A Spirit-class ship - small and accomodating with a whimsical decor by Joe Farcus. Recommended for Europeans
Best For People Who Want
An Italian carnival atmosphere; Plenty of deck parties, loud music and a wide range of facilities, including a large children's facility and a water slide; All the options and activities that come with a megaship, including a large fitness area, plenty of balconies; lots of entertainment options.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Tranquility; great food and service; not to be in a place where English is not the first language
Costa Atlantica, signaling a new direction for Costa, is the European version of the Spirit-class of ships by parent company Carnival Corp. The unifying theme of the ship is "great films of Fellini," and in fact, the ships christening godmother was Italian film star Claudia Cardinale
See the related article here: Costa Atlantica Debuts
In homage to the quirkiness of Felinni himself, each of the decks is named after one of his films, and deck eight receives the name of his film "Deck 8 1/2".
Though Costa assures prospective passengers that they will be "cruising Italian style," beyond the decor, less than ten percent of the actual crew are truly Italian, with most of the Italians in the navigation, deck and engine departments. The majority of the crew come from the Dominican Republic where Costa has established a school to train crew-members.
Though the interior design is impressively logical and easy to navigate, Atlantica's signage does not measure up, as the public thoroughfares lack the "You Are Here" deck maps. Get used to carrying the deck plan you find in your stateroom with you for the first few days.
Though this ship does come to the Caribbean some seasons, during the 2006-2007 it is staying mostly in Europe, catering to a European audience, so expect announcements in several languages, smoky ships, and port stays far shorter than what first-time to Europe visiting Americans would prefer. When operating in Europe, the ship is overrun by German, French and Spanish passengers. Despite an English-speaking host and English-speaking shore excursions, many North Americans and even Brits are likely to feel like poor relations on these voyages. Note that when Costa does send any ship to the Caribbean, native English speakers are the large majority and English becomes the ship's first language.
As Costa's first ship designed by Carnival's zany Joe Farcus, for whom there is no such thing as "too much", this ship could be the spawn of Italy and Las Vegas, or maybe a new theme-park for Disney, call it Italyland. Mostly, it is an homage to Italian artisans, including plenty of Venetian glass and reproductions of Italian classic painters. There are plenty of sweeping staircases, Carrara marble and Renaissance-style mosaics.
The "must-see" of the ship is the Caffé Florian, which is a near perfect reproduction of the most famous sidewalk cafe in the world (by the same name) residing in the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Its dark red upholstered chairs and banquettes, wooden floor, and Renaissance paintings make for a very comfortable, inviting atmosphere.
Overlooking the 10-deck atrium, the two-deck Club Atlantica, with a crowning skylight and opaque orange/yellow glass surrounding the upper level, serves as the ship's very attractive alternate restaurant and late night Cigar Bar. The atrium also serves as a public room, and the bar on the lower level is the ship's social hub.
Many of the ship's multiple huge public rooms and bars are connected by a walkway on the starboard side which creates a sense of constant flow and life, as passengers enjoy una passegiata, though the manner in which the room to room flow can sometimes zigzag arbitrarily can be a bit confusing.
Quiet is hard to come by. Indeed, the library is the only public place on board you might reasonably expect to find some, but since it doubles as the Internet café, expect to find crowds in there at times. Also note that its bookshelves are unlocked only one hour per day.
One special treat is a near perfect reproduction of what is probably the most renowned street cafe in the world, the Caffe Florian in St Mark's Sq. in Venice. Designer Joe Farcus went to great detail to capture the timeless essence of the original cafe, from the somewhat worn leather booths to stucco walls and gilded frame Italian classic paintings on the wall - albeit the ones on the ship are reproductions.
The three-deck show lounge is lovely, but even with three decks the sight lines could be better, especially on the flat floor. There is a smaller, secondary show lounge directly beneath it, though, and three other lounges, including "Paparazzi," which features stills from Fellini films. There are a large disco, a children's room, and a small chapel.
That Italy has some of the world's greatest cuisine should not be taken to mean that Costa serves the world's best food. Indeed, menus appear to be designed to appeal mostly to an Italian audience, and should you order a selection from another continental derivation, you will probably end up thinking, "I should have gone Italian." You would suppose that they'd get pasta dishes right every time, but pasta depends upon fast service before it gets cold and rubbery. At the buffets, you will be presented with what Europeans are used to as "fast food" including beans for breakfast, and cheese, hard sausage and rolls for lunch.
But behold the exception, the alternative restaurant Club Atlantica, where for around $23 you can not only savor a delicious meal, but also escape the clamor of the main dining room.
In the Caribbean, Costa has implemented 24-hour food service with extended breakfast, lunch and tea time hours, plus a Late Night Buffet from 1:30 to 6:30 a.m. Complimentary gourmet appetizers are available daily in Club Atlantica from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., and new entrees have been added to the menus of the specialty dining room, purportedly supervised by two of Italy's most renowned chefs.
In Club Atlantica, the alternative restaurant at the top of the atrium, features the menu of Michelin three-star chef Gualtiero Marchesi. Diners can choose between a "Tuscan Steakhouse" a la carte menu and a fixed "Tasting Menu." The waiters and maitre d' will act as if serving you is the highlight of their lives, and there's a proper sommelier to keep your wine glass full. Before dinner, the room doubles as a bar, with complimentary gourmet appetizers from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. There's live music during dinner. After dinner it becomes a cigar bar.
The two-deck Tiziano Restaurant, done in varying shades of gold with painted ceilings, offers fantastic views from the stern end of the ship through the tall glass windows. There are plenty of larger tables and some banquettes around the perimeter, but not so many tables for two.
It should be noted that, in the Mediterranean, the first dinner seating does not begin until 7:00 p.m., and late sitting does not start until 9:15 p.m., in keeping with European custom. In the Caribbean, 24-hour food service is now available with extended breakfast, lunch and tea time hours, plus a Late Night Buffet form 1:30 to 6:30 a.m.
We'll say it plainly: on a Costa ship you are an American in Europe. The company is expanding rapidly (undergoing a cruising renaissance in Europe similar to what the U.S. experienced years ago), so the staff can be surprisingly slow, and sometimes seemingly impolite, including the cabin stewards. You can always count on the bar staff to cheer you up, though.
$8.50 per day is charged to everybody's shipboard account, (including children, for dining room and stateroom personnel. Passengers can have the amount adjusted by visiting the Guest Relations Desk.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all bar tabs. Spa staff and room service staff may be tipped as service is received.
Expect neither lectures by former ambassadors nor first-run movies In the Mediterranean. Brace yourself for such politically incorrect games still common in Europe as actual "beauty contests" where young women of all nationalities vie for attention. Where you might expect one trivia game per day, Atlantica has as many as five or six, even on port days.
The pool areas are used during the afternoon for various games. The misanthropic can stand one deck above at the railing and glare down at the activities below. Daytime activities, mostly geared towards a younger, more active crowd, range from ping-pong tournaments to salsa dance classes to learning how to mix cocktails.
There is a wide variety of evening activities in at least four different venues. One lounge offers ballroom dancing for an hour a night. The huge, three-story Caruso Theater showroom features a different show or production every night, with everything from magic to flamenco dancers. Piazza Madame Butterfly lounge is filled each night for bingo, and the pool deck is used for themed deck parties. There is live music most nights in the Club Atlantica. The large, two-deck disco Dante's is packed until late every night, probably in substantial part because it is fantastically atmospheric; descending the spiral staircase really does feel like entering The Inferno. The casino is the most smoke-clogged spot on the ship.
Dancers will be delighted to know at least one sea-going tradition is still alive and well; every lounge aboard has both a stage and a large dance floor; even the main entry lobby has a wood-inlaid one at its center!
The cabins' caramel-color wood tones and warm autumn-hued fabrics are easy on the eye, and 70 percent have balconies. With the standard inside and outside cabins, you pay for location. Since there is virtually no difference in cabin size - 160 sq.ft. - it is wise to simply book the lowest outside or inside cabin categories and not pay extra just to be one deck higher. (The exception to the rule: Deck 4's outside cabins' views are obstruced.) All cabins have safes and mini bars and two lower beds that can be converted into a queen bed. Outside cabins with verandah are 210 sq.ft. and suites range from 360 sq.ft. to 580 sq.ft.
Some cabins are plagued by noise from the lounges, including the 10 cabins farthest forward on Deck 1 Cabins forward on Deck 5 also are noisy from the main lounge one deck below, and the occupants of cabins on Deck 8 deck amidships can all too easily hear the jubilation on the pool deck above them. Note also that the ship's exterior undulates, protruding in places and retracting in others. If possible, book a balcony where the ship bulges out.
Special suite amenities include whirlpool tubs, terry cloth robes and slippers, additional toiletries, sparkling wine and cold canapes on embarkation day, daily fruit baskets, an additional Captain's cocktail party, complimentary dinner at ClubAtlantica, and personalized butler service. Do note that your butler may be very much on a par with your server in the restaurant, which is to say distracted borderline organized. Be sure to double-check requests and take nothing for granted.
There are no self-service launderettes or ironing rooms.
The very large fitness center and spa run by Steiner's of London are on multi-level upper-forward decks, giving exercisers wonderful views. A wide selection of weights, treadmills, bikes, rowing machines and other sophisticated training equipment is available, as well as a popular large indoor Jacuzzi situated underneath a skylight. All the machines are by Technogym Italy, and are part of a self-guided circuit training system, kind of a personal cyber-trainer.
A small jogging track on top of the fitness decks circles the mast. The Promenade deck on Deck 3 does not go all the way around, however, creating a large U shaped path that tends to be virtually empty during many hours of the day. There are three pools on deck with whirlpools, none heated. The large water slide, beloved of kids, is open only one hour a day.
"Cruising Italian Style" carries over to the Costa Kids Club, which offers extensive programs for youngsters -- and guarantees relaxation for their harried parents. Though the Pinocchio Children's Room doesn't compare to those of such family-friendly cruise lines as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the large children's "animation staff," comprising from four to seven kids' cruise directors, more than compensates. The special children's dinner menu offers with pasta, soup, fish, chicken, hot dogs and burgers, pizza, sandwiches and desserts.
On the two 'gala' nights, a casual jacket and tie are standard, while many men wear an actual suit. In the European style, ties are optional, especially on younger men. In the Caribbean, there is also a theme night on which many passengers wrap themselves in sheets and call them togas. Europeans tend to dress fancier for daytime activities than Americans, so don't expect not to feel underdressed in cutoffs and a T-shirt on European sailings.