Agents Get Sneak Peek of Grand Princess

BY THEODORE W. SCULL

NEW YORK -- Invited agents and the travel press gathered at the Essex House here for a deck-by-deck tour via satellite of Princess Cruises' Grand Princess under construction at Fincantieri shipyard in Montfalcone, Italy.

Back in New York, a virtual reality video and a large ship model aided in visualizing the final product, branded as "the biggest, most expensive cruise ship ever built."

Costing approximately $450 million and measuring about 109,000 tons, the Grand Princess makes her debut next May. The ship will be marginally larger than the Carnival Destiny's 101,353 tons, the current record-holder.

However, Rick James, senior vice president sales and corporate relations said he wanted to emphasize customer appeal over size.

"With the Grand Princess," he said, "we are introducing the widest range of choices of dining, entertainment and accommodations afloat."

As a start, there are several alternatives to the three main dining rooms, each seating about 500.

The largest is the 24-hour indoor/outdoor 620-seat Horizon Court, with a casual full-service restaurant at night, buffets at breakfast and lunch, and snacks during the wee hours.

Italian food in the 90-seat Sabatini's trattoria offers pasta, pizzas and salads, and a pizzeria is located adjacent to the main outdoor pool.

The 92-seat Painted Desert features what is described as the first southwestern Santa Fe-style restaurant at sea.

More typical hot dog and hamburger fare is dished up at the outdoor Trident Grill and, for those who do not want to venture beyond the cabin door, there will be 24-hour room service from a hot and cold menu.

Three separate show lounges will provide Broadway-style musicals, Las Vegas-style nightclub revues and cabaret performances repeated for both sittings on two successive nights.

Live music for listening will be available in three locations -- a cozy piano bar, the atrium for a classical trio, and a nightclub that includes dancing.

The ship is slated for a full season of 12-day Mediterranean voyages between Barcelona, Spain, and Istanbul, Turkey, followed in the late fall through spring 1999 with seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Grand Princess is the largest of the five-unit Grand Class that already includes the Sun Princess and Dawn Princess and the soon-to-join Sea Princess in 1998 and Ocean Princess in 1999.

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