Costa Smeralda


Costa Smeralda

support Costa Smeralda (the name means Emerald in Italian and the ship is named after Sardinia's popular tourist coast), will be the Carnival Corp.-owned brand's first LNG (liquefied natural gas)-powered ship.

The 6,518-passenger (at maximum capacity) ship is currently being built in the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland and will launch in October 2019. A sister ship will be delivered by Meyer Turku in 2021.

Costa Smerelda will weigh in at 182,700 gross tons and will have 2,612 cabins. It is one of seven new LNG-powered ships ordered by Carnival Corp. -- the first will be German-based brand AIDAnova which launches in fall 2018. U.K. line P&O Cruises also has a LNG-powered ship on order, which will launch in 2020.

LNG is the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel. It will be stored in special tanks onboard the ship and will be used to generate 100 percent of the energy required for navigation and onboard services, thanks to dual-fuel hybrid engines. The use of LNG is a major innovation in terms of environmental impact, as it will significantly reduce exhaust gas emissions, in particular sulphur, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and particulate matter.

Costa hasn't released many details on what to expect onboard Smeralda, but the line has revealed that the cabins will be designed by Milan-based architectural studio Dordoni Architetti. The firm is one of four commissioned to design the ship, and the overall design will be led by Adam D. Tihany, who has worked on numerous ships including Celebrity's Solstice class and Seabourn Encore and Ovation.

The designs will be based on Italian cities with each deck represented by a well-known destination. Cabins will feature a photographic panel with an embedded television depicting an Italian city view. Bathroom walls will be cladded to look like marble and a full height window in the shower will be designed to create the feel of more space and improve lighting. All the cabin furniture will be custom made by leading Italian furniture manufacturers.

Costa Smeralda will sail in the Western Mediterranean, with itineraries on sale in early 2018.

The two LNG Costa ships -- as well as two new ships for AIDA Cruises -- are part of a multibillion dollar contract signed with the two Meyer shipyards in Turku (Finland) and Papenburg (Germany).

MSC Bellissima Entertainment & Activities

Mine was a port-intensive cruise with only one full day at sea (the last). The cruise director's staff are called "animators," & so they are. They must liven things up in five or six languages, & they succeed admirably.

There are few planned activities, & rarely are two scheduled to happen concurrently. More often than not, there's time between activities. If you don't want to miss anything, you won't.

There are competitions like ring toss, passing a hula hoop from one person to the next while holding h&s, & kicking shoes into a wastebasket affixed to a higher deck. For the more sophisticated passengers, there are group dance lessons. There are also trivia quizzes (quite a feat, given the languages spoken). Each language has its own host.

Each evening there was a show in the Opera Theatre. It was given twice -- an earlier pre-dinner show for the late seating, & a later post-dinner show for the early seating. In order to appeal to the greatest number of people, the acts were mostly visual. There is a resident song & dance troupe, & there are other entertainers who rotate among Costa's fleet. On my cruise there were several singers, a magician & a contortionist(!). The singers & dancers performed enthusiastically, but the sound level was deafening.

In the Tango Lounge each evening, a talented Macedonian couple played musical instruments & sang to a click track. There was a pianist who played cocktail music in the Piazza. There's jackpot Bingo daily, though, alas, no art auction.

Cocktails & other beverages are served at the Capri Bar (midships pool area); Gr& Bar; Juliet Bar; Terrazza Bar; Tango Ballroom; Opera Bar; & Diva Club. Prices are fair for mixed drinks (5 to 6 euros [$6 to $7.20]). Italian drinks like Grappa & Limoncello are available, & all bars serve Lavazza cappuccino & espresso, regular & decaf, for a nominal charge (under $2). Children (& adults not too proud to ask for a "children's card") can have a card that entitles them to 20 juices or soft drinks (but not mineral water) at a discount. As it is an Italian ship, Costa Romantica's wine list runs heavily to Italian wines. While a few wines are expensive, there are many to choose from at between 17 & 19 euros ($18.40 to 20.80) per bottle. Half liter carafes of wine are available at 8 euros ($9.60), & wines by the glass for 4.50 euros ($5.40).

The video arcades contain a large number of games that cost .40 euros ($.48). There are also shove ha'penny & hockey games that are free. The Excelsior Casino has one dice table, three blackjack tables (minimum bet: 3 euros [$3.60]), one Caribbean stud & one Caribbean draw table, roulette & .10, .20, & .50 euro slot machines. The casino is quite small & not crowded on European sailings. The Tango Ballroom is an aft-facing lounge with tiered seating. This is the ship's alternative show lounge, which offers musical acts & a small floor for ballroom dancing. There is a bar (with bar stools).

Are religious services "entertainment?" Three religions had major observances the week I was onboard. Muslims observed Mawlid an Nabi, the Prophet Mohammed's birthday. Despite there being Muslim passengers & crew onboard, there was no mention of the holiday in "Today." Jews observed Passover. There was also no mention of the holiday in "Today." A nice touch would have been an offer on the part of the ship's company to provide Jewish passengers with the necessary foods for a Seder & to offer space for one. Christians observed Holy Week & celebrated Easter. The ship's resident Roman Catholic priest offered the customary services, but he apologized for not speaking French, English or German & told the Spaniards they could underst& Italian (which I'm sure came as news to them). The ship's accommodation of religious observance was, given the particular week of my cruise, inadequate. The ship was decorated with white crepe paper bells & Styrofoam cutouts of doves -- which were intended to be Easter decorations -- & each cabin door was decorated with a crepe paper egg. On Easter Eve passengers were given large Lindt chocolate Easter eggs in their cabin.

Costa neoRomantica Public Rooms

The ship is quite easy to navigate. There are thirteen decks & each passenger deck has a number & is named for a European city; stairway l&ings are decorated with each city's coat of arms. The two major stairways are open & made of marble. There are two banks of elevators, with four elevators apiece. Most public rooms are on Decks 8 & 9. On Deck 13 there's the Diva Disco, an underused circular room with panoramic views of the sea. (The room is mostly given over to teen activities, except for late at night.)

On Deck 9 from fore to aft are the upper level of the Opera Theatre; the Opera Bar; the Via Condotti, which contains four shops; the Romeo & Juliet Bars; two video arcades; the Casino Excelsior; & the aft facing Tango Ballroom. The Opera Theatre is a two level show lounge, built in the style of a Roman amphitheater. The stadium seating affords everyone a good view, except for those seated behind pillars. The seats are bolt upright & very uncomfortable. The other spectators are often more entertaining than the show on offer. There is no provision for service of drinks in the theatre.

The Opera Bar is a sit down bar (no bar stools) & the only indoor place onboard for cigar smoking. The Romeo & Juliet Bars overlook the Piazza below. The Romeo Bar doubles as the Pizzeria, while the Juliet Bar is the ship's wine bar.

The ship's shops include the photographer's shop, where you may pay for photographs, download digital photos, buy supplies & (surprisingly) mail letters & postcards. (This last service costs 1.50 euros [$1.80] per postcard or letter to the USA, which makes the 2 euros [$2.40] for a digital postcard seem like a bargain! Postcards, which are not stocked free in the cabin, cost 1.50 euros [$1.80].) Photos cost 11.95 euros ($14.40).

Other shops include a duty-free store for liquor, perfume & cigarettesa a shop that sells Murano glass jewelry & other fashion items, & another that sells other jewelry & watches. Interestingly, there is no logo shop, per se -- the duty-free carries a limited line of Costa souvenirs -- & none of the usual Swarovski & Lladro.

The pubic rooms on Deck 8 from fore to aft are the lower level of the Opera Theatre, a small Roman Catholic chapel, two meeting rooms, the Piazza Italia, card rooms, & the library & Internet center. The chapel has an icon of the Virgin Mary, a free-st&ing altar & stations of the cross. The two meeting rooms are used by affinity & incentive groups. (An English language movie was screened in one of the meeting rooms once during my cruise.) The Piazza Italia is the focal point of the ship & reminds one of a plaza, er piazza, in a European town. There is a dance floor & a space for musicians, & the ship's main bar, the Gr& Bar, is also located here. With marble floors it is a noisy, but joyful space.

The card rooms each have four bridge tables (cards & games are available from Reception). The library has four bookcases divided by language: Italian, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese & English. Most books are paperbacks that appear to have been left behind by previous passengers. Passengers may access books for one hour only each day.

In the Internet Center there are six computers with flat-screen monitors. As this is the only place on the ship for internet connectivity -- there is no broadb& in the cabins, nor Wi-Fi anywhere -- the number would have been inadequate, & the situation was made inexcusable when the system crashed on the second day of my cruise & was not restored thereafter. The cost for surfing the Web is .50 euros ($.60) per minute. The Lobby is located on Deck 5 where reception & the tour office are situated. The pursers at reception have the daunting task of answering questions in many languages. They wear pins with flags representing the languages they speak.

There are laundry & dry cleaning services, but no self-serve launderettes. Costa neoRomantica Spa & Fitness

There are two swimming pools, one aft on Deck 10 where children are not allowed, & one amidships on Deck 10 where they are welcome. There are four hot tubs behind the aft pool, which were well patronized. The gym, while compact, offers all the st&ard machines: cross country skiing, stationary bicycling, rowing, resistance training, together with free weights. Exercisers overlook the sea through floor-to-ceiling windows. Passers-by can watch the workers-out from the corridor through large circular windows.

There are saunas with male-only, female-only & mixed times (bathing suits must be worn). There's a Ping-Pong table & two outdoor Foosball tables. There are no other outdoor sports areas: no shuffleboard, no quoits, no ring toss, no basketball, no skeet shooting, no putting green or driving range. A jogging/walking track circles part of Deck 11, but it can become impeded by deck chairs. There's a sufficient number of good quality metal sun loungers & a particularly nice arrangement of them in tiers around the aft pool. Both pools are protected against the wind. Pool towels & blankets are available from pool attendants.

Forward on Deck 11 there are padded wicker basket chairs that provide charming vantages from which to view the sea.

The gym & spa are located on Deck 11. The spa is franchised to Steiner Leisure, the London salon operator, & features their usual price scale: e.g., Elemis Face & Body Therapy (160 euros [$192]), Aromapure Massage (50 minutes: 99 euros [$119]), Deep Tissue Massage (45 minutes: 105 euros [$126]). Costa neoRomantica For Kids

I cannot sing the praises of this ship highly enough when it comes to accommodating families with children & teens. Because my cruise sailed during a school holiday, there were hundreds of children & teenagers onboard. While this could be cause for alarm for adults without children, it was actually a pleasant experience. The children's animation staff coped admirably with the added number of kids.

The Squok Club is the line's name for its children's program. It's divided into Minis (ages 3 to 6) & Maxis (ages 7 to 11). Activities were scheduled in blocks from 9 a.m. to noon, 3 to 6 p.m. & 9 p.m. to midnight. The children's room was far too small (though it is filled with fun, colorful stuff) to contain the number of children, so counselors improvised with excursions around the ship, using public rooms during off-hours for children's activities. (The line also offered staffed activities for children between 3 & 11 during port calls, so parents could take excursions without their children.)

Teenagers were divided between juniors (12 to 14 years) & seniors (15 to 18 years). There were socials & contests scheduled for this group, but the teens seemed happiest just hanging out with each other around the pool, in the video arcade or in one of the public rooms. (I never saw a rowdy teenager.) It was heartening to see young people enjoying a cruise. It made me believe there would still be cruisers in the future. (I went on my first cruise when I was 14 & was hooked for life.)

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