Tuesday, August 10, 1999

Second cruise
ship coming

American Classic is buying a
liner for interisland voyages that
will serve while the firm awaits
delivery of two new ships
in 2003, 2004

By Rob Perez


American Classic Voyages Co. announced an agreement today to buy a 1,214-passenger cruise ship that will be used exclusively for the Hawaii market, more than doubling the company's interisland cruise capacity.

The parent of American Hawaii Cruises said it plans to purchase the Nieuw Amsterdam from Holland America Line for $114.5 million and use it for Hawaii cruises beginning in the fall of 2000.

American Classic expects to hire about 400 people -- mostly in hospitality-type positions -- to staff the ship, and most of the hires will be done in Hawaii, according to Terri Monaghan, a company spokeswoman.

American Hawaii already operates the 1,021-passenger SS Independence in the Hawaii market, and both vessels will be used for seven-day-a-week interisland voyages while the company awaits delivery of two even larger ships in 2003 and 2004.

The latter vessels will be built as part of American Classic's goal of quadrupling its Hawaii passenger capacity in the next decade.

The company said the purchase of the Nieuw Amsterdam is contingent on unspecified conditions, but it expects those to be resolved this fall.

The Amsterdam currently sails between Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Alaska islands. It stopped in Hawaii in 1991 as part of a Pacific cruise.

Chicago-based American Classic signed a contract earlier this year with Mississippi's Ingalls Shipbuilding for the construction of the two new ships. That was made possible by a 1997 law passed by Congress that gave the company a monopoly in the Hawaii market in exchange for building the new ships in the United States.

While those ships are being built, the company is permitted to use a foreign vessel in Hawaii, paving the way for the Amsterdam deal.

American Classic said the Amsterdam will be re-registered as a U.S. flag-vessel with a U.S. crew. "This cruise ship will offer consumers a new U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed cruising option, building the (Hawaii) market for our two new U.S.-flag 1,900-passenger, state-of-the-art cruise ships that will enter service in early 2003 and 2004," said Roderick McLeod, an American Classic executive.

The 704-foot Nieuw Amsterdam has facilities similar to a large hotel.

It features nine passenger decks, five lounges, two restaurants, a spa and fitness center, two outdoor pools and a 230-seat theater. About 1 million passengers have taken voyages on the vessel since its inaugural cruise in 1983.

Holland America, a unit of Florida-based Carnival Corp., hasn't sold a ship since 1982, according to Julianne Chase, a Holland America spokeswoman.

"The Nieuw Amsterdam is a wonderful ship with the grace and charm of a classic liner," said Peter McHugh, Holland America president. "It saddens us and our past passengers to have to say goodbye to her."

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