As the number of vacationing Chinese is
expected to grow by 20 million by 2010, Carnival Corp. one year ago
announced it would deploy the Costa Allegra out of Shanghai for the
Chinese market, a first for the global cruise industry.
Costa was the
natural Carnival brand for the job, considering the line's
expertise in handling a diverse international clientele.
Still, from the
beginning, Costa President Gianni Onorato acknowledged the
challenges the line would face introducing cruise vacations to the
According to Clem
Cimini, the Costa Marina cruise director who spent time on the
Allegra last year, the company is still adjusting.
While the key
positions on the ship, such as hotel manager, are held by Europeans
in order to maintain the Costa product, Cimini said that one of the
two co-cruise directors is Chinese.
Even with the
Chinese cruise director, language differences were an issue between
staff and passengers. The Shanghai dialect, for example, is quite
different than standard Mandarin.
of the customs and habits of Chinese travelers proved to be
different than expected.
"We found that
Chinese tend to stay in their cabins and socialize there. They eat
early, don't like to go to bars and are not as interested in the
casino as was assumed," Cimini said.
On the other
hand, she noted that they loved the entertainment and
Just six months
after the experiment began, the challenges of serving the Chinese
market led to a re-evaluation of the paradigm.
Carnival announced that Allegra sailings out of Hong Kong and
Shanghai would be open to Americans, as well. Plus, the Costa
Marina, which mostly marketed to Europeans for its Asia cruises out
of Singapore this past winter, will spend next winter off the coast
of eastern Africa, leaving one ship in the region to cater to all
demand from the Chinese market had been strong during certain
periods of the year and weak at other times. Citing strong interest
from Europeans and Americans for the itineraries, which call in
ports in Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and Korea, these markets will be
targeted to fill the void during low periods in the Chinese
"We expect to
have more European and American guests on the new longer cruises in
May, June, November and December and see a majority of Chinese and
Asian guests on the five-day itineraries in March, April, July,
September and October," Onorato said.
"We've learned a
lot about the habits of Chinese and Asian guests and about the
importance of marketing and communications to support our presence
in these countries," he said.
"It's a huge
market with a very high growth potential, but it needs more time
and investment for the customers and travel agents to understand
and appreciate a brand new and innovative product such as our
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For more details on this
article, see "Costa Marina makes many nationalities feel