Among the new cruise lines that are starting up on the fringes of the established industry is Royal Fiesta Cruises, which plans to begin operating the Fiesta Princessa from St. Petersburg in January, 1988, on weekend cruises to Key West and five-night cruises to Mexico. Negotiations are currently underway with "new" Mexican ports. Cruise rates have not yet been set, but are expected to be in the $100 to $110 per diem range.

According to Trevor White, Executive Vice President, the ship is a former ro-ro vessel that is undergoing a $12 million conversion in Europe.

The ship is due in the United States at the end of November and the first month will be devoted to introduction programs with community groups, according to White. The line intends to work with charitable groups and other organizations in the St. Petersburg area.

The company expects to continue to draw on the passenger base of the Boheme, which drew heavily in the local market. In addition, Royal Fiesta plans to offer air/sea programs in spot markets, including Buffalo, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Memphis, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, White said.

A brochure will be out in about six week's time and the company is contemplating agents' seminars and fam. trips.

The port and the city have also been very helpful, White said, and have pledged their continued support. Among other things, they will coproduce a videotape about the port, the new cruise ship and the cruises being offered.

The launching of Royal Fiesta also coincides with the 1988 centennial of St. Petersburg. The city is involved in a major building/revitalization program that also includes refurbishment of the pier.

While White is not willing to speculate on a passenger profile, he said that the Boheme's clientele was slightly older than the average cruise passenger and that he is looking at penetrating the mid-40's group. "The composition of the local market is changing drastically," he said. "A younger passenger also gives us the opportunity to explore ports which may not be so appealing to older groups since it may involve some walking. We are not going to be for the old people nor for the young people like Carnival, although we will not turn them away, but we will be somewhere in between."

White does not have an exact tonnage after the conversion, but expects the ship to be between 10 and 11,000 tons. It is registered in Panama and will have senior U.S. deck and engine crew. The passenger capacity will be 740 maximum; 540 for extended cruising.

No plans or hiring have yet been made of the service staff. In terms of onboard services, White said it is the intention of the line that these services will be run by company personnel.

White underlined that in spite of their optimism, the management is aware of the obstacles they are facing, and has made provisions for adequate financing for marketing and operations.

For its sales staff the line is looking for people who have credibility and visibility with travel agents, White added.

With 2,000 shareholders, the company is privately held. Principal shareholder is William D. Folz, Chairman and President.

Almeda Boruff of Tennessee is responsible for the interior design. Dampa Inc. is technical advisor.