By David Yeskel
I’ll be honest. I knew that a 7-day Caribbean sailing on Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa would be different from competing mass-market ships sailing out of South Florida. I just never imagined it would be that different. In fact, it’s more than a cruise experience; I’d actually describe it as a taste of Italy – just a lot closer to home. Although Costa has a commanding presence in Europe, South America and Asia, the majority of the line’s Caribbean offerings (with ships based in Guadeloupe, Martinique and La Romana) are chiefly marketed to Europeans and South Americans. However, the lone Costa ship sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale for a few winter months (this year: Costa Deliziosa; next year: Costa Luminosa) draws a fair number of Americans to its international passenger mix who enjoy “Cruising Italian Style.”
The atmosphere aboard is certainly lively, with guests enjoying music, games and dancing in the lounges, bars and showrooms late into the night, while the culinary program, which spotlights a different region of Italy each day, is authentically Italian with other European influences. And for adventurous – and curious – North American travelers, the United Nations-at-sea atmosphere found aboard Costa’s ships is a fascinating and stimulating global stew of languages, cultures and foods. In particular, the pasta dishes – which appear in multiples on every lunch and dinner menu – are exotic and delicious. I savored octopus ravioli, grilled cuttlefish over penne, and beet-and-ricotta dumplings sauteed in squid soup – a dish I doubt most Americans have ever tried, much less imagined.
To add another dose of Italian authenticity, there’s a small galley onboard with a singular, dedicated focus: to produce delicious, fresh mozzarella in keeping with the cruise line’s “Italy’s Finest” tagline. Yes, there’s an upcharge for this delicacy, but it’s worth it. In fact, in what is arguably the cruise industry’s best specialty dining value, a full-size pizza margherita made with that fresh mozzarella and a silky chocolate mousse for dessert can be had for a total of $4.25 (with the free CostaClub membership) each evening in the ship’s pizzeria.
Entertainment for Everyone
Satisfying a varied international clientele with a single product is a trademark Costa skill, nowhere more evidently demonstrated than by the range and quality of non language-dependent showroom entertainment provided. Shows on my voyage included musical production revues, an Italian opera singer and “The Voice of the Sea” international karaoke competition.
Where speech is required, the multilingual and hard-working Animation (social) Team conducts games, contests, fashion shows and other events in up to five languages with amazing precision. And, incredibly, those announcements – in perfectly-accented Italian, English, Spanish, German and French – are often made by the same person.
Not everything aboard worked well, however. Service, while certainly adequate, wasn’t as precise or friendly as on some competing lines; and the late-night-partying Europeans and South Americans can easily be heard having animated conversations in hallways and on elevator landings way past midnight.
But for those who are willing to step out of their ethnocentric American comfort zone, this value-priced Costa cruise is truly a window into another culture, yet easily experienced in our own backyard.
Follow David Yeskel, aka The Cruise Guru, on Twitter