Ship Review: La Donna Deliziosa, Costa’s New Ship

We had a sneak preview of the new Deliziosa, Costa’s latest entry in the high-end market and its third new ship in nine months, before it sailed from Italy to Dubai for the big christening event on February 23. Naturally, the first thing we did was toss our bag in the veranda-ed stateroom and race up to Samsura Spa, the biggest spa afloat on the seven seas.

The manicure started the de-stressing process, but it was pedicure that sealed the deal. The massage chair with bubbling footbath was wonderful and relaxing—this is absolutely the best way to begin a cruise.

Samsara Spa is huge, almost 40,000 square feet, with everything for guests whose pleasures include relaxation, repose and recharging. The fitness center is stocked with Technogym machines, including a Technogym Kinesis circuit. Dedicated spa-goers will enjoy taking one of the 68 spa suites, which include some private facilities, as well as direct access to the spa itself. What a wonderful idea: spend the entire cruise in your fluffy Frette robe, with spa treatments and a dedicated spa restaurant, a glass of champagne and a view of the blue sea from your veranda.

Maurice Zarmati, president and CEO of Costa Cruise Lines, told us that he envisions a Costa cruise as the beginning of an Italian vacation, with the transition to Italian soil merely an extension of the experience. We can attest, at the very least, the new Deliziosa serves the pasta perfectly al dente and the espresso the way it’s supposed to be: strong, hot, in a tiny cup.

Beyond that, this 2,800-passenger pleasure palace is part-Italian, part-Las Vegas, part-pinball machine. The owners have paid tribute to Italy’s vibrant contemporary art scene by bringing in work by some of the best artists working in the country today, beginning with the signature Pomodoro “Sphere” in the lobby. The pieces have been integrated into the decor; future plans include introducing artists and their work with rotating exhibitions on board.

There are quiet nooks and crannies on the Deliziosa where the atmosphere is Milanese, low-key and chic. (All of the furnishings on the ship carry the “Made In Italy” label). Architect Joe Farcus has opened up sea views in unexpected places for passengers who want to sneak away for a private moment or two. The Las Vegas touches are de rigueur on a cruise ship—on this one Farcus has created an ambience that is high-end Vegas: a big, wide casino with windows to the sea and an elegant theater put together in silver, mauve and gray. In the lobby, some of the architectural touches reminded us of an old pinball machine without the sound effects, a fun idea. A particularly Mediterranean touch is the olive-wood dance floor.

In Italian, the word deliziosa is often used to describe a particularly attractive woman, la donna deliziosa, as well as a perfume or food. Since every survey shows people travel to Italy for the food, if you are going to call yourself “deliziosa,” the experience has to begin in the kitchen. We tried the Ristorante Albatros, the supper club Deliziosa, supervised by chef Ettore Bocchia; the Samsara Spa cuisine, and the various buffets. We found some Italian specialties, as well as organic selections, and international fare including sushi and fresh oysters. Our suggestion: We would like to see a real Italian trattoria onboard, with cooking classes for all ages.

Deliziosa offers the great fun of 4D movies, as does its sister ship, the Luminosa, which we saw christened in Genoa last summer. To keep things interesting for the active passenger, there is the outdoor roller-skating track, the golf simulator, the Grand Prix race-car simulator, and PlayStation World, a cruise ship first.

The cabins are more subdued than the public spaces, designed in serene neutral colors, with flat-screen TVs, plenty of storage space, and comfy beds. There is Wi-Fi throughout the ship, a welcome innovation for those who bring along their laptops or smart phones. Sixty-eight percent of the cabins have verandas.

The Deliziosa left us in Savona, Italy, to begin its voyage to Dubai, followed by stops in Egypt, Jordan, Oman, India and the Maldives. In the summer 2010, she will cruise the Norwegian fjords and the Baltic. At the end of 2011, Costa will offer “100-day around the world” cruises in the spirit of the early explorers (Savona-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Singapore, Singapore-Savona).

Deliziosa will be joined in summer by the Favulosa and in spring 2011 by the Fascinosa, both of which will accommodate 3,780 guests.