Princess sells a 'Love Boat' to Korean firm


LOS ANGELES -- Princess Cruises sold the Island Princess, one of the original Love Boats, to Seoul, Korea-based Hyundai Merchant Marine.

Terms were not disclosed. The 640-passenger ship will leave the Princess fleet next month.

Hyundai, a new operator in the Asian market, earlier tried unsuccessfully to start up a cruise line, with Miami-based Carnival Corp. as a partner.

Passengers booked on the Island Princess' Europe, Mediterranean and Holy Land itineraries after April will be accommodated on its sister ship, the Pacific Princess, which operates the same schedule with departures two days later.

Rick James, Princess' senior vice president of customer service and sales, said he hoped there would be no cancellations but that, in any case, no travel agent would suffer as a result of the dislocation. "If there are hotel bookings lost, we will compensate agents," James said.

Bookings for the Island Princess' itineraries were not near full capacity. "We can accommodate virtually everybody on the Pacific Princess with just the two-day delay," he said.

James said parting with the Island Princess was an emotional issue. "This was a tough decision," he said. "Island Princess has been a pathfinder for the line and is much beloved by passengers. In the last few years, though, we have retired several smaller and older ships as part of a fleet modernization and expansion program."

Gone from the fleet since the early 1990s are the original Dawn, Sun and Sea Princesses, all replaced by new, much larger ships of the same name, as well as the Fair and Star Princesses, which also have been supplanted by new vessels with different names.

A piece of the line's history will disappear with the Island Princess.

First ordered by Venture Cruises (as the Island Venture) from the Rheinstahl Shipyard in Emden, Germany, in 1971, it was chartered instead by Princess, then owned by the founder of the line, Seattle entrepreneur Stanley McDonald, before construction was completed.

Princess was bought shortly thereafter by its present owners P&O, of London, which bought the ship outright. The Island Princess was one of two ships -- the other being the Pacific Princess -- used for location shooting of the hugely successful "Love Boat" television series in 1977 and for a decade thereafter.

Over the years, it pioneered new destination markets for Princess -- the Mediterranean and Asia, for example -- and built up its own, loyal following. The ship underwent major refurbishing in 1985 and again in 1993.

James said the Pacific Princess, which is now the line's sole remaining small ship, is committed to the Bermuda market in the off-season for three years starting in 2000, and it will fulfill that obligation in addition to its European and Mediterranean itineraries.


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