Costa Deliziosa, a twin to Costa Luminosa, is a warm, whimsical ship with a simple layout that's easy to navigate. The 92,700-ton, 2,260-passenger ship, which debuted in February 2010, represents a "retro-style evolution" for Costa Cruises. What do we mean by that? The Italy-based and European-influenced cruise line, like many other major cruise companies, has been on a ship-building binge that produced mega-sized models like the 114,500-ton, 3,000-passenger Costa Pacifica and Costa Serena, representing the biggest-ever in its fleet. But Deliziosa -- and Luminosa, too -- are built on a new, smaller design for the line.
The sister ships are actually built to Panamax specifications, which means they're not only smaller than their also-new fleetmates, but they're more flexible, too. Since Deliziosa can slide through the Panama Canal, it has more itinerary possibilities, and, indeed, Costa Cruises will deploy Deliziosa in 2011 on its first world cruise in more than a decade.
The balance of exotic itineraries and a slightly smaller size plays into Costa's desire to orient this pair of ships to the line's higher-spending clientele. It's also meant to appeal to new-to-cruise travelers who want to travel to unique destinations on a manageable ship -- but one that still offers all of Costa's mega-sized features and amenities, from its vast spa facilities and kids club to its Grand Prix driving simulator and extensive entertainment options.
While Costa may be well-known to European travelers, the line has only recently begun expanding awareness about its style of cruising to other markets, including North America. For the uninitiated, the most important thing to know about Costa is that the line, part of the Carnival Corporation, most resembles Carnival Cruise Lines
in its design and in its layout. (Its jazzy interiors are created by Joe Farcus, who's Carnival's longtime decorator, and Costa ships, by and large, follow the same architectural patterns as Carnival ships, so a favorite lounge or dining room on a new Carnival ship will likely be in the same place on a Costa vessel.) Interestingly, there's a little bit of Holland America
(also a part of Carnival Corp.) on Deliziosa; the layout has some unique HAL touches, such as a similar main pool design.
Those who've cruised with the American-oriented Carnival and Holland America will find that Costa offers a refreshing option that combines the familiar with the exotic.
Deliziosa has the range of stateroom sizes and styles you'd expect on a big ship -- of 1,130 cabins, 662 come with verandahs, and 106 are suites.
The most gorgeous suite, if you're in the mood for a splurge, is the Panorama. Located aft and measuring 672 square feet, its best feature is its wraparound balcony with chaise and dining table, but there's plenty to like inside, as well. The suite is about the width of two standard cabins, so it feels spacious. It includes a vanity, desk, queen bed that converts to twins, seating area and lovely bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and two sinks. Suite-dwellers have access to lots of perks, from concierge service to priority embarkation.
Mini-suites (273 square feet) are about 50 square feet larger than standard balcony cabins (224 square feet) and have upgraded furnishings. (The gift shop really should sell versions of the gorgeous, pink-swirled Murano lamps.)
Standard cabins, from insides to those with private verandahs, are reasonably roomy and are decorated in a sort of murky orange/pink/brown color scheme. Each has a private bath (shower-only, minimal toiletries), a queen bed that converts to twins, a sofa (some fold out to create additional sleeping areas), a desk/vanity and a flat-screen television.
Those with balconies each have two chairs and a small table.
Costa was a pathfinder when it created a destination spa onboard by introducing a "neighborhood" of cabins situated around the spa area; these specially directed Samsara suites and cabins are meant for travelers who want to focus on health and wellness while cruising. The collection of staterooms on Deck 8 includes perks, such as private access to the spa via a glass elevator and really gorgeous maroon-colored hallways that transport passengers to Asia in a flash. The cabins themselves are the same size as standards, but have different decor and some extra toys, such as a scent diffuser and a kettle for tea.
Costa Deliziosa's main dining room is called Ristorante Albatross, and it's a beautiful, vibrantly red, two-deck-high venue tucked into the aft of the ship. The views from the wall of windows along the back are gorgeous. But what is also great about the dining room layout is the way the large room is designed into smaller, cozier areas, each with different ambiences.
Albatross is open for breakfast and lunch on an open-seating basis and for dinner in a set-seating, set-time scenario. Breakfast was excellent; there's a vast buffet area with meats and cheeses, delicious pastries, cereal and yogurt, and you can complement that by ordering off the menu. (The eggs Benedict was prepared perfectly.)
Lunch is lovely, too -- a low-key alternative to the busier buffet. The menu offers a handful of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts.
Dinner is the big event onboard, and preparation of dishes is definitely ambitious, a sort of contemporary melange of European cuisines with Italian definitely standing out.
The ship's buffet restaurant, Ristorante Buffet Muscadins, is open for breakfast, lunch and tea (or a late afternoon snack). It offers a range of stations that feature European favorites and North American ones, too. There's a pizza counter where the offerings were, disappointingly, more American than Italian (think thick, heavy crust). At night, a small portion of this eatery is transformed into a pizzeria -- and the personal pizzas are superb, a vast improvement over the daytime offering. There is no cost.
One nice spot for breakfast or lunch is the main pool, Lido Azzurra Blu. There are small buffet stations out there and lots of tables. The pool has a magrodome, a glass roof that can be closed in bad weather and opened to the elements on sunny days.
Club Deliziosa, located in a scenic spot on Deck 10, is the ship's boutique restaurant; a meal there might just rank in the top five of all time! The Club concept throughout Costa's fleet is overseen by Ettore Bocchia, a Michelin-star chef at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in northern Italy. His menus are described as "avant garde," and a few of the items did strike me as pretentious. But most of the menu is a perfect blend of adventurous and simply delicious. On our visit, the starters were actually a disappointment; the crispy scampi was tasty, but its portioning was stingy, and the experimental "cooked eggs at 65 degrees with a dollop of caviar" was tasteless. But the rest of the meal was superb, with entrees like a gorgeous Maccheroni pasta with veal sweetbread ragout and mains that included such dishes as filet of sea bass and filet of veal. There's a cover charge of 20 euros to dine there.
The Samsara Restaurant is the ship's spa eatery and is primarily meant to serve residents of its spa neighborhood, though others may dine there for a 20 euro cover charge when space is available. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One don't-miss spot (and, indeed, it's always crowded) is the ship's decadent Caffeteria Sugar, a chocolate bar serving both sweets and sweet drinks.
Grand Old Favorites
Costa has always done an exceptional job with evening entertainment, and each night there was a head-spinning array of choices, from musical productions in the Teatro Duse to fantastic vocalists at the Grand Bar Mirabilis. I loved that the piano bar was an enclosed spot with its own bar and lots of room. Bar Alcazar had a terrific band that played soft pop music, and the two-deck Discoteca Sharazad was the ship's primo late-night destination.
The Samsara Spa, already a strong point on Costa's newer ships, just keeps on getting better. It's a playground for the holistic-minded and offers a thalassotherapy pool, an array of aromatic steam rooms, all sorts of spa services (from massage to acupuncture), a row of sun beds and an Asian-inspired retreat where you're served tea after treatments.
New & Nifty
Like many other contemporary cruise lines, Costa aims to please kids and recreationally restless travelers. On Deliziosa, we love the ship's collection of fun-oriented destinations. While not exactly new (but most certainly nifty), the golf simulator is highly sophisticated and offers 37 different courses to virtually play. Also a reasonably new Costa staple is its Grand Prix driving simulator, which gives you the chance to simultaneously thrill and scare yourself at rapid speeds. (The competitive among us will, no doubt, skip the first three levels of difficulty --- test, rookie and professional modes -- and move right onto championship challenges.)
PlayStation World is an elaborate program that includes video gaming on demand (both in cabin and in the kids' Squok and Teen Clubs) and PlayStation Nights, which are held on huge, poolside screens. (You can also buy PlayStation products onboard to take home.) My favorite of all the recreational possibilities is the Skorpion Quadline Roller Skate option, found outdoors on one of the top decks. The skates are elaborately designed with a funky and very retro look. The onboard skating is harder than you'd imagine and is, indeed, tougher than the skating track on ships like Royal Caribbean
's Voyager class because the skates themselves are both more sophisticated and more challenging.
Another recent addition to the ship is a scattering of "totems"; these are self-service areas where you can check your onboard account, make restaurant reservations, learn about the crew, figure out what's in the daily program and book spa treatments.
Despite its more upscale leanings, this is an outstanding ship for families -- with some qualifications. The Squok Club and the TeenZone, not to mention outdoor pools and recreational facilities, are well-designed and executed, and the kids on our voyage clearly were engaged. However, this ship is designed for Europeans; clubs are less elaborate than on North American-oriented ships because European kids and parents tend to do a lot of activities together onboard.
The idea of the Samsara Spa is great. The facilities are definitely superior to nearly all others on cruise ships, but this design oddly requires spa-goers to lock and unlock doors to get to different parts of the spa.
Additionally, spa cabins decor is a bit jarring. These staterooms are attractive, but are way too jazzy for the serene aspect they're meant to convey. Tone it down.
And, if Deliziosa, like its sister Luminosa, is meant to represent a more upscale vibe for Costa, I'd love to see the line get rid of the neon signage in public spaces. It simply screams "mass market."
I'm not convinced that travelers wanting a European ambience onboard will find Costa Deliziosa (and Costa Luminosa) notably more upscale and sophisticated than the ships in the fleet's Concordia class. (And, in fact, the European-influenced MSC Cruises
genuinely offers a better luxe experience with its Yacht Club's ship-within-a-ship concept). Where Deliziosa shines is in its size -- it's big enough to offer dining choices, a handful of pools, plenty of options in entertainment and recreation. But, it's not so large that it can't pass through the Panama Canal. That means it can offer far more daring, interesting and exotic itineraries than its mega-ship counterparts.