Costa Cruises’ Costa Luminosa heads across the Atlantic in a few weeks, where it will trade its Mediterranean base for one out of Miami, sailing 10-night western Caribbean itineraries throughout the winter.
I wondered: Will this ship, which has been geared to the Italy-based cruise line’s traditional, pan-European base appeal to fellow North Americans looking for a contemporary Caribbean cruise? This past week, we’ve been looking for answers on Luminosa as it circled the Mediterranean.
Part of the Carnival Corporation family of cruise lines, this class of ship borrowed liberally from layouts on Carnival’s ships, with an onboard vibe that’s similarly fun and friendly, and also from Holland America. HAL lovers might recognize the shopping arcade and the aft pool area from Oosterdam and other vessels.
We’re told Luminosa will remain true to its European roots, so there won’t be American-centric food or entertainment (though English will be one of the languages onboard). In fact, Costa anticipates that some 80 percent of its Caribbean-bound travelers will represent its usual demographics – which means lots of families (with both young children and teens) and under-40s couples will hail from Europe.
Bottom line: If you’re intrigued by the ship’s European vibe, enjoy traveling with international passengers, love pasta and pizza, can sing along in karaoke when the songs are French/ Spanish/Italian, and either embrace or don’t mind smoking, then Luminosa could be a great choice for the Caribbean. We had a blast on our short cruise.
*Italian-themed evenings. In the Taurus Restaurant, the ship’s two-deck high main dining venue, these events beat even the traditional Captain’s gala for simply fabulous fun.
It’s not just that the waiters were dressed in the reds and greens of the Italian flag, or that the menu featured staples of the country’s varied regions, from Liguria to Tuscany and beyond. It was the music and dancing that propelled this night into the memory book.
When the piped-in music revved up after we were served entrees, it was a bit surprising to see our efficient (and up to this point, rather quiet) waiter belt “O Sole Mio” from a small performance platform between the restaurant’s two decks. He was good, too! He was followed by other waiters performed vocals for what could have been the soundtrack from “Moonstruck,” the Cher flick.
Then it was on to the gyrating, in which a trio – who clearly spent a lot of time at Luminosa’s gym, if their washboards were any indication – did a (reasonably G-rated) striptease. Amongst clapping and singing along, some waiters started a conga line, and passengers snaked through the dining room; others invited passengers to dance the two-step, in the aisles. Fabulous. Dessert was almost a letdown.
*Pasta and pizza. Costa’s clearly paying attention to its cuisine, which tends toward European continental throughout the Lido Buffet, the restaurant, and Club Luminosa, the ship’s alternative restaurant. Surpassing all expectations, however, was Luminosa’s pasta, from a freshly tossed pesto at the Lido Buffet’s pasta station to the “always available” selections of pomodoro and Bolognese on the Taurus’ menu and from the daily specials at Club Luminosa. Even the offerings at the health-oriented Samsara Restaurant were superb.
The pizza, too, is amazing and much improved. It’s Neapolitan style, crispy and hot, prepared fresh in the Lido all day and into the evening.
*Stateroom layout. The standard category of balcony staterooms – which are plentiful for a ship that’s over five years old – features more space than the norm on other lines, and a lovely, deep balcony with wide chairs and a table. There’s a flat screen television (programmed with movies on demand, at an extra fee, and the BBC, the only English speaking news channel), lots of storage, a good-powered hair dryer, and a comfortable bed with nice cotton sheets and duvet.
The bathroom was also well done: The shower stall was so roomy that the “dreaded clinging shower curtain” didn’t dare. Table lamps supplemented the usual over bright fluorescents and added a cozy ambience. Another nice touch: The mini-bar, featuring juices, water and soda (for a fee), was a terrific convenience.
Could the décor, which was bland but fine, use an upgrade? Sure. But it was still one of the most comfortable cabins in the category.
*Samsara Spa. Costa was the first line to create a destination spa concept onboard its cruise ships, and Luminosa’s is comparable to the others. Aimed at travelers who want dedicated cabins with special amenities and more serene décor, Samsara has its own restaurant and ultimate access to the facility, meaning you can almost pretend you’re at resort.
Even if you choose other accommodations, a number of packages feature unlimited access to the superb facility, and/or dining privileges at Samsara. At the latter, our meal was so delicious it was hard to believe it was a spa eatery.
*Smoking. Love it or hate it, cruise lines are cracking down with ever more restrictive policies about where you can smoke onboard ships. Not so much with Costa, which does ban cigarettes from restaurants but otherwise provides plentiful space for smokers – and non smokers – to congregate, from outside decks to bars and lounges. Smoking on balconies is also allowed. And for those who prefer a stogie, Luminosa has a dedicated cigar bar.
Want to learn more about Costa Luminosa, which will offer 10-night Western Caribbean itineraries out of Miami beginning in November? Check out our sneak preview
– and stay tuned for a full-fledged review in the coming weeks.
Have questions in the meantime? We’re discussing our trip
on our Costa forum.