A Conversation with
Maurice Zarmati, President
and CEO of
Costa Cruises North America
Richard H. Wagner
In October 2009, Costa Cruises inaugurated a series of cruises in the
New York/New England/Canada region on the Costa Atlantica. "This
fall is just the beginning of much more to come, with additional cruises
next spring and fall through the region on the ship," explained Maurice
Zarmati, President and CEO of Costa Cruise Lines-North America.
Costa Cruises has a long history. It can trace its ancestry back to
1924 when the Costa brothers bought their first cargo ship. However,
the company emphasizes that it has been in the passenger business since
1948 and thus has more than 60 years of cruising experience. At first,
the Costa ships were focused on transporting passengers between Europe
and South America. Over time, the scope of the itineraries grew and the
line did more and more pleasure cruising. By 1986, the company was
involved exclusively in cruising.
Over the years, Costa developed a reputation for luxury. Indeed, in
interviewing Italian officers who work for other lines, Costa is
frequently used as a benchmark against which they measure their own
performance. Given this reputation and the fact that Costa has such a
long history, should guests expect a very traditional approach to cruising
such as on Cunard Line or Holland America? I asked Mr. Zarmati, how
he would you describe the lifestyle that passengers will encounter on a
"Our product style is international and contemporary. Guests sailing
with us will enjoy a true European experience created by our authentic
Italian hospitality and from the cosmopolitan, international guests we
welcome. All of this, combined with the savoir faire that comes with
being in the business for over 60 years, creates a unique experience
unlike any of the contemporary products in the market."
Still, Costa adheres to traditional where it is what the guests want.
For example, in dining: "We offer the traditional two-seating approach -
our guests seem to be most comfortable with this. In addition, we offer
flexible dining options with our lido buffets and specialty dining with
our á la carte restaurants and wellness restaurants on select ships."
Costa is the largest cruise operator in Europe, serving over 1
million passengers a year and has the largest fleet of any European
operator. Still, a substantial number of North Americans sail with
Costa. "We naturally attract many Europeans given the fact that we're
based in Italy and have been for 60 years. I always say, most cruise lines
own the Caribbean and visit Europe and Costa owns Europe and visits
the Caribbean. Travelers who prefer to stay in European-branded hotels
when they travel to the continent and are enamored by the charms of
European travel will enjoy sailing with us. In fact, those who love
sailing with us tend to continue doing so - we have a very high
percentage of repeat guests."
Different nationalities often mean different languages. However,
travelers who only speak English should not be intimidated by the fact
that there will be passengers from a number of different countries on a
Costa cruise. "It's a much more fluid process than you'd think. On any
given cruise, we'll have more than five main languages spoken by our
guests onboard - usually Italian, English, Spanish, French and German.
However, English has become a universal language. Travelers who have
been to Europe know this is the case - so many Europeans speak English.
This is the same case for us on our ships, especially as it pertains to our
officers and crew. We also have international hostesses who serve as a
'concierge' and information source for guests throughout the week in their
The Costa fleet is quite varied with relatively small ships and quite
large ships. For the new Canada/New England itineraries, Costa has
selected the Costa Atlantica, which at 85,619 gross tons is a large ship
but not the largest in Costa's fleet. It is a design that is known for its
speed and good seakeeping abilities. However, nautical considerations
do not appear to have been the reason it was chosen for this run. "Our
North American guests love the Costa Atlantica design and are quite
familiar with her layout. This, along with ship's capacity, made her the
right fit for these routes."
As Mr. Zarmati noted, North American travelers are quite familiar
with this class of ship. Costa Atlantica is a sister ship to the popular
Spirit-class ships (Carnival Spirit, Pride, Legend and Miracle) operated
by Costa's affiliate Carnival Cruise Lines. "While the layout is the same,
the design is very different. The ship is inspired by the art and culture of
Italy which is reflected throughout the design - everything from Murano
glass chandeliers, Italian mosaic tiles, even paparazzi prints from the ‘La
Dolce Vita’ era in Italy. The ship also has an incredible replica of the
famous Caffè Florian in Venice. Beyond design, our onboard ambience
is different as well - we exemplify 'Cruising Italian Style' and it shows.
Dinner hours are slightly later, dance floors are larger, our selection of
culinary offerings is very Italian and European. The list could go and
The cruise experience is also likely to be more international
because in addition to North American guests, Costa expects guests to be
flying in from Europe to join the ship. "We find that many Europeans are
attracted to the fall foliage cruises as are many North American guests.
There's only a short window of time to see the foliage change, which
makes the routes that much more special."
Costa is not the only cruise line offering Canada/New England
cruises. Indeed, most of the major lines including Princess Cruises,
Cunard, Holland America, NCL, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity to
name but a few, have ships in this market. I asked Mr. Zarmati what he
would say to a prospective guest who was considering all the various
offerings to make him or her select Costa for their Canada/New England
"I would ask them a few simple questions. Do you love Italy? Do
you enjoy the continental charm of Europe? Do you value excellent
service, delicious cuisine, superb amenities and stunning surroundings?
If so, we're the brand for you."
Maurice Zarmati (Photo courtesy of Costa Cruises)
Cruise ship interview - - Costa Cruises - - Maurice Zarmati