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Royal Caribbean floats out new ship, starts French cruise line

The folks at [% 15420 | | Royal Caribbean %] were busy last week. The Independence of the Seas took to the water for the first time, and the company announced the formation of a new French cruise line.

The Independence of the Seas moved from dry dock to wet dock last week upon completion of the ship’s hull. During the ceremonial “float out,” Royal Caribbean and Aker Yards executives turned a valve to release 87 million gallons of water into the ship’s new home. When the Independence debuts in May 2008, the ship will be the largest homeported in Europe. The new vessel will be based out of Southampton and will carry 3,634 guests at double occupancy on European itineraries.

Not only will Royal Caribbean ships carry Americans on Europe cruises, soon they’ll be carrying French passengers as well. Parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is launching a French brand called CDF Croisières de France. The new line’s first ship, named Bleu de France, will also debut in May 2008. If you’re a cruise devotee, you may recognize this well-traveled ship as Hapag Lloyd’s Europa or, in its current incarnation, Pullmantur’s Holiday Dream. The ship will receive a €30-million refurbishment, and the onboard cuisine, entertainment, decor, and language will be French. The new Bleu de France will sail Mediterranean itineraries out of Marseille next spring.

Clearly, Europe is the hot place to cruise, regardless of your nationality.

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