Princess places orders with two yards for four vessels

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LOS ANGELES -- Princess Cruises ordered four new ships -- ranging from 88,000 tons to 110,000 tons -- from two different shipyards.

Two 110,000-ton vessels will be built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and the 88,000-ton ships by Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in St.- Nazaire, France.

Princess will double its capacity by 2004 from its current 15,000 berths to more than 30,000 with the arrival of these and another three ships under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. The line's parent, London-based P&O, simultaneously announced that it had contracted with the Italian shipyard for a 110,000-ton vessel for the P&O Cruises fleet. All told, the five contracted new ships total an investment of $2 billion, according to P&O.

Princess will double its capacity by 2004 from its current 15,000 berths to more than 30,000 with the arrival of these and another three ships under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. The line's parent, London-based P&O, simultaneously announced that it had contracted with the Italian shipyard for a 110,000-ton vessel for the P&O Cruises fleet. All told, the five contracted new ships total an investment of $2 billion, according to P&O.

Princess will double its capacity by 2004 from its current 15,000 berths to more than 30,000 with the arrival of these and another three ships under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. The line's parent, London-based P&O, simultaneously announced that it had contracted with the Italian shipyard for a 110,000-ton vessel for the P&O Cruises fleet. All told, the five contracted new ships total an investment of $2 billion, according to P&O.

Peter Ratcliffe, president of Princess, said the building spree was a recognition of the success of the new Grand Class (77,000 tons and up) series of ships. The largest of the Grand Class ships, the 110,000-ton Grand Princess, entered service last year. "The Grand Princess actually seems to be expanding the market," he said. "We're seeing a lot more young people, families and first-time cruisers on it than even we expected."

Like the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess, the ships under contract at Mitsubishi will be too big to fit through the Panama Canal.

Ratcliffe said they would be deployed in the Caribbean -- where Princess has promised to have a major market presence year-round -- and on the U.S. East Coast and Europe.

The Chantiers vessels, which will each carry 1,950 passengers, will be able to fit through the canal, but Ratcliffe said their theaters of operation had not yet been decided. "The Panamac ships [whose dimensions allow them to transit the Panama Canal] can go almost anywhere in the world," he noted. "There's very little restriction on them."

The new Panamac ships will have an innovative diesel and gas turbine power generation configuration that will house the gas turbine in the funnel, leaving much more room for public space, Ratcliffe said. "By taking that equipment out of the engine room, we free up a surprising amount of space on the ship for public facilities -- such as multiple dining locations, which are enormously popular," he said. Only 10% of of these ships' accommodations will be inside. Eighty percent of the outside rooms will have private balconies.

The four ships will be delivered between October 2002 and May 2004.

Mitsubishi, which has built passenger ships for lines in Asia, has "exported" only one vessel that serves the U.S. market -- the Crystal Harmony, in 1988.

Ratcliffe said the yard's long association with P&0, for which it has built freight ships and ferries, made it easier for Princess to reach an agreement on the two new builds.

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