First Look: Costa Fortuna

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

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When Italian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta christened the 2,702-passenger CostaFortuna on November 22 in Genoa, it became the biggest ship in Costa's fleet and in Italian seafaring history. CostaFortuna is the first of two new 105,000-ton vessels commissioned from the Fincantieri yard in Genoa Sestri. The CostaMagica is scheduled to enter service in December 2004, increasing Costa's fleet to eleven ships with a total capacity of about 18,500 passengers.

Designed by Joe Farcus of Carnival Cruise Lines fame, CostaFortuna's theme is inspired by the Italian transatlantic liners that left their mark on history. Passenger decks are named after the ports that Costa ships visited during the liner epoch: Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Buenos Aires, Santos, Genova, Lisbona, Caracas, Vigo, Napoli, Barcelona, Cannes, Funchal and Las Palmas.

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One of the ship's most stunning areas is the CostaFortuna's Atrium, surrounded by a span of nine decks and decorated in startling shades of pinks and reds. Bordered on one side by glass elevators, the curved crescent bar is a popular gathering place for passengers. And it is here that Farcus let his imagination run wild. To show how the Costa fleet evolved over the years, he transformed the ceiling into the surface of the sea where all 26 Costa Crociere passenger ships, on a scale of 1:100, are depicted sailing upside down.

I was impressed with the decor even though I found it ranged from tacky chic to overdone glitz. (I could never understand what the oversized Faberge-type green and gold eggs on posts were all about.) But viewing the art throughout the ship was like a stroll through a Florence gallery. Even the elevator doors are decorated with reproductions of advertisements from the 20s and 30s, illustrating the interiors of the famous liner Rex. So striking were these panels that I found myself not minding the wait for an elevator.

Anticipating more European passengers, who are less into gambling than Americans, the Neptunia 1932 Casino is smaller than those on other Costa ships. An interesting feature is the disco right below, which is connected by glass-enclosed walls so you can watch the fun downstairs while gambling.

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Citing more interest by Europeans in dancing than Americans, Farcus took space from the casino and gave it to the Grand Bar Conte di Savoia 1932, the largest bar on any cruise ship and the focal point of life on Costa Fortuna. The huge ballroom contains some of the ship's most opulent decor — frames in gold leaf and marble panels, with sofas and chairs covered in yellow, green and blue gilded fabrics to accentuate the sumptuousness. I enjoyed watching couples doing the meringue, tango, and, of course, the waltz. It's such a fun place that I suggest a crash course at Arthur Murray so you can join right in. The Rex Theatre is dedicated to the most famous Italian ship of all time: the transatlantic liner Rex of 1932, and the theatre is the largest and most spectacular public room on the ship. Extending over three decks, it has a seating capacity of 1,100, while the sound systems, stage lighting, scenery, rotating stage and rising orchestra pit are the most modern offered by today's technology.

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Dining options on the CostaFortuna are not as varied as on the newer ships in the U.S, but you won't go hungry. The two main dining rooms—the Raffaello 1965 and the Michelangelo 1965 are both stunning in decor and each two tiers high. The ceiling coffers of the Raffaello are reproductions based on frescoes by Raffaello in the Vatican Rooms. The Michelangelo, larger of the two, has glass walls facing the stern for a spectacular view in the moonlight. The squares on the ceiling contain enlarged details of the Sistine Chapel frescoes painted by Michelangelo in the 16th century.

Both dining rooms serve three meals a day at set times with assigned seating. Since this was an inaugural cruise, I don't want to judge the food for the long run. I have an idea there will always be a tiring array of fish, veal, and pasta, but the famed Italian desserts are worth saving room for, especially the tiramisu.

There are two other options for dinner. The Club Grand Contea 1927 was not yet open when I sailed, but it looks like it will be ideal for romantic evenings. A gourmet a la carte restaurant, it is located in the highest point of the ship and covered by a large glass dome for viewing the star-studded sky. Zeffirino, the famous Genoese restaurant, created the menu, which includes typical Italian and Ligurian dishes. There is a 23 euro service charge. Then, after 9 p.m., the Cristoforo Colombo—the Lido deck cafe open for breakfast and lunch at poolside—becomes a delightful Italian pizzeria with candles and table linens.

Dinner is dressy; formal nights are very dressy.

Spa facilities are abundant and varied--hair stylists, beauty and massage treatments, saunas, Turkish baths, and an extensive fitness center with a view over the sea toward the ship's bow. A huge Jacuzzi is in the center of the complex, complete with waterfalls and palm decor, creating a tropical forest ambience. There are also three swimming pools onboard.

The Galleria Shops and boutiques include the Art Gallery, where passengers can admire or buy works of art displayed on the ship.

There are plenty of activities for youngsters. The Squok Club is dedicated to children, and there is a video game room for teens. There is also an Internet Cafe.

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As for accommodations, the CostaFortuna has 456 outside cabins measuring 210 sq. ft. with double length verandas. Other outside cabins are 175 sq. ft. Inside cabins are 160 sq. ft. Suites (which come with butler service and have bathrooms with tubs) are 360 sq. ft.; mini-suites are 300; and the Grand Suite is 600 sq. ft. The 27 cabins for handicapped are 220 sq. ft.

My cabin was an outside with veranda, decorated in dark woods, with ample storage and closet space. There was also a sofa, TV, and a very pricy mini-bar offering mini-liquors and snacks. Room service was limited—a choice of three small sandwiches and a 2 euro service charge. For breakfast, think very-light continental, and expect to be hungry until lunch.

The CostaFortuna will sail on 10-night Western Caribbean/Canary Islands itineraries from Savona, Italy throughout this winter. Next summer seven-night Western Mediterranean voyages will be offered; then the ship heads to its winter home port in Ft. Lauderdale to sail alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean seven-night itineraries.

Overall, the CostaFortuna is a wonderful choice for those who want a European-style cruise experience. But those sensitive to smoke should beware. While smoking is not allowed in dining rooms, the halls outside are sometimes zero visibility due to cigars and cigarettes. But, after all, they say in Italy there are only two sections in restaurants on land – smokers and heavy smokers.

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