Star Clippers ordered the first tall ship to be built for cruising in 15 years, a five-masted sailing ship that it says will be the biggest cruise vessel of its type in the world.

The new ship, designed to carry 300 passengers, is planned for delivery in the second half of 2017. As yet unnamed, it will be a square-rigged barque that will employ more than 68,000 square feet of sail as its primary motive power.

Star Clippers said the vessel will be a modern replication of the France II, which was commissioned in 1911 and was the largest square rigger ever built.

The steel-hulled ship will be produced by the Brodosplit yard in Split, Croatia.

Although numerous one-off tall ships sail with passengers, Star Clippers is one of the few organized cruise lines to rely on sail power for propulsion.

Windstar Cruises, with one of the best-known, tall-ship cruise fleets, has been expanding, but with nonsail vessels. It last week took delivery of the third 212-passenger cruise ship it purchased from Seabourn.

By gross tonnage, Star Clippers' vessels are smaller than those operated by Windstar or Club Med but larger than those of Island Windjammers, all lines that also operate masted vessels.

However, no line offers ships with more sail coverage. The Royal Clipper, built in 2000 and the largest of the three existing Star Clippers ships, has about 56,000 square feet of sail, about double the area of Windstar's Wind Surf, which relies more on its diesel engines for propulsion.

Mikael Krafft, founder and owner of Star Clippers, said it has been his longstanding ambition to build a ship modeled on the France II, which was primarily a cargo ship, although it carried passengers.

"The ship's rig will be identical to France II, and dimension will be very similar, although we have added various features that will make this the most magnificent passenger sailing ship afloat," Krafft said.

One of those features will be a swimming pool with a translucent bottom that will funnel sunlight through the ship's atrium into the main dining room.

There will be two other pools on the 8,770-gross-ton ship, as well as a water- sports platform in the stern for use when the ship is at anchor and a variety of cabin categories, including 34 suites with balconies and four owners' suites.

Star Clippers said the ship will include some of the most popular features from its existing fleet of three ships, including a cozy library, a bowsprit net and the al fresco Tropical Bar, a venue for evening entertainment. The ship will be engined but will rely on wind power whenever possible, Star Clippers said.

Star Clippers said the ship will initially sail the line's most popular itineraries in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Star Clippers is one of the few lines that offers cruises in Cuba.

This year, Star Clippers used its 170-passenger Star Flyer to offer seven-day cruises that started and ended in Cienfuegos and sailed along the coast of the main isle, along with exploration of surrounding islands and stops in the Cayman Islands.

Sales for the new ship are expected to open in 2016.

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