Holland America Line (HAL) is on the brink of a two-ship order with an option for more for its next generation of vessels, dubbed the "Cruise 8000" series. According to HAL CEO Kirk Lanterman, the new ships will each carry 1,840 passengers and will be in the 75,000-ton range. At press time, negotiations were ongoing with yards in Italy, Finland and Germany, he confirmed, asserting that an announcement could be made "any time."

"We keep thinking we have a done deal - we're on the rugged edge of signing - and then the exchange rate changes and there is a $30 million increase in the price per ship between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning," he explained. "This would already have been a done deal if not for the currency issue.

"We've already agreed on the designs and specs with two of the three yards," said Lanterman. "We're just waiting for the price to come back in line for those two." The third yard option, he explained, was pursued in light of the currency fluctuations.

Revealing additional details on the Cruise 8000 vessels, Lanterman said "they will be more like the new Rotterdam ships than the Statendam class or the Volendam and Zaandam. They will have a large number of suites and will use Azipod propulsion."

Lanterman hopes to have the first Cruise 8000 vessel in the water in late 2001, the second in 2002, assuming 22-24 months between contract and delivery.

Lanterman confirmed that the Cruise 8000 series represents a replacement for an earlier concept of vessels which would have shared a common hull base with ships of Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Cruises. The common-hull concept will not be used by HAL, he asserted. "The whole idea was that if at least some portion of the ships for all three lines were the same, you'd get big economies of scale, with major contracts for the same propulsion systems, etc. But the problem was you had to find a yard which could commit to doing all these ships in sequence - at the same time all the other cruise companies out there were placing these huge orders. So the reason we decided against it was an issue of timing - not an issue of the concept itself. There was nothing wrong with the concept."