So, where are you going for your vacation this year? Europe? The Caribbean? Ohio? The list of possibilities is seemingly endless. But it’s not as long as the list of places you don’t even consider. Luxembourg, for instance, or Algeria. I bet you never really thought about Haiti either, or Chad.

Don’t you think that’s a bit weird? I mean, most of the places that don’t stack up as tourist resorts fail because you’ll be shot or because you’ll come home with an interesting new disease…..yet take these aspects away and you have some amazing vacation destinations.

What about cruising………..well, I have learned over the last few years that many people who are frequent cruisers tend to stay loyal to one or maybe two companies. Just look at those board thingies and reviews on Cruise Critic and CruiseMates, etc. The author always lists the ships that he or she has sailed on and the list usually features maybe two or three cruise lines………….hey…………don’t get me wrong………..we are all very thankful for your loyalty……..however………..I wonder if we should start thinking a little outside of the usual suspects……………… and go Italian.

I admit, I knew very little about Costa ships. I knew they had a yellow smoke stack and that most of the crew had a vowel at the end of their name. Apart from that………I knew “niente”

Today………I discovered much more and discovered a name that should be on every cruise lovers list.
The day started at 10 am when I was collected by car from the gangway of the Carnival Splendor. Heidi remained onboard to run the ship as there is a lot to do.

The wonderful people of Costa had obviously been told some incorrect information on my importance because for some reason they had sent a Mercedes Limo S Class thing which nosed through the gates of the pier as requested, at 10 am…………….. The rear arrived about 40 minutes later…………………..The crew working on the pier applauded………….one shouted “Big Car For Big John.”……………….bugger.

I was more concerned that this car was meant for Mr Foschi the President and CEO of Costa and they had sent him the car that was supposed to pick me up……………I had a horrible visual of Mr. Foschi in his designer suit squashed into a Fiat 500.

I think it’s fair to call the back-seat area generous. It’s so generous in fact that stretched out on one of the airline-style seats my legs did not even touch the partition that separates those in the rear from the driver.

With barely a sound, the twin-turbocharged V12 engine whispered into life and off we went, with me already starting to experiment. After a while I had one television set showing a sat nav display of we were and the other showing an Italian Supermodel reading the news. Then I found the fridge, the button to move the headrest just so, and both the mobile phones.

And then I found the roof. It’s made of photochromatic glass, which at the twiddle of a switch can be fully frosted, very frosted, not frosted at all or completely opaque. I liked playing with this feature. In fact by the time I was bored with it we had arrived at the pier and there she was………The Costa Concordia.

So, I arrived at the ship and at the new terminal that has more facilities than some International airports and a terminal like this can make the sometimes long and boring security and check in procedures so much more comfortable.

Costa has a similar terminal in Barcelona and if this was an example of the Italian way of doing things I could not wait to get onboard.

 

Carnival Splendor is of the same design as Concordia and I cannot describe in words how strange it is to walk up the gangway of a ship that you just left 45 minutes ago and find it to be completely changed…………….even reading that sentence does not do the feeling justice. Imagine, coming home from work, opening the front door and finding that your living room is just as you left it except……………it has a completely different color scheme and new furniture.

I was met at the gangway by my hosts who as on previous ship visits gave up their entire day to proudly escort me around their ship. I will talk more about them and introduce you to them later.
The Grand Lobby of the Costa Concordia seems to have been designed around a underwater theme………..I am not sure if that is what Mr. Farcus intended but bravo to him if he did because it works brilliantly. The soft green lighting and the beautiful artwork depicting the Ocean was breathtaking. The lobby on any vessel is the focal point of the ship and as most ship’s embark guests there it is also that important first impression. The best way to see if that first impression is a positive one is to watch the guests’ faces when they board. Today, onboard the Costa Concordia it was obvious that as guests embarked that the lobby was a hit, not only by their smiles but by the dozens of camera flashes as memories were taken.

The first place we entered was the place that left me stunned………………The Spa…………………The Carnival Splendor’s Cloud 9 Spa is still being decorated and I can only hope it looks like the one I saw today. The Spa includes the Suites we will have private access to reserved areas as well as private rooms and treatments and relaxation rooms that would have five star resorts dribbling with jealousy. There are Spa Hotels all over the world………..well this is as near to a Spa Cruise Vessel that I have seen………………….if you are one of those who loves to be slapped, tickled, covered in mud, shrunk, cleaned, washed, heated, cooled and left to relax on the softest of chairs, eating a bowl of fresh fruit, having your neck massaged while listening to some chanting Monks………..then the Costa Concordia is the place you need to be …………………… the Spa is epic.

Have a look at these photos.

As we walked around the vessel I saw that one of my comprehensions that all the Staff and Crew were Italian was utter rubbish. While many are just as many are not with crew representing many different nationalities. The one language they all spoke was hospitality ………….and fluently. I didn’t walk past a single Costa Crew member without receiving a cheery ” bonjourno”…………….you can have all the gadgets and gismos onboard as you want but without a friendly crew you might as well be operating a barge carrying cement……………….Mr. Foschi…………..you should be proud………..from the Captain on down everyone said hello to everyone…………..and I mean crew to passenger and crew to crew……………………..brilliant.

The public spaces are well designed and seating that……………..well you know ……………. comfortable…………..the aft lounge was my favorite with the huge circular bar made you want to sit there and watch the world go by. When I say the world, it really is ………..the world. While most of the guests are Italian there are many Spanish, Dutch, German, British and …………yes American. Every announcement, every sign, every menu is written in multiple languages including English. …………….Costa truly is the world’s favorite International cruise company.

Anyway, rather than me waffle on about the beautiful guest areas have a look at these photos.

Motor sport in Italy and Europe is huge and just as NASCAR is the one to watch in North America in Europe it is Formula One (F1). Personally, I have never understood the joy of watching motor racing …especially the Le Mans 24 Hour race which Italians seem to love…………….why?
At four o’clock on the Saturday afternoon with drivers whose names you can’t even pronounce, set off on what in essence is a 24-hour economy run. And then it goes dark.

Now I’m sorry but how can anyone with even a tiny sliver of intelligence imagine that spectators will be interested in watching a sport they can’t see? A pair of headlights is coming towards you and then, after a short, deafening roar, they are replaced by a set of red taillights whizzing off into the night. Was that a Courage that just went by, driven by Sal Pellegrino? And if so, was it winning or coming last? There is no way on God’s earth of knowing.

All you do know is that the race, when it finishes at 4 pm on the Sunday, will be won by the team with the most money.

Anyway, as Europe embraces F1, Costa have placed a superb F1 race car simulator which is an exact copy of the real thing……………it looks incredible…………can’t tell you how good though as in the world of F1 …………..one size does not fit all.

It was a great opportunity to see the ship in service and get a glimpse of what we might expect on the Carnival Splendor. This was highlighted by the midship pool area. It was raining and the dome was closed ………..yet the deck still had a Lido feel about it. People were swimming, relaxing, watching the big screen and for the first time I got an impression on what this new concept for us will feel like. Again, Costa has this just right and I thank them for giving me a glimpse into our future.

 

 

To my hosts………….let’s start with the Cruise Director Federica Giammarioli who as you can tell by the name is Irish…………..kidding…………..Italian of course. She got on my nerves before she even said a word and honestly it took a while to like her ……………….hold on………….let me explain why. Federica is drop dead mouth open wide gorgeous and has been blessed with a killer smile and a personality that most CD’s would pay thousands of dollars or euros to have………………

Costa should bottle her. What a warm and friendly lady she is and joking aside I liked her the moment I met her. She was joined by one of her staff members Massimo Garbarino who is half Italian and half English…………….for his sake I hope it’s the bottom half that’s Italian. All the “animators” as they are known are multi lingual and once again I was massively impressed as Federica took the time to talk to every guest………….the ones who had been onboard for some time obviously loved her…………………..don’t tell my wife………………so did I.

Then there is cruise industry veteran Eduardo Barlassini the Hotel Director. His stories of the good old days had me laughing and I don’t think I have met anyone who has spent 37 years at sea and still looks like they are as excited about year 37 as they were at year 1. Bravo Eduardo and it was an honor to share time with some like you.

Finally, there is Captain Massimo Garbarino. If you were to design a Captain using the stereotypes we all know and love …………then you would come up with Captain Garbarino. He is a Captain’s Captain……………………does that make sense? He is an honorable man and someone who was born to be at sea. Here is a perfect example of this told in his own words.

As I promised you, I am attaching the picture I had in the port of Flam in Norway, with Giona, his father and our agent in that port. Giona is a Norwegian boy in love with cruise ships, and he knows all about all cruise ships, and in particular the one cruising in the Fjords. I met him in 2005 when I was cruising there with Costa Atlantica, and than he came to visit me in 2006 on board Costa Magica, and I invited him once again last year in 2007.

Every time I was passing by Vangses the village where he lives in the Songnefjord, I was blowing the ship’s horn to greet him, and he was always on the quay replying with his Norway flag and also an Italian flag. He dreams about ships, and loves our ones; he has models of all ships cruising in his Fjords. He is a boy I will never forget, and will never forget the enthusiasm and passion he has about ships.

Well, word has gotten around that I like food and somehow word got out that I was diabetic………….more on that soon.

I was shown the dining rooms and the chocolate bar…………yes…………..a bar that serves everything and everything chocolate, the pay extra restaurant and all the exceptional food outlets. As you would expect from an Italian line the food is quite simply……………….the best. We ate in the Spa restaurant which is reserved for those guests who are staying in the Spa Suites. The food is somewhat healthier than the main restaurant but this gorgeous dining area is an example that a healthy menu can be exciting, tasty and not a place just for people with sandals, a beard and who only eat carrot. We had scallops, shrimp and…………..hold on…………………have a look instead.


A bowl of the finest Italian Parmesan cheese

The service was first class and my special thanks to the Chef who upon hearing that I had refused an opportunity to graze at the chocolate bar (as I didn’t feel like collapsing and being rushed to hospital), had made me a piece of delicious apple strudel…………..I never met the Chef but I would like to thank him now for being so considerate.

The food was epic……………………enough said.

I could write so much more but instead I want to keep my ending simple.

Costa cruises are so much more than just being Italian…………..however………….is that not enough by itself. Why wouldn’t you want to experience all the magic of Italy that you experience ashore onboard as well? Why see Italy for only part of your cruise when you can have it every single second of the voyage.

Then, take this Italian magica and place it in the Caribbean and you really do have the best of both worlds…………the Caribbean during the day………..Italy by night.

Italy is a country where style is everything ………..it is no surprise therefore that onboard a Costa ship that style is evident everywhere you look……………..and that in turn is why you should have Costa……………………… on your list of favorite cruise lines.


John and Captain Gabarino, Hotel Director Barlassini and Cruise Director Federica

Goodnight
Your friends John and Heidi and the Captain and Crew of the Costa Concordia.

Carissmi amici del Gruppo Costa, benvenuti in questo Blog.
Se avete domande o commenti Vi prego di scriverli anche in Italiano nell ‘apposito spazio dedicato, verrano in seguito tradotti in inglesse.
Vi auguro una buona giornata e grazie per aver visitato il mio Blog.

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.