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Cruising on the New Costa Serena

June 25, 2007 By: Jennifer Merritt Travel Agent

First-time cruisers take in Costa's latest flagship

As a first-time cruiser, I wasn't sure what to expect from the inaugural voyage of the Costa Serena from Savona, Italy to Marseilles, France. Would I fit in with the older clientele I hear is typical of cruising? Would there be enough to do onboard to keep me from jumping overboard? Would I get my sea legs?  The Costa Serena

With Dramamine in hand, I set out for New
's John F. Kennedy International Airport
with my mother, my guest for the trip and herself a first-time cruiser (who's
maiden name also happens to be Costa). At check in we met Wally, a Lufthansa
employee who actually came through on my off-hand request that he upgrade my
ticket so that I could join my mother in business class. It was a fortunate
start to the trip: Our eight-hour flight literally flew by thanks to
Lufthansa's lie-flat seats and personal entertainment systems.

Our arrival at the Costa
was overwhelming in a good way. Since neither of us had ever set
foot on a cruise ship, let alone one so big (14,147 tons), first on our
checklist was to explore the decks. The Serena's
cachet is its classical mythology theme, cultivated by architect Joseph Farcus.
Throughout the Serena's 11 decks,
bright colors like orange, red and teal give the ship a lively feel.
Surprisingly, these colors also are found in the Samsara Spa on Deck 11, but
there the hues somehow manage to give off a relaxing vibe.

A treatment room in Costa Serena's impressive two-floor Samsara Spa

The Impressive Samsara Spa

The Samsara Spa is by far the ship's biggest selling point.
Costa claims it's the largest wellness area of any cruise ship, comprising two
floors and 23,000 square feet. The ship also features Samsara cabins, giving
these guests direct access to the spa and even their own restaurant, which
boasts a healthier menu selection than other onboard eateries.

On our second day on board, we were treated to the services
of Serena's Samsara Spa. My mom received a traditional Swedish massage, while I
opted for the ayurvedic massage, the spa's signature service, which uses an
oil-drip to penetrate the "third-eye" in the middle of one's
forehead. To some it may sound like Chinese water torture, but I promise it's
actually very soothing.

Special menus were created for the Serena's inaugural, but the gala dinner, prepared by the ships'
chefs, was very accommodating for guests with picky vegetarian tastes (like
me). It should be a good indication of what guests can expect onboard from the Serena's usual food options, located
throughout Deck 9.

The pool deck of the Costa Serena, with retractable roof.

A day into our trip, we quickly discovered that the Roman
god-themed atrium is the place to be seen, especially during the evening dinner
rush. Beautiful violinists entertain by day and a quirky keyboardist takes over
at night. During the day, guests were most often found relaxing at one of the Serena's four swimming pools (two have
retractable roofs) or enjoying concoctions at the sweets-themed food and drink
bar, Chocolate, on Deck 5. For quiet, we visited the library, also on Deck 5,
and the Internet point, which was surprisingly quiet for being around the
corner from the casino.

The Serena also
offers a racecar simulator. While we missed the opportunity to test it out in
lieu of spa treatments, it seemed to be the onboard amenity that would best
appeal to teens and pre-teens. Serena
also hosts a teens' club and a squat club for younger guests.

We stayed in room 8407 on Deck 8. While this is the highest
cabin deck on the Serena, quite
possibly affording the best views, it also is directly below the pool area and
buffet. We noticed footsteps throughout the day and in the early morning—not so
much at night—but worth noting for guests who are light sleepers or who enjoy
an afternoon nap. Too, for guests who don't enjoy long walks to the elevator, Travel Agent recommends booking
staterooms toward the middle of the ship.

The Roman-god themed atrium

Accommodations have plenty of storage and balconies provide
privacy, although guests cruising in a group should book cabins next to each
other, as the balcony dividers can open to provide one large balcony across
cabins. A bowl of fresh fruit welcomes you onboard; however, a clock,
frustratingly, does not. Wake up calls are available.

So are we two first-time cruisers sold? My mom enjoyed
visiting two towns with only having to unpack once. I appreciated Costa Serena's younger and largely European clientele. Whether lounging
by the pool or taking a shore excursion, there was plenty to keep us
entertained—no Dramamine necessary.

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