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|Costa Europa |
While still retaining influences from the old transatlantic liners, she is a typical example of a modern second-generation cruise ship
Arturo Paniagua Mazorra (April 22, 2003)
Costa Europa was delivered in May 1986 by the German shipyard Jos L. Meyer as Homeric. She was the last ship built for Home Lines, but also the first cruise ship built by this German shipyard, today one of the most prolific in the construction of this type of vessel.
She was a typical example of the second generation of modern cruise ship, though she kept some influences of the old transatlantics: her dining room was located on a lower deck, all the cabins were built in the hull, etc.
Originally the Homeric had 18 public salons, located on decks 8, 9 and 11. She was a European designed ship, without the large theatres and restaurants that were beginning to be popular.
The Homeric inherited, from the former Home Lines cruise ships Oceanic (today owned by Pullmantur), and Atlantic (now sailing as Melody for MSC), the enormous central deck lido with a transparent roof, as well as an aft lido pool. The surface of the Homeric's outdoor decks was 3,000 square meters. Another characteristic of the Home Line'ships were their ample cabins.
The Homeric was constructed with horizontal segregation, with cabins on lower decks and spacious public places on upper decks (as Costa Classica, Romantica and Tropicale).
The Belvedere deck was dedicated exclusively to public rooms, between them the casino, the show room and the disco. Home Line was the leader in cruises from New York for many years, to Bermuda in summer and the Caribbean in winter. However, when Homeric was delivered Fort Lauderdale became her base port in the winter, offering long cruises (over 10 days) to the Caribbean. In the summer, she mainly offered week long cruises on the New York-Bermuda run. But in her next two years with Home Lines, the Homeric's cruises were shorter, a week long maximum.
Marketing of Home Lines
Home Lines was emphasising in her marketing the following concepts:
The original Home Lines business was based on loyal repeat passengers, and could not resist the competition of the new operators who based their commercial strategy on attracting thousands of new customers. Homeric tried to attract a new clientele (the Wall Street's yuppies), and failed. Her management could not or did not want to become a big cruise ship owner, at a time in which the current leaders of the market (Carnival and RCCL) were developing.
Sale to Holland America Line
In April 1988, Home Lines and her two cruise ships, Atlantic and Homeric, were bought by Holland America Line for $195m. Atlantic was soon resold to Premier Cruise Line and renamed Starship Atlantic . However, HAL retained the Homeric. She sailed on October 16, 1988 in her last cruise for Home Lines, which ended on October 26 in New York.
In November 2 she was delivered to HAL, and renamed Westerdam , under the Bahamas flag. Her first cruise for her new owner began on November 16 from Port Everglades.
Holland America had ambitious plans for this ship. In November 1987, they had signed a letter of intention with the German shipyard Bremen Vulkan, to build two cruise ships of around of 60,000 gt and ,.600 passengers.
To make the Homeric compatible with the new pair of ships, the HAL management quickly decided to lengthen the Homeric.
Carnival Cruise Lines
In June 15, 1988, Holland America announced the 40-meter lengthening of the Homeric in the winter of 1989- 90. Her new gross register tonnage would reach approximately 54,000 tns.
But in January 17, 1989, Carnival Cruise Lines purchased Holland America Line for $625m. The Arison's family soon decided to finance HAL strongly, though their first decision was not to build the two ships pre contracted in Germany.
HAL signed on November 29, 1989, a contract to build three 55,000 gt cruise ships in the Italian shipyard Fincantieri.
Called the Statendam class, the contract was later extended to four ships. The Westerdam's lengthening was still an ongoing proposition with the new ships, and Arison decided to continue with this operation.
On October 30, 1989, Westerdam returned to Papenburg, the place where she was built, to be lengthened by 39.6 meters by Jos L. Meyer.
The new section made it possible to enlarge the dining room on lower deck (restaurant Deck).
This reappeared divided into two parts, because it was found necessary to introduce an additional fire zone. The access through two stairs (one of them located in the centre of the restaurant) was another improvement put in place during the refit.
On the decks within the hull (from Main to Lower Promenade), as well as on the Upper Promenade Deck and Navigation Deck, 195 new cabins were installed.
Also, on the forward section of the Promenade and Upper Promenade decks a new two-level theatre (the Admiral Lounge), with 792 seats was constructed. This installation meant the dismantling of four of the old Homeric's areas: the Buena Vista Lounge, the Galaxy Lounge, the Card Room and the American Bar. In the new section, on the Promenade deck, were installed some of the trade mark lounges of Holland America, such as the Explorer Lounge, Ocean Bar, Library, etc, while between the theatre and the new section, the Homeric Lounge was converted into the Queen's Lounge.
On the Sun deck, the pool was enlarged, as well as the glass telescopic roof. Also, aft of the forward pool a buffet called Verandah Restaurant, with 262 seats was built.
It was a relatively small room, but solved one of the bigger original deficiencies of the vessel.
All of the inside design was carried out by VFD Interior BV, the HAL habitual decorators. It was their first work for Carnival Corporation.
Evidently, the lengthening increased the commercial value of the ship for two reasons: she became compatible with the new cruise ships of the fleet, and solved some of most serious original deficiencies. Maybe, the only negative part was the elimination of the observation lounge (Buena Vista Lounge).
This was not replaced by another similar area. The cinema, situated above wheelhouse, made a perfect observation salon, or also disco, given that their value is null on a cruise ship with television in all cabins. Finally Old Dutch artworks (from XVI and XVII centuries) valued $2 millions were installed on board.
Also, during the lengthening, all the propulsion equipment was overhauled (main engines, shaft lines, propellers, etc.), and a new 1,800 kW diesel auxiliary engine was installed.
Initial Marketing of the Westerdam
On March 21 1990, the Westerdam arrived in New York, where she was unanimously applauded by media and travel agents.
In her first years as Westerdam , Holland America was employing a marketing design for the historic clientele of mature American people, mainly repeat passengers (Alumni Society), with slogans as "A tradition of excellence". This is the reason why there was no emphasis about activity on board on Holland America advertising.
The ports of call were very important in her marketing. In Alaska, for example, the brochures describe the natural beauties (with such words as excitement, delicious adventures) and the history of the Yukon gold rush. The service on board was also emphasised; with lot of photos with an abundance of gastronomy; also, the presence on board of Chaine de Rotisseurs chefs was highlighted.
Finally, the total ship with her art works and excellent public rooms was pointed out.
Between 1990 and 2002
From 1990 to the 2002, the Westerdam had a seasonal itinerary: winters in the Caribbean, summers in Alaska.
In the winter, generally from October to May, Westerdam was offering week long cruises from Fort Lauderdale to the Western Caribbean (called Milk Run), with calls in San Juan, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
In the mid nineties, the private HAL's island, Half Moon Cay, was introduced into the Caribbean itineraries, instead of Nassau. In her last Caribbean season (2001-2002), Westerdam was offering cruises with two alternative itineraries.
A shorter five days cruise from $569 with calls in Key West, Half Moon Cay and Nassau (the first incursion of Holland America in the short Caribbean cruise market).
Also being offered were eight days long Milk Run cruises from $839.
Between May and October, the Westerdam was always in the cold waters of Alaska. Only in the summer of 1997 did the Westerdam sail in cruises from New York to Canada and New England. The Westerdam's programme offered in Alaska was always the same in eleven years: a week long round cruise from Vancouver, with two sea days in the Inside Passage and calls in Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan.
The only difference was the day of departure. In the 2001 season, she sailed from Vancouver on Tuesdays, reserving the more commercial days for the HAL's new ships.
The positioning cruises between the Caribbean and Alaska were sold as long trips (two weeks long) through the Panama Canal. These cruises were usually sold in two segments, with a turn around port as an intermediate call, such as Puerto Limon or Acapulco.
The Westerdam never sailed to Hawaii at the end of her Alaska season.
She was a very fine ship for long cruises due to the cabin size, as well as the number and difference of her accommodations. Her size and specifically, her small draught permitted her to sail to small ports.
The Costa Europa's refit kept the Westerdam' layout intact.
She had eleven decks, nine of them dedicated to passengers. Following the path begun in Costa Atlantica, she is the third Costa ship with a theme decoration on board. In this case, it was Greek mythology.
So, her decks were called Sirens, Hercules, Perseus, etc.
After her delivery to Costa, she underwent a refit in Genoa. This refit was of lesser intensity than the Costa Tropicale one, carried out one year before.
The work carried out included the creation of new places, such as the Medusa Ballroom, with a capacity for 450 people; the intimate Delo Bar and the Squok Club for the children, as well as certain improvements to suites and to the casino. The cabins and public spaces for the crew were also improved.
The lower deck, called Orion, houses the restaurant, where the passengers, in two sittings, will be delighted with the exquisite meals of the Costa chefs.
With 868 seats, the restaurant has mainly tables for eight people, though tables for six, four and two also exist. There is ample space between the tables, and so the work of the stewards is simplified.
The room is divided into two parts, because it was necessary to add a fire zone in the 1990 lengthening. Her roof is inspired by the restaurants of the old France , with a dome in the center, which gives height to the space without it appearing double level height. The dome has a brass decoration, with triangular motives.
The place has a nautical atmosphere, with a lot of wood in the walls, a blue carpet and also blue upholstery on the chairs. It has natural light due to two rows of traditional bulls eyes located both sides, which can be illuminated by night. This room is very large, with lot of space, but works in two sittings.
The forward part of this deck is dedicated to cabins.
Deck Pegasus, Perseus and Auriga
The three following deck, Pegasus, Perseus and Auriga, are full of cabins, without public rooms. The cabins has a classic lay out, with to two longitudinal corridors, as in most of the modern cruise ships. This deck houses all standard cabins, both inside and outside. Only five suites were located amidships on the port side of the Auriga deck.
The embarkation doors on Costa Europa are located on the sides of the Perseus deck, and give access to a lobby. Here, the excursion desk and office are located, opposite the forward stairs.
The next deck up is called Hércules. It houses almost all salons and public spaces. Forward there is the lower deck of the Atlante Theater, which could seat 792 people and is furnished in red.
The round shaped stage is located forward, and the seats are disposed around this on two levels. This guarantees a perfect view and a comfortable stay in couches and chairs. The only exception were the circular banquettes on either sides, with were uncomfortable. The lay out of the lower deck of the theater is very similar to the theaters of the twins Costa Classica and Romantica.
The ground level, in front of the stage has only sofas without tables, and is surrounded by a row of rounded sofas around a circular table. Behind these, the lower deck increases in height toward the entrances, in order to improve the sight lines .The second level is a "U" shaped amphitheatre, with good sightlines.
The red roof of the theater has fiber optics lights and triangular shaped acoustical decorations. The striking red tones dominate the decoration, as in the theatres of the twins Costa Classica and Romantica .
The Medusa Ball Room
Aft is found the Medusa Ball Room, the former Queen's Lounge. This place, which occupies all the breadth of the ship, has ample windows both sides, fitted with red curtains and screens. This place has an annular lay out around a circular dance floor located in the centre of the room.
The stage is located aft, as well as the control room, opposite a star inspired mural located in the forward wall. There are two lateral circulations and the space between the ship sides and the corridors are elevated, to improve sightlines. The room is illuminated with star shaped glass lighting, flashing candelabras and indirect lighting. All the carpets were renewed, and the new one is excellent, with a square decoration in red and beige tones.
There are eight pillars, with gold ornaments. All furniture is upholstered in red, beige and blue tones, with a splendid colour distribution. The typical high back Costa chairs were used here. Also used here is an abundance of brass and bronze. A counter is located aft, on the starboard side, with a glass top.
Other Public Spaces
After this space, the passengers can find a series of public spaces of quiet and relaxed ambience: the library, the card room, the Argo Lounge and a local with HAL trademark, the Ocean Bar. All these areas were added in the 1989-90 lengthening.
The Argo Lounge is installed in the space formerly occupied by the Explore's Lounge on the port side. It has a nautical atmosphere, with blue carpet and furniture, wood walls and ample side windows. Also, dark wood is used in the walls and ceiling. The former Dutch art works were retained, and so this room has a classical feel.
The library is located forward of the Argo lounge, and shares the same blue carpet, but the ceiling is blue. I particularly enjoyed the paintings of old Dutch sailing ships, and the dark wood furniture.
The Ocean bar
It is located on the starboard side. It shares the same carpet with the Medusa Ballroom, but has a very different ambience. There is an elliptical dance floor, with a piano, and has the feeling of a gentleman's club. The furniture is dark wood, and there are some excellent places, such as the two circular sofas, or the classical counter.
Here, the circulation was only on the port side, and on that corridor, an old Dutch gun surprises the passengers. On this side, the Costa Europa has the most innovative Internet Café in the Costa fleet, located in the place of the former meeting room.
It has flat screens, in a classical room with wooden walls. So, the ship hasn't a true meeting room, with multimedia equipment for conventions, meetings, etc, but the card room could be used for this.
Quiet and Noisy Areas
Aft of this deck, around the funnel casing, are located the Hercules square and Shops, with the information counter located port side and open 24 hours. This space works as a meeting point, and as an atrium...but only one deck high. Also, three boutiques, the photo gallery and the beauty salon are located here.
At the very end of the ship, there is a mix of quiet and noisy areas.
On the port side, the casino, surprisingly located away from passenger circulation, with a splendid square shaped green coloured carpet, and a brown ceiling. Whilst on the starboard side is found the Ladonte disco, with a red carpet that needs renovation, and a stainless steel dance floor, with room for plenty of discos.
It has a radial lay out around the dance floor whereas the counter is located opposite. The transition between both places is done by the classical Delo Bar, with a nautical flavour and red and brown stairs, and by the newly installed children playroom called Squok Club, decorated in yellow tones.
The next deck, Andromeda, houses forward the amphitheatre of the Admiral theatre. In the central part are located the suites, and aft of the funnel casing is found the "U" shaped Lido Restaurant.
It is one of two buffets on board, with a capacity of 250 seats. It has large windows both sides and aft, with good views of the sea. I think it is too narrow and long, except for the aft section, which is roomy.
The furniture is white chairs with blue cushions, and green sofas. The buffet ends in the aft pool, which has a bar and grill, and is completely decked in teak. It also has a jacuzzi, and a good open deck space for sunning.
This installation is typical of the Holland America cruise ships, and offers the passengers a magnificent place to walk or to sun bathe, or simply to contemplate the sea by use of the sun chairs.
The deck has forward the wheelhouse and some officer's cabins. In the centre is located the gymnasium, fitted with 21 machines of different type, also two saunas and two massage rooms. There isn't an aerobic zone.
The gymnasium is one of the Achilles' heels of this ship, because of the lack of spaciousness compared to what is found on modern cruise ships.
Aft is another group of suites, (fitted in the 1990 lengthening), which extend until the funnel casing.
Aft, surrounding the pool situated on the Andrómeda deck is found a "U" shaped solarium, also decked in teak. But there is no communication between the gymnasium and the aft part of the ship, on this deck.
This deck has one of the most interesting mix of public spaces found on a cruise ship.
Just on top of the wheelhouse, forward, is the cinema, used also for religious services, meetings and lectures. It has a capacity for 237 people, in comfortable seats, with blue upholstery which need renovation. Just aft of the movie theatre (the transition is made by way of the stairs), is found the second pool.
This is fitted with a sliding transparent roof that allows use on rainy days. This is the first ship of Holland America that has this infrastructure later to become a standard feature of all the ships of the company. The pool is small, and only has two jacuzzis. It is surrounded by a splendid teak deck, which was renovated in her last refit.
Aft of the pool is the second buffet, called Verandah, added during the lengthening of the ship.
It has big picture windows both sides, and wooden chairs. This also works as an informal alternative restaurant. It has a capacity for 238 people, a relatively low roof, and is very noisy.
There is an additional deck, housing the winch to the sliding roof of the pool, which also allows an additional space for sunbathers. Aft of this deck are two tennis courts, convertible into a volleyball court track, surrounded by a wind baffle to shelter it.
The Costa Europa has a great variety of cabins, a big difference to other ships of the Costa fleet, such as Costa Tropicale. Holland America was offering up to 14 different types of outside cabins, and seven inside ones. This fact was always a handicap for this ship, because her fleet mates had a most uniform cabin offer, and permitted an easier commercialisation. In this variety of cabins, there are clearly three large types of cabins:
Five suites have an approximate surface of 38 square meters. It has two lower beds convertible to king size bed, an independent salon, walk in closet, and a complete and ample bath. They are located on the port side amidships on the Auriga deck between standard cabins.
Also, the Costa Europa has 8 deluxe cabins, of 22 square meters, which have the disadvantage in that they are very long and are situated in the Andrómeda deck, aft of the second level of the theater. The cabin has two ample closets, a section of salon, and two lower beds convertible to a king size bed in the outside section. The bath, located in front of the closets, has the same size and disposition found on the suites.
Many cabins have a sofa bed, and 40 are specially designed for families, with capacity for four people (sofa bed and a bunk). In the opposed ends, the Costa Europa has some small cabins located in the extreme bow and stern sections, which have two bunks, and 12 square meters of surface.
66 % of the cabins face the sea, and all are fitted with television, dryer, bath or shower and safe. Also, there are four handicapped cabins. The problem with the Costa Europa is the lack of cabins with a balcony. Also, some passengers criticised the lack of acoustical isolation between cabins
Orientation and Circulations Aboard
Costa Europa is a ship in which the vertical orientation works well. All the cabins (except some suites) are located always in the hull, under the public rooms deck. The only exception is the main dining room.
There are four blocks of elevators and stairs, but the distance to an elevator can be more than 40 meters. However, the vertical communication is complicated because the aft two groups of elevators don't reach the upper decks.
The passengers with a cabin located aft have to travel almost one hundred meters horizontally to be able to go to the pool deck, or to the movie theatre. This is not logical.
In the modern ships, all the elevators have the same number of stops, which is an advantage for passenger boarding.
The horizontal circulation is simple on cabin decks, thank to two longitudinal corridors. In the Hércules deck, in which are situated all the public salons, the orientation can be complicated at first, due to the fact that there aren't corridors or promenades (as on Costa Tropicale), but after two nights at sea all people were familiar with the situation.
The strong points of this ship are her big outdoor surface; her beautiful terraced superstructured bow and her similarity with Costa Classica and Costa Romantica, which share the same gross tonnage and almost identical lay out.
Her Achille's heel is the lack of an atrium, the vibration in some public spaces and cabins aft, and the lack of a true children's playroom.
Costa Crociere officially presented Costa Europa, including a brochure, in the 2002 Borsa Internazionale of the Tourism (BIT) of Milan.
She was christened April 2002 in Genoa and after two 11 days Mediterranean cruises at the beginning of May Costa Europa left Genova to the North of Europe.
Here, based in Amsterdam, the ship offered, during the summer season, cruises of 10, 11, 12 and 14 days to the Norwegian fjords, North Cape and the Baltic capitals.
Last winter she returned to Genoa sailing long cruises from Genoa to the Canary Islands. Next summer, she will go back to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capitals, and will offer long cruises (more than seven nights always) from Amsterdam.
For further information: Costa Cruises