REMEMBERING COSTA ALLEGRA

Costa Allegra, from a Costa Cruises postcard

Costa Allegra, from a Costa Cruises postcard

Costa Allegra was one of the most interesting ships I’ve ever sailed on. Originally built as a container ship- the Annie Johnson- back in Finland in 1969, she was acquired by Costa and completely rebuilt as a cruise ship, returning to service in November of 1992.

It was that combination of obvious container ship hull with the commodious trappings of a modern cruise ship that made her so beguiling. Something about her always felt slightly out of kilter. Defining exactly what is as pointless and maddening as trying to nail a cloud to the ground.

The conversion was a brilliant one, and she and her sister, the rebuilt Costa Marina, the ex Axel Johnson, made for quite a pair. In fact, the Allegra differed from her sister; she was lengthened by around forty feet, and her original engines were replaced with new diesels.

They both had the boxy, conventional hull of their container ship origins, with an almost flush decked superstructure that terminated in a wall of glass, three storeys high, at the stern. This was, in fact, the back of the main restaurant, and it is a feature much copied since on many bigger ships. Both ships introduced the triple grouping of aft place funnel structures that was to become the Costa corporate logo, at least until the Carnival takeover; the same design was deliberately incorporated into the three bigger, pre Carnival new builds; Costa Classica, Costa Romantica, and Costa Victoria.

In those days, Costa was still an Italian company in spirit and execution, as well as in name. The interiors of the Costa Allegra reflected the brilliance of Italian interior design; there was a casual, spectacular use of carrara marble throughout the interiors, with much use of glass ceilings and walls to allow natural light to suffuse the ship. Beautiful paintings and random, elegant statuary scattered around the ship gave her a rich, Fellini-esque feel that was a million miles removed from the current line of Farcusian interiors showcased by the current Costa ships. Make no mistake; the Costa Allegra looked and felt a million miles removed from those vessels.

Of course, a lot of that was down to her smaller, far more intimate size. Costa Allegra displaced around 28,500 tons, and had a lower berth capacity of some 820 passengers, based on twin occupancy. These were accommodated in 399 cabins. Ten of the thirteen suites boasted the only private balconies on board.

Interestingly, the inside and outside cabins were of almost identical dimensions, at around 140 square feet each. The Costa Allegra had a vast, central sun deck with a pool and a couple of Jacuzzis. Sunning space stretched, quite literally, right to the stern, where another smaller pool was located.

She was a supremely comfortable, indolent ship for sure. But the Costa Allegra was also something of a snappy roller; I often thought that she would have rolled on damp grass.

Service was smart, polished and generally very attentive. I recall the food as veering towards excellent at times.

The loss of both ships was inevitable in light of the Carnival take over. Following a much publicised power loss near the Seychelles after an on board fire, the proud Costa Allegra suffered the humiliation of having to be towed to safety. This, coming only weeks after the capsizing of the Costa Concordia, helped to seal her fate. After twenty years of sterling service in her second, very unlikely role, the Costa Allegra was scrapped at Aliaga, Turkey in late 2012.

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