By Mike Coleman
The arrival this month of Costa Cruises Fortuna to Port Everglades marks the lines 50th consecutive year of bringing a piece of Italy to the Tropics.
Costa became the first cruise line to offer regularly scheduled Caribbean voyages from Fort Lauderdale aboard the elegant Franca C in 1959, setting the stage for the modern-day cruise vacation experience that millions enjoy today.
Our modern, state-of-the-art ships may differ from the smaller vessels that set sail in these waters 50 years ago, but one thing remains the same our warm, authentic and genuine Italian hospitality, said Maurice Zarmati, Costas North American president and CEO.
The convivial onboard atmosphere aboard the Franca C was marked by Italians and Americans mixing and mingling against a glamorous tropical backdrop. The 552 berth ship featured sleek, elegant interiors designed by Nino Zoncada and accommodations featured bathrooms and air conditioning, heralding a new era of pleasure cruises. Guests sipped cocktails and played cards on the lido deck while sailing from one sun-drenched Caribbean locale to the next.
Today, guests still enjoy Costas signature style of love, laughter and la dolce vitaÂ. Fortuna has begun her second season from Port Everglades, offering seven-night cruises on rotating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries through March.Â
Drawing inspiration from the grand Italian liners of yesteryear that provided regular passenger service between Italy and the Americas, the 2,720-passenger, 105,000-ton ship combines nostalgia and a refined atmosphere into a stunning modern framework. She features 1,359 cabins – 857 ocean view and 458 with verandas. The ship features 11 bars, four restaurants, a theater extending over three decks, three swimming pools, a casino, disco, ballroom and a gym.
From homemade pastas and desserts, to Italian greetings including buon giornoÂ in the morning and buona seraÂ in the evening, the amoreÂ of the old world is brought to life daily. Look for festive onboard activities to include on-deck bocce ball games, tarantella dancing under the stars and Italian cooking lessons during Festa Italiana.Â The ship also hosts a Roman BacchanalÂ soiree, where guests don tasteful togas and celebrate as the Romans did centuries ago.
Costas modern 12-ship fleet look for the line to add five new vessels by 2012 – sails to 250 destinations in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, South America, the United Arab Emirates, the Far East, the Indian Ocean and, of course, the Caribbean.