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A little less than a month after the debut of the new flagship Costa Concordia, christened on July 7 in Civitavecchia, the fleet expansion programme of Costa Cruises has taken another important step forward. A ceremony has taken place today at Fincantieri’s Sestri Ponente shipyards in Genoa for the launch of the Costa Serena, which, like her sister ship Costa Concordia, is set to become Italy’s largest cruise vessel.

The ceremony observed the protocol laid down for such occasions by seafaring tradition and was held in the presence of senior management from Costa and Fincantieri. The ship was blessed by Monsignor Luigi Molinari, Employment Delegate for the Archdiocese of Genoa. The Director of the Sestri Ponente shipyard, Attilio Dapelo, then invited the Godmother, yard employee Milena Peri, to cut the ribbon and smash the champagne bottle against the bows of the ship. After the gradual flooding of the dry-dock, the hull of the Costa Serena was transferred to the sea. The launch was preceded by the welding of a coin to the base of what used to be the mainmast in a ceremony traditionally considered to augur well.

“It’s very exciting for us to be back here in Genoa, confirming our growth and our partnership with Fincantieri,” said Costa Cruises Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Pier Luigi Foschi. “Less than a month after the entry into service of the Costa Concordia, the launch of the Costa Serena is a further step forward in the development of our Company as we aim to expand in Europe and worldwide, offering more and more innovative ships that set Costa apart from other tour operators.”

Fincantieri Chairman Corrado Antonini added: “The launch of the Costa Serena is an important stepping stone in the new building programme that Costa Cruises has entrusted to us over the last few years. This, the largest such programme of any European operator, has consolidated the deep historic ties linking us to Costa; we are delighted to contribute to their leadership of the market by building ships that are global testimony to the productive skill and capacity of Italian industry.”

Once she is moored at the dock, the Costa Serena will be subjected to the final stages of work and fitting out, due for completion shortly before her entry into service, scheduled for May 2007. Costa’s new flagship will depart from Venice on her maiden cruise on May 26, 2007. From June to November 2007 the Costa Serena will set sail every Sunday from the port of Venice on 7-day cruises with stopovers in Bari, Olympia (Greece), Izmir and Istanbul (Turkey), and Dubrovnik (Croatia).

The Costa Serena will be 112,000 gross tonns, 290 metres in length, with 1500 cabins and total guest capacity of 3,780. She will have all the main innovations offered by her sister ship Costa Concordia, namely Samsara Spa, the largest wellness centre ever built on a cruise ship (over 2100 m²), a Grand Prix driving simulator, and two swimming pools under a retractable glass roof, one of which is some 60 m3 in volume and fitted with a giant 18 m2 movie screen.

In addition to the Costa Serena, Costa Cruises has commissioned three new buildings, all with Fincantieri, which will further extend and upgrade the Costa fleet, already Europe’s largest and most advanced, with a total of 11 ships and present capacity of around 20,500 berths in double occupancy cabins. The Sestri Ponente yard will build a third sister ship of the Costa Concordia and Costa Serena, which is still to be named and will be delivered in the spring of 2009. Meanwhile, an order has been placed at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard for a 92,700 gross tonn cruise vessel, with an option for a sister ship; these running mates are expected to enter service in spring 2009 and autumn 2010, respectively. The total outlay for these four new orders amounts to almost 2 billion euros, which is part of a total investment of nearly 4.5 billion euros made by Costa Cruises since 2000 for its fleet expansion and upgrading programme. By 2010, following delivery of the fourth new building, assuming the option is exercised, the Costa Cruises fleet will be 15-strong with total guest capacity of over 30,700 (in double occupancy cabins).

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