Cunard Line says it has five bids from European shipyards to build the Queen Mary
2, a rare new transatlantic liner that will rank with the world's largest passenger ships upon its completion in 2003.
"Some yards are quoting bids in euros, some in D-marks, some in pound sterling," Cunard Line President Larry Pimentel said
. "In the next few weeks, or a month, we will be into a letter of intent."
Pimentel declined to identify the shipyards in a brief interview after a news conference aboard Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 but said all bidders were based in Europe.
He also declined to provide details of the bids or finances for the planned Queen Mary 2, a successor with a "wedding cake" profile to the Queen Mary, built in 1936 for Cunard-White Star Line. The company announced plans to build the Queen Mary 2 in November.
The original Queen Mary, built in a British shipyard, is now a floating hotel in southern California.
Pimentel said at the news conference the Queen Mary 2 would carry 2,500 passengers, would be extremely long and built along sleek lines to speed voyages across the northern Atlantic. Cunard was also considering Caribbean and around-the-world itineraries for the new ship, he said.
Cunard's parent, Miami-based cruise giant Carnival Corp., operates 45 ships under the Holland America, Carnival Cruise and other names and is spending billions on new ships to meet growing demand for sea-going holidays from North America and Europe. Carnival last Monday ordered a $375 million ship from Finland's Kvaerner MasaYards, source of 11 of the company's new vessels.
The Queen Mary 2 will increase the Cunard fleet to three ships and be larger than Voyager of the Seas, the world's biggest passenger ship launched in November by rival Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Carnival was finding the nostalgic appeal of Cunard quite saleable since it bought control of the old British line in 1998, Pimental said. Bookings on the Queen Elizabeth 2, about to go on a 104-day worldwide cruise, were up for the first half of 2000 and the line was profitable, he said,
Cunard has just spent $18 million refurbishing staterooms, restaurants and other common areas aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, a 1,778-passenger liner which went into service in 1969 and is arguably the best-known passenger ship in the world. - (Michael Connor, Reuters)