n the 1930s, when the first Queen Mary
was built, great Italian ocean liners like the Rex and the Conte di
Savoia plied the North Atlantic.
Seventy years later, Italy still is contributing major tonnage
to the cruise industry.
Its latest addition to the global cruise fleet is the
2,720-passenger Costa Fortuna. At 105,000 tons, the Fortuna is the
most massive vessel sailing in the Mediterranean this winter.
The Fortuna also is Costa's largest -- so large, in fact, that
it can't transit the Panama Canal.
"This ship is to Italy what Queen Mary 2 is to the U.K.," said
Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corp., Costa's parent
company. "It's the largest ship ever built for an Italian
Even as Costa is looking forward with bigger and bigger ships,
the Fortuna takes a look backward -- sort of.
Costa Fortuna's interior design pays tribute to legendary
Italian liners. Architect Joe Farcus said he was inspired when
Costa contracted the ship at the same Genoa yard that constructed
legions of liners, from the Rex in 1932 to the Michelangelo in
In fact, the prolific Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri (which
also churns out vessels for Costa's sister company, Carnival Cruise
Lines) revived its dormant Sestri Ponente yard expressly to give
birth to the Costa Fortuna. It's the first ship in more than three
decades to emerge from the historic yard.
Farcus dreamed up rooms, such as the two-story Michelangelo 1965
Restaurant, where a 20-foot-long model of the liner Michelangelo
fills the foyer. And he created the 1,100-seat Rex 1932 Theater,
its stage flanked by towering funnels to recall the powerful Rex,
which held the transatlantic speed record from 1933 to 1935.
Although Costa never operated ocean liners, the ships of the
"Cruising Italian Style" brand are not forgotten in the design.
Inverted scale models of Costa vessels past and present glide
across a ceiling of blue over the bar of the Costa Fortuna's large
atrium, and the fleet is re-created in a soaring art deco-style
Modern conveniences ...
Even though the design motifs harken back to the glory days of
the transatlantic, the Fortuna is planted firmly in modern-day
cruising. If the nine-deck atrium reminds cruisers of other ships,
it's with good reason. The Costa Fortuna's layout is modeled on
Carnival's Destiny class.
Here, on the Fortuna, is a pair of main dining rooms, a "supper
club" alternative restaurant, a casual lido buffet restaurant,
ample spa and fitness facilities, shops, a chapel, an Internet
cafe, children's and teens' areas and three swimming pools.
"This is the entrance of the megaship for the Mediterranean
market. I think it will do very well," predicted Erica Drake,
president and CEO of Dream Vacations International in St.
Petersburg, Fla., who was among 80 top-producing U.S. travel agents
invited to inaugural activities in Genoa in November.
Drake said Costa Fortuna will appeal to her clients because of
its newness and the fact that it offers amenities U.S. cruisers
demand: plenty of entertainment choices; a host of bars and
lounges; and cabins big enough to unpack in and spread out.
"The decor throughout was very nicely done. There was great use
of space, giving a nice, roomy feel," Drake said.
Costa Fortuna is the 10th ship in Costa's rapidly expanding
fleet, which is Europe's largest cruise line. European itineraries
traditionally carry about 85% Europeans and 15% Americans.
Those percentages reverse in the winter when Costa deploys two
ships from Fort Lauderdale dedicated primarily to the U.S. market.
This winter, the Costa Mediterranea and the Costa Atlantica will
sail from Florida.
To sail on the Costa Fortuna, however, clients will need to book
winter cruises to Spain's Canary Islands and summer voyages to the
western Mediterranean from the emerging Italian home port of
... with historic touches ...
While researching the Costa brand, Farcus observed that
Europeans gamble less and dance more than Americans do.
Accordingly, he reduced the size of Costa Fortuna's casino to make
way for the Conte di Savoia 1932 Grand Bar, with its huge parquet
Conte di Savoia was one of Italy's most elegant ocean liners,
and that elegance is reflected in the room's sweeping black granite
bar, marble and granite inlaid floor and gilded fabrics. At 11,000
square feet, this space is touted as the largest bar afloat.
The silver tea and coffee service on display was designed by
Gustavo Pulitzer, the architect of the Conte di Savoia liner, but
the set was never produced. Costa discovered the designs and
commissioned the service from an Italian silversmith.
While the Grand Bar was created for European tastes, it's also
U.S. agent Drake's favorite room.
"It acts as a central meeting place," she said. "One shortcoming
of other big ships is that you never run into the same person more
than twice. On Costa Fortuna, everyone ends up here or in the
Notwithstanding, the Vulcania 1927 disco is another Drake
favorite. A glass wall surrounds the upper level of the disco, so
gamblers in the casino one deck above can look down onto the dance
Named after the liner Vulcania, the disco features a large
mechanized figure of Vulcan, the mythical god of fire, who pounds
out fiberoptic sparks on an anvil in time to the music.
Another appealing public room is the Leonardo Da Vinci 1960
Lounge, which displays reproductions of masterpieces like the "Mona
Lisa" etched onto large glass canvases.
Inspired by the grand ballroom of another liner, the Conte Verde
1923 Lounge features an emerald-green ceiling and large malachite
vases of Murano glass that sprout topiary trees.
Instead of a sports bar, there's a little gem of a room for
cigar smokers, the Classico Roma 1926 Bar. Tucked beside the Grand
Bar, it's easy to miss but worth seeking out. Tobacco-colored
leather armchairs and a faux fireplace make this a dark and cozy
... and homemade pastas
When it comes to dining, Italian specialties like homemade
pastas are highlights of Costa Fortuna's two-story main
restaurants, the Michelangelo 1965 (which is located aft and
features big windows in the stern) and Raffaello 1965 midship.
Casual meals and pizza are served in the spacious Cristoforo
Columbo 1954 buffet restaurant.
And perched high on Deck 11, the Conte Grande 1927 is the
Fortuna's by-reservation venue with Italian dishes by Zeffirino,
the famous Genoa-based restaurant that U.S. travelers might also
know from its Las Vegas branch. The cover charge is $23.
The Fortuna accommodates passengers from several European
nations, but Drake marveled at the ease with which the crew
switched from language to language.
With Costa traditionally sailing its two newest vessels from
Florida every winter, that means the percentage of U.S. customers
is growing as the line introduces larger ships. Yet the company is
not as well known to Americans as sister brands like Carnival,
Princess Cruises and Holland America Line.
"If you ask a client to name three cruise lines, are they going
to name Costa? In the American market, the answer is no," Drake
said. However, she expressed confidence that Costa Fortuna will
appeal to her clients. "Americans will find it elegant."
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