A Very Special Interview

October 2, 2007 -

John Heald

There now follows a very special interview with a very special man, who is full of Italian flair and vitality.

Ladies and gentlemen it is a huge privilege to ask you to welcome the Chairman and C.E.O of Costa Cruises, Pier Luigi Foschi.

Chairman and C.E.O of Costa Cruises, Pier Luigi Foschi

1. Can you tell us about your career so far? I understand you used to work in Singapore so it would be fascinating to see how your career path led you to become Chairman and C.E.O. of Costa Cruise Lines.
I lost my father when I was 15. He used to have his small business to make furniture. Our family was modest but with dignity. My elder brother was going to university and I was in high school. Without my father, life changed. Mama sold the small business and both my brother and I needed to go to work to support Mama and ourselves. While working I completed my studies (Economics and Information Technology). I spent 7 years as computer programmer in the Italian Telecom company, based in Milan (Italy); my city; at the time the computers were as big as a room and less powerful then a BlackBerry today. When I left Telecom I was 24, Chief Programmer and already married. I join an Italian company active in supplying heavy equipment for chemicals, petrochemicals and nuclear plants as Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Director. I was also involved in consulting work for IBM on a very special computer application to schedule complex manufacturing processes. Through this consulting work I met Otis Elevator Company’s Italian subsidiary. I join Otis in Italy as Director of their newly formed EDP division (what today is called IT department). I was 28. In Otis (a United Technology Corporation’s company: NYSE: UTX) I develop a fantastic experience and international career. My responsibilities increased year over year and in included, beside IT, Marketing, Sales, Engineering and Manufacturing. Early 1982 I was promoted CFO of Otis in Italy. I was 36. From 1982 to 1985 I lead Otis to acquire two immediate competitors, virtually tripling the Company’s Market Share in 3 years. In 1985 I was promoted Controller and Director of Business Analysis for Otis Europe (Merge and Acquisition), based in Paris (France) HQ’s. I did buy nearly 30 companies in Europe for Otis during my stay there and the business developed significantly. Early 1990 I move to Hong Kong as VP initially, and SVP subsequently, to supervise North Asia Operations. I was 43. The area included also China. There were years of dramatic growth for Otis in Asia. China grew 70% per year for 5 consecutive years. In 1995 I was promoted Executive VP to manage all Otis Asia Pacific Operations, based in Singapore. A $2 billion business with 18,000 employees in more than 20 Countries in Asia and Australasia. And was there that in 1997 Micky Arison and Howard Frank interviewed me.

2.You must be very proud to be the Chairman and C.E.O. of one of the most recognized names in the cruising world and before we talk about specifics, what is it that makes Costa cruise Lines so special?
Next year Costa will celebrate 60 years of Cruising. A lot of experience and tradition. A product designed to appeal to a very large segment of the worldwide population. Being an Italian company and having a relative small domestic market, Costa has developed, by necessity, an international vacation in order to grow and prosper. Costa is probably the most global single brand in the industry: for the variety of its itineraries and for its customer base.

3. For those not familiar with the Costa style of cruising and its international appeal can you tell us the demographics of a typical Costa Cruise and how do the North American guests enjoy immersing themselves with a taste of Europe onboard?
Demographics change significantly depending on itineraries and seasons. On a year-round basis, customer segmentation is as follows (out of 1.1 million guests this year):
Italian 38%, European (other then Italian) 38%, North American 11%, South American 7%, Chinese, Asian and emerging markets 6%.
North American guests are very satisfied with Costa, product. Particularly the one that sail with us outside NA coasts and the Caribbean. It seems that North Americans that travel internationally are more keen to experience and enjoy different onboard products. Guests that sail on Costa’s ships departing from Port Everglades, are perhaps not as well-traveled. They are happy with our product but they say that our food is not real Italian as they used to eating in Italian/American restaurants in America ! ! !

4. Do you know how many different ports your ships cover in a year?
194 different ports for a total of 3,518 calls.

5. Obviously, the ships have a special Italian flair about them……….what are they?
The ships do have some distinctive Italian flair: the material we use, the color scheme and decoration, the inspiration that guided the architect and the art on board.

6. Let’s talk about my favorite subject ….food. What can you tell us about the dining options on the ships of Costa .
Costa ships are very similar to the Carnival ones with respect of dining options. Restaurants with two seatings; informal buffet style restaurant; Pizzeria; alternative restaurant with mandatory reservations; and in our most recent two ships The Samsara Restaurant: a restaurant that is associated with the SPA and were ‘Healty Food’ is served. Guest can have access to the Samsara Restaurant through the SPA package (which include Samsara cabin accommodation) or via onboard reservation if seatings are available (with extra charge).

7. Congratulations on Costa celebrating its 60th anniversary next year. What an amazing achievement. Are any activities planned for this great occasion and are there any benefits for guests to book during this time ?
Next year will be the 60th anniversary. A special logo will be introduced and printed to all sales documentation and correspondence (including product brochure). There is a number of marketing initiatives for guests and trade at the planning stage. Will use the occasion to provide to guests some benefits for difficult sailing.

8. As we have seen, Costa sails to so many exciting destinations. We would therefore like to know your top three ports and why you have chosen them.
Venice: what a fantastic city to be seen from the ship.
Dubai: The future of cruising (I hope); a region that could have potentially the appeal of the Caribbean for European but not as far away.
Shanghai: the cruise terminal is right in the center of the city, were the old buildings on the river all restored (The Bund) tells how grand this city was in the thirties.

9. Italy is my favourite country in Europe (after the U.K. ) of course. What is your favorite part of Italy and why?
I particularly love two regions:
Liguria, were Genoa and Portofino is located. Wonderful sea, ancient history, beautiful landscape and mild weather in winter.
Tuscany: many historic cities, generous green land, beautiful beaches and landscape, hospital people and ….very good food …. and wine!!

10. OK, last question. You are hosting a dinner table onboard a Costa Ship and you have to choose the menu and the company. Please complete the blanks.

MENU
APPETIZER…………………..
WHITE BIET FRITTERS SERVED WITH LIGHT SPICY TOMATOES SAUCE
PASTA……………..
RIGATONI PASTA WITH FRESH CHERRY TOMATOES AND BASIL
OR ……PENNE ALLA VODKA: ONE OF MY PERSONAL RECIPE WHICH WAS SERVED TO APPROX 1,000 TRAVEL AGENTS ON BOARD COSTA MAGICA DURING A MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM. I SERVED AS EXECUTIVE CHEF.
MAIN COURSE…………….
CROAKER FILLET ON A BEAD OF MUSHROOM AND LEEKS WITH THIME, WHITE WINE SAUCE.
DESSERT……………….
BABA’ AU RUM
RED WINE……………. AMARONE ‘ANERI’ 2001
WHITE WINE……………….ARNEIS ‘NEGRO’ 2005

AND PLEASE CHOOSE ONE PERSON FOR EACH CATEGORY TO HAVE DINNER WITH FROM PAST OR PRESENT

ONE PERSON FROM THE CRUISE INDUSTRY………………………. MICKY ARISON – John Heald if Mr.Arison can’t make it
ONE ACTRESS………………………….
MONICA BELLUCCI
ONE MUSICIAN/SINGER…………………….
THE BEATLES
ONE POLITICIAN………………………..
SILVIO BERLUSCONI
ONE SOCCER PLAYER………………..
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO
ONE PERSON TO MAKE YOU LAUGH
…..ROBERTO BENIGNI

What a fantastic interview. I am sure like me, you all want to run into the kitchen and start making the sauce for the pasta. I wonder if Mr. Foschi would one day consent to letting us have his recipe for Penne Alla Vodka?

Costa Cruise Lines is the perfect way to see Europe. You experience it ashore and then when you walk up the gangway Europe is right there waiting for you onboard ……….what a combination.

Gratzie Mr.Foschi and Buona Fortuna.

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.