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CRUISE VIEWS

Boom in Shipbuilding Continues : Carnival orders a 1,300- cabin vessel, almost 20% larger than the Queen Mary, for delivery in 1996.

March 07, 1993|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH

Far from fizzling, the cruise industry building boom has burst out anew, with more ship orders, more cruise lines and new ship deployments.

In January, Carnival announced a new contract with Italy's Fincantieri shipyard to construct the largest passenger ship ever built, a 95,000-ton vessel that will have more than 1,300 cabins and a delivery date for late 1996. Previously, the largest passenger ship was Cunard's 80,774-ton Queen Mary, built in the early 1930s and now permanently moored as a sightseeing attraction in Long Beach.

Fincantieri also built the new 1,266-passenger Statendam, delivered in January for Carnival's affiliate line Holland America, with two more Holland sister ships due--the Maasdam in December, and the Ryndam in December, 1994. Three more new 2,600-passenger Carnival vessels are arriving from Finland's Kvaerner Masa-Yard--the Sensation in November, the Fascination in 1994 and the Imagination in 1995.

Crystal Cruises has announced its intent to build a long-awaited sister ship for the highly successful 960-passenger Crystal Harmony. The Crystal Symphony will also seat 960 passengers, and will incorporate more cabin storage and bathroom space.

Princess Cruises has also ordered another ship from Fincantieri, the company that built its Crown Princess and Regal Princess. The newest entry will be a 77,000-ton, 1,940-passenger vessel to be named Sun Princess after an earlier Princess vessel now in service as Premier's Majestic. The $300-million-plus ship will enter service in the fall of 1995, and will be designed by the same architect who created the line's Royal Princess. Princess also announced that it is retiring the Dawn Princess on June 13. The ship will be replaced by the new Golden Princess, the former Royal Viking Sky.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line signed a letter of intent to build its long-planned Project Vision series of ships in France's Chantiers d'Atlantique shipyard--up to three 65,000-ton vessels capable of carrying 1,750 passengers. The first ship will be delivered in April, 1995.

Contrary to its name, Royal Caribbean sails all the major seas of the world, with ships calling in Alaska, Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa.

Industry insiders have long awaited word that Cunard Line would build a new ship, but instead, the company decided to acquire an entire cruise line. Cunard will take over marketing for Crown Cruise Line, creating a new joint venture company called Cunard Crown.

The new company will have a five-ship fleet comprised of the Cunard Countess, Cunard Princess, Crown Monarch, Crown Jewel and, due in July, the Crown Majesty. The Crown vessels, one carrying 500 passengers and the other two carrying 820 each, and the two Cunard ships, each carrying 805, will be marketed under a "premium" label as contrasted to the "luxury" label applied to Cunard's other five ships: the QE2, Sagafjord, Vistafjord and the two Sea Goddess vessels.

Prices and itineraries are expected to be announced soon for the new line, for cruises beginning in October. Prices will be comparable to present fares on the Cunard Princess and Countess, which range $159-$528 a day per person, double occupancy. The initial agreement is in effect for 10 years.

Another new cruise line, aimed at families with children, is also in the works. American Family Cruises will begin sailing in December with an emphasis on fun for kids at sea. An offshoot of Costa Cruises, the new line will utilize the 1,396-passenger Eugenio Costa, previously based in Europe, to be refurbished for 1,500 passengers and renamed American Adventure, and the 984-passenger CostaRiviera, to debut in the spring of 1994 as the 1,500-passenger American Pioneer.

The line will feature seven-day cruises in the Caribbean and Alaska, with buffet restaurants open 18 hours a day as an alternative to the shipboard dining room, a casual dress code with no ties required, staterooms with up to six berths to save money for big families, and a deck for kids' activities.

The port of San Diego, already hard hit when California's new "no-gambling-at-sea" legislation caused a cessation of weekly visits by Royal Caribbean's 1,514-passenger Viking Serenade, will suffer another blow in April when Commodore Cruise Line's Enchanted Isle will be pulled out. The ship, which has been based there several years for Mexican Riviera cruises, will be repositioned to St. Petersburg, Russia, where, it will serve as a floating hotel called the Commodore Hotel.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Deirdre Alpert (D-Coronado) has introduced new legislation to permit traditional cruise ships to operate casinos in international waters between California ports--provided ships are out for more than 48 hours, meals and lodging are provided, gambling is not the main purpose of the cruise, and at least one secondary port is visited for at least six hours with passengers encouraged to go ashore. Alpert's AB 74 would still ban gambling "cruises to nowhere."

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