The first ocean-going cruise ship to be built in the United States in approximately 30 years is currently under construction at the Marine Fabricators, Inc. shipyard in Green Cove Springs, Florida. She is named the Ponce de Leon, and she is designed to operate as a luxury cruise yacht.
Upon completion, the new ship will be 221 feet long and 1,250 tons. She will accommodate a maximum of 148 passengers, but standard capacity is expected to be approximately 114.
The Ponce de Leon is the project of real estate developer Robert O'Connor, who formed the Florida Gulf Coast Corporation specifically to build, own and operate cruise ships. O'Connor plans to build a total of four vessels, all of which will be operated by the Ponce de Leon Line, and be designed for the cruise-yacht market.
"We discovered that there is a great demand for the smaller cruise ship, and yet this is a market that few companies have explored," said Townsend Carman, the company's executive vice president and naval architect supervising the project. "We plan to appeal to the experienced traveler who wants to cruise in a close-knit, amenable group. The Ponce de Leon will offer more intimacy and luxury than other cruise ships, and call in places where larger vessels cannot."
Carman also said that much of the company's promotional efforts will be directed at the incentive and conventions markets.