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On July 10, 2010 we returned from a fabulous cruise vacation to the Italian, Spanish and French Rivieras. Costa loves groups and I love Costa. This group of 68 was our sixth with them. Our mega-liner, the Concordia held 3780 passengers and 1100 crew. Of the dozens of different nationalities onboard, only 318 spoke English and yet surprisingly, I felt privileged to be in such a minority. The cruiseline went beyond the call of duty to make us feel special. On day 2, they gave us a private cocktail party. On day 6, they surprised us with an exceptionally generous event. We began with a "Galley Tour" to view the massive kitchens. We saw the appetizer zone, the soup, salad and pasta stations, the steamy hot bakery that runs 24/7 and the dishwashing area where they wash 60,000 dishes daily. Later in the Vienna lounge, dancers came to do a powerful performance for us. Then the top officers arrived to greet us including the Michelin Executive Chef who heads 91 other chefs, hotel manager of 1500 cabins and even the Captain himself, an affable seaman from Cinque Terre. We ended with a geography game in 2 teams attempting to guess world capitals. Few Americans know of Costa, Italy's 3rd top company in terms of reputation behind Ferrari and Armani. Their prices are competitive and like AFS, they maintain a 70% return guest ratio. This was the biggest ship I've been on. I was happy to learn Costa's new ships will not exceed this size. (We booked a group July 2011 on the new Flaviosa, which is under construction.) RC Oasis of the Seas holds nearly 5400 passengers. I'm told the Epic of the Seas will hold 10,000 including crew. I wonder if they'll provide Segways to get to breakfast. I had anticipated some chaos on the Concordia but each day was remarkably smooth. I never waited over 5 minutes in any line and always had a deck chair. There were no tenders to board so we could leisurely disembark anytime. Over the years, I've cruised dozens of lines. Most make it difficult for groups with strict Gestapo-like rules that must be adhered to, such as specific chairs for dinners to being the last passengers allowed to disembark at each port. Only Costa allows flexibility with a laid back attitude of "as you wish." No cruiseline is perfect, but with groups, this is what sets them apart. I chose this cruise for the diverse ports of call in 3 countries. Most enjoyed Barcelona, Marseilles, Avignon, Sorrento and Mallorca. I heard the favorites however to be the Isle of Capri, ruins of Pompeii, glamorous Monte Carlo, charming Portofino and exotic Tunis. Least favorite, Palermo Sicily. In Tunisia I arranged a private tour with a passionate guide named Amel who had just 5 hours to show us her beloved Tunis. We visited ancient Carthage, Sidi Bou Said, a mountain village by the sea and in the crowded souks of the Medina we bargained for treasures. En route back, heavy traffic delayed us, which put me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. We were to board our ship at 1pm. Impossible. When our coach stopped outside the parking gates, we ran as if we were on fire. With the ship blaring, the last one in our group made it within seconds to

the rising of the gangway at 1:33pm. This was a miracle as most ships don't wait and I had no plan B on how to get us from this port in northern Africa to Balearic Islands of Spain. 19 years leading groups, this experience trumped all other moments of stress combined. A letter was placed in my cabin that night to meet the captain at 11:40am next day. Guilt disturbed my sleep as surely he would chew me out for such irresponsibility. Instead I arrived promptly to a room with canapes and champagne. Captain Mario Garbarino extended his hand to me along with 2 kisses to say "Grazie for bringing the big American group onboard!" When my serenity returned, I reflected on a wonderful Adventures For Singles group who blended well and enjoyed a taste of La Dolce Vita with Costa Cruiselines. That's amore!

Suzy Davis President, and tour leader of http://www.adventuresforsingles.com has traveled the world for nearly 30 years initially as a flight attendant and now with her company Adventures For Singles.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Suzy_Davis

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