Costa Serena Makes Her Debut

Costa Crociere's 12th flagship, Costa Serena, made its inaugural voyage from Savona, Italy, to Marseilles, France, last weekend and while about 1,200 people witnessed the ship firsthand, even more could view the ship and the inaugural festivities online through Costa's new web site, Second Life, which is currently being beta tested. French actress Marion Cotillard and Costa's Giacomo Longo at the Costa Serena inauguration in Marseille, France

In fact, for Costa, the web is on its way to becoming the company's strongest marketing tool. In addition to Second Life, which offers the unique opportunity to virtually explore the Costa Serena, the company also is in the process of launching various agent-specific webinars focused on different aspects of its fleet, as well as on sales techniques. The first webinars launched in March. Joni Rein, vice president of sales development for Costa, says several hundred agents participated. "We have our sales managers there for a Q&A session afterwards," she adds. "We're promoting future webinars through our web site [], as well as through our sales staff."

One upcoming webinar will focus on Serena's Samsara Spa—one of the largest areas of the ship that comprises of two floors of one deck. In the meantime, over at Second Life, virtual visitors can register to tour the ship, including passenger decks and the Roman-god-themed Pantheon Atrium. Last Saturday's festivities, which also are available for viewing online, included a christening by French actress Marion Cotillard and an elaborate display of 2,500 fireworks that also involved the residents of Marseilles.

Meanwhile, Costa has seen its revenue triple in the last three years, sailing more than one million guests last year, says Luigi Foschi, president of the Carnival-owned cruise line. Three new ships are on order, he noted, and will be delivered to Costa by 2010. Like the classical mythology-themed Serena, all ships will be designed to incorporate things passengers don't get to see in their daily life, Foschi says.