Princess Adds to Western Boom

Princess Cuises to increase West Coast capacity

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises’ decision to put two super-size ships in California will increase its West Coast capacity by 150 percent next year.

“We’re not shy about putting ships on the West Coast,” said Dean Brown, the line’s executive vice president of customer service and sales. And neither are its competitors, several of which are mining the region’s huge drive-market potential and continued interest in close-to-home cruising.

Princess’ 113,000-ton sister ships, Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, are now under construction in Japan.

The Diamond is scheduled to debut in March and the Sapphire, in May.

The two will sail summer Alaska cruises before heading south for fall/winter 2004-05.

With the Sapphire’s arrival, Princess will offer its first 10-day Mexico cruises from San Francisco, operating Sept. 22 to Nov. 11, 2004.

“We’re going to watch the longer itinerary closely,” Brown said. “We think the market will do well because it’s novel and interesting.”

The Diamond will operate weekly Mexico cruises from Long Beach, Calif., parent company Carnival Corp.’s new home port.

Those cruises are scheduled to begin on Saturdays, from Sept. 25, 2004, to April 23, 2005.

Ports of call on the seven-day cruises will be Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

The longer San Francisco cruises also will include Catalina Island and San Diego.

The 109,000-ton Star Princess, which has operated out of Seattle and Los Angeles, is being moved to the South Pacific for the winter 2004-05 season and then will cruise on to Europe.

“We’ve always been planning on having two post-Panamax ships on the West Coast,” Brown said.

Post-Panamax is the term used for ships that are too large to sail through the Panama Canal.

Brown said that the company long has wanted two large ships based in Los Angeles and Alaska, and also has wanted to try longer itineraries out of San Francisco.

“Since we already have the Royal Princess in Asia in 2004, we didn’t want to put the Sapphire there too, so we’re trying San Francisco,” Brown said.

The Diamond and Sapphire each accommodate 2,760 passengers, double occupancy. Early-booking fares start at $599 for the Diamond Princess and $949 for the Sapphire Princess cruises.