Launching the Costa Serena in Marseilles encapsulates the new phase in France's cruising market.

Rocketing growth in recent years shows that French people are more aware of and keener on cruise holidays. Costa Crociere saw its recall rates rise from 5% in 1993 to 75% in 2006 (from a TNS, Infratest survey in September 2006). Costa Cruises ranks fourth in assisted recall tests among French travellers and cruisers, behind Club Med, Nouvelles Frontires and Jet Tours (from a TNS, Infratest survey in May 2005).

The image of cruises has changed as well. Costa Crociere invested 4 million in promotion during the first quarter of 2007. It is the tourism sector's second-largest investor in the media. And its efforts have paid off: Costa Crociere customer base is now very similar to that of large tour organisers.

Costa Crociere has also become an essential player in the tourism market at large. It ranks among the top ten tour operators in France * (from a Echo Touristique survey).

France is Costa Crociere's second-largest market in the world, behind Italy, with 150,000 Guests expected by the end of 2007, and accounts for 14% of the group's worldwide sales.

Costa Crociere & Marseilles: a partnership spanning nearly 11 years

Costa Crociere was the first company to operate from Marseilles, and the two enjoyed a committed relationship from the 1980s onwards. Saturday, 18 May 1996, saw the first series of weekly cruises, leaving Marseilles every Saturday from Spring through to Autumn. With these, Costa Crociere was behind a formula previously unheard of in France, in partnership with the City of Marseilles, the Marseilles-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Autonomous Port of Marseilles and professional and institutional members of the Marseilles-Provence Cruise Club federation.

Costa has had a rendezvous with the port of Marseilles each spring since 1996, proposing it to French holidaymakers as the starting point for rapid, easy access to "La Dolce Vita": a one-week cruise where you sail at night and discover a veritable tapestry of cultures and scenery by day, touring Italy, Sicily, Tunisia, the Balearics and Spain in a single trip. It will be the turn of the Costa Fortuna to call at Marseilles every Saturday throughout summer 2007.

In 2007 Costa Crociere's ships will generate 20% of the total cruisers of the port of Marseilles with a forecasted economic benefit of 10 million euros.

In 2007, Costa will call 30 times in Marseilles, and carry 90,000 Guests (20% of the total of the Port), including 15,000 who will embark or disembark there, and 75,000 in transit. In 1996, when the Costa Romantica started serving Marseilles, it called 25 times and catered to 40,000 passengers.

The forecast financial spin-off generated by Costa Crociere and its Guests calling at the port of Marseilles is 10 million euro in 2007.

Italian and Spanish passengers, in particular, are also found onboard, boarding at scheduled ports of call in Italy and Spain. Every Saturday back in Marseilles, passengers visit the city, surrounding countryside and the treasures of Provence, proving an important source of income for the city and region.

Marseilles banking on cruise market development

Some 3.5 million tourists, 380,000 cruise passengers and 195,000 days of conventions, seminars and corporate events in 2006 make Marseilles an essential destination. Tourism generates 510 million a year for the city.