Cruise Ships 2012, The Year In Review: Costa Crociere S.p.A.

Continuing Shawn J. Dake’s
Cruise Ships 2012, The Year In Review

COSTA CONCORDIA
COSTA CONCORDIA photo © Peter Knego October 2012

Costa Crociere S.p.A. suffered the greatest loss in their long history with the spectacular grounding and capsizing of the 114,147 gross ton COSTA CONCORDIA. One of the largest ships in the fleet, the 952 foot long COSTA CONCORDIA had left Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, at 7:00pm the night of Friday, January 13th. Under the command of Captain Francesco Schettino, with 3,216 passengers and 1,013 crew aboard, the ship plowed onto rocks, just yards from the coast of Isola del Giglio at 9:42pm at a speed of 15.5 knots, opening a 165 foot long gash in the hull. Following the collision more than an hour passed before the first distress call. The ship was attempting to reach shore near Giglio Harbor, but grounded a second time on the rocks of Gabbianara Point where during the night it capsized onto the starboard side, nearly half submerged. Miraculously most of the 4,229 souls onboard escaped with their lives, but tragically 32 individuals were lost in the disaster.

Responsibility for the wreck was placed directly on the captain who was intentionally navigating well off course to show off for the benefit of friends on the island. Beyond the loss of life, the disaster weighed heavily on Carnival Corporation and Costa Crociere both in financial terms and extremely negative publicity as coverage of the highly visible wreck played out before television cameras broadcasting all around the world. Bookings at Costa were down 80% to 90% in the first four weeks after the wreck. However due to deep discounting, by June Costa’s parent company Carnival stated that booking volumes at Costa were up 25% compared with the same time one year ago.

In March, the ship was declared a Constructive Total Loss for insurance purposes. Carnival Corporation selected Titan Salvage of Jacksonville, Florida and Micoperi of Italy to remove the wreck intact by refloating the ship and towing it to an Italian port. It is not known what will be done with the vessel once that goal has been accomplished, although salvageable parts will most likely be recycled. That process is now months behind schedule and is not expected to be completed until May, 2013.

Sister ship, COSTA SERENA took over the weekly itinerary of the doomed vessel. Just six weeks after the COSTA CONCORDIA tragedy, Costa was beset with another major problem as the COSTA ALLEGRA (ex ANNIE JOHNSON, REGENT MOON, ALEXANDRA) suffered a fire in the generator room which cut off power to the entire ship leaving it drifting in the Indian Ocean. The fire started on February 26th. The following day a French fishing trawler took the 28,430 gross ton vessel in tow, but then to add insult to injury, would not relinquish the ship to two ocean-going tugs which later arrived. By having a line on the stricken ship the F/Y TREVIGNON could claim compensation for salvage.

COSTA ALLEGRA
COSTA ALLEGRA at Sestri, Italy, photo © Peter Knego May 16, 2012.

The COSTA ALLEGRA eventually arrived at Victoria, Mahe in the Seychelles after 4 days without power where the 627 passengers could be disembarked. There were 413 crew members also aboard. In the tropical heat, conditions onboard were described as stifling, with many passengers sleeping on the decks to avoid the heat below. The ship managed to sail under its own power back to Italy to await a decision on its ultimate fate. It was laid up at the now closed Sestri Ponente shipyard, originally the famed Ansaldo shipyard near Genoa. Carnival Corporation & PLC had no plans to repair the ship and offered it for sale in “as is” condition. In September it was reportedly sold for scrap to Turkish breakers at Aliaga.

The 24,391 gross ton COSTA VOYAGER (ex OLYMPIC VOYAGER, OLYMPIA VOYAGER, VOYAGER, GRAND VOYAGER) took over the itineraries of the idled ship for the remainder of the season on cruises previously scheduled for both Costa and their French, Paquet Cruises division. The COSTA VOYAGER was added to the fleet in November, 2011 and had been operating a series of voyages in the Red Sea. There was other news as well.

c
COSTA DELIZIOSA at Los Angeles, photo © Peter Knego January 2012

On a much more positive note Costa Cruises sold out their first World Cruise in 17 years, a 100-day circumnavigation of the globe on the 92,720 gross ton COSTA DELIZIOSA. The ship, with a double-occupancy capacity of 2,260 passengers was newly built in 2010, and will continue to be the preferred vessel for Costa world voyages, repeating the program in 2013. Two other long cruises were on tap for 2012 including the March departure of the COSTA VICTORIA sailing for 72-days on the “Great Cruise To 4 Continents” departing from Brazil for a repositioning in China, as well as the 107-day “Great Cruise To The Other Side Of The World,” which commenced in September from Savona, Italy to New Zealand on the newly rebuilt COSTA NEOROMANTICA (ex COSTA ROMANTICA). That ship emerged on March 2nd in a radically rebuilt state with two extra decks added above the bridge as a 56,049 gross ton ship with a double capacity of 1,578 passengers (1,800 maximum), compared to her sister ship COSTA CLASSICA with her original dimensions of 52,826 gross tons, and a passenger count of 1,308. Both ships remain 724 feet in length with a beam of 102 feet. The bill for the refit came to US $118 million.

The renamed COSTA NEOROMANTICA was rechristened in a private ceremony out of respect for the victims of the COSTA CONCORDIA. The two godmothers were Francesca Scuffi, a top member of the “Costa Club,” and Gabriella Gentile, the most junior member of the crew onboard the Concordia on its disastrous January 13th sailing. Costa took delivery of their fifth and final ship in the 114,500 gross ton “Costa Concordia Class” which is essentially the “Carnival Conquest Class” with the arrival of the COSTA FASINOSA in May. The new ship was christened by Elsa Gnudi, the daughter of Italy’s minister of tourism. Under the circumstances, the event remained a low-key affair as opposed to their usual gala christenings. The new ship carries 3,016 passengers based on double occupancy, or up to 3,800 maximum.

The next generation of Costa ships will be even larger at 132,500 gross tons, mimicking the “Carnival Dream Class” with the first vessel scheduled to arrive in October, 2014. On December 10th, the first building block was laid and the ship was named COSTA DIADEMA. At maximum capacity, it will carry just under 5,000 passengers, serviced by 1,253 crew and will be the largest Italian passenger ship in history. In a final bit of news, Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of the Costa Cruises Group, stepped down from that position on July 1st and was replaced by Michael Thamm, the former president of Aida Cruises. This marks the first time the Italian firm has been run by a German. Mr. Foschi assumes the new position of chairman and CEO of the new Carnival Asia unit based in Singapore.

Aida Cruises, a division of Costa, took delivery of their newest ship, the 2,192 passenger AIDAMAR with a grand celebration May 12th in Hamburg. It reportedly was the largest ship inauguration in history with 1.4 million people turning out for the event which also coincided with the 823rd anniversary of the Port Of Hamburg.

Three additional Aida cruise ships were in attendance providing viewing for over 10,000 guests. The company has been adding one new ship each year since 2007. The seventh and final ship in the 827 foot long, 71,300 gross ton class of sister ships which will enter service in March, 2013 has been named AIDASTELLA. The next, much larger, generation of 125,000 gross ton, 3,250 passenger Aida ships slated to be built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan will literally ride on a cushion of air. Air lubrication using bubbles below the waterline will reduce friction and lower fuel consumption.

 


Shawn Dake is a freelance photo-journalist and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters.com. For more than a decade he has written his annual “Cruise Ships, The Year In Review” which has now grown to a nearly 15,000 word essay recalling all of the events that have taken place within the cruise industry the previous year.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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