After the ghastly tragedy of 2012’s Costa Concordia disaster and a less than inspiring 2013, Costa Cruises must be hoping that 2014 will represent a favourable turning point in its fortunes. However, the line isn’t simply wishing on a dream. it has taken a series of admittedly tentative steps towards recovering its former status, and these are looking encouraging.
Firstly, the sodden, solemn remains of the Concordia herself should literally disappear from view at last, as the wreck of the raised ship is finally towed away and scrapped at an as yet undisclosed location. This in itself should be a huge psychological lift, though the ongoing trial of the cringeworthy Francesco Schettino continues somewhere in the background.
New up is the November 2014 debut of the new flagship, Costa Diadema. This 130,000 ton ship- a variant on the Carnival Dream design- is so far the only one of the class on order. She was recently floated out, and is slated to operate seven night Western Mediterranean cruises year round. The Costa Diadema is the largest passenger ship ever built for any Italian line, and an enormous amount hangs on her success. She is by far the biggest and most visible example of renewed forward momentum from the Italian cruise juggernaut, but by no means the only one.
Out in the Far East, Costa Victoria- the original Costa megaship- has just had a generally well received, $18 million renovation of her interior spaces. She has now been joined in year round service in the region by a second large ship, the Costa Atlantica. And, despite initial denials to the contrary, Costa is, indeed, ridding itself of the delightful, diminutive Costa Voyager after the collapse of her winter 2013/14 Red Sea programme. The line is also set to lay up or sell a second,as yet unnamed ship in the not too distant future. The smart money would be on this being the unreconstructed Costa Classica.
Her sister ship, the massively reconstructed Costa NeoRomantica, has not been the success that the company hoped, at least in the short term. For 2014, she will be joined by the newly acquired Costa NeoRiviera, the former Grand Mistral of Iberocruises. With these two ships, Costa is diverging off the beaten track and into a new, very interesting direction.
Here we have a brace of much smaller ships than the rest of the Costa alumni; the idea is to sail them in the Baltic and Mediterranean next summer, on longer twelve to fourteen night itineraries. These will feature a high number of overnight stays in popular, flagship ports- not something Costa has previously been known to do in the past.
The emphasis will also be on creating a more intimate experience, with upgraded service and shore excursions. In a way, it’s a kind of return to the sort of voyages that the line was once famous for in the sixties and seventies, and it should be very interesting to see if what amounts to Costa 2.0 can pull off this ‘back to the future’ kind of volte face after so many years of successive mega ship birthings. For sure, a lot is riding on it.
My advice? Stay tuned….