Costa Celebrates 60 Years of History

On March 31, 1948 the motor vessel Anna C left Genoa for Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires with 768 passengers on board.  This marked the beginning of the great adventure that is cruising with Costa.  Since that day, Costa Cruises has made a major contribution to sixty years of Italian history, acting with a sense of vocation and vision, and attaining its current position as Europe’s n.1 cruise line and Italy’s leading tour operator.

The era that commenced on March 31, 1948 with the Anna C has much earlier roots. The business actually started up way back in 1854, when Giacomo Costa founded “Giacomo Costa fu Andrea”, a small company trading in olive oil and fabrics.  When the transatlantic markets, stimulated by the constant flow of Italian immigrants, generated demand for homegrown foodstuffs, the Costa company made the shipment of olive oil its core business.  In the 1920s the firm flourished to such an extent that it became Italy’s main producer of olive oil and required a fleet that could transport goods all over the world.

When World War II ended, the sole surviving vessel was the steamship Langano, but Costa decided to concentrate on its shipping business again, buying other vessels.  The destruction of the Italian passenger fleet combined with the growing demand for passenger traffic, the economic crisis and the flood of emigrants to the Americas drew the  attention of the Costa family to the business potential of a regular transatlantic passenger service.  Unlike other shipowners, Costa had the insight to look beyond the short term and anticipate the future reduction in migration, retaining an (albeit limited) service for travelers in first and second class.

In 1947 “Giacomo Costa fu Andrea” changed its name to “Linea C”, a line that would become famous over the course of more than three decades of transatlantic service to and from Latin America.  The new passenger service offered accommodation in first and second class.  And so it was that on March 31, 1948, the first passenger ship in the Costa fleet – the Anna C – left Genoa, thus becoming the first liner to cross the southern Atlantic after the war and the first to offer passenger cabins with air conditioning. The ship reached Buenos Aires 16 days after her departure. The Anna C would soon be followed by other vessels, deployed to meet the growing demand generated by the flow of migration.

The concept of the pleasure cruise developed as the evolution of first class on the traditional transatlantic routes.  Costa pre-empted the transition from liner service to cruising, effectively meeting the new demand for tourism on the part of first class travelers.  Starting from the 1950s, “Linea C” began using ships on cruises in the Mediterranean and South America to capitalize on the fact that the seasons are out of phase in the northern and southern hemispheres and therefore redeploy the fleet in periods when there was less traffic. The first step towards the new market came in early 1959 with the radical conversion into a cruise ship of the small motor vessel Franca C:  her capacity was reduced to 552 berths, all in the one class, and her passenger cabins had en suite bathrooms and air conditioning. After debuting in the Mediterranean, in winter 1959 the Franca C began a series of pleasure cruises in the Caribbean with departure from Fort Lauderdale.

In the 1960s and ‘70s the demand for regular liner services declined sharply on account of the end of mass migration and the advent of air travel.  The Company responded not only by marketing cruise vacations but also by building a fleet designed specifically to meet the growing demand for tourism:  the first new addition was the Eugenio C, launched in 1964 – christened “the ship of the future”, she did away with class divisions, clearly indicating that she had been designed solely for cruising, the choice of the future for Costa.  In 1968  the Franca C introduced the “fly+cruise” package for the Caribbean, a formula that would revolutionize the concept of the vacation and offer holidaymakers with little time the chance to go on short cruises even on the other side of the world.

The evolution of tourism was to prove Costa right again; in the 1970s the Company expanded its business by hiring or buying various liners and did so well that by the following decade Costa Cruises had the world’s largest fleet (13 ships considering ships owned and leased).  During the 1980s the idea of the ship as a full-fledged floating hotel became firmly established; the passenger ship turned into a holiday resort, there were no longer any class divisions on board, the cabins were more or less standardized and the entertainment facilities proliferated:  bars, show lounges, casinos, discos.  Everything was available to everyone on the “funship”.

The foundations had been laid for the cruise industry as a whole; more specifically, Costa prepared for the qualitative leap represented by the establishment of Costa Cruises in 1986:  the Company concentrated on cruising as its core business and developed the tools of mass communication, modern marketing and the deliberate pursuit of itineraries tailored to the new customer base. In the space of a few short years the target for the Costa cruise will change from a restricted – albeit family-based – section of the population to the wider public, on an international level, with more affordable prices, new ships, and cruise programs for families and children.

1997 was a turning point and the beginning of a new phase of development for Costa Cruises.  The change of ownership and the arrival of new Italian management were accompanied by an increase in the investment capacity of the Company: 2000 marked the start of a major fleet expansion program which currently involves the addition of 13 new ships between 2000 and 2012 and a total investment worth 5.5 billion euros. This growth is based on a new approach to the market, diversified ships with spectacular designs, and a new corporate philosophy whose hallmarks are innovation and excellence of the “Costa cruise product”, which retained and enhanced its international reputation for “Italian made” excellence.  In 2000 all the ships in the Costa fleet were able once again to fly the Italian flag.

Today Costa Cruises is the number one cruise line both domestically in Italy and across Europe – the only truly global cruise company, operating with branch offices in 17 countries, offering some 250 destinations and over 100 itineraries every year, embarking its Guests from almost 50 ports around the world.  Costa has Europe’s largest and most advanced fleet with 12 ships in service and 5 more on order from Fincantieri to be built in Italy.  The growth of the Company has skyrocketed over the last 10 years.  The number of cruisers on Costa’s ships has more than tripled:  from 350,000 in 1997 to over 1.1 million in 2007, setting a record for the European cruise industry, with a forecast 1.5 million Guests in 2010.  The pattern is the same for the Group’s sales:  from 535 million euros in 1997 to 1658 million euros in 2006 and a figure of around 2 billion euros expected for 2007.

The capacity to innovate and pre-empt new trends and demands has continued to develop.  In the second half of the 1990s Costa was the first to offer winter cruises in the Mediterranean.  It also introduced a series of important innovations on the ships in its fleet:  they were the first in Europe to be fitted with veranda cabins, with two swimming pools under a sliding roof on the same deck enabling use all year round, with a wellness area of over 6000 square meters featuring cabins with direct access to the spa area, and with an authentic Grand Prix driving simulator.  What’s more, in the last two years Costa Cruises has added a series of unique itineraries – world firsts that have enabled Costa to further enhance its offer and meet the demands of ever larger numbers of increasingly loyal customers:  it is the only operator marketing cruises with departures from China, Dubai and Mauritius.

Also in the last couple of years Costa Cruises has turned into a holding company – namely, Costa Crociere S.p.A., which owns three European cruise lines:  in addition to Costa Cruises, the Group also operates Aida Cruises, the market leader in Germany, and Iberocruceros, a major operator on the promising Spanish market.  All the AIDA and Iberocruceros ships also fly the Italian flag.  Costa Crociere S.p.A. is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s largest cruise operator, which is dually listed on both the New York and London stock exchanges (


March 31, 1948:  the first passenger ship in the Costa fleet, the Anna C, leaves Genoa and is the first Italian liner to cross the southern Atlantic after the war and the first to offer passenger cabins with air conditioning.  The history of Costa Cruises begins.

The 1950s:  Linea C begins using ships for pleasure cruises, redeploying the fleet in periods when there is less traffic for the regular “liner” service between the Mediterranean and South America.  Among the early cruises are those in the Mediterranean on the Anna C in 1953.

1957:  the Federico C is launched from the shipyards at Genoa Sestri Ponente; she is the first new transatlantic liner built specifically for the Costa fleet and offers Guests a superior level of facilities, including air conditioning in all spaces.

1959:  early in the year the small motor vessel Franca C undergoes a radical conversion and is completely refitted.  She will be deployed as the first dedicated cruise ship in the Costa fleet.  After debuting in the Mediterranean, in winter 1959 the Franca C begins a series of pleasure cruises in the Caribbean.

1964:  the Eugenio C is launched at Monfalcone by Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, now Fincantieri, the shipbuilder that is celebrating its centenary in 2008.  With her 30,567 gross tonnage, 217-metre length, top speed approaching 28 knots and accommodation for 1630 passengers, she is to become the flagship of the Costa fleet and the Italian merchant navy as a whole.  Her time for the crossing on the route to South America from Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro of just 6½ days, at an average speed of 27.5 knots, remains a record to this day.  In 1977 and 1978 she is also the first Costa liner to sail around the world.

1968:  the Franca C introduces the “fly+cruise” package for the Caribbean, a formula that will revolutionize the concept of the vacation.  For the first time, passengers are offered an all-inclusive formula comprising the cruise, air travel and the chance of a stay in Florida.

1993:  Costa is the first shipping company in Italy to launch an advertising aa prima compagnia in Italia a 7 e 1978, fectruita per la flotta Costa. alle crociere della flotta     campaign.  The slogan is “Navighiamo per divertirvi” (We cruise to amuse you).

Second half of the ’90s:  Costa is the first operator to offer winter cruises in the Mediterranean.

2000:  the entry into service of the Costa Atlantica, the first European-owned ship to be fitted with veranda cabins.

2003:  Costa Cruises is the first cruise line in Europe to launch 2 new ships in the same year:  the Costa Mediterranea, in June, and the Costa Fortuna, in November.  December sees the opening of the Savona Palacrociere, the first passenger terminal in Europe directly managed by a cruise company.

2004:  Costa Cruises is the first company in the world to be certified by RINA with the B.E.S.T. 4 (Business Excellence Sustainable Task), an integrated system of voluntary certification of corporate compliance with the highest standards governing social accountability (SA 8000, issued in 2001), environment (UNI EN ISO 14001, 1996), safety (OHSAS 18001, 1999) and quality (UNI EN ISO 9001, 2000).

2005:  Costa Cruises is the first company in the world to be assigned RINA’s Green Star for the entire fleet, an important form of recognition of compliance with environmental standards which are actually stricter than the prevailing provisions of the international MARPOL convention.

2006:  Costa Cruises is the first company in the world to market cruises in the Far East with departures from China and in the Arabian Gulf operating out of Dubai.  In July the Costa Concordia enters service:  she is the largest passenger ship flying the Italian flag and the first liner to offer exclusive innovations  for the global cruise industry:  Samsara Spa (a 6000 m² wellness area including cabins with direct spa access and a dedicated restaurant), two swimming pools under a sliding roof on the same deck, and an authentic Grand Prix driving simulator.

2007:  on July 17 Costa Cruises become the first cruise line in Europe to set (and exceed) the record mark of 1 million Guest bookings in one year.  The same year Costa is the first company in the world to offer Indian Ocean cruises with departures from Mauritius.

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