Founded in 1854, the company originally operated cargo ships, in order to carry olive oils and textiles from Sardinia to Liguria.In 1924 the company passed to founder's sons (Federico, Eugenio and Enrico) that started commercial activities, buying the ship Ravenna. Commercial activities continued until the introduction of passenger services in 1947, with regular services between Italy and South America. The company later converted its entire fleet to full-time cruising, and as an independent company became one of the largest cruise operators in Europe. Acquired by Carnival Corporation in 2000, Costa Cruises is now one of ten brands operated by Carnival and accounts for approximately 16% of its revenue.
Today, as Costa Cruises Group, the company is one of the main operating companies in the Carnival group, with executive control of the group's activities in Europe. The company is responsible for operation of Costa Cruises in Italy, and AIDA Cruises in Germany and was formerly responsible for the operation of Ibero Cruises in Spain. AIDA was previously a subsidiary of P&O Princess Cruises, being transferred to Costa following the merger of Carnival Corporation and P&O Princess in 2002. Ibero Cruises is a new brand, created in 2007 as a joint venture between Carnival Corporation and Orizonia Group.
The Costa Cruises brand currently operates fourteen cruise ships, which all sail under the Italian flag and provide cruise holidays in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, South East Asia and South America.