Costa Asia reveals strong Starboard cooperation

By Andrew Pentol |


Mario Zanetti, Costa Group Asia President at the recent Costa Venezia preview event.

Costa Group Asia President Mario Zanetti has revealed a strong cooperation with Starboard Cruise Services to ensure the shops are ‘coherent with the Italian experience’ on newest vessel Costa Venezia.

Last weekend, TRBusiness joined select media and VIPs for an exclusive preview of the 8,000sq ft Costa Venezia retail offer which is spread over two decks.

As reported, Costa Venezia is the cruise line’s first ship specifically dedicated to the Chinese market. The retail areas resemble a Venetian-style shopping pavilion which Starboard created with a plethora of the world’s leading brands.

These include Bally, Salvatore Ferragamo, Max Mara, Cartier, Bulgari and Tiffany. The ship also features the largest beauty area at sea spanning 2,500sq ft.


Speaking to travel retail media during the preview event Zanetti said: “Our Starboard colleagues know we are pretty hands on. We worked together a lot to develop the concept.”

He added: “It is not only a matter of filling the shops with products. It is about having stores coherent with the Italian experience.”

Further lifting the lid on the cooperation with Starboard for the Costa Venezia launch Zanetti said: “We wanted to ensure we have iconic Italian and premium brands. This was a very good cooperation exercise with Starboard.”

Starboard itself brings more than a decade of experience in the Asian cruise retail market, starting in 2006 with Costa Allegra, the first ship to be deployed in the Chinese market.


A rendering of what the Bulgari boutique on Costa Venezia will eventually look like.

Offering his own take on the Costa Group Asia partnership, Derek Wong, Vice President & General Manager Asia, Starboard Cruise Services told TRBusiness: “We have built a trusting relationship. Costa trusts us as the leading expert retailer at sea and believes in our ability to keep in touch with trends and keep up with the hottest brands in the market.”

The behaviour and shopping habits of Chinese consumers has certainly evolved since Costa entered the China market around 13 years ago. Zanetti explained: “Over the years, we have seen an evolution. Chinese consumers are changing and changing rapidly.

“They are switching from a kind of check-list approach to shopping activities to wanting more experiential holidays. Experiential means understanding, learning, exploring and experiencing. This is exactly what we are seeing in retail.”

Ensuring Chinese guests understand why products exist, why they are being offered onboard and what they represent for them and in general is a major priority.


An artists impression of how the Cartier boutique will look by the time Venezia reaches China.


“It is about having the right people on board to explain and story-tell,” Zanetti remarked.

The evolving behaviour of Chinese guests is certainly a challenge. “We must maintain our capability of being able to adapt to new trends we observe in the market.”

As Costa Venzia embarks on its inaugural 53-day Cruise today (8 March), Zenetti reveals he is proud of the new vessel. He said: “We are very proud of the result of this ship. This project has been about integrating Italian culture with Italian holidays and Italian hardware with an Italian lifestyle concept.”

Venezia layout

The uniqueness of the project, which has put Chinese consumers at the forefront must not be underestimated. “Bright colours and a cosy and intimate atmosphere are among the elements we wanted on the ship.

“These are pre-requisites for offering something more than purchasing and incorporating retail within an experience.”

He concluded: “You can only create this when you think about the ship, product and experience you want to offer. We think we have succeeded in doing so.”


An interior shot of Costa Venezia which provides a flavour of Venice.


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