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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Costa Cruises

MS Costa Victoria

Rating:Three Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Costa Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1996 / 1996
Length / Tonnage: 824 / 76,000
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 964 / 1,928
Officers / Crew: Italian / International
Operating Area: Sailing every Sunday on alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries

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

To give you an idea of how big this ship is...the entire ship's surface equals that of fourteen football fields...yet she was designed with a draft shallow enough and maneuverability skills exceptional enough and with dimensions small enough to allow her the ability to call on smaller ports of call as well as pass through the Panama and Suez Canals. I frankly didn't expect to like this one at all...too NEW for me...just TOO big for me...able to carry too many passengers at a time and with cabins just a tad too small...I thought...and when I first saw her towering over the pier, nothing had changed...AND THEN I WENT ABOARD and oh MY! How wrong my academic impressions had been... I didn't like her...I LOVED HER!!! She's GREAT...to see Costa Cruise Line's new flagship COSTA VICTORIA is to open your eyes and mind to a set of entirely different and new concept of designs for modern cruising...and this ship might just be the bridge to the future we Americans heard so much about! And if she isn't at least she complies with anti-terrorism laws recently introduced for passenger and crew protection. Both bridge and main control room have armor plated doors while a monitoring video system in vital areas keeps the ship under continuous observation. You'll feel safe in this ship!

The largest passenger ship owned in Italy the COSTA VICTORIA is also the largest passenger ship ever built in Germany...a country famous for a long line of fast Atlantic greyhounds, each of them huge for her time. Built at the Vulkan Group's Bremen Vegesack shipyard the COSTA VICTORIA is a $300 million exponent of the collaboration of Claudio Fornasini, N.A. and M.E., head of one of Europe's premier naval architectural firm, Genoa's NAVIS S.R.L., the brilliant interior design work of Robert Tillberg of Sweden, a genius at projecting and executing ship interiors if ever there was one (and there were several like America's own George Sharp, Jack Heaney, Henry Dreyfuss and Italy's amazing Gustavo Pulitzer) and the Studio Gregotti Associati of Milan who worked long and hard to put it all together.

Her keel was laid on November 18, 1994, just two years to the date of this writing and this massive vessel was launched on September 1995. In nearly record time for so massive a shipbuilding project, the ship was complete enough to run preliminary trials in February 1996 and in May she was ready to perform her sea trials in the oft stormy North Sea. By then disaster had struck...the shipyard had declared bankruptcy leaving Costa Cruises in the lurch...with a nearly completed megaship..and the keywords here are NEARLY COMPLETED! It took some doing, politicking, diplomacy and some old fashioned arm- twisting, but the ship was delivered on July 13, 1996, in time for workmen to complete finishing touches before the ship embarked passengers for the Maiden Voyage on July 28, 1996. That was a 7 nights cruise from Venice, Italy to the Greek Isles and Turkey...the first of a series of such cruises that kept the new giant busy until October 20, 1996 when she departed on her 18 night Transatlantic Cruise from Genoa to Bermuda and the USA where she was introduced to the travel world at New York, Baltimore and Cape Canaveral before making a triumphant arrival at Ft. Lauderdale where she will be based for her winter season of 7 day cruises to the Caribbean.

Public Areas
This brilliant new megaship boasts such notable features as the Planetarium Atrium, an atrium soaring 7 decks towards the sky...but by now such an item is no longer a novelty at sea so the designers worked diligently enough to create a public area entirely new to the sea...that's the ship's Piazza Concorde...Rising four decks, this grand Observation Lounge dominates the forward end of the ship and features a grand waterfall on one side, and a thus far unique floor-to-ceiling glass wall providing spectacular lighting and views forward. Inspired by the traditional Italian Piazza, a signature feature found on all Costa ships, this extraordinary room fills several purposes like Cabaret shows, games, bingo and port lectures. It can hosts hundreds, yet has a few almost hidden nooks which provide extraordinary privacy...well there is just nothing like it anywhere else...and there won't be for another two years until the sister COSTA OLYMPIA joins her fleetmates.

Also rising two decks is the Festival Show Lounge...Located all the way aft (most such rooms on giant cruise ships usually occupy the forward end but the Piazza Concorde forced the designers to develop an alternate location for the show room)...and, unlike most other duplex show rooms aboard big cruise ships, this room not only manages to retain an air of intimacy, it is a very pretty space, as befits a room which functions as more than an auditorium. Its stage sits on a hydraulic lift which allows the director to alter its height from 8 inches off the floor to 3 feet. When at its lowest position, it's usable as a dance floor but for shows it's raised to a higher position.

There are also several smaller, intimate bars and lounges like the Tavernetta whose decor is complimented by the paintings by Capt. Stephen J. Card of Bermuda (arguably the best marine artist of our time) of Costa Liners both past and present. Mirrored columns and marble topped bars dominate the atmosphere of the Grand Bar Orpheus and a glass stairway connects it to the Monte Carlo Casino one deck above. Like most other shipboard gaming rooms, slot machines, roulette and blackjack tables amuse countless passengers.

Just outside the casino is an intimate piano bar called the Capriccio Lounge, a room with the feel of the cocktail lounge on an old Italian transAtlantic liner. This room is pretty important decoratively, featuring as it does floor to ceiling mosaics painted by Italy's Emilio Tadini. Named, "The Tale" which is "Racconto" in Italian. Taken together, Tadini's work tells a story...but I won't spill the beans here...go take a look and see it for yourself. For night owls who like to dance the night away, the COSTA VICTORIA offers the amusingly named "Rock Star Disco" which is located among public rooms but far enough off the beaten path that I never have to hear the pulsating music from its state-of-the-art sound system.

Then there are a Conference Center where meetings for up to 50 people can be held. There are also two adjoining smaller rooms. The center is outfitted with Wolfvision equipment that allows for overhead and computer projections and audio and video.

As if that weren't enough there's more...a Teen's Club which features dance floor, video games, 4 interactive personal computer stations, and large television monitor. Like so many other spaces aboard, it can serve alternate uses - it can be used as a mini-theater. The ship also has the Peter Pan's Children's Club which is the center for children's activities.

The ship also features a Library, the Jolly Card Room, the Venus Beauty Salon and the Arcadia Photo Shop where passengers' photos are exhibited. As on all Costa vessels, the COSTA VICTORIA has a Chapel for interdenominational service.

Big as she is the COSTA VICTORIA has both indoor and outdoor pools. The indoor pool is located in the Pompeii Spa and features Costa's Caracalla Spa program - which offers steam, sauna, Turkish Bath and Gymnasium; CLEVER...very clever, is my take on the indoor pool and surrounding fitness center...go see it...I bet you will want to swim or get some exercise...It always works for me! There are two outside swimming pools, a "splash pool" and six Jacuzzis. Above the lido area is a Tennis Court, a special feature of the ship, a miniature tennis court utilizing smaller rackets and balls. Runners will appreciate the 1,312-foot Jogging Track topsides.

If the offering in so many of the public areas aren't enough to tell you what this ship offers in the way of entertainment, you haven't read anything...Of course the ship offers the entire range of cruise ship entertainment from specialty acts to cabaret to grand variety shows to movies, TV and casino action...

In a ship this big which seems to always offer more than one of every public space there are two main dining rooms - the Fantasia Restaurant and the Sinfonia Restaurant where meals are served at two seatings. Expect something of a huge, impersonal dining space and you will be disappointed...we ate in the Fantasia Restaurant, located midships, just behind the panoramic elevators that serve the Planetarium Atrium...Whoever designed this room and without looking it up or asking I would credit Sweden's Robert Tillberg, conceived a beautiful room, softly romantic and so well done that while it can provide you a sense of a formal space, you can't help but feeling coddled both by the deco-inspired decor and the attentive service. Our waiter was Indonesian, the busboy Romanian and since I can handle enough of both languages to make friends quickly service was extraordinary...easily as good as the food, which I found FAR TOO GOOD! Aft is the Sinfonia Restaurant and while it's not a clone of the Fantasia, for it's color scheme differs considerably yet that room manages to convey the same impressions...both have good traffic patterns (HIGHLY important when you consider the numbers to be served) and serve food from the same kitchens. Both restaurants have large picture windows that allow port and sea views. As found in the dining rooms of the COSTA ROMANTICA and the COSTA CLASSICA, scenic murals were painted to transform the ocean-view dining room windows by day to Italian scenes by night. Paintings of Venetian and ancient Italian ruins have been created by Italian artist, Alberto Andreis. These theatrical shades set the tone and atmosphere for Costa's gala nights.

Alternates to the two dining rooms for breakfast and lunch include two buffet areas. The Bolero is completely surrounded by glass windows that overlook the water while continuing from the indoor buffet is the outdoor Terraza Cafe. Protected by a large white canopy, it's perfect for outdoor dining. Made by Canobbio, an Italian firm specializing in circus tents and sports arena coverings, it's the largest of its kind anywhere. It ought to be...that canvas overhead cost $200,000!

The COSTA VICTORIA also features a casual Pizzeria that serves the real stuff - authentic piping hot pizza dripping with melted cheese. More than it's Greek inspired decor, I remember the friendly Spanish speaking steward whose answer to my question "¨Hay pizza para mi (Do you have some pizza for me)? was an enthusiastic "Hay pizza para todos (There's pizza for EVERYBODY)." Easily as popular as the Pizzeria is the Nettuno Ice Cream Bar and Grill where more snacks beckon people night and day. This big ship sure has plenty of places to eat and drink!

The COSTA VICTORIA has 964 passenger cabins, most of them located on upper decks and sixty per cent of them outside rooms offering either an oversized porthole or a large square window. Among these, there are six suites and fourteen mini suites. Generously sized at an average of 430 square feet, the suites can accommodate four passengers. Besides the main bedroom area is a small sleeping room with an upper and lower berth...VERY handy for a family of four! Each suite is finished in pearwood and coordinated with fabrics by designer Laura Ashley. At 301 square feet in area are the mini-suites. With the same extra berth arrangement these mini-suites have a lot to offer -a sitting area and mini-bar.

Standard inside and outside cabins aboard the COSTA VICTORIA are smaller than you might expect these days...more like Royal Caribbean in thinking than Holland America or Princess...yet I HAVE to tell you that ranging from 120 to 150 square feet, these COSTA VICTORIA cabins are BRILLIANTLY thought out and perfectly equipped. Within each room is a refrigerator-bar, piped in music, multi-channel television, a safe, and a telephone that is directly connected by satellite to shoreside stations. All cabins are fitted with sliding doors that separate the living area from the bathroom. The bathrooms are circular in design, including rounded shower stalls and vanity areas. Amenities include liquid soap, various toiletries and a hairdryer.

Because most adult Americans are non-smokers and so many Europeans love to puff away, Costa Cruise Line went to the added expense of doing something about the fumes...and the COSTA VICTORIA is equipped with a unique "fan coil" system which allows each cabin to be refreshed with its own recycled air or with air coming from outside the vessel. In this way, the air of those cabins used by smoking passengers will not be mixed with air of a non-smoker's cabin.

The COSTA VICTORIA began her first seven night Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale on November 10, 1996. Sailing every Sunday on alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, she will thrill and dazzle passengers all winter. On March 30, 1997, the ship will sail on a 16-night eastbound transatlantic voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Genoa and then after a five night positioning cruise will resume her seven-night eastern Mediterranean cruises from Venice on May 4, 1997.

Like I said I didn't think I'd like her but I loved her...Looking through the unending promotional faxes any travel agent can show you will show cruise bargains galore this season...If you simply can't abide sharing space with people whose first language isn't English, if you are terribly insecure about yourself...don't take this ship but if you have a feel for romance, thrill to Italian style and spirit, enjoy the aesthetics of chic...at the bargain rates it will cost to try out this new ship, don't be a chump...take a cruise in the COSTA VICTORIA.

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