MIAMI -- A new cruise line is in the works that will use former Renaissance Cruises vessels and will be led by former Renaissance CEO Frank Del Rio and Joseph Watters, former president of Crystal Cruises.

The new outfit is Oceana Cruises. The company has reached an agreement with Cruiseinvest, the owner of the remaining Renaissance ships, for a long-term charter agreement with purchase options for up to three of the Renaissance vessels: the R1, R2 and R5.

Watters will be the chairman and head the line's West Coast office in Los Angeles; Del Rio will be CEO and be headquartered here.

Oceana will offer guests an "upper-premium" cruise experience, operating in a niche similar to the one Renaissance used to serve.

The R1, renamed the Regatta, will be the first to debut, said Del Rio. The ship is tentatively scheduled for a July launch.

Cruiseinvest will have an equity stake in the venture, in exchange for giving Oceana financial "flexibility" during its startup phase, said Morten Arntzen, chief executive of American Marine Advisors (AMA), the New York-based advisor to Cruiseinvest.

Arntzen declined to provide further financial details, saying only the transactions "are on line with the price expectations we had."

Arntzen added AMA was "confident" that there is a market for Oceana.

"Nobody's come in and replaced the product that the old Renaissance had ... before they got too big and slipped a little downmarket."

Del Rio said the company's reservations center would open by early next year.

In a statement last week, Watters said the new line will "work closely, and well, with the travel agent community."

"That means everything that agents want it to mean," Del Rio told Travel Weekly during a phone call from Paris. "Agents will welcome the Oceana product."

Del Rio said he was not worried that Renaissance's checkered past with retailers would cast a shadow over the new cruise line.

Meanwhile, one travel agent, Janice Fishbein of Jazzsea Cruises in Mandalay Beach, Calif., is advertising -- and taking guest names and addresses -- for the Regatta's 14-day western Europe inaugural cruise that will sail from Barcelona, Spain, to Dover, England.

Prices on Fishbein's Web site start at $1,899 for an inside cabin, although she said she was not yet taking deposit money for the cruise.

Agents, she said, can reserve some of her blocked space on the cruise by e-mailing [email protected].

Del Rio said the line was considering several changes to the vessels, including new teak decks, an evening tapas bar in the Panorama buffet eatery and a new blues and jazz club in place of the top-deck Horizon lounge.

Fishbein said she -- and her clients -- were big supporters of the former Renaissance Cruises.

As soon as she heard the news from Del Rio, she said, she reconfigured her Web site,, and her sales efforts to focus only on Oceana.

"I know how honest and straightforward Frank and Joe Watters are," she said. "I want this to be successful."

Other travel agents, with less information about the new cruise line, were more measured.

"I'm wondering if there's a need for another cruise company," said Jock Goodrich, director of travel development for New York-based Protravel. "Is it oversaturating the market?"

Nevertheless, he said he was open to the possibility of selling the niche line.

"I think [we're] going to see what they're going to do," he said. "Pricing, itineraries ... what will the ships do?"


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