Costa Cruise Lines' new fleet and "Cruising Italian Style" seem to be paying off. According to William Chambers, Vice President of Marketing, Costa is completing its 1993/94 Caribbean winter season "seriously in the black."
Chambers also confirmed that plans for new ships were in the discussion stages with a German yard.
In addition, some itinerary changes may take place starting in the fall, with the Costa Romantica possibly moving to Port Everglades. She now sails from Miami during the winter season. The Costa Allegra will continue to sail from Miami and the Costa Classica will continue to sail from San Juan.
According to Chambers, he is also hopeful that Costa will position a ship year-round in North America. A possible summer program would have the ship based in New York or Boston for cruises to Bermuda and New England/Canada.
"It makes sense for us to focus on the East Coast where we already are strong," said Chambers, "rather than to spread our efforts to Alaska and the West Coast." He also noted that by concentrating on the East Coast the cruise line would be able to reduce its overhead on airlift compared to Alaska.
While Chambers said that it is clearly possible to be small and profitable, he also suggested that one of the keys to profitability is to manage one's overhead carefully in today's price sensitive market.
Chambers noted that the big cruise lines were outspending Costa 20 to 25 times in marketing expenditures. "We let them develop new markets, which we cannot afford," he said. "However, we maintain our position in newspapers where people tend to look when they are ready to buy and we focus on good producing travel agents." Chambers said that Costa focused its efforts mainly on the East Coast. While it does not even advertise in California, the line does receive a fair amount of passengers from that state, Chambers noted, attributing this portion of its business to its distinctive Italian character.
"Our hardware, our design and our ambiance and food are unique," Chambers added.
"People from all over the country are finding us," Chambers said, "along with Italian Americans." He said that the passenger lists revealed a lot of Italian names from all over the country.
Chambers said that one of the real secrets of a small cruise line is to invest in the on board product "so you create your own army of sales people in past passengers," Chambers underscored.
While Costa may be small compared to the majors, it operates seven ships, which also include the Costa Marina, Eugenio Costa, Enrico Costa and Daphne which are mostly marketed in Europe.
In addition, Paquet Cruises and Pearl Cruises are subsidiaries of Costa Crociere, parent company to Costa Cruise Lines, since the owners of these two cruise Lines invested in Costa.
American Family Cruises is also a joint venture between Costa and AFC's CEO, Bruce Nierenberg.
Clearly, Costa is a major player not only here but also in Europe and the Far East.