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mercedes

Prince Albert II launches world's most luxurious expedition ship

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Royalty watchers got two Prince Alberts for the price of one on Tuesday as the ruler of Monaco, Prince Albert II, helped launched a new Silversea ship of the same name.

In a morning ceremony in the heart of Monte Carlo's harbor, the 50-year-old prince presided offer the official naming ceremony of what's billed as the most luxurious expedition ship ever to sail.

The 132-passenger Prince Albert II, which formerly sailed as the World Discoverer before Silversea bought it in September, sets sail on June 12 from London on an inaugural season of 10- to 22-day adventure cruises focusing on the polar regions.

Silversea has spent millions gutting the ice-rated vessel's interior and rebuilding it from the ground up. The line, known for $1,000-a-day luxury cruises, hopes to develop a new market for wealthy cruisers who want to take adventurous trips to rugged places like Antarctica without sacrificing comfort.

Among the highlights of the ship are six spacious luxury suites that fill the entire top floor of the vessel and can be booked together to form giant, multi-room mega-suites.

The Prince Albert II also now has an elegant theater (to be used mostly for lectures) and an outdoor deck with whirlpools -- unusual features for expedition ships. Other amenities not often found on expedition ships include a spiffy library and Internet center.

The line also reduced the number of cabins to make it more roomy and upscale.

"We're quite positive that this will be a hit," Silversea President and CEO Amerigo Perasso noting that the line's wealthy customers are clamoring for the kind of adventures that only expedition ships can do. "We think the demand is there."

The ship will spend its maiden season sailing to Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, Belize, Costa Rica, the Sea of Cortez, South America and Antarctica. Prices for voyages start at $3,867 per person, based on double occupancy and including shore excursions.

During Tuesday's ceremony, Prince Albert II cut a red and white ribbon that represented the heraldic colors of Monaco's ruling Grimaldi family.

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