The Italian group Costa Crociere S.p.A. has commenced its third consecutive season operating from Dubai. Both Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises, the two Costa Crociere brands that in 2006 became the first lines in the world to offer regular 7-day cruises in the Arabian Gulf, are further increasing their capacity here this coming winter. Costa Cruises will expand locally by some 50% thanks to the arrival of the Costa Victoria and Costa Classica, while AIDA Cruises will be almost doubling its own offer with the deployment of the biggest ship of the fleet AIDAdiva.

The start of the new season also provided the opportunity to announce plans for winter 2009/2010. The Italian brand Costa Cruises will position in Dubai the Costa Luminosa, the most exclusive and elegant ship in the fleet, currently being fitted out at Fincantieri's shipyard in Marghera (Venice), which will enter service at the end of April 2009 and be christened in Genoa on June 5, 2009 together with the Costa Pacifica. The Costa Luminosa will be joined in Dubai by the Costa Europa, the latter offering a brand new itinerary for a series of 8 cruises from Savona to Dubai and vice versa. The German brand AIDA Cruises will once again be operating its ship AIDAdiva, that will also offer 2 special cruises from Dubai to India and vice versa at Christmas and New Year. 

"We are truly delighted," commented Costa Crociere S.p.A. Chairman & CEO Pier Luigi Foschi, "to be starting our third consecutive season in the Arabian Gulf operating out of Dubai. We were the first and remain the sole operator to believe in the value of this new cruise destination. Thanks to the support and cooperation of the DTCM (Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing), we have boosted the presence here - with increasingly large and modern ships - of both Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises. In view of the great response from our customers (not only Europeans but also Chinese and Asian cruisers), we have decided to deploy the Costa Luminosa in Dubai in winter 2009/2010: she will be the new jewel of the Costa fleet, combining the very best of our product in terms of innovation, facilities, choice of materials, design and works of art, and will help consolidate the worldwide success and popularity of Dubai and the other places on the itinerary."

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing's (DTCM) Executive Director Business Tourism, Mr. Hamad bin Mejren, who is also managing the Dubai Cruise Terminal said, "The new temporary Cruise facility which is absolutely similar to what was available in the old terminal is the hallmark of Dubai's commitment to this business. Of course when the final facility is in place, the standards as usual will be on par if not better than any similar facility for Cruise ships in the world".

Both Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises have confirmed the now established 7-day itinerary for winter 2008/2009 with two nights in Dubai and one day calls at the ports of Muscat (Oman), Fujairah (United Arab Emirates - for Costa's ships only), Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Bahrain.  

Winter 2008/2009 will see Costa Cruises increase its regional capacity by another 50% with the return of the Costa Classica (53,000 gross tonnage and 1680 Guests) joined, for the first time, by the Costa Victoria; the latter vessel is a 75,200-tonner that can carry 2394 Guests with 242 cabins, 4 suites and many staterooms fitted with private balconies.

The Costa Classica will set sail from Dubai every Sunday on a total of 11 cruises (from December 21, 2008 through March 8, 2009); meanwhile, the Costa Victoria will make 18 weekly calls on Saturdays (from December 13, 2008 through April 18, 2009).

As regards the AIDA Cruises brand, in winter 2008/2009 it will be almost doubling its capacity with the introduction of the AIDAdiva (69,200 gross tonnage and total Guest capacity of 2500), the biggest ship of the fleet with her sister ship AIDAbella, the first of the new generation of AIDA ships with 2/3 of outside cabins equipped with verandas. The AIDAdiva will be in the Port of Dubai every Friday with a total of 18 calls (from December 4, 2008 through April 9, 2009). 

The Costa Crociere Group has generated substantial and growing business for the city of Dubai and the other ports of call on the itinerary:

Winter 2008/2009 (forecast)

Costa Cruises - 100,000 passenger movements
AIDA Cruises - 78,000 passenger movements

Total - 178,000 passenger movements

Winter 2007/2008

Costa Cruises - 70,000 passenger movements
AIDA Cruises - 35,000 passenger movements

Total - 105,000 passenger movements

Winter 2006/2007

Costa Cruises - 44,000 passenger movements
AIDA Cruises - 21,000 passenger movements

Total - 65,000 passenger movements

Costa's Guests on cruises out of Dubai are mainly Europeans - especially Italians, Germans, Austrians, French, English and Spanish. Also, thanks to a global cooperation agreement with the DTCM, there are more and more cruisers from China and the Far East. On the other hand, AIDA Cruises' passengers are all Germans. All the Group's Guests fly straight to Dubai and embark from there.

Through a survey last year the DTCM found out that cruise visitors to Dubai are mostly satisfied or very satisfied (95%) with their overall experience in Dubai and over half (53%) would be happy to return to Dubai on holiday in the future. Most of them (78%) were visiting Dubai for the first time. 

The Costa Crociere S.p.A. Group was the first to market regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf, turning Dubai into a major cruise destination and contributing to its growth as a tourist resort. Dubai was chosen because it is easily accessible from Europe, renowned for its fine, sunny weather and mild winter, and located in the middle of an area combining tradition, history and modernity.

The Costa Group launched its operations in Dubai in winter 2006/2007 with the Costa Classica (53,000 gross tonnage and 1680 Guests) for the Costa Crociere brand and the AIDAcara (38,000 gross tonnage and total Guest capacity of 1339) for the German brand AIDA Cruises. The immediate success of the new cruise destination prompted Costa Cruises to double its capacity by positioning two ships here in winter 2007/2008: the Costa Romantica (53,000 gross tonnage and total Guest capacity of 1697) and the Costa Europa (55,000 gross tonnage and total Guest capacity of 1830). The same year, the AIDAcara extended her season by increasing the number of calls from 9 to 15.