Well, all good things have to come to an end, and so did our wonderful cruise on the Costa Fortuna from December 9 to December 16, 2007 on the South-Eastern Caribbean run. And as always in the past, I'm always up for a detailed review of our experience... So here it goes:
THE SHIP: The Costa Fortuna is a beautiful ship and is a "Liberty" class ship, which features exactly the same layout as the Costa Magica, her younger sister ship. The ship was very well maintained on the inside and is well taken care of. In the public areas you'll find some minor wear and tear, which is totally normal for a cruise ship. On the outside it appears that the Fortuna could use some paint touch ups in some areas in the very near future (bow area, anchor, etc.). Otherwise she is impressive and beautiful. On the inside the Costa Fortuna is another Joe Farcus design which is always impressive by itself: sparkling, unique, surprising and elegant. Having sailed both, the Fortuna and Magica, I personally prefer the interior design of the Magica... in my opinion she is the more majestic ship which really relays the "magic". If you sail on a "Liberty" class ship the first time, just keep Deck 5 and 9 in mind, as both decks run from the front to the back of the ship without interruptions of other common areas (such as restaurants, etc.). Of course any other decks are fine as well, if you need to navigate quickly from one end to the other, just that you have cabins on each side.
OUR STATEROOM: We originally were booked in a Suite (7282) on the Caracas Deck (Deck 7). About a week before sailing I got a phone call from Costa that they had to switch our stateroom, and that I would be able to decide if I'm satisfied with the change: They upgraded us to a Grand Suite!!!! Wow!!!! How can one NOT be satisfied with that? So we actually ended up in Grand Suite 7289... interesting enough, the EXACT same room as we had on the Magica. The cabin impresses by itself with the warm and comfy design, with plenty of wood, brass, mirrors, granite and hand-blown light fixtures. The cabin has a total of three double sliding closets, a dresser with 8 drawers, and additional closet/storage space in the dressing area, just prior to the main bathroom. The room has a large bed in front of a mirror, which stretches the entire width of the cabin, a large size leather sitting/sofa, two comfortable chairs, a desk with an additional chair. The dressing area features a large mirror a little stainless sink and a stool. The bathroom has granite tile flooring, a double vanity sink with granite counter, a bidet (yes, it's European!) and a large whirlpool tub/shower combination. The balcony had two regular deck chairs and two loungers... so plenty of room from R & R!
THE CASINO: The casino was much quieter as on the Magica. The layout also seemed a bit more friendly and more spacious, so it never felt crowded at all. Some of the slots were nice to me, others not so much. The table games include Black Jack, Fun 21, Caribbean Stud, Roulette, Craps, etc.... so you should be able to find something to fit your interest and budget. The lowest bets on the tables started at $ 5, some $ 10 tables and highest minimum bet was $ 25.
THE THEATRE: The Rex Theatre in the front of the ship is the same layout as on the Magica and is equally impressive... but once again, the theatre on the Magica had in my opinion the extra touch of elegance and glamour. The shows were great and the Costa Fortuna singers and dancers are absolutely talented! They did an outstanding job throughout the week!!!
THE FOOD: The food was indeed wonderful once again. Although they made some changes on the menu. In the past, Costa always featured a specific region of Italy, each night a different region... I very much enjoyed the "localized" specials - but they got away with that theme. Instead you just have a menu featuring Italian and International specialties... I'll mention more to the food later... Overall, I would rate the food on the Fortuna with a 4, on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the best. It was delicious, yet has lost some of it's Italian flair and is more "americanized" than before. Sad, but true...
THE PERSONNEL: I have not met one person on board of the Fortuna who was not friendly and greeted us with a smile. From maintenance worker, to hotel staff, to restaurant waiters and buffet attendants, everybody was as comforting and welcoming! We actually met several employees who we met on one of our previous cruises. It's always wonderful to meet old friends again!
Okay... so let's get to the actual cruise now:
DAY 1 - EMBARKATION & DEPARTURE, FORT LAUDERDALE As we're from the Westcoast of Florida it is only about a two hour trip for us to Port Everglades. Traffic was not as heavy as expected, so we arrived early at the port at around 10:30 AM. There were still plenty of previous cruisers at Pier 21, where the Fortuna (and actually our last two Costa cruises) was docked. After unloading the luggage at the curb, I parked the car in the adjacent parking garage (just more convenient, although you pay more - now $ 15/day). A porter quickly checked in our luggage and placed them in one of the heavy steal bins. So with our hand luggage we proceeded to the check-in/security. If you're arriving the first time in Fort Lauderdale, the check-in is at the FAR side of the terminal. Once you make the U-turn at the end, proceed all the way to the end of the passenger terminal, just before where you see the buses parked (loading area towards the right). That's the entrance to the terminal. As we were early, embarkation was open, but only three stations were open. I was told that they just had switched the procedures and location and it seemed apparent. Although a Costa guide was present, it seemed confusing. As more and more passengers arrived, we were lined up sitting and moving up (looked like one big musical chair production) as soon as the next representative became available. That got more confusing as people strolled in from the back to the front and got mixed up with people already waiting in line... Luckily we were trough this procedure fairly soon. I believe as later it gets, the main terminal and check-in will be opened and you won't have to go through this. Another change: Upon check-in you will register your credit card - which is great as it eliminates the registration on board (as in the past). After welcoming pictures, we were on board at 11:40. Once on board we proceeded to the buffet on Deck 9, which will give you the first taste of what's in store for you for the next week! After our delicious treat, we proceeded to our cabin (7289), which was located midship on the starboard (right) side of the ship. My parents cabin (7416) was also on Deck 7 in the aft on the port (left) side. A mandatory lifeboat/muster drill was conducted at 4:00 PM, just prior to our on-schedule departure at 4:30. The ship moves so smoothly, that it was even hard to recognize that sailed already. Upon exiting Port Everglades it was slightly windy and some minor white caps were visible. As we came back to the cabin from the muster drill we had our luggage in our room and were able to unpack and make ourselves comfortable. Both, our cabin steward Fanny and butler Jo stopped by to greet and welcome us on board. Both are the most welcoming and friendly people and we immediately became friends! After some relaxing, it was time for our first dinner: We had late-seating dinner and our dining location was the Michelangelo Restaurant (aft restaurant). We were seated on Table 252, which is on Deck 4, overlooking the lower deck of the restaurant. It actually is a table for 6, but as it did not seem that the cruise was fully booked, our table was arranged for 4 the next evening, which gave us plenty of room to stretch out. Michael Acol (head waiter) and Roger Carreon (assistant waiter) were our restaurant staff for the week. What an outstanding team they are! Be the second day we all had nicknames, Mr. President, First Lady, Madame Hillary and JFK... ;-) We had a blast - always looking forward to the next dinner service to find out what was in store for us. Both, Michael and Roger were an essential part of our outstanding vacation! Thank you so much for that! So please, if you are seated in their area (Tables 248-254), please say hello from Andy, Dianna, Wolfgang and Monika.
DAY 2 - AT SEA After all the food (and plenty more to come) it was time to check out the Gym. The equipment is up to date, modern and very functional. The Gym/Spa is located forward on Deck 11 and features bikes, treadmills, rowing simulators, weight benches and other high-tech work out machines. In the center you have a hot tub, and a fitness trainer is always present in case you should have a question. Each side (mens and womens) feature also showers, Saunas and a Turkish Steam Bath. If you have personal belongings with you, you can get a locker free of charge (ask for a key at the spa front desk). The sauna and steam bath are great as they both have windows, overlooking the ocean - awesome! Both facilities seemed extremely quiet - many times I have been in the sauna by myself. After some sun bathing, it was time for lunch... some great pizza, fish and other specialties await you. Pasta galore or if you want the old fashioned burger and hot dog, the grills on each pool side grill will have it for you. The sea turned rough and although stabilized, you could see the motion of the ship and sometimes feel it hitting the high waves. This was all due to the developing Sub-Tropical Storm Olga... In the evening at the Captains Welcoming Gala we were informed that the Captain Paolo Benini had decided to switch to a more southern route (through the Caicos Islands) to make the ride smoother for the evening and night. At 41 years of age, the captain appears rather young (does not look like 41 my wife says - LOL) and has always an upbeat personality. The first formal night was beautiful.
DAY 3 - AT SEA / PUERTO RICO Due to the extremely rough seas, the captain decided to slow down the ship to provide a smoother ride. It's hard to tell from the ship, but my guess was that we had between approximately 20-25 feet waves during the night and for most of the day. The decreased speed though would delay our arrival time in Puerto Rico from 5:00 PM (scheduled) to 6:00 PM (estimated). After all, we did arrive at 5:30 PM in Puerto Rico, but were finally cleared by local authorities at 6:20 PM when we departed the ship to explore Old Town. Many of the open-air markets had already shut down, but I was able to get my cigars from the local cigar maker!!! Yummy! We took a stroll trough Old Town and arrived back at the ship at 8:30 PM. We decided to go the club restaurant that night. It was nice and quiet and a wonderful experience. As a Suite passenger you will find your coupon for a free dinner for two in your cabin. Our butler made the reservation for us. The food, service and experience is phenomenal! A definite 5-Star experience... If you go without coupon, Costa changed the procedure. Before it was $ 23/person, but now it is a la carte. Appetizers are anywhere from $ 7 to $ 15, entrees on average $ 15. My opinion: Well worth it!!!! We set sail 30 minutes later than estimated (due to the late arrival) at 10:30 for St. Maarten.
DAY 4 - ST. MAARTEN I knew St. Maarten would be a busy port that day, with 6 (!!!) other ships in port. We were originally scheduled to anchor and tender into Phillipsburg, then the Fortuna would dock after 2:00 PM at the pier as a spot would become available. But due to Olga (the storm that is) other ships were delayed (or never even showed up) and the captain was able to secure us a spot directly at the pier - what a great time saver! As normally you were asked to get tender tickets, which you would have received on a first come/ first serve basis. There were actually only 4 ships (including the Fortuna) in port the entire day, including the Costa Mediterranea on her transatlantic journey from Italy to Florida. As the storm was moving westward, the weather was clear, sunny and warm and could have not been any nicer. We had made a reservation with Hertz for a Jeep ahead of time to explore the island by ourselves. All rental car agencies are located by the bus ramps. Immediately make a right, as soon as you exit the pier area and proceed straight ahead, walking along the bus bays. At the end you'll find little "huts", which are the rental car offices. We picked up our Jeep and explored the island. Maho Beach (famous for the low flying/landing airplanes) is a definite must see. Traffic is very heavy on St. Maarten, especially in Phillipsburg. Don't cut your time too short and allow PLENTY of time for your return trip back to the ship. A few passengers almost did not make it! The French side is beautiful and seems more quiet than the Dutch side. If you find a beach, but you're in front of a hotel/resort, don't hesitate to proceed to the guard gate (many of them do have them). They won't charge you to use the beach and you'll find some of the most beautiful places on this island that way. At 5:15 PM we set sail towards Tortola. Dinner was casual style and was themed Italian Night (so dress in Red, White and Green - the Italian National colors).
DAY 5 - TORTOLA We arrived early in Tortola and were cleared fairly quickly. The port is not big at all and only allows two large ships to anchor at the pier. Otherwise you have to tender in. The Carnival Liberty and the Costa Fortuna were the lucky winners for the pier spots. The Queen Mary 2 arrived later and had to tender their passengers in. Tortola is a more quiet island and features a hilly/mountain terrain with beautiful lush landscaping and amazing bays and beaches. The Hertz rental car agency is almost invisible and is also located just outside of the port/pier area on your left hand side. Once again, we've made reservations in advance and picked up our Jeep at 8:45 AM. Don't forget they drive on the LEFT hand side of the road, although they do use LEFT hand steered cars. The roads are sometimes narrow and have some awesome hairpin turns (I think my wife still has white knuckles! - LOL). Cane Bay is getting crowded as cruise passengers arrive later in the day by the bus loads. Either go early or visit some other, smaller beaches. We found a smaller beach on the north-east side of the island. There were only about 10 people on the beach the entire day, as it is secluded and off the beaten path. It has a little snack bar, which is operated by the owners who live right on the premises. The drinks were mighty tasty and the Carib Beer ice cold!!! The water is crystal clear, and the beach has some of the most soft and beautiful sand. A must see! Once again, it was casual night in the restaurant. After Tortola we set sail for Nassau, Bahamas.
DAY 6 - AT SEA The seas are quiet and smooth and nothing compared to the "bumpy" ride before. After having a full fledged breakfast (rolls, smoked salmon, eggs benedict, etc.) in our cabin, we once again enjoyed Deck 13 (forward) for some sun, sun and more sun! The winds were calm and the sun quickly became fairly hot, so the cool pool was a refreshing alternative. The Reggae music on the pool deck just completed the tropical, Caribbean flair in the afternoon. In the evening, the production show in the theatre was quiet amazing, which took place prior to the second formal night, the Farewell Gala Night. You can't miss the midnight buffet, the Buffet Magnifico, even though you might not be hungry. Even if you're not planning of eating (again), it is worth a visit to see all the ice sculptures, the cheese carvings and the tour of the galley (kitchen). A must see!
DAY 7 - NASSAU We arrived a bit early in Nassau at approximately 12:15 PM. Clearance from the authorities did not take long and we were off the ship at 12:45 to explore the island. We visited the Straw Market, stores and of course had a (okay, several!) ice cold Kalik and Sands beers! Almost a tradition, as you can walk around in the streets with your open container of beer! Great! Some conch fritters were also on the menu, which I truly enjoyed. After going back to the ship, we rested up a bit before proceeding to dinner... in our toga! Yes, it was Roman Night! Don't miss out on the fun and put your toga on (just make you won't have a "wardrobe malfunction", LOL LOL LOL). It was an evening filled with fun, laughter and entertainment! I can never get enough of that fun.
DAY 8 - FORT LAUDERDALE/DISEMBARKATION Unfortunately our cruise has come to an end and it's time to disembark. After a leisurely breakfast at 7:45 AM, we strolled off the ship at about 8:30 AM. Keep in mind that disembarkation is done by colors (which equal your colored luggage tags). PINK = 8:00 AM (for those with outgoing flights only) RED = 8:15 AM (for Suites and other priority embarkation) WHITE = 8:30 AM GREEN = 8:45 AM YELLOW = 8:45 AM BLUE = 9:00 AM ORANGE = 9:15 AM BROWN = 9:15 AM For the first time, Costa also offered a self-embarkation at 7:00 AM for the first 600 guests who register with the Customer Service Desk. Keep in mind that those who choose this early option MUST handle their own luggage rather than utilizing crew assistance and should not have any pre-arranged transfer. This is ideal if you want to embark early and have your car parked in the garage and provide your own transportation.
At this time, I would like to give sincere thanks to the following individual on board of the Costa Fortuna - they all very well deserve it:
Jo (our butler): Thanks for your great assistance with everything, for your courtesy, friendliness and a happy smile every day of our cruise. You are wonderful and hope to see you again on board soon! You've done an outstanding job... Thanks so much!
Fanny (our cabin steward): Thank for keeping our cabin always clean and neat. Our room was always as meticulous as possible! You can tell that you put pride in your work! Many thanks for a wonderful experience!
Michael Acol (our head waiter): You have been fantastic!!! Not only did I get to try several appetizers and entrees during one seating, but you always had a positive attitude and always a laugh or smile for us. Thanks for all the fun you provided us - we sure will miss you! Thanks again for an outstanding experience on the Fortuna.
Roger Carreon (our assistant waiter): So much fun! What a great person you are... thanks for your always attentive service, your strive for excellence and to make sure that we were well taken care of. You and Michael are a wonderful team and have fun working together. It shows that you have fun and that's what we appreciated so much! Thanks!
Max (our cruise director): Thanks for providing us with quality, fun and exciting entertainment. You are always funny and humorous and obviously love your job. Great job Ceasar!
Many, many, many thanks to the entire crew and staff of the Costa Fortuna, from buffet attendants, technicians, chefs, stewards, waiters, bartenders, service personnel... You deserve a big applause for making our cruise experience a happy, fun-filled, enjoyable, relaxing, entertaining and outstanding vacation. THANK YOU!
Well, this was our cruise... another great experience which ended WAY too soon! If you have ANY questions, please don't hesitate to post it or e-mail me directly at PPPOWER96@aol.com... Read Less