As expected, American Classic Voyages (AMCV) announced the signing of a two­ ship order with Mississippi's Ingalls Shipbuilding on March 9. Each of the 72,000-ton, 1,900-passenger ships is priced at $440 million. In addition to the two orders, there is a fixed-price option for a third (for delivery sometime in 2005), and three additional options with no price attached, which are "basically to reserve yard space," explained Project America CEO Rod McLeod.

Following the deal's announcement, AMCV President Phil Calian repeatedly acknowledged that the new mass-market cruise brand has potential not just in Hawaii, but for the "U.S. flag market" overall - in other words, along the U.S. coastlines.

AMCV's newbuilding plan comes at a time when the Hawaiian economy is "reeling" and hotel occupancy and rates are dropping, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, the slump in Hawaii is largely attributed to the falloff in the Asian market, a niche AMCV will not focus heavily on with its new ships.

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