Cruise Ship Industry Spurs Construction in Italian Yards

The Italian cruise ship industry is providing work for the country's shipyards, including both major refits and newbuildings. Sitmar Lines has commissioned three new cruise ships, two of which are being built in Italy, and Costa Crociere, a newly formed company coordinating the activities of Costa cruise ships, has invested more than $20 million to refit their flagship, the Eugenio Costa.

These developments show a considerable confidence in the future of the cruise industry on the part of the private sector. Additionally, positive legislative support by the Italian government was a contributing factor. Recent Italian legislation provides some financial support for both shipowners and shipyards.

However, government subsidies alone cannot make an industry flourish. It seems that both Sitmar and the Costa Lines see a real future in the cruise ship market. Both companies apparently believe that this market has undergone, and is undergoing substantial changes, and are committed to designing their ships and cruise itineraries with new market demands, and a newly drawn customer profile.

Costa Crociere commissioned the Mariotti yard in Genoa to remodel their flagship, Eugenio Costa. The 30,500-ton ship, originally launched in 1966, left the yard late last year after a two-month stay to take up her winter cruising schedule in South America.

Company spokesmen emphasized that the refit was no mere "facelift," but rather a major transformation of the ship's covered and open deck areas. The newly transformed Eugenio, descibed in company literature as the world's first floating tourist resort, is not aimed at the traditional cruise passenger market. The company has redesigned the Eugenio to appeal to a target market of young, middle to upper middle class couples and families, who in the past may have spent a week's vacation by the sea, rather than on it.

The use of space aboard carefully reflects the priorities of this market.

The Eugenio's architects have conceived a layout which incorporates two parallel and complementary "cities." The first is an "open air city" devoted to daytime activities.

Facilities in this sector include tennis and volleyball courts, jogging tracks, swimming pools, etc.

The second is a "covered city," which incorporates such standard ship's facilities as a cocktail lounge, tea room, library, etc. In this "city," architects have attempted to create a distinctly Italian urban life aboard, with its own shopping street, the Via Veneto, lined with specialty boutiques offering goods from top Italian and European designers.

Like all good shopping streets in Italy, this Via Veneto leads to a Piazza in the Italian style, complete with sculptured fountain, and a sidewalk cafe offering ice cream, drinks and pastries. Clearly, a strong attempt has been made to offer passengers the kind of amenities they would expect to find in a resort town ashore.

The Eugenio's galley was refitted at a cost of about $3.3 million, to permit the preparation of 1,000 meals simultaneously. The dining room was also modified to be able to seat 1,000 passengers and to divide, when necessary, using sliding bulkheads, to accommodate private parties, small conventions, and business groups. About 100 new cabins were added, while existing cabins were redecorated.

The ship's transformation also included the addition of a large structure mounted aft to house a new 600-seat theater. The total cost of the theater was about $4 million.

Costa Crociere is also investing more than $275 million for a new ship of 50,000 tons, due to be delivered in 1991. The 1,500-passenger ship will be used in the Caribbean market.

Two of the three new 1,800-passenger ships ordered by Sitmar Lines, are being built at the Fincantieri yards in Trieste. About 35 percent of the $325 million total cost for each ship is being allotted to the main yard, which is responsible for the design, basic hull deck and superstructure construction, and the coordination of the building. Specialized subcontracting firms supplying outfitting and decor account for 20 percent of the total cost, with the remaining total being allocated to firms supplying engines, machinery, ship's carpentry, etc.

Responsibility for design of the interiors, and overall coordination of the interior outfitting process have been assigned to Giacomo Mortola, a man with extensive experience not only in interior design, but in project management of biannual refits for ships of Sitmar Lines. His company, Gem, also supervised quality control aboard six containerships for Finmare. For the design stage of the new Sitmar project, Mr. Mortola enlisted the services of two specialized design studios, Aras and Arna.

Mr. Mortola maintains that the future of the cruise industry lies with ever larger, more cost-efficient ships. To accommodate a mass market of seagoing "tourists," the bulk of the industry will be seeking to provide an acceptable, if not deluxe, level of comfort and service at a very accessible cost to the customer. A smaller portion of the industry will be providing deluxe service to the high end of the market with small passenger capacity ships. At present in Italy, a 150-passenger ship is under construction in Viareggio and four 70-passenger ships are under construction in La Spezia.

The two Sitmar ships under construction at Fincantieri, both first class vessels of 70,000 tons, are due for delivery in 1990, the first in January, the second in December.

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Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 10,  Feb 1988

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