Quite unusually, this ceremony in Genoa, Italy, will welcome not one but two brand-new ships: Costa Pacifica and Costa Luminosa. It's the first line to feature a dual christening since Norwegian Cruise Line jointly introduced Norwegian Star and Norwegian Sun in a Miami event in 2001.
The 114,000-ton, 3,780-passenger Costa Pacifica is the third ship in Costa's Concordia class, after siblings Costa Concordia and Costa Serena. Pacifica is also nearly identical to fleetmates Costa Fortuna and Costa Magica. Meanwhile, the 92,700-ton, 2,260-passenger Costa Luminosa -- a brand-new design for the cruise line -- is actually a throwback in this era of big-bigger-biggest ships as it is a significantly smaller Panamax vessel. Also, in a departure from Costa's usual Carnival-esque creations, Luminosa has been designed with the line's more upmarket passengers in mind.
Costa's ambitious fleet expansion is by no means finished with these two new introductions. The line has three more new-builds on tap, in various stages of progress. Costa Deliziosa, a sister to Costa Luminosa, debuts in January. Two Costa pacific siblings, as yet unnamed, are slated for launch -- one in spring 2011 and one in 2012.
At the end of that growth spurt, the fleet will consist of 17 ships.
At a press conference today on Costa Pacifica, Gianni Onorato, president of Costa Crociere S.p.A., told the story behind the ship to an assembled throng of journalists representing -- true to Costa's globetrotting form -- diverse nations such as China, Japan, Croatia, Finland, the U.K., the U.S., France, Germany and Italy.
With a theme centered on music, he noted that Costa Pacifica is decorated to reflect 29 songs that create "a musical path" throughout the ship. Twenty-two of those songs are of a more classic -- whether instrumental or rock -- oeuvre. Seven are original tunes developed just for Costa Pacifica. Having been onboard for about a day and a half, I'm not sure I've noticed a distinct "path," but the signs of music are, indeed, everywhere. Decks are even named after musical terms like "groove," "swing," and "adagio" (though Deck 11's "feel good" is a bit of a head-scratcher).
Our press conference today was held in the Rock Around the Clock Bar; other lounges are called Disco Fever, Grand Bar Rhapsody, Sport Route 66, Bar Wien Wien and even Rick's, the wine bar. Restaurants go by names like New York, New York and Blue Moon.
Beyond the usual Concordia-class features sported by Costa Pacifica, the ship has a few unique-in-cruising innovations. Prime among them is a state-of-the-art recording studio. This is, Onorato told us, "a real recording studio with two technicians. It's not karaoke. The music is written on paper as it always should be, and there are hundreds of different songs sourced in different countries and in different languages." At the end of a "session," passengers take home a personal CD and because of software programs like Autotune and Melodyne, Onorato says, "even for people horrible in singing, there's a computer device that improves dramatically the results of your performance. Your voice is still yours but it's beautiful."
Music has also found its way into enrichment options for kids and adults. Costa Pacifica is the first ship in the fleet (and dare we say in the industry) to create an onboard position for a "music maestro." This staffer will oversee a music program that includes lessons (in drums, piano and guitar), a teen band that's formed on each sailing, and an "American Idol"-style singing competition.
Other interesting -- if not music-related -- offerings aboard Costa Pacifica include winterization (both pools have magrodomes so that passengers can swim in inclement weather), a splashy Samsara spa (with Costa's innovative adjoining accommodations and dedicated restaurant concept), Playstation World for kids, and the Blue Moon Club gourmet venue.
Costa Pacifica will spend its first year in the Mediterranean, offering summer trips in the western region and winter itineraries that focus on the eastern region, with the added intrigue of stops in Israel, Egypt and Turkey.
Stay tuned for more reports from Costa Pacifica, Costa Luminosa and the grand christening, throughout this week and into the next. The dual christening -- which we're told will include a tribute from the frecce tricolori Italian aerobatic team and Italian paratroopers (as noted, Costa's christenings are pretty unusual) -- will be aired live on worldofcosta.com and rai.tv/costacrociere. And we'll be there, too.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief