Costa Crociere’s new Happiness Squared campaign, anchored by singer Shakira, is being heavily marketed in continental Europe to drive demand.That is the big news, according to Neil Palomba, president.

 “Also, we have done a series of product enhancements,” he said. “We are an Italian brand and want to be recognized as an Italian product regardless of where our ships are. We want to offer a clear identity to our customers: Italy’s finest.”

The brand has signed a partnership with chef Bruno Barbieri, who has designed fleet-wide gala menus featured on every cruise. Of note, Barbieri actually started his culinary career on a cruise ship.

“He has put a lot of energy into this partnership, with training chefs onboard, and it is delivering a fantastic experience,” said Palomba, in an interview with Cruise Industry News.

There have been major entertainment enhancements onboard too, leading to the introduction of two audience-participation-style shows.

“These are delivering an extremely high-level of satisfaction,” said Palomba. “Guests can be the stars, and are voted for by other guests.”

While a fifth ship will join the Costa China fleet in 2017 (see separate article) the big deployment changes include the introduction of a seven-night Maldives itinerary for the 2016-2017 season on the neoClassica.

In South America, the company, like most others, has significantly pulled back capacity.

“It’s related to the local situation,” said Palomba. “We experienced financial and political instability in Argentina and Brazil and of course we took action and reduced capacity in South America. It’s difficult; it’s a beautiful place with huge potential. We saw that potential a few years ago, and Brazilians like to cruise.

“We are working with local authorities to ensure the environment allows us to continue investing and building,” Palomba noted, adding that if the local authorities meet the cruise line’s needs, capacity would be brought back to the market.

The company’s capacity in the Mediterranean is slightly down year-over-year, while Northern European capacity is slightly up.

The Mediterranean market is not without challenges too.

 “Last year we had some issues in terms of destinations that are no longer available to us, and this year, unfortunately, Turkey was removed from most of our itineraries,” Palomba said. “However, we are seeing strong demand for what we are offering in the Mediterranean, both eastern and western, as well as Northern Europe.”

Palomba called his 2016 deployment a “good balance” of capacity.

"We are pretty happy to maintain and build on our sustainable (deployment) program,” he noted.

Among the source markets, he said Germany was providing the best overall performance and continues to grow, while the UK is getting better.

Costa debuted a new early-booking pricing policy for 2016, which includes an onboard element.

 “We are pushing a value-added message, like drink packages,” said Palomba. He said the new pricing was proving successful, giving the company a better view of the booking curve and also leading to increased onboard revenue.

Driving future growth and the bottom line, and part of the Carnival Corporation mantra, Palomba said it came down to exceeding guest expectations.

“We sell experiences but deliver on emotions."

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2016