Princess Cruises will become a major player in the Caribbean market when it homeports its new Crown Princess in Fort Lauderdale for year-round seven-day cruises in the summer of 1990.

The 70,000-ton ship is one of two new vessels that Princess acquired from Sitmar and which are being built by Fincantieri. It is also expected that the second vessel will be deployed in the Caribbean in 1991.

Being built at a cost of about $200 million each, industry insiders expect that the new Princess ships, which will carry up to 1,562 passengers, will be competing against the new ships of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines.

According to sources close to the company, the new Princess ships are "intended for the Caribbean and are being built cheap" (at low cost), enabling the line to compete on price. They also said that with Princess' marketing clout, the new ships should "keep the other major lines on their toes."

Princess also emphasized its Caribbean presence last March when it brought its new ship, the Star Princess, to Fort Lauderdale on her maiden voyage.

Through its acquisition of Sitmar last year, Princess Cruises is now one of the "big four" lines, along with Carnival Cruise Lines, Kloster Cruise and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and will boast one of the most modern fleets when it celebrates its 25th anniversary in 1991.