Redirected: Live From Costa Fascinosa

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    Fascinosa's design theme is "things that fascinate." That's been narrowed down to celebrities, deck names borrowed from famous Italian operas, Rubanesque nudes skirting the stern pool, omnipresent power crystals illuminated in pink and a profoundly red piano bar called "Blue Velvet." (Joe Farcus, Fascinosa's designer, who's been creating the look for Costa and Carnival for decades, told freelancer Bob Jenkins that the names were picked after the spaces were designed.) While everyone has an opinion on "Farchitecture," it's nothing if not eye catching. Case in point: The celebrity scenes in cabin corridors are executed in a style marrying Asian silk screen etchings and comic book art. Passengers now get to play "name that famous international actor" as they stumble back to their cabins.

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    On sunny days, passengers gravitate to the stern pool, Via col Vento, which translates to "Gone With the Wind." (There's also a midship pool with a retractable roof.) About that name: Via col Vento is almost identical to sister ship Costa Favolosa's version, which no one says has anything to do with "Gone With the Wind." Our theory since we haven't been able to track down the designer: The pool is open to the elements (breeze), and passengers will likely depart if it suddenly becomes too windy. Either way, it's a pleasant space for al fresco dining (it's adjacent to the buffet), sunning or cooling off underneath the waterfall feature.

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    La Cioccolateria is a celebration of the cocoa bean in various forms: chocolate candy, chocolate spreads paired with thin slices of bread, hot and cold chocolate drinks, or your favorite liqueur served in an edible "chocolate chimney." There's also a fondue fountain, Willy Wonka's chocolate river writ small, which provides cover for various fruits. I sampled some pralines (from chocolatier Andrea Slitti, .90 euros each), dipped pear, banana and strawberry (.90 euros each), and a viscous hot dark chocolate, which I could feel flowing lava-like down my esophagus, coating everything it touched. Not surprisingly, none of La Cioccolateria's staff will touch chocolate. "I am scared of the diabetes," explained one solemnly.

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    Costa is a trendsetter in the "spa" accommodation movement -- clustering specially designed cabins around the spa complex -- which it introduced on Concordia in 2006. (Carnival, Celebrity and HAL now all offer such accommodations.) Besides the obvious design distinctions, passengers in spa cabins and suites have private access to the Samsara Spa's self-treatment rooms, which include a thalassotherapy pool guarded by multi-colored dragon-lions, a sauna-like room with Balinese beds and a tiled room with thermal loungers. Passengers also get exclusive access to a spa-friendly restaurant, robes and spa toiletries in their cabins and, depending on accommodation grade, amenities like espresso machines and aromatherapy steamers.

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    Here's a look at the solarium-style "balcony" attached to the wake-facing Samsara Suites. The windows (left) can be opened to let in the breeze.

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