While some cruise lines have already committed to a vaccine requirement for future sailings, Carnival Corp.’s Costa Cruises has not, according to Vice President of Sales and Marketing Scott Knutson.
Knutson, speaking to reporters this week, said that while Costa’s goal right now is to get its crew completely vaccinated, there has not yet been a decision when it comes to guests.
“We haven’t made a decision on vaccinations but we have made a decision on protocols – those are not negotiable,” Knutson said, speaking about the onboard protocols that Costa has implemented to deal with COVID-19.
Those non-negotiable onboard protocols include staggered boarding times, reduced occupancy, redesigned public spaces, a face mask requirement for guests in public areas, spaced out tables during meal times, and much more (the full list can be found here).
“Vaccines, we haven’t made a decision yet on guests because of a lot of different reasons…The goal is to have the crew vaccinated and to the extent that we can do that we think we can get to 100%, but there are a couple of challenges to that,” he said.
Costa has already made its return to sailing post-COVID shutdown with Costa Deliziosa, which sailed out of Trieste, Italy in September.
Costa also recently announced that it was going to begin sailing the Costa Smeralda in Italy starting on March 27. The ship will come back into service with a schedule of three-, four-, and seven-day sailings in the Mediterranean, only open to Italian guests.
After that, Costa will begin rolling out the rest of its ships. Luminosa will resume sailing on May 2, followed by Costa Deliziosa, Costa Firenze, Costa Magica, and Costa Pacifica at the end of the month.
Sailings aboard those ships, which are tentative and subject to change, are available for booking in North America.
Around June 10, the Costa fleet could be entirely in the water. The hope is that the ships could even be sailing with a capacity increase up to “70%, 80%, or 90%” of full capacity, Knutson said.
Those decisions were made during Costa and Carnival Corp.’s communication with European governments.
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While Costa enjoys an almost 60% market share in Europe, which Knutson compared to the share that Royal, Carnival, and Norwegian have combined in North America, it isn’t as recognized on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Knutson estimated that Costa has about 1% of the North American share, “we play a little bother,” he said.
That makes Costa’s travel advisor partners even more important.
“We’re in a different situation here. We are at 90% of our business through our travel partners – we need them to tell our story, we incentive them to tell our story, we train them to tell our story,” Knutson said.
“We have a terrific relationship with fewer accounts because of our scope—we do deal with a smaller group of trade partners but we have very aggressive commercial terms for them so it is worth it to ask the question [to clients],” he added.
“We would be nothing without our travel partners – they know it and the cruise industry knows it,” he continued. “It has never been more prominent than now with Costa, so I think they are going to be strong.”
As for other trends upon the return to cruising, Knutson said that data from Costa shows that groups are coming back strong, and not just the typical multigenerational groups, either.
“Our group business has been up significantly as far as quotes, including 2022,” he said. “It’s not just the families it’s the largest groups, too. [It’s] 10, 20 cabins at a time.”