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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Costa Cruises

MS CostaClassica

Rating:Three and a Half Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Costa Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1992
Length / Tonnage: 718 / 53,700
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 654 / 1,308
Officers / Crew: Italian / European
Operating Area: Winter in Caribbean, Summer in Mediterranean
Telephone / Fax: Tel 125 2234 / Fax 125 2244

Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor

Only the third passenger/cruise liner built from the keel up for Italy's Costa Armatori (known in the US either as Costa Line and now Costa Cruise Lines), the COSTA CLASSICA is nothing less than a triumph, a real tour de force.

Not many in the United States travel industry took much notice in the mid 1980s when Costa Cruise Line announced a billion dollar expansion plan. High rolling in an era of aggrandizements and profits, the art of the deal relegated such news to the interior pages of the financial section. In the United States it was an era of excess for increasing numbers of people and the time seemed ripe for Costa to jump on the bandwagon and cater to America's seemingly inexhaustible supply of luxury seekers.

With the COSTA CLASSICA and her near twin COSTA ROMANTICA, Costa Cruises got the highly innovative and prestigious ships it wanted; their development was entrusted to the design office of shipbuilder Fincantieri under the direction of Claudio Fornasini, the shipowner's technical representative. On 28 July 1987, Costa Crociere signed a contract with Fincantieri of Trieste for the construction of a 50,000 ton cruise ship. A big day in Costa Cruises calendar was February 2, 1991, the day the COSTA CLASSICA floated out of the drydock where she was built.

Senior architect Pierluigi Cerri and his assistant Ivana Porfiri of Gregotti Associati of Milan, endowed this ship with a unique form. Love it or hate it, the ship's external appearance is reminiscent of a traditional ocean liner and includes features such as the circular cabin portholes which give the hull a severe and original look, and a line of deck windows of the public areas separating the cabin decks from the upper decks, reminiscent of the sheltered promenades of the great liners. Another original feature is the set of three elliptical funnels whose height and form make the COSTA CLASSICA immediately recognizable. Her interiors were designed with passenger flow in mind and differ from many cruise ships in the American market by its overall concept of its decor. In the boldest and starkest of contemporary Italian Style, it neither falls into the trap of over-decoration nor does it suggest a great deal of coziness. This ship makes one of the strongest design statement made by any cruise ship ever built and it is not a "warm fuzzy". It is, though, the elucidation of the coolest of sophistication and refined interior decor. Marble, glass, chrome, brass and steel stand backdrop to the expected elegance "Euroluxe" was expected to bring in. Some people find the stark modernity of her interiors a total turn off, yet others like me call the COSTA CLASSICA the most exciting ship he's seen in over thirty years.

Public Rooms
The ship's profile is crowned by a circular observation lounge. With floor to ceiling windows this room comes alive late at night as the Galileo Disco. Beyond a wide range of eye catching public rooms, a central feature of the ship is the glass roofed entrance foyer. Soaring to the dramatic height of five decks, it incorporates a suspended staircase linking the two uppermost decks and looks down to the centerpiece, where a spherical bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro stands.

All of today's cruise ships must have a show lounge, and the COSTA CLASSICA is no exception but her Colosseo show lounge is and its design and decor rather ironically takes on a terrestrial aspect: this large 700 seat theatre is based on a XVI century Italian theatre and its red velvet covered seats and vast mosaic from a design by the artist Emilio Tadini characterize this rather exceptional duplex space.

Called Piazza Navona after that famous Roman square, the Grand Bar extends the full width of the ship and has three main attractions: a long and semi-circular bar, the stand for the piano with its dance floor and the central staircase linking the area with the Patisserie, Pizzeria and shopping areas on the deck above. The Casino and Ball Room are located aft and form a rather large and characteristic setting with a high glass wall, offering the perfect ambience for social events, music and entertainment. Kids traveling with you? Deposit them in the Costa Kids Club youth center and you may forget they're aboard. Same goes for teens who seem to like the Teen Club.

Daytimes at sea are devoted to sports, sun and relaxation but the COSTA CLASSICA offers the expected gamut of cruise ship activities. Deck 11 is devoted to the concept of "Mens sano in corpore sano". Forward is the Caracalla Spa, a wonderful complex of exercise and therapy and beauty treatment rooms. The spa offers a wide range of beauty treatments at costs ranging from a haircut for about $20 to a full body makeover for $299. Ask! Further on the theme of well being or simply for outdoor fun in the sun are the ship's two outdoor swimming pools. Located amidships and lined with Istrian stone dominated by a triangular fountain-sculpture in blue marble is the smaller of the two. Aft of the funnels in an ampitheatre lined in teak is the other.Costa Cruises is famous for the "Toga Party" - that Roman style bacchanal where a dress sheet is de rigeur for the "in-crowd" and I can't think of a better setting for such a soiree as this ship! Also a Costa trademark is the Notte Romantica where every woman is celebrated as a lady and presented with a red, red rose at dessert. Shows on Costa are much the same as aboard other vessels in the modern cruise market. Like most European cruise operations, the COSTA CLASSICA does not have the emphasis so common here on a floorshow after dinner. There is one on most nights, but the typical Costa passenger usually wants more participatory and less passive entertainment. Aboard this Costa ship by night good conversation and good music reign so ballroom dancing, parties and tˆtes … tˆtes are more popular here than in corresponding ships. Thus many American observers who expect if not prefer the passive entertainment now standard in the American cruise market have commented unfavorably on this ship's entertainment.

"Tivoli" is the name of the restaurant aboard the COSTA CLASSICA and in white and the palest of greens, it is a stunning room. With sides of windows, its floor is of white Carrara and green Iranian marble and the room itself has modern yet formal, elegant furnishings which revive the historical era of the 17th century. Visuals though don't always translate well and this room has won criticism for the high noise level and sound echoes everywhere against so many hard surfaces. Seating 700 in all, it is in several distinct sections, so if noise bothers you, ask for a table in one of the forward wings. Food is the point here, though, and a meal here was memorable for both the expectedly wonderful pasta and the bread. Service is reported to have much improved.

Fans of casual dining opt for breakfasts and lunches in "La Trattoria" buffet. The food is frankly better in the Tivoli Restaurant but the Trattoria is popular for the informality and unstructured eating style. (Meaning:if you want dessert first, eat dessert first, no one will notice) An indoor/outdoor eatery, a large canopy covers the open-air buffet terrace at the stern while devotees of air conditioning prefer to eat inside. Give the ship points of this - the COSTA CLASSICA is one of the few ships to offer enough tables to cater to those who enjoy al fresco dining. And for those who never get enough, there is the Tavernetta, an Italian bistro for freshly baked pizza, pasta and caesar salads. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy "Il Dolce Amore" (Sweet Love), the ship's Viennese Cafe where pastries and an espresso or cappuccino invite you to linger over convivial conversation.

The COSTA CLASSICA has accommodation for a total of 1,766 passengers, but cruise capacity of 1,300. Her 654 cabins include 428 outside, 216 inside cabins and 10 suites. Only ten two room suites on Deck 10 offer private balconies and whirlpool tubs but there is so much to this ship you won't miss a balcony if you don't have one. The one I saw may be the most beautiful suite I have ever seen ashore or afloat. At 200 square feet standard outside cabins are among the largest in the industry but the cabins aboard the competition don't come with the decorative panache exhibited here. All cabins come equipped with luxury linens and have high quality fabrics, teak or cherry wood trim and veneer, television, radio, hair dryer, safe deposit box and 110 volt electricity.

During the summer season of 1996 about 30% of all passengers aboard cruise ships in European waters were aboard a Costa ship. In the Caribbean this season (1996-1997), the COSTA CLASSICA is almost 100% European as her 7 day cruises from Guadeloupe are not marketed to American passengers. In the Mediterranean, passenger mix is about 20% American, 80% European, but the extraordinary Perillo Tours package which combines a six day tour of some of Italy's chief tourist destinations with a 7 day Greek Island cruise from Venice will ups the American presence.

Who Goes
The COSTA CLASSICA offers a great cruise experience for a moderate price so she appeals to a wide variety of savvy travelers. Some first timers love this ship, experienced cruisers recognize her great values and sophisticates are drawn to her like bees to flowers! But keep in mind, if you are uncomfortable in foreign ambiance and don't like to hear other languages, if you wonder what the crew is muttering about, if you fear you will miss out on the best jokes because they are in Italian, if you feel EVERYONE should speak English as a first language you will HATE it here so keep away from this ship.

This sophisticated, refined elegant ship deserves even more adjectives than I can muster...MONEY is the engine that drives the tourist industry and in Europe Costa Cruise Line discounts frequently so there are bargain rates galore! Keep an eye on the Sunday travel section or ask your travel agent to find out for you. (Many travel agents are unfamiliar with Costa so if you want something out of the standardized American cruise market experience, consider Costa.)

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