Festival Cruises has signed a five-year charter contract for the 16,144-ton, 525-passenger Italia Prima (ex-Valtur Prima), which will be renamed the Caribe and will sail year-round from a Havana, Cuba homeport starting this summer. A Festival spokesperson confirmed the deal, and said more detailed information on plans involving the vessel will be announced shortly.

Reportedly, the deal will be concluded following a board meeting of the ship's Italian owner NINA. In addition to the Caribe, the 47,900-ton, 1,200-passenger Mistral will return to Cuba for the 2002-2003 winter season. Overall, Festival's annual Cuban-based capacity will more than double in 2003, to roughly 46,000.