On 9 July the cruise liner, Costa Concordia, will sail from the port of Civitavecchia for a brief inaugural Mediterranean cruise, taking in Tunis, Malta, Tripoli, Civitavecchia and Savona.

The giant boat, built by Italys Fincantieri, is evidence again of the countrys world leadership in the construction of luxury cruise liners. The company employs 9,000 workers in eight shipyards and controls 47 per cent of the world market in such boat building.

The Costa Concordia, at 112,000 tons, can carry up to 3,750 guests and 1,090 crew. It is as high a s skyscraper of 23 floors and offers a fitness centre, discotheques, theatres, gambling rooms, Formula I simulators, piano bars, three swimming pools and five restaurants. Prices for a seven-day cruise range from 700 3000 per person; the further ahead the passenger books, the better the deal.

Cruising has become a major tourist phenomenon; in 2005 figures show that cruise boats carried a total of 13.6 million passengers worldwide.