P&O Princess eyes younger rich

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The Independent Online

P&O Princess Cruises, the company in merger talks with Royal Caribbean, yesterday reached out to young wealthy seagoers with plans to launch less formal cruises under a new brand of Ocean Village.

P&O Princess Cruises, the company in merger talks with Royal Caribbean, yesterday reached out to young wealthy seagoers with plans to launch less formal cruises under a new brand of Ocean Village.

Britain's biggest cruising company said it will spend "a few million pounds" totally refurbishing and launching one of its existing ships as Ocean Village in May next year.

Princess hopes to lure the 35- to 50-year-old market by planning more active holidays and equipping the ship with internet cafés and informal bistros, and may do away with the formal black-tie dinner.

If the take-up of the planned Mediterranean cruises next summer go well, Princess will consider launching more ships under the Ocean Village banner.

The group is targeting the UK cruise market in general as it is still in a period of rapid expansion, having more than doubled in size since 1995. It believes younger customers are an untapped market as the vast majority of people who go on cruises are middle-aged.

The company also unveiled details of other changes to, including the building of a giant ship called Crown Princess, which will join its American fleet in spring 2004. Another ship, called Sea Princess, which has been in use in America, will be transferred to Britain.

Princess, which is trying to conclude its merger with Royal while fighting a £4.8bn hostile bid from Carnival Corporation, said the plans were consistent with its merger aim of expanding in the US and Europe.

Princess will learn on Tuesday whether the £4.8bn hostile bid from Carnival will be referred by the European Commission to the UK's Competition Commission for an investigation, which is already scrutinising the deal with Royal.

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