LONDON -- The Tahitian waters will get a little more crowded now that Princess Cruises is officially entering the market.

P&O Princess said Aug. 9 it acquired the two former Renaissance ships that sailed in Tahiti and the surrounding islands, the R3 and R4, from the French Polynesian government, for a total cost of around $150 million.

The R4 will be renamed the Tahitian Princess and will sail year-round in the Tahitian Islands under the Princess Cruises brand, said Gwyn Hughes, P&O Princess' executive vice president of corporate development.

The 688-passenger Tahitian Princess will make its debut with a Dec. 24 cruise, and will sail 10-day itineraries in 2003, including 34 sailings in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, eight cruises in French Polynesia and Samoa, and eight in French Polynesia and the Marquesas islands. The ship will be based year-round in Papeete, Tahiti.

The R3, meanwhile, will sail half the year in French New Calendonia under the Australian P&O Cruises brand, and half the year in French Polynesia under Princess Cruises. Itineraries for that ship are still being finalized, Princess said.

That ship will be renamed the Pacific Princess; the line's current Pacific Princess will be taken out of service this year, the line has said. No future plans have been announced for the vessel that was the centerpiece of the original "The Love Boat" TV series.

Both ships will be marketed to North American customers while under the Princess Cruises' name, Hughes said.

Special promotional pricing for the 10-day Tahitian Princess sailings begins at $799 per person.

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