Costa Cruises plans to increase the number of Americans it carries on its European cruises by 50 percent in 1995. Costa's passenger mix in Europe is 85 percent European and 15 percent American passengers which is reversed during the winter season in the Caribbean, according to Dino Schibuola, President.

Costa has launched an aggressive program of travel agent seminars along with consumer and trade advertising.

"We offer a true European experience," Schibuola underscored. "We are not just an American ship transplanted to Europe for the season, although we have American hosts and hostesses aboard.

"With multinational passengers, our entertainment is more visually-oriented," Schibuola said, "and we require that our dining room staff speaks at least two languages.

"Hence, we are teaching travel agents about our ships and our product. For them (agents) it is a matter of matching clients with the product."

Dominant Player

Costa is the dominant player in Europe with 25 percent of the market, with the largest and most modern fleet, and with another 75,000-ton, 1,950-passenger ship under construction for delivery in June 1996 with an option for a second.

"We are the giant over there," said Schibuola. He said that Costa views Europe to have the same potential as the North American market some 10 years ago. "There are 300 million people in Europe," Schibuola explained, "who are on the same economic level as Americans with an equal or greater propensity to vacation." According to Schibuola some 650,000 to 700,000 Europeans cruised worldwide in 1994.

Costa has national sales offices in France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland in addition to its headquarters in Italy. Scrubuola said that Costa will continue to grow in Europe, but also sees a great opportunity to sell European cruises to North Americans. "We have seven ships in Europe this summer, with 120 departures, 102 ports-of-call and 30 different itineraries for seven, 10 and 11-day cruises," Schibuola said.

"We are also perfectly positioned for what we see as a renewed interest in incentive cruises in Europe," Schibuola added, noting that Costa is also very flexible in accommodating groups. As an example, Schibuola noted how a group of bicyclists had cruised in the Caribbean and brought their bicycles along to go biking in ports of call. "There is significant group business beyond the traditional," according to Scrubuola.

Schibuola said that selling Europe also provides Costa with an important year-round marketing presence in North America while the ships sail in Europe during the summer months.