Princess Cruises recently ordered two more 109,000-ton, 2,600-passenger sister ships to the Grand Princess. To be built by Fincantieri at a cost of $425 million each, the two ships will be delivered in the spring and fall of 2001.

Peter Ratcliffe, president of Princess, said that the close deliveries will provide economies in pricing and production. He also said that the new ships will be similar to the Grand Princess, which enters service in May. Princess will continue to use its favorite design team headed up by Giacomo Mortola of GEM.

Both of the new ships are intended for year-round deployment in the Caribbean where Princess is "keen to expand quickly," according to Ratcliffe.

The ship will sail from Port Everglades, while it is expected that the second will be based in San Juan.

Meanwhile, the Grand Princess will continue to sail summers in Europe and winters in the Caribbean.

Ratcliffe conceded that while the per berth capital costs are the same for the Sun Princess-class ship as the Grand-class, operating costs are lower for the bigger ships.

The new ships will boost Princess' fleet to 13 ships and some 22,500 berths, according to Ratcliffe, "making Princess the single largest brand in the premium end of the market." The line will continue to operate its older and smaller ships in niche programs.

In other efforts to boost occupancy and revenues, Princess recently announced that it is lowering the minimum age of its youngest passengers from 18 months to 12 months; introduced its own in-house art auction program at sea; introduced new land packages; and launched its own spa products.