Experiencing romance at sea

Viet Nam News

By Vu Hoa

TOKYO — If you love the romance of travel, there is a “love boat” named Costa neoRomantica – an Italian-style cruise that’s made for you.

We embarked at Oi Wharf in Tokyo for a seven-day, six-night cruise that would take us to Kobe, Jeju Island in South Korea, and Fukuoka before coming back to Tokyo.

Sailing had never been a part of my travel itinerary as I thought that being at sea for many days may be boring. However, I was wrong, as this was the first time I experienced an unforgettable journey on a five-star cruise ship.

Costa neoRomantica, the gem of the Costa fleet, is currently in Japan. Her cruise itineraries range from four to eight nights, sailing either from Fukuoka or Tokyo, and are designed to immerse guests in the magic of the diverse coastal destinations, where they can enjoy the sights and sounds of Japan and South Korea in a different way.

Italy at sea

The Romantica, which was originally constructed in 1993, was completely refurbished in 2012.

The revitalised Costa neoRomantica will amaze you with its contemporary bright and sophisticated design. Precious materials, high-tech solutions and gently lit settings invite you to be romantic and relax, whether with loved ones or friends.

The most panoramic Samsara Spa in the whole fleet is on Costa neoRomantica with 4,400sq.m across two floors, with a gym, treatment rooms, UVA solarium, sauna, Turkish bath and everything guests could desire for complete wellbeing of body and spirit. Furnished with premier materials and equipped with the latest technologies, it also houses a large relaxation area with sea views and a picturesque two-level pool for thalassotherapy.

The Montecarlo and Saint-Tropez pools are elegantly and comfortably furnished for topping up your tan before easing into a sunset aperitif. You should try the generous sun beds, wicker seats and couches with soft cushions, and the delightful cabanas, for a spot of leisurely private relaxation with a dedicated bar service.

“In Italian we call this ship bomboniera, meaning a small gift, because it’s small but nice. Also, the architecture is in the style that they built ships in the past. The new building of ships is totally different because the concept is to bring on board as many passengers as possible. On this size of ship, we have more opportunity to stay in contact with the passengers,” said Benedetto Minuto, Costa neoRomantica’s hotel director.

And it’s true. During the cruise we’d see Minuto and the captain almost daily and they asked how we were doing.

Costa boasts itself as “Italy at Sea,” and we all know that Italy is famous for its food.

“I want you to experience ‘Italy at Sea’, not just the ship but also the food, performances, culture, hospitality, and by the end of the seven-day cruise, you’ll feel that we’re all family. And that matters the most,” said Captain Sokratis Sklavos.

To meet the demand, two months before the ship sets sail, the kitchen loads up on tomatoes flown in from Italy and replenishes supplies at ports like Jeju and Busan, said executive chef Pasquale Ciarmello, adding that the Costa neoRomantica can go through 80 kilos of tomatoes, 120 litres of oil, and 150 kilos of pasta a day.

The intermediate-sized Costa neoRomantica carries 1,600 passengers and 600 staff who are Filipinos, Indonesians and Indians.

Despite the different nationalities, all of them work together like a big family with their hospitality and friendliness going beyond their work requirements.

We were surprised while having dinner during the Italian-themed night. The waiters and waitresses at the Botticelli restaurant seemed to become professional dancers with a dance show. It was even more fun that the guests were also dancing with them, because they were already familiar with the staff who served them well five days before.

Filled with fun

There’s little chance of getting bored on a Costa cruise with full-day entertainment activities from 9am till midnight.

Initially, I thought the fun of sailing only begins when the ship docks at a port and passengers go off for tour explorations on shore.

But I actually experienced more fun and enjoyment while onboard.

Prior to embarking on the ship, passengers are informed of the major events that will take place on the cruise so that they can join in. For example, on this cruise, we were told to bring a set of formal wear or national costume for the Gala Night, party dress for the Venetian Carnival, the White Night, the Tropical Night and the Italian Night. This gave me some ideas on the types of gala events that were going to take place on the ship and help us have a more festive atmosphere.

The activities are all included in the package, as well as four meals a day.

Asia focus

Cruising is booming all over the world, particularly in Asia. It was the reason that a brand new inaugural cruise just for the Asian market, the Costa Venezia, set sail on a 52-night Marco Polo voyage from Trieste to Tokyo, starting from 8 March 2019.

The cruise can accommodate over 5,000 passengers and will be like Venice on the sea, with a lobby modeled after St. Mark’s Square and a restaurant built like the Grand Canal.

Việt Nam is a promising market for cruise travel.

“Việt Nam is a hugely promising market with population of more than 90 million, expanding middle class and growing stable economy. Vietnamese who want fulfill their travel aspirations can consider cruising as one of their options,” Rudy Wiratno, Sales Manager, Costa Cruises Asia Pacific & China told Việt Nam News.

In addition, Việt Nam has a long coastline and is strategically located at the intersection of shipping and trading routes in Asia.

“To attract big cruises coming to the country, Việt Nam should invest and modernise its infrastructure such as cruise terminals, deep water ports, roads and accessibility, tourism facilities, improving local security and support channels for tourists. It should also waive entry visas into Việt Nam, increasing destination appeal through tourism projects, destination branding and providing financial incentives for cruise ships to home port in Việt Nam,” he added.

He said cruise ships are huge vessels that carry thousands of passengers to various ports of call, and effectively help to spur economic activities and boost employment locally in restaurants and food stalls, attractions, transportation, accommodation, travel agencies, souvenir shops, etc. The ripple effect is tremendous.

Currently, the Costa Fortuna called at Phú Quốc in October 2018 while Costa Venezia will call at Phú Mỹ and Chân Mây port in April 2019.

There is no better word to describe the journey than “romantic”. I really enjoyed the festive atmosphere, attractive shows or simply waking up early to welcome the sunrise and sunset on the deck. They will be unforgettable moments in my life.

And I’m dreaming about other cruise voyages with Costa in the future. — VNS

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