In 1973 we took our first cruise on a Costa ship, the Flavia. It must have been a great experience; we've taken one or two cruises every year since then. As we find ourselves back on a Costa ship again, we can't help comparing it to that distant memory as well as our recent sail to Hawaii on an identical ship owned by Carnival.
Because cruise ships were so much smaller in the '70's, it was easier to feel more personally involved with crew members. I remember our waiter Marino, wrinkling up his face at the salad dressing and pausing to make us his own vinegar and oil version. After a week on board I don't know our waiter's name. We only see him for dinner, not three times a day as we did in olden times. Then the crew was 100% Italian. Ken took a photo of a crew member trying to pick me up as I motioned at my wedding ring. Here much of the crew is still Italian. As I sit here typing, a married crew member is putting the make on a young woman from Pittsburgh nearby me. Some things never change... However, nearly all the cabin attendants, waiters, and busboys are from Indonesia or the Philippines. When they say, "Buon giorno," it just isn't the same. Our waiters devote themselves to waiting on us. On the Carnival ship every dinner was detoured by the waiters and busboys singing and dancing. It made dinner last forever and we never did get that second cup of coffee. Our cabin attendant is attentive and works hard to keep our room clean and tidy. However, he does not spend time creating animals out of bath towels as they did on Carnival.
Carnival uses the same interior decorator from Italy as the one who did this ship. His style is gaudy and over the top and there are only occasional touches that have that Italian flavor here. However, there's lots of Italian flavor in the food. The pasta course is a part of every dinner and the pizza is to die for, but can include toppings like anchovies not normally found at home. The cruise director is a flashy macho guy with a pony tail that reminds me of the hunk Fabio that does those "It's not really butter" commercials. Every word he says sounds like it ends in an A. Gotta love that Italian accent!
While both ships have a fully array of fairly mindless activities for their days at sea, this ship does not plague us with announcements luring us to attend. They assume we got our daily program and that we can read. When we booked our shore excursions on the internet at home, the web site did not work very well, but we did not have to pay for our tours until we took them, unlike our Carnival experience. Either way it's great not to have stand in long lines as we used to to purchase our tours; the tickets are delivered to your cabin.
Because Costa spends most of the year sailing in Europe and comes to the Caribbean when it gets too cold so sail in the Mediterranean; many Europeans come with them. This limits the sorts of entertainment the theater can offer. We miss the comedians we enjoyed on Carnival, but the Cirque of the Sea, kind of a clone of Cirque du Soleil, was clever and entertaining.
The crew is beginning to decorate the ship for Christmas. This is very familiar since we have spent most of our winter holidays on the high seas. However, this time the boughs of holly are a reminder that we need to head home and write those Christmas cards before it's 2007.