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 evacuated.

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 turn.


  1. You've seen and done so many interesting things - this will be icing on your Italian Cake - hope you are enjoying cruising and sight seeing plus you always meet delightful people. Looking forward to your return and more stories

  2. Sounds like such a contrast between ships.



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