Hail Costa

June 13, 2008 -

John Heald

Whenever an actor is asked to slip into a toga he sees it as an excuse to go all swivel-eyed and bonkers. When it comes to the Romans, no speech defect is too preposterous, no gait too far fetched.

We’ve had Derek Jacobi with his clubfoot and his stutter, and Malcolm McDowell helping himself to every bride, groom and farmyard animal in Rome. Oh, and let’s not forget the one with the funny mouth who stabbed Russell Crowe in Gladiator. ………can’t remember the actor’s name.

If you believed everything you’ve seen about Rome on the silver screen, you’d wonder how on earth they managed to find the lavatory in the morning. Let alone work out how the Turdus Maximus thingy might be flushed and be carried away in a sewer system the like of which the world had not seen before.

But it is an unwritten law that all empires, whether the Borg, the British, big business, or Rome, are bad. However, out of all the empires it is the Romans who have come off the worst. We have the Emperor Nero who liked to wear lipstick and women’s clothes and whose best friend was a goat. Caligula would nibble on a baboon’s ear before bathing in a pool of yak’s milk while using a slave’s severed head as a flotation device.
However, despite being ruled by the cast of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Italy became the country we know and love today. It is a country of super cars, super models, super food and of course …………..Costa Cruises.
The “C” Word is a magic word here in Italy and can open many a door. Last night Heidi and I were having dinner in a Tratoria………Trateria………..Trattorri…………..a small restaurant when the waiter asked in very broken English what we were doing in Genoa. I tried to explain that we were here to deliver Carnival’s new ship Splendor but he looked at me in total bewilderment…………he nodded and faintly smiled but I knew he was just being polite and had not understood a word. I was sure that if I had said that I was a ballerina with the English Royal Ballet I would have gotten the same reaction.

Suddenly, I had an idea……………I said “Cruise Ship ………………Costa.”…………..and something magical happened. It was though I had told him that he had won the lottery and that Uma Thurman wanted to have his children. He repeated the word…….”Costa, Costa”…………and I……………sensing I may be onto a winner here said…………….”mi amigo Senior Foschi”……………..his joy and rapture was now unconfined and Uma had been replaced by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders who all wanted his children……………and the outcome of mentioning the “C” word and saying I was a friend of Costa’s President and CEO…………………a discount of 50%.

If you are ever in Italy……………..mention the “C” word……………..mention you are a friend of Mr. Foschi………….it’s better than Visa, MasterCard or American Express.
The “C” word is not just known in Italy of course but all of Europe, North America and now as you will see from the following interview…………………….in the Far East as well.

1. Before we start let’s find out about you. Can you tell us something about yourself and your career so far?

I’m 41 years old. I was born in Genoa (Italy) a nice and small city facing the Mediterranean Sea. Married with one child – Francesco. I enjoy very much play tennis, soccer, traveling and listen to the music. I’m currently the Vice President of Costa Crociere Pacific Asia Operations with operational responsibility for 12 countries, from United Arab Emirates to Australia, from India to China and Japan. I joined my current position in September 2005. Before arriving to Asia I was working in Costa Crociere S.p.A as Revenue Management Director and before as Financial Controller in Paris in the French subsidiary Compagnie Francaise de Crosieres.

2. Costa cruises now has an exciting presence in Asia. Which ship is operating there and where does she sail from and to?

Costa Allegra is the beautiful so called “crystal ship” that Costa has decided to deploy to start our local operation in Asia Pacific Region.  The Costa Allegra offers a total guest capacity of 1,000 passengers and features 386 cabins and 13 suites, including 10 with private verandas.  We started operations from Shanghai in July 2006. This summer 2008 our itineraries will be from Shanghai and Tianjin (the port of Beijing) toward South Korea and Japan (4, 5 and 6 nights in duration). In 2009 we will double our offer in the region introducing from March 2009 on ward a second ship – the 53,000-ton Costa Classica. With accommodations for 1,680 guests and 590 crewmembers, this refined and elegant vessel epitomizes Costa’s signature Italian style and ambience for which it s known worldwide.

 3. Can you tell us about the demographics of the guests? Who is taking a cruise on the Costa Allegra? 

Our product is mainly targeting four types of customers:
MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition)

The average age is between 25 and 45.
4. What changes did the ship need to make to allow for its new life in Asia from its previous cruising life? 

In April 2006 Costa Allegra underwent a substantial refit at an investment worth 12 million euros. The ship’s public area are Italian in design and neoclassical in style.  Her facilities include three restaurants with Italian, international and Chinese specialties, five bars, two pools, an upgraded and extended wellness area catering to local tastes, theater, casino, disco and a quality shopping center with a range of essentially Italian products and brands.
5. Can you tell us about the dining options onboard? Do Asian passengers prefer menu items they are used to or do you keep the Costa Italian flair? 

Undoubtedly the key of our success is our Italian DNA. It’s our uniqueness and it’s the platform on which we leverage to offer to our Asian guests an unforgettable passionate and romantic experience on the sea. It s also true that Chinese cuisine is very important for our guests and for this reason we can count on two extraordinary chefs coming from Shanghai and Hong Kong.  

6. What are the leisure options onboard, how do Asian cruise ship passengers spend their days onboard? 

When guests are not ashore spending their journey in sightseeing activities, they enjoy very much the activities we are used to propose on board: craft lessons, dance classes, pizza and pasta making demonstrations, live bands, musical and shows in the theatre. They also enjoy to do shopping in our on board outlets where they can find very high end products from jeweler to watches, from glasses to handbag.

 7. Can you tell us about the demographics of the Captain and crew?

Captain and crew demographics may vary between 25 and 55. Master and officers are Italians, one third of the crew is Chinese and the balance comes from Southeast Asia.

8. Having had experience in the European and Asian cruise markets, what would you pinpoint the major difference between Asian passengers and passengers from elsewhere?

Asian passengers have definitely less time to spend on holidays, consequently the duration of the cruise is between four and six days. Asian people enjoy the activities we offer on board and visit new destinations to experience sightseeing and shopping activities. European passengers like cruise between seven and 10 days and are much more “relax oriented” than “activities oriented.”
9. There must be some spectacular sights to see within the ports of call. Do you have a favorite Costa Allegra port and if so, why?

I’m particularly enchanted thinking at Halong Bay in Vietnam, especially arriving with the ship in the early morning you can see the color of the rising sun reflected on the rocks in the sea…. it is something really unforgettable. But all the Japanese ports from Fukuoka, to Nagasaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa offer amazing landscape during the day ashore and unforgettable experiences for our guests.

10. What are your hopes for the continued growth of the Asian market and do you think that North American guests would enjoy a cruise around Asia? 

Asia is today the center of the world.  China and India represents the biggest consumers market all over the world. Asia is the new fast growing destination for business and leisure/travel. I think the cruise industry can continue the growth and development of this market thanks to all the efforts my company is putting in place to educate consumers and the travel trade regarding this innovative, pleasant and amazing journey that is cruising. Already today among our previous guests we have achieved 98.5% customer satisfaction and this represents the most ideal platform to assure to our brand and to the entire industry the success in the travel marketplace in the region.

What a great story and my thanks to Massimo for showing us that Costa’s operation in Asia is a huge success. I am sure there are many of us who would love to take a cruise in that part of the world.
When you have time I invite you to look at the following websites. www.costa.it and www.costacruceros.es and at their own exciting pictorial blog on www.WorldofCosta.com.

These all contain an exciting glimpse into the “C” world and on WorldofCosta you will see just why for so many that Costa is their numero uno cruise line.
We will place a permanent link to www.WorldofCosta.com on the right of my blog thingies page and as you will see………………..Costa has kindly placed a link to our blog as well.
The Costa season concluded on Monday as I tour my very first Costa ship “Concordia”……………and, as always, you are all invited.
Your friends
John, Heidi and Mr. Foschi.

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.