The Costa Fortuna will make it for ships in Asia come 2016."We have to make sure that our product is different than our competition,” said Neil Palomba, president of Costa Crociere. “We have to differentiate ourselves from the competition and this is the key, it is linked to our Italy’s Finest positioning.

“We meet and exceed our customers expectations and they feel like they are in Italy, this is our objective and aim,” added Palomba, calling the positioning a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The new branding exercise has now been rolled out fleet-wide since the delivery of the Costa Diadema in 2014, and it is more than just a tagline.

Updated menus have been introduced along with new onboard entertainment linked to Italian lifestyle. There are also more entertainment options outside the main theater, and the restaurants have been livened up with entertainment during meals.

Similar to Carnival Cruise Line, Costa has expanded its vacation guarantee promotion – which started out as a way to appeal to the new-to-cruise, but has morphed into a bigger initiative.

“In the beginning we launched it on a promotional basis in Italy, but it has expanded,” Palomba added. “We have only had two requests for refunds so far.”

Another project at Palomba’s door-step has been the expanded neoCollection fleet, which can be thought of as a premium Costa experience.

With three vessels, the neoClassica, the neoRiviera, and the neoRomantica, the ships sail slower, longer itineraries.

“The concept is aimed at more experienced cruisers,” said Palomba. “These are generally longer cruises with longer or overnight stays in ports.”

Come next spring, there will be four Costa ships operating in Asia, marking a growth streak that started with a smaller ship a number of years ago.

“We needed to take advantage of this increasing demand by adding more ships to the Asian market,” Palomba noted. “The Fortuna (the fourth vessel) will re-deploy to Shanghai after her Emirates season.”

Down the line, Palomba said the vision is to become the most successful and profitable brand in Europe while exceeding guest expectations.

Talking to Cruise Industry News from his office in Genoa, Palomba was beaming with energy, clearly leading the culture at the Italian brand.

“We are passionate and joyful in everything we do,” he added. “We want to create amazing experiences for our guests and we are proud to be Italian.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2015