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Costa Fortuna
Eastern Caribbean
Jan. 27 – Feb. 3, 2008

By Mary & Vincent Finelli

This cruise was like “Old Home Week” for us. It was another wedding anniversary cruise, in the company of our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their son Marcello (5.75 yrs). Once on board, we were reacquainted with so many of our Costa friends, that we now dispute the old saying “You can't go home.” Costa's cruising Italian style delivers distinct hospitality which is wonderful, and we basked in it for a whole week. On Day One, at the boat drill, Guest Relations Manager Martina Fantoni greeted us so warmly and by name, that we felt special. She proved to be so helpful and kind throughout the cruise, that we can't wait to cruise on Costa again. In the culinary department, we have many friends including the following: Chef Antonio De Luca, Maitre D' Bartolmeo Vitiello, 2nd Maitre D' Raffaele Bailo (Music Man), and 2nd Maitre D' Marcantonio De Candia. Later we will enumerate our new acquaintances including the elegant Captain Paolo Benini.

Ft. Lauderdale is secure to a fault. Because we had an motorized wheelchair we arrived in two autos. Our son Nicolas brought his son Nicky (6 yrs.) along for the ride, just to see the ships in Port Everglades. Big mistake! We soon found out that this can be a problem, since Nicky did not have a picture ID with him. At the security gates
entrance to the port, we were stopped and not allowed to proceed to the pier with Nicky in the car, so we had to go back a few hundred feet into a parking lot and transfer all the luggage into one auto. Nicky went home with his Dad, without ever seeing the ship. Nicolas was supposed to drive our car home. Instead we parked in the Port's Garage ($105 per week). There is a lesson to be learned here: Even small children cannot visit the pier without an ID. The security guards could use a bit more
common sense in inspections and not being nitpick, when it is evident that a six year old boy accompanied by his father is no threat or danger to anybody. What normally takes one half hour, last Sunday took one hour. Once at the pier we had to wait for Marcello to return from the parking garage--another half hour. Costa's boarding and check-in were swift, and we had wheelchair assistance to our cabin. Total time from
home to cabin--two hours. It was too long on the pier, but Costa's check-in time was fast.

The Costa Fortuna is the sister ship of the Costa Magica; thus, we are quite familiar with the deck plan. The major differences are in the decorations and the theme of the Fortuna. On the Fortuna, Ship Architect Joe Farcus pays homage to many of the former Italian Liners (naming major rooms and restaurants after them) and to ports of call (naming the decks after them). On board are many ship models, some arranged as a fleet and suspended upside down from the atrium ceiling. This was very disturbing to us, and we speculated on a better way to display these marvelous models. They would look better if floated on a clear blue plexiglas sea and suspended in the Atrium so that they could be visible from both above and below from several decks. The nautical motif is instantly apparent at the Welcome On Board Buffet: Deck 9 Napoli, Restaurant Buffet Colombo, named after the liner Cristoforo Colombo 1954, is decorated with huge Cobalt blue globes of the Earth and the walls have a series of ancient maps, so interesting, that passengers stop and stand to admire them, while temporarily forgetting the food!

The Costa Fortuna was built in 2003 at the Fincantieri Sestri Ponente Shipyards near Genoa, Italy. She weighs 105,000 gross tons, her length is 272 meters and beam is 36 meters; guest capacity is 3,470 with a crew of 1,030; there are 14 passenger decks and she has a top speed of 22 knots. Her registry is Genoa, Italy.

Deck 1 Rio de Janeiro and Deck 2 Miami are all passenger cabins in Categories 1, 2 (inside) and 6, 7 (ocean view).

Deck 3 Buenos Aires has the Costa Atrium Michelangelo. Aft is the beautiful Restaurant Michelangelo 1965 (all ships have their launch dates attached) with ceilings depicting the scenes of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, Italy. There are gorgeous blue and gold (Costa colors) Murano glass ceiling lights--so elegant. At the
entrance is an accurate ship model of the Michelangelo launched in 1965, and on which we sailed in November 1968 from Napoli to New York, just before our marriage January 26, 1969.

Midship is the Restaurant Raffaello 1965, named for the Michelangelo's sister ship and it also has the beautiful Murano ceiling light fixtures and on its wall are displayed enormous posters from the Raffaello's hey day. Midship is the main floor of the atrium. Forward is the main level of a three deck high Teatro Rex 1932, The most famous of all Italian ships and a Blue Riband winner.

Deck 4 Santos aft holds the balconies of the two mentioned restaurants, the Atrium and the theater. Also on Deck 4 is the Library, Biblioteca Galileo Galilei 1963, and the Internet Cafe.

Deck 5 Genova aft has the Salon Leonardo Da Vinci 1960, the Conte Rosso 1921 Piano Bar all in red, and the Conte Verde 1923 Ballroom all in green. There was dancing in this room day and night, between lessons and parties. The ship has many venues with live music and dance floors. Next is the Casino Neptunia 1932 and the Grand Bar Conte Di Savoia 1932. Forward is the theater.

Deck 6 Lisbona, Deck 7 Caracas, and Deck 8 Vigo are all passenger cabins including inside, ocean view, veranda and suites.

Deck 9 Napoli forward has passenger cabins (inside and veranda). Midship is the Lido Oceania 1932 with its three interesting animal bronze statues (Koala bear, Kangaroo and joey, and the birds) representing the fauna of Australia by Giovanni Solci. Aft is the Restaurant Buffet Cristoforo Colombo 1954, all in lovely turquoise blue and marine colors with ancient maps and globes everywhere. All the way aft is the Solarium Lido Cristoforo Colombo with two whirlpools, a swimming pool and a retractable roof. This area is wreathed with beautiful tiles depicting the mythic monsters of the seas. Here is the statue of the kneeling American Indian Girl by Sara Righi. The lovely patina on this copper larger than life work blends well with the marine colors of the Lido.

Deck 10 Barcellona forward again are cabins, and then the Lido Barcellona and aft is the upper level of the Ristorante Cristoforo Colombo 1954.

Deck 11 Cannes aft has the Club Conte Grande 1927, an elegant Tuscan Steakhouse. Forward is the Gym Saturnia 1927.

Deck 12 Funchal forward has the Squok Club, a children's area and supervised fun and games that little Marcello loved and a spiral water slide. Aft are the playing courts for adults.

In addition to three sets of passengers elevators, the decks are connected by three grand stairways, each one decorated with a different theme: the forward stairway is decorated with panels painted by Luigi Voltolina representing the life aboard the old transatlantic liners; the midship stairway was decorated by the painter Paolo Grimaldi with panels dedicated to famous Italian navigators, Cristoforo Colombo, Marco Polo,
Amerigo Vespucci, Sebastiano Caboto, etc.; The aft stairway is dedicated to the ports of call which name the decks of the Fortuna, decorated by Riccardo Benvenuti.

Mr. Farcus dedicated the motif of the Costa Fortuna to two decades, the 1920's and 1930's, and the art on board is indicative of those years, when the grand ships were the major mode of crossing the oceans. It was during this era that the magnificent Italian Rex captured the The Blue Riband from the German Bremen in 1933 making the fastest transatlantic crossing to that date. For Italians, the Rex still remains the symbol of elegance, luxury and the magic of ocean voyages.

The elevator doors show reproductions of stylized Commercial Art portrayals of 20s & 30s elegant travelers reflecting the internal art of the Rex 1932 originally done by Vittorio Accornero. While in the corridors, there are images of the same period dedicated to the life on board the Conte di Savoia 1932 done by Franz Lenhart.

The Ship Neptunia 1932 was the first Italian passenger liner to have “Classe Unica” or one class. This is a democratic achievement that even to this day the Cunard Lines have not made. On Costa all passengers are equal. This has led to Costa's motto of Italian Style cruising, which includes international and cosmopolitan passengers. The conversations among passengers heard everywhere on board are generally in the
following languages: Italian, French, German, Spanish, English, etc. It is the international mixture on Costa that makes it the No.1 cruise line in Europe.

Guest Relations Manager Martina Fantoni should be proud of the service provided to the passengers. The credit for the outstanding service in all dining rooms goes to the 1st Maitre D' Gaetano Gerocarni, whom we befriended aboard. Of course, it is in the dining rooms, where most passengers recognize gallant treatment: Fine dining, fine linens, fine table settings with candles, fine music and of course fine food. This
describes the main dining rooms; wait until you go to the Club Conte Grande 1927, the Tuscan Steakhouse on Deck 11, the highest point of the Fortuna!

In this upscale restaurant the table is set with Versace chargers and china and the table cloths and napkins are gold brocade. All complement the fantastic recipes of the noted Genovese chef Zefferino. The ambiance is enhanced by the pianist Antonio Salomone's excellent repertoire of the following: “Le Mer,” “Moon River,” “Smile,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” etc. The warmth of the décor is created in rusts and browns, juxtaposed by black and white marble flooring in geometric patterns.

We had an excellent meal of crab cakes, Bresaola con Rugala and Parmigiano Reggiano, Insalata Caprese of tomato and Mozzarella di Bufala, Caesar Salad; home made pasta; entrees were Beef Filet, a 12 0z. Veal chop, etc.; desserts were Tiramisu and Crème Brule` topped with raspberry coulis. Naturally, the mellow finish was Prosecco bubbly. Our Maitre D' Gustavo Portuondo and Head Waiter Roberto Gutierrez kept close tabs on everything. We felt the elegance of the evening for days to come.

Dinner in the Raffaello restaurant each evening was a delight. With our friend of many years, 2nd Maitre D' Raffaele Bailo creating happy times with his recorded medleys of famous Neapolitan and classic Italian songs. Signor Bailo is retiring soon. Costa will have a hard time finding another man like him, for he is the Italian Festive flavor of the Costa dining rooms. We know that we will certainly miss him. Maitre D' Bartolo Vitiello gave us a special table near the entrance, which made it much easier with the wheel chair. On board our friend Chef Antonio De Luca treated us to al dente spaghetti with crab meat, and for our anniversary prepared for us a special Pastiera, a delicious
Neapolitan Cheese Cake, which we shared with our new companions at the next table, all delightful French Canadians. We made a new friend Executive Chef Ciro Perfetto who should be congratulated on the excellent cuisine daily. Wonderful choices are perfectly prepared. We also met his son Chef Francesco Perfetto in the Tuscan Steakhouse. It's wonderful to see him carrying on his father's traditions so capably.

Our waiter in the Raffaello Dining Room was Edwin Fernandez; he and his Asst. Collin Seguerira were marvelous all week, especially to our grandson. Little Marcello especially enjoyed the chicken tenders and fries and leading the Conga Line throughout the dining room!

Frequently, we had lunch in the Michelangelo Dining room where our friend 2nd Maitre D' Marcantonio De Candia always accommodated us with a nice table and selected for us some special appetizers. Here we also met 2nd Maitre D' Carmelo Onorini, whom we had recognized from previous cruises on Princess ships. Both of them, Marcantonio and Carmelo treated us magnificently and made us feel welcome every time we entered the

Cabin #6207 on Deck 6, all the way forward, is nicely decorated in the traditional Costa woods and nautical colors. There are two framed sketches on the walls in keeping with the 20s and 30s art of the ship. When entering on the right is a large bathroom, with a shower seat and safety rails all around. The turquoise tiles were very pretty. Then, there is one end table with a lamp, a king size bed, a medium size
coffee table and two upholstered chairs. We had continental breakfast here every morning. It was prompt, hot and delicious.

When entering on the right there is a double armoire, a single one is across the door way. There are plenty of shelves and hangers, and a personal safe. Next, there is a lighted, mirrored vanity/desk with four drawers, a refrigerator and a TV. The balcony is small and not too private, since it is located near an exit to the prow of the ship. When compared with the handicapped cabins on the Princess Lines, Costa's are much smaller and located too far from the central elevators. Princess clusters these cabins near the elevators, and so do the Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Lines. The last two have much larger cabins and balconies; on the Norwegian Dawn last month both the cabin and balcony are huge.

There is another problem of the prow location: the wind on the balcony is so strong that the balcony cannot be used in the evenings when the ship is going at full speed. It is actually dangerous. Next time, we will try for a mini suite or suite. This cabin was so small that we had to park the wheelchair in the bathroom! The cabin steward Francis Baldo was phenomenal. He anticipated our every need.

Cruise Director Max Bertolotto is suave, debonair and handsome. He has the ship's activities running like clockwork. We met him on board the Costa ships over twelve years ago, but now he is truly magnificent. There's Bingo, Dancing and Dance Lessons, fitness programs, Italian Lessons, etc. Cruising Italian style is great for making new friends. There are feasts with games like bocce, toga parties and Roman Bacchanals. The shows are many and varied with singers, dancers and comedians. We especially enjoyed hearing once again John Ciotta the tenor from New York, who wowed the audience and earned a standing ovation. There is something for everyone and even quiet places to read or do crossword puzzles.

Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA Sail Away 5:00pm

Day 2. At Sea, we are sailing southeasterly.

Day 3. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 5:00pm Depart 11:30pm
An interesting excursion includes a visit to the Bacardi Rum Distillery and a tour of San Juan by night.

Day 4. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm
This is a great place for shopping. An interesting tour includes the Skyline Drive and the mountain top view of other Virgin Islands and the famous Magen Bay.

Day 5. Catalina Island Arrive 8:00am Depart 5:00pm
This is Costa's private island where the passengers can enjoy the beach resort facilities such as chairs and umbrellas and the BBQ offered free of charge. However, several types of water sport activities are offered by independent operators not connected to Costa. Costa Cruises discourages the use of these activities.

Day 5. Evening La Romana Arrive 6:00pm Depart 11:00pm
La Romana is only 5miles from Catilina Island. The only excursion offered in this port is a tour to Altos de Chavon arena which features a musical show with local rhythms and dances.

Day 6. At Sea -- Sea Depth sometimes is approx. 5,500 meters.

Day 7. Nassau, Bahamas Arrive 1:00pm Depart 6:00pm
A favorite excursion for us is a visit to Paradise Island and Atlantis with its beautiful Aquarium.

Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Arrive 7:00am

Guest Relations Manager Martina Fantoni arranged for wheelchair assistance from our cabin. We had a twenty minute wait in the Atrium, because ship personnel are not allowed to wheel passengers off, only Port workers with security clearance can go off the ship. We were off to passport check, baggage pick up and customs, all in a matter of 15 minutes. Nice job Costa! However, we had a half hour wait for Marcello to get the car from the Port Parking Garage. The traffic in port is extremely heavy and congested, since many other cruise ships arrive on Sunday; however, the I-95 traffic was light and we were home in Boca Raton, FL in less than 35 minutes.

The ship's atmosphere gives cruisers opportunities to meet so many cosmopolitan people. The fascinating Captains, Passenger Service Directors, Maitre D's and performers are all in extreme proximity, very friendly and most apt to strike up a conversation with cruisers. Meeting new people and seeing new places is what cruising is all about. That is why we love “cruising Italian style”!

It has been more than ten years since our first cruise on Costa ships. But the last few years both of us have developed ambulatory problems, first Vincent and then Mary requiring wheelchair assistance, thus we book wheelchair accessible cabins.

In our cruise reviews we have frequently suggested that wheelchair accessible cabins should be centrally located in order to facilitate the wheelchair bound people to access every important place, from the dining room to the theater, with minimal effort. However, our suggestions to make cruise ships more wheelchair friendly have not been heard by those individuals involved in the planning and design of new ships in the Costa and Carnival Cruise lines, since there has been no effort to centrally locate the wheelchair accessible cabins.

In our opinion the cruise lines that have given the best effort in making their new ships most friendly to wheelchair bound passengers are Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Happy Cruising!

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