Costa Deliziosa Arrives

| February 10, 2010

Costa delivers its new "Top of the Line" cruise ship for world cruises and exotic voyages.

Costa Cruises mostly operates larger mass-market ships designed for European vacationers. But with its new Costa Deliziosa, the line is taking things in a new direction.

Costa Deliziosa belongs to the same class as Carnival Spirit, coming in at 92,000 tons and a capacity of 2,826 passengers -- a surprisingly intuitive, modern design with all the ship's public rooms on the lowest passenger decks, leaving plenty of room for the 772 veranda cabins on the upper decks.

The inaugural cruise of new Costa Deliziosa recently set sail from Fincantieri Shipyard outside Venice, Italy, passing he Grand Canal entrance to Saint Mark's Square and continuing into the night. Five days later we landed in Savona, Italy, after circumnavigating the country's "boot." On February 23, 2010, Deliziosa is slated to become the first western cruise ship christened in an Arab nation -- in the exotic city of Dubai. We expect that ceremony to be compelling in the manner of all Costa christenings, with performers arriving by hot air balloons and parachutes.

Deliziosa is designed to be Costa's top-of-the-line premium vessel for its most discriminating customers. It will be the first Costa ship to sail a world cruise since the line was acquired by U.S.-based Carnival Corp. about a decade ago. The ship will venture onto some more exotic itineraries, including the Persian Gulf. Costa says it expects most of the Deliziosa's sailings to be filled with Italians, Germans and British.

Decor by Farcus

The interior design by the renowned Joe Farcus - who designs all Carnival and Costa ships - is low-key and tasteful, eschewing the gimmicks Farcus has used in the past in the name of "entertainment décor." The Deliziosa's focus is more on function than fun, a welcome change from some of the complicated thematic decors of previous Costa ships.

The finishings include marble floors and granite countertops, with ebony and ivory colored accents. Farcus was especially proud of what he referred to as the "Venetian Stucco" appliqué that graces the ceilings of the central atrium. All of it had to be hand-trowelled onto the surface with a spatula. Every piece of tile, glass, chrome and brass had to be hand-measured and cut before it was put into place.

The décor by Farcus works around an extensive art collection brought together by the Milanese firm of Casagrande & Recalcati. The collection, worth several million dollars, includes pieces by international artists, the majority of them Italian. All the ship's artwork is available for purchase through the onboard art gallery.

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Artwork integrated into design   Atrium (top down) Venetian Stucco   Glass Sculpture
Artwork integrated into Grand Bar   Asian Artwork in Spa   Puppet Costume as Art

The layout of Costa Deliziosa makes the vessel user-friendly and easy to navigate. Starting at the top -- on the Fuxia Deck 11 -- are the kids pool and the roller skating track (for the unique Skorpion Quadline skates the ship rents out. These four-wheel roller skates are exceptionally wide for added stability, the opposite of inline roller skates, kind of like Humvees for your feet.)

Magnolia Deck 10 has a Grand Prix race car simulator, golf simulator and nine-hole putting green. The Club Deliziosa Supper Club is at the top of the atrium on this deck, but there is no glass staircase over the atrium as on other ships of this class. The teen club and upper floor of the extensive Samsara Spa are here as well.

Deck 9, Orchidea, has the Lido Acqua Regina open-dining buffet area as well as the Pizzeria. Midship on this deck is the largest indoor pool I have seen on any ship, entirely covered by a retractable magrodome. The roof remained closed and the room was heated for the entire cruise, so we never had to walk outside to reach the Lido dining room as is common on most ships. The forward portion of this deck comprises the lower portion of the Samsara Spa.

This spa is one of the most extensive we have seen, especially in terms of our personal favorite feature, the thermal suite. This includes a large thalassotherapy pool; an extremely hot, dry sauna; an aromatic steam room; and two separate rooms for heated ceramic beds that bathe your entire body with penetrating heat. Finally, there is a separate relaxation room with covered chaise loungers.

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Samsara Spa   Lobby   Manicures
Extra hot ceramic chairs   Relaxation Suite   Heated ceramic lounge chairs

Decks 8 through 4 have passenger accommodations.

The lower public decks

Azelea Deck 3 is the uppermost of the lower public decks. In the forward section is the balcony for the Teatro Duse. Next comes the Piano Bar Excite, which appears to be more of a conference room than a piano bar with its glassed-in soundproof walls. Next door is the Cafeterria Sugar, which has nothing to do with the way most Americans define that word. Serving nothing but chocolates and coffee, this is one of the most irresistible rooms on the ship.

The chef creates fresh, fancy chocolates, in the style of Ghirardelli, and places them on a tray for anyone to come along and sample at any time. There are boxes of chocolates that one assumes would sell for $30 or more, but these are not for sale, only for display. The chocolates are free and they are delicious.

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Cafeterria Sugar free chocolates   Galleria Shopping District   Can't get enough chocolate

Next are the Galleria Shops. There is nothing unusual here, just the usual shipboard kiosks. You will find the ship's library and Internet center here as well. (More on this later; be forewarned that this ship has serious communication issues for so-called "road warriors.")

The top level of the atrium contains the photo gallery, chapel and art gallery. Next is a small lounge that hides one of the most elaborate discos I have seen in years. In the stern is the top floor of the Restaurant Albatross. (It appears the Italians are not aware of the negative connotations of that giant sea bird, as in "an albatross around one's neck.")

Gardenia Deck 2 is the lower of the two main public decks. Forward is the ground floor of the theater. Next door is the 4-D Cinema, one of the most interesting attractions on the ship.

Gotta-see 4D

The 4-D cinema shows three different 3-D movies that use the same advanced 3-D polarization technology as does the movie Avatar. The effect is astounding, with objects that appear to be right in front of your face in perfect detail and clarity (hint: put the paper glasses over your regular glasses if you have a sight correction prescription). But this is 4-D, which means the theater also has seats that move along with the motion in the film. There are also wind effects in the theater, and even "smell-o-vision," which simulates certain odors like smoke exhaust or flowers.

The 4-D Theater is a must-see on this ship, even if each movie is only about 15 minutes long and costs eight Euros per show. The shows are presented all day long, rotating titles and the languages they are presented in, including English.

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The Grand Bar   Grand Bar dance floor   Piano Bar

Next comes the Grand Bar - a large lounge that featured an excellent Rockabilly band every night we were onboard, similar to the Stray Cats with a hollow body electric guitar and a stand-up bass. The players may be Italian, but they sing like Elvis or Buddy Holly as required. They are also young and have the appropriate shark-fin haircuts to complete the '50's image.

In the ship's casino, the machines take Euros in Europe. Table games include blackjack and Roulette; there are no craps tables. On the ground floor of the atrium, the atrium bar has a great stage behind the bartenders where an all-female jazz quartet played nightly. The musicians were as talented as they were beautiful.

The entrance to the disco is an intentionally low-key opaque glass revolving door that leads to a two-story uber-modern nightclub with a two-deck-tall video screen for non-stop motion to accompany the incredibly loud music.

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Lady Jazz Quartet in Atrium   Disco Video Wall   Disco Bar

Is this spa cuisine?

Toward the stern is the fourth dining venue on the ship, the Samsara Restaurant -- said to be the counterpart to the Samsara Spa. We expected to find spa-appropriate cuisine there, but were surprised to see a menu that included just typical European cuisine including pork and deep-fried foods. We asked why it was called a spa restaurant, and were told it is because all the ingredients are "organic." That may be true, but in terms of nutritional content it does not seem to be the kind of health food one would expect from a spa restaurant.

Overall, Costa Deliziosa lives up to its name. It is meant to connote everything delicious in life, including but not limited to food. It provides passengers with delicious experiences, memories and sensations. The entertainment was uniformly good. The food was much better than I expected after seeing some of the reader reviews we received at CruiseMates, and service was uniformly professional, with an abundance of Asians working as room stewards but mostly Italians serving as waiters in the restaurant. The only place where service was slow was in the buffet area, where I had to ask waiters seemingly doing nothing to fetch coffee for me every morning.

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Albatross Restaurant   Lido Restaurant open corridors   Samsara Spa Restaurant

The cuisine in the Albatross Restaurant was enticing and tasty. Pasta is the specialty, but the meats and desserts were well prepared and served hot. The meats lean toward lamb and veal, and one night my appetizer was a rabbit confit. You can opt for more traditional food, however. The pizza at the pizzeria was thin-crusted and hot, not the Neapolitan thick-crust pies with barely melted cheese often seen on other European cruise ships.

The staterooms are typical for Carnival Corp. ships, identical to the Carnival Spirit class. The balconies are deep, the TVs are large, temperature control is easy and hair dryers are included. For English speakers, the only TV station was BBC news - extremely boring, but you can rent a pay-per-view movie for about 12 Euros (about $16).

The technology deficit

My biggest complaint about the ship had to do with the communications. Be advised that if you have a Verizon cell phone, it will not work on the ship. As far as I know, Costa is the only major cruise line where this is true. Even MSC can accommodate Verizon.

Even worse for people like me who need Internet access, the network blocks certain applications from working even if you bring your own laptop -- programs like Outlook email and even FTP. You will not be able to transfer files with FTP from the ship, and you will be forced to use Webmail. While the computers supplied for the press in the library had USB ports, it was not possible to load any programs, and the USB thumb drive I used on those computers picked up a virus that my laptop killed the second I inserted the drive. Technology for passengers is not a forte for Costa, and is one area where they could use some improvement. By comparison, MSC Cruises does allow FTP but also limits Outlook and forces you to use Webmail.

One place where technology does shine on Deliziosa, however, is in its credit card check-in process. No longer do you have to register a credit card online or during check-in. You can do that at ATM-like stations around the ship where you can register your card anytime it is convenient for you. It must be done before you can make any onboard purchases, however. There is also a navigation and sales terminal on the ship. This device allows you to get movie tickets for the 4-D Cinema, shore excursions, restaurant reservations, or just see the daily schedule. Just use the touch screeen to locate the information you seek. If there is a charge required you will be asked to insert your room key.

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Onboard Sales and navigation system   Credit card registration machine   Samsara Spa Stateroom

So, all things considered, I found Costa Deliziosa to be a very nice ship - tasteful in décor, entertainment, cuisine, chocolate and service.

Deliziosa will sail to Dubai for her christening on February 23 and will finish out the year sailing in the Persian Gulf from Dubai to Muscat Oman, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. On December 28, the ship will begin the first Costa world cruise, broken into three segments: Savona (Italy) to Los Angeles, including the transatlantic, Caribbean and Panama Canal; Los Angeles to Singapore, including Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia; and Singapore to Savona via Thailand, India, the UAE, the Red Sea and Egypt. Amenities include 15 free shore excursions and all beverages with dinner.

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