is where most cooking shows and trivia quizzes were given. We played a few quizzes and won some, but we soon realized that the Cruise staff needs some updated games, as their questions were repetitious and especially recognizable by repeat cruisers. We suggested that the staff should get some reference books, such as a new World Almanac and other sources of information, to help them in formulating new questions for their games.
When riding in the elevators, the glass sculptures of dancing figures and the glass vases in niches are the works of Bubacco and Moretti, respectively. Don't forget there are three swimming pools, three Jacuzzi whirlpools, a tennis court, a workout center with aerobics equipments and a health spa with a Thalassotherapy pool, not as big and functional as the one on the Celebrity Century, but very nice.For those interested in gambling there is a great Casino with tables for Blackjack, Caribbean Stud and Draw Poker, Roulette, Craps and a large variety of slot machines. Usually we spend a few hours in the Casino losing a few hundred dollars, but this was our lucky cruise and we ended up winning about one hundred dollars.
The on board shopping is nicely set in the winding Via della Spiga and includes a unique Versace store. We think, however, that the best buys on this ship are in perfumes.
The traffic patterns flow nicely on this thoughtfully-designed ship, allowing passengers to enjoy many of the different lounges. For example, on the way to the Tiziano Dining Room, one can sit on the huge avant garde red leather chairs, and enjoy the view. This is probably the most detailed ship review we have written, but it is the amazing abundance of detail on the CostaAtlantica which makes her so captivating.
We reserved early seating and a table for eight in the upper level (deck 3) of the Tiziano Dining Room, as we traveled with family and friends: Our son Marcello and his lovely wife Paige, who were married on the CostaRomantica; two cousins, Haydee from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Mary from Tucson, Arizona; and our friends Maria and Salvatore from Cincinnati, Ohio. We found that we enjoyed some activities together and basically we met only at mutually enjoyed venues and at dinner each night where we traded interesting stories. The rest of the time, we pursued different activities. We had a small problem on the first night when we found a couple at our table who had informed the assistant Maitre d' that they were friends of ours; however, Cosimo Costanza, the Maitre d' adjusted everything and we were seated at table #620 with great service from Julio, the waiter, and Roque, the assistant waiter.
The choices on the menu were vast and varied. We enjoyed our meals in this elegant and formal atmosphere. We would rate it among the best of dining at sea. Definitely get the prime rib, the roast duck, the rack of lamb, the prosciutto (the real Parma brand) and melon, and most of all, try the pasta dishes, which, upon request, will be cooked al dente just for you. We always chose different dishes and definitely different desserts so we tasted most of the fare offered.
We also dined in the Club Atlantica, the alternative dining, and we were very pleased with an exquisitely prepared and served meal (there is a cover charge of $15 per person). The menu for this restaurant was created by the famous Gualtiero Marchesi, an Italian chef who received three stars in the Michelin Guide and many other awards, both in Italy and worldwide. In contrast with the Portofino, the alternative restaurant of the Explorer of the Seas, which last month left us with a disappointed palate, the Club Atlantica is truly a gourmet restaurant where the adjectives of squisito and delizioso are in order. We highly recommend it: the service was top notch; the dinnerware was by Versace and beautiful; it was a leisurely eaten and delightfully enjoyed meal, accompanied by two wonderful wines. We had been told by our new friend, the Hotel Director, Attilio Sissa, not to miss it. And he was right! It would have been a great loss not to have dined there. It was like dining on top of the world. Make reservations for Club Atlantica during the first day on board, so you may choose the preferred evening, possibly not during a Gala night, when the menu in the Tiziano is at its best.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIESGenerally we have found the entertainment on board to be the "usual fare" since there is much homogeneity among cruise ships: musical reviews with super singers and dancers, comedians which are so-so, and top rated singers. And so it was with this cruise, except for having one of our favorite Italo-American singers, Richard Ianni. He once again had a standing ovation after his performance in the beautiful Caruso Theater and then another standing ovation in the Corallo Lounge, a stunning, more intimate nightclub room on Deck 1 with glass walls and an undersea theme. In this lounge, Sonny Petrillo, a Sinatra style singer, also gave an outstanding performance of a "Tribute to Frank Sinatra." Also in this room Captain Massimo Garbarino held his Repeaters' Cocktail Party. He graciously visited each group and remembered our son and his wife from their honeymoon on the CostaRomantica! His continental personality entranced the ladies in our group.
The days were filled with activities and entertainment, from jogging to aerobics, from dancing lessons to cooking demonstrations, from Italian lessons to musical games, from bridge lessons to tennis tournaments, etc. The very personable Cruise Director, Ray Rouse, and his staff kept the passengers occupied and entertained, but most of all they maintained a festive atmosphere throughout the week, characteristic of an Italian festa, especially on the Italian night, in La Dolce Vita Atrium (Deck 2), where they were dressed in gorgeous Renaissance costumes and danced and played street games with the passengers. And then there was the Toga night. We did not dress in costume, but like many passengers enjoyed the Roman Spectacle.
PORTS OF CALLTuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico, 3:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Many passengers felt the crowds in the streets of the city limited their sight seeing and shopping.
Wednesday: St.Thomas, U.S.V.I., 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are many beautiful island tours and great shopping, especially at Mr. Tablecloth.
Thursday: Catalina Island, Dominican Republic, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This is a nice beach and swim day with a buffet on Costa's private island.
Saturday: Nassau, Bahamas, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. There are many shore excursions to choose from: island tours, snorkeling, Blue Lagoon etc., or stay on board for a restful massage.
DEBARKATIONThis was simple; we had priority red tickets, but debarkation did not begin until 8:45 a.m. because several non-US citizens failed to show up on time for Immigration clearance. We had left our mini-van in the port parking garage and the weekly fee was $70.00. Not bad, we live not far from there and were home by 9:30 a.m. Our group of eight all agreed a great time was had by all and we were sorry to leave the spectacular CostaAtlantica.
SUGGESTIONSWe asked several passengers how they were enjoying the cruise and the ship. The vast majority answered that they were having a great cruise and that they thought the ship was beautiful; however, there were some suggestions for improvements:
These are simple requests which can be easily accommodated thus making a cruise on the CostaAtlantica a perfect vacation.
Photos courtesy of Costa Cruises adn Steven Ferry.
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Vincent & Mary Finelli have written many reviews for the SeaLetter and may be reached at: email@example.com.
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