A 'low-profile' unveiling for flagship Costa Fascinosa


ONBOARD THE COSTA FASCINOSA — The Costa Fascinosa was christened in Venice last week, but without the hoopla that would typically have attended the introduction of a flagship vessel.

Costa Cruises President Gianni Onorato said the line "decided to keep a low profile with the Fascinosa's christening" out of respect for the victims of the Costa Concordia grounding in January.

The few hundred christening attendees seemed swallowed by the ship's 1,282-seat theater. Early in the ceremony the ship's cruise director asked for a minute of silence for the victims. The only music was a single song by a pair of vocalists accompanied by a guitarist.

But brief speeches by top executives of Costa, shipbuilder Fincantieri and the Italian tourism minister pointed to the launch of the Fascinosa as a positive step forward for all concerned.

The 3,800-passenger Fascinosa at times twinkles, at times gleams. It draws the attention away from being a floating hotel through use of imaginative displays of art; an impressive fitness area and salon; and gadgetry such as a "4-D" movie theater and a Formula 1 racing car simulator.

Colors are from the quiet side of the artist's palette: rust and medium brown, beige and muted blues. The larger public areas — the nine-deck-high atrium, the lounges — sparkle with silver, gold and purple furnishings.

It's in these areas that regular cruisers will spot the hand of architect Joe Farcus, who has designed the ships of various Carnival Corp. brands for 29 years.

Farcus' theme for the Fascinosa was honoring classic films and opera. In public areas, walls hold black-and-white photo murals of Italian stars plus colorized renderings of stills from such favorites as "La Dolce Vita."

The public rooms bear names such as Babylon (the disco), the Millionaire (the casino, of course) and Topkapi (one of the largest lounges).

Because Costa draws many families, a clever water park includes the familiar water slide as well as colorful pipes that continually douse those playing below, and a castle turret is positioned next to a pirate galleon that youngsters can climb aboard.

The Fascinosa offers two special attractions for the young and for the young at heart. A "Nuovomondo 4-D cinema" containing a handful of seats shows brief, 3-D animated films enhanced with strategically timed blasts of air, which are sometimes scented, plus spritzes of mist. The chairs jolt or sway, synchronized to the action on the screen.

A racing simulator allows guests age 16 and above to climb into the cockpit of a full-size model of a Formula 1 racer. A series of video monitors wrap around where the windshield would be, and the "driver" can choose actual race courses.

The Fascinosa will sail weeklong cruises from Venice and Bari, Italy, to Greece and Croatia. From November to next April, it sails South America. There are no plans to bring it to the U.S.


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