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Costa Cruises president Neil Palomba talks about restructure, LNG-powered ships and 3rd party shorex providers

Neil Palomba: 'i enjoy putting myself on the edge'
Two years into his role as president of Costa Cruises, Neil Palomba answered questions about his company's strategy and life at Costa Cruises in a one-to-one interview at the International Cruise Summit in Madrid.

'After 17 years working for MSC Cruises I decided to join Costa because I enjoy putting myself on the edge,' he commented.

Palomba referred to boss Michael Thamm as 'a great leader who gives freedom for people to lead'.

Costa has undergone a major restructure under Palomba. 'Having ordered the recent LNG-powered ships that are expected to have a 30 year lifespan we needed to address how we see Costa in 2045? he commented.

'To make such an investment we needed to ensure we are doing the right thing and have created this centre of excellence in Hamburg [Carnival Maritime] which manages our ships, as well as AIDA's, 24 hours a day leaving us to concentrate on the sales and marketing of the product,' he said.

Asked about the closure of Iberocruceros, Palomba said, 'by losing a brand we gained passenger numbers for Costa with a higher profitability.'

Referring to Costa's strategy for growth Palomba shared the decision to concentrate on markets that are selling well: 'our focus is on the leading Continental European source markets, as well as in China.'

He added, 'In any business, no one will survice if you concentrate on everything'.

He called South America, 'a challenging year' and  a market where Costa will now have just two ships. He said the future is in the hands of the government: 'if we can't operate in a profitable way we will change our homeporting operations.'

Referring to the brands' two newbuilds which will be LNG-powered and have a total capacity of 6,600 passengers, Palomba said the focus is on the public spaces which on existing tonnage are not utilised fully. 'We have the theatres used just for evening shows and the restaurants for lunch and dinner. We intend to build a ship  which will utilise all the spaces all day long. Every public area will have a multipurpose use,' he commented.

On the question of shore excursions, he said Costa is prepared to take on third party operators head on by making sure travel agents are recompensed for selling Costa shorex ahead of the cruise and ensuring that anybody buying third party excursions understands the value proposition in buying direct from the line and the penalty they are facing if they miss the ship's departure.

'I am constantly being alerted about passengers who have missed the ship's departure time having been on a tour not operated by Costa and we need to get the message across that in saving €20 by going on these tours could be a big price to pay  if you arrive back late to the ship and have to rejoin at the next port of call.'

In China, Costa has been a pioneer and continues to add tonnage to the market but asked by Seatrade Cruise News if the brand is starting to see the benefits of carrying Chinese passengers on Costa cruises outside the domestic market, Palomba said, 'the volumes have not been as much as we would have liked.'