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Ciao Bella! Costa Cruise Line Introduces Its New Flagship, Costa Toscana

Costa Toscana at sea in the Western Mediterranean Photo: Costa Cruises

By Cathie Arquilla

Costa Cruises’ new flagship, the Costa Toscana is a love letter to Italy. Adam Tihany, the Creative Director of the ship explained, “Costa wanted to build a ship that presents all the beauty and fantastic experiences of Italy. I said to myself, it’s an easy thing to do. Everything looks better, tastes better, and seems better in Italy!”

In 2022, Costa Cruise Line, an Italian cruise company operating under the Carnival Corporation umbrella, debuted two new spectacular ships, Costa Toscana and Costa Venezia. Both ships celebrate everything Italian. Costa Venezia has a unique itinerary operating out of Turkey with ports of call including, Egypt, Israel, and Cyprus.

Costa Toscana Cruises the Western Mediterranean.

Naples, Ibiza, Valencia, and Marseille are on the itinerary as well as Rome and Savona. It’s a big boat, one of the largest cruise ships in operation with 19 decks, 2,663 cabins, 15 restaurants, 18 bars and lounges, four swimming pools, sports area, a wellness center and spa, a water park, and a kid’s club.

With the ability to hold 6,400 passengers and a crew of 1,500, you might think twice about booking–too crowded, too busy. But don’t! It is designed so thoughtfully with so many offerings, lively or tucked away, that you can find whatever you’re after, from a sushi bar to the spa’s snow cave.

The Aperol Spritz Bar is one of several branding partnerships with Costa Cruises. Photo: Cathie Arquilla

Ship Design

Realizing that Italians– and Europeans in general –  have always had a high level of sensitivity about beautiful things, Costa harnessed the talents of design powerhouses from around the world to collaborate on Costa Toscana. They included American designer Jeffrey Beers, an expert in restaurant design; Italian design firm Dordoni Architetti, a leading product designer who created the hotel part of the ship; and The Rockwell Group, which focused on some of the restaurants, bars, and café spaces.

Together these design firms and others collaborated to create a fashionable Italian cruise ship using furnishing, fabrics, lighting, and accessories exclusively made in Italy. The result is swoon-worthy for anybody with good taste, a love of Italy – or more specifically Tuscany, where the ship borrows many of its themes.

Cabin on Costa Toscana. Photo Costa Cruises.

Costa Toscana partnered with iconic Italian brands that most cruisers recognize and love. There is the Aperol Spritz Bar, two of them in fact, done in bright orange–the bar is to the eyes what the drink is to the taste. The Campari Bar is branding at its best. Its center column sweeps upward in layers of deep Campari red and gold.

Considering all this luxury and design excellence, one would think a Costa Toscana cruise must come at a high price. Actually, it is quite affordable. Right now, prices start at $900 per person for an 8-day cruise, an amazing value.

Head to the Ferrari Spazio Bolicine Bar for bespoke Italian bubbly. Photo: Costa Cruises

Ship Sips

We debated whether the Ferrari Spazio Bollicine bar was connected to the Ferrari sports car. The logo is a lion, but in the same rearing position as the Ferrari horse logo. No red? That didn’t seem right. Instead, the Ferrari Spazio Bollicine bar is designed in shades of cream, with accents of rust-brown, and includes decorative black latticework, more regal than zoom zoom. A truly beautiful bar.

It is in partnership with the Ferrari Trento wine brand, which was founded in 1902, and is known for its sparkling wines, especially the straw-colored bubbly Ferrari Brut made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. The Ferrari Trento wine is NOT related to the Ferrari sports car. We were probably alone in making this mistake because the ship’s guests are predominantly Italian. Surely they know their Italian brands better than we do.

To learn more about these sparkling wines from Italy’s Trentino region near the Alps, do the wine tasting. It’s a great value and you get the experience of moving from everyday bubbly to the special occasion stuff. Handling the various wine glasses alone is worth the 15-euro price.

The Infinity Bar on Deck 7, perfect for sail away. Photo: Cathie Arquilla

The Infinity Bar on deck seven at the stern is perfect for sail away. Seeing this massive ship’s wake and the deep blue Mediterranean beyond and below, while sipping a specialty cocktail, and listening to some groovy beats (not too loud, not too poppy) – now that’s la bella vita. Italians took up residence here, playing cards, dipping in and out of the hot tubs, talking or napping on the comfy couches and lounge chairs. We had our day in the sun here too.

Moving from wine bars to coffee bars, let’s discuss the Kartell Café, which became my morning cappuccino spot. Kartell is an Italian design company known for its modern, sometimes amusing, furniture and lighting. The Kartell Café lauds the Kartell brand. Not only are the furnishings Kartell, but the designers created a rug depicting iconic Kartell chairs and tables. The coffee and pastries are better here than what you can find in the buffet or dining rooms. Get the drinks package, not only for cocktails but for coffees too.

On Board Dining

There are plenty of Italian food options aboard Costa Toscana, but international flavors are widely available too. Teppanyaki is a theatrical hibachi restaurant. Picture throwing knives and flipping shrimp. You can build your own Hawaiian poke bowl at Kiki Poke, and Sushino at Costa offers made-to-order sushi all day long.

As for American fare, both the Salty Beach Street Food bar and the Heineken Star Club & Bistro are available for burgers, steaks, nachos, and the like. The Heineken bar is also jamming live pop-rock music nightly to enjoy as you down some draft beer, of course.

Yet, even with these choices as well as the grand dining room, dinner seating that comes with your cruise package.

Chefs Hélène Darroze, Bruno Barbieri, and Ángel León. Photo Costa Cruises.

Be sure to reserve a table at the Archipelago restaurant. The Archipelago features three world-renowned Michelin-starred chefs Bruno Barbieri, Hèléne Darroze, and Ángel León. At the tasting diner, each guest may choose which chef’s menu they would like to try. From there, each dish celebrates ingredients from different parts of the world that are meaningful to the chef. Ms. Darroze’s dishes were from the Western Mediterranean: tuna tartare from Granada, and duck breasts with spices from Casablanca, to name just two of the five courses. Finally, you are presented with a map, doubling as a thankyou card, showing the nautical miles you “traveled” during the meal. It’s a unique culinary experience in an elegant dress-for-dinner space.

By eating at Archipelago, you are also supporting the Costa Crociere Foundation established to protect the marine environment and foster research in ocean plant-based food harvesting.

But that’s just the Archipelago restaurant, the ship itself is considered a smart city.

Costa Toscana is powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), the maritime sector’s most advanced technology for reducing emissions. The ship’s daily water requirement is met by decontaminating seawater using desalination plants. There is an intelligent energy efficiency system reducing energy consumption. Separate waste collection and recycling are at 100% and are carried out on board. So, while Costa Toscana is very big, it is more than competitive in being eco-friendly to the seas. And this can be said for Costa’s other new ships as well.

Ship Life 

Each night the few English-speaking passengers received Oggi A Bordo, Your Compass On The Ship. We referred to Oggi A Bordo like gospel. The Oggi, we began to call it, tells you what is happening in the casino, when to drop your kid off at the Creative Baby Squok Workshop, where the ballroom dance class is taking place, and so much more.

At night, Cirque de Soleil-type aerialists dancers, performed in the ship’s center multi-level Colosseo, riffing on some Italian themes like the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. This was a bit of a mashup, but entertaining! Imagine hip-hop dancers in Renaissance costumes with aerialists in devil get-ups performing overhead.

The ship’s entertainment offerings covered the bases for most age groups and music tastes. Everything from electronic violinist Nadia, to a Madonna revival girl band in pageboy white wigs. Say you wanted some contemporary pop, Justin Bieber or Harry Styles, then you could follow the Grunky Beats, (terrible name, great band) who performed several times a night at different venues.

The Leonardo Gran Bar, just one of 18 bars and lounges aboard Costa Toscana to choose from. Photo: Cathie Arquilla.

 

We caught their 6 pm show a few times in the Leonardo Gran Bar, a groovy-cool bar decorated with cream bucket chairs, shapely wood cocktail tables, and deep blue lounge couches. It might have been my favorite spot, but every space was so varied, sometimes graphic and playful, sometimes sublime and sexy; it was hard to choose.

In the wee hours, while some were heading for pumping DJ music (including my son), I cozied into the Granducato Bar, another stylish lounge where anyone would feel like a movie star, to hear the Sultans of Swing. This duo delivered on crooner songs, both traditional and contemporary. They included some Italian jazz numbers, unfamiliar to me, but lovely, and perfect for the setting and the ship!

Ship Excursions

Cruises give one a taste of the ports they visit–a few culture, architecture, and lifestyle tidbits from each city. It’s a good way to discover where you’d like to go back.

Our itinerary was Rome, Naples, Barcelona (usually Ibiza), Valencia, Marseille, Savona, and back to Rome. Done in seven days. Costa Toscana intends to do this route for some time. Passengers can also begin and end their cruise from Valencia, Marseilles, or Savona.

Considering we had limited time in each port, we decided to focus our attention on food, specific neighborhoods, and churches. The church part was my hankering, and we both wanted the food. The following is a list of to-dos focusing on three cities recommended by this middle-aged writer and her young adult son.

James walking in Napoli. Photo: Cathie Arquilla

Naples: Walk through the working-class neighborhood of Sanità and eat the tasting menu at Michelin recommended Da Concettina ai Tre Santi. On your way back to the ship, visit the Duomo di Napoli and meander down Via San Gregorio Armeno, also known as Christmas Alley for its crafty créches galore.

Valencia: Book a walking tour through the ship. You’ll stroll through the chic shopping streets of the Ensanche neighborhood and stop for horchata at Mercado De Colón, renown for its 20th-century art nouveau architecture and fancy outdoor cafés. The tour did not include inside visits to Mercado Central, which is stunning from the outside. Nor did we go inside the Valencia Cathedral famed for housing the real Holy Grail. This was described correctly as an outdoor walking tour, we covered a lot of ground, but not going inside these two landmarks was a miss for me. I have to go back!

Savona: Take the ship’s guided excursion to Finalborgo and Noli. These are two medieval towns about 30 minutes from Savona.

Take the ship excursion to the medieval town of Finalborgo. Photo: Cathie Arquilla

Finalborgo is beyond picturesque, small enough to wander from medieval walled entrance to Dominican monastery (Santa Caterina’s Cloisters) in a half-hour.  We stopped for a cappuccino in the piazza–perfect.

Get a taste of the Italian lido in Noli. The shore is filled like a cannoli with private beach clubs, each with matching parasols. There are also strips of public beaches, looking much more hodgepodge, but welcoming nonetheless.

The town of Noli is everything an American in Italy wants to feel. La dolce vita all the way. Narrow-cobbled medieval streets, Bouganvillia, and begonias spilling over walls and out of window boxes, gelaterias, whole in the wall fish markets, and vaulted ceiling restaurants…are Noli. I have to go back!

Ship Mates

While I can’t say enough about Costa Toscana’s extraordinary design and its influence on your onboard experience, a cruise – any cruise – is about who you are with. I had the pleasure of experiencing Costa Toscana and its ports of call with my 22-year-old son James.

From The Piazza del Campo with its stunning views overlooking the wake of the ship, to disco dancing at the Colosseo, to room service eggs Benedict, James and I soaked up the ship. And in doing so, we experienced what Costa set out to do with Costa Toscana–to create a ship that is passionately Italian.

Complimenti Costa on your new flagship, Costa Toscana!

 

Cathie Arquilla is both a travel writer and fashion stylist. She is currently a Senior Contributing Writer at GoNOMAD.com. Cathie often sees a destination through a stylish lens, encouraging readers to seek out what is chic and fun to do. As a fashion stylist, Cathie dresses savvy women privately, by appointment, in New York City. Cathie loves skiing, historic wine cellars, and shopping! You can find out more about her at cathiearquilla.com

 

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