Editor's note: Costa Atlantica is now part of the Costa Asia fleet, and sails exclusively Asia itineraries.
Imagine if Botticelli, the 15th-century Italian painter, and Joe Farcus, Carnival Cruise Line's bold 20th-century interior architect and designer, collaborated on creating a 21st-century ship. The result would very likely be a dead ringer for the Costa Atlantica.
The minute you walk into Atlantica's soaring 10-deck atrium, with its eye-popping colors and glass elevators fringed with flashing lights rocketing up and down, it's hard not to see the hand of the designer who never met a primary hue or DayGlo color he didn't like. But on the other side of the equation, this high-energy atmosphere is diluted and softened with the classics: Carrara marble and Byzantine mosaics -- elements of Italy's classical Roman, Baroque, and Renaissance eras -- with Murano glass counterpoints, all tied together with the signature of an artist whose work is emblematic of post-World War II Italy, filmmaker Federico Fellini. Each of Atlantica's decks is named for one of his films: Deck 2 is La Dolce Vita Deck; Deck 3 is named La Strada, and so on.
In addition to the soaring main atrium, there are mini "atria" extending two decks, sprinkled throughout the ship. Many public rooms cluster around these hubs, dubbed "piazzas." They give the ship's public areas a bright and open feel. Another primary design element is the use of winding or sweeping stairways, linking two decks. In addition to the typical uses for grand entrances to the restaurant or lobby, there are graceful sweeping stairways skirting the secondary atria, and a tightly spiraled staircase descending into the depths of the appropriately named Dante's Disco. But the most dramatic of all these stairways curves around the perimeter of the upper two levels of the central atrium. It is fashioned completely of glass, and a glance down the yawning chasm between your feet approximates the sense of peering over the edge of a 10-story building.
Costa describes its product as "Cruising Italian Style," which means it is a combination of a bit of Old World culture infused with the energetic, demonstrative, welcoming warmth that is the essence of the Italians. If first-time Costa passengers from the States expect a majority of stuffy Europeans barely tolerating the upstart New World minority, one glance at the interior style will end that myth. Gone are the days of public address announcements in five languages, the last of which was invariably English. Nowadays only two languages are used, Italian and English. During the Caribbean season, English takes precedence over Italian, with the order reversed during the summer season abroad.
On Caribbean sailings, about 80 percent of passengers are American, the balance equally split among European countries. In Europe, the ratio is reversed. Of the Americans onboard, a large number are of Italian-American heritage. Average age is 57+, though the ship attracts a more fun-loving, dynamic demographic than the raw age figure would suggest, so it seems more youthful. During school vacations there are many families.
Europeans tend to dress fancier for daytime activities than Americans, so expect a style show at poolside, especially on European sailings. Off the ship, "casual" is dictated by the climate and choice of activity. There are two formal nights, with about 50 percent of men in tuxes. Women tend to go quite formal on formal nights. All other nights are casual, including toga night (sheets provided, but bring accessories if you wish), and Festa Italiana (suggested dress: red, white and green).
First Time Cruiser