A cruising veteran takes to the waters around the UAE with Costa Cruises. Words: John Pond.

Launched by Costa Cruises in June 2009, Costa Luminosa is perhaps one of the most flamboyant ships I have ever sailed on. I boarded her in Dubai after a comfortable non-stop flight on an Emirates A380 Airbus. As I had not been to Dubai before, I chose to spend a few days sightseeing before embarking on my cruise.

Boarding began at 7pm on the evening before departure and was available all through the night via the elegant new cruise terminal (which puts our local offerings to shame). Passengers arrived from all over the globe, with the majority from Italy and Germany, to accompany my partner and myself and a handful of other Aussies on our seven-day cruise.

The leisurely cruise around the main ports of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) allowed us plenty of time for sightseeing. All ship announcements were made in Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Costa Luminosa’s eye-catching atrium featured glass elevators and was the ship’s unofficial ‘town square’ and main meeting place. Its bar, at which many passengers sat and drank espresso into the early hours, was the busiest spot on the ship.

The ship was very child-friendly, with several kids’ clubs catering for offspring of all ages. Boasting all the usual Costa facilities, from its Samsara Spa to the sliding roof over the second outdoor pool area, the ship – and indeed, the cruise experience – was most pleasing. And this has to be the most stable liner I have ever sailed on.
The ship: GRT: 92,700 tons; length: 292m; beam: 34m; passenger decks: 13; speed: 22.6 knots (41.9km/h); capacity: 2,260 passengers.

Décor: Though the expensive décor throughout the public areas was a little over the top for my taste, it appealed to many. The ship’s theme of light was showcased throughout with 120 Murano glass chandeliers illuminating the public areas. Custom-designed chairs and lounges gave each bar an individual feel.

Cabins: Our balcony cabin, located on Ruby Deck (decks are named after precious stones), was spacious and well designed with excellent cupboard and drawer space. There was also a lounge that could be made into an extra bed. The blue-tinted balcony glass that gives Costa Luminosa her luminous appearance was washed every second day.

Food and drink: The main dining area aboard was the split-level Taurus Restaurant, serving bland ‘international’ food. I was expecting more emphasis on Italian cuisine and was disappointed generally. Adjacent to the Taurus Restaurant was a small private dining room for the exclusive use of passengers staying in the Samsara suites. The alternate restaurant, Club Luminosa, offered an excellent Italian selection for a €20 ($27) cover charge. The highlight was an ice-cream dessert made at the table using liquid nitrogen. A section of the popular Andromeda Buffet becomes a pizzeria after 9.30 each evening. After midnight, there are special themed buffets, which proved popular with the ship’s night owls.

All up, there were 11 bars including a cigar lounge, plus a speciality coffee-and-chocolate bar. Cappuccino and espresso were available throughout the ship.

Entertainment: The entertainment provided in the main showroom was of a very average standard. Each night, the multilingual cruise director introduced a different show. The ship came alive after 11pm, with live bands and singers in most lounges. There was also a great deal of self-styled entertainment, such as karaoke sessions and the Mr Sexy Legs contest, which seemed to enthrall the crowds. Other highlights were the 4D theatre with seats and a floor that moves; the Grand Prix Formula One and golf simulators, and PlayStation World, all of which were hits. At night, the casino was one of the busiest spots on the ship.

The verdict:

A €14 ($19) charge was added to each person’s shipboard account for tips per day. I was informed by the Purser’s Office that this could not be deleted or reduced. This is the highest service charge I have had to pay on any cruise. Service was good but not outstanding. Most cruise ships have jam-packed daily activities programs, but on Costa Luminosa there were very few organised activities available during the day. On the plus side, one of the ship’s unique features was the stand-alone computer ‘totems’ that enabled passengers to access information, purchase shore-tour tickets and find out what was happening around the ship. There was also a huge, well-equipped gym but strangely, there were no self-service laundry facilities.