All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul Timmerman
The Italian Costa family originates from Santa Margherita Ligure. Their company produced olive oil. In 1924 three Costa Brothers (Frederico, Eugenio and Enrico) bought the 36 year old steamer Ravenna. She was a small vessel, a freighter measuring 1.150 tons. Four years later, a second vessel was purchased, the Langano. Several freighters followed over the years, and after the Langano, the tradition started to name ships after members of the Costa family (eg Enrico Costa, Carla Costa). Between the war, the Costa business diversified to real estate, textiles and engineering.
First newbuilding in the Costa fleet was the Caterina Costa of 1942 (8000 tons). Alas, this ship was lost after a year because of an explosion. After the second World War, only the old Langano was left of the entire Costa fleet. She was chartered out and was used as a passenger ferry between the Italian mainland and Sardinia. Langano became the first Costa ship to carry passengers. Several vessels were added to the Costa fleet in the years after WWII. However, in this period emigration to South and North America took place on a large scale, and the Costa family decided to start a migrant service from Italy to South America where the company became known as “Linea C”. In 1947, a small converted freighter started the service, soon to be followed by the Anna C and Andrea C.
In 1958 the Frederico C, the company’s first large passenger ship (also first newbuilding) entered service.
The following year was an important milestone in the history of the Costa Line, because they started operating the Franca C as a full time cruise ship in American waters out of Florida.
Costa had become the most important shipping line on the route from Europe to South America and it was decided that a large new liner was needed to strengthen Costa’s position in this trade even more. In 1967 the Eugenio-C was ordered, at the time one of the most impressive liners and regarded by many as one of the finest passenger liners ever turned out by an Italian yard.
At the end of the sixties, Costa Introduced a new concept in the Caribbean: fly-cruising. Passengers were flown to San Juan to join the Costa ships there. Carla C and Flavia were added to the fleet to lure passengers to the Caribbean.
Carla C (left) and World Renaissance in port
In 1977, ICI – Italia Crociere Internazionali was founded, a company financed with both public and state capital. It’s objective was to operate Italian state owned passenger vessels as cruise ships. Costa operated the Leonardo da Vinci out of Florida in 1977. However, two years later Costa terminated the agreement with ICI and ICI itself ceased to exist not much later.
Costa Cruises kept on growing as ships like Danae, Daphne, Columbus-C and Italia were added to the fleet. Charters of Amerikanis, Angelina Lauro and World Renaissance followed.
In 1983, the Guglielmo Marconi, a very well known liner, was purchased and renamed Costa Riviera. Costa wanted sister ship Galileo Galilei also, but she went to Chandris Celebrity Cruises as their Meridian instead.
Although as recently as 1981 container ships were added to the fleet, a few years later it was decided that cruising would become Costa’s only remaining business. Costa Armatori became Costa Crociere from now on.
During the 1990’s, Costa took part in a joint-venture with Russian Sovcomflot. Four ships would sail for the new company, which was called Prestige Cruises. Costa’s Daphne & Danae would sail for Prestige as well as the Soviet Maxim Gorkiy and Fedor Dostejewski. However, in 1992, because of the political changes in the Soviet Union, Prestige Cruises came to an abrupt end.
In the early 1990’s, four ships had been added to the Costa fleet, the Costa Classica and Costa Romantica, ships reminding somewhat of classic ocean liners, and two rebuilt container vessels, the Costa Allegra and Marina. Years before, in the late seventies, plans to convert Costa freighters Franca & Paola C , called project Phoenix had been shelved.
In 1993, Costa took over French Paquet Cruises. Paquet owned two vessels, Pearl and Mermoz. Mermoz kept on sailing for Paquet, but Pearl was renamed Costa Playa and started experimental sailings out of Cuba. It turned out to be a moderate success.
Also in 1993, Costa participated in a joint venture with American business man Bruce Nierenberg. Together they founded American Family Cruises. The company aimed at young American families with children. Costa Riviera was modified, renamed American Adventure and an entire deck was converted for children. However, bookings were low and a year later, she was hastily refurbished and changed back to Costa Riviera.
Recently Costa has entered the “mega-ship” era when delivery was taken of the Costa Victoria in 1996. A second ship ordered by Costa from the same yard, the Bremer Vulkan yard from Bremen, Germany, was cancelled when the yard went bankrupt. This ship was later completed for competitor NCL as the Norwegian Sky.
In December 1996, Carnival made Costa an offer (together with British partner Airtours) in order to take over Costa Crociere. Since 1997, Costa belongs to the Carnival Corporation as one of the ¨World´s Leading Cruise Lines¨.
Being the smallest unit int he Carnival-fleet, Carnival transferred the Tropicale (1981, 35144GRT) to their subsidiary Costa and she was renamed Costa Tropicale. Four years later was transferred yet again, this time to P&O Australia another member of the Carnival family (she now sails as Pacific Star).
Artists impression of Costa Atlantica
In 2000, Costa took delivery of the Costa Atlantica (see ship description), with 86.000 GRT by far the largest ship Costa had ever owned. Costa Atlantica doesn´t have the Italian spirit any more like the ships before her had. There are obviously American influences as Carnival´s own architect (he designed the interiors of all Carnival ships to date) Joe Farcus has left his mark. In 2003, a sister ship, Costa Mediterranea followed. These ships are sister ships to Carnival´s Legend, Pride, Spirit and Miracle, all vessels belonging to the so called 8000-class.
In December 2003, Costa has taken it´s first ship larger than that magic 100.000GRT limit, the Costa Fortuna (102.000GRT) into service. Her sister, Costa Magica followed a year later. Both ships are derived of the Carnival Destiny - class vessels. Two even larger vessels of the same class, Costa Concordia and Costa Serena followed in 2006 and 2007 measuring 114.000GRT!
The most important competitor of Costa is another Italian cruise line, MSC Crociere, which has been agressively expanding it's fleet over the last few years. However, with their giant newbuildings (5 ships planned foor delivery from 2009 - 2012 ordered as usual from the Italian ship yard Fincantieri) and the cruise product Costa stands for, Costa is well prepared for the future.
Costa Allegra, 1969/ 810/ 28430
Costa Atlantica, 2000/ 2114/ 85620
Costa Classica, 1991/ 1300/ 52926
Costa Deliziosa, 2010/ 2260/ 92700
Costa Fascinosa, 2012/ 3000/ 114150
Celebrity Favolosa, 2011/ 3000/ 113200
Costa Fortuna, 2003/ 2700/ 101300
Costa Luminosa, 2009/ 2260/ 92700
Costa Magica, 2004/ 2700/ 101300
Costa Mediterranea, 2003/ 2114/ 85620
Costa neoRomantica, 1993/ 1356/ 53049
Costa Pacifica, 2009/ 3000/ 114500
Costa Serena, 2007/ 3000/ 114150
Costa Victoria, 1996/ 1950/ 75951
Costa Voyager, 2000/ 840/ 24400