Great festivities have been planned in Shanghai to celebrate the arrival of the Costa Allegra (28,500 dwt and a capacity of 1,000 guests). The first call of the 2008 summer season for this ship operated by Costa Cruises was an occasion to celebrate two events: the opening of the new “Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal” and Costa’s 100th cruise in China.

Costa Cruises, the Italian company that’s number one in Europe, was the first international cruise company to operate regular cruises in China and in Asia, selling its “made in Italy” product to the Chinese. Operations began on 3 July 2006 from Shanghai with the Costa Allegra. Since then Costa has completed a total of 121 cruises in Asia, 100 of which in China and about 40% of these from the port of Shanghai, where the Costa Allegra has brought more than 60,000 cruise vacationers traffic.

Thanks to its excellent "Made in Italy” product Costa Cruises has introduced its brand supported with large marketing investments, and although the market is still under development, Costa has accepted the challenge to position a second ship in Asia and China. Based on the success with the Chinese and international clientele, as of March 2009 Costa Cruises will bolster its operations in Asia, positioning a second ship, the Costa Classica (53,000 dwt, 1,680 passengers and 590 crew members), in addition to the Costa Allegra.

In 2008, the Costa Allegra will operate 19 cruises, 14 of these from Shanghai port  and 4 during the Beijing Olympic Games, that will be broadcast on board the ship on giant screens in the public areas and on cabin TV sets.  For 2009, 34 cruises (+80%) are planned with Costa Allegra and 31 with Costa Classica.

“China’s cruise market has a good growth potential – declared Gianni Onorato, President of Costa Cruises. Shanghai together with Tianjin (the port of Beijing) will play an important role in this sector due to their role of main ports and economic centres for China. Costa Cruises was the first to believe in offering cruises in China and to choose Shanghai as its home port. This is the city where we began to develop our activities in China. And the results of those decisions have gone beyond our greatest expectations. Since 2006, the Costa Allegra has completed 121 cruises in China and Far East. Overall, about 75,000 Guests have taken a vacation on board the Costa Allegra, including nearly 50,000 Chinese Guests. These figures are real proof of just how much China and Asia appreciate the quality of the service and the style of our cruises. It is also a concrete example of the worldwide success of the real “made in Italy”: 98.28% of our Chinese Guests are satisfied or very satisfied with their Costa cruise vacation”.

Costa Cruises’ General Manager for China, Leo Liu, added: “We are very grateful to Shanghai’s authorities and local government for the major investments they are making to improve port and cruise infrastructures. The opening of the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal will contribute significantly to the cruise industry’s development throughout eastern China”.

The tourism and cruise market in China

Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the Chinese economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2007 the economic impact of tourism in China amounted to USD 440 billion, i.e. about 6% of the world total generated by tourism. Between 2008 and 2018 this figure should increase, in real terms, at an annual rate of 9.6%. More than 35 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad in 2007. These Chinese tourists represented about 6.2% of the world’s tourism demand. Forecasts indicate that by 2010 there will be more than 50 million Chinese tourists abroad and 100 million by 2020.

According to data from the Ocean Shipping Consultants, an independent research company based in Great Britain, the Northeast Asia cruise market (China, South Korea and Taiwan) will continue to grow at a constant rate: from an estimated 440 thousand cruise passengers in 2005, that figure is expected to increase to 720 thousand in 2010.

Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal

The new terminal, that will become operational with the arrival of the Costa Allegra, was specially designed to dock international cruise ships. Located along the Huangpu River, it covers a total area of 350,000 m², extends over 4 floors and can dock up to 4 cruise vessels at the same time. An ultramodern terminal in terms of efficiency and safety, it will be able to complete immigration procedures at the rate of just 48 seconds per person. The area will also include business centres, hotels, offices and art galleries.

Costa cruises in Asia

In the summer of 2008 the Costa Allegra will also offer short 4 to 6-day cruises with departures not only from Shanghai but also from Hong Kong and Tianjin. The itineraries include the new destination of Fukuoka (Japan), in addition to Cheju (South Korea), Sanya (China), Da Nang and Cai Lan (Vietnam), Nagasaki and Kagoshima (Japan). These short voyages will be supported by the longer 14 and 15-day cruises to the Far East, with calls to ports in Japan, South Korea, China, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

This type of cruise is designed for Chinese Guests, whose appreciation for the Costa product continues to grow. The same can be said for international Guests, including Asian and Australasia countries, for whom itineraries in the Orient are both fascinating and attractive.

As of 27 March 2009 the Costa Classica will offer 33, 4 to 14-day cruises, with departures from Singapore, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and the various itineraries will include visits to the best destinations and Asian countries.

Costa “made in Italy” in Asia

The Costa Allegra offers its Chinese guests the best of “made in Italy”. Starting, obviously, from the cuisine. In fact, the Costa Allegra’s guests can dine in an Italian “à la carte” restaurant, the Amalfi Restaurant, located in one of the ship’s most panoramic vantage points, in 2 other restaurants and buffer that offer traditional Italian dishes (starting from pasta ), and in a “pizzeria”. These dining experiences are so popular that even Italian cooking lessons, taught by the onboard chefs, have been organised and include how to prepare the perfect “pasta al pesto”. Even the entertainment has acquired that typical Italian touch: in the saloons and next to the swimming pool theme evenings are organised, including an “Italian night” with the election of “Mr. Spaghetto” and a song contest called the “Italian Festival”. One of the numerous theatre shows, real musicals created “in-house” by Costa Crociere, includes a special show called “made in Italy” inspired by Italian history and traditions. The Costa Allegra shopping area provides guests with the opportunity to purchase major Italian name brands, including  Armani, Bulgari, D&G, Gucci, Antica Murrina.

Awards received by Costa Crociere in China

Last March Costa Crociere received 2 important awards in China: “The Most Popular Cruise Line" award presented during the World Travel Fair, Eastern China’s most important tradeshow, and the "Award for Customer Management 2007" that was presented to Costa Crociere’s Call Centre in China by the China Customer Management Forum.

Costa Crociere has already received “The Best Marketing Promotion Award”, dedicated to the best marketing campaign in China, awarded by the Traveler magazine during the “Gold List Travel Award 2007”, and the “Top International Cruise Line Award 2007”, organised by World Traveller to pay tribute to the best international cruise company.

The ships

The Costa Classica, which entered service in 1991 and was restyled in 2001, was built at the Fincantieri shipyards in Marghera. One of Costa’s most popular cruisers, with a displacement of 53,000 dwt and an overall length of 220 metres, she can accommodate a total of 1,680 passengers in 1,304 lower berths.

The Costa Allegra, weighing in at 28,500 dwt with a capacity of 1,000 guests, was completely restyled in March 2006 for a total investment of Euro 12 million. The design of the public areas was inspired by the Neoclassic style with a strong Italian flair. She is nicknamed the “crystal ship” because of her bright and modern architecture and large stern glass wall. The ship is equipped with 386 cabins, 13 suites including 10 with a private balcony, 3 restaurants offering Italian, international and Asian specialities, 5 bars, 2 swimming pools, a wellness centre, a theatre, a shopping centre with the most famous “made in Italy” brands, a casino and a discotheque.