After a disappointing outing with Costa Cruises in late 2016, likely an anomaly — even lines I most appreciate have one occasionally — what I found on my recent 10-night Western Caribbean sailing of the 92,700-ton, 2,828-guest Costa Deliziosa from Fort Lauderdale was a well-managed vessel that provides a most enjoyable visitor experience. This product merits an enthusiastic thumbs-up for groups seeking something a bit out of the ordinary at an attractive price point.
The ship and onboard facilities are well designed and were colorfully decorated; the staff was friendly, helpful and thoroughly competent; the food and service were very good; the entertainment and special events scheduled during the cruise were memorable; and the itinerary was most attractive.
During a chat with the ship’s genial hotel director, Eduard Puckl, I learned that guests aboard the sailing were citizens of 45 different nations. Lest you think, however, that communications aboard Costa Deliziosa proved to create a “Tower of Babal” at sea, be assured that nothing could be further from the truth. First, with English being the second language pretty much worldwide, every staff member I encountered spoke our native tongue well. All written communications distributed throughout the ship were prepared in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as Swedish, due to a group from Sweden that was aboard this cruise.
The staff knew which of these was spoken by the residents of every cabin, so guests got the version they could easily understand. General public-address-system announcements, which were neither excessive nor piped into the cabins, were done in multiple languages, but others were given only in the language spoken by the guests for which they were specifically intended. Regardless of nationality, I found my shipmates to be friendly and respectful.
Probably the biggest adjustment American groups will need to make is that there is currently no “anytime” evening dining, except in the buffet, as Costa still uses the older method of fixed sittings with assigned tables and waiters — “early” being at 6:15 p.m., “late” being 8:45 or 9 p.m. Having not used this system for a number of years, I admit that I did again enjoy having the same waiter every night who could anticipate many of my needs.
Puckl said, though, that an anytime option on Costa is “in the future for sure.” Existing differences on the plus side include options generally less expensive and more flexible than on competing lines: packages that feature alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, specialized dining, internet access and even shore excursions, of which there were numerous options.
In keeping with the Italian tradition of festivals and special celebrations, a wide variety of activities are scheduled to keep everyone happy. We celebrated Costa Deliziosa’s eighth birthday, then the 70th birthday of Costa Cruises. There was an at-sea version of a popular TV talent contest for guests willing to show off their abilities, plus there were special poolside buffets on at-sea days that featured many pasta dishes; seafood, such as mussels and shrimp; and roast suckling pigs.
Professional performers — singers, dancers, bands and combos, magicians and acrobats — were aboard to present a typical shipboard smorgasbord of entertainment alternatives. Our itinerary included Key West, Florida; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico.
Groups might even learn to speak a little Italian along the way. Arrivederci!