Tomorrow, Costa Cruises will officially christen in Dubai its 92,700-ton, 2,260-passenger Costa Deliziosa -- the first cruise ship to be named in an Arabian city. Cruise Critic will be reporting live from the festivities, which we expect to be elaborate (the Italian line spares no expense in planning massive inaugural celebrations -- think fireworks!).
But in the meantime, what's this ship all about?
At a press conference earlier this month aboard Costa Cruises' brand-new Costa Deliziosa -- held while the ship sailed off the coast of Italy on a pre-inaugural cruise -- the most intriguing announcement had nothing at all to do with onboard features. The real newsmaker? This vessel will embark on a world cruise -- Costa's first since the mid 1990's.
These days world cruises are typically limited to pricey luxury lines or the small vessels operated by a handful of mass market lines (Cunard is one exception to this rule; its Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria both have sailed world cruises and its yet-to-launch Queen Elizabeth will circle the globe in 2011). That's why Costa's bold decision to deploy not only one of its largest ships, but also its newest is especially eye-catching.
In this case, Costa Deliziosa will sail a 100-day, 37-port voyage touching on five continents. The cruise will also be offered in three segments. The voyage departs on December 28, 2011 from Savona, Costa's built-to-order port facility just west of Genoa, en route to Los Angeles (though this is a large ship, it's still built to specifications that will enable it to fit through the Panama Canal). The next leg travels between Los Angeles and Singapore. The final segment will sail from Singapore back to Savona via India and the Suez Canal. Fares begin at 9,900 euro for the full cruise (segment prices have not yet been announced).
"We already have a booking this morning, our first one!” said an obviously delighted Gianni Onorota, Costa's president.
Despite the exciting world cruise news, there was plenty of chatter about the ship itself at the February 2 press conference, attended by journalists representing a number of nations, from the U.S. to China and from Brazil to Switzerland -- a typical showing for the internationally minded Costa. Costa Deliziosa will be officially christened on February 23 in Dubai. The ship, which will spend the winter in Dubai, will be the first in the modern era to be inaugurated in the Middle East.
Costa Deliziosa is a twin to Costa Luminosa, which also will be based in Dubai over the winter season. Its style is part Carnival: Like many other contemporary Costa ships, it was designed by Joe Farcus, Carnival Cruise Lines' legendary visionary, and includes jazzy interiors, neon fixtures and a basic layout that's reminiscent of Carnival's Conquest-class, with a grand, sun-lit atrium. But since it's built on a platform similar to Holland America's Zuiderdam (and other Vista-class siblings, such as Oosterdam, Noordam and Westerdam), there are similarities in layout there, too.
Here's what's unique and where Costa is bucking a trend: Despite an aggressive new-build plan that focuses primarily on creating ships that are Costa's largest ever -- like the 114,500-ton, 3,000-passenger Costa Pacifica, Serena and Concordia -- Deliziosa, like Luminosa, is actually smaller than those ships. The Panamax size provides more itinerary flexibility.
Again, the ship is a virtual copy of Costa Luminosa and, in both cases, these vessels are designed and built to appeal to Costa's more upscale cruise traveler -- with upgraded, more elegant materials used in creating public spaces, and a sophisticated art collection. Costa Deliziosa, in particular, is "top of the range, a ship that's aimed at a certain type of customer," Joe Farcus told us today. Thematically, the ship is designed around a loose idea Farcus described as "pure pleasure"; topics such as "design, art, gastronomy, technology, wellness, fun, comfort and itineraries" are represented in the ship's colors, design schemes, amenities and art collection.
Interestingly, Costa competitor MSC Cruises is using a different approach to appealing to the same market; in its case it's created the upscale "Yacht Club" space on ships like MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida rather than devoting entire vessels to a more luxury-minded passenger.
Overall, Costa Deliziosa is a warm, whimsical ship with a simple layout that's easy to navigate. Its tone is set by a vast art collection, starting with "Sphere," a piece from Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro made of gilt bronze that dominates the atrium. My own favorite pieces onboard are far simpler: framed, black and white prints of vessels throughout Costa's storied past are a delight to view.
In fact, those photos, alongside state-of-the-art features -- like a Formula One race car simulator, four-dimensional theater, roller skating, PlayStation 3 consoles, electronic "totems" through which passengers can book shore tours and restaurant reservations, and the sumptuously gorgeous Samsara Spa -- remind travelers of what Farcus holds to be the true central theme around the Costa Deliziosa experience.
Bottom line, Farcus says, "It's a ship. It looks like a ship, feels like a ship. That's extremely important. People make the decision to step off land and go out to sea because they're ready to step into a different world when they come onboard a ship."
Stay tuned for coverage of Costa Deliziosa's February 23 christening in Dubai -- and a new sneak preview review.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief