TRIESTE (Italy) • A huge liner designed entirely for Chinese tourists around the ever-romantic theme of Venice sets sail from Italy this week hoping to consolidate Costa Cruises in the vast and burgeoning Chinese tourism market.
The Costa Venezia left the Fincantieri shipyard in north-eastern Italy last Thursday for neighbouring Trieste. From there, it will head for China, where it will carry up to 5,260 Chinese tourists on cruises from Shanghai to Japan, along with a healthy dose of Venetian kitsch, gondolas and all.
In a sign of the gap to be filled in the Chinese market, a sister ship will be launched next year by Costa Cruises, part of the huge Carnival Corporation.
The launching of Costa Venezia "is a very important moment in the history of Costa in China", said the company's Asia president, Mr Mario Zanetti. "This is the first ship we're putting on the market conceived since the start for Chinese tourists."
Italy-based Costa was the first to offer cruises to the Chinese 13 years ago. Over the last 10 years, the Chinese market has reached 2.5 million cruise passengers, while around 140 million Chinese are travelling abroad, said Mr Zanetti.
The Costa Venezia will take passengers on a journey through Venice, via the St Mark's Square bar and original gondolas. The ship also offers 11 karaoke rooms and plenty of gambling opportunities.
Costa Cruises is investing €6 billion (S$9 billion) to buy seven ships, to raise its fleet to 34 ships.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE