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ADAM TIHANY'S CoDe: the world's first floating design museum

Say "bon voyage" to any cruise ship art gallery you've visited before, and embark on a journey to Costa Design Collection (CoDe)- the first museum to ever sail the seven seas.

photos by Andrea Martiradonna, courtesy of Tihany Design

This is a story I've wanted to tell for such a long time, but when the pandemic forced cruising to be put on hold indefinitely, I had no other choice but to do the same with this post.

But as of recently, Costa Cruises' Costa Smeralda (which incidentally, is the first ship in the Costa fleet to be fueled by liquefied natural gas - a massive eco-responsible step forward for the cruise industry as a whole) is once again sailing the ocean blue.

And as such... it's "full steam ahead" for this feature!

The Costa Design Collection is the first museum-type cultural space on a cruise ship. CoDe captures the essence of “Made in Italy” through a selection of furnishings, fashion items, artifacts, and anecdotes. Expertly curated Matteo Vercelloni with Paola Gallo, CoDe is a thrilling representation of Italy’s global influence spanning from the 1930s to the present.

This alone is enough to set my propulsion system in motion, but it's Adam Tihany, one of the world's preeminent hospitality designers, that gets me cruising at 30 knots.

photo: Peter Murphy

Adam Tihany has created hotel, dining, and cruise ship interiors for some of the most iconic properties and brands around the world, including The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Belmond Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy, The Four Seasons Dubai, and closer to home for me... The Breakers, Palm Beach, where I had the distinct honor of meeting, chatting, and taking a picture with him (because as we all know... without photos, it never happened.)

Adam Tihany exudes pure class and sophistication. I hope some of it rubbed off on me when I stood beside him!

The central concept of Costa Smerelda is to convey and celebrate "Italy's finest" in one onboard location. Tihany was appointed Creative Director by Costa Cruise Line, and led an international team comprising four prestigious architectural firms - Dordoni Architetti, Rockwell Group, Jeffrey Beers International, and Partner Ship Design - that was tasked with designing the various areas of the vessel.

Composed of products most of which are still featured in the catalogues of internationally prominent Italian brands, CoDe is a visual narration of furnishings and objects that have transcended passing trends and become timeless representations of the best in Italian design.

Two design sections form the path of Italian furniture design from 1930 to the present. To this day, 90% of the exhibited pieces are still being produced.

Furnishings by the Memphis movement's founder Ettore Sottsass, and pieces by master sculptor Giuseppe Ercolano, coexist in a single space, demonstrating how CoDe effortlessly traverses design eras.

left to right: "Pipistrello" table lamp by Gae Aulenti (1965); black & white-checked "Lady" armchair (1951) by Marco Zanuso; "Atollo" table lamp (1977) by Ludovico Magistrettiand. All three pieces are illuminated from above by the "Caboche" chandelier (2005) by Patricia Urquiola, a modern-day design icon.

The fashion section is a carefully curated selection of clothing created by the most celebrated Italian designers in recent history. An accompanying film reel illustrates the progression of Italian fashion through a unique and informative "fashion show over time."

Kitchen and tabletop design, various memorabilia, figurines of fictional characters (like Pinocchio!) and assorted means of transportation convene at CoDe, together giving a unique and personal account of Italian identity.

A selection of bicycles and motorcycles from past decades offers a close-up look at the design of Italian two-wheeled vehicles.

And it cannot go unmentioned that the very architecture of the Costa Design Museum is a modern marvel in itself.

So, if a Mediterranean cruise aboard Costa Smerelda is in your travel plans - now or in the future - keep in mind that among the many spectacular sights of Italy to see, CoDe is one you won't want to miss... and you don't even have to disembark to experience it!

“An Italian ship is a piece of Italy; it has to represent the finer aspects, of greatest prestige, of Italian taste, culture, arts and crafts […] It should be a thrilling documentation of the cultural, civil, human climate of our country. The tourist ought to learn about Italy on the ship.” - Gio Ponti, legendary Italian architect (1891-1979)

For more information about Adam Tihany, visit:

For more information about Costa Smerelda and CoDe, visit:


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