Silversea Cruises has ordered two new ships to be delivered in April of 1998 and April of 1999.

At 22,000 tons, and with a passenger capacity of 390, the new ships will be roughly 30 percent larger than the two existing Silversea ships and will boost the line's capacity by an estimated 130 percent.

"The new ship orders demonstrate the company's commitment to the industry," said William Smith, President of Silversea. "We finished on target from a budget standpoint in the last two quarters of 1995 and 1996 is looking very strong and healthy for us.

"Our board of directors is very confident and we believe we can dominate the ultra-luxury market."

Smith explained that Silversea had also looked at other growth options including acquisition of ships, but had concluded that such actions would have been inconsistent with the existing vessels.

"We followed certain parameters in developing the next generation of Silversea ships," said Smith. "We wanted to maintain single-seating dining and a single­ seating show lounge; and to have larger suites of which 75 to 80 percent will have verandas.

"We also wanted to see how large we could go, yet still deliver the type of product we wanted.

Ideal Luxury Ship Size

"We felt we could go up to 400, but not over. That would be the barrier to entry in the ultra luxury market," Smith said.

"The new ships are large enough to enable us to do something different. They are also fast, with a service speed of 22 to 24 knots and small enough, with a minimum draft, to allow us worldwide operations and off-the-beaten-path ports of call.

With four ships, Silversea will also consider positioning ships for longer periods in areas such as Southeast Asia and South America, which have been very strong for Silversea, according to Smith.

"The market told us this was the right size," Smith added.

"Our passengers want all the things they find on bigger ships, but in a more intimate setting. They want options, but not regimentation, and they want to eat when they want to."

Smith also explained that he felt that Silversea's pricing was on target. "Our pricing strategy is right on," Smith said, adding that he did not foresee any changes except perhaps cost-of-living adjustments.

The new Silversea ships will be built at an estimated cost of more than $100 million each. The hulls will be built at the Francesco Visentini yard near Trieste, while the outfitting will take place at T. Mariotti in Genoa.

V. Ships of Monaco, which handles marine operations for Silversea, will supervise the construction.

It is expected that naval architects and designers will be determined shortly. Yran & Storbraaten designed the first two Silversea ships. Smith pointed out, however, that Silversea also wants to be able to give consideration to other architects to ensure fresh ideas and the most up-to-date solutions.

Silversea launched service in 1994 with the 16,800-ton, 296-passenger Silver Cloud followed by sister ship, Silver Wind, in 1995.