Cruising aboard Costa Smeralda
There are many occasions that make a cruise special. One of the most beautiful is usually the first, but there is another feeling that I also really like: coming back. This is about my third and best experience aboard Costa Smeralda.
The first time I was aboard this ship was in February 2020, followed by my second trip in May 2021. In the first case, it was a newly launched ship, and in the second, one of the first post-pandemic cruises. My experience was already good then, but on my third visit, it continued to exceed expectations.
The ship: Italy at sea
There is no doubt that Smeralda is one of the most beautiful ships I have ever seen. It is one of the largest classes currently available, and I would define its concept as Italian excellence brought to a cruise. By this I mean that in every corner you will see spaces inspired by Italian places (Colosseo, Piazza di Spagna or Piazza Trastevere, among others); Italian gastronomy (pasta, pizza, ice cream); and Italian brands (Campari, Aperol, Nutella, etc.).
One thing to keep in mind: it is a very different ship from others, and this is noticeable in many aspects. This ship does not have a classic atrium, theater, main restaurant, or disco. Instead, it has open spaces that transform during the day and night, many restaurants (both included and paid), and especially an infinity of outdoor areas that are wonderful to enjoy the navigation or sunsets.
Let's review my favorites, where I have spent more time:
Colosseo: the heart of the ship
Located in the center of decks 6, 7, and 8, it is possibly the place you will pass through the most times. The Colosseo is the nerve center of Costa Smeralda, and consists of a large piazza surrounded by bars and restaurants (Caffè Vergnano 1982, Campari Bar, Spazio Bollicine Ferrari, Sushino). At night, it transforms into the main stage, with musical and especially acrobatic shows. It is quite impressive since both the floor and the ceiling can rise and fall and completely transform the space. The views are almost 360, as in the authentic Roman Colosseum.
TIP: It is true that in some places there is little visibility for certain shows, so I recommend that you go early if you want a good spot. Also, the best shows are repeated, so you might have an extra opportunity to enjoy them.
Sanremo Show Lounge & La Spiaggia: nighttime disco
Located at the bow, Sanremo Show Lounge it replaces the classic theaters with a large space where some shows are carried out during the day, sometimes simultaneously with the Colosseo. At night, the stage descends, the seats are removed, and it turns into a large dance floor with a central bar. This is where many parties take place as the main disco on the ship.
Something similar happens at La Spiaggia, an indoor pool with two levels that hosts some parties at night such as white night or silent disco, transforming its dome with many sets of lights and colors.
Piazza di Spagna: the stage to the sea
Undoubtedly, of all the ship, I prefer the outdoor spaces. The great protagonist is the Piazza di Spagna, an open space located on decks 16, 17, and 18, aft. It is the ideal place to enjoy the sea. It also has swings and a glass bridge at the top with spectacular views. Along the upper decks, you will also find the outdoor pools and another of my favorites: the Passegiata Volare, a bridge at the top for the best views.
TIP: Even if you travel in winter or it's cold, don't miss the experience of watching the ship sail away or seeing a sunset from outside. It's worth bundling up and experiencing it at least once during your trip.
Much more to discover
The ship has many more spaces, some of them gastronomic (which we will talk about in the next point), and others to relax or entertain you. Among them, some classics such as the casino, gym or spa (for a fee) and others more unique like an Italian design museum, the CoDe Museum or the beautiful Terrazza Superba at the aft, deck 7.
Gastronomy on board
Let's move on to one of my favorite points, and that is that if there is something I enjoy in Costa, it is its gastronomic proposal. As usual, you have included options such as the buffet or the à la carte restaurants, and many other paid proposals are added.
A la carte restaurants
As I mentioned earlier, on Smeralda, there is no large main restaurant. Instead, there are several smaller ones with very different decorations but the same menu. At night, they assign you one for the dinner shift you prefer. They are also open for breakfast and lunch. Generally, there is one with a standard menu, another with the same menu reserved for gold and platinum C|Club guests, and another with an extended schedule with a fixed tapas-style proposal.
The menu consists of several sections: starters, first courses, second courses, and desserts. In addition, a fixed selection of classic dishes that are always available and the children's menu are added. Of course, you can choose whatever you want, and skip or repeat any of the courses.
The food is clearly Italian, with many pasta options especially. In addition, there is a destination dish every nightdesigned by one of the Michelin-starred chefs collaborating with Costa, inspired by the next port and included in the price.
Buffets and families
Another favorite option on a cruise is the buffet. On Costa, it is a served buffet, that is, behind each tray, there is personnel who serves you a plated portion. I didn't set foot in the buffet more than for an afternoon snack a couple of days, where you find options like focaccia, as well as bread with Nutella or churros and fresh cut fruit.
Families with young children also have a reserved space on the upper decks, next to the children's club.
TIP: Take advantage of the fact that the buffet is located inside the promenade of deck 8 and go out to have a snack if the weather is good. You won't regret it.
If there is something the Smeralda has, it is options to try different foods, from fast food to more refined experiences. Two of the most popular proposals are ice cream and pizza: yes, they are paid, although the prices are not high, and the quality is excellent. I never miss them. The price of ice cream is around €3 and pizzas around €10.
As fast food options, the ship has corners like the poke (€3-4), salads and wraps (€3-4), or the street food stand that opens all night (€2-5). I haven't tried them, but they look great if you want something different without spending much.
If you are looking for experiences beyond, the ship has the classic Teppanyaki (€35-45), Sushino, the sushi bar (€15-25), one of my favorites and highly recommended; the Lab (€15-20), a gastronomic laboratory where you can learn sushi or cocktails; the steak restaurant (€25-45), and the jewel of the ship: Archipelago (€55). Without a doubt, it is my favorite, and I visit it every time it is aboard.
Something that Costa has done that did not exist before is offering restaurant packages. We chose to combine Archipelago + Sushino, and it cost us about €55 by booking in advance (the sushi was free, we could say).
TIP: Make sure you have registered in the C|Club, especially if you have booked through an agency instead of with Costa. You will have onboard discounts in places like the pizzeria, and even some free experiences that you can access as you level up.
Briefly, I also want to tell you about cocktails and other drinks on board. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether it is worth having a drinks package or not. We will cover this topic in depth in the future, but you should be aware that Costa has raised the prices of the drinks menu compared to 2022. Coffees are around €3, large water bottles around €3.50, and cocktails around €10. It is a way for you to calculate it on your own.
Something I like is that the package also includes special drinks from certain bars that are more unique. For example, at Ferrari, they make some cocktails with white wine or sparkling wines that are only found there. They were among my favorite drinks along with cocktails like the Strawberry Daiquiri, as well as non-alcoholic ones like the Cosmopolitan Zero, the Pink Panther, or the Squok. Delicious.
In my case, we did the classic round of the Western Mediterranean, stopping to visit Palermo, Rome (from Civitavecchia), Savona, and Marseille. On this occasion, I did not take any excursions with Costa, and we decided to visit everything on our own. That is why I will not go into detail here about each destination; I will be dedicating separate publications with tips for each port in the future.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this was my third week on the Smeralda, and I would repeat it. Despite being a different ship that does not convince everyone, I really like the concept of open spaces, and it is undoubtedly the best ship along with Costa Toscana if you want to enjoy the outdoors.
As usual, from the booking process directly with Costa to the experience on board, everything was very favorable. This time I had no problems on board. The only thing that happened to me (again) is not being able to sail on the first day to Palma due to weather conditions. Just as last year, they compensated us with onboard credit, but this time it didn't happen. I understand that they are external causes, but the gesture was great to spend a better day aboard.
The service was excellent, especially in the restaurants. The food was perhaps the best part of the cruise, as well as the rhythm and professionalism of the team in the dining room (I remember years ago that dinners were eternal).
Do I recommend it?
Without a doubt, I think Costa Smeralda (again, like its twin, Costa Toscana) is an ideal ship for a first cruise, especially in the Mediterranean. Traveling with Costa is easy, and the way Italians travel is very similar to the way Spanish travel. The food, parties, schedules, and atmosphere make it ideal for those who want to try the experience of traveling by sea. For those who have already traveled on classic Costa ships, I consider it essential to go with an open mind since, as I said, it is a ship with a quite different concept and has nothing to do with the previous fleet.
In the following weeks and months, I will be publishing much more content about Costa and this trip, so don't miss out.
Follow me on Instagram and TikTok, and don't forget to subscribe on YouTube to see all the videos aboard other ships and soon of the Smeralda too!