Carnival Corporation and Hyundai Merchant Marine of South Korea have entered into an agreement to form a joint venture to develop the Asian cruise market.

The new joint venture will acquire Carnival Cruise Lines' 1982-built, 36,674-ton, 1,022-passenger Tropicale which will begin Far Eastern service in the spring of 1998 sailing from Inchon, South Korea to China.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison said the venture was a strategic move to target the emerging Asian travel market with a cruise product designed specifically for Asian vacationers. He added that if the first vessel of the new venture proves to be as successful as expected, plans are underway to quickly add more ships to the fleet.

It is expected that Ray Lutz will become President of the new company. He worked with Carnival Vice Chairman Howard Frank on the negotiations of the joint venture and was formerly a Vice President and General Sales Manager at Holland America Line.