When my mother booked a cruise on Costa Serena, I decided to try Costa first (having not sailed with them since the early 80's when they were Linea C) and for a short cruise on a similar vessel I choose Costa Fortuna in November, around Italy.
I boarded Costa Fortuna in Venice after a wonderful weekend in La Serenissima. Be whatever weather, in whatever month, Venice is this unusual city full of magic and enchantment. There are not many places in this world where one can sail past the city centre and some of its most famous sights. And what a wonder that is.
The city without cars or buses (apart from a small area around the port) is very easy to walk about and to get to know. Even to get lost is wonderful in Venice.
Getting to the port could not be easier, with not only shuttle buses but also the modern people mover.
Although it was my first time in Venice, I easily found my way to the passenger terminal. Embarkation was made it even easier by leaving my luggage at the train station (Santa Lucia) where a dedicated service (and with the ship's name clearly visible), on the platform side, collects the luggage and delivers it on board for 5 Euros per piece. Costa had mentioned it on the ticket and I decided to try and I felt it was worth every penny.
The terminal itself occupies part of what used to be a long warehouse. There is another one housed on a new building but much smaller and I felt it was only for transit passengers.
The terminal is large and air conditioned and there are escalators and lifts between the floors. The duty free shop looks just like an old fashioned newsagent but was quite popular with pax. As I had deposited my luggage at the station I was automatically given the number 3 for embarkation.
Arrived at the terminal around 13:00 and my number was immediately called. After security and X-ray (online check-in highly recommended) it was a short walk on an external passage towards the ship, in which we boarded directly on Deck 3
I had a single inside cabin on deck nine. Costa gave me a handicapped person's cabin although not needed on my case. It was clear from the beginning that, if a person specifically needed that cabin I would be moved but the ship was not full and I got all that extra space (biggest bathroom I ever had on a ship). It was nicely located near the lifts and the swimming pool and fairly quiet. Only problem was that it was near an automatic door which could be heard on the cabin each time it moved but got used to that. There was ample storage space. Suitcases fit comfortably under the bed or on the corner of the cabin (a good deal of empty space, which is understandable when one needs to maneuver a wheelchair). The safe opens and locks with any magnetic strip card. The bathroom had a shower with shower gel and soap provided. Towels were changed throughout the day if required and the cabin stewardess made a variety of towel animals during our stay. She was a lovely, hard-working Brazilian, who was always nearby. She was polite, attentive and very good in keeping the cabin very clean.
The ship follows the lay-out of the Costa Magica. Deck 1 and 2 are mainly dedicated to cabins. Deck three has the reception, the excursions office, the lower level entrance to the theatre, the atrium bar, the two main dining rooms and their kitchen. Deck four has the upper levels of both dining rooms, the chapel, the library, the lower level of the disco and the internet point. Deck five, the main deck of activities after hours, had the upper level entrance to the theatre, the shops, the main bar (which took the whole width of the ship), an odd broad corridor without much use, the casino, the upper level of the disco, a piano bar (always playing some nice classical music), a ballroom (hardily used here as it was hardily used on Serena) and another lounge with nice stern views. The decoration theme was the Italian transatlantic ships of the past and some rooms made an effort to link to their namesake somehow. But most crew (and some passengers) had no idea of what the names of the public spaces meant. Most rooms were decorated in tones of blue, yellow, red and cream which gave it a vibrant kind of feeling without being over the top. One can say it was a jolly decoration.
4.Food and Drink
• Breakfast - room service is only free for breakfast and includes cappuccino / espresso coffee which has a charge in the restaurant. There is a menu or buffet in the Michelangelo restaurant on deck 3 (and at the lower entrance there is a huge, original model of the Michelangelo of the Italian Line, worth looking at) plus the extended buffet on deck 9. In the Michelangelo restaurant there are huge windows at the back which provide a superb view of the ship's wake.
• Lunch - There are two lunch options from waiter service in the restaurant (Michelangelo deck 3), to an extensive buffet in the Cristoforo Colombo buffet (where there is also a nice model of the famous sister to the Andrea Doria). I tended to eat in the restaurant at lunch, as the buffet looked like it was quite busy (been November pax tend to remain mostly inside rather than at the pool) and was really impressed how they changed the hours to ensure passengers could still eat on board when port stops hit the lunch hour. Menu offered four options for starters, two for soups, four for pasta, four for main course and four for dessert. There was also salads, etc
• Afternoon tea - served 4-5 in the Cristoforo Colombo buffet, little sandwiches and cakes. The cakes looked nice and colorful but all tasted more or less the same and none were impressive. Herbal teas, regular tea, coffee and iced water are always available but at tea time they also offered specialty teas (mainly from China) which was served at a service point by a chef who seemed to know his tea well.
• Evening meal - I had a table at first sitting (18:30) in the Rafaello restaurant situated in the middle of the ship which was odd as we the closest to my cabin. There was always a basket of freshly baked bread rolls and bread sticks on the table when we arrived. The menus were in the language requested (choices between German, English, French and Italian) with the Italian name above it if you wanted to order in Italian instead. The evening menu consisted of 6 courses, starter, soup, pasta / risotto, main course, cheese and dessert. There was a reasonable choice and the food was consistently good. I opted for the mineral water package and that was good enough for the whole cruise. Also tried some of the wines and they were good and well priced.Waiters were helpful and professional throughout and nothing was too much trouble. Alternatively the pizzeria (at the Cristoforo Colombo buffet) offers waiter service from 9pm - 1am, with buffet pizza available early evening, but the pizzas were nothing remarkable.
• Midnight buffet - There were several midnight buffets during the cruise but I was usually tucked in bed by then. I did make it to one with the vegetable and fruit carvings and the ice sculptures were phenomenal.
Throughout the day there was a point in each swimming pool serving hamburgers, french fries, etc
+ Extra-tariff restaurant - Costa has on some ships (specially the new ones) a restaurant which charges around 20 Euros for a special menu. The one on Costa Fortuna is called Club Conte Grande and although above the buffet, on deck 11, it had a classy atmosphere and it was fairly quiet. Very generous portions and some exquisite dishes made the extra paid worthy. Service was excellent as well. It was a pity that it was quite empty as it was one of the best restaurants I found ever on board a ship
5. Daily programme
The grand bar on deck 5 was a main area for activities such as tournaments, games, dance classes, stretching classes and dancing, etc. The Pan Disco on deck 5 was the main location for the children Art and Craft sessions which were offered am and pm. There were Italian classes and some other choices a bit more culturally challenging. There were also seminars in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian about the ports and the ship, but mainly to try to sell the excursions. On warmer weather most activities tend to concentrate around the pool but it was nice to have so much 'live' on the lounges during the day. The cruise director was a Brazilian that could speak seven languages but gave the impression he was new to the job, but still professional and attentive.
There were two main outdoor pools on deck 9 each with 2 Jacuzzis (for 16 years and above). The pools closer to the stern had a retractable roof. There is also an outside pool and a swirly slide on deck 11. The Spa has an adult only jacuzzi. The Spa itself was not too big and mainly dedicated to massage treatments, etc. The saunas were really nice, with beautiful sea view and separated for men and women. All very clean and well kept.The saunas were free of charge
7. Evening entertainment
The Rex Theatre is on decks 3, 4 and 5 at the front of the ship. The invited entertainment was good but I found them inferior to the ones on MSC. In addition, every bar and lounge had musicians and singers entertaining everyone, including easy listening in the piano bar, ballroom music in the Conte di Savoia Bar and disco music in the Vulcania Disco. With about six venues for musical entertainment in the evening there was certainly something for everyone. However the piano player at the Club Conte Grande restaurant was not good.
I only did one Costa excursion (in Corfu) and did the rest of the ports independently. The guide was enthusiastic and spoke from the moment we boarded the coach giving us information about Corfu and the local area before we got to the Achilleon Palace (the reason why I went on an excursion as it is far away from the old city centre). Unfortunately the weather was not very helpful and rained the whole time we were at the Palace so it was difficult to visit the gardens, but it was worthy.
Bari : ships berth very close to the city centre and there was time enough to visit the old castle, the cathedral and the basilica of Saint Nicholas (yeap, of Christmas legend) which is also much visited by Orthodox pilgrims (the relics of the saint where stolen from what was then the Byzantine Empire and brought to Bari many centuries ago). All within walking distance. Worth observing the berthing maneuver at Bari as the ships nowadays are quite large and the port is quite small. Nice, modern terminal.
Corfu : Ships berths a bit away from the old city centre. Other pax said that it was walking distance but I had already chosen the excursion. Lovely to see it sail as it passes in front of the city and then goes around the south of the island giving an idea of its geography
La Valleta : Ship berths really close to the centre o La Valleta, the capital of Malta. Within a short distance there is the Cathedral (where one can admire an excellent Caravaggio) and the Master of the Knights Palace (now used by the government but containing a large museum) as the island belonged for a long time to the order of St John. Again an interesting port to observe the berthing maneuvers.
Naples : Despite the garbage collectors strike and all that one hears about the Camorra, etc, Naples was a nice surprise. The ship berths at the old terminal (much modernized nowadays but externally still looking as it did on the 1940's) and few meters away from the old castle as well as the Royal Palace. Naples is huge so the short stop there was not sufficient to visit its museums properly but I was quite content with the Royal Palace and the castle. It is a lovely bay with Vesuvius constantly on the background. Worth getting up early to see the ship pass by Capri, that magical island, on the way to Naples.
I was told to be at the Grand Bar at 09:15 and exactly at that time we were called to disembark. Savona has a terminal built by Costa and it is a modern wonder, full of natural light and very efficient. From the terminal got a taxi to the station (there is a free shuttle but runs only every half hour) where I caught a train for Genoa ( about 30 minutes away) and later a bus for the airport.
12. Final impressions
The Costa Fortuna is a nice, happy ship. We had some winds and a bit of rough seas a couple of days and you would hardly know as it felt so smooth. It is decorated with a old passenger ships theme and the models of all past ships from Costa, till the Fortuna, hanging upside down on deck 5 and used as part of the illumination. Glass lifts allow to appreciate the large mural, covering four decks which pays homage to those ships. It was very easy to find your bearings on the ship. I found the cabin corridors very wide and spacious. The staff were all polite and friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be working for Costa. It is also a very green ship and recycles most of its waste on board. Would I go on Costa Fortuna again? Yes, without hesitation. The ship had a good atmosphere, was always on time, the meals were sometimes like gigantic parties, with waiters singing and dancing, and all in good taste. Costa Fortuna was good fortune in November