Paul and Lucy Spadoni periodically live in Tuscany to explore Paul’s Italian roots, practice their Italian and enjoy “la dolce vita.”
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Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Cruising with Costa
Monday, April 30
We’ve never been on a cruise before, but in January, we
responded to a discount offer from American Airlines to sign up for a five-day
Mediterranean trip with Costa, an Italian cruise line. The day after we signed
up, Captain Francesco Schettino ran the Costa Concordia aground, killing 32 people.
He added to his disgrace by abandoning ship before all the survivors were
This is NOT our ship.
According to the accounts, he had altered course to bring the
ship close to the island of Giglio to salute the family of his ship’s head chef,
who lived on the island—sort of the marine equivalent of a “fly-by.” As I write
this, he is under house arrest, waiting his day in court. But we are undaunted,
as are 2,000 others who join us on a trip that begins in Savona, near the home
of Christopher Columbus in Genova, and will take us to Napoli, Malta, Sardegna
and Corsica before returning to Savona.
Before we board the luxurious new Costa Deliziosa, we had to
take a run-down, dirty ferry from Olbia, Sardegna, to Genova, marking the end
of our week in Sardegna’s Costa Smeralda. The Tirrenia ferry left Olbia at
10:30 p.m. and chugged northward for 15 hours. We did not spend the extra euros
to book a cabin, but we did reserve airline-like seats so that we could lean
back and sleep. As it turned out, many of the seats were empty, and all who dared
could lie down, spreading themselves over three or four ragged and stained
cloth-covered seats. I tried a spot on the floor in a corner, thinking it would
be better for my back, but even fully clothed and with carpet underneath me, it
was too cold and I had to move to the seats.
In the morning, we found an unoccupied table, where we read,
played cards and Scrabble (Lucy won), and munched on food we had brought with
us. The windows were so dirty we could barely see outside, but there is not
much to see between Olbia and Genova anyway.
After overnighting in the cheap but clean Hotel Le Tre
Stazioni in Genova, we hop a train for a 55- minute trip to Savona. Once we board
our cruise ship, we have entered other world altogether. Our luggage is
delivered to our sparkling modern cabin, and we are greeted by smiling
employees everywhere, al l of whom want to help us find our way and answer our
questions. Food is abundant, free and delicious. We attend an orientation
session offered for English-speaking guests, most of whom are from other
European countries or Asia.
One of our swimming pools.
Our dinner is a full-course Italian meal, and the serving
sizes are just the right proportion so we can make it through the full meal
without feeling uncomfortable. We dine next to Orlando and Joy, a couple about
our age who live in New York but have foreign roots. Orlando grew up in Italy
but moved to the states about 30 years ago, and Joy originally hailed from Thailand.
Orlando also has dual citizenship, and he is able to give me some advice about
obtaining Italian medical benefits that may someday come in handy.
Afterwards we sit through a performance by an Italian entertainer
who is also able to sing in English, French and German. He does a nice job
singing some Frank Sinatra songs, but his impression of Elvis Presley is
laughable. It doesn’t help that he is about 50 years old and looks unnatural
trying to swing his hips Elvis-style. I think he would have done much better
with Dean Martin. But it’s hard to be critical of anything when we get three
full meals a day, free spa service and are treated like royalty everywhere we