The launch in Rome last year of Costa Cruises’ new flagship Costa Concordia was every bit as significant a moment in Italy’s maritime history as the debut of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 was for the Brits in 2004.
Both ships represented new standards not only in sheer size – the QM2 is the largest ocean liner ever built and Costa Concordia the largest for an Italian cruiseline – but ambition to appeal to an international market.
Much was made of the fact that Costa Concordia, pictured right, was Italian made, built as it was in one of the country’s many shipyards. But, as with the QM2, financing came from parent company Carnival.
First established by Giacomo Costa in 1854 as an olive oil and textile trading company, the cruisline pioneered Caribbean cruises in the 1960s as Linea C before changing to Costa Cruises in the 1980s.
In 1997 Carnival took a 50% stake along with UK tour operator Airtours and bought the other 50% in 2000 before Carnival Corporation and P&O Princess merged in 2003.
Costa cruises at a glance
- Carnival-owned Costa Cruises operates 11 ships with four on order, including a sister to Costa Concordia, Costa Serena that will be unveiled in Marseilles later this year
- The cruiseline operates an early booking Pronto Price structure offering a limited number of deals on each departure and offers like discounted spa treatments
- All Costa ships have distinctive yellow and blue funnels, the older ones sporting a trademark triple-funnel arrangement.
- Costa ships tend to have a more international clientele than rival cruiselines. However, its core Italian passengers are generally younger than UK customers because cruising is popular as a family holiday or honeymoon in Italy.
- Costa’s headquartersare in Genoa, Italy, and it has 26 offices in 15 countries employing 13,000 people. In 2005,it carried 870,000 customers.