Princess Cruises has announced that it will charter the former Royal Viking Sky under a long term agreement replacing the Dawn Princess, which will be withdrawn from service this spring.

Renamed the Golden Princess, the Royal Viking Sky has seen service as the Sunward and the Birka Queen since she was transferred from the Royal Viking Line fleet a year ago.

According to Rick James, Senior Vice President of Sales, the Golden Princess will undergo refurbishment during drydocking at Norshipco to bring the ship in line with Princess standards. "The ship is very attractive and structurally sound," James said, "but we wish to bring her to up the color schemes and tones of our new ships, and update the lighting and sound equipment in the show lounge.

"The charter is part of the ongoing modernization of our fleet and our continued growth," James said.

The Golden Princess will take over the sailing program of the Dawn Princess starting June 13, sailing 10-day Alaska cruises from San Francisco. During the winter season, the Golden Princess will sail 10-day Mexico cruises from Los Angeles.

The 28,000-ton, 710-passenger ship was buill in 1973 and served as the Royal Viking Sky until 1992. She was lengthened in 1982 increasing passenger capacity from 500 to 710.

P&O is looking at a variety of deployment opportunities from the Dawn Princess including sale of the ship. The 25,000-ton, 870-passenger Dawn Princess was built in 1957 and became part of the Princess fleet when Princess acquired Sitmar Cruises in 1988.