Costa Luminosa lights the way

By Diane Tierney

The big, bright, bold decor of the 2,800-passenger Costa Luminosa likely contributes to the upbeat, lively and fun atmosphere on this ship. Almost every nautical inch features vivid colours from the bright yellow funnel, awnings and hot tubs on the top decks, to red, gold, or-ange, purple and blue hues in restaurants and bars below. There’s also a special focus on lighting since “luminosa” means “bright” in Italian.

From the moment you step into the atrium, you’re surrounded by a sea of caramel tones punctuated by turquoise and furnished with whimsical black and white leather chairs. But it’s the enormous 910 kg black sculpture of a voluptuous naked woman lying on her stomach that’s the centrepiece. Created by the famous Spanish artist Fernando Botera, the reclining lady is the subject of many of the artist’s sculp-tures around the world.

The dozen bars, lounges, restaurants and casino inspire activity with their colourful surroundings. Passengers are fully engaged in singing and dancing whenever music plays — from morning line-dancing by the pool, until the wee hours at a pool party. In the restaurants, the waiters sing, dance and lead a parade of passengers among the tables on special occasions such as formal night.

It’s important to point out that Costa is an Italian cruise line that ca-ters to this culture. Other Europeans and North Americans are wel-come to adapt and join the fun but announcements are in Italian mainly, sometimes German and French, and only occasionally in Eng-lish — “unless it’s important” said a Reception manager. However, the staff can speak English and your daily newsletter keeps you informed of the activities.

Interesting ship features include a Grand Prix race car simulator so you can unleash your inner Andretti and try world-renowned tracks.

There’s also an 18-hole championship golf simulator and 4D cinema playing movies such “Dino Safari” that’s a virtual thrill ride.

The Samsara Spa and gym is about 23,000 square feet with a wide range of equipment, an enormous thalassotherapy pool, treatment rooms, saunas, two Turkish baths and more.

The theatre shows are excellent with top-quality singers and dancers, amazing acrobats, fascinating magicians, and befitting of the Lumi-nosa and its name — impressive laser light shows enhanced by dra-matic music. Even the talent show performed by crew is so good it re-ceived a standing ovation.

As for dining, the menus only have a few meat and fish choices and those that are offered may come cold, overcooked or bland. There is a special section on the menu listing higher-quality beef, veal, ham and lobster, but they cost an extra 7 to 25 Euro. Instead, the best meals are pasta dishes.

After a day or two of eating on board, you might find that eating off the ship in the interesting ports is a better idea — and enhances your ex-perience of the destinations anyway. Many passengers talked about this being their plan from the get-go.

There are a few specialty restaurants on board that provide better meals for a fee. The Luminosa Club offers steak and seafood and the Samsara Restaurant offers a range of light, healthy choices related to the spa. Both cost 25 Euro per person (unless you have a Samsara cabin which includes free access to that restaurant).

Even hamburger fare, and surprisingly pizza, have their own special place and cost an extra 9 Euro per person. The Amarillo Gelateria serves sweets for an extra charge as well.

There’s also a charge for room service meals, unless you book a pre-mium cabin that includes it. Options are basic such as a Continental breakfast, sandwiches, soups and salads.

Service is generally slow by North American standards. In fact, there are no waiters wandering around the pools offering drinks at all. You have to get drinks yourself from most bars, so expect to wait your turn getting the attention of very busy bartenders.

In the restaurants waiters are attentive and friendly, but since they look after many passengers, your patience is also required.

Balancing out less than stellar food and service, the Luminosa’s afford-able price (as low as $517 CDN for a week from Venice) and terrific itineraries still make it a popular choice. For example, the Venice voy-age stops at unforgettable hidden gems such as Bari, Italy, Kotor, Montenegro and Split, Croatia, as well as Athens and Katakalon (Olympia) in Greece.

Since the ship (launched in 2009) is beautifully maintained, spotlessly clean and the beds are soft, many passengers simply appreciate where the ship sails and are happy to choose add-ons as needed.

Being immersed in the Luminosa’s cruise style is an adjustment from North American lines, but when you see how much fun the Italians around you are having, you realize you’re not only seeing great ports, but you’re experiencing a floating piece of Italy as well.

For more information visit www.costacruise.com.