Dispatch, Costa Diadema: In Naples, maximizing margherita time

by Tom Stieghorst |

Prior to boarding the Costa Diadema for Costa Cruises’ annual “Protagonisti del mare,” or “Champions of the sea” gala event to honor the line’s travel agent partners, Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst spent some time in Naples, Italy, on the hunt for some local grub.

If you only have a short time in port in Naples, Italy, head for one of the city’s authentic pizzerias.

Naples is said to be the birthplace of pizza — although it goes back in some form to Roman times — and more than one pizzeria in Naples claims to be the originator of the tri-colored margherita pizza.

For cruise passengers, a good option is to head for via Tribunali, home to four or five well-patronized pizza parlors. It is about a 15-minute walk from the port terminal in Naples. My hotel concierge told me a taxi to the area should cost no more than 10 euros.
My first stop on via Tribunali was Di Matteo, which was favored by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is shown munching on a slice in a photo that appears on the cover of Di Matteo’s menu.

Despite the excellent navigation and mapping functions on my iPhone, I missed finding Di Matteo twice. It looks like little more than a takeout window at first. Only when I asked directions of an Italian shopkeeper and he pointed over my shoulder, did I find it.

The place was bustling at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday. The pizza oven and a takeout business are just inside the entrance, with a dining room hidden to the side and more space up a steep set of stairs. My dining companions and I climbed the stairs to a cozy room lit by florescent lights and containing four tables with paper tablecloths.

The atmosphere at Di Matteo is like eating in an old friend’s kitchen. There is marble wainscoting on the walls, but rattan in the chair seats. I counted 39 varieties on the pizza menu. We ordered a margherita, an eggplant and a mushroom/ham pizza, which arrived quickly.

They were properly thin-crusted, with burn marks around the rim and a thin layer of tomato sauce and cheese covering their circular expanse. The three pizzas and a bottle of regional red wine cost us 22 euros. We carted away some leftovers in the classic cardboard box.

The following day I was ready for more, so I trooped by myself back to via Tribunali, this time to Sorbillo, a few blocks down the street. I arrived before noon, which was good because by 12:30 there was a crowd about 20 deep waiting to get in for lunch.

Sorbillo is a little more easily recognized as a restaurant outside, with its blue- and white-striped awnings. Inside it makes more of an effort to be decorative than Di Matteo.

Unlike Di Matteo, however, there is no English translation of ingredients on the menu, so I wasn’t sure what toppings were included on some of the pies listed. I punted and went with the basic margherita. The green ingredient in the red, white and green margherita is basil, and I have to confess I found the amount of basil at both Sorbillo and Di Matteo rather small.

My standard for pizza has always been the pizza place in my hometown, said to be owned by the city’s Mafia boss. I expected the pizza in Naples to be crispy, but the crusts were more doughy than I imagined, somewhat the consistency of a soft pretzel.

But very satisfying to eat, even so. Although the pizza spilled out over the edge of a 12-inch plate, I finished it all. My family would not be surprised.

Be advised that many restaurants in Naples close after lunch and don’t reopen until 7:30 p.m.

Other “Vera Pizza Napoletana” pizzerias (a quality designation) on or near via Tribunale include Antica Pizzeria Port’ Alba and Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente (Clinton ate there, too, and the place was renamed in his honor).

Carnival Boosting Fleet Capacity

Regal Princess

Regal Princess

 The world’s largest cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation & plc  said it would increase fleet capacity by nearly 10 percent from 2014 through 2016, fueled largely by the addition of four new ships across four brands in less than 18 months.

This week, Carnival Corporation is christening two new ships in the span of three days as its Princess and Costa brands host official naming ceremonies for Regal Princess and Costa Diadema, the latest new vessels to join the company’s  fleet of more than 100 ships across nine cruise brands.

Additionally, in 2015, the company’s P&O Cruises UK and AIDA brands will each debut a new ship, giving Carnival Corporation a total of four new ship additions by October of next year.

In addition, Carnival Corporation continues to expand its upgrades and refurbishments to existing ships. In 2015, the company plans upgrades or refurbishments on 17 ships across six of its brands.

The 2015 refurbishment plans include two former Holland America Line ships transferred to P&O Cruises Australia that will undergo complete refurbishment before sailing as Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden starting in November 2015.

The renovated ships will be tailored for Australian and New Zealand passengers.

Diadema05a_07

Carnival Corporation’s four new fleet additions in 18 months are part of the company’s plan to introduce nine new ships across seven of its brands between 2014 and 2017.

AIDA, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises UK, Princess Cruises and Seabourn are all expected to debut new cruise ships between now and the early part of 2017.

In 2016, Carnival Cruise Lines will debut Carnival Vista, a 133,500-ton ship that will be the largest ever in its fleet — with the ship being unveiled in a sneak preview in New York in January 2015.

Holland America Line will launch its newest ship, the 99,500-ton ms Koningsdam, a new Pinnacle Class ship that can carry 2,650 passengers.

Also in 2016, AIDA will introduce a new sister ship to the 2015 AIDAprima with capacity for 3,250 passengers, while Seabourn will unveil its newest luxury ship, expected to be the biggest ever built by the brand with the ability to serve 604 passengers.

Looking forward to 2017, Princess Cruises is working with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build a 143,000-ton vessel featuring the highly popular design elements introduced by the brand’s two newest ships, and sisters, the Royal Princess and sisters, the Royal Princess and Regal Princess.

$688m Costa Diadema gets wet and sets sail

Costa Cruises has officially christened its new flagship cruise liner Costa Diadema, which is worth $688 million (£433 million).

On November 7th, at Ponte dei Mille in Genoa’s historic maritime station, the ship was officially named and the ceremony began with a parade of the godmother – Italian travel agent Carolina Miceli – and her international maids of honour, who represented Germany, France, Spain and China.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who is the archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, blessed the ship while Ms Miceli named the vessel and helped to cut the ribbon to start the celebrations. A three-litre jeroboam of Ferrari Gran Cuvee Trentodoc spumante was opened on the bow of the ship to get proceedings off with a bang.

Fireworks and a light show made impressive viewing outside, while inside there was a gala dinner that had a special menu created by Michelin-star chef Fabio Cucchelli.

Costa Diadema

Once the christening had finished, Costa Diadema started to make its way towards its homeport – the Italian port of Savona –
until the 2015 summer Mediterranean season comes to an end.

It will take passengers on seven-night cruises that call at Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Naples and La Spezia.

The vessel weighs 132,500 tonnes, and is more than 300 m long and 37 m wide, making it quite the force to be reckoned with. Inside, there are 1,862 guest cabins and it is hoped that the view over the sea will remind viewers of an Italian resort.

In terms of relaxation facilities on board the Costa Diadema, there’s an arcade with interactive games, a three-level spa and a 500 m open-air promenade that contains restaurants, bars and cabanas.

Evening entertainment consists of the new shipboard production show Sapori d’Italia (Flavours of Italy), where a range of songs from the last 100 years will be performed by 18-year-old baritone Simone Baldazzi, acrobats Celia and Julian and the Phly Boyz.

What’s more, the masked party La Notte in Maschera finishes off the night-time programme of events.

More than 1,000 shipyard workers helped to build the vessel, along with 2,500 subcontractors and 400 Italian interior suppliers from Fincantieri’s Marghera yard.

Costa Crociere chief executive officer Michael Thamm said: “Costa Diadema is our new flagship, and she will set new standards in the European cruise industry and further strengthen Costa’s leadership in Europe. She is the best expression of our new brand positioning: Italy’s finest – its passion and modern Italian lifestyle, hospitality and elegance.”