My husband, our 11-year old daughter and 9-year old son, and I just returned from the March 30, 2008 sailing of the Costa Fortuna to the Eastern Caribbean. Overall, we had a wonderful vacation. Here is a summary of our trip:
EMBARKATION: Although there were long lines at the port, they moved relatively quickly, and we were able to board, explore the ship, and find our cabin with relative ease. Upon entering our cabin, we discovered that our family was assigned to the late (8:45 p.m.) dinner seating instead of the main seating that we had requested. Since we are used to eating at 6 p.m. and go to bed fairly early, I attempted to change this. When I found the Maitre'D, I discovered that my family was one of dozens with the same problem. I was told to go to the restaurant at 6 p.m. to see if my family could get a table. When we arrived at the dining room, it was full of people complaining about being reassigned to the late seating. We politely asked to be put on the waiting list (we were #71), and went to the buffet to eat instead, which was fine. Our luggage arrived at our cabin by 9 p.m.
CABIN: Our outside cabin was located on the first (lowest) passenger deck. It was extremely clean, and (from what I heard from other frequent cruisers) spacious. It featured a King sized bed, plus two bunks for our children, a small table and chair, dressing table, television, safe, refrigerator/minibar (there was a little space left for us to put water and soda that we brought on board), hair drier, and plenty of closet space. The bathroom was small, but very clean, with plenty of shelves for storage. The first night, our King bed was missing a top sheet, but when we saw our cabin stewardess the next morning, we told her of this, and she fixed the problem right away. Our cabin was, unfortunately, noisy because of a creaking sound in the hull (the seas were rough through most of the trip). I reported the noise to the front desk. They sent a technician to check it within a couple of hours, and we were told that it was just the ship flexing. After a few nights, we got used to the sound.
DINING: My family ate all but one meal at the self-service restaurant (buffet), and I have to say that most of the food was fabulous. Breakfast consisted of a wide variety of foods, including eggs, various breakfast meats, fresh pastries, fresh fruit, pancakes, waffles, french toast, hot and cold cereal, yogurt, etc. There was also an omelet station. Coffee, tea, juice, milk and water were available to drink. At 11:00 a.m., the grill opened up by the pool, which featured burgers, hot dogs, fries, sandwiches, salads, etc. My kids loved this. The lunch buffet always included pizza, pasta, bread, salads, and dessert, plus it would feature other foods based on the theme of the day (Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Oriental, etc.). Self-serve soft-serve ice cream was available during the day as well. Although we did not eat in the dining room most nights, I always looked over the menu. I found that many of the dishes featured on the menu were available in the self-service restaurant each evening as well. The food was consistently delicious, especially the Italian specialties (and I'm half Italian!). The pasta dishes tasted homemade, and were always very flavorful. My only disappointment was that many of the desserts were a little bland, although I did have a sfogliatelle (Italian pastry) and cannoli one night that were the best I've ever eaten. Our one experience in the dining room was just okay. Most of the food that we ordered was good, but others at our table were disappointed with their choices, and the service was a little slow. We were much happier with the buffet.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Costa Fortuna offered plenty of activities throughout the day to entertain it's guests, from games and dance lessons by the pool, to trivia quizzes, Bingo, Italian Lessons, health and beauty seminars, arts & crafts for adults, and art auctions. I attended a couple of the Italian language classes, which were a lot of fun. My family and our friends with whom we were traveling attended nearly every trivia quiz, and had a blast. My husband and I went to two of the evening shows, and I found the singers and dancers to be very talented and entertaining--I enjoyed both of the shows. Since we go to bed early, we missed a lot of the night life (dancing, contests, comedy shows, etc.), but Costa broadcast some on the television, including the Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed Game, which was hysterical!
PUBLIC AREAS: The public areas (lounges, casinos, etc.) were beautiful; however, my family and I are non-smokers who cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke. The smoking areas were along the perimeters of the rooms, with the non-smoking areas in the middle. It was impossible to separate the two areas, so often the public areas were very smoky. As for the pool areas, we were up early and had no trouble getting lounge chairs. Another great time to lay by the pool is while the ship is at port and many other visitors are on shore. My family took advantage of the waterslide (which was a lot of fun) while most people were on shore at Grand Turk, and it worked out well. The fitness center was amazing. It had state-of-the-art equipment, and there was a trainer who helped explain how to use the machines. There was also a jogging track, tennis court, and basketball court.
SQUOK CLUB (KID'S CLUB): This was a big downside to our trip. Our children (ages 9 and 11) did not enjoy the kids club at all. We toured the facility, which was clean and brightly colored. It also featured a small playground set and kiddie pool for younger children. The kids went the the club one morning and were not excited about it. We encouraged them to go that evening with their friends while the adults went to a show, and they check themselves out (they did have permission from us) after 30 minutes. For this reason, I would not recommend this ship to families with children.
PORTS OF CALL: We had four ports of call on this trip: San Juan, St. Maarten, Tortola, and Grand Turk. My family and I got off the ship at each port, but did not participate in any Costa excursions, although a great variety are offered. Here is a summary of what we did at each stop:
SAN JUAN: We walked around the town area near the port, which, in my opinion was very congested and confusing. My husband and daughter toured an historic fort (El Morro, I believe) that was in walking distance of the port. We were there in the evening 5:00-10:00, so we did not spend a lot of time in San Juan.
ST. MAARTEN: We took a Water Taxi ($6 per person) to Phillipsburg to shop. There were many, many stores (jewelry, liquor, and linens seemed to dominate), as well as bars and restaurants along the shoreline. There was a small, but clean and pretty beach area where my kids swam as well.
TORTOLA: My family and friends took a ferry to Virgin Gorda to see "The Baths." We paid a fraction of the cost of a ship-arranged tour to see the same thing. The baths are an area of beach dominated by huge boulders that were supposedly deposited there during the last Ice Age. There are grottos and beautiful areas for snorkeling, as well as beautiful beaches. I am normally afraid to snorkel, but felt very comfortable in the protected areas formed by the rocks. There were many beautiful fish, crabs, and coral to see. Unfortunately, we had very little time to explore, and would have liked a little more time in Tortola. The area is gorgeous though, and is a must-see for this port of call.
GRAND TURK: This was the cleanest port of call. The ocean was absolutely breathtaking. There is a brand new, immaculately clean shopping area built right at the port, as well as a large swimming pool for cruise ship passengers and a beach with plenty of lounge chairs in the sun or shade. Cabanas are available for rent, as well. We spent some time at the beach, which my family enjoyed. Our friends rented a golf cart and toured the island.
DISEMBARKATION: Disembarkation went as smoothly as can be expected. There were a lot of people, but again, Costa managed to move us through quickly.
Overall, we really had a great week on the Costa Fortuna. It was the cleanest ship we have ever been on, the crew members were fun and friendly, the cabin was great, and the food was spectacular. I would recommend this ship to most people! :)