Tom and I recently returned from spending eight fabulous days aboard the brand new Costa Toscana cruising the Mediterranean. It was his first-ever ocean cruise and the first one I’ve done since college. Unsure of what to expect with Costa, we went in with an open mind and were blown away by the experience. If cruising is on your radar, Costa is absolutely worth considering. Let’s get into my Costa Toscana cruise review…
Costa Toscana review: 8-day Mediterranean cruise
My family enjoys cruising and I have fond memories of American-style family cruises to the Caribbean on Carnival and NCL from back in the day. But that was years ago and Costa is an Italian line. What are Costa cruises like? Would a Mediterranean cruise be just as fun as the other cruises I’d been on? Spoiler alert, YESSSS!!!
In this post, I’m going to give you a bit of an overview of the cruising experience with Costa and tell you about the Toscana, so let’s jump into it.
First things first, if you’ve never heard of Costa, they’re an Italian cruise line based out of Genoa that’s been sailing for 70 years. All of their 12 ships sail under the Italian flag and they have itineraries in various parts of Europe, South America, Dubai and the UAE, the Caribbean, and more.
Some good news for those of you in the U.S. is that their parent company Carnival Corporation & plc just announced that starting in the spring of 2023, two ships — the Firenze and Venezia — will make their U.S. debut. The Venezia will sail out of NYC and the Firenze out of Long Beach.
Costa embodies the Italian experience in terms of gastronomy, entertainment, design and hospitality. The Costa Toscana ship specifically is a tribute to the Italian region of Tuscany and features bright, energetic furnishings, lighting, fabrics, and accessories all made in Italy throughout the ship. The Toscana made her debut March 5, 2022, and will stay in the Mediterranean for the rest of the year, with stops in Rome, Naples, Ibiza, Valencia, and Marseille. In the fall, Palma de Mallorca will replace Ibiza.
I also want to mention a few points I found interesting regarding Costa’s commitment to the environment. We all know travel isn’t sustainable but it’s great to see Costa making choices that reduce environmental impact. The Costa Group is the first cruise line to use LNG to power some of their fleet, including Costa Toscana. Liquefied natural gas is a more environmentally friendly option that reduces emissions both at sea and in port.
In addition to further reduce environmental impact, all on-board water is sea water that has been desalinated. They also have 100% separate waste collection and recycling of materials including plastic, paper, glass, and aluminum.
What’s great about Costa is that the passengers hail from all over the world with the vast majority being European. You’ll be cruising with a diverse bunch, and as an American, you’ll be in the minority. Tom and I loved this multicultural aspect.
Costa is all about having a European cruising experience. Since many of us vacation in Europe to get away from how things are done in the US and to experience a change of scenery, Costa makes perfect sense. If you are looking to cruise with a bunch of other Americans, eat American food, and see American-style entertainment, Costa might not be the cruise line for you. But if you want to cruise with Europeans and see the Mediterranean like a local, Costa nails it on all counts. When in Rome, as they say. 😉
You’ll enjoy live music that’s in English, Italian, French, and Spanish. You’ll hear passengers speaking a variety of European languages on board. You’ll have delicious meals with Italian flair and the ship’s styling is all Italian. We LOVED this aspect of Costa. There’s nothing wrong with cruising with thousands of other Americans, but it’s just not what you’ll find with Costa.
Something to note is that you do NOT need to speak a language other than English to be comfortable on a Costa cruise. The staff speaks English, communications and menus are available in English, and excursions are available in several languages. Shows and announcements are translated in several languages as well. That was one of my main concerns ahead of time because Tom and I speak about two words of Italian. But it’s not an issue at all if you only speak English.
Our Costa cruise itinerary
We flew to Rome and that’s where we first met our home for the week, Costa Toscana. Departing from Civitavecchia, the 1106-foot beauty took us to Naples, Barcelona, Valencia, Marseille, and Savona before heading back to Rome. Our cruise was a special itinerary that stopped in Barcelona for the christening ceremony and had a slightly different schedule than the usual route.
Another fun fact is that Costa now offers longer port of calls of up to 11 hours so guests can fully experience each destination.
Here’s where we went:
Day 1: Depart from Rome/Civitavecchia at 7 p.m.
Day 2: Naples, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Day 3: At sea
Day 4: Barcelona, 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Day 5: Valencia, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Day 6: Marseille 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Day 7: Savona 8:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Day 8: Arrive in Rome/Civitavecchia for disembarkation
Something that’s interesting to note about Costa’s Mediterranean itinerary is that it runs on a circuit. Everyone on board is doing a 7-day cruise but not everyone gets on in Rome like we did. What I mean is that unlike the majority of cruises where everyone gets onto an empty ship in Miami, for example, and the same passengers stay on the ship until the end of the cruise, passengers on Costa may embark at a different port. The 6600-passenger ship doesn’t have the same number of passengers the entire time and that helped the ship to never feel super crowded.
At each port, Costa offers a variety of excursions that range from walking tours, to boat trips, beach days, golfing, photo walks, and so much more. There is something for everyone and all activity levels. Excursions are optional and priced per person, as they are a fee on top of the base cruise fare. Be sure to book early if there’s something you have your heart set on doing. They fill up fast. If you’d rather explore an area on your own, you have the option to get off the ship in port (just be back before the departure time!).
Capri was exceptional and a short boat ride away from Naples. We explored the Vieux Port in Marseille very slowwwwly since that stop coincided with a crazy heat wave in France. We also did an excursion in Savona and explored the gorgeous seaside Italian town of Noli and the village of Finalborgo. Italy is a place we definitely need to head back to! While in Rome, we saw the Vatican at night and need to visit again soon.
Our balcony cabin
Now let’s turn to our cabin. It was a mid-ship 205 ft2/19 m2 balcony cabin on Deck 11. It featured a comfy queen-size bed, couch, desk, two closets and under-the-bed storage space, USB charges….. and the best part, the balcony! The balcony had two chairs and a small table, making it the ideal place for morning coffee, a glass of wine, or for watching the waves.
We found the cabin to be quite comfortable and well equipped and didn’t feel cramped or confined at all. Everything was super clean and the shower had great water pressure and space. My favorite part of the bathroom was the frosted glass wall of the shower stall that let light from the cabin peek in. You can shut the curtain from the outside if you want more privacy and don’t want any of the natural light, but we left it open.
The cabin decor is vibrant and energetic with orange and blue being the dominant colors. The colorful tribute to Tuscany is most visible around the TV and the carpet. I loved the blue and white bathroom tiles.
Another highlight was our steward, Anthony, who left us very creative towel animals after dinner. We had kissing swans, a hanging monkey, a turtle and more. They made my night! So cute!
On board life
What I love about cruising is that there’s something for everyone. If you’re the type who wants to relax on your balcony with a book, you can do that. If you want to be constantly busy going on excursions, and to shows and events, you can do that as well. Costa had no shortage of fun shows and live music in the evening, in addition to a casino and all kinds of events and activities to keep you busy all day.
There’s everything from Nadia, the electric violin player, to rock music in the Heineken bar, to Costa’s version of The Voice, to acrobatic and dance shows, and so much more. Our cruise had a White Party, formal night, and a special cocktail event for the ship’s christening.
Turning to onboard amenities, the gym and spa were two standouts for me. I enjoy using the gym on vacation — a nice change of scenery from my garage — and the Toscana’s didn’t disappoint. Across the hall from the spa on deck 16, the gym featured two rows of treadmills with one row overlooking the sea. The view was fab and it was nice to have a distraction while working out. I looked out at the ocean while cruising and while docked, I had a beautiful cityscape to keep my mind busy depending on where we were.
The gym also had a nice selection of Technogym weight machines, rowers, elliptical machines, and more. Free weights, benches, and squat racks were in a separate room with a view. The gym facilities get a 10 out of 10 for me. Well equipped, brand new, bright, clean, and spacious.
I also spent some time in the Solemio Spa and treated myself to a massage. I was surprised to see just how many offerings the spa had on its menu. Everything from a quartz body treatment, to hot stone massages, couples massages, specialty facial treatments, and a lot more.
If you didn’t feel like booking a treatment, you could get the spa pass for a day or the entire cruise which gave you access to the spa’s main facilities: the Jacuzzi area with hydropools in addition to a salt room, heated loungers, sauna, hammam, snow cave room (great for circulation, I loved it, and yes, it actually was covered in snow), and more.
As you’d expect on a cruise, treatments tend to be on the more expensive side but the experience is unmatched. If you’re into spas, even the more affordable day pass at 49€ I believe is worth it. For reference, a 75-minute massage with spa access was 199€.
If you just want to lounge, there were several pool and deck options but my favorite was the covered solarium, La Spiaggia Beach Club. There were numerous terrace areas with hot tubs, relaxation areas, and places to grab a quick bite (hello gelato, again). You could chill out on a lounge chair or go for a dip in the pool. There were several other pools if you’d rather swim out in the open air.
One of my favorite features of the ship was at the very back overlooking the sea. The Piazzo del Campo has a grand staircase aft and an open-air balcony on the top deck (and a bar in case you want to grab a drink). The clear glass floor is the jaw-dropping feature that freaked me out the first couple of times I stepped out onto it. I knew I wasn’t going to fall through but it still got my heart racing. Views FOR DAYS!!!!!!!
Also, let me address the question of seasickness. I’m happy to report that there was none. With a ship this big in relatively calm seas, you don’t really feel it moving much at all. Sometimes when we were cruising, we’d feel a tiny bit of motion but it wasn’t frequent, off putting, or anywhere near enough to induce any type of motion sickness. I’m prone to that and luckily had zero issues whatsoever.
How was the food
We were excited to see that there were 11 restaurants and 19 bars on Costa Toscana, some of which were total surprises. We didn’t expect to see sushi or a Heineken bar! Tom and I really enjoyed the food aboard the ship and found the specialty dining options to be top notch. The way it works is that with your cruise fare, all main dining room meals are included. That includes the buffet and sit-down options.
Then for an added fee if you want to switch it up, there are additional restaurant options including Sushino the sushi restaurant, pub fare at the Heineken Star Club & Bistro (the wedge salad was delicious), and a full gastronomic experience at Archipelago, which was truly exceptional, to name a few.
Three Michelin-starred chefs designed the exclusive menu at Archipelago and I chose Bruno Barbieri’s, which featured the best lamb chops of my life. The 5-course menu takes you on a journey through the ship’s ports of call via the cuisine. Be warned though, it’s a lot of food so come with an appetite so you can enjoy everything to the max. The service and wine were also excellent.
For breakfast, the buffet had a nice selection of hot and cold items including fruit, yogurt, cereal, eggs and an omelet station, sausage, bacon, pancakes, and more. Lunch and dinner fare was varied and pasta, as you’d expect, was prevalent and delicious.
For dinner, there were always several meal options from which to choose in the main dining room. Regarding seating, you can eat at either 7:30 or 9:30 p.m. but they were flexible if one night you wanted to come earlier or later than your assigned seating.
To spice it up, we tried a bunch of the specialty dining options as well and found them quite affordable. To give you an idea, two scoops of gelato cost 2.50€ (pistachio was my favorite) and a sushi lunch was 12.50€.
There were several Aperol Spritz bars like this one throughout the ship. To take full advantage, definitely buy a drink package if you plan on imbibing a bit while cruising. I stuck to mostly wine due to an allergy, but there’s no shortage of all kinds of cocktails (and mocktails) on board to quench your thirst.
We both really enjoyed the entertainment on board Costa Toscana. There were always several things going on each evening, both before and after dinner.
Many of the shows took place in the Colosseo, the heart of the ship that spans three levels (pictured above). It’s an atrium type of space that has big screens on the sides and dome making it a versatile space for all types of acts. You could easily drop in to watch for a little while while grabbing a drink or settle into one of the seats for the entire show. The acrobatics were standout and we enjoyed watching The Voice, live musicians, and other events there throughout the week. They also had karaoke, bingo, programming for kids, and more.
There was another theater on the ship called Poltrona Frau Arena that had more traditional seating and a stage. We caught the end of the Michael Jackson Tribute show there but liked the openness of the Colosseo shows best.
We found Costa to be an amazing cruise experience and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There was a nice mix of young kids, teenagers and families, all the way up to senior citizens on board. The diverse programming and dining options mean there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The ship never felt overly crowded. If you’re considering a cruise, do yourself a favor and look up Costa’s offerings if you want a truly European experience. I know you’ll have a blast!
Have you ben on a cruise lately? Does the Costa Cruises experience sound like something you’d try?
Here’s a vlog I made of the Costa Toscana cruise experience!
Disclosure: Thank you to Costa Cruises for hosting us on this press trip. All opinions and photos are my own.