Premier bids on 'Big Red Boat' ship

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MIAMI -- Premier Cruises is in negotiations to acquire the Edinburgh Castle, which it may operate as a second Big Road Boat ship, according to Bruce Nierenberg, Premier's president.

The ship, which sailed on budget cruises in Europe last summer for Scottish tour operator Direct Cruises, was taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland in a bankruptcy and is laid up in Southampton, England. Nierenberg said the line is eager to acquire the ship but added that Premier is not the only bidder.

The 1,010-passenger Edinburgh Castle was introduced in 1966 as Costa's Eugenio C. It later operated as Costa's EugenioCosta. The vessel was built in Monfalcone, Italy, with the Oceanic, which now sails as Premier's Big Red Boat.

Nierenberg said the ships have comparable features. He said the Edinburgh Castle might be used to introduce the Big Road Boat concept in Houston.

The Big Red Boat currently sails out of Port Canaveral, Fla., catering to the family market that visits Orlando. It has been the line's most successful product. The Edinburgh Castle briefly operated out of New York last year as an overnight gaming ship for Manhattan Cruises.

In Europe last summer, the ship experienced engine, plumbing and electrical problems. Nierenberg said Premier hoped to take delivery of the Edinburgh Castle by the end of the year. The ship would undergo a major refurbishment, he said.

Nierenberg said Premier hopes to add one or more other ships in the coming months -- in addition to the Edinburgh Castle. This is the second time Nierenberg has been interested in the Edinburgh Castle. When he was president of the short-lived American Family Cruises in 1993 he considered the vessel as a fleetmate to the American Pioneer, which formerly sailed as the CostaRiviera.

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