Three months into its inaugural season, the Explorer Starship is sailing at near capacity, and is gradually broadening the cruise line's marketbase, according to several company spokespeople.

Although the new vessel is still an Explorer Class ship, it is a completely new product for the line, and clearly distinguishing it from the other vessels within the fleet has created new marketing challenges.

"We are still targeting the same market - only now we are offering more variety," said Kathleen Dunlap, spokesperson for the line. "The Starship features the same casual destination-oriented cruise experience as our other ships - it is just more dressed up for the occasion," she said.

Among the extra amenities aboard the 250-passenger Explorer Starship are spacious accommodations with stocked mini-bar refrigerators and VCRs, and oceanliner facilities - including a swimming pool and Jacuzzi; a health club and sauna; sports decks; a nightclub/disco; a casino; a beauty salon; and a boutique. Elegant restaurant-style service is featured in the dining room. In contrast, the other Exploration ships hold no more than 158 passengers, and most only have a main lounge, dining room and sun deck. They also feature family-style dining.

Despite the differences in the new ship, the passenger mix aboard the Starship has been similar to that on the line's other vessels, Dunlap reported. "We are continuing to attract the upscale, experienced traveller who is active and interested in the destinations," she said. The age mix has been a little younger, she added, although many of the passengers are still over 50.

With the introduction of the Starship, the line can now target the business market as well, Dunlap reported. The ship features a 250-seat conference room, with an adjoining library that can serve as a break-out room; an Observation Lounge that can be turned into a 45-seat meeting and viewing room; and all of the necessary audio/video equipment.

During the winter, the Starship is offering two different seven-day between San Juan and Barbados. In the summer, she will be in Alaska cruising the Inside Passage and Prince William Sound.

According to Dunlap, the new vessel is just the beginning of the line's "long-term expansion period."