Passengers arriving aboard the brand new Costa Cruises flagship, Costa Serena, could be forgiven for thinking they'd walked into some Greco-Roman epic. Roderick Eime stows away for a glimpse of glamour cruising, Italian-style.
Launched amid great fanfare in Marseilles on May 19, the 114,000 tonne, 1500-berth leviathan is the latest in the frantic Costa build programme that will bring the fleet to 15 vessels by 2010. Following her slightly smaller sister, Costa Concordia, she will be followed by the similarly massive, Costa Luminosa in 2008.
Walking her twelve passenger decks, that make her as high as a 23-storey building, the overriding theme of classic mythology is overwhelmingly evident, over-the-top even. But chief designer, American Jo Farcus, makes no apologies.
"I used the characters of classical mythology to create the sense of fantasy and escapism," asserts Farcus, "and each of the public spaces from the bars and restaurants to the casino and theatre bear the name of a famous Greek or Roman God."
Jupiter, the god of light and skies, gives his name to the high-tech theatre; Apollo, the god of music and song adorns the main bar and dance floor; Venus, fittingly sponsors the beauty salon, while Giano, the Romans’ two-faced divinity presides ominously over the casino.
One of the significant points of difference in this latest Costa offering is the Samsara Spa and Wellness concept which includes premium cabins and staterooms, dining and spa access. The Samsara Spa itself is enormous, occupying over 2000 sqm, and acknowledging that the latest trends in land-based hospitality are extending offshore.
Besides the food, wine and therapies, guests can extend their menu of fantasies to include a stint in a state-of-art Grand Prix driving simulator that employs a full scale replica of a Formula One car coupled to the equivalent of a computer flight simulator.
Farcus is also unashamedly excited about the multi-million dollar expenditure on works of art, both original and reproductions, that adorn every corner of the public spaces.
"The is very little off-the-shelf in my designs," he avows, "almost everything is custom-made from original Costa designs."
During our preview cruise from Genoa to Venice, much ado was also made of the Michelin star chef, Ettore Bocchia, who will create the a la carte menu for the exclusive Club Bacco Restaurant named after, you guessed it, Bacchus the God of wine and good living.
Costa Serena embarks on her initial programme, sailing from her home port of Venice, on a series of Mediterranean cruises that will include the Greek Islands, Istanbul and the Adriatic Coast.
- 4 Swimming pools (2 with retractable roofs)
- 5 Jacuzzi hydromassage baths
- Jogging Track
- 2,100 sq.m. Spa and Wellness Centre
- 5 Restaurants, including one a la carte
* Who for: Suit couples, honeymooners, families
* Itinerary: 7 nights inc Greece, Turkey and Croatia
* Lead in price: AU$3499.00 inc airfares
* Vessel: Costa Serena
* Star Rating: Not Yet Rated, but expect 4.5-5 star
* Tonnage: 114,500
* Max Passenger Capacity: 3780
* Entered Service: May 2007
The writer was a guest of eCruising.travel and Costa Cruises