Aboard the just-launched Costa Fascinosa, things can’t help but feel a little symbolic. An appropriately understated welcome — the christening lacked the aerial acrobats, lasers and celebrities Costa is known for — has given way to cruising as usual, exactly what a line coming out of a period of mourning is looking for. The mood is festive on Fascinosa’s first and only pre-inaugural, a five-night “Champions of the Sea” cruise honoring Costa’s most successful agents, rewarded for their commitment to the company through its highs — it’s been Europe’s number one line for years — and indescribable lows. Music is everywhere, including a Euro pop group, a Bossa duo and a six-piece rockabilly outfit playing “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Wake Up Little Susie” on the pool deck with Venice as backdrop. Passengers are reveling in the open bars, with beer, cocktails and espressos being consumed in equal measure.
Naturally, there are still constant reminders of January’s shipwreck. There was the moment of silence at the christening for the 32 who perished. The muster drill included an appearance by Captain Ignacio Giardina, who made a brisk, business-like inspection of the life-jacketed passengers lining both sides of Deck 4. His assessment was but one small element of the multifaceted safety initiative introduced by Costa on May 5. Conversations between passengers and crew invariably turn to the tragedy. And, it bears mentioning, Fascinosa is a Concordia-class sister, the fifth ship built in a series that no longer includes its namesake.
As to the ship, anyone who’s sailed on a Concordia-class vessel, or sister-from-another-mother Carnival Splendor (and the Conquest-class), won’t find much new here. The reason to sail on Fascinosa instead of Favolosa (2011) or Pacifica (2010) or Serena (2007) comes down primarily to itinerary and vacation schedule. (For English speakers, it also comes down mostly to the desire to sail with Europeans in Europe.) In fact, Fascinosa and Favolosa, which was parked nearby to wish its little sister off, feature exactly the same layout and amenities with hardly any exceptions. (One cool debut: There are six new “veranda suites” with their own hot tubs.) The Concordia-class photo-ops are all here, including the towering nine-deck atrium with its bank of glass elevators; the richly appointed bars designed for easy hopping; the Asian-inspired, Buddha-filled Samsara spa that’s one of cruising’s most striking wellness zones; and the breezy, sculpture-studded stern pool area.
Of course, the man who dreams in neon, mosaics and highly polished marble, longtime Carnival Corp. ship architect Joe Farcus, did the interiors. In other words, Fascinosa does make some sort of original statement. The design theme, broadly executed as ever, is “things that fascinate” — these range from Asian silkscreen-style scenes of classic actors in the cabin corridors to the ubiquitous multifaceted power crystals that surface throughout. There are also the aristocratic looking children positioned on stairwell walls who seem to stare through you (not his selection, according to hearsay), the spiky chandeliers that glow like incandescent sea vegetables and the faux-flower-petal-covered seats in the atrium. Look up in any given room, and you’ll see lights that look like tear drops, stalactites and caterpillars oozing across the ceiling. Zaniness aside, for Farcus, this isn’t reinventing the wheel, but when your wheel is an abstract sculpture that sort of looks like a dancing woman, well, you know the score.
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