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|Costa Mediterranea |
The spirit of the Mediterranean is captured in the latest ship from Costa Cruises, with lots of art work everywhere
Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (May 18, 2004)
The Costa Mediterranea Construction
The construction of the Costa Mediterranea began on August, 21st 2000, when the building contract, with a value of $350 million, was signed between Kvaerner Masa Yards and Costa Crociere. She was given hull number 502, and the contract delivery date was spring 2003, on time for the busy Mediterranean summer season. A week later, on August 28th. Carnival become the sole owner of Costa Crociere, after purchasing for $525 million in cash the 50% share of Airtours, the British tour operator which jointly acquired Costa in 1997.
One year later, in the christening ceremonies of the Costa Tropicale, Costa Crociere confirmed the name of the new vessel: Costa Mediterranea.
The start of the hull assembly took place in June 2001. She was built in the covered dock of the Helsinki yard, the same place in which her sister Costa Atlantica was constructed. The Costa Mediterranea was the fifth ship in a series of Panamax cruise ship built in Helsinki for Costa Crociere and Carnival Cruise Lines, both branches of Carnival Corp. The successful Costa Atlantica was delivered in June 2000.
The Costa Mediterranea left the building dock on 19th September 2002. The ship performed excellently during April 2003 trials, exhibiting excellent sea keeping characteristics. She was handed over by Masa Yard to her owners on May 22nd.2003. The ship left Helsinki next day for a European presentation tour and was presented to Spanish travel agents and maritime media on Barcelona June 4 2003.
Later, she was christened on June 7th in Naples, in a ceremony where the godmother was the Spanish model Ines Sastre who, with the crash of a champagne bottle into the ship's bow, signalled the start of the Costa Mediterranea's career, under the Vesubio skyline and the sound of a lot of foghorns.
After two inaugural cruises in June, the Costa Mediterranea was operating weekly cruises beginning July 24th 2003, from Genoa in the Western Mediterranean, calling at Naples, Palermo, Tunis, Palma de Majorca and Barcelona. Now, in the winter, after a transatlantic crossing, she sails the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale.
Costa Mediterranea Design
The Costa Mediterranea was the fifth of the Spirit Class type, also known as 8000 class. Today, six unit of this class were ordered by Carnival Corp., two for Costa and four for Carnival Cruise Line. The first 8000 class cruise ship, the Costa Atlantica, was delivered in June 2000. The HAL's 9000 class is almost the same design, with only slight modifications. So, the 8000's design provides a common platform in technical terms for all brands in the Carnival Corp.'s stable, yet it allow the hotel and decoration side to be tailored to meet the clientele of each of these companies.
The final design was a tall and lengthy cruise ship, which features an extra cabin deck compared with other Panamax-sized cruise ships. In other modern panamax designs, such as the Radiance or Millennium, there are four decks occupied by passenger cabins with balconies, between the promenade deck, where all lifeboats and tenders are located, and the lido deck where the swimming pools and other outside orientated rooms are located.
On Costa Mediterranea, as well as on Coral Princess, there are five full length cabin decks with balconies, which have been achieved by moving some public rooms from the deck above the promenade deck to the lowermost deck in the hull. As a first consequence, there are more outside cabins: 80% of the 1,057 passenger cabins face the sea and 70% are fitted with a balcony.
This fact means more revenue per cabin and passenger, and a competitive advantage.
The ship's exceptional length gives her an elegant greyhound shape with the short forecastle. Also, horizontal lines on balcony decks have been remarked in order to cut the feeling of height on the ship. Also, in Costa Mediterranea, the superstructure has been made narrower in two section fore and aft of the atrium and the lifeboats are installed here, close to the ship's side. Therefore the sensation of length is less. The terraced stern helps this feel. But most people think that Costa Mediterranea looks like an apartment building above a hull.
Other Costa outside features, such as the yellow cylindrical stack (the most striking outside characteristic), and the big portholes, are also found on this ship.
The whole external design is pleasant, but also strong, mainly the bow section. Her profile is well balanced, with the radar mast forward and two small funnels aft, but would be improved if the big funnel was located more forward. At sea, when sailing her profile gives her a speedy sensation.
The Internal Decoration
Some people say that Costa Mediterranea is the European image of Las Vegas at sea. Others focus on its sheer size. That's not exactly what architect Joseph Farcus had in mind. He told a shipboard news conference that he was inspired by 17th and 18th century Italian palaces he found in books and on the Internet. Also, as a second theme on board, he focuses on the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, each deck takes its name from a Mediterranean myth. Overall, Farcus looks to materialize on board the "cruising Italian style" concept.
While the decor may not be to everyone's tastes, it is also true that Costa Mediterranea isn't a cruise ship that causes indifference. Farcus is an eccentric designer, and his ship design is easily recognizable: Las Vegas style glamour, neon everywhere, daring colour combinations, etc. As a European, I prefer a lesser decorated atmosphere, found in other Costa cruise ships. Joe Farcus is an innovative and visionary designer and certainly responsible for the success of the Carnival fleet, but I sincerely think it was a mistake to let him design the interior of the Costa Mediterranea.
He and his team have 'Carnivalized' Costa and the ship bears no resemblance to the sleek and clean Italian styling found on other Costa ships. I never understand why Carnival Corp. maintains a different interior designer in some branch, such as HAL, and chooses Farcus for Costa. I think this is not a good choice employing only one designer for its entire fleet.
In the future, Carnival will do well to differentiate its brands, if the choice is a segment offer.
On board Costa Mediterranea, each room has a different personality, as Costa strives to create an ever changing atmosphere. The spirit of the Mediterranean is captured in the latest ship from Costa Cruises, with lots of art work everywhere.
Seasoned travellers will appreciate the cultural atmosphere created by such rooms as the salon Oriental or Piazza Casanova, or the art on board, which cost $ 2 million, while first time cruisers will be impressed with the huge atria or the large restaurant.
Behind the main theatre, on deck 1 (Circle), is located Giardino Isabella, the secondary show lounge seating 320 guests, where an Italian orchestra plays every night. I think this location is perfect to avoid noise from the cabin decks. Access is through the same spiral stair found in the theatre. It is decorated with underwater motifs, as on Costa Atlantica: here shells are used, instead of white corals found in her sister ship.
The ceiling is a huge shell (with a disappointing blue lighting), there are a lot of big shells both sides, etc. the headroom is a bit lower, and so the use of some reflecting ceiling helps to give a feeling of more space. The carpet is green, with, of course, red shells, whereas both stage and dance floor are wooden. The small brass made tables adds more nautical flavour and the sofas are of rounded form, with a gay multicolour upholstery (blue, green, violet), with starfish details. This room is wheelchair friendly, and hasn't steps. The chairs are excellent, very comfortable, with brown upholstery. A small bar is found aft starboard.
The 10 deck high Maschera D'Argento Atrium is the main gathering area of the ship. It's located amidships, forward of the engine exhaust spaces, and works well for easy circulation and makes it uncomplicated to find your way around the ship. The passengers embark directly to the lower level of the atrium, or one deck below, and this fact also helps orientation on board. But this fact is true only in the lower decks. In higher levels it is a closed space, without balconies, and the passengers don't have the possibility to access it from the superstructure cabin decks.
This, I think does not work properly as a meeting pointŠbut easy for fire fighting protection. A notable elliptical skylight crowns this huge space.
The atrium is decorated in warm red, with a dummy stainless steel mirror and glass balustrades each deck, and lot of multicolour medusas everywhere. It houses a bar in the lower deck, usually crowded, that offers a panoramic view of the ship's interior. The counter shares the same design as the dummy balustrades, and has a stage aft with a piano.
The furniture here is of gay design, made in yellow and orange, with green marble made tables (the same is found in the Dionisio Bar). Aft of the three panoramic lifts is located on this deck a wooden dance floor with radial details and the information desk is found forward on the port side. Opposite the lifts the atrium features a Gigi Rigamonti sculpture which consists of 19 dancing figures that spin around like pinwheels on the wall. On the second level the photo gallery is located, with a small display area for a ship with more than 2,000 passengers.
These two lower decks are the most overdone: modern materials, such as lighting and stainless steel are mixed with marble and classical paints and sculptures. The red tapestry with "hearts", or a red ceiling, is close to a mosaic socle, or a classic Venetian portrait. This décor, without any taboo, some people said was clearly inspired by the aesthetic philosophy found in some Las Vegas' resorts.
I enjoyed her size, her marble and ground floors, but the balustrades which overlook it from each deck, the horrible ceramic vases (with red, green and violet tones) with Venetian glass "flames" bursting out the tops, found in the lower decks and around the elevator block, the medusas (worse than the stalagmite shaped chandeliers found on Costa Atlantica) and the flashing elevator lights add too much glitz for a European cruise ship.
The higher decks of the atrium are less bright, and feature a glass staircase, close to some manikins hanging in the air, to access the Costa Mediterranea's alternative restaurant, the Club Medusa, located on decks 10 and 11, with 123 seats.
This also serves as a night club and observatory. The glass staircase gives the passenger the feel of walking in the air, but some people finish the cruise and have never seen it..., the location gives it the feeling of height , but also hides it.
The Club Medusa itself is another dining option, with a horse shoe lay out around a wooden dance floor. The balustrades here haven't stainless steel, there are some classic portraits and blue tones are dominant, both tapestry and upholstery. The tables feature flowers, candlelight, china, etc and the menus have been devised by Gualterio Marchesi.
There is a charge to dine her, but ambience and cuisine are value for money.
Overall, I find the decoration a bit garish, high quality and maybe expensive, but with loud colours, in line with other Farcus designs.
Casino and Piazza Casanova
All cruise ship casinos I saw last year looked to me indifferent. They are uniform and anonymous spaces which share the same decoration independent of the owner. So, the Grand Canal Casino is another anonymous casino: heavily decorated, garish, some time even uncomfortable....but some people like this. I think the only Venetian in this room is the two head eagles and the San Mark's lions of the green carpet, combined with blue tapestries.
Now Farcus shows he hasn't any taboos. The atmosphere is "Las Vegas" like, with a lot of lighting, a black ceiling (with stars, of course) and a lot of tables and slot machines. On Costa Mediterranea, like the last ships built mainly for the American market, the passageways cross the casino, and the passengers cannot avoid it. Nevertheless this is not a pleasing detail.
Forward of the casino is located Piazza Casanova.
The design of this Cupid adorned place is based on a ballroom in a Venetian palace. This place is split by a bow to stern green marble passage way. The ceiling is black, and contrast heavily with the white stucco made Cupids found everywhere. This fact highlights the Cupid scene, mainly in the Sale Carte, a quiet lounge located starboard, separated with a glass wall from the passage way. A good glass collection is found here, in the forward end. The marble made tables in Sale Carte are square and the big and comfortable chairs have brown upholstery.
On the port side forward is located Piazza Casanova, with a good dance floor with a small white stage for a black piano (now Farcus works well with contrast effect). Here the tables are elliptical and the chairs are of a curved design, but share upholstery with Sale Carte's ones and are also very comfortable. Also some brown sofas are found here, mainly on the port side, and around a fountain located close to the passage way.
The bar is located aft, plenty of wood and marble panelling. The striped tapestry found everywhere has brown tones, with red rigs.
In this splendid space I think there are two disappointing details: the flower like lamps and the stairs which connect this area with the Salon Oriental. Modernly the ceramic vases with Venetian glass "flames'' bursting out the tops, the stainless steel, the red columnsŠtogether the Cupid stucco.
Why does Farcus have this strange mix? I think a more classic atmosphere works better in these second atria which connect two classic decorated places.
Restaurante Degli Argentieri
The two level Degli Argentieri Restaurant is located aft on decks 2 and 3, above the main galley. It accommodates 1,300 people each sitting.
The catering movements are facilitated by eight escalators, four each side, which link the galley with the two decks of the main restaurants.
The layout of the escalators means that this room hasn't natural light and sea views in the central section both sides, and only has large windows in the stern and a few big portholes in the bow part. Also, the waiter stations are located near the escalators, which mean that busboys, with their large loaded trays don't walk between the tables. Only waiters have a long walk every time the passengers need something, mainly on the lower deck.
The restaurant is spacious and allows for comfortable seating. Here, Costa serves formal meals and is decorated in mainly in brown tones, which work well with the dark wood and glass panels found everywhere.
European influence is heavily felt in this main dining room, not only by the Italian artworks but also by the frescoes of the ceiling. Also there are 66 niches decorated with precious silver ornaments designed by Pampaloni Argentieri, between the stainless steel portholes or the wood panelling. A big contrast! I think this choice is as good as the beautiful portraits and canvases found on sister ship Costa Atlantica.
The passengers enter the restaurant mainly through a heavily decorated central passage way on the upper deck. This level, narrower than the lower main floor, is surrounded by the outdoor promenade deck, from which the passengers can see the restaurant. It's a balcony, and has some circular windows forward which have no curtains, a former Costa trademark. There is a spiral stair between the two levels, around a pillar decorated with human sculptures and a green and violet decoration.
The floor is splendid, with marbled geometric motifs on passage ways, and brown carpet under the tables. The huge space of the restaurant is made more intimate by splitting the area into several sections, through Chinese decorated glass and wood balustrades.
There are wood chairs, sofas on both sides and also chairs for children, all with brown upholstery and very comfortable. I don't remember it exactly, but I think that there are more pillars here than on Costa Atlantica: three rows with eight pillars each, with less brilliant decoration. The ceiling up the well is the best decorated part of the restaurant, with splendid sky light frescoes.
However, the ceiling down the upper balcony is heavily decorated with pink, green and ochre tones, in line with the rococo style found in the Biscari Paterno Palace, which inspired this room.
However, the wood work is notable in some places.
Lighting is through halogens, with a Chinese like inspired globe lamp, that looks like escaped ballrooms hanging from the ceiling, around the central frescoes, but you don't found here the horrible "flames'' bursting out of the tops, like in the atrium.
I think the cruise ship dining rooms located aft are more lightly used when the galley is found forward of them. So, they look roomier because the restaurant can be surrounded on three sides by picture windows, as on Celebrity or HAL cruise ships.
There are beautiful and intimate places, such as the aft corners both sides, but I found Degli Argentieri Restaurant darker, and less brilliant than other main dining rooms, but I ate here a terrific ravioli and a splendid "trancio di branzino arrosto". If the cuisine on a dining room is excellent, the people are indulgent with her decoration.
The Bar Dionisio, located forward of the restaurant on deck 3 (Bacco), shares the same decoration with the atrium's bar, has the same garish counter (located aft starboard), the red tapestry with hearts, the same seats around the bar with a human face in her base.
Even the piano is surrounded with the same counter design that combines orange and stainless steel. Also the ceiling is too elaborate in wood and stainless steel. I think this choice of materials don't mix properly with a classic oil painting of the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez called "Los borrachos", or with the human faces between portholes. Port side there is a lounge fitted with marble tables.
Dionisio is a good place to enjoy a pre dinner cocktail, and usually gets crowded in afternoons and evenings.
The Salon Italia is located down Bar Dionisio on deck 2 (Tersicore), and also shares the same decoration with the atrium: the same garish counter (located forward), the red tapestry and red stores, the "flames'' bursting out the tops, etc. The ceiling has golden frames, and a lot of mirrors. The dance portraits and the comfortable sofas are good choices. This space serves to kick one's heels to the Disco Selva, and has a gay ambience in night time.
The Osiris Theater is three decks high extending up to deck 4, and is decorated in red and garnet tones, under an Egyptian theme. The entrance corridors have lower headroom, with Egyptian sphinxes over a blue wall and brown marble floor, but guide you to an impressive space, plenty of room and height for 949 passengers.
On the lower deck, small marble like (but plastic made) tables are provided for cocktails. The tapestry here is garnet, with red flower details. The sofas have red tone upholstery, and the seats are roomy and comfortable.
Aft of this deck there are tall tables, also with tall seats, in order to maintain sightlines. The sides on the lower level have a lot of Egyptian themed memorabilia, such as sphinxs, pyramids, bronze made horse chariots, etc. and the big portholes here, which are heavily decorated, are fitted with automatic curtains for darkness, helping to use this huge space in daytime. Also, there are some stainless steel pillars to support the amphitheatre deck and, unusually, all sound equipment can be clearly seen.
The amphitheatre seats (here there aren't sofas) are upholstered in red and beige tones, as well as tapestry, all fitted with a glass hole in the arm seats. There are four golden central pillars and another six located both sides, too golden, which means difficult sight lines for some passengers. But to ease the viewing here, the slope of the deck is extreme. This also makes access difficult and, in some cases, a bit dangerous.
Especially, passengers should avoid the upper right and left corners, which offer the poorest sight lines: only the front stage is visible.
Also, the air conditioning system noise is too much.
There is also a bar in the highest decks. The marble made floor here is also splendid, and two spiral staircases, which connects all levels of the theatre, located both sides were also excellent.
The Osiris theater is also wheel chair accessible friendly on all decks.
The ceiling features more Egyptian themed frescos, and is heavily decorated. It houses some glass made big blue lighting devices, also found in the lower deck.
The wide stage is able to accommodate full Broadway shows, and the acoustics are good.
The Osiris Theater offers entertainment on all cruise nights and the passengers should get to the theater early, as its fills quickly and some spectators have to stand up to watch the production.
Around the theatre, on deck 3 (Bacco) is located the Terraza d'inverno, a quiet place that enters into the chapel, located surprisingly close to Mondo Virtuale teen video arcade and Squok, the children's supervised space. Babysitting for ages 3 and over is available on request from 6:30 pm to 11:00 pm, and certain hours when the ship is in port. For Caribbean sailings, Costa offers a "Parents Night Out" program, allowing parents to spend two evenings alone while their children attend a supervised buffet or pizza party. There is no charge for this program.
Selva is the two level ship's disco, the place where the night never ends. This black and red disco is really a high-energy, high-tech dance club for the active passengers. Is accessed through a revolving door to contain noise and the walls are decorated in red and black tones and the floor is also red & black marble in a square lay out. The disco is two decks high: the lower level contains a glass dance floor.
The lighting system contains a versatile mixture of moving head and disco effect fixtures, which, in combination with a three-colour neon dance floor designed by Farcus, provides the DJs with an enormous amount of visual variety.
To tie both levels together visually, Farcus envisioned a large video wall (formed 64-cube, rear-projection video wall system) extending from the floor of the lower level to the ceiling of the upper level filling the entire forward end of the dance floor.
The upper level, a balcony around the disco track down, contains the bar aft, and seating area starboard. Both levels are connected through a spiral staircase that connects them. There are 154 seats (I think Selva is smaller than the Costa Atlantica's disco) few chairs: this is a place only for dancing.
Shopping Gallery and Salon Oriental
The shopping gallery is located forward of the atrium on deck 3 (Bacco). All shops have their own front on a curved corridor, with a ground floor and a metallic ceiling.
Forward, is located the Chinese themed Salon Oriental.
This space features ceiling and panelling with a Chinese decoration, as well as a lot of mirrors and golden details. The Salon Oriental is heavily decorated, mainly in green tones: panelling around windows, the ceiling's frames, stores, tables, the counter of the bar, etc.
The yellow upholstery sofas have an "S" shape, whereas the tapestry is brown. The chairs also have brown tones, and a singular design. On the starboard side of the Salon Oriental is found the bow to stern circulation with a green marble corridor.
A wooden dance floor surrounded by classical pillars is located in the centre of the room, with a small stage with a piano, and a bar with Chinese decoration is found aft. A stair, with the same garish decoration of the atrium, connects this Salon with the lower deck.
On the port corner forward of the Salon Oriental is located the Library, which doubles as an Internet Café. This space is well decorated, with a pleasurable balance between wood and Arabian motif frescoes.
The ceiling is also made in wood, with frames that features human portraits in the side. I think this classic atmosphere contrasts with the modern use as an Internet café.
There are eight pc, isolated between them by a wood and Etchell glass wall. This is the first Internet café I have seen with tables with marble tops, and the other furniture is also opulent: green chairs and sofas, two leather sofas, etc. But the tables are much too small. The green tapestry also feels well.
Spa and Outside Decks
The Olympia Gym, located above the wheelhouse, spans two decks, with several tiered levels so that everyone can see the forward ocean view through the sloped picture windows, which features Venetian blinds for sun protection. Also, the fitness fanatics can watch television when it plays here. It offers the latest workout equipment and aerobics programs, as well as massage, hydrotherapy and Thalassic therapy treatments.
The Olympia Gym is richly decorated in brown and red tones. The reception hall has a brown marble floor; the panelling shares the same colours. Inside, the carpet is red as is the furniture's upholstery. Everywhere there are many tiles resembling human figures, approaching the atmosphere of a Roman baths, with white columns, pink capitals, etc. There is also a Jacuzzi under a glass dome, located in the central section, surrounded by a lot a brown marble.
I think this terraced lay out, over two decks, is one of the better choices to locate a gym. Olympia feels roomy and airy, plenty of light and activity.
The Costa Mediterranea open decks occupy a total of 9,925 square meters.
There are three separate pool areas: the main pool zone is located amidships, forward of the funnel, and features two outdoor swimming pools. The aft one can be used in inclement weather because of its 1.000 square meters retractable airtight magrodome cover, now a standard in all Carnival Corp's new cruise ships. There are two adjacent ample jaccuzis, close to a female sculpture.
The pools are small, but the tile walking area around them is ample. The deck on the forward pool is mainly rubberised floor of several colours, whereas on the aft pool teak is used.
A bar is located between the two pools, and a small stage is located in the covered pool aft.
The yellow lighting posts are a disappointing detail. All furniture is metal made, with cushions.
Aft of the funnel there is another pool, the Lido Apollo, exclusively for children, which incorporates a two deck high winding waterslide, now a standard on all Costa newbuilds, with an additional Jacuzzi.
But I think this aft pool hasn't the sophistication found on the same zone on Costa Classica and Romantica, with the two Jacuzzis over the stern with excellent sea views, and the teak decked pool.
Buffet Perla del Lago
The buffet is one of the longest I have seen on a cruise ship. The forward lay out of the atrium dictates a long buffet around the engine exhaust spaces, and this gives a crowed atmosphere in some points. But the decoration is cheerful. I enjoyed mainly the splendid glass dome, which gives some feeling of space, located in the widest section, with a big glass lamp and some photos of Italian palaces in the ceiling, and the spiral tile on pillars.
There is an outside section forward, close to the covered pool.
The space is mainly decorated in blue tones, found in tapestry and upholsteries. The floor has grey tile in passageways and blue tapestry in seating areas. The numerous stations offer different dishes, and include a pizzeria.
The floor to ceiling windows gives excellent views, and the blue sofas of different shapes, but all with a glass adornment in her back, are comfortable. The tables are like marble, look ample and are easy to clean.
Costa Mediterranea's cabins are spacious and comfortable, and have elegant interiors. I think they are the better values of the ship. 845 of the ship's 1057 staterooms offer an ocean view, and 678 of these have balconies. All cabins look roomy, and come complete with a queen size bed (which can be converted into twin), a dressing table, telephone service, TV, hair dryer, safe box and mini-bar. Closet and drawer space is roomy. Many cabins have a third and fourth bed that pull down from the ceiling. Ocean view cabins (even balcony cabins) on Deck 4 (Teseo Deck) have obstructed views.
Bathrooms are compact, with showers only and are equipped with standard amenities such as soap, shampoo, body lotion and shower cap. The balconies are large, and offer more intimacy that other cruise ships thanks to the extended wall between them.
They have small mesh chairs and teak deck.
The Costa Mediterranea hasn't big suites found in some modern cruise ships. But has 58 suites which come in three categories, some large 60 square meter suites which feature amenities such Murano glass table lamps, granite tiled bathrooms, and teak furniture on the balcony. The Grand Suites found aft have separate living and sleeping areas, and wrap around balconies.
For further information: Costa Cruises