November/December  2006 

 

 

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“Staterooms are located inside the spa center and have direct access to spa facilities via a private elevator, and the private Samsara restaurant is intimate, magnificent and worth the extra cruise ticket charge alone.”
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osta Cruises’ new Concordia was created to symbolize concord - peace and harmony - among European nations, with each deck named for a different European country. Guests can arrange to meet in Paris, London, Dublin, Prague, Vienna, Barcelona, Rome, Stockholm, Milan, Helsinki, Vienna, Lisbon Athens or Budapest.

The names are carried through as themes: the Tatra Library is done in elegant light wood typical of the Polish city of Zapokane, a famous ski resort in the Tatra Mountains and the décor of the Virtual World, packed with video games, was inspired by Denmark’s colorful Lego blocks. Few passengers escaped the lure of the Helsinki Coffee and Chocolate Bar, where approaching guests respond to the wonderful aroma of the chocolate fountain. The Stockholm Sports Bar, another major gathering place day and night, has enough plasma screens to accommodate sports fans each following their own teams.

However, the ship’s major innovation, the Samsara spa, accommodations and restaurant, all turn to Asia to carry through the image of the spiritual journey toward oneness with the Divine.

Months ago, when Costa announced their spa innovation for the Concordia, it sent management of luxury hotels as well as cruise ships into conferences. Costa has not only created a really remarkable 20,500 square foot spa, but has designated 55 surrounding staterooms and 12 suites as Samsara accommodations. The fares run about 20% above comparable accommodations, more than reasonable including the treatments, classes and private restaurant. Staterooms are located inside the spa center and have direct access to spa facilities via a private elevator, and the private Samsara restaurant is intimate, magnificent and worth the extra cruise ticket charge alone.

A box of Elemis hair and skincare amenities is placed in Samsara rooms for each guest, and the accommodations all have flat screen TVs. Samsara guests are offered a Welcome Ritual, an invitation to the Tea Ceremony, two treatments of their choice, two fitness or meditation lessons, admission to the Relaxation Area with Solarium and UVA rays, unlimited entry into the spa and its spectacular Thalassotherapy Pool, and a table reserved at the Riostorante Samsara with its wellness menu created by Ettore Bocchia.

concordia-7Bocchia is the executive chef at the Michelin-starred Grand Hotel in Bellagio. He is particularly famous for his molecular cuisine that brings out the maximum flavor of each ingredient. This involves cooking with liquid nitrogen to produce explosive flavor, and cooking fish in melted sugar, not oil, which diminishes cooking time and leaves succulent, perfectly cooked fish. The sugar doesn’t come in contact with the fish, which is wrapped in leek leaves that give it a delicate flavor.

Samsara guests can also opt for the Ristorante Milanese or the Ristorante Roma, but they rarely did on my cruise, since their own restaurant, open for all three meals daily, served exquisite food with extremely personal service in a private ambience decorated with spectacular kimonos. However, those who expect Spartan meals will be surprised to find plenty of rich dishes and desserts, and even the most religious anti-carb devotee will have trouble refusing the superb breadbasket.

Judging by the fact that the Samsara staterooms sell out very rapidly and by the enthusiasm of the passengers who had such rooms, the concept is a tremendous success; it will be repeated on the line’s Serena, debuting next year.

The spa itself has a Rock Sauna for cleansing the skin and preparing it for treatments, an Aromatic Turkish Bath scented with rosemary, eucalyptus and lavender and a Tepidarium, a transitional spa bath.

concordia-6 The huge heated Thalassotherapy Pool, presided over by giant and colorful Chinese Foo Dogs, has jets of seawater to massage the body, and in the Thermal and Treatment Room clients can have a body treatment using steam and three kinds of clay that leave the skin smoother and helps to restore tone and elasticity. There is a full menu of Ayurvedic treatments, and Ayurvedic teas are served.

The fitness area is enormous and has a huge array of Techno-gym equipment, weights, cycles and full body aerobics machines.

Classes are held in a glass walled separate section, which can be closed off with completely surrounding draperies for the well attended and well planned meditation classes, where privacy and quiet are crucial. Classes are very well taught; stretch and aerobic classes are complimentary and others, including yoga, spinning, Pilates mat work and music therapy have a small charge. Samsara guests may reserve two of the classes with fee free of charge; in the case where one person doesn’t choose to take a class, the other can have all four.

The same is true of treatments, with two complimentary ones designated for each person in the Samsara staterooms. The spa menu includes several kinds of massage, facials, body treatments and anti-aging choices, and there are exceptional barbering treatments for men, with shaves and skincare. Treatment rooms are spacious and beautiful; two couples’ rooms have private jacuzzis. Treatment rooms also have their own little gated relaxation areas with panoramic sea views past the sun lounges for those seeking tanning.

concordia-9However, the most seductive of the quiet areas is the recovery area that many guests would have preferred to occupy permanently. Magnificent canopied beds whose soft curtains could be drawn around the relaxing guest for privacy were placed in a cool, dim room that seems to be in a separate world from the rest of the ship.

The private elevator is a key factor in the pleasures of the Samsara community, moving among the three levels through a soothing waterfall to take robed and slippered guests to their treatments without having to emerge into the public areas of the ship.

 Marcus Duarte Aluer. the spa manager, said about a quarter of the entire business of the spa comes from the Samsara accommodations. The complex has12 treatment rooms, with two couple’s rooms with Jacuzzis and two beds. There, couples can book a massage package with 50 minutes of massage and 110 minutes to enjoy the room. They can order beverages and fruit served there. These rooms can be booked as gifts, as can packages of treatments.

The therapy rooms are quite charming and some even have little gated gardens to sit in right behind the lounges of the passengers choosing to tan. I chose two classic treatments from the menu available with my room.

Therapist Cherie Fraser gave me a Swedish massage that was performed with considerable thought and skill. Having determined that I had an injured knee, she did not avoid the area, as most massage therapists do on first contact, but gave it extra attention and suggested exercises to continue the process. She used a combination of arnica and menthol to soothe the muscles afterward, and the effect lasted well through the rest of the day. Her touch was very skilled and my jetlagged body was restored to the world of the living by the end of the treatment.

An extraordinary Classic Facial from Monica Ruiz Serovic of Guatemala.was a highlight of the whole cruise. This is a therapist of great experience and insight, and the strokes and techniques she used on my face, together with the smoothing and enriching products, gave me back the skin of my childhood: smooth, soft, flexible and fresh with moisture.

concordia-4As I went to the Venus Salon, which alone is about the size of entire spas a few years ago, I was accompanied by the more than life size mosaic figures placed in the halls of the spa. The sheer beauty of the place and the positioning right by my stateroom really made the whole complex a part of my accommodations, a very familiar and comfortable one that was very hard to leave.

Costa Concordia sails weeklong cruises from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy to Savona (Genoa), Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Palma De Mallorca, Balearic Islands; Tunis, Tunisia; Valletta, Malta and Palermo, Sicily; pricing starts at $899 per person, double.

A very delightful aspect of cruising on the ship is that guests can and do embark and disembark in several ports, so there is no “last night” drop in the ship’s energy and disembarkation is poetry in ease, perhaps the smoothest and quickest I have seen on any ship of this size.

 

 

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