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We think there's something special about sailing in a cruise line's "home" waters, where it's easy to become immersed in a region's culture, history, language, and more. With a motto of "Cruising Italian Style" and worldwide headquarters in Genoa, Costa Cruises is at home in Italy and the line's home waters of the Mediterranean.

It's this specialization that prompted us to sail aboard the Costa Serena to various Mediterranean ports of call and we quickly learned the differences and advantages of visiting Italy and the rest of the Med with Costa . Launched in 2007, the Costa Serena was the second in a line of six 3,780-passenger ships and features a contemporary design that adopted the (appropriate) personalities and characteristics of some of the gods, goddesses, and demigods of Ancient Rome and Greece.

Owned by Carnival Corporation since 2000, Costa is often referred to as the "Carnival of Europe" and features ships with many of the same amenities and Carnival-like touches throughout the ship. For instance, we found: a soaring nine-deck atrium (Pantheon Atrium); two similar two-deck dining rooms (Ceres and Vesta); a street-like deck five with many of the ship's public spaces; and a now-ubiquitous waterslide and water park area.

We quickly realized we'd be immersed in Italian and Mediterranean culture on this ship. From the 'Made in Italy' offerings of food, wine and coffees to the international entertainment to the late-night dancing in the varied clubs, our entire experience was indeed, Bella Italia!