Celebrating the ‘Italianness’ behind Costa Cruises

Neil Palomba talks with Anthony Pearce about the history of the Carnival Corporation-owned cruise line and how it continues to innovate

Celebrating the ‘Italianness’ behind Costa Cruises
Costa Smeralda will feature Colloseo, a piazza-style area surrounded by lounges and bars

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

“The first distinctive element of the Costa brand is its ‘Italianness’,” says Neil Palomba, president of Costa Cruises. “We are the only cruise company in the world that can really communicate this feature as part of brand and company DNA. We are an Italian company, our ships fly the Italian flag and our headquarters are in Genoa, where around 1,000 employees work. Plus, everything onboard – in terms of lifestyle, elegance, quality, culinary culture and traditions – is linked to Italy.”  

Palomba, who joined Costa Cruises as senior vice president of Hotel Operations and Guest Experience at the beginning of January 2014, and became president last year, believes the job of the cruise line is “to bring our beautiful country and its special atmosphere around the world regardless of the destinations in which where our ships are operating.”

It’s an exciting time for Costa Group, which also includes German brand AIDA Cruises and Costa Asia. Six new cruise ships totalling €6 billion (US$6.8 billion) will have joined the fleet by 2023: two for Costa Cruises, two for Costa Asia and two for AIDA Cruises. 

This year, Costa Cruises welcomes Costa Venezia and Costa Smeralda. 

“These are very innovative ships, bringing the cruise industry into a new era,” says Palomba. “Costa Smeralda will be a tribute to Italy, and to the things that people around the world love and appreciate the country for. At the heart of the new flagship will be a three-level area named Colosseo, which will host the best shows. The square will be lined with all the main themed lounge bars, where guests can enjoy a glass of Ferrari sparkling wine or a Campari while admiring the sea. Piazza di Spagna will be a large stairway on three decks facing astern: the ideal place for entertaining guests of all ages. An open-air balcony on the top deck that has a glass floor will give guests the impression of flying over the sea.” 

According to Palomba, Costa Smeralda “will not only be a feast for the eyes, but a feast for the taste buds too.” The vessel will have 11 restaurants, including Teppanyaki; Pummid’Oro Pizzeria; family restaurant Tutti a tavola, which will also offer many entertainment activities; and the Laboratorio del Gusto (Taste Lab) where guests will be able to enjoy making their dinner before dining. “There will be plenty of bars for guests to relax and enjoy a drink in, like the Ferrari Spumante Spazio Bollicine, the Aperol Spritz Bar on outside decks, the elegant Campari Bar, and many more besides,” he says. “The Nutella Café will also be a great place to explore.” 

Delivered on 28 February, Costa Venezia reflects Costa’s Italian heritage, she will represent an innovation because she will be the first in the fleet to be designed specifically for the Chinese market. “The ship will help our guests to discover the Italian culture, lifestyle and excellence,” says Palomba. “Interiors are designed in full Venetian style: the ship’s theatre is inspired by the Venetian La Fenice theatre; the main atrium is reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square; and the restaurants recall the traditional architecture of Venetian alleys and squares.”

Both Costa Smeralda and her yet-to-be-named sister will be Costa’s first LNG-fuelled ships. “We are continuing on a path of a sustainable innovation through the order of two innovative LNG-fuelled ships,” explains Palomba. “Costa Smeralda and her sister will be the first ships to be marketed broadly to global consumers that will use LNG to generate 100% of their energy, both in ports and at sea. They will contribute to environmental protection and to achieving the ambitious sustainability goals set by Costa and its parent company Carnival Corporation.” 

When discussing the growth of the cruise industry, people often talk about companies that emerged from the ocean liner golden age, such as Cunard, and early pioneers, such as Princess Cruises. However, these LNG-fuelled ships are another example of the significant impact Costa has had on the evolution of the cruise sector over the past 70 years.  

“Seventy years of history for the Costa brand means that we have played a pioneering role since the very beginning,” says Palomba. “Many innovations in the industry have been introduced by Costa. For example, we were the first to market cruises in China, the first to introduce a spa at sea, the first to design new routes in the United Arab Emirates and in the Indian Ocean. Costa has been always at the forefront of the innovation.” 

Palomba believes Costa has contributed significantly to growing the concept of cruise holidays. “Costa Cruises began operating on 31 March 1948 with the first voyage of the Anna C liner from Genoa, Italy to Buenos Aires, Argentina,” he explains. “The concept of the pleasure cruise developed over the 1950s and 1960s as the evolution of first class on the traditional transatlantic routes. Costa pre-empted the transition from liner service to cruising, effectively meeting the new demand for tourism on the part of first-class travellers.” 

During the 1980s, the idea of the ship as a full-fledged floating hotel became firmly established. “The passenger ship turned into a holiday resort – there were no longer any class divisions onboard, the cabins were more or less standardised, and the entertainment facilities proliferated: bars, show lounges, casinos, discos, restaurants, sports courts,” says Palomba. “Everything was available to everyone. Nowadays different companies are offering many different opportunities to guests of different ages with the objective to deliver a unique experience by enriching their onboard offer with different features for entertainment, gastronomy, wellness and shopping experiences. Costa Cruises’ rich story will continue to evolve alongside the every-growing industry.” 

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019