American Hawaii Cruises has awarded a $28 million contract to Newport News to renovate the Independence.

The Independence will fill finish its Hawaii service on July 2, 1994 and will sail to the Virginia shipyard arriving for the two month drydock on July 19. The ship will resume inter-island service around the Hawaiian Islands on October 8, 1994.

The renovation will consist of marine work including structural repairs and machinery replacement, extensive hotel work including cabin and public space renovation and upgrading air conditioning, electrical and pollution control systems.

"When Delta Queen Steamboat Co. acquired American Hawaii Cruises last August we made the commitment to do whatever it takes to make the ship and the cruise experience first class," said S. Cody Engle, Chairman of the board of both cruise lines. "This physical upgrade is the next step in the process of creating an improved cruise experience for our passengers," Engle said.

Many of the public areas will be "opened up" to give passengers a better view of the sea and islands creating an indoor-outdoor "Lanai" environment, according to a spokesperson.

Several new suites and cabins will be created. In addition, all cabins will be stripped, redecorated and given authentic Hawaiian names. Direct cellular telephone service will also be installed in each cabin.

A Hawaiian-style indoor-outdoor cooking and eating area will built astern, part of which will be shaded by canopies.

The 30,000-ton Independence, which is 683 feet long and accommodates 798 passengers, was originally built in 1951. Along with her sister ship, the Constitution, the Independence sails three-, four- and seven-day cruises among the Hawaiian islands. They are the only two U.S.-flag ocean-going cruise ships in operation.

The Constitution goes into drydock in 1995.