Thursday, June 10, 2004

GROW, GROW, GROW YOUR BOATS: This week's Seattle christening of Princess Cruises' 2,674-passenger Sapphire Princess caps an unprecedented growth spurt for Carnival Corporation, cranking out seven ship debuts in less than seven months. The marathon parade of newbuilds started when Costa Cruises unveiled the 2,720-passenger Costa Fortuna at cruise terminal in Savona, Italy last November. Since then, the corporate powerhouse has launched six more showstoppers. In January 2004, Cunard debuted Queen Mary 2, the largest passenger vessel ever built. The 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle started service in February, followed by the 2,674-passenger Diamond Princess in March and the 3,114-passenger Caribbean Princess the following month. April also brought Holland America’s 1,848-passenger Westerdam. Together, these newbuilds represent nearly 18,000 lower berths. Driving the record pace -- at a clip of about one ship per month -- was last year's merger by Carnival Cruise Lines with P&O Princess Cruises to create Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s only group on both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices. Despite what Chairman and CEO Mickey Arison calls a "torrid pace," all seven deliveries and start-ups went like clockwork, with more on tap yet this year. The 2,702-passenger Costa Magica debuts in November, followed by the 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor in December. The juggernaut’s portfolio of 12 cruise brands also includes Seabourn, Windstar, AIDA, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises, Swan Hellenic, and P&O Cruises Australia. Together, the brands operate 77 ships totaling more than 128,000 lower berths with eight new ships set for delivery between November 2004 and December 2006.

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