Pearl Seas Cruises is a new brand being established under the umbrella of American Cruise Lines (ACL). Having signed contracts to build two 9,000-ton ships - 165 and 210 passengers - with Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax, ACL CEO Charles Robertson said the Canadian shipbuilder has a solid track record of building complicated vessels. In addition, the exchange rate is favorable, he added, noting that ACL has also talked to many Einopean yards.

Established as an offshore affdiate, Pearl Seas will have offices in the same building as ACL, but separate executive team and staff, according to Robertson, who is the CEO of both brands.

The Pearl ships will be Marshall Islands flagged and have intemational crew, including a contingent of Americans, Robertson said.

Passengers will be sourced mainly in North America for what Robertson called "luxury adventure" cmises.

"We want it to be known that luxury adventure doesn't always mean sailing on a 60-year-old icebreaker," he added.

"The intention of Pearl Seas Cmises is to provide high-end service for the small ship industry - following in the footsteps of ACL." Robertson would not disclose the cost of the two ships, but said that "the cost per berth is higher than ACL's most expensive vessel."

The order for the first ship is firm while the second is a strong possibility, according a spokesperson for the shipyard. Constmction on the first ship is expected to start in March.

Privately-held ACL presentiy operates three small American-flagged ships, with a fointh, the 100- passenger American Star set to join the fleet next year. The estimated aimual passenger capacity is 8,222 passengers in 2006 and 12,622 in 2007.

Pearl

The first ship will begin service in July 2008 and sail through October in the Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland and New England.

Itineraries will range between seven- and 10- nights.

From October 2008 through March 2009, the ship will be in the Caribbean.

Robertson said that Caribbean demand would be driven by ACL's past passenger pool, which he suggested has asked the company to broaden its product offerings from its traditional American waterways' sailings.

When the second vessel enters service in June 2009, soinces said one of the two vessels will sail in the British Isles and the Baltic during the summer. Cmise prices are expected to range from $3,800 to $4,200 per person, per week, double occupancy.

And while ACL tends to lay its vessels up in January and Febmary, Pearl will be a year-round operation, according to Robertson.

More Details

While Robertson would not release the name of the designer, he said that both ships will include six passenger decks, a spa, five lounges, an "unusually large" theater, as well as a library. There will also be three spacious observation deeks.

According to Robertson, the suites will be oversized (more than 240 square feet) and will all feature private balconies. In addition, every stateroom will have a flat-screen satellite television, DVD player, and Intemet access.

The ships will be powered by Caterpillar diesel engines and use Rolls-Royce active-wing stabilizers.

Branching Out

Robertson, who has 30 years of marine industry experience behind him, said he is "the principal" of Pearl.

ACL is a resurrection of a company with the same name that operated from 1974 to 1988, when it filed for bankmptcy protection. ACL had completed an IPO in 1986. Robertson, who was also the founder of the original ACL and held various executive titles back then, brought the brand back again with the first of three newbuilds, the American Eagle, in 2000.

"Because of the success of ACL, I felt it was the right time to devote more of my resources to this industry," he said. Robertson pointed out that he also hopes to deploy ships in Alaska and the West Coast in the near future.

Pearl's target market is American - mostly older couples between the ages of 55 and 65, but Robertson said he is looking to branch out.

"Europe is a powerhouse," he pointed out. "And Germany seems to be the fastest growing market there. We are also looking to do some sourcing in the U.K. One of our objectives is to aggressively market overseas."