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Wednesday, December 6, 2000

New isle
cruise ship due
to dock tomorrow

The ms Patriot will launch
its seven-day voyage on Saturday

By Russ Lynch

American Classic Voyages Inc.'s newest acquisition, the ms Patriot, is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu tomorrow to kick off a new era for a company that has embarked on a $1.4 billion expansion in the around-the-islands cruise business.

American Classic Voyages The 1,212-passenger Patriot, formerly Nieuw Amsterdam of Holland America Line, will launch the first of its seven-night island cruises Saturday, operating as United States Lines.

As part of its Project America plan to boost its Hawaii presence by building two new ships in the United States, Chicago-based American Classic obtained an exemption from the federal law that prohibits operating a foreign-built ship between American ports.

The company was permitted to buy the Nieuw Amsterdam and put it into service among the Hawaiian islands while it goes ahead with the construction of the two American-made big cruise liners.

American Classic completed its $114.5 million purchase of the Dutch ship at sea in mid-October, after stopping briefly in Honolulu on the way north from Australia, where it served as a floating hotel for the Sydney Olympics.

The ship underwent a $21 million-dollar refurbishing at Cascade General Shipyard at Portland, Ore. An on-board casino was replaced with a "destination learning center," where passengers will be able to learn about the heritage and culture of the islands, listen to Hawaiian story tellers, and learn about the hula and other Hawaiian arts and crafts. Other renovations included the development of a new 464-square-foot presidential suite, an upgraded conference and business center, new family activity areas and a teens' center.

The vessel has a crew of 477.

The shipping line is offering a limited number of berths for the seven-night inaugural cruises as low as $809 per person for an interior cabin and $1,109 in an ocean-view unit.

Normal fares run from $1,599 per person in the interior cabins to over $4,000 each in the presidential suite.

The Patriot is scheduled to sail each Saturday night from Honolulu, arriving at Nawiliwili, Kauai, at 4 p.m. on Sunday. After an overnight stay at Nawiliwili, it will leave at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays to arrive at Kahului, Maui, at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. It leaves at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for Hilo, arriving there at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, to leave again at 5:30 p.m. the same day. Next it stops at Kona at 7:30 a.m. Friday and leaves at 5:30 p.m. that day for Honolulu, arriving back at its base at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

The two new American ships, which will also fly under the United States Lines flag, will be delivered in early 2003 and early 2004. The 72,000-ton vessels will each carry up to 1,900 passengers.

The ships, being built in Pascagoula, Miss., by Ingalls Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Litton Ship Systems, will have a combined construction cost of more than $1 billion.

They will be the largest passenger vessels built in the United States and the first American cruise ships since the 1950s.

Meanwhile, the American Hawaii Cruises subsidiary remains in business with one ship, the 1,000-passenger SS Independence, now based at Kahului and also making around-the-islands cruises.

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