Veteran cruisers know that embarkation day can be fraught with mini-perils. Long lines at security and check-in aren't uncommon during high-traffic arrival periods. It's always a challenge, especially at busy ports such as Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. That's where we boarded Costa Fortuna a week ago Sunday.
After dropping off our luggage at Terminal 21, I waited for my husband to return from parking the car and watched as the line to enter the building moved swiftly. By the time Mel joined me there was no line at all and the security process was painless. What would we find at the check-in counters, though? Were all the early arrivals lined up there?
What a surprise when we entered the vast—and nearly empty—main terminal area! Costa Cruise Lines has installed self-service kiosks for passenger check-in. Similar to those we are accustomed to in airports, agents were on hand to help us scan passports and credit cards into the machines. Upon completion of the process, paper boarding passes were automatically dispensed. Passengers who had a problem (for instance, those US citizens without passports) were directed to an adjacent area where they would be checked in manually.
With our paper passes and passports in hand, we were on the gangway in short order. From security to boarding took no more than fifteen minutes. And that was at 11:30am, usually a peak arrival time. We were impressed and understand that Costa plans to install similar kiosks in European embarkation ports as well.
Once aboard we settled in—luggage arrived in record time as well—and mentally prepared ourselves for the boat drill. Always a tedious process, we didn't look forward to it on a ship with an international passenger manifest that included people speaking English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish. That meant the instructions would be given in five languages and we expected it, not to mention the roll call, to take an interminable amount of time.
We couldn't have been more pleased to discover the boat drill was actually entertaining. Attendance was taken by crewmembers scanning our Costa keycard with a hand-held scanner and the young man demonstrating the proper way to wear a life jacket (five times!) was an engaging comic. Sure, the drill is serious stuff, but his pantomime was done with such a light touch that we were amused instead of bored as is often the case. His performance drew applause, something we'd never experienced during a boat drill. We were back in our cabin and ready for sailaway in what seemed like no time at all.
While I was unable to post entries from Costa Fortuna last week, this week's blog will be devoted to cruising Italian-style. For the Costa Fortuna preview from our visit onboard during her first Caribbean season, including a photo tour, visit CruiseDiva.com and watch the blog for more installments from our Feb 8th cruise.