By Susan J. Young
As Costa recently celebrated its 60th year in business, the contemporary line with the Italian-style product is clearly doing something right.
In early 2007, the line announced that the 105,000-ton, 2,720-passenger Costa Fortuna would take over the winter 2007-08 Caribbean voyages for its sister ship, the popular Costa Magica.
“Our guests loved the Costa Magica, which was in the Caribbean for the past two years,” says Linda Parrotta, the line’s vice president of marketing.
“The Costa Fortuna is a sister ship to the Costa Magica, which was a good way for us to give our guests the same product they know and love, just with a different flair," she notes.
From a personal perspective, I absolutely love the Costa Magica (shhh... it's one of my favorite ships anywhere in the world and in any segment). So, I wondered, would I “take” to the Costa Fortuna?
I ventured to Port Everglades in late 2007 for a whirlwind tour and one-night stay on the Costa Fortuna. I was among more than 1,000 of Costa’s travel agency partners and several dozen news media who were onboard for a quick visit.
While the Costa Fortuna is essentially a Destiny-class vessel (i.e. the Carnival Destiny and others from the same class within the Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet), designer Joe Farcus has taken the architecture – with input from Italian designers – to a new level.
It’s bold but not garish. It’s Italian but not stuffy. It’s fun but not over-the-top. Plus, it has a hefty dose of nostalgia delivered in the midst of modern appointments.
“The reaction [from those agency guests] was incredible – everyone loved it,” says Parrotta. “The rich woods, old ship models and vintage posters throughout really give the guests a sense of nostalgia for the golden heyday of cruising, while allowing them to experience a state of the art modern ship at the same time."
I enjoyed viewing copies of posters and advertisements from the 1920s and 1930s designed by Vittorio Accornero and Franz Lenhart. These are displayed in many of Costa Fortuna's public areas.
In addition, the ship’s two main dining rooms, Michelangelo and Raffaello, are decorated with silk-screen prints by the artist Augusto Vignali based on original posters advertising the liners after which the restaurants are named.
A massive, 19-foot version of the legendary Michelangelo is displayed at the entrance to the restaurant of the same name. A nine-foot model of the 1932-era Rex graces the theater.
As a maritime history buff, I enjoyed perusing the design features mentioned above as well as the atrium artwork depicting Costa ships past and present (see photo above right*).
And I chuckled a bit. If you’re sitting at the atrium bar and looking up, you might wonder if you've had one too many. (see photo at left*). In a whimsical ceiling display, all the ships of the fleet are displayed upside down.
“As you probably saw in the Costa Atrium while onboard, the ceiling displays models of every Costa ship leading up to the Costa Fortuna when it was inaugurated in 2003,” says Parrotta.
Who's sailing on Costa this winter? Parrotta says that the line’s customer base really hasn't changed with the introduction of Costa Fortuna on Caribbean voyages.
“But, as North American travelers become more familiar with our product, we’ve definitely seen an increased interest in new cruisers booking with us," says Parrotta (shown at right*).
If you sail with Costa in Europe versus the Caribbean, you’ll also see slight differences in the product.
In the Caribbean, “we still offer an international cruising experience with the opportunity to mix with guests from around the world but we do implement a few special theme nights that guests won’t experience in Europe,” notes Parrotta.
She cites the Festa Italiana, an Italian street festival at sea. Passengers play bocce ball, dance the tarantella, watch cooking demonstrations…and just live la dolce vita!
“We also offer them the popular “Roman Bacchanal” night where guests don togas and party like the Romans did ages ago,” says Parrotta.
But this year on that Bacchanal night, one lucky passenger will get a little extra bling-bling.
This winter Costa will randomly select one guest on each cruise to win a six-stone diamond necklace in honor of the line’s 60th anniversary.
“Imagine going on a cruise and walking away with new baubles,” quips Parrotta. But that’s exactly what will happen each week on the Costa Fortuna and Costa Mediterranea, the line’s other Caribbean vessel sailing from Port Everglades.
Another new feature this season is the “On Deck for the Cure” program where guests may participate in a one mile walk to support the Komen for the Cure foundation, an organization that works to find a cure for breast cancer.
The Costa Fortuna has a total of 1,358 cabins, including 456 with balconies (as shown at right*), 307 with windows, 14 with portholes, and 490 inside cabins.
In addition, there are 14 mini-suites, 42 suites and eight penthouses. Plus, there are 27 handicapped accessible accommodations.
We toured many of the "show cabins" to observe the configurations. Even basic accommodations are fairly spacious -- when compared with comparable cabins on other ships in the industry.
We were fortunate to have a suite. It featured two twin beds (convertible to a king configuration), a sitting area that boasted a couch with a pull-out bed, two chairs, and colorful glass lamps. The suite also had a desk area, mini-bar, safe, plenty of cabinets and two closets.
We particularly liked the separate dressing area with a huge mirror just outside the bathroom. It offered privacy from the main living area.
The tile-and-marble bath boasted two sinks and a whirlpool tub/shower combination.
The attractive sink area is shown at right.*
Suites also come with butler service. Almost immediately upon our arrival, our butler arrived and offered to help us unpack. We appreciated the thought but declined as we only had a small bag for one night's stay.
We talked to him about his normal duties for passengers on a regular cruise. He said he helps folks with their shore excursions, room service, laundry, stocking of the mini-bar and generally whatever else they need.
A Snapshot View
Certainly, our brief time aboard was not adequate for a full ship inspection. But we have the following "snapshot" thoughts about Costa Fortuna for readers.
--All staff we met were courteous and friendly. Crew in the corridors always said hello. One staffer ran up the embarkation ramp to help me push my mother’s wheelchair down it. The cabin stewardess was friendly and quite prompt in calling for technical help when our toilet did not work; it was fixed in an instant. The butler was also congenial and displayed superior customer service skills.
--The dinner experience at the Raffaello main dining room was excellent. The presentation was professional and classy, but also not stuffy.
The cuisine was savory, particularly the porcini mushroom soup (to die for, basically) and the delicate Chilean Sea Bass with Lobster Tail.
We loved the Baked Alaska presentation by the waiters (yes, we know other lines do it but it’s still fun!); see photo at right.*
--Festa Italiana after dinner was a lot of fun, with an excellent singer serenading guests, the ubiquitos congo line, red roses for the ladies and so on.
--The lunch buffet at Ristorante C. Colombo was savory – especially the Italian fare including the pizza, the fried calamari, the split crab legs and the cheese. Breakfast at the same venue was so-so. We enjoyed the savory pastries, cheese and fruit , but not the limp bacon and watery eggs.
--The Caribbean steel drum band that performed on the top deck was excellent
--The main show theater had very good acoustics. We sat in the upper deck and our seats had good sight lines.
--The production show in that theater was entertaining and creative. The quality of the singers, in particular, was exceptional; there were some incredible voices in the group.
That said, some of the dancers -- while clearly talented -- might have benefitted from a "Dancing with the Stars" type critique for positioning of feet and hands, synchronization and a bit more "psazz" at times. They were good, but could have been great with just a bit more effort.
Overall, though, it was a pleasing performance. It made us smile and also chuckle a bit, particularly during one endearing pirate number.
--Costa Fortuna offers a stunning array of features, too numerous for us to see or experience in less than a full day onboard.
For example, passengers will discover 11 bars, three swimming pools, a casino, disco (shown at right*), ballroom, full-service spa and gym.
Perhaps just as important as a razzle-dazzle features, though, is whether or not any vessel creates a comfortable ambience for passengers.
I liked the "look" and feel of this ship. I felt at home on the ship almost immediately.
Top Five Reasons to Sail Costa
We asked Parrotta why customers who have never sailed Costa should choose Costa.
What makes this line special, whether you sail from a southern U.S. port to the Caribbean or elsewhere in the world?
Here’s what she said…
- If You've Been There, Done That?: “We’re a great way for repeat Caribbean cruisers to see the region in a new light. Our onboard product is a vacation in itself with elements that guests simply won’t find on any other cruise line.”
- Experience: “We’ve been around for 60 years. In fact, Costa was the first cruise line to offer Caribbean cruises.
- Modern Ships: “We’re charging into the future at full force. We currently have five ships on order.”
- Itinerary Diversity: “We sail to numerous exciting destinations – from the Caribbean to South America, Northern Europe to the Mediterranean, Dubai to the Indian Ocean and the Far East.”
- International Clientele: We offer a great way to meet friends from around the world. Sail with us and you’re just as likely to meet friends from Naples, FL as you are from Naples, Italy.
Costa Fortuna is sailing from Port Everglades this winter on western, eastern and southeastern Caribbean itineraries.
Western Caribbean ports of call include Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos.
In the Eastern Caribbean, ports of call include San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Catalina Island and La Romana, Dominican Republic; and Nassau, Bahamas (its seat of government is shown at right*)
Southeastern Caribbean ports of call include San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Maarten, Leeward Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.
Have you been on Costa in the past year? If so, share your experiences. Fill out our feedback form. Tell us your thoughts, paste in your cruise vacation photos. We’ll upload them in a Traveler’s Tales area on the Costa page of this site and possibly on the Front Page as well.
Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out when to get back on Costa Fortuna for a full-blown Caribbean cruise.
My view of the ship? Well, Dino said it best: "That's Amore."
For More Information
Contact your travel agent or the line at: