Image: Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica
Costa Cruises
The Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica at port in Genoa, Italy.
By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 6/15/2009 5:44:24 PM ET 2009-06-15T21:44:24

What would Christopher Columbus think of all the hoopla surrounding the recent dual launch of the Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica in his hometown of Genoa, Italy? Both cruise ships were christened in grand Italian fashion that included airplane acrobats, lasers, music, and enough confetti to paper the entire region of Liguria. One thing is certain — ocean travel has come a long way since the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

Costa Pacifica
The sister ship of the Costa Concordia and of the Costa Serena, the Costa Pacifica also weighs in at 114,500-tons. Likewise Pacifica accommodates 3,780 guests in 1,504 well-appointed staterooms, including 70 suites and 99 Samsara Spa cabins and suites, which have private spa access.

The ship was designed with the winter Mediterranean season in mind —hence the two covered pools and the spa solarium, which allow guests to enjoy sunny skies on days that can get chilly. Like its sister ships, Pacifica was designed by Joe Farcus, the Miami-based architect who for many years has designed Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Fun Ships,” which show off his distinctive style of glitz and glamour. Dubbed the “ship of music,” Pacifica is musically themed throughout with artwork and special lighting. The theme extends beyond interior design with a specially commissioned soundtrack by composer Mauro Pagani to a recording studio and music lessons. The ship even has a ‘maestro di musica’ in addition to a cruise director.

Among the ship’s amenities are: Samsara Spa, at 23,000 square feet the largest spa-and-fitness center at sea; three swimming pools, two with their own retractable glass dome roofs; a giant movie screen; five Jacuzzis; a Grand Prix race-car driving simulator; a chocolate bar that offers nine kinds of fruit dipped in a chocolate fountain; Playstation World; and menus created by the Italian culinary innovator and Michelin-starred chef Ettore Bocchia. As on other Costa ships, you’ll find a towering atrium and theater, Internet café and library, shopping promenade, kids club and pool and 13 bars that are always thronged with guests.

The ship’s two main dining rooms, My Way Restaurant and New York New York Restaurant, serve dinners in the traditional manner, with assigned times and assigned tables (breakfasts and lunches are open seating). The dinner menus play up Mediterranean fare, with a different region of Europe highlighted each night, and they are accompanied by an excellent selection of wines.

Costa Cruises
The new ships are illuminated at port in Genoa, Italy.
La Paloma Restaurant, the ship’s casual buffet restaurant, is arranged into several serving stations, which are sometimes devoted to different ethnic cuisines; it also houses a pizzeria, pasta station and ice-cream machines. Club Blue Moon is Pacifica’s pay-as-you-go specialty restaurant where for €25 guests can dine on Ettore Bocchia’s “molecular cuisine.” Another dining option is the Samsara Restaurant, reserved exclusively for passengers in Samsara Spa cabins, where guests can dine on health-conscious fare.

One really cool technical innovation stood out during the Pacifica launch — it’s called a Totem. The Totem is a large high-definition touch screen kiosk that enables guests to book all onboard activities from shore excursions to specialty restaurant reservations– and that means no long lines or waiting on the phone. There are nine Totems around the Pacifica and Luminosa. Costa President Gianni Onorato said if all goes well, kiosks will be installed on Costa’s other ships by the end of this year.

Costa Luminosa
Smaller than the Pacifica, the 92,600-ton Costa Luminosa carries 2,826 guests in 1,130 staterooms — including 52 Samsara, 718 veranda cabins, 50 suites and four Samsara suites inside the spa area. Costa calls Luminosa the “ship of light” and its contemporary interior design was conceived by Farcus who utilized rich materials and amazing light affects to bring out the ship’s incredible features. Public areas are fashioned with mother of pearl, 11,000 square feet of ebony and ivory, 20 different kinds of marble, 10,000 feet of innovative LED lights, and 120 Murano glass chandeliers.

The ship is also filled with amazing art offering some 288 original works and over 4,700 copies. The highlight is “Reclining Woman 2004”, a 2,000 pound bronze sculpture by Fernando Botero, which is the focal point of the spectacular central atrium.

Top 10 short cruise vacationsLuminosa is not just the ship of light and entertainment, but also sport, wellness and outstanding cuisine that is spread over four restaurants and eleven bars. On board guests can go jogging or skating on the roller-skating track or take advantage of the state-of-the-art fitness center, featuring innovative gym equipment that includes the first at sea Kinesis circuit designed to improve fitness and muscle tone. Afterwards, guests can relax and indulge in many treatments in the 11,000 square foot Samsara Spa.

There are a host of leading-edge innovations on board including a 20-seat 4D cinema that takes guests on a wild sensory ride, a golf and Grand Prix simulator, Playstation World, and the aforementioned Totem kiosks.

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If you’re planning on cruising in Europe or the Middle East, Costa’s two new editions are hard to beat. Both combine the very best of line’s innovative product: wellness, entertainment, exclusive itineraries, art, fine food and wine, relaxation, and great fun Italian atmosphere.

If you go:
Costa Pacifica will be sailing this summer and fall round-trip from Civitavecchia, Italy (Rome’s homeport) with 7-day voyages around the Western Mediterranean. Fares start at $899. In January 2010 the Pacifica will offer 12-day voyages from Civitavecchia, Italy to Greece, Israel and Egypt — fares start at $1,129.

Costa Luminosa will be sailing this summer round-trip from Amsterdam offering Norway and Baltic cruises lasting between 11 and 14 days. Fares start at $1,799. Starting in late fall the ship will offer 7-day cruises of the Arabic Gulf from Dubai — fares start at $899. All aforementioned prices are based on inside stateroom, double occupancy. Visit Costa Cruises Web site for more details.

Sound off! Do you have a comment, an idea, a complaint or a problem for Anita to solve? Send her an e-mail and you might find yourself in her next column. And check out her blog, ExpertCruiser.com.

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