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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

Costa Atlantica in New York City
May 3, 2001

Tour, Dinner & An Appraisal...

by Armand Mantia

Today, members of my branch of the Steamship Historical Society were invited onboard Costa Atlantica for a tour and dinner. Much has been written about the ship, good and bad, so I thought I'd share my impressions with you.

I will confess that I have never been onboard a Joe Farcus designed Carnival Cruise Line ship before, so I was not too sure what to expect here. I have always believed in the motto "expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed."

Believing this, the CA is not AS garish as many of us had been led to believe. In fact, there are a number of rather attractive areas on her, most especially the main dining room and the Coral Lounge. And, if you look carefully, there are many tiny details that are downright beautiful (little angels peering out from different places, magnificent Murano glass sculptures in the stairwells and especially the disco, mosaic floor borders, some reproduction Renaissance art). Rather than vast public rooms, the ship has many small rooms which give some sense of intimacy to her huge size. There are a number of delightful little hidden areas which easily shield you from the throngs of people. And, perhaps, the most beautiful real chapel in a good long time at sea. Her exterior, while far from sleek, is still much more attractive than (IMHO) the totally hideous Millennium-class. Given her great length, she does seem rather narrow and tall, so I can't imagine how she handles in rough water.

However, in addition to the nice parts, there are also areas which are simply ghastly such as the main foyer/atrium, (reminiscent of an even-more-overdone 1920's movie palace) which reeked of cigarette smoke, and the extra-tariff restaurant which was totally bereft of any warmth and intimacy. Imagine eating dinner at the bottom of a municipal swimming pool.

Color and texture combinations throughout the ship are anything but restrained. Overall, in his attempt to honor Fellini, Joe Farcus has created for himself a vast floating set right out of a bad Fellini movie. If this was his vision of what "Italian" should look like, Italians the world over should be offended. There are too many parts of this ship which are far more evocative of Caesars Palace or the Bellagio than they are of a cruise ship. Strangely, while the designers were considerate enough to weave the deck numbers into the carpet at each stairwell and elevator, they completely forgot to install ANY "you are here" deck plans or provide any signage whatsoever telling you where the public rooms are. While the elevators are bilingual in announcing the deck numbers, they also don't tell you what's where.

There is also one fixture which many found to be a disaster waiting to happen. Connecting the uppermost two decks, and providing access to the Club Atlantica, is a completely clear Plexiglas® staircase suspended directly over the atrium. Once on the stairs, you can see straight to the bottom of the atrium, 9 decks down! However, you don't realize this until you have begun your ascent. Anyone with the slightest case of vertigo would freeze solid halfway up and be unable to move in either direction. Because they are clear, it is also very difficult to judge the rise of the next step. If going up or down a flight of stairs can be described as thoroughly unpleasant, this one was it.

I must say that we were all impressed with the quality and service of the dinner. We ordered off the regular dining room menu and found each dish to be beautifully prepared and elegantly presented. Portion size was more than ample and there were at least three choices for each course.

Since the ship was totally full, we could not inspect any cabins, although from the outside the balconies seemed very small.

In total, the ship is not the complete disaster many have claimed. It was said that many Europeans do not like it at all, claiming it to be "too American" and "too garish." Also the Costa family, which no longer has anything to do with the business, dislikes her intensely. I'm glad I got to see her, and on a really weird day could almost be tempted to try her, but only if the price and the company were too good to pass up.

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