Princess seeks year-round presence in the Caribbean

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LOS ANGELES -- Princess Cruises will have a year-round presence in the Caribbean at some time in the near future, according to the company's chairman, Tim Harris.

Tim HarrisOn several occasions in the past the line seemed set to position a ship in that market permanently. And each time the ship in question was repositioned elsewhere.

"To some extent," Harris said, "the reason we haven't done it up until now is that we've been so successful in other places. Whenever we've planned to do it, we've felt a stronger need for the ships to go to Alaska, or to Europe."

The most recent example of this was the case of the 109,000-ton Grand Princess. The Grand is too big to transit the Panama Canal and was originally scheduled to stay in the Caribbean until its delivery from the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, was delayed until last summer.

Princess decided to keep the ship in Europe for the summer of 1998, its maiden season, and so successful was the Grand Princess in the market -- it was sold out -- that it will be returned there next summer.

The Grand Princess' strong showing on the other side of the Atlantic did not surprise Harris, but he recalled a time when he and his colleagues were not as sanguine about the Europe market.

"About 10 years ago," he said, "we agonized about whether we should put the Royal Princess into Europe. This year, the Royal and the Grand, which is twice as big, both did very well there."

Harris said the Caribbean will hardly be ignored. "But, mark my words, we will have an all-year representative in the Caribbean," Harris said.

He added that there are two sister ships to the Grand Princess on order.

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