Although Costa is owned by Carnival, everything from the food to the crew attitude is influenced by the line’s Italian roots. The ships themselves have over-the-top, gilded décor and the staff members organize wacky contests and lead line dances. No matter where you cruise, sailing on this line is one big Italian party: You’ll either roll your eyes or throw yourself into the “Ciao, bella!” lifestyle.
Not in love with the outrageous décor? With Adam Tihany as creative director of the next two ships under construction — scheduled to launch in 2019 and 2020 — we suspect the look could get toned down … way down.
What We Love
Fun for Kids: Kids Club programming is comprehensive and complimentary for children ages 3 to 11. Activities such as cupcake decorating, T-shirt painting, and karaoke contests keep junior cruisers busy. On some ships, Peppa Pig (a British cartoon character) has a dedicated space with interactive games and character meet and greets. There’s also a more casual program for teens, and they can drop in and out as they please. Best of all, Costa offers many “kids sail free” specials throughout the year.
Special Event Nights: It seems like there’s always a new reason to party, from White Night soirees to Italian extravaganzas. If you’re up for a night that feels celebratory, you’ll be entertained until after midnight on these ships.
Best Known For
Lively Bars: You’ll have plenty of opportunities to shake your booty to hot Euro-hits or swing and sway to ballroom classics at the nightclubs.
International Guests: Announcements and signs are in at least five languages, and the crew shifts from Italian to French to English to German to Spanish. The line designates hosts for each major onboard language group, though there isn’t any special treatment.
Impressive Partnerships: In recent years, the line has focused on partnerships with familiar European brands, including Barilla pasta, Nutella (that scrumptious chocolate-hazelnut spread), and Illy coffee.
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Who It's Best For
Europhiles: For those who have a continental sensibility, or who like mixing with European travelers, this is the right line. Though Costa may not be a household name in the U.S. (apart from the Costa Concordia disaster), the brand has history and a strong following in Europe.
Party Lovers: Are you the sort of guy who doesn’t mind getting dressed up like a bare-chested ballerina to win a contest … or do you travel with one? Welcome aboard! Whatever the form of entertainment, there’s a rocking disco, a buzzing lounge, or a pool deck celebration to chose from — where big personalities can really let loose.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Smoking Is Allowed on Balconies: And, trust us, it drifts around the balcony dividers.
Extra Charges Add Up: Sure, you pay for bottled water and espresso on most mainstream lines — but here there’s even a mandatory daily onboard service charge and the Internet packages and spa treatments are surprisingly expensive for cruises at this price point.
English Isn’t the Main Focus: American travelers who are used to crew members who deal primarily with English-speaking guests may feel that some service gets lost in translation — and language aside, the service may not have been up to American standards in the first place.
Italian Lite: While there’s still a lot of Italian influence on board, many travelers who sailed on Costa before the line was purchased by Carnival lament the drop in attention to detail in the kitchens and the diminished focus on high-quality Italian imports. The first-time Costa cruiser, however, will enjoy the delightfully varied, regional Italian cuisine.
Draconian Lifeboat Drills: If you cruise on the line out of Florida, be prepared for an unusually long and regimented process. Still, considering the wreck of Costa Concordia in 2012, these elaborate drills feel like an improvement from the casual, cursory affairs (some only in Italian) that are still conducted on some of the ships.
The Bigger the Ships, the More Amenities: The cruise line’s newest builds follow the mega ship trend, and the larger the vessel, the more souped-up the innovations (the rest of the fleet has to wait for the roll-out of the same amenities). Among the latest: Pepper the Robot, an information portal that senses and reacts to human emotions; a gourmet mozzarella bar; and gala dinner menus from Michelin-starred chef Bruno Barbieri.
Gayle Keck is a San Francisco-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
Lisa Cheng is a New York-based writer for ShermansCruise who also writes for Travel + Leisure.