Today we’re looking at two of the flagship newbuilds of Costa Cruises’ fleet. Both are fresh on the scene, both unmistakeably Costa in nature – so what sets them apart from each other?

Venezia was the first ship of Costas’ fleet built for the Chinese market. While Smerelda, debuting 2020, is expected to attract European passengers.

So, how does Costa tailor its designs and passenger experience for different markets?

Costa Venezia

Venezia sails Asian itineraries for an exclusively Chinese market. The cruise line opted to retain their strong Italian branding, offering guests best of both worlds. Entertainment  on offer also bridges that gap, including both a masked ball in the style of Venetian Carnival and Chinese-style karaoke.

The Venezia isn’t the first Costa ship to operate for China’s cruise market. Costa Cruises have been sailing in Chinese waters since 2006. However, this is the first newbuild exclusively designed with the Chinese guest in mind.

YSA Design was responsible for the interiors. They had the job of balancing a stunning ‘destination’ interior design that with one that also feels refined and luxurious. In their own words, YSA achieved this ‘through a combination of creative thinking, painstaking materials selection and close collaboration with Italian master craftsmen. The result is an elegant interior filled with authentic Venetian touches.’

Tailored to the market

One of the exclusive areas on board Costa Venezia is the 11 karaoke rooms. This is a first for the cruise line. It marks their attention to detail in tailoring the experience to their Chinese customers.

The interior design painstakingly recreated the Venetial cityscape, including a reproduction of the Piazza San Marco, which acts as the main atrium, several real Venetian Gondolas and the famous lion-topped column as seen in Piazza San Marco.

The cuisine similarly offers a mix of holiday adventure and familiarity with Italian restaurants such as Casanova Restaurant. Casanova Restaurant is curated by Umberto Bombana, who co-owns 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Hong Kong. Even the Canal Grande restaurant, staffed by gondolier-styled waiters and featuring a genuine gondola, offers a blend of Eastern and Western foods. Elsewhere onboard there are several Asian restaurants serving the comforting taste of home.

A genuine gondola on board Costa Venezia

The retail pavilion spans two decks and features the largest beauty retail area on any ship in the world – 2,500 sq ft. The focus of the onboard shopping is luxury brands – including jewellery and watch brands Cartier, Tiffany and Bulgari. Guests can even watch a special Bulgari fashion show. Dedicating so much space to retail, in a space-poor cruise environment, is a strategic choice from Costa. ‘Retail shopping is one of the most important aspects of the Chinese travel experience,’ says Derek Wong, vice president and general manager of cruise retail Asia for Starboard.

Costa Smerelda

Designed for the domestic and European cruise market, Smerelda has the same flavour of Italian design, although with a slightly different approach.

The whole of Italy is celebrated, with landmarks transformed with a twist into standout features such as the Colloseo – the enormous Colosseum spanning three decks of Smerelda. Lovers of Italian design can enjoy the CoDe, the Costa Design Museum. This is the first museum on a cruise ship and features landmarks of Italian design throughout such as Vespas and a Sotsass bookshelf. These design elements focus on the history and culture of Italy, rather than transporting passengers to one specific location.

The CoDe on board Costa Smerelda

Passengers won’t just be experiencing Italy while on board though – large screens flanking the Colloseo will display stories inspired by the day’s destination. This design choice helps the ship provide fresh experiences for the passengers. It also helps bring a little of the day’s destination on board

Brand identity

Costa Cruises have worked hard to ensure that Smerelda represents the best of ‘Made in Italy’ values. Italian designers such as Adam D. Tihany and Milan-based Dordoni Architetti designed the interiors. The furniture, lighting, fabrics and accessories are all sourced from a team of fifteen Italian suppliers.

In fact, it’s Costa’s dedication to Made in Italy values and Italian craftsmanship that is at the heart of their brand identity. A passenger boarding a Costa ship in Asia will encounter as much authentic Italian design and production as a passenger boarding in Europe.

Costa Cruises say it best themselves, ‘For 70 years Costa Crociere has embodied Italian style and hospitality. We have always made it our business to… discover the different cultures in the five continents with complete respect for their identities’. Costa Cruises respects the identities of their guests. This is another way to demonstrate their Italian hospitality. Their design choices, from how best to allocate space to editing the ways they bring Italy to their passengers, are always with the guest in mind.