In the last few years, I’ve been on 25 or 30 cruise ships, most of them new or newly renovated, sometimes overnight or longer, sometimes just for a few hours. Some features are universally eye-grabbing: dramatic atriums, pool decks, grandly decorated main dining rooms, romantic verandah staterooms. But without spending at least a couple nights on the ship, I can’t judge how well passenger traffic flows through the ship, how good the food and service in the dining room are, or how livable a pretty stateroom is.
So when I got a tour of the Costa Mediterranea this week, my first visit to a Costa ship, I knew I wouldn’t be there long enough to come away with a strong sense of what kind of experience it offered. And part of my interest was because the ship was in the same fleet as the Costa Concordia, the ship that sank off the coast of Italy last year and has yet to be towed away.
The two ships are not in the same class. The Mediterranea’s vital statistics: launched in 2003, tonnage 85,700, 2,112 guests. Concordia is about 30 percent larger, carries about 900 more guests and was launched in 2006.
The main reason I hadn’t been on a Costa ship was that there had not been a lot of opportunities. Costa home ports only one ship in Miami, and does so for only the winter and early spring for Caribbean sailings, before sending the ship back to Europe. After the sinking of the Concordia, Costa stayed pretty low-key in Miami.
Although Costa is owned by Carnival (since 2000), it’s an Italian line that caters to European guests. And that’s what struck me most during my short time on the ship: just how dominant the ship’s Italian heritage is. While many ships have sleek contemporary décor, the Mediterranea is ornate with lavishly detailed murals and wall coverings, colorful Murano glass fixtures, Renaissance-style statuary by the pools, and extra embellishment on just about everything.
Atrium bar on Costa Mediterranea
Dinner service was very traditional, with two seatings; each guest’s seating and table are the same for the entire cruise. In a day when many ships have half a dozen or more extra-fee restaurants, the Mediterranea has only one (upscale Italian fare), plus the lido deck buffet as alternatives to the main dining room.
Announcements on the loudspeaker were made first in Italian. There’s a toga party at the end of each cruise.
As I expected, I finished my tour without getting a sense of what spending a week on the Costa Mediterranea would be like. But I can tell you this: The ship has a gregarious personality.