Elsa Gnudi, the daughter of Italy's minister of tourism, Pier Gnudi, served as godmother of the 114,500-ton, 3,000-passenger Costa Fascinosa, the debut of which marks the first major step forward for a company still coming to terms with its part in one of the worst cruise ship disasters in a century.
During a poignant moment, Fascinosa cruise-director-turned- master-of-ceremonies Stefhane Codeluppi called for a minute of silence to remember the 32 people who perished after Costa Concordia rammed into rocks and capsized off the coast of Tuscany in January. Contrast that to last year's exuberant naming ceremony of Costa Favolosa, which featured a ballet troupe, an Italian starlet with a novelty sized bottle of Champagne and fireworks choreographed to Italian opera.
Still, despite this year's tragic back story, Costa executives expressed optimism over the future of the brand. In a press release, Costa's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pier Luigi Foschi, said the company has "bounced back" and that "booking volumes are back to the same levels recorded this time last year."
"Our share of the market in the main countries where we operate has not been affected. We were, are and will remain number one in Europe," he stated, adding that Costa's fleet expansion will continue. Its next new ship is scheduled to launch in fall 2014.
The line also used the day to introduce a number of new safety initiatives, focusing on passenger training, bridge management and pre-voyage navigation plans -- three areas under intense scrutiny in the Concordia investigation.
Among other plans, Costa said it will launch a new real-time route-monitoring system. Concordia's captain, Franceso Schettino, is accused of taking the ship on a dangerous unauthorized path in order to "salute" the residents of Tuscany's Isla Giglio. The ex-captain has claimed repeatedly that his superiors told him to take the course as a means to garner publicity for the line. Costa will also adopt a new bridge management model, and strengthen policies that regulate the bridge. Schettino, who remains under house arrest on charges including manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship, was allegedly distracted by bridge guests at the time of the accident.
Costa's own announcements come just over a week after the cruise industry's largest organization, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), revealed a number of safety-related prescriptions targeting similar areas of concern.
Fascinosa sails from Venice tomorrow on a five-night pre-inagurual cruise visiting ports in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. The inaugural cruise, a 10-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise with calls in Greece, Israel and Turkey, will depart on May 11.
Cruise Critic will be onboard through Monday; stay tuned for photos and reports from the brand-new ship.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor