During the inaugural ceremonies for the 75,000-ton Costa Victoria last week, Nicola Costa, President of Costa Crociere, announced that the launching of the Costa Olympia has officially been set back until 1998.

Originally, the 78,000-ton Costa Olympia was due for delivery from Bremer Vulkan in the summer of 1997, but the shipyard's deep financial travails have stalled progress since early 1996. According to Costa Cruises President Dino Schibuola, the ship is now 35 to 40 percent complete.

At the time of the inaugural ceremonies, Costa said that no decision had been made on completion plans for the Olympia, and that it "depends upon the authorities" overseeing the shipyard group's bankruptcy proceedings, although he did note that the cruise line was exploring options with other yards. (One report has them in serious talks with Kvaerner Masa-Yards).

Costa has an option with Bremer Vulkan to purchase the hull as-is if necessary, said Schibuola, adding that the situation with the yard should be clarified in the next two months.

According to Nicola Costa, the delay of the Olympia has changed the line's retirement (and eventual sale) plan for the Costa Riviera, which according to a Costa spokesperson, was originally set for Sept. 14, 1996. The Riviera would be kept in service to compensate capacity-wise for the delay in the Olympia's arrival.

At press time, Schibuola was less definitive. "The Costa Riviera was for sale, and we haven't sold it, but there is an issue of what kind of investment will be required (to keep it in service)," he said, referring to SOLAS safety upgrades required by Oct. 1, 1997. "We're looking at the numbers now," he said on July 29, noting that work would have to be done on the Costa Riviera to install low-location lighting and smoke detectors.

The retirement of lhe 1955-built Daphne will go ahead as planned on Oct. 19, the vessel having been sold during the past two weeks to Leisure Cruises, a Swiss tour operator, for approximately $11 million.

Other plans originally included the retirement of the Eugenio Costa, which was to be sold to Bremer Vulkan as part of the Costa Olympia deal, but this assumes the bankruptcy issue does not change that arrangement, and the fate of the ship is now unclear.

Meanwhile, the yet-to-be-completed Costa Victoria set sail on its maiden voyage from Genoa on July 28, according to Schibuola, carrying 1,780 passengers. Less than total capacity was taken as work continued on several of the suites and public spaces like the disco, he said, asserting that all remaining work would be flnished by late August.