Axel Johnson Class
OnboardCosta Cruises is well-known for its Italian ambience onboard, vibrant entertainment and Samsara Spa, one of the best at sea.
The line launched its first passenger ship in 1948, and soon placed an emphasis on its fleet's furnishings and architecture, traits that continue today (indeed, its newest ships feature millions of dollars in original artwork and hand-crafted flourishes).
In recent years, Costa has vastly upgraded its Squok Club, its kid-friendly programming. Its culinary offerings, reflecting primarily a continental Europe/Mediterranean sensibility, have improved significantly. And its liberal smoking-is-OK policies, while sensitive to those who don't, offer smokers more options than many other lines.
There's no question: Costa Cruises is a European experience that primarily is geared toward Europeans. But those who enjoy traveling with passengers from a variety of cultures, speak a variety of languages and value the competitive pricing will find this a line worth checking out.
About Costa CruisesCosta Cruises, which began as a fleet of freighters transporting fabrics and olive oil between Genoa and Sardinia in the mid-1800s, became a fully owned subsidiary of Carnival Corp. in 2000. But it's still an Italian company with a modern fleet of ships, destination-intensive worldwide itineraries and a distinct Italian personality.
The Costa fleet sails under the "Cruising Italian Style" banner; its international family of ships spans the globe offering cruises of five days and longer throughout the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Arabian Gulf, Asia, the Indian Ocean and trans-Atlantic.
"Cruising Italian Style" can be interpreted two different ways. Some passengers have disliked Costa because of the extensive smoking aboard their ships, but following Italian government regulations ashore, Costa has limited smoking to designated areas in lounges. Dining venues are now smoke-free. Other travelers overlook these factors and enjoy the European atmosphere -- after all, Mediterranean-influenced cuisine, regional wines and warm, rich decor are all part of the Italian tradition.
Alas, Italian stewards, part of the line's heritage, are no more. Cabin and dining room stewards are now as multinational as the passengers, with Filipinos, Indonesians, South Americans and Indians in the mix. As they speak English, the former criticism of English-speakers that they were not understood has been ameliorated.
Costa Cruises FleetSince the 1990s, the now 65-year old Costa has embarked on a quite an ambitious program that targets both newbuilds and extensive refurbishments of older vessels.
Its contemporary story begins in 2000, when the 2,680-passenger Costa Atlantica made its debut in Venice as the largest ship ever built by a European company. It was the first of Costa's ships to feature balconies. It also heralded the company's new "age." As part of Carnival Corporation, Costa Atlantica was the first to offer the Carnival Cruise Lines design sensibility (indeed it was designed by Carnival's ubiquitous Joe Farcas, who has had a hand in every new-build between Atlantica and Fascionosa. ).
Costa has benefited from its Carnival Corporation ownership in the expanded fleet department. Costa Europa, formerly Holland America's Westerdam debuted in 2002. And as the line embraced its largest-in-history fleet expansion, Costa debuted Costa Mediterranea, a sister ship to Costa Atlantica, in June 2003.
Costa Fortuna was launched in November 2003. The 105,000-ton, 2,720-passenger ship was at the time the largest ever to fly the Italian flag; Costa Magica, its sister ship, premiered in November 2004. The ill-fated Costa Concordia, a sister ship, was launched in July 2006. It capsized in January 2012 off the coast of the small Italian island of Giglio. In May 2007, Concordia was joined by sister ship Costa Serena, and in June 2009, Costa Pacifica joined the siblings.
But 2009 also brought the first of a new prototype. The 2,260-passenger Costa Luminosa is actually smaller than its siblings and is meant to be an upmarket twist on the Costa experience. Costa Deliziosa, a sister ship, joined Costa's fleet in January 2010. Two more ships -- which are fleetmates to the Costa Concordia design family -- also debuted; Costa Favolosa premiered in July 2011, while Costa Fascinosa launched in 2012.
In addition, Costa Diadema, a new flagship is due in 2014. It will be the largest cruise ship flying the Italian flag at 132,500 gross tonnage and a total passenger capacity of 4,947 (3,700 passengers at double occupancy). It is the same shape and size as Carnival's Dream Class of ship and will be the biggest, most spacious and most modern ship in the Costa fleet, in terms of the services, decor and overall design.
Costa has also embarked on an ambitious refurbishment program for its older ships. The 75,166-ton, 1,928-passenger Costa Victoria, the line's China-based ship, underwent a significant upgrade in 2013 that resulted in the addition of balconies, new dining venues and other enhancements.
It is spending a further €10m on turning three of its ships into "neo" ships, which began with Grand Mistral from Carnival Corp. sister line Iberocruceros. After a refurbishment, the 48.200-ton 1,600-passenger ship, called Costa neoRiviera, received upgrades to public areas.
It joins Costa neoRomantica and -- after another radical refurbishment programme -- Costa Classica, which will be renamed Costa neoClassica, and join the fleet in December 2014.
Fellow PassengersOn European itineraries, Costa attracts mostly European passengers from Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the U.K. On an average winter sailing in Europe there are 60 to 80 English-speaking passengers. During the summer in Europe, about 20 percent of passengers will be North Americans. On Caribbean cruises, the demographics are still geared strongly toward European travelers with a healthy smattering of North Americans.
Costa's ships also appeal to a wide range of ages, from 20-something first-time cruisers to retirees, but its fun, active vibe attracts a strong family audience as well as 40-something (and younger) couples.
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