A cooperative agreement has been signed today between the Italian operator Costa Crociere, the number one cruise company in Europe and South America, and the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).  At a meeting held at the Genoa Head Office of Costa Crociere, the Company’s President Gianni Onorato and the Executive Director of the Dubai Convention Bureau and Heritage Awadh Seghayer Al Ketbi signed the 5-year deal covering a series of initiatives intended to further strengthen the ties linking Dubai and Costa Crociere, the latter being the first and sole international group offering cruises in the Arabian Gulf with departures out of the UAE port.

The agreement marks the creation of a full-fledged partnership between Costa Crociere and Dubai, providing for joint marketing actions promoting both brands worldwide, with special  attention to Asia and the People’s Republic of China.  Thus the Italian Company and European cruise leader, which will carry more than one million Guests this year, and Dubai, the world’s fastest growing tourist destination in recent years, are joining forces to foster further growth and extend their international customer bases.  Also under the agreement, on October 1, 2007 Costa will open a representative office in Dubai, its 29th worldwide, which will be based in the local Cruise Terminal.  Last but not least, the ships operated by Costa Crociere and the other Carnival Corporation & plc cruise lines will have berth priority in Dubai.

“We’re delighted,” commented Costa Crociere President Gianni Onorato, “to be strengthening our links with the DTCM.  The cruises out of Dubai have proved extremely popular, especially in Europe, rewarding what turned out to be a far-sighted move both on our part, when we became the first to market this new destination, and on the part of the DTCM, which believed in us and in the development of the cruise industry in Dubai.  We’re going to double our capacity in winter 2007/2008, by positioning 2 ships with the Costa brand.  This expansion and the agreement sealed today will enable us to step up our promotion of Dubai and of our cruises in the Arabian Gulf not only in Europe, but also on the local market and across Asia, with an eye on China in particular.  We wish to thank our most loyal Guests:  they prompted us to look for unique new destinations, and this led us to offer cruises from Dubai and develop the partnership with the DTCM.”

“We are in the Government of Dubai, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and on behalf of the Cruise Industry in Dubai and the Arabian Gulf are very pleased to announce with our partners Costa Crociere the singing of this MOU which we believe will take our relationship to another level of partnership and will enhance the ties between the two organizations to achieve their goals and objectives. It will also reflect positively on the level of service to customers of both Costa Crociere and Dubai taking cruises out of Dubai and will enhance Dubai position as a leading hub of the Arabian Gulf” said Awadh Al Ketbi Executive Director of the Dubai Convention Bureau and Heritage

Costa Crociere’s Dubai departures are a first for the global cruise industry.  During the 2006/2007 winter season, from December 2006 to April 2007, the Costa Classica (53,000 gross tonnage and total Guest capacity of 1680) was the first liner to offer 7-day Arabian Gulf cruises, with departures from Dubai every Saturday.  There were a total of 17 cruises and 44,000 passenger movements, primarily Europeans – mainly Italians, Germans, Austrians, French, English and Spanish – who traveled to the United Arab Emirates on charter flights from Frankfort, Milan, Paris and London.

In winter 2007/2008 two ships with the Costa Crociere brand will be positioned in Dubai, doubling the Italian Company’s local capacity:  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 number of cruises will increase to 25 (15 on the Costa Romantica, 10 on the Costa Europa) with some 70,000 passengers handled  (40,000 on the Costa Romantica and 30,000 on the Costa Europa).  The two ships will operate on the same 7-day cruise itinerary as the Costa Classica in winter 2006/2007, namely two nights in Dubai and stopovers in the ports of Muscat (Oman), Fujairah (United Arab Emirates), Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and Bahrain.  The Costa Romantica will set sail every Saturday from December 21, 2007 through March 30, 2008; the Costa Europa will depart on Sundays from December 22, 2007 through February 25, 2008.

Costa Crociere’s ships help promote the Arabian Gulf region as a major travel and cruise destination for European tourists.  All Costa’s cruises departing from Dubai include guided excursions in each port of call, with visits to some of the best local tourist attractions – places of natural beauty or historical and cultural interest.  The program features desert adventures, trips to some of the most exclusive beaches in the Arabian Gulf, visits to the finest mosques, historical buildings and museums, tours of the city and their typical markets, as well as boating excursions to go dolphin-watching.

In addition to the ships operated by the brand Costa Crociere, the AIDAcara – a member of the fleet of AIDACruises, a German brand belonging to the Costa Crociere Group which is the number one cruise company in Germany and Austria – also offers departures from the UAE port, with the same itinerary as the cruises operated by the Costa brand.  In winter 2006/2007 the AIDAcara was deployed on 8 cruises out of Dubai and this number will rise to 14 in the 2007/2008 winter season.