Carnival Corporation & plc announced today that the 1,488-passenger Costa Europa, currently operated by its Costa Cruises brand, will join British travel company Thomson Cruises under a 10-year bareboat charter beginning in April 2010. Under the agreement, Thomson has an option to purchase the ship any time after five years.

Costa Europa, which joined the Costa fleet in 2002, was one of the first ships to operate on regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf, with departures from Dubai, and the Indian Ocean out of Mauritius.

Although the Costa Europa will be leaving, Costa is continuing to expand its fleet of 14 ships currently in service. The Italian company’s fleet expansion program is, in fact, presently the biggest of its kind in the world with five new ships entering service between 2009 and 2012 representing a total investment of 2.4 billion euros. The Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica were named together on June 5, 2009 in Genoa, Italy. In late January 2010, the Costa Deliziosa, sister ship to the Costa Luminosa, will be introduced. Two sister ships to the Costa Pacifica are scheduled to debut in 2011 and 2012.

Over the next three years, Carnival Corporation & plc will launch 13 vessels for seven different brands.

“While we continue to grow our business with new and exciting vessels, we are also divesting of older tonnage, which allows us to offer one of the most modern, technologically-advanced fleets in the cruise industry,” said Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation & plc chairman and CEO.