Fellini-es­que cruise

Costa At­lantica sails in Ital­ian style from Tian­jin, but stays in Asia

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU LIN xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Chi­nese like to cruise with their friends and fam­i­lies be­cause it’s re­lax­ing: You don’t have to pack and un­pack, and rush to the next des­ti­na­tion.

Sum­mer is a great time for cruis­ing. And be­ing on the Costa At­lantica is like be­ing hosted by an Ital­ian fam­ily. Guests en­joy Ital­ian cul­ture, de­li­cious food and the hos­pi­tal­ity of the crew, who are pas­sion­ate about their work.

Typ­i­cally, the Costa At­lantica leaves Tian­jin, its home port in China for South Korea and Ja­pan, with a five- or six-day itin­er­ary.

The Chi­nese like to cruise with their friends and fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially with the el­derly and chil­dren. It’s a re­lax­ing vo­ca­tion for them as you don’t have to pack and un­pack, and rush to the next des­ti­na­tion.

The cruise ship has an artis­tic air about it, rem­i­nis­cent of an­cient Venice. It also pays trib­ute to Ital­ian film di­rec­tor and screen­writer Fed­erico Fellini, with draw­ings in­spired by his work dis­played on its 12 decks.

Among the trib­utes, is the La Dolce Vita Atrium named af­ter his clas­sic film. Near the atrium is a bar dec­o­rated with black-and-white film stills, show­cas­ing his work that is fa­mous for its baroque im­ages.

The pas­sen­ger decks are also named af­ter his movies.

When you take the el­e­va­tors, they give you a bird’s-eye view of the spa­cious atrium and a wall dec­o­rated with copies of old paint­ings.

A fa­vorite place to be is the Flo­rian Cafe. Pas­sen­gers en­joy af­ter­noon tea here and take pho­tos us­ing the typ­i­cal Euro­pean-style decor as back­ground.

A well-dec­o­rated gondola re­minds you of the cafe’s ori­gins.

The cafe is a replica of the his­toric Flo­rian Cafe in Venice.

Opened in 1720, the land­mark is be­lieved to be one of the old­est cof­fee­houses in the world.

Its cus­tomers have in­cluded the poet Lord By­ron and the writer Charles Dick­ens.

Sev­eral years ago in Venice, while sip­ping a cap­pu­cino in the Flo­rian cafe, I en­joyed the mu­sic of an or­ches­tra and a viewof the beau­ti­ful St Mark’s Square. But now, in the ship’s Flo­rian Cafe, I watch the blue sea out­side through a port­hole in­stead.

At night, the cafe turns into a bar, and I or­der a cof­fee cock­tail while lis­ten­ing to an Ital­ian opera solo ac­com­pa­nied by a pi­anist and a cel­list.

The charm of cruis­ing is that peo­ple of all ages have ac­tiv­i­ties to en­joy. The cruise even of­fers karaoke and mahjong.

There are balls or­ga­nized in the atrium ev­ery day. At a mas­quer­ade ball, two beau­ti­ful young women demon­strate their dance moves.

Sev­eral for­eign crewmem­bers are also dressed in cos­tumes and en­cour­age Chi­nese guests to dance.

A grand­mother is danc­ing hap­pily with a pretty mask on her wrin­kled face.

At the evening winds down, the mu­sic sud­denly changes, A Chi­nese pop­u­lar song, Lit­tle Ap­ple, comes on. The catchy song, which has dance beats and repet­i­tive lyrics, is the climax.

Pas­sen­gers can also en­joy var­i­ous kinds of live mu­sic in the bars, in­clud­ing the singing of pop­u­lar Chi­nese songs.

The Caruso The­ater of­fers ex­cel­lent Western per­for­mances ev­ery night, rang­ing from danc­ing to magic shows.

When the Span­ish ma­gi­cian man­ages to es­cape from the box he’s trapped in, ev­ery­one is sur­prised and wants to know how he man­aged it.

I later chance upon a “se­cret gar­den” near the the­ater— a long walk­way with ele­gant chairs and ta­bles, and round win­dows.

It’s great to find this se­cluded place on board.

The af­ter­noon light makes it per­fect to read a book, or to take pho­tos.

The cruise ship, which is adorned with exquisite decor, is per­fect for pic­ture-tak­ing.

My friends all dressed up pose for our pho­tog­ra­pher friend.

Shop­ping is an­other im­por­tant ac­tiv­ity on the ship.

The tax-free shops sell watches, jew­elry, cos­met­ics and bags, and of­fer dis­counts from time to time.

For those who are trav­el­ing with chil­dren, they can leave their kids at the Squok Club where child care pro­fes­sion­als look af­ter them.

Chil­dren can either join the Cap­tain for a Day or Princess for a Day pro­grams.

In the cap­tain pro­gram, kids get to wear a cap­tain’s uni­form and learn things such as nau­ti­cal terms and how the weather af­fects the be­hav­ior of the sea.

Lit­tle princesses can have their hair, nails and makeup done.

At night, the kids are al­lowed to at­tend a party.

The cruise also has de­li­cious food 24 hours a day, with au­then­tic Ital­ian and Chi­nese fare. It also has Ja­panese cui­sine and Chi­nese hot pot, which cost ex­tra.

My friends and I love the freshly made pizza and the Chi­nese noo­dles. But We are re­ally wor­ried about putting on weight.

An­other thing to ex­pe­ri­ence is climb­ing a glass stair­case con­nect­ing the restau­rants on the ninth and 10th deck. It is a breath­tak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

When the cruise ship docks at Jeju Is­land and then Fukuoka, we head on­shore at both places and tour the two cities by bus.

Jeju Is­land’s Ted­dy­bear Sa­fari show­cases teddy’s and other stuffed toys in­clud­ing gi­raffes and ele­phants.

In Fukuoka, the Daza­ifu Ten­mangu is a shrine built over the grave of Michizane Su­gawara.

The high-rank­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer was wor­shipped as the God of lit­er­a­ture or cal­lig­ra­phy af­ter his death in 901 AD.

Near the shrine is a street lined with stores sell­ing Ja­panese handicrafts and snacks such as plum cakes.

Dur­ing our visit to Fukuoka, it so hap­pens that it was Hakata Gion Ya­makasa, an an­nual Ja­panese fes­ti­val.

While in the bus on our way back to the ship, we see Ja­panese men in white coats and loin­cloths on beau­ti­fully-dec­o­rated floats.

One thing you must not miss on the cruise is the bril­liant sun­rises and sun­sets.

I sit on a chair in my state­room bal­cony and watch the sun slowly ris­ing above the sea.

I am a bit up­set one day when I miss sun­set be­cause of the rain.

But when I amon the deck later I see a large rain­bow above the wa­ter.

LONG HUA / FOR CHINA DAILY; PHO­TOS BY XU LIN / CHINA DAILY; the atrium. LONG HUA / FOR CHINA DAILY;

Clock­wise from top: Open deck on the 12th floor. af­ter­noon tea break at Flo­rian Cafe; a cook mak­ing dessert.

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