Costa’s Italian Style Cruising to make a Comeback!
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Costa Cruises Deck

Costa Cruises made headlines in the cruising industry recently with their announcement that everything old can be ‘new’ again.

According to Neil Palomba, President of Costa Crociere, the cruise line is going to go under an extensive rebranding to give it more of a connection to its Italian heritage.

The ‘Cruising Italian Style’ is coming back gradually to Costa after a long absence and much to the delight of previous passengers. “We are passionate and joyful in everything we do,” he added. “We want to create amazing experiences for our guests and we are proud to be Italian.”

Cruising Italian Style was a symbolic catch-phrase that set Costa Cruises apart from the rest. Costa has been around since 1860 but entered the passenger ship service in 1948. Competition was stiff but word quickly spread of Costa’s ability to provide superior food and friendly, efficient service establishing the foundation of Cruising Italian Style.

In the past 10 years or so Costa removed this specific identity and pursued what its parent company, Carnival Cruises and other major players in the industry were doing.

Whilst in 2014, during the delivery of the Costa Diadema, Costa has gone back to its success formula and is reinstating Cruising Italian Style fleet wide. Costa promises that it is more than just a tagline and the moment the voyage begins, guests will be Cruising Italian Style.

Costa Diadema in Trieste

What this means is to offer a truly authentic Italian experience with all the warmth and friendliness from the staff and crew.

The Italian connection continues with the return of the ‘Buon Viaggio Celebration’ (bon voyage party) which begins the cruise and ends with ‘Arriverderci Night’. This is just a sampling of what is to follow for the rest of the sailing.

Meet the captain at the ‘Buenvenuto A Bordo’ a cocktail party and become a national for fun at the ‘Festa Italiana.’ It is as if an Italian street festival has been transported to the water.

Play bocce, dance the Tarantella, create a Venetian mask or enter and have your face painted Italian-style. There will also be cooking demonstrations to pick up some authentic recipes to try at home.

Guests will notice a change with the exquisite cuisine made with the flavors and products of the Mediterranean nation. Italian specialties will touch on fare from Milan to Sicily and include gourmet pizza, pasta, frosty gelato, frothy cappuccino and steaming-hot espresso served in cozy, romantic bistros.

Costa Diadema La Piazza

Get ready for your Costa cruise with its version of the Roman Bacchanal. This is yet another favourite and signature nighttime Costa activity from its previous days of cruising Italian style. The Staff will see to it that guests are involved and having a fun time. Walk in the Bacchanal Parade with nothing but a toga wrapped around your body. A farewell talent show will finish off the sailing.

Other nations that share the Mediterranean with Italy are also well represented with the ‘Notte Mediterranea’. This is a special series based on other countries. Entertainment and buffets are themed to the country represented. It could be Spain, France, Greece and Turkey. Special “Guest Passports” are distributed and are stamped each night. Get all nights stamped and you can win a special discount on your next cruise.

Join in conga lines and dance to the rhythm of the steel drums with ‘Notte Tropical’. Complete with Italian flair this event includes ice carvings and tasting typical Cicchetti tapas.

Costa has been gradually pursuing this tagline since 2014, with menu revamps and different performers.

Costa is also aiming to increase their market in Asian waters, with four ships heading to there in 2016.

According to Palomba, the changes are coming as “We needed to take advantage of this increasing demand by adding more ships to the Asian market”.

The new neoCollection fleet which will be a premium Costa experience consists of neoClassica, the neoRiviera, and the neoRomantica which are set to go on longer sailings and to more exotic destinations.

Costa believes its vision of returning to its previous signature ‘Cruising Italian Style’ will make the line the “most successful and profitable brand in Europe while exceeding guest expectations.

Images courtesy of Costa Cruises

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The Spanish Port of Vigo
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Spanish Port of Vigo

Many cruises that sail from the Med to the north will stop at the Port of Vigo. Located on the Atlantic coast the Spanish port ranks first in passenger traffic across the north of Spain.

That claim has been held for the last five years and the port has an annual average of more than 215,000 passengers.

Since 2009, the government invested in the port with improvements in functionality and efficiency and a major refurbishment and renovation of the docks. Every year since then, the Port of Vigo receives visits from nearly every major cruise line.

Getting Around in Vigo

The cruise port of Vigo is within walking distance of the historic city centre. The main Tourist Office is located opposite the cruise port where you can pick up maps and be steered towards the major points of interest.

If you wish to tour outside of the city, a train from the main station will suffice. It is faster to reach the station by taxi. However, those who enjoy a brisk walk can be there in about 20 minutes.

Independence of the Seas in Vigo

What to See in Vigo

Vigo is a historic city that has gained popularity in the cruise world due to its close vicinity with Santiago De Compostela as well as several other historical sites. As soon as you you step out of the cruise port, you will see an enormous shopping centre, a perfect place to look at the latest fashion or possibly purchase a memento of your time in Vigo.

A quick walk through the Avenia de Castillo promenade will drop you right at the historic centre with a plethora of activities for sightseeing.

Spain is a prime location to view ancient churches and there are two of note in Vigo. The Santa Maria de Castrelos dates back to the 13th century and La Colegiata de la Santa Maria la Mayor, which is from the 16th century.

Housed in a former courthouse, complete with a jail, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Vigo’s collection offers the most modern and daring art.

Witness one of the oldest and most famous fish markets in the Galician region of Spain at the Mercado de Berbes. Watch the auction and sale of such specialities as spider crabs, octopi and fresh turbot.

The Castro fortress was constructed to protect the city and dates back to 1665 and is another popular photo spot.

La Colegiata de la Santa Maria la Mayor

Visit Santiago de Compostela

There’s no better opportunity than to do an excursion to Santiago de Compostela. At one time, this was one of the most important religious sites in the world where travellers from around the world would make pilgrimages. Many today still follow those footsteps of the past.

The city offers a unique experience in its UNESCO World Heritage old town with the cathedral being a standout. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is said to contain the remains of St. James, who is one of Christ’s 12 Apostles. Just looking at all the carvings and religious icons on the wall can take up the entire excursion.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

A prominent landmark in Santiago de Compostela is Palacio de Raxoi located directly across from the cathedral. The Neo-classical design structure dates from the 18th Century.

The Palacio de Xelmírez is 12th Century Romanesque architecture. Inside its vaulted ceilings is unique and decorated with scenes of a medieval feast.

Be adventurous with the palate and sample ‘pulpo’. This is cooked octopus and is one of the local delicacies that are famous in Santiago.

Other sightseeing options include the Cies Islands, a series of islands that will take you to some great beaches. There’s also an extensive nature reserve, perfect for taking photos of the exotic wildlife.

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A Look at Cruise & Maritime Voyages Magellan
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Cruise & Maritime Voyages Magellan

Cruise & Maritime Voyages cater mainly to British passengers and offer itineraries from many UK ports. They have kept their fleet small in size with traditional style ships and their success formula is well proven. With their flagship, the Magellan they will offer many new ports and itineraries.

The Magellan is well suited for her short and long haul duties and the ship accommodates over 1,250 passengers amongst nine decks. She also follows the protocol of the other members of the Cruise & Maritime Voyages fleet and remains ‘Adult-Only’. Her maiden voyage to the Faroe Islands took place in March 2015.

CABINS

The ship is ideal for those that seek old world elegance with contemporary amenities. There are 15 categories of cabins ranging from Inside cabins, Ocean View staterooms, Junior Suites and Royal Suites. All grades have a décor that is elegant and with ample storage space. Flat screen television, hairdryers and personal safes come as standard.

There are 14 cabins that have balconies and boast fantastic views no matter what deck they are on.

Magellan cat 12 outside cabin

DINING

There’s always an impressive menu in the two main dining rooms, The Waldorf and Kensington. International cuisine is served and may be themed to a particular port of call. For those that want a more informal dining experience, Raffles Bistro offers a buffet style option and the pool deck is perfect for a quick poolside snack.

The three lounges onboard are well stocked and each one has their own personality. Sinatra’s is a modern dazzler that’s nothing short of sophistication, whilst Churchill’s is refined and comfortable. The third area for a drink is at Neptune’s Observation Bar near the pool area.

Magellan Kensington Restaurant

ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT

The Magellan has more laid back and refined activities. This is not the ship for rock climbing and devotees of water parks!

Enrich the mind in interesting seminars and complimentary activities at the newly opened Additions Programme. The Programme is available whenever you want, so you can plan your port excursions accordingly.

Get creative at the Arts and Crafts centre where you can learn how to make beautiful artwork such as beaded necklaces or mosaics. You may have to purchase some materials but the cost is well worth both the knowledge and the artwork that you will create.

Magellan also has a well stocked library for those that like to relax with a good book.

Magellan Library

ENTERTAINMENT

The Main Show Lounge, with full orchestration has two levels and plays host to shows, guest entertainers and concerts.

Check out the hilarious comedic styling of the wacky stand-ups at the ‘A Laugh on the Ocean Waves Show’. The shows take place in the evening and end with a Q&A session where you can ask the comedians anything about their life experiences.

Music is provided in Scott’s Nightclub with many choosing to dance until the early hours.

Magellan main show lounge

SPA AND POOLS

Speaking of pools, there are two of them onboard plus three hot tubs. Enjoy a swim and then head off to the whirlpools to relax.

For pampering, head to the Wellness Centre which offers a varied menu of treatments, all of which are sure to renew the body and soul. There’s a sauna to take advantage of afterwards to open the pores and maybe strike up a conversation with some new people. Make time for the relaxation area as well, the centre has hotbeds and a large hot tub that is the perfect way to end a day at the spa.

The Magellan not only has everything you would expect from this cruise brand but also offers many interesting and diverse itineraries. A cruise holiday that reflects a truly British cruise experience is available without the fuss of flying out to get to the ship.

Magellan Lido Pool

UPCOMING ITINERARIES

Leaving from its homeport, London Tilbury, the summer schedule for the Magellan promises the ‘Scandinavian Cities & Fairytales’, ‘Norwegian fjords’ and the ‘British Isles’ in 8 night or more segments and a 33 night ‘Treasures of the West Indies Cruise’ departing in November of this year. This sailing promises to take in nine Caribbean islands.

The Magellan will then be heading towards warmer waters once again and sail to South America with a 43 day Amazon, West Indies and Azores cruise. Departing from Tilbury on the 5th of January next year, many a fantasy will be achieved for passengers who will explore the mighty Amazon River and its neighbouring rain forests. The cruise is reportedly selling out quickly.

More recently, the cruise industry became alive with the announcement that Cruise & Maritime Voyages will offer a Grand Maiden Round the World Cruise onboard the Magellan.

Departing on 5th January 2017, the ship will return on the 5th of May, meaning that there’s over 120 days of adventure. The ship will head through exotic locations such as the Panama Canal, French Polynesia, Australia, South East Asia, India, the Red Sea, Suez, the Holy Land and the Mediterranean amongst many other ports.

Click here to view the Magellan Itineraries

Images courtesy of Cruise & Maritime Voyages

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Afternoon Tea on Britannia
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Afternoon tea on P&O Britannia

Afternoon tea is a real favourite with British cruisers and is served as part of the fare with P&O Cruises.

Britannia the latest edition to the fleet offers an upgraded afternoon tea service in the Epicurian restaurant which can be booked from 4 months before your cruise starts.The service also known as afternoon tea with Eric Lanlard comes with a cover charge of £15.

Apart from the fantastic range of Teas supplied by Twinnings there are many treats on offer such as savoury gruyère cheese éclairs with brie, Pistachio and Strawberry Tart and Financier Cake infused with Lemon and Cardamom. Click here for the full menu.

As you can see from the menu P&O really have raised the bar from the traditional tea service to something far more extravagant and there is not a cucumber sandwich in sight!

Pictured below is our latest facebook post featuring Eric Lanlard.

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My Experience on the Norwegian Epic
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Norwegian Epic

After 26 cruises, it is clear to say that my favourite holiday is onboard a ship. Every ship and passenger has their own personality and passengers who have had a great experience tend not to venture elsewhere.

For cruise number 27, I changed from my usual cruise holiday style of small and intimate or mid-size. After avoiding the now popular ultra megaships, I finally took the plunge to spend a holiday with 4000 others.

Wouldn’t it take hours to obtain breakfast with the hoards and masses? It is one thing going on a ships tour but to actually be with all these people whilst at sea was a concern.

The opportunity was available at the right price and a much needed break was in order. The choice was confirmed to give the Norwegian Epic a try on a 7 night Western Mediterranean itinerary. The ports of call I had been to before on three previous occasions but there is always something different and new to visit even in the same port of call.

My husband, son and I discussed what we thought would be the pros and cons. As for breakfast, I rationalised that we could always dine for breakfast in our cabin if it was a mad house at the buffet.

The Epic came into service in 2010 and carries over 4,000 passengers; so she has had a few years and experience under her belt. The ship has a good range of staterooms including family cabins, spa cabins and for solo cruisers, studio cabins, a first in the industry.

The ship was huge but easy enough to get around. We discovered that despite its massive size, this ultra modern vessel still supplied a cosy feel that was just right for our family.

Our cabin was a mini-suite no. 8175. All cabins have what is known as a ‘new wave’ design with curved walls rather than being boxy. It creates the illusion that the cabin is larger than it is. I would imagine that my steward would have quite a job to make up the room because of the narrowness from the bed to the wall.

Norwegian Epic Mini Suite

I peeked into the ‘regular’ balcony cabin and they appear to be no bigger other than in length. The sofa pulls out to become a third bed. However, the bed portion was rather small and my son’s feet overlapped over the end. I understand that this feature is in all standard balcony cabins too. Personally, I would call this cabin a deluxe balcony and not a mini suite.

On the plus side our cabin had the largest shower I have experienced at sea with a large rain shower head. The shower has a frosted glass door and stops the tendency of flooding the floor of the cabin, which is a common problem on most ships.

We took advantage of a the alternative restaurant pre-paid dining plan, which afforded us access to the specialty restaurants such as ‘Le Bistro’ (French), ‘Teppanyaki’ (Japanese) ‘La Cucina’ (Italian) ‘Cagney’s Steakhouse’ and ‘Churrascaria’ (Brazilian grilled meats and salad bar).  All of our meals surpassed my expectations. Experiencing blasé food or cuisine that just has too much salt added has been a complaint of mine in the past.

Freestyle dining (non-surcharge venues) included in the price of the cruise are the ‘Manhattan Room’ and ‘Taste’ (both traditional cruise main venues), the ‘Garden Café’ and the ‘Great Outdoors’ (lido buffet & grill), ‘Shanghai’s’ (Chinese and noodle fare) and ‘O’Sheehan’s’ serving British and Irish pub food.

Norwegian Epic Manhattan Room

We never tried any of the Freestyle dining options other than the Garden Café and we were able to dine for breakfast each and every day without being overwhelmed by the crowds; it was very impressive to see how the Epic exceeded in the world of buffets not only with quality of the food served but with the arrangement of the stations, décor and seating. Never did the room feel crowded.

The ‘Mandara Spa’ is notable. I indulged in three different treatments and my husband had one as did my son. They were all relaxing and uplifting. Spa staterooms and mini suites come with their very own key card to give you access to a private whirlpool, heated lounges, and sauna and steam rooms. One of our appointments was lost as the therapist went ashore. To make up for the rescheduling, the manager allotted all three of us with keys to experience the private spa room.

Norwegian Epic Mandara Spa

The centre of deck 15 contains the ‘Aqua Park’. There are several slides including the only bowl slide called Epic Plunge with inner tubes provided for those seeking an adrenal rush. There two main pools and four hot tubs.

Nearby is a children’s paddling pool and water fun centre that features, water sprays and a small slide and colourful decor with sculptured animals tailored for the youngsters. Within this area there are also two rock climbing walls.

Another area called H2O has a pool for adults only and is located in the aft of the ship. Although smaller in size, there are two hot tubs available. You can lounge in the area and be entertained by the outdoor giant TV screen with mood-enhancing visuals. In the evenings, movies are shown.

At night, the Epic really rocks!. Norwegian Cruise Line has always been known for great entertainment every since the Norway sailed transatlantic. We opted for the show ‘Legends’ based on the musical legends. Instead of the ones that appear everywhere (Michael Jackson, Madonna and Elvis), the Epic chose slightly more unusual singers to honour such as Gloria Estefan, Rod Stewart and Sting.

The show was in the main theatre and reservations (cost-free) were needed. Reserving a performance does alleviate the crowds and you are assured of a seat. However, the drawback was the same show played in this venue the entire week.

Other performances took place in smaller lounges and during our cruise consisted of Dreamgirls (homage to Motown), a ventriloquist and magician from Madrid, a Beatles tribute band, 70’s dancing music and nightly jazz. The “Cirque Dreams” (with or without dinner) is performed nightly at the ‘Spiegel Tent’ for an additional fee

Another appealing aspect of the Epic is its huge assortment of lounges. The ‘Bliss Ultra Lounge’ is dark, opulent and has a sparkling floor, velvet drapes and high leather seats and day beds.

If the weather has been too warm for your liking, cool off after a long day at the ‘Svedka Ice Bar’. It is a must one-time experience to enter into the 17 degrees Fahrenheit pub filled with ice furniture, ice artwork, and ice goblets. There is a cover charge that includes a drink and use of a parka with hood and gloves as you enter to chill out but stay warm.

Norwegian Epic Ice Bar

Other watering holes, clubs and hideaways just pop up as you meander on deck 5, 6 or 7.

The ship contains an expansive Las Vegas-style ‘Casino’ with more penny slots than I have ever seen before on a ship. However, you can lose just as much on a penny machine as playing blackjack or roulette. Just ask my husband!

If you’re an avid cruiser looking to test out any of these big-ship amenities just to see what they are like, the Norwegian Epic would be a good place to start. As a family who prefers a smaller ship, more pros than cons are apparent. Another mega-ship experience is on the horizon to compare it to the Epic in the near future.

Images courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

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