NEW YORK -- Costa Cruises, Europe's largest cruise operator, signed
a letter of intent to build two 105,000-ton ships at Italy's
The 2,720-passenger ships will be built at Fincantieri's
Genoa-based Sestri yard (where the famous Italian liners Rex and
Michelangelo were built in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively), at a
cost of $400 milion each. Delivery of the vessels is slated for
late 2003 and late 2004.
Carnival Corp., in late September, completed the purchase of the
remaining 50% of Costa owned by Airtours plc, which also is
part-owned by Carnival.
In July, Costa launched 84,000-ton CostaAtlantica, the line's
first new ship since CostaVictoria was launched in 1996.
With Carnival Corp. facing increasing competiton from other
major suppliers with strong ties to Europe (particularly Princess
Cruises' owner P&O, which has growing cruise brands in the U.K.
and German markets), Carnival has clearly targeted Costa as the key
to its growth on the increasingly cruise-conscious continent.
"The signing of the letter of intent represents Carnival's
continuing strategy of expanding its cruise business in Europe,"
said Micky Arison, Carnival's chairman. "Costa is the largest
cruise company in the fast-growing European market," said Arison,
with "the newest and most modern cruise fleet in Europe."
Creating a strong European presence is more important than ever
for major North American cruise operators.
According to statistics from the Cruise Lines International
Association, major cruise operators have expanded their European
deployment 14% since 1999 and 88.6% since 1987.
Not only are more North Americans cruise vacationers opting to
sail in Europe, but European vacationers are increasingly opting
for cruise travel and cruise suppliers are in the midst of the
biggest building cycle in the industry's history
"Obviously the future of Europe is very good," said Dino
Schibuola, president of Costa's North American division. While the
Italian market is Costa's largest, "as we continue to expand the
fleet we will make deeper inroads into other European markets and
the U.S. as well," he said.
The new ships' size will not prevent them from calling at major
European cruise ports, said Schibuola.
Indeed, Princess cruises' 110,000-ton Grand Princess spent the
past summer in Europe, calling at ports including Barcelona, Spain;
Venice, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey, and Monte Carlo, Monaco.
"We haven't set itineraries yet, but these ships are not much
larger than CostaAtlantica," said Schibuola. "We should have no
problem cruising in Europe."