Princess' Trifecta of Ship Launches Nears Last Leg

May 17, 2004

Princess Cruises, which this year is in the process of launching an unprecedented three new ships, is in, shall we say, the Belmont Stakes stage as it gets ready to inaugurate Sapphire Princess, the third of the trio.

Princess is announcing today that Nancy Murkowski, Alaska’s first lady (and wife of Governor Frank Murkowski), will serve as godmother for Sapphire Princess. The ship will be christened in Seattle on June 10.

Sapphire Princess, is being built, like its Diamond Princess sibling, at the Mitsubishi Industries shipyard in Nagasaki, Japan. They are the first two cruise ships to be constructed in Japan in 14 years. Originally, the ships' two launch dates weren't meant to run so close together (Diamond Princess was inaugurated in February). But a fire onboard "Diamond" Princess in the autumn of 2002 required some ingenuous juggling. Names were swapped; "Diamond" Princess, which had burned for several days, was re-named Sapphire Princess, and the original Sapphire became -- still with us? -- Diamond Princess.

In spite of the travails, Sapphire Princess is actually quite on-time. Sapphire Princess has completed its sea trials, and will leave the Mitsubishi shipyard for Seattle sometime the week of May 24th. The ship sails off on its maiden voyage on June 13.

The choice of an Alaska-based godmother is a natural for Sapphire Princess, which will spend its inaugural sailing offering Inside Passage itineraries. Mrs. Murkowski was born and raised in Alaska, and will preside over an evening ceremony that will highlight the 49th state, as well as Seattle. This is the first time that Princess will christen a ship from the Emerald City.

The 116,000-ton, 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess features many of the bells and whistles that have made the Diamond Princess and the Caribbean Princess (the second of this year's new ships), so noteworthy. The biggest innovation on Sapphire Princess (and, indeed, part of Diamond Princess as well) is its four themed "anytime dining room" set-up, which features a steakhouse, a Southwestern themed eatery, an Italian trattoria and an Asian restaurant. Another distinction: Sapphire Princess will have the fleet’s second Lotus Spa-by-Princess, a facility that's fully operated in house. The ship also has a dynamic Internet center (and this one's a “real” cafe, serving coffees and snacks as well in a comfy setting).

Following its Alaskan summer, Sapphire Princess will sail a series of round-trip Mexican Riviera cruises from San Francisco this fall. Thereafter, she’ll be repositioned for Asia, Australia and New Zealand itineraries through next spring.