Silversea Cruises has signed a letter of intent for two 25,000-ton, 390-passenger newbuildings, the first for delivery in mid-2000, the second eight months later. Hulls of the two ships will be constructed at the Francesco Visentini yard near Trieste, with final outfitting at T, Mariotti in Genoa. Silversea expects to sign a final contract for the two­ ship order within a month.

This is the third time during past two-and-a­ quarter years that Silversea has neared the fruition of its expansion plans. In January 1996 the line announced it had "signed a contract" with Mariotti/Visentini for two 22,000-ton ships (it turned out to be a non-binding contract, and Silversea would not comment on why that deal did not go through). Then, in December 1997, Silversea signed a letter of intent for two ships with Kvaerner Masa-Yards, but those discussions ended due to differences involving the ships' delivery dates.

The new Silversea ships will be 48 percent larger in terms of gross tonnage than the Silver Wind and Silver Cloud (and 14 percent larger than the originally announced 1996 design). It is expected that the new vessels will not deviate substantially from the earlier ships, but would feature larger suites, a new cigar lounge, and a larger spa facility.

While Silversea executives would not discuss financing for the deal, it has been reported that Chase Manhattan Bank is leading a syndicate of banks providing one portion of the funding, while other monies to refinance debt and pay for the newbuilding order will be attained through a bond offering.