By Joe Mortimer
High bookings reported as the cruise liner's debut season comes to an end.
Travel agents selling Costa Cruise itineraries from the UAE have reported full loads in the liner's debut season but few passengers booking from within the region.
Both Alpha Tours and Sharaftravel, preferred sales agents for Costa Cruises, said that they received large volumes of bookings for the 1680 capacity Costa Classica's 2006/7 itineraries, during which it launched 17 seven-day cruises from Dubai, carrying a total of around 44,000 passengers.
"It did very well; Dubai really sold out, said Fabian Fernandes, general manager, Alpha Travel and Holidays.
"Guests came mainly from Europe. There were a few from [the region] but it was pretty much already sold out due to charters from Europe. The ones [from the Middle East] that did go really liked it because it was something different."
Costa Classica's seven-day itinerary included two nights in Dubai and one-day stopovers in the ports of Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
Costa said that the majority of guests came from Europe, mainly Italy, Germany, Austria, France, England and Spain, but reservations also came from USA and Asia.
Sharaftravel general manager V Jayaram agreed with Fernandes: "We have been doing very well with Costa with bookings from Asia and Europe, but the local bookings are not there yet."
He said that he expects regional customers to start booking on to Dubai based itineraries next season: "It will be the expats who will start first," he said.
"It has always been that way - with any new business you will always see the expats jumping in first, and then the others would follow."
Costa will double the capacity of its fleet in Dubai for the2007/8 season, replacing the Costa Classica with the 53,000 gross tonnage Costa Romantica, which has a capacity of 1697, and the 55,000 gross tonnage Costa Europa, which has a capacity of 1830.
The season will include a total of 25 port calls (15 on the Costa Romantica and 10 on the Costa Europa) with a total of 70,000 Guests (40,000 on the Costa Romantica and 30,000 on the Costa Europa).
The Romantica will set sail on Saturdays from December 21 to March 30, 2008; and the Europa will depart every Sunday from December 22 through February 25, 2008.