Costa Cruises, Europe’s number one cruise line, increased its passenger capacity in Asia on April 24 as the Costa Romantica celebrated her maiden call to Hong Kong with her high-flying Italian flag and iconic yellow funnel.

At the welcoming event, Dario Rustico, sales and marketing director of Costa Cruises’ Pacific Asia Operations; Francis Liu, deputy director of the Marine Department; Patricia So, acting deputy commissioner for tourism; Gilly Wong, general manager of MICE & Cruise of the Hong Kong Tourism Board; Alessandra Schiavo, Consul General of Italian Consulate General in Hong Kong and representatives from Costa’s key sales partners, conducted an officiating ceremony to mark the occasion. The arrival of the Costa Romantica, the largest ship the company has deployed to Asia, symbolizes Costa’s commitment to Hong Kong’s tourism industry.

“This is Costa Cruises’ fifth year in Asia. We have strived to offer our guests the true Italian style of cruising since 2006 and with an increased passenger capacity in the region, we can cater to the expanding cruise industry in Asia,” said Rustico. “The arrival of Costa Romantica to the region is a further testament of our ongoing commitment to the travel industry in Hong Kong and Asia. We also strongly believe in Asia’s long term potential and will continue to further develop this market with a target to make cruising the number one vacation choice for travelers,” Rustico added.

Costa Cruises will offer a total of 97 sailings in 2010 and Costa Romantica is expected to bring over 50,000 additional tourists to the region.

At the ceremony, Patricia So, acting deputy commissioner for tourism said, “the arrival of another magnificent vessel from Costa Cruises in Hong Kong demonstrates Costa Cruises’ long term commitment to Hong Kong, as well as the growing importance of the cruise market in the region. Hong Kong is well-positioned to help propel the growth in the region. With a world-class new cruise terminal to open in 2013, Hong Kong will move into the next phase of development as a leading regional cruise hub. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Costa Cruises in developing the cruise market in Hong Kong and the region.”

Gilly Wong, general manager of MICE and cruise of the Hong Kong tourism board said, “as cruising becomes more popular in Asia, we welcome international ships like the Costa Romantica to stopover  in Hong Kong as a gateway to Asia. It helps position Hong Kong as the regional cruise hub.”

Also joining the ceremony, Alessandra Schiavo, consul general of the Italian Consulate General in Hong Kong, said, “Costa Cruises is the only cruise company in Asia that is capable of creating an authentic Italian-style cruising experience, and we hope more passengers can enjoy this culturally rich Costa journey.”

Other officiating guests at the welcoming ceremony included Brett Leon Dudley, founder and chairman of ecruising Hong Kong/China Limited; Balwin Yeung, senior marketing manager of Hong Thai Travel Services; Ronnie Ho JP, chairman of Jetour Holiday Limited; Mr. Raymond Ng, general manager of sales, marketing and distribution of Kuoni Travel (China) Limited; Kevin So, deputy general manager of Sightseers; Jojo Chan, general manager of Wing On Travel Services Limited; Pietro Sinisi, Captain of Costa Romantica; Oscar Salvi, hotel director of Costa Romantica and celebrity guest Amanda Strang.

Costa Romantica (53,000 gross-tons; 1,356 dbl occ) will operate 30 cruises departing from Singapore, Tianjin and Shanghai to the finest cities of Asia. The cruise itineraries sail between April 17 and November 20, 2010, taking guests to various culturally rich journeys to Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.