June 9, 2003
In a bash that seemingly attracted half of Naples, Costa launched its newest, glitziest and artiest ship ever. The 85,700-ton, 2,680-passenger Costa Mediterranea was inducted into the company’s now-nine-ship fleet at sunset. Italian actress-slash-model Ines Sastre pounded on a box – which then signaled crew members to drop champagne-on-a-rope from just below the bridge. It smashed successfully against the ship on the first try. Costa Mediterranea is a sister ship to Costa Atlantica – largely identical save for the interior décor, which was handled by long-time Carnival Cruise Line design maestro Joe Farcus. Farcus, who had traveled to Naples for the festivities, said earlier Saturday in a press conference that his strategy was to use “cruising Italian style as a literal interpretation.” He used as his inspiration the palazzi of Italy, incorporating various elements from existing palaces. These ranged from the Baroque Villa la Pietra in Florence to the medieval Pallazzo D’Elci in Siena. Other honchos on hand included Carnival Corporation’s Micky Arison and Howard Frank, and Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and managing director of Genoa-based Costa Crociere. The highlight of the day’s activities was a genuinely exuberant art-and-music show, held outdoors at sunset at the broad pier where Costa Mediterranea was docked. “Allegories of Art and Water,” featured some 250 performers, was a Fellini-esque combination of Las Vegas, Cirque de Soleil, Woodstock, opera, Broadway and the ballet. The range of acts included singing, dancing, high wire acrobatics and this incredibly agile woman who mimicked a mermaid, except she was limited to a clear glass bowl the size of a Jacuzzi. She attracted the show’s biggest oohs-and-aahs – particularly when she did a back dive into the shallow – and we mean shallow – pool-like space. The evening-ending fireworks was also spectacular. The event rivaled the huge performance-party Costa threw for the launch of Costa Atlantica in Venice and was truly one of the industry’s more lavish and unique ship naming celebrations. A Costa spokesman estimates that attendance, beyond the 6,500 “special” guests, included another 13,000 residents of Naples. All residents of the city were invited free-of-charge. Costa Mediterranea, which had spent three days in Naples as it wrapped-up its series of shake-down voyages departed Sunday for Genoa. The ship will sail on its first “regular” cruise on June 16; all of its European voyages are sold-out for the season, according to a Costa executive. Costa Mediterranea heads to Ft. Lauderdale November 5 on a 16-day autumn repositioning cruise and will spend the winter sailing seven day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries.