The 2022-built, LNG-powered Costa Toscana emerged as the Italian line's flagship as a vessel that is decidedly European and incredibly upscale, a bit of a change from the Costa ships that first emerged when Carnival Corporation took over the line in 2000.
The use of color to differentiate Costa Toscana's public rooms is immediately apparent, from the forest greens of the Kartell Caffe on Deck 8 amidships to the fire-engine red of the aptly-branded Campari Bar on Deck 7. To that end, wandering the decks of Costa Toscana is a journey in discovery -- not just of the ship itself, but of Europe and Italy. Deck 17 hosts the bright-orange Aperol Spritz bar, for instance -- a partnership with the Italian brand that created the iconic drink in the 1920's in Venice. Campari is another famous Italian brand, while Kartell is a Milan-based company that produces coffee and incredible glassware (which you can purchase right onboard Costa Toscana).
In fact, though the vessel was designed primarily by Adam D. Tihany (Carnival Corporation's go-to-guy for, well, nearly everything these days), Tihany and team sourced all lighting, furniture, fabrics, and accessories found onboard from 15 different Italian firms, giving Costa Toscana its unique, authentic, look.
Some of the ship's best features include the spectacular Volare Skywalk that whisks guests from Deck 18 to a prominent perch high above the ship's two waterslides (great for viewing) and the sports court for a panoramic view of the entire vessel; and the indoor-outdoor La Spiaggia Beach Club that spans two decks on Deck 16 and is topped with a massive glass-domed roof. Unlike most ships, the roof doesn't retract -- instead, windows at the aft end of the room open, allowing it to be used in all weather conditions. It is also the site of late-night parties like the Silent Disco and the La Notte Bianca (White Night) deck party -- both of which get going at Midnight.
That, too, is a feature of Costa Toscana, and Costa in general: things really kick off after 8 p.m., and some key events don't start until 11 p.m. or later. Everyone stays up -- even the kids, of which there are plenty aboard Costa Toscana. We've never seen more strollers, period, on a cruise ship. This is a truly multi-generational ship, one where the average age skews into the 40-year-old demographic.
Crew aboard Costa Toscana are all true polyglots, switching effortlessly from French to Italian to German to English. Service is, by and large, gracious; we only had one negative interaction with a staff member who just truly didn't care what we were asking for. Chalk that up to someone having a bad day; the remainder of Costa Toscana's crew speak flawless English and are keen to ensure you have a great holiday.
For those looking for a truly European-style cruise experience, Costa Toscana delivers, offering a gracious vessel that is capable of appealing to North American and international cruisers alike. It's style, paired with substance.
Costa Toscana is a ship for entertainment, be it indoors or poolside.
The ship has no traditional atrium. Instead, a three-story space at the center of the ship known as the Colosseo functions as an entertainment pavilion for vocal and visual performances ranging from guest headliners to full-blown dance productions.
Spanning Decks 6,7 and 8 and flanked by three stories of glass windows on both port and starboard sides, this circular space is also situated near the Kartell Caffe coffee bar; the Campari Bar; and the Caffe Vergnano 1882 on Deck 6. Even if you're not directly viewing the performances, you can always hear them from some of the key bars on the ship. Public rehearsals are held here during the day, allowing passengers to glimpse the work that performers put into their nightly shows.
Other entertainment venues include the aft-facing outdoor Infinity Bar on Deck 7, where a DJ spins tunes until at least one in the morning; the La Spiaggia Beach Club, which hosts its own DJ and events poolside; and the Poltrona Frau Arena on Decks 6 and 7 -- a sort of scaled-down main show lounge equipped with its own dance floor and built-in bar.
Dancing and music are also held nightly in the classy Leonardo Gran Bar on Deck 6, a massive venue reminiscent of the large single-story shipboard lounges of the 1990's. Spanning the entire width of the vessel, this cozy nightspot decked out in wood tones and blues is the place to see and be seen for the dancing set.
In keeping with the multitude of nationalities onboard Costa Toscana, entertainment tends to be musical and very visual in nature. It's also leaps and bounds over the standard North American cruise fare: onboard bands and performers are more likely to cover songs by Annie Lennox, Coldplay, Jennifer Lopez and Florence and the Machine than, say, Billy Joel and ABBA. One evening performance even offered up fabulous renditions of key songs from "The Lion King" and concluded with a spine-tingling vocal performance of Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer's "Now We Are Free" from the 2000 movie, "Gladiator".
There is no outdoor movie screen aboard Costa Toscana -- which we frankly didn't miss.
Costa Toscana has a total of 2,663 staterooms for passengers to choose from, split across several categories. These range from economical inside cabins with no window to spacious oceanviews, staterooms with balconies, and full-blown suites.
Staterooms are thoughtfully designed across the board, with vibrant colors, unique design accents, and comfortable furnishings. A great departure from the bland palette North American cruise lines rely on, our Balcony Stateroom included no less than three shades of blue; two shades of orange and red; and not an earth tone to be found.
Nicel touches include multiple lighting options, from overhead lights to accent and reading lights over the sofa/daybed and bed -- though balconies curiously have no passenger-controllable lighting. Beds are recessed into a small alcove with attractive blue-and-white padding on walls, and daybeds and sitting areas are adorned with a colored, patterned wall that also doubles as a work of art in its own right.
The real winner is the cabin bathrooms. Though these vary in size with cabin grade, our balcony stateroom included a marble-clad bathroom with a separate shower stall with a glass door, bookended by a frosted window that opens into the main bedroom (a privacy curtain can be shut to cover this, if desired). Multiple storage racks and shelves are built-in to the bathroom design, which feels far more upscale than most mainstream cruise ships -- a radical departure from the plastic-molded cruise ship bathrooms of the past.
One curio that North American cruisers are likely to notice is the lack of mini-bars in balcony-category staterooms and lower, though suites offer this amenity. Rooms include two-pronged European style power outlets and USB connections, but no North American outlets.
With the average cruise aboard Costa Toscana lasing a week in duration, passengers have their work cut out for them if they want to make it to all 21 of Costa Toscana's different dining venues onboard.
Of course, some of these are main dining rooms and buffet restaurants serving up an identical menu, albeit in different settings. But even the buffet restaurants aboard Costa Toscana (which, curiously, are located on Deck 6 and Deck 8) offer up plenty of tasty Italian and European specialties that are worth your time.
In addition to the included fare, Costa Toscana has a multitude of specialty restaurants. These range from the combination pub-and-steakhouse Heineken Star Bar on Deck 7 aft, to the Teppanyaki restaurant on Deck 8 forward, and the Pummid'Oro Pizzeria on Deck 8 forward. Yes, you have to pay for pizza on Costa Toscana -- and yes, it's worth the modest cost, with most pizza's running between nine and 12 Euros.
Other specialty restaurants include KikiPoke, a lunchtime pool deck Poke joint; Green Healthy Food on Deck 18 poolside serving up wraps, salads and fruits; Sushino at Costa (sushi and sashimi); the Ferrari Spazio Bollicine Restaurants (wines paired with light bites); Archipelago, with set menus curated by noted chefs; and The Salty Beach Street Food on Deck 16, which serves up lunch and very late-night burgers -- it's open from 10 p.m. until six in the morning.
Suite and Elite passengers of Costa's Circle C past passenger program are invited to dine in their own intimate restaurant on Deck 8 forward. The Bellavista Restaurant is an elegantly-styled venue that wouldn't be out of place on upscale Carnival brand Seabourn, serving up cuisine that is prepared a' la minute for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There are some differences an English-speaking audience should be aware of. While the ship has a dedicated English-language ambassador and prints all relevant notices, including the "Oggi a Bordo" Daily Program, in English, your experience ashore will depend largely on how many other English guests are aboard. And that varies because, unlike North American ships (but common for some European lines), Costa Toscana embarks and disembarks passengers in almost every port on its Mediterranean itinerary.
This can result in fluctuating numbers of passengers, particularly for English speakers. On our sailing, all four of our pre-booked shore excursions were cancelled due to lack of English participants. Generally speaking, only one excursion -- and often none -- were available in English, despite the website's assurance that all excursions are offered in a multitude of languages.
That means you either have to be incredibly lucky or be comfortable doing your own thing ashore. For English-language passengers, don't bother booking excursions online. Instead, visit the Shore Excursion office on Deck 6 to see what tours have enough English-speaking participants.
Some other small tidbits that North Americans should know about sailing aboard Costa Toscana:
· Smoking is allowed on outer decks and stateroom balconies, and each one has a metal disposal container affixed to the bulkhead. This is a European cruise; people will be smoking. The Casino, however, is smoke-free, as are all indoor spaces.
· TV channels for English-speaking guests are pretty well limited to BBC News and France24 English. If you want to watch movies in your stateroom, pack an iPad with downloaded movies.
· Onboard currency is the Euro.
· North American passengers used to round-the-clock food might find the European style of dining to be perplexing: food venues shut down at 3 p.m. and don't open again until 6 or 7 p.m. but stay open until one or two in the morning in some cases.
Most passengers aboard Costa Toscana hail from Italy, with cruisers from France, Germany and Spain making up the remainder of the guests. Few are English-speaking, and those that are come from very different countries. On our sailing, we met English-speakers from Ireland, and those from countries like Albania and Slovakia for which their own native languages aren't represented onboard.
Note that many passengers do speak some English, and many (particularly younger cruisers) speak it fluently. All crew speak fluent English.
Costa Toscana might be the most family-friendly ship we've ever sailed on. The number of strollers onboard was surprising to say the least, and young families with infants, toddlers, and kids under the age of 6 were well-represented.
While Costa definitely welcomes older, more experienced, passengers, the average age on Costa Toscana skewed younger, with many couples and families in their 40's travelling. Multi-generational families are present at all times of the year, even during our late-September sailing. Couples in their 30's, and even 20's, weren't uncommon to see.
Because of this, Costa Toscana is a ship that feels younger and hipper than most. It's also a ship that embraces and welcomes people of all ages; no one is going to "shush" kids onboard who are having fun, and passengers enthusiastically participate in all activities with cheers and shouts.
Expect to hear lots of languages spoken onboard -- often loudly and boisterously. That's just how things are here, and you can either embrace it or rail against it -- but the former is definitely going to give you a better experience than the latter.
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