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Asia, especially China, is one of the most promising markets for the cruise industry. While companies like Royal Caribbean are modifying their existing liners for the Chinese market, Costa Cruises decided to build a special ship for their Asian guests.

Costa Venezia set sail on March 8 from Trieste on its inaugural 53-day sailing to Asia, following the tracks of Marco Polo. From Singapore, the ship is sailing to Bangkok, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, before reaching Shanghai, its new home.

Venice themed ship to ride Asian waves

Costa Cruises is the only company in the industry to fly the Italian flag. Costa emphasizes its Italian roots in everything from the greetings of passengers to the interior features, although it’s not an easy task to adapt the notes of the Renaissance into Asian culture.

When we received the invitation to Costa Venezia, I was a bit skeptical. I couldn’t stop thinking about Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas with a slightly caricatured Caesar, sculpted in the American-style Colosseum. However, once aboard it was clear I was wrong. The only evidence of anything chintzy I could find was a wax figure of Marilyn Monroe. However, she’s not even Italian, so it’s forgivable.

Luciano Povarotti succeeded sculptors! In total, eight celebrity Madame Tussauds-esque statues can be seen on the specially equipped red-carpet alley, including Daniel Craig as James Bond, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanova from the Avengers, Harry Potter and other famous actors. Jackie Chan was of course there as well.

The ship does an excellent job portraying the look and feel of Venice, with a sleek mixture of marble pillars, stone-carved walls, statues, hand-drawn paintings and gold. Even for people who have never been to Venice they’ll get a good impression of how it is. There are real Gondolas placed around the ship which you can sit in, including one in the centre of a restaurant that mimics the famous Rialto Bridge.

The main atrium is reminiscent of the world-famous St. Mark’s Square, while the restaurants imitate the typical architecture of Venetian alley ways and squares. The stairwells and corridors are decorated with paintings and photographs of Venice. The ceiling of the main bar is one big decorative painting, much like that of the Sistine Chapel.

The design of the pool area with its retractable glass roof, gives a feeling of the classic roman baths. On the final night of the trip, we were given authentic handmade Venetian masks which was a nice touch.

The theatre, made in the style of the Venice theater “La Fenice”, features a musical about Don Juan with an enchanting masquerade party that recreates the magical atmosphere of the famous Venice Carnival. Coffee lovers (like us) will be pleasantly surprised that Italian Illy coffee is serviced all over the ship. If you know cruises then you know that finding good coffee without paying a lot is hard to come by!

Along with the Venetian décor, the ship is tailored for the Asian market with all the signage in both English and Chinese, a huge casino and separate room for Asian board games and gambling, plenty of oriental restaurants and a private Karaoke rooms. Knowing that China is the capital of video gaming, there are games consoles for the younger ones located at the teen lounge.

Football fans will be happy to find table football, a Juventus-themed football pitch on the top deck and a Juventus museum with memorabilia including Cristiano Ronaldo’s t-shirt and trophies. While the kids are playing, the parents can gamble at the casino, dominated by machines with pandas and dragons.

Now despite the beautiful interior and impressive attention to detail there are a few negatives, chief among which is the sparse dining experience. There are restaurants and a buffet as you would expect, but they’re only open at certain times of the day, as opposed to most other cruises that have food available almost 24 hours. This is great if you’re on a diet but not ideal if you’ve just missed a meal and have to wait hours to eat. There is however, Italian Gelato served all day.

The only other bad point were the badly designed elevators, which when called would assign you a lift that you have to find and wait for, meaning another lift will come sooner than the one you called. The idea sounds very efficient on paper but in reality we found ourselves waiting much longer than a conventional elevator and often gave up and used the stairs, like a lot of other people we saw. Possibly the lifts weren’t working as normal as it was a brand new ship.