Day three sees the vessel dock in the industrial port of Livorno. Free shuttle buses are on hand to transport you into town. Again, there is all manner of excursion to try. Florence is an hour away but Pisa and the allure of its leaning tower was what our-five-year old wanted to do.
You can, of course, choose to stay put. There is a smorgasbord of experiences aboard to tickle your fancy. There’s surfing and boogie boarding, rock climbing, mini golf, football and basketball on the top deck. There are two kids clubs, accessed through the all too enticing amusement arcade where the games are not part of the all-inclusive package.
There is so much to see and do that you don’t actually ever need to go ashore. Most of the entertainment is free. There are movies to enjoy; full-scale productions like Saturday Night Fever the Musical in a high-tech theatre with hydraulic disco floors and other special effects, Dreamworks characters parade the main drag, there are ice shows, ice skating plus magic tricks from waiters at every turn.
The service everywhere is second to none with every member aboard willing to do your bidding and working hard to make the holiday memorable.
Gourmands looking for authentic French and Italian cuisine will be disappointed by the international resort-style fare of the Windjammer buffet restaurant.
But you can also enjoy table service meals in a grand dining room, where you are allocated a specific table and dining time. For a finer dining experience there are two restaurants; Chops grill, an upscale steakhouse and Portofino, a fine Italian eatery. Their fare is not included in the price of your package and bookings should be made in advance as they are regularly booked out.
At night we sailed Owl and the Pussycat -style by the light of the silvery moon. Keeping the curtains open to let it beam its argent aura right into our bedroom felt pretty special. On day four the ship docks in Civitavecchia a large industrial port about 80 minutes north of Rome. There are excursions to the Eternal City but for small children the allure of the onboard water park is too much.
Is cruising coming out of its doldrums? The numerous incidences of food poisoning, and the Costa Concordia disaster last year, had damaged the public’s perception of the industry.
The industry fought back. The Italian cruise operator Costa Crociere, owner of the Costa Concordia and controlled by US group Carnival, reacted by cutting prices and saw a 25 per cent annual rise in bookings in April of last year.
Hip music festival Coachella’s decision to partner with Celebrity Cruises on a musical tour of the Caribbean this winter also serves to open it up to a new audience.
The cruising demographic is changing. The decks are no longer awash with pensioners. While silver socialisers still represent a significant portion of the business there are now many different cruising tribes: the young adventurers, hip 20-something couples keen to try something new; the practical parents addled and in search of an easy time; the glamouristas who take fashion’s definition of cruise wear seriously and glides by as if on a catwalk; the “Because I’m Worth It” fiftysomething females who travel in packs hooting their way from port to port, and the traditionalists who despite the itinerary still spend most of their time in the casino and the piano bar.