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Costa Message: Forever Italy

A couple of months back, we were in Italy, which in our world is always a nice place to be. Today would be an even better time to be there, because it’s Republic Day, a national holiday to celebrate the end of Italian royalty (except for Sophia Loren, of course).

The ship we boarded in Naples that day was the almost-new Costa Diadema. At a press Neil Palombaconference that week it was made abundantly clear by Neil Palomba, President of Costa Crociere, that his cruise line is first and foremost for Italians and that — while owned by Carnival Corporation — it’s run by Italians.

As they say in Italy…si?

He sounded a little defensive, almost as if he was getting some heat with talk of Costa ships going off to America and China, among other worldly cruise hotspots. More than 60 per cent of Italian cruisers choose Costa and this week the cruise line is showing once again it’s not forgetting its roots.

The press release that announced Republic Day celebrations four times on three Costa ships made a point of saying the ships would be flying the Italian flag. Thinking that the ships must be registered elsewhere (most are registered in tax Diademahavens), we found that all three are registered in Italy. As is the Diadema — you can see its flag modestly displayed halfway up the funnel. 

The celebrations are while the ships are docked at ports in Denmark, Germany and Norway, so we can only assume Costa wants to show the locals what they’re missing by not being Italian…as well as involving the Italian embassies, of course.

This is the 69th June 2 since the Italians exiled the monarchy for its unpopular decision to back Benito Mussolini, the dictator who ruled Italy during the early years of World War II, and it’s 68 years since Costa became a cruise line. They’ve grown old — or up — together, and Costa’s never going to miss a chance to remind Italy’s people.

In the news…

• Chinese ship capsizes on Yangtze River; hundreds feared dead
• New Royal Caribbean sale starts today: up to 30% off fares

Today at portsandbows.com: Tallest of the tall ships

Norwegian Spirit
7 nights
December 5, 2015
Port Canaveral (return): Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Maarten
Inside: $519
Cost per day: $74

The Business of Ship Godmothers


Is the whole Godmother thing wearing a little thin in the cruise world, are people getting tired of celebrities, or is there a shortage of “acceptable” celebrities?

The Godmother of Anthem of the Seas, the new Royal Caribbean ship that’s being christened in Southampton in two weeks, is Emma Wilby.

Emma Wilby?

She’s from the Wilbys of Kinloss, Scotland, where she sings in the Military Wives Choir. She’s undoubtedly a lovely lass, as the Scots would say, and when she christens the Emma WilbyAnthem she’ll sing an anthem, a special song written specifically for the occasion.

When all is said and done, she will be a celebrity of sorts…for singing, for christening and for being a ship’s godmother. She’ll join a Royal Caribbean list of godmothers that include Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Steffi Graf and Jane Seymour. Sophia Loren is also a Godmother, and so are Queen Elizabeth (not the ship) and her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Celebrity company that is, and if Emma feels a little out of place it’s easy to understand why. In addition to being a military wife — her husband is a royal engineer in the British Army — Emma is a travel agent.

And that is one of the pools of people into which cruise lines are dipping to find their godmothers now. She is not the first travel agent to be so selected, and one cruise line went in-house and picked employees to do the honors.

The conclusion to be drawn is that either celebrities bring too much “baggage” with them, making it more difficult to use them to market such a wholesome product as cruising…or maybe it’s just that travel agents just sell more tickets.

Today at portsandbows.com: Princess ship a bilingual experience in Japan

Holland America Eurodam
12 nights
May 8, 2015
Copenhagen (return): Kiel, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin
Inside: $829
Cost per day: $69

Cruise Ships: Venice Vixens or Victims?


Good luck with this one…

Environmentalists are urging Italian super star actress Sophia Loren to abandon ship, and disassociate herself with the MSC Divina, renounce her role as the ship's Godmother, in the name of conserving Venice's fragile ecosystem.

And good luck with this one, too…

Conservationists under the No Big Ships Venice Committee banner want to keep all large cruise liners out of Venetian waters because "Venice and its lagoon are both world heritage sites and risk an environmental disaster every day because of the passage of these monsters of the sea" because they pollute the air and their vibrations and wakes erode the foundations of the old buildings.

It's almost like saying that New Orleans should be wiped off the map because it sits below sea level.

Not going to happen.

On our last visit to Venice, just a few weeks ago, we were curious about this problem with erosion. Now we're hardly environmental experts, but the first thing that occurred to us was that cruise ships make up a tiny portion of the boat population of Venice. And they're not all the size of motorboats…we saw many BIG private yachts (see above), not to mention an army of "water taxis" that are the ONLY way for tourists to travel in Venice.

The second thing that occurred to us is that the wake of our ship — the Oceania Riviera — looked milder than the wakes from some of the other ships on the fringe of the city. Undoubtedly the speed of these "monsters of the seas" is controlled by law.

And the third thing was that the cruise ships — the Riviera, the Celebrity Solstice and the Costa Fortuna were all in port — are moored outside the lagoon, unless we read maps incorrectly. Let's put it this way: You have to take a private water taxi to get anywhere close to the Grand Canal that meanders through Venice.

It's not that people shouldn't be concerned about erosion in Venice. It's that if there is an environmental disaster waiting to happen, it appears that cruise ships are only a part of the problem.

Holland America Zaandam
7 nights
June 24, 2012
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Anchorage
Oceanview: $399
Cost per day: $57

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