The Italian company Costa Cruises, Europe’s no. 1 cruise line, has taken part today in the inauguration of the new passenger port in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Costa Mediterranea (85,600 gross tonnage and total Guest capacity of 2680), one of the 12 cruise ships in the Costa fleet, was the star of the event as the first ship to call at the new port built specially to accommodate cruise ships and cruisers with a mixed public and private investment worth a total of US$13 billion. The first person to disembark from the Costa Mediterranea, Captain Anelito Montesarchio, was welcomed by the Governor of St. Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko.

The opening of the new port was celebrated with a performance by the Catalan theater group "Fura del Baus". In addition to the local Governor, the inauguration of the new facility was attended by Alexander Davydenko, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation, Mario Martini, Costa Cruises S.V.P. Sales & Marketing Europe and Rest of the World and Shavkat Kary-Niyazov, President of "Marine Façade", the company that managed the construction of the port.

The new passenger port in St. Petersburg is the first in Russia able to accommodate the latest generation of cruise ships, whose length exceeds 300 meters. Situated on the western side of Vasiljevskiy Island, it is near the old town and a convenient gateway to the main attractions of the city. The project will occupy a total area of 400 hectares and entails several stages of development, with the work scheduled for completion by 2010. Upon its completion, the new passenger Port of St. Petersburg will become the largest cruise and ferry industry project in the world . By the time it is finished the port will have some 7 berths, 3 cruise terminals and one ferry terminal. The new port's throughput capacity will be 12 thousand passengers a day and 1.2 million passengers a year. For the time being, one cruise terminal and two 300-meter berths are operating. The project will also incorporate business centers, exhibition halls, "A" class residential development and other facilities that will change dramatically the view of the St. Petersburg's waterfront. St. Petersburg is Russia’s busiest cruise port and one of the main cruise destinations in Northern Europe. The number of cruisers has increased from 163,000 in 2003 to an estimated 400,000 in 2008. The first foreign civilian ship, a Dutch ship, arrived in St. Petersburg 305 years ago, in the Fall of 1703. By receiving the first foreign vessel St. Petersburg was fulfilling the mission defined by its founder, Emperor Peter the Great, "to open sea gates to Europe".

"Being able to inaugurate the new passenger port of St. Petersburg with one of the ships in our fleet is a great honor and a great opportunity for us," said Costa Cruises S.V.P. Sales & Marketing Europe and Rest of the World, Mario Martini. "This new port facility is vitally important to the future development of cruise shipping in Russia, and is clear testimony to the attention being paid to the cruise industry by the Government of the Russian Federation and the local authorities in St. Petersburg. For our part, in our capacity as the number one operator in the port we will continue to invest so as to promote Costa’s cruises in Russia. The popularity that our product is currently enjoying here is very encouraging, especially considering the huge potential for growth in this country. We’re sure that Russia will be able to play an increasingly significant role in Costa Cruises’ expansion program in the years to come and will make an important contribution to the attainment of our objective of 1.5 million Guests in 2010."

Costa’s ships first sailed to St. Petersburg back in the early ’70s, with the North Sea cruises on the "Federico C" and on Costa’s historic flagship "Eugenio C". Today, Costa Cruises is the leading cruise line for the Russian port, in terms of both the number of ship calls and the number of cruise passengers. This year Costa’s ships will make a total of 28 calls in St. Petersburg bringing about 50,000 cruisers, accounting for around 12% of the port’s total cruise passenger traffic. Direct expenditure by the Company in St. Petersburg in 2008 amounts to some 8 million euros. There are four Costa vessels deployed here in 2008: the Costa Mediterranea, Costa Atlantica, Costa Victoria and Costa Marina. In 2009 the Italian Company will be back in strength with the addition of the Costa Luminosa, the finest and most exclusive ship in the Costa fleet, due to enter service in May 2009. There will be four Costa ships calling at St. Petersburg next year: the Costa Luminosa plus the Costa Mediterranea, Costa Atlantica and Costa Magica. The Costa Luminosa, Costa Mediterranea and Costa Magica will offer new, exclusive itineraries to the Baltic cities, including an overnight stay in St. Petersburg.

The Italian Company Costa Cruises, Europe’s favorite cruise line, has been marketing cruises in Russia since 2003, through two of the main local tour operators, Natalie Tours and the Neptune Cruise Center. Over the last five years the number of Russian Guests choosing a vacation on board one of the 12 Costa fleet members has increased almost fourfold. Also, since 2007 Costa Cruises has given its Russian Guests the option of embarking and disembarking in the Port of St. Petersburg on summer cruises in the Baltic Sea and to the Norwegian fjords. In addition to Northern Europe, the preferred destinations of Russian Guests are the winter cruises in the Mediterranean and to the Canary Islands, the summer cruises in the Western Mediterranean, and the winter cruises in the Arabian Gulf with departure from Dubai.

There is a very substantial margin for growth of cruising in Russia. According to a study conducted in February 2008 by Costa Cruises and Romir, Russia’s leading independent research institute, there are a potential 4,750,000 Russian cruisers. The survey also showed that Costa’s offer is in line with the demands of the market and that, thanks to the quality of its product and the reliability of its brand, Costa would be able to attract 74% of the potential customer base identified. The European Cruise Council (ECC), the international association set up to promote the development of the European cruise industry, reported that in 2006 the cruise industry generated direct expenditure in Europe amounting to some 10.6 billion euros; 3.4 million Europeans went on cruise holidays that year, and this figure is expected to reach 4,1 million by 2010 and 5.5 million by 2015.