| | |

A Dream Cruise on Costa Serena

When told about a cruise to Phuket on the Costa Serena, we were excited to find out how the experience would be. The getaway started with a drive to the Port Klang Cruise Terminal and never having been there before, we were pleasantly surprised that it was at a spacious area with ample parking.

Costa Serena
The magnificent Costa Serena

Hwajing Travel first warmly welcomed us to the cruise vacation onboard the beautiful Costa Serena with a lovely letter. Hwajing Travel & Tours, a well-established Malaysian travel & cruise specialist since 1989, marked a milestone in the cruise travel industry in Malaysia by chartering the first international cruise ship to homeport in Port Klang. What’s great is that they offered Malaysian residents a convenient and affordable way to travel between Malaysia and Thailand, allowing us to save on time and costs while enjoying a relaxing holiday onboard this uniquely Italian cruise ship. Certainly an achievement to be proud of!

This accomplishment elevates Malaysia as a premier, homeport destination that offers international cruise experiences. Plus, it contributes to the economic growth of Malaysia as international cruises will attract foreign tourists and domestic visitors, which in turn will result in revenue increment from tourism.

On the top deck of Costa Serena

Costa Serena is a Concordia-class cruise ship that draws inspiration from classical Roman and Greek mythology. Also known as the “Ship of Gods”, the name Serena was intended to symbolise harmony and serenity. With a gross tonnage of 114,500 grt and a capacity of 3,700 passengers, Costa Serena has been in service since May 2007 and refitted over the years, offering an array of fantastic facilities. It was designed by world-renowned American hospitality architect, Joseph Farcus. In 2007, Costa Serena provided the backdrop for Italian comedy movie, “Natale In Crociera” (Christmas on a cruise ship), as well as featured in a six-part documentary series, “Cruise Ship Diaries”, on the National Geographic Channel in 2009. Costa Serena’s godmother is Oscar-winning French actress, Marion Cotillard.

To make sure everything went smoothly, we were given some pre-embarkation tips to help us prepare for our trip. This was to ensure we would have many good memories onboard and at our destination. After being dropped off at the cruise terminal, it was great that there were staff who helped us every step of the way, from showing our cruise tickets to the relevant people, to going through immigration procedures and right up to boarding the cruise ship.

Lunch at Restaurant Buffet on Deck 9 before we set sail

Having skipped lunch due to our hectic schedules, we were delighted that there was lunch available on the Costa Serena before we set sail. While seeing the beautiful sea from the windows, we happily chose our food and ate heartily at Restaurant Buffet on Deck 9, where there was an extensive buffet to indulge in. Then it was time for the emergency drill cum safety talk which we were happy to see was taken really seriously by the management of Costa Serena. They made sure everyone went for it, even having later sessions for those who missed the first session accidentally or unknowingly. Soon it was time to set sail and it was a serene, beautiful feeling to see the waters and the scenery as the cruise ship started to move. One felt that one could start to leave all the worries of everyday life behind as we moved away towards the wide open sea.

We then decided to head back to our cabins to check it out more closely and for a short rest. The cabins were cosy and we loved the balcony area where we could sit and look out at the sea as the cruise ship sailed. What was appreciated also was that it was smooth sailing and my daughter who usually suffers from sea sickness didn’t need her pills. I felt in my heart that this was going to be the start of an exceptional short holiday cruise to Phuket.

The best part about going on a cruise is that the whole experience is not just about reaching your destination. The journey there itself is to be savoured and enjoyed.

With its distinct Italian heritage, the food onboard the Costa Serena is nothing short of fantastic. Varied culinary experiences were provided and we had a chance to partake of authentic Italian flavours throughout the Costa Serena. Their exceptional specialty restaurants definitely deserve mention. Casanova Restaurant where we could enjoy fine dining is clearly a must-visit. We were given the opportunity to savour a magnificent lunch there. The lobster dish and fish steak dish were superb and so were the appetisers, soups and desserts.

The classy fine-dining Casanova Restaurant
Lovely seating where we could look out at the sea at Casanova Restaurant
Mouthwatering lobster and seafood dish at Casanova
Yummy dessert

There also was the La Fiorentina Steakhouse where many guests enjoyed a meal at as well. We were told that we could savour freshly made Italian pizza at Pizzeria Pummid’Oro on Deck 10, and refreshing gelato at Gelataria Ciccolateria Amarillo on Deck 5. The prices at all these places were attractive indeed and what you eat is well worth the price. I was delighted with the Malaysia exclusive flavour, the Musang King durian gelato I bought and my daughter loved the special coffee flavour she chose as well.

Of course, all this is in addition to the sumptuous array of local and international delights at Restaurant Buffet on Deck 9 where you don’t have to pay anything as what is served is included in the price of the cruise. There also is the wonderful Ceres restaurant on Deck 3 and 4 where delectable food in fine dining style is served for lunch and dinner. All you have to do is scan the menu and order as much as you can eat to your heart’s delight from the items there. We did wish we had more than just one stomach each to fill when choosing from the many tempting varieties of dishes which were available.

Ceres serves great food and the ambience there is great

Breakfast was amazing too and guests could eat a scrumptious breakfast at the buffet restaurant on Deck 9 or at Ceres in the mornings. Those who preferred to, could have breakfast at Restaurant Buffet. At Ceres also, what we ate and drank were already included in the rate of the cruise, which means you don’t have to pay anything, unless you order extras, such as soft drinks or alcoholic drinks, which are not included.

For our convenience, bottled water was provided in our room on our first day of sailing. Subsequently, we could refill our water bottles at Restaurant Buffet on Deck 9. There also was a kettle in the room. Coffee and tea were available at the buffet restaurant. For those who wanted something more, specialty coffee, soft drinks, juices and a wide range of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages were available for purchase at the 7 bars located throughout the ship. Alternatively, there were various Drinks Packages available that you could indulge in and sip to your heart’s content!

Day 1 saw us being taken on a tour of the ship. Everything was impressive! We saw the spa, the gym, the swimming pools, the jacuzzi, the theatre and the different restaurants, amongst other things. The amenities were noteworthy. The spa was magnificent and there were many services to pamper ourselves with on the cruise, such as hairstyling, pedicures and manicures, which customers could opt to go for. The friendly consultants were happy to share what they could offer and the prices for the different services.

Lovely spa to pamper ourselves at

After the tour, we went for the tasting session. We were told that we were very lucky because we had both Costa Cruises’ Executive Chef Simone Ingrosso and Pastry Chef Ricardo Bellaera from the headquarters in Genoa onboard Costa Serena. These extremely talented Italian chefs were rarely both together on the same cruise and they were there to make sure we had the best culinary experience possible. I must say that all the food and desserts we tasted while on the ship were first-rate … so much so that even as I write this article, I’m thinking of and wishing for the food I enjoyed on the cruise.

Talented chefs onboard the Costa Serena

At the tasting session, we were asked to give feedback on the food to be served at Ceres that night. We could tell them if it would be better if it was less salty, more spicy, etc. It was a really interesting time as we could chat with the chefs and take photos of them and also with them.

Once we hit international waters, the casino was opened. If feeling lucky, it’s the place to head to. The ambience there is inviting and exciting. Who knows? You may leave the ship richer than when you boarded it!

Casino that is opened once the cruise ship is on international waters

The evening saw us dining in style at Ceres. What was shown during the tasting session was on the menu and we could choose what we liked best. The service was excellent and after a satisfying dinner, some of us in our group went to explore what the ship had to offer further, while some of us went to our cabins for a good night’s rest as we wanted to be ready and fresh for the next day’s activities.

Day 2 started with a satisfying breakfast at Ceres and later many of us walked around the ship, taking pictures and finding out more about what was available to enjoy onboard. Even looking at the artwork was wonderful as these were found everywhere, giving a very arty and classy feel to the place. Done in the architectural style of ancient Rome, Costa Serena collaborated with globally renowned artists, featuring a staggering 5,900 pieces of art onboard. These provide passengers with an unparalleled visual feast. Shopping was also possible on the cruise itself as there were Shopping Mall boutiques where we could buy lovely and unique products.

During the call at the port of Phuket, the ship remains at anchor and the landing takes place through a tender boat service. Going ashore is organised with tender boats running continuously and free of charge. The process of disembarkation was convenient and smooth and before long, after a short boat trip, we were enjoying the marvellous beach at Phuket. There were tours we could book from the cruise ship to explore Phuket further if we wanted to.

The beach at Phuket is beautiful

However, we could also just enjoy the glorious beach and the many attractions nearby. Shopping was fun, whether it was at the shops or stalls along the street or at shopping complexes nearby. Some guests from the cruise ship even managed to find time to have Thai massages. As for the food and entertainment, the sheer variety took our breath away. Phuket was booming with tourists of all nationalities. It felt as though Covid-19 never happened! By as early as 9pm, the nightlife was already in full swing and the nightclubs and restaurants were doing brisk business.

Phuket is booming with tourists

Those who wished to, could party the night away but everyone had to be onboard the ship by 6am in the morning. We were told that once we felt tired or wanted to rest, we could head back to the pier and take a comfortable tender boat back to Costa Serena. The walk to where the boats were moored was pleasant and when we looked into the waters, we could see many little fishes which had come in with the tide, swimming happily. There were cold drinks served as we waited to board the tender boats. I was actually quite surprised at how thirsty I had become and it was a thoughtful gesture from them to provide the cold drinks that I saw were appreciated by other guests too.

On our part, we headed back to Costa Serena at around midnight, after a satisfying time spent at Phuket. The well-organised embarkation and disembarkation process allowed us to make the most of our time at our port-of-call. They wanted us to enjoy the stunning sunset and beaches, explore the vibrant nightlife and feast on authentic Thai flavours in Phuket, all before hopping back onboard for a good night’s rest. They did an excellent job and we were already wishing that our dream cruise holiday could last longer and we didn’t have to head back home so soon.

The OGGI and other things we needed for a smooth stay

Something I really enjoyed while on Costa Serena was going through the OGGI. Each day, we received an ‘OGGI’ Daily Programme that listed all the onboard activities, entertainment, restaurant options, dining hours, sunrise/sunset hours, etc. for us to plan our day at sea. The next day’s programme was left either in our cabin or in the letterbox outside our cabin at night. Chinese or Malay editions were available at the Reception on Deck 3. So many interesting activities were listed on the OGGI, from exercise/dance classes, demonstrations on baking perfect pizzas, international standard theatre shows, movies, dance parties, etc. There were many enjoyable activities for children too. There even was a session where guests could dance with the ship’s dashing officers, which many enjoyed. Truth be told, the many pleasurable activities made us feel that we had to go on another cruise on the Costa Serena just to relish everything it could offer.

Day 3 was spent trying the activities on the cruise that we hadn’t yet had the time to. At our leisure, we enjoyed fine dining at Casanova (mentioned earlier in this article) where we had an experience we will always remember, checked out the casino and indulged in eating ice-cream. We also checked out the high tea which looked delectable. We were a bit too full from lunch to join the session but saw guests enjoying the ambience and teatime treats.

Sumptuous High Tea

Time tends to fly when on the cruise as there are so many experiences to explore. It was soon time for the gala dinner but before that, we had a lovely, enchanting surprise at our cabins. As we went out to our balconies to look at the sea, we managed to catch what some call the Golden Hour. The sun was setting and the sky and our surroundings were bathed in a surreal golden glow. It was truly magical and the sheer beauty we experienced made us feel grateful to be alive and able to experience such glorious moments.

The Golden Hour

Once the sun had set, we quickly dressed up and went for the gala dinner at Ceres. The restaurant was overflowing with diners that night. I didn’t know there were so many guests onboard as the Costa Serena is so spacious and when we walked around, it didn’t feel crowded.

The Gala Dinner at Ceres when the talented staff performed and everyone joined in the fun

A highlight at the gala dinner was the staff performance that night when they put up a really fun and boisterous performance. Soon guests started clapping and dancing with the talented crew and the whole atmosphere lighted up with joy. Too soon, it was time for the gala dinner to end but all of us had so much fun. We must also mention that a main course that included lobster was available as part of the menu that night and it was delicious.

A captivating performance at the Theatre titled Venezia Innamorata

We then manage to catch part of a fascinating live show called Venezia Innamorata by highly talented performers at the Theatre before heading to our cabins for a short rest. However, we soon came out again as we wanted to see guests dancing with the officers. This was followed by a Venice Carnival party where some of the revellers were seen wearing masks. It was a lively, colourful and joyous time. This was at the Apollo Grand Bar on Deck 5. Even guests who were usually naturally shy, found themselves drawn to the dance floor and started jiving there. After all, it was a cruise holiday … a time to let loose and throw all our troubles and inhibitions out of the window.

Dancing at the Carnival Party

The next day saw us enjoying a relaxing day with some deciding to swim, hitting the gym, taking more pictures or just having a leisurely breakfast at the cabin. Too soon, we had to start packing as the Costa Serena would be landing at Port Klang and it was time to head back to home and reality.

We love Costa Cruises

There were so many must-do experiences which were curated for us and we really appreciated it. A well-established agent and trusted cruise specialist since 1989, Hwajing Travel is committed to ensuring that its guests are fully satisfied with their experience. It’s hard to fully describe this superb cruise with words. All I can say is that we were fortunate to have experienced all it had to offer and managed to enjoy an authentic Italian cruise vacation without having to fly to Italy.

Disembarkation was surprisingly smooth too. There was a talk given so that we knew what to do. We were given time slots to leave and this cut down on the stress of everything being too crowded.

We were sad to say goodbye to Costa Serena and all the amazing staff and crew members there who were really helpful, efficient and friendly during our stay. Our love for cruises had indeed been kindled brightly and we left with precious memories of our wonderful time on Costa Serena.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *