Princess makes history with L.A. deployment

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NEW YORK -- Cruise-industry expansion received another boost in October as newly public P&O Princess Cruises became the first major cruise line to commit a megaship to a full-time West Coast deployment.

Princess will base Star Princess, sister vessel to the 109,000-ton Grand Princess -- the largest ship in the company's fleet -- in Los Angeles for Mexico sailings beginning in 2002.

Star Princess is under construction in Italy. The ship will be the largest vessel ever positioned full-time in the Los Angeles market. Its arrival emphasizes major cruise operators' plans to broaden cruise deployment patterns as dozens of new ships pour into the market.

Star Princess will call at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, starting in 2002. Above, one of the town's beaches. Star Princess' Mexican Riviera series begins March 16, 2002, with roundtrip departures from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Deploying a feature-rich megaship in Los Angeles is a significant commitment to the Los Angeles market, said Peter Ratcliffe, chief executive officer of P&O Princess and also president of Princess Cruises.

The line is moving its older tonnage out of U.S. markets and into P&O's divisions in Germany (Aida Cruises), the U.K. and Australia (P&O), said Ratcliffe, leaving the largest, newest tonnage for the major U.S. markets, still the industry's largest.

"We have a very homogenous product in the North American market, with lots of balcony cabins and lots of choices for passengers," he said.

Star Princess will have 710 staterooms with balconies.

Ratcliffe also noted that at 109,000 tons, the ship is too large to transit the Panama Canal. "That means we are committed to the West Coast for a significant period of time."

There's never been a ship or cruise product like this one sailing from Los Angeles, said Dean Brown, Princess' executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service.

"Star Princess is virtually a destination unto herself, where passengers can enjoy Princess' 'do what they want, when they want' style of cruising, which allows them to design a cruise experience around their personal desires," he said.

Princess will offer a preview of its upcoming large-ship deployment in Los Angeles in the fall of 2001, when the 77,000-ton Sea Princess offers the same itinerary to passengers.

The vessel will depart Saturdays for seven-day cruises departing between Sept. 29 and Dec. 22.

Star Princess also will offer some of the same amenities that distinguishes Grand Princess, including a wedding chapel and wedding-at-sea program, two specialty restaurants and three separate show lounges.

Also planned is a dance club/observation lounge set atop the ship and accessible via a glass-enclosed, moving skywalk.

The vessel will feature traditional and restaurant-style dining as part of the line's Personal Choice dining program.

Princess is offering pre- and post-cruise packages of one or two nights in Los Angeles in conjunction with the new deployments.

Packages include a visit to Beverly Hills or a Disneyland excursion featuring passes to the Magic Kingdom.

Advance-purchase fares for Star Princess' inaugural Mexico season begin at $1,039 per person, double. Sea Princess sailings begin at $749.

For more details, call Princess at (800) 421-1700 or visit www.princess.com.

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