"Con te Partiro'...," once again we are cruising "Italian Style"
on the Costa Mediterranea --- our third trip on this excellent
ship. Naturally, if we return to the same ship, we must have
enjoyed ourselves immensely on previous cruises --- and we did! So,
this poses the question, what is so good about Costa that we find
ourselves returning twelve times in all?
Let's start with the crew. Captain Massimo Garbarino, we have
considered a friend since he commanded the Costa Romantica where
our son was married on February 14th several years ago. He always
takes a personal interest in passengers' views of cruising. Costa
Mediterranea Hotel Director Ann Ryan, whom we had previously met on
the Costa Atlantica, is dedicated to following up on any inquiry by
a passenger. She ensures that each passenger has the most enjoyable
trip possible. When speaking with her, she proudly noted that
recently the Mediterranea in the last two sanitation inspections by
CDC (Center for Disease Control) has received two perfect scores of
100. This is a nearly improbable feat, denoting that the ship is
leading to a wonderful international feeling on board. The
Mediterranea was built in Kvaerna Masa Shipyards in Finland and
Captain Garbarino oversaw the entire construction. She was
outfitted in Italy and many crew members were on site studying and
practicing their Italian, and then each summer the Mediterranea
returns to her home port in Savona, Italy and cruises the
Mediterranean Sea. From the moment passengers board, the air is
full of the melodic Italian language. A very nostalgic sound to
Vincent's ears since he was born in Italy. There are many languages
spoken among the passengers from USA, Europe, S. America, and Asia.
Our butler Ronald delivered the morning papers in both English and
Italian, making us feel at home (where we normally listen to CNN
and the BBC while Vincent reads the local US and Italian papers on
line). It seems that old academic habits die hard! We are both
retired teachers. The continental influence and the opportunities
for speaking a foreign language always draw us back to Costa. Then,
of course, the food on board is deliciously incessant. Thus, when
you can't afford to go to Europe, but want a taste of the Continent
--- Sail Costa.
EMBARKATION Ft. Lauderdale's Port Everglades is easily accessed
off I-95, just beyond the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Security is well
organized and Pier numbers and Ship names are clearly posted.
Embarkation was set for 1:30pm, but boarding began shortly before
noon. We arrived at 12:30pm and went straight on with wheelchair
assistance. We were in our suite before 1:00pm, where champagne,
fresh fruit and canapés greeted us. This suite was all the
way aft on Deck 6 with a large balcony. We checked on our dinner
reservations: early seating (5:45pm) a table for two near the
entrance to the restaurant --- excellent! We were off to the buffet
of rare roast beef, fresh salads, pastas, fruits, fine cheeses and
desserts --- very nice.
SHIP We have reported in detail on this ship before (see 2004
and 2005 reviews), so here we want to draw more on how the ship's
layout is conducive to creating an Italian atmosphere. The Costa
Mediterranea was launched in 2003 and is registered in Italy; she
is 86,000 gross tons and 960 ft. long with 12 decks and 1,057
cabins of which 678 have balconies. Double occupancy is 2,114
passengers with a crew of 920. Her cruising speed is 22 knots and a
top speed of 24 knots. Her design is based on Carnival's Spirit
Class and the Costa Atlantica is her sister ship. She has 2 Azipods
and 6 diesel electric generators. According to Captain Garbarino,
she can do one mile on eighty-five gallons of fuel.
The flow of the promenade on Deck 3 Bacco is reminiscent of the
classic liners of yesteryear where the passenger could walk all
around the ship on the promenade deck. The Winter Terrace Walk is
accessed from the outside promenade forward or the doors adjacent
the theatre. This lovely indoor promenade has large porthole shaped
windows overlooking the sea. There are many tables and seats by
each window, which are great for conversations, doing puzzles,
playing cards, reading, or just relaxing and sea watching. This is
an example of excellent flow, since this walk way goes all around
the prow of the ship, back to the promenade. Toward midship on Deck
3 is the immense Oriental Lounge with its huge curving bar and
piano strains of music. Continuing toward midship are the Via
Condotti Shops. When leaving the Osiris Theatre on Deck 2
Tersicore, passengers pass the Piazza Casanova (with its multitude
of "putti": white cherubs), a spacious room which has constant
activities throughout the day and evening --- trivia, games,
dancing lessons and live music. Going aft from Piazza Casanova on
Deck 2, passengers pass through the Grand Canal Casino, one of the
most spacious casinos afloat, no crowded aisles here.
The same flow is also evident on Deck 9 Armonia with the two
Pools forming open spaces. When passengers leave the Ischia Spa
they pass the pools and on into the Perla del Lago Buffet, then
toward aft to the Apollo Spa and pool with its fine Apollo statue
by Rigamonti. From the moment passengers enter the ship they are
surrounded by artifacts and motifs of that inimitable Mediterranean
area: Venetian Characters, Egyptian Obelisks, Grecian statuary, all
contributing to a fantastic cruise atmosphere.
FOOD & SERVICE Guest Relations Manager Daniele Puma is very
visible and easily accessed through the Passenger Services Desk. He
is very capable of answering and solving passenger needs, not to
mention handsome and with delightful continental manners. Each
morning our Butler Ronald, in white gloves, delivered our full
American breakfast punctually at 7:15am: eggs, bacon, hash browns,
toast, rolls, and fruit marmalades, including Mary's favorite
apricot. Ronald set the table with a white linen cloth and a floral
bud vase, which we collected daily, so that by the end of the
cruise, there were six on our shelf, but, with the mirror behind
them, they gave the optical illusion of twelve vases...,
The Buffet on Deck 9 is abundant with many stations, so lines
are short. Salad Bars, fresh fruit displays, hot entrees and made
to order sandwiches are all available; the perfect touch is the
Pizzeria and ice cream/dessert area. We had lunch there on the
first day. However, we prefer lunch in the main dining room,
Restaurant degli Argentieri, with its walls lined with vitrines
displaying copies of famous silver pieces (vases, candle sticks,
pitchers, etc.) and murals depicting Italian pastoral scenes. We
enjoyed the special attention of Maitre D' Fernando Sanna (quite
elegant in his tails) and the two 2nd Maitres D' Luigi Cuomo and
Leonardo Moccia. They are all very observant and make sure every
passenger feels special at every meal.
Dinner each evening at Table #90 was enjoyable with our Waiter
Valerio Olano and his assistant Victor D'Sousa. They were perfect
and anticipated our every needs. Prosciutto and Grana Padana,
Mozzarella di Bufala or Bruschetta magically appear as antipasto in
addition to the menu's long lists of appetizers, soups, salads,
pasta dishes, entrees, desserts, cheese plates and fresh fruit. If
one cannot find a preference in these lists, there are the "Always
Available" items: Caesar Salad; Spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce
or with meat balls and basil; Fillet of Salmon poached, broiled or
grilled; Skinless Chicken Breast, also prepared as one likes it;
and many side dishes of vegetable and potatoes, fried or baked with
butter or sour cream, bacon bits and chives or anything also
available upon request.
Some of our favorite appetizers are the following: Beef
Carpaccio with shaved Parmigiano and black olive tapenade,
Escargots Bourguignon, Bresaola with tomato, arugula and
Parmigiano, Vitello tonnato (thin sliced veal with tuna sauce),
etc. Favorite soups: Cream of forest mushrooms, Pasta e Fagioli,
French Onion Soup, Consommé Stracciatella, etc. Favorite
salads: Tossed Spinach Salad (with bacon bits, chopped hard boiled
eggs and croutons), Seasonal Tender Leaves (Belgian endive and
Radicchio) and other mixed salads (i.e. water cress, spinach and
pine nuts, etc.). Favorite pasta dishes: Bucatini alla Amatriciana
(long pasta with pancetta and onion in a piquant tomato sauce),
Tagliolini alla Bolognese with Porcini mushrooms, Penne
all'arrabbiata (with a piquant tomato sauce), etc. Some of our
favorite Entrees: Roasted Rack of Lamb, Ossobuco alla Milanese
(veal shank in a special sauce), Fillet Mignon grilled to
perfection, Mahi Mahi filets, Veal Liver with onions, etc.
Everything was "delizioso!" Compliments to the Chef.
The Gala Dinners are especially enjoyable with candles and
flowers on the tables and complimentary champagne for all. Desserts
included Cannoli, Italian cheese cake, Baba', Tiramisu and the
typical pies: apple, cherry, pecan, lemon meringue, and all sorts
of freshly made ice creams and sherbets, or International cheeses
and fresh fruits, etc. The wait staff are on their toes and they
greet passengers in many languages. Quite a number of the staff are
The festive atmosphere in the dining room includes many types of
Italian music from Opera (Aida's Triumphal March), to Neapolitan
Classics to Modern music. Passengers will most likely find
themselves dancing the Tarantella with a waiter. Food is great, the
atmosphere is fine, a taste of Italy is wonderful. We especially
enjoyed 2nd Maitre D' Leonardo from Bari, Italy whose kind
attentions we very much appreciated. The Club Medusa is the upscale
Italian restaurant, reservations required ($20 per person). It
features menus by Gaultiero Marchesi which have been improved and
diversified from the earlier ones we had on previous Costa cruises.
Dining is on Versace plates and service is top notch. We can report
that service and food on this ship are excellent.
CABIN Suite #6260 is on Deck 6 Narciso. Costa's suites are
standardized: wide ceiling moldings of fine woods, granite tops on
all furnishings and warm monochromatic colors of peaches, oranges
and reds. Very sumptuous. On entering the suite, on the left there
is an anteroom with a large lighted vanity, with a double armoire
across from it. There is a door that leads to the bathroom with a
full jacuzzi tub/shower. The room is tile and marble and has twin
sinks and ample shelves for toiletries. The suite opens to the left
with a large bar with TV, Personal safe and built in bureau and
another double armoire. There is a king bed with copper and Murano
blown glass lamps on the night stands. Opposite there is a desk
with columns and mirrors, a refrigerator, a coffee table and a
peach colored leather sofa. An arm chair completes the furnishings.
The glassed far wall leads to the large balcony which holds two
recliners and a table.
Our suite had a picture of King Tut's golden mask and wall
paintings from a pyramid, in keeping with the Mediterranean theme.
There was another picture of a lady in summer attire. Our
Stewardess Leonor, who is wonderful and has a sweet nature, kept
the suite spotless. Thanks!
ENTERTAINMENT The suave Cruise Director Paul Rutter leads the
Costa Animation Team in the multitude of activities on board, which
include Bingo, Casino Tournaments, Italian and Dance Lessons,
Trivia Quizzes, Crafts, etc.... The shows nightly in the Osiris
Theatre were entertaining. We especially liked the "Time Machine"
on formal night and John Ciotta on Italian night. Most of all we
enjoyed the Italian joy of life which pervades the Costa
Mediterranea. On "Notte Mediterranea" each passenger is given a
"passport," which they take to four different lounges set up
featuring the cultures (food, music, games and customs) of Greece,
France, Spain and Egypt. The passengers collect four "visas" and
then turn in the passport to Passenger Services, and they will get
a $100 discount valid for a Transatlantic or European Costa Cruise.
Costa works hard to make cruises entertaining.
DEBARKATION Sunday at 8:30am, a crew member came to our suite to
help with the wheelchair. We had green tags, which were the third
ones called. We were through the passport check, luggage pick up
and customs in less than 30 minutes. We were on our way home by
9:00am. This was simple and rapid.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Sail Away 7:00pm
Day 2. Key West, Florida Arrive 8:00am Depart 1:00pm Take the
Conch Train or the Trolley Tour ($26) for a good overview. See the
Little White House of Pres. Harry Truman and muse on how
complicated life has become in the US in the last fifty years.
Day 3. 3-7-06 Cozumel, Mexico Arrive 8:00am Depart 7:00pm
Cozumel was hit hard by Hurricane Wilma Oct. 2005. It lost the new
pier, but with tendering the tourists are returning. See the local
San Gervasio Ruins and the Folkloric Show ($72). Snorkeling is
great here, but for those who cannot swim go to the Sea Trek Helmet
Diving tour ($88).
Day 4. At sea
Day 5. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm Dunns
River Falls is the highlight to see; climbing them is a must for
those with able bodies.
Day 6. Georgetown, Grand Caymans Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm
Once again there is tendering in order to go ashore. Here among the
favorite tours are those which include swimming with the
Day 7. At sea
Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrival 8:00am
CONCLUSION It is always pleasant to return to a ship we have
already sailed on before, where most probably we'll be welcomed by
some of the crew and officers we had befriended on earlier cruises.
This was true on this cruise, where we encountered Captain
Garbarino, Hotel Director Ann Ryan and Maitre d' Luigi Cuomo, all
of whom we had met on previous cruises on the Mediterranea and
other Costa ships. Needless to say, they welcomed us as old,
special friends and made our cruise a great one. We have cruised on
about three dozen ships of nine cruise lines, but we tend to cruise
more frequently on those lines that offer special perks to
"frequent floaters," such as occasional upgrades, Champagne, fruit
basket, a Concierge, VIP treatment, etc. Costa is one of our
favorite lines. We'll be cruising on Costa again, but our next
cruises will be on Carnival Triumph, May 13th, on the Caribbean
Princess, Sept. 23rd and on the new Freedom of the Seas, Oct. 15th.
However, we'll keep our eyes open for special sales during the
summer for a last minute booking. Happy Cruising!