PRE-CRUISE: Flew from Columbus, OH to Ft. Lauderdale Saturday before sailing. Stayed at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort on Ft. Lauderdale Beach. (Stayed there last year before our Magica cruise and liked the price and location to beach an Port Everglades.) Was looking forward to enjoying some sun and sand, but unfortunately, had RAIN most of Sat. and all of Sat. night. Oh, well......it was alot warmer than Ohio!!
EMBARKATION: Checked out of hotel on Sunday around 10:45AM, dropped off rental car at Thrifty (right outside gate to Port Everglades), and rode their shuttle right up to ship terminal. Was there by 11:00AM. Got our luggage tags right there, attendants tagged and took them away, and we were in line for our cruise! Very easy! They didn't open the doors inside the terminal until 11:30, but once they did, we were right in, got through detectors, got right in line, checked our passports and documents, and we were on the ship by 11:45AM! Went up to the 9th floor buffet and were eating poolside by noon! Very smooth and easy!!
CABIN: Booked a Category O8A quad balcony stateroom on the 6th floor. Identical to room on Magica last year, but closer to the front of the ship. Rooms have PLENTY of storage and space for the 4 of us! Not in room too much anyway, but LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have that balcony! Have never sailed without one, so I don't know any different. Got the "kid's sail free" promotion this year (kind of why we took another cruise this year...can't beat it!) Our room steward, Gerald, was very nice and so delightful. Even made towel animals for the kids! Room was always immaculate! One thing about the Fortuna vs. the Magica are the mattresses on the beds. Last year on the Magica, the mattresses were thin, foam rubber things. Had to ask for a mattress topper. This year on the Fortuna, they are real mattress that are nice, thick and comfortable!! Nice duvet covers as well! Maybe Costa is upgrading their mattresses, but they were GREAT!! Always slept well, and kept the balcony door open to hear the "crashing of the waves" at night. Also, LOVE to order room service coffee or cappuccino in the AM and sit on my balcony while kids are still sleeping and just look at that beautiful sea!!
PUBLIC AREAS: Costa keeps the cleanest and most immaculate ships I have been on! They are beautiful and a "work of art" as well! Another reason we love Costa. Their ships are very European in style, so there is artwork everywhere!! The Fortuna has the exact same layout as the Magica, so we were used to that and it was so easy to navigate. I don't know why some people find this so hard! Even on our first time on the Magica last year, it was so SIMPLE to get around! Even our twins had it down the first day! Anyway, the Fortuna is a beautiful ship, but I still think the Magica has that extra special "magic touch" in most areas. We spend most all of our time on sea days by the main pool where all of the activity is going on. We love to participate in all the dancing, games, etc. and there is NEVER a dull moment on these ships. From the water slide to all the poolside dancing and games, if you are bored, then it's YOUR OWN FAULT!! Chairs were hard to come by near the center of activity, but my husband gets up early every single day to "work out" in the gym, so he would "reserve" some chairs for us by 8:00AM. They were getting pretty filled up by then!! Everyone on board from the passengers to the crew were so nice an friendly! Always so courteous and always smiling!
SQUOK CLUB: Can't comment on this. My twins are "tweens" and don't quite fit in with the little kids, and are too young for the teen kids. They didn't participate last year on the Magica either. They are just as content to "hang by the pool", read, listen to their I-pods, or just entertain themselves. So much to do! From what I could observe, though, the kids that were in the Squok Club seemed to be having a ball!
DINING: O.K....this is the BIGGEST reason why I wanted to submit this review! I read so many reviews last year before my Magica cruise about the food, etc. I, unfortunately, never took the time to set the record straight with a review last year, so that is why I'm taking the time now! We had early seating in the Michelangelo dining room. The FOOD COULD NOT HAVE BEEN BETTER!!!! Now, it was VERY GOOD on the Magica last year, but I felt the food this year on the Fortuna was OUTSTANDING!!! We are not picky people, but we like good food. Now, keep in mind, all you "foodies" that are reading this! Cruise food, in my opinion, is not "5-star" cuisine! How could it be when you're feeding 3,000 + people 3+ times/day?? BUT....having said that.....it should be palatable, hot, fresh, and a nice presentation! All of that was accomplished on this ship and THEN SOME!!! Food was always "piping hot" coming out to the table, selection was great, beef dishes were perfect and cooked to order, and the pasta was always PERFECT and DELICIOUS!! Can't say enough!! My kids tried alot of different dishes, and LOVED them, too! Now.....for a "little" of the down-side. Our waiter and assistant were very nice, friendly, efficient with the food, BUT it was hard to get a re-fill on iced tea. Water was filled pretty consistently, but you could never get the tea! He brought it out on the first two nights, and never asked after that. Now, I could have asked myself, but felt bad, as they seemed so busy and had several LARGE tables to attend to. This was just a MINOR complaint, so overall, I shouldn't be complaining at all! Food in the buffets for lunch and breakfast were always good, hot, and fresh! We just love all of the food offered by Costa, and especially like the omelette station for breakfast, the pasta stations at lunch, and the "pool Grill" as well! The burgers are so good, and the fries and salads, too! Bar drinks are reasonably prices, as are the virgin daiquiris. Beers, too! Friends just got back from a Royal Caribbean cruise and complained alot about the "expensive" drinks for adults and kids (plus all the other things RC nickels and dimes you on!) They wished they would have went on Costa with us!!
ENTERTAINMENT: Saw a show every single night and thought they were all very good! Especially the comedian and acrobats!! Went to some of the lounge shows with karaoke, dancing, Pizza Man Contest, (GO BRAD!!) and others. All very entertaining! Italian Street Festival is great and of course, TOGA NIGHT!!! We loved it last year on the Magica, and couldn't wait for it again this year on the Fortuna!! (also, had an easier time this year getting the #$@% togas on!!) Max was our cruise director last year, so we also had the "extra bonus" of getting him again on the Fortuna!! Great guy!
PORTS OF CALL: This trip was the Eastern Caribbean run that went to San Juan, St. Thomas, Catalina Island, La Romana,and Nassau. SAN JUAN: Got into port around 5:00PM. Booked the "San Juan by Night" tour from Costa. Had a fun tour guide and got to see alot of "old" and "new" San Juan. Walked around and did a little shopping afterwards, then back on the ship. Very nice city of what we saw. ST. THOMAS: Was here about 15 years ago on our honeymoon, and stayed at Sapphire Beach Resort, so HAD to make a trip back there to see it again!! Booked a tour independently through Sunny Liston Tours! They were GREAT and I would highly recommend them!! Picked us up at the port at 9:00AM, dropped us off at Charlotte Amalie for shopping, then back on their "open-air" bus for some Island sightseeing, trip to Mountain-Top, then the rest of the day at the beach of your choice. You could choose from Megan's Bay, Coki Beach, or Sapphire Beach. Been to all 3 before, but MUCH prefer Sapphire!! It was exactly like my husband & I remember! The day was beautiful, and the water was so gorgeous and clear! Used their pool and "swim-up-bar" and ordered the same drink I did 15 years ago! Kids thought we were a little "corny" reliving our honeymoon, but so what??!!?? All in all, a GREAT DAY!!!!!!!
CATALINA ISLAND: GREAT beach day!!! BEAUTIFUL ISLAND!!! Clean, beach barbecue was great, drinks, bars, and bar service were plenty!! What more could you ask for?? PARADISE!! They had some independent excursion people there that were selling rides on banana boats, etc. Cruise ship discourages using these people, but there was a LONG line for their services. The four of us did the "banana boat" ride. For $10 bucks each, they take you around 2 long laps in the ocean near the beach! FUN!!! Did NOT want to leave this place. We took the last tender back to the ship!! Could have skipped La Romana, and stayed longer!!
LA ROMANA: This is about 5 miles from Catalina, so didn't take the ship long to get there. Once back on the ship from Catalina, we showered, went down to dinner, and then saw the first show in the theatre. We had booked tickets to the "Kandele Show" through Costa in La Romana. The outdoor show didn't start until 9:00, so we didn't have to get on the bus until 8:30. The show was in the resort of Caso De Campo, which was lovely from what I saw in the dark. The outdoor "Roman Theatre" was beautiful as well. The show was very good, too! There wasn't any other excursions to book on this stop, so I thought it would be fun to go. I always get off the ship no matter what port we are at and do something!! I see no point in sitting on the ship when you can be exploring the caribbean! So, the show was a fun thing to do!
NASSAU: Got to Nassau around 12:00-ish or so, but by the time you could get off the ship, it was around 1:00. Would have loved to book a Dolphin Encounter or something, but with the short time in port (1-6), didn't have alot of time. We just took a water taxi over to Paradise Island and walked around Atlantis. Beautiful resort (just like any in Vegas), but not much they will let you see (other than aquarium) without paying. Kids would have LOVED to go on the water slides, pools, etc., but for $105.00 each, that was too much money for the amount of time we were there! Took water taxi back to Nassau after about 2 hours, went to Straw Market. That was a CLUSTER!!! Lots of people jammed in there! Wasn't even worth fighting the crowds for a "knock-off" Coach purse!! Back on the boat, and got ready for dinner. Nice day, but wished we would have booked a snorkel excursion or something else. Felt like we wasted our time at Atlantis.
DISEMBARKATION: Well, all good things must come to an end!! We got up that Sunday morning (the 30th), showered, had a nice breakfast, then headed to one of the lounges we were assigned to to wait for our color to be called. Unfortunately,they called it, and we had to leave the ship! Quick and easy debarkation!
Overall, GREAT CRUISE!!! My family just loves Costa, and would sail them again in a heartbeat!! In my opinion, they have the BEST value for your buck!!! It is a top-notch cruise, clean ships, great service, great food!! What more does one need?? I get frustrated when I read some of the "not-so-nice" reviews this cruiseline gets! That is why I had to put my "two-cents in" this year. Alot of people are loyal fans on other name-brandlines, but I say: "Shake it up a little" and "get-out-there" and try something else! You will be pleasantly surprised (and have a little extra in your wallet!) I am not that you would consider "loyal" to any one particular line. I choose my cruise on the itinerary first, and value second. I do have to say, though, I could be VERY loyal to Costa. We are already booked on another cruise for next Easter, but want to try the Southern Caribbean. Since Costa does not offer that particular itinerary, I am booked through RC on that one. Even though I am looking forward to the cruise, I will SURELY MISS the gracious "Italian Hospitality" and "European" flair you get with Costa! THAT'S AMORE!!!!!