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April 17 - May 3, 2005
By Mary & Vincent Finelli
The beautiful Costa Mediterranea travels from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA to Savona, Italy using the following interesting combination of ports: Key West, FL; a sea day; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, USVI; Martinique; Barbados; five sea days; Santa Cruz, Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands; a sea day; Gibraltar, UK; another sea day; and finally landing in the newly constructed Costa terminal in Savona, Italy. Eight sea days and eight port days makes for a very restful transatlantic crossing. Costa, which has just completed 54 years in the cruising industry, really knows how to do a transatlantic crossing: the first section of this cruise is a port intensive tour of diverse islands of Spanish, English, French and Dutch cultural influences which beguiles the passengers. Then five days of ocean crossing when at leisure one can choose to participate in various ship activities, enjoy the beauty of the ship's artwork or immerse him/herself in the "dolce far niente" (sweet do nothing). This particular crossing included beautiful weather and calm seas. It is a wonderfully relaxing time which affords passengers an opportunity to interact with each other and with Costa's amicable crew. There is both camaraderie and warmth reflected in the Italian character which permeates the ship.
Costa is the largest Cruise Line in Europe and the "Pax Nationality" on this cruise reflects that: in descending order, there were a total of 521 Swiss citizens; 498 Italians; 331 Germans; 247 French (We resurrected our high school French!); 194 English; 99 Belgians; 55 Icelanders (who were easily recognized by their beautiful blue eyes.); 45 Spanish; 42 Austrian; 24 American; 22 Dutch; and finally eleven other nations represented by less than ten passengers each. In total 2,107 passengers from all around the world sailed together in excellent harmony for sixteen days. Wouldn't it be extraordinary if "ship" Earth could do the same?
The lovely thing about Costa is its respect for all cultures reflected in the many languages utilized daily for updates and daily ship reports. As evidenced by the passenger breakdown by countries; Americans were in the minority, but we felt enormously welcomed.
Embarkation time was slated for 1:30pm; but, passengers started boarding at 11:30am. We arrived at Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale at 12:30pm and went directly on board in only twenty minutes. We had curbside assistance with the wheelchair all the way to our stateroom. We were happy to see that our friend Hotel Director Walter German was on board. He proved very generous with his time and expertise. We look forward to sailing with him again soon, since he is capable of resolving all questions and this ship under his direction is pristine.
The very kind Captain Francesco Serra exhibited his navigational abilities and promptness throughout this trip, since we arrived precisely on time at all eight ports. Of course, the newer Costa ships are state of the art in navigational equipment. We followed our usual first day on board routine: 1. Attack the "Welcome on Board Buffet." 2. Meet the Maitre D', in this case the very accommodating Lorenzo Pescetti, to check on our table assignment (all A OK!). 3. Finally, we return to our stateroom and rest.
This was our 10th cruise on Costa ships and our second on the Mediterranea. We have already written a detailed review on this ship, thus for the description of the ship we refer the readers to check the archives of this web site. Following the artistic tradition set forth with Costa Atlantica, this ship, as well her sister ships, are floating art museums. In the words of Pier Luigi Foschi, President of Costa Cruise Line, as reported in the foreword of CRUISING INTO ART (a detailed discourse of art on board Italian Ships 1948-2002): "It is imperative . . . to provide permanent contemporary art exhibitions within reach of all our passengers . . . a means of learning, discovery and culture. The purpose of a ship is to astonish the passengers in every way, making their cruise unforgettable and encouraging them to return again and again." This cruise was unforgettable and we will return to Costa "again and again." This book's illustrations recall the themes of the various Italian Ships and they provide enjoyable recollections of the artwork we have admired during our previous cruises on the Costa Romantica, Costa Victoria and Costa Atlantica. It also reveals the basis on which Costa relies to form themes for its decor. The Mediterranea follows these ambitious standards in presentation of art.
Suffice it to say that the amount and quality of the art is stupendous. Areas are dedicated to Mythology (bronze sculptures of Armonia, Cadmo and Apollo on Deck 9), Commedia dell'Arte (Costumes of Characters in the Atrium) and Modern Dance and Ballet (a huge collection of Angela Cioce's photographs of dancers is on Deck 2). The "Restaurant degli Argentieri" with antique silversmith designs recreated by modern artists is a delight. In every area, even the corridors and stairways, there are works of art both whimsical and entertaining in oil, ceramic and bronze. As Foschi so aptly put it, the ships are both educative and cultural. One of the most memorable places on the Mediterranea is on Deck 2 Tersicore, where the birdcage elevators (lifts) give passengers an eight deck view of the Atrium with a large sculpture of 25 mannequin dancers by Gigi Rigamonti. Ride all the way up to Deck 10, or you may want to get off on Deck 9 and climb the crystal staircase to Deck 10. But we don't recommend this for passengers who suffer from vertigo.
The public places in the Mediterranea are inspired by Italian art and architecture found in famous palaces and villas. Their decorations and furnishings evoke the splendor of the golden age of the models they symbolize; i.e., the Casino called "Canal Grande" is symbolic of the famous Barbaro Palace in Venice, Piazza Casanova is a tribute to the Albrizzi Palace also in Venice, the Winter Terrace is inspired by Villa La Pietra in Florence, etc.; Osiris Theatre, Restaurant Degli Argentieri, Perla Del Lago Buffet, Terme Ischia Spa and other areas are splendidly decorated, each in a specific way and style, to reveal the ageless beauty of memorable places. However, going throughout the ship, wherever we look around, we remain astonished and overwhelmed by the over abundance of repetitive details. Joe Farcus, the American architect responsible for the interior decoration of the Mediterranea and her sister ships of Costa and Carnival Lines, broadly uses repetition, yet we feel that sometimes more is not always better.
Other facilities aboard are three pools and four whirlpools as well a water park for children with a big water slide, Olympic Gym, a Tennis court, a Library, the Internet Cafe`, a Disco, a Chapel and a great children's program the Squok Club described for us by Angela Paterno (Sicily). She is enamored of children, and makes a perfect leader. The ship's layout is conductive to mingling and we enjoyed the many new acquaintances we made in Sala Casanova where Bingo, Trivia and Cooking Demonstrations were held with Chefs De Luca and Molinaro.
Costa has 11 ships on line now and there will be two more added soon: The Costa Concordia, to be launched in 2006, will be 112 thousand gross tons, 290 meters long, 35 meters wide, a draft of only 8 meters, with a her cruising speed of 22 knots. It will carry 3,700 passengers and a crew of 1,200. She is under construction at Fincantieri Shipyards in Italy. There is also a sister ship of the Concordia scheduled for 2007, as of now not named. This fall the Costa Magica will replace the Costa Atlantica in the Caribbean, with Ft. Lauderdale as home port for the winter season.
Stateroom #4202 is wheelchair accessible; however, it has an obstructed view. Unfortunately, there are no wheelchair accessible cabins without obstructed view or with balconies. The only way for a person with limited mobility, like Vincent, to have fresh air and the view of the sea on this class of ships, is to book a suite, budget permitting. Vincent regretted his decision for booking this cabin and it became an on going joke between us. This was our last trip without a balcony. Each evening, after dinner, we went aft on the promenade, Deck 3, and viewed the sunset, thus placating the desire for a balcony.
This room had a large tiled bathroom with safety rails; a queen size bed with two night stands; a console on the far wall with TV, safe, cupboards, a lighted, mirrored vanity/desk with drawers; a small coffee table, one upholstered chair and one stool/ottoman and a double armoire. Though spartan, it was comfortable and decorated in aqua and blues with maple wood accents. However, this stateroom has one conundrum, a loud background sucking noise, which we finally discovered was a main air conditioning intake located just below our window. Knowingly, we would have not booked this cabin under any circumstances, but the location is near the very efficient elevators, so we think there are tradeoffs. Our steward Frixie was very competent, extremely pleasant and obliging.
FOOD & SERVICE
Aha! Now we come to the "piece de resistance" and one of the main reasons we like to cruise Costa. We were delighted to see that Executive Chef Villardo Purificacion was on board and even more delighted to see our old friend Chef Antonio De Luca and meet our new friend Chef Massimo Molinaro. These gentlemen went all out to see that our cruise was a gastronomic delight. Antonio and Massimo did a cooking show and prepared Pasta al Salmone and Scallopini al limone --- mouth watering. Gino Binasco is Buffet Manager and the midnight buffet we attended was very well displayed and laden, one of the best we have seen at sea. Also on board was another old friend of ours, Bar Manager Sanzio Riccardi, the drinks on board were fantastic. The Mediterranea has twelve bars!
The dining room staff included Maitre D' Lorenzo Pescetti, whose manners and competence were evident each evening. Our friend 2nd Maitre D' Francesco Frasca was also on board, and we nicknamed him Figaro, because of his happy nature as a factotum who was constantly in motion. He made our evenings fun and delectable.
Table #275 was very aptly served by waiter Emerson Victoria and his assistant Francisco Villarante, all under the watchful eyes of Francesco, Luigi Cuomo and Supervisor of Wait Staff Marcial Sierra. Often Chefs De Luca and Molinaro discussed with passengers their preferences and tastes,
all the while listening intently. They were accessible and aimed to please all. We are going to share with you some of the interesting meals on board, course by course. There are four formal nights (or as the Italians say "Gala") with candles on the tables and free champagne with the dessert course--a very nice touch.
BREAKFAST in cabin can be full American or Continental. It was always punctual with hot chocolate and cappuccino. It was also served in the main dining room: Eggs anyway, bacon, ham, hash browns, hash and pancakes, French toast, rolls, Danish, croissants, bagels and lox, fresh fruits and compotes, etc. The same was offered on Deck 9 Perla del Lago self service buffet.
LUNCH in the dining room had a variety of daily appetizers including the following: crab meat cocktail, fresh fruit cocktail with Grand Marnier, Gruyere cheese fritters, cod fritters, mixed antipasto with cold cuts, artichokes, olives, etc.. Some hot soups were Cream of asparagus, Potage de St. Germaine, lobster chowder and pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). Cold soups included chilled strawberry, peach and watercress. Salads were inventive with a variety of greens: bib, iceberg, romaine, radicchio, escarole, arugola, etc. and additions were pinoli nuts, mushrooms, raisins, croutons.
Two pasta courses were served at noon, such as spaghetti Carbonara, cheese ravioli with red sauce, trenette (pasta) with pesto sauce or pasta primavera with spring vegetables. Six entrees were available daily: i.e., Chef's salads, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, quiche, Squid with rice, broccoli and tomatoes, chicken Milanese (cutlets), beef sautéed with green peppers, and vegetarian pita pockets. Every day there were a variety of items always available: i.e., hamburgers, cheeseburgers, garden burgers, hot dogs, french fries, coleslaw, etc. Vegetarian diets included grilled polenta with four cheese sauce, chilled pear soup (delicious) and pasta with vegetable ragu.
Desserts were mostly the classics: i.e., pies of apple, banana cream, lemon or pecan; creme caramel, yogurts, ice creams and freshly made sorbets. At every meal there was a selection of fruit and international cheeses served with biscuits or crackers. There were tasty moist cakes: German chocolate, almond, cheese and a variety of pastries such as Cream Puffs, Eclairs, Napoleons, Cannoli, Tiramisu, etc.
DINNERS were presented with specialties of the Italian Regions and their local cheeses: i.e., Lombardia, Sardegnia, Sicilia, Piedmonte, Lazio, Campania, etc. Dinner was always a culinary delight with a multitude of offerings. Read the menu carefully and then if you are not salivating read the "Always Available" section: Caesar's salad, spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce, filet of salmon or breast of chicken prepared any way you like (poached, sautéed, grilled, etc.), baked or French fried potatoes, and finally steamed vegetables.
We always consult with the waiters or Maitre D's to make sure we choose well, but even if one errs the servers are happy to change or obtain whatever you want. Every evening fish, chicken or fowl, veal and beef were available. Appetizers included Mozzarella in Carrozza, Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, Escargot Bourguignon, grilled eggplant, fried calamari, Bresaola (air cured beef), prosciutto and melon, etc. Soups were hearty like lentil, minestrone, chicken broth with noodles, and Stracciatella (egg drop). Salads were varied, fresh and unique (portions were large).
The pasta course was always an exercise in ingenuity: Fusilli (pasta) with clams and tomato concasse, rigatoni Alfredo, Bavette (pasta) with baby shrimps, Penne alla Norma with tomato, eggplant, and smoked provolone, or the simple spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino (with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and hot pepper flakes).
The entrees included ossobuco with gremolata sauce, roasted rack of young lamb, beef tenderloin, veal scaloppine, roast sirloin of beef, Cornish hens stuffed with chestnuts, grilled halibut, beef kabobs, lobster tails, roasted turkey, chicken Cordon Bleu, etc.
Desserts included English trifle, Italian Meringues, German Strudel, Napoleons, creme brulees, soufflés, mousses, swan puffs, Baba al Rum, Sicilian cassata (an ice cream delight) and Frutti di Bosco (wild blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries) --- all delicious. If we haven't made you drool by now, well we give up. Costa made this cruise a culinary tour de force! We thank them all from the Executive Chef on down to the waiters. A formal high tea was served in the Oriental Lounge every afternoon from 4 to 5pm. The Gala nights were simply memorable and the atmosphere always festive.
Last, but not least, is the Club Medusa an alternative dining experience on Deck 10 (20 Euros per person) with an exclusive menu designed by Gualtiero Marchesi, featuring modern Italian cuisine, as well as a Tuscan Steak House menu offering great grilled meat and seafood, served on Versace plates. We had a table for two, overlooking the sea, enjoyed Merinda's exquisite repertoire of romantic music, and savored the following delicacies: Crab meat appetizer, filet mignon, porcini mushrooms and a veal chop so tender it could be cut with a fork and then it melted in the mouth. A delicious meal in an enchanting atmosphere!
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES
Cruise Director Franco Lo Faro and his staff were always very busy; this is an example of one day's activities: aerobics, physical exercises, dance lessons, Bingo, arts & crafts, cooking demonstrations, pool games, trivia and quiz games, art auctions, Bocce (Italian bowling of sorts), dart, and tennis tournaments.
Musical entertainment was in every one of the twelve lounges and bars. Merinda De Wit, a beautiful singer and pianist, was our favorite. The Canal Grande Casino was open whenever the ship was at sea. The evening shows were exceptionally good. We enjoyed all of them, but especially the following: Guy Portier's Tribute to Ray Charles; Alberto Barocco's Tribute to Frank Sinatra; The duo Platchkov (acrobats from the Moscow Circus); Rob Torres (mime, magician); and the Trio Mulero, Senor Mulero's Flamenco dancing was exciting.
We spent 16 days on board the Costa Mediterranea, sailed 5,817 nautical miles, and were never bored! We only wish that the Costa Today, the daily paper, would have listed the performers' resume` and their specialty and not the usual "...Cruise Director presents the dynamic talents of John Doe (name of the performer)..." without stating the performer's specialty. Is s/he a singer, a comedian or a magician? It's anybody's guess. Each evening it was a total surprise, but it was always enjoyable.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. FT. Lauderdale Sail: 9:00pm
Day 2. Key West, Florida Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 1:00pm
The Conch Train Tour visits the major points of Key West.
Day 3. At Sea
Day 4. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 1:00pm Depart: 11:30pm
This is great timing, since the evening in San Juan is the best time.
Visit Old San Juan and the ancient fortresses of San Cristobal and La Fortaleza.
Day 5. St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm
Remains the best shopping place in the Caribbean.
Day 6. Martinique, France Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Supposedly here there are huge savings on well known name brands.
Day 7. Barbados, BWI Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 6:00pm
This port is well known for jewelry shopping.
Day 8 - to - Day 12. At Sea On day 10 at c. 3:00pm crossing the middle of the
Day 13. Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Isles Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 6:00pm
We took a walk down town and shopped for inexpensive souvenirs.
No tours for the handicapped.
Day 14. At Sea
Day 15. Gibraltar, UK Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 1:00pm
No tours for the handicapped. Hotel Director offered wheel chair assistance,
but, we joined with another couple and arranged a private taxi tour which was
actually more comprehensive than the ship's tour. There are less than 250
Barbary apes (Macacus inuus, a form of monkey) divided into six families,
or territorial groups. We saw them up close and too personal. Legend says
when the apes go from Gibraltar, so will the English. According to our taxi driver, there are no game wardens and they are fed
poor quality fruit (i.e. this day they got moldy melons.) To protect these
friendly animals and
their habitat, something should be done by the government, possibly funding a project for University students to study
them and oversee their wellness.
Day 16. At Sea
Day 17. Savona, Italy Disembarkation 8:00am
We took the ship's package with a bus to Genoa and stayed overnight at the Bristol Palace, rented a "Smart For Four" car and extended our trip for two more weeks in Italy.
This was our tenth cruise on Costa ships, although only seven appear in the list of the newly formed Costa Club, which does not seem to be well organized. We have applied for membership to the Club more than a year ago and have not yet received the membership cards or the free subscription to the magazine "Privileges of the Sea". There are three levels of membership, Aquamarine, Coral and Pearl, and we have been told that we are "Pearl," the highest level. We did receive on board privileges, such as a bottle of spumante, the daily fruit basket, fancy chocolate in the cabin on Gala night, the free dinner at Club Medusa Restaurant, etc.; however, with the membership number we would be able to get a 15% discount on selected cruises.
The advantage of being a "Frequent Floater" of a cruise line, in addition to the privileges mentioned above, is the probability of finding on the ship staff members that you have met and befriended on other cruises before. It is like coming home again, where we find those familiar faces and enjoy seeing them. On this cruise we have encountered several officers and staff that we had previously met, who did their best in making us feel happy and comfortable. We did have a great cruise, thanks to them! The only complaint has been the cabin with obstructed view and the unpleasant noise. We hope that Costa Crociere will consider making wheelchair accessible cabins in all possible categories, especially in those with balconies. Unfortunately, on this class ship class wheelchair accessible cabins are only inside or with obstructed views. Nowadays we see more and more wheelchair assisted people aboard, and it is only fair that they should be able to enjoy cruising as well as the able bodied passengers; thus their limited mobility should not confine them to inside or obstructed view cabins.
We are looking forward to booking a cruise on the Costa Magica next fall, hoping to find on her better accommodation than we did on this ship. We have already booked a cruise on Star Princess next October and one on the new comer
giga-ship Freedom of the Seas for the Summer of 2006.
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