The christening ceremony for the Costa Deliziosa was a spectacular event, which I was privileged to attend. This ceremony was a first for an Arab city, and the program architects did an exceptional job of blending Arab and Italian entertainment. It was an action-packed event, filled with sights and sounds from the two diverse cultures.
The day started with the opening of the new Dubai Cruise Terminal, followed by an international press conference. Senior officials from Costa Cruises, Fincanitieri Shipyard, and the Italian and Dubai governments spoke to the audience gathered in the beautiful new show lounge on the Costa Deliziosa.
Mr. Pier Luigi Foschi, Chairman and CEO of Costa Cruises, started the press conference. He said that Costa was pleased to be the first to name a ship in an Arab country. Dubai opened its cruise terminal in 2002/2003 when there was not much cruise traffic in the region. Costa and AIDA came to Dubai starting in 2006, and Costa was the first cruise line to market Dubai cruises. Costa brought 44,000 cruise passengers to Dubai in 2006/2007 and will bring 150,000 in 2010/2011. Costa ships made 17 calls to Dubai in 2006 and will make 31 calls in 2010/2011. The new Costa Deliziosa will be based in Dubai during the 2010/2011 winter season, along with her sister ship the Costa Luminosa. Costa estimates it has spent 8 million euros in Dubai and its passengers have spent an additional 6 million euros.
Mr. Foschi provided a brief overview of the new Costa Deliziosa, noting it is one of the first ships to incorporate "cold ironing" technology, which allows a ship to "plug in" to pierside electricity (rather than its own generators) at ports that have the feature. The Costa Deliziosa also features some elements included on the Luminsoa, including a golf simulator, Grand Prix simulator, outdoor roller skating on the deck, playstation world, and a 4D cinema. The new ship includes several environmental efforts, including 100 percent waste separation and recycling.
The Costa Deliziosa left Savona, Italy on February 5 and sailed the first leg of its inaugural voyage across the Mediterranean and through the Suez Canal and Red Seas to Dubai. Those on this leg of the voyage were invited to attend the christening ceremony. The second leg of the inaugural voyage left the day after the christening, with the Costa Deliziosa sailing to the Maldives and India before returning to Dubai in mid-March, where she will continue regular 7-day cruises through the spring of 2010, The new ship will travel to northern Europe for summer 2010 cruises before returning to the Middle East for the winter 2010/2011 season. Mr. Foschi noted that the Costa Deliziosa will be the first Costa ship in 15 years to feature a world cruise. This cruise will begin on December 28, 2011 and sail for 100 days in three segments. Although the world cruise is over 20 months in the future, the company has already sold one-third of the cabins.
The next speaker was Mr. Hamad Bin Mejiren, Executive Director of Business Tourism, Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) of the Government of Dubai. Mr. Mejiren indicated that he and his staff have been working with Costa and the other partners for over a year on this event. He reiterated that DTCM has been developing cruise tourism since 2001 and was delighted to open the new cruise terminal today. He also provided statistics on the growth of cruise traffic to Dubai. In 2001 Dubai had 7,000 cruise passengers, but in 2009 the country had 263,000 cruise passengers from 80 cruise ship calls. In 2010, Dubai expects 125 cruise ship calls and 325,000 cruise ship passengers, hopes to grow to 195 calls and 575,000 passengers by 2015.
Mr. Corrado Antonini, the Chairman of Fincantieri shipbuilders, was the next speaker. The Costa Deliziosa is the ninth ship built for Costa by Fincantieri, with two more to be delivered in 2011 and 2012. In all, Fincantieri has built 52 cruise ships, and has 11 more on the order book. About one third of the world's cruise ships sailing today were built by Fincantieri and 6.5 million passengers are sailing on his company's ships.
Mr. Joseph Farcus, the interior designer of Costa Deliziosa, spoke about the new ship. He said Mr. Foschi gave him broad guidelines as to the design of the ship and allowed Mr. Farcus to interpret his ideas. The Costa CEO wanted a ship that would appeal to the highest level of customers and bring pleasure to its guests. Mr. Foschi also wanted a luxury experience at an affordable price, with a high standard of details. Like his many other ship designs, Mr. Farcus sees a ship as one artistic creation with an eclectic mix of designs. His ships do not have a common overall design so that passengers will not get bored with the interior of the ship. He doesn't want the passengers to take the environment for granted. Ships sail to exotic ports, but the real destinations of all cruises are the dreams of the passengers onboard. Mr. Farcus recognized that people are spending their money and their precious leisure time on the ships he has designed, and he hopes the Costa Deliziosa guests will feel they have arrived at their dreams when they disembark the ship.
Mr. Paolo Dionisi is the Italian Ambassador to the UAE, and his wife Tala Dionisi is the Costa Deliziosa godmother. Mr. Dionisi noted that Dubai tourism has grown significantly since he became the Italian Ambassador. When he was first posted to Dubai, there were six flights per week from Italy; now there are 42.
The traditional presentations of the crest and plaques ended the press conference. The Costa Deliziosa Captain, Giuseppe Russo, exchanged gifts with representatives of the Dubai Immigration Department and other government officials.
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