A patriotic crowd, waving American flags and cheering, joined in a countdown as "Uncle Sam" sat in as "guest operator" aboard a plasma arc plate cutting machine to cut the initial steel plate for Project America Hull #1, the first in a series of cruise ships being built by Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding, a Litton Ship Systems company, for American Classic Voyages Co. (AMCV).
The start of hull fabrication marked the start of the first of two 1,900-passenger cruise ships by Ingalls for AMCV, which will put the vessel in service exclusively in the Hawaiian Islands in early 2003. Ingalls has a contract for a twin ship to follow in 2004 and an option for a third, in a program with a total potential value of $1.4 billion.
The design of the state-of-the-art luxury cruise ship, 840 feet long, embraces all the amenities of modern cruise ship luxury. Each vessel will feature a five-deck-high atrium, a 1,060-seat dining room, an 840-seat theater, a 590-seat cabaret lounge, and a uniquely Hawaiian outdoor performance stage. The ship will have 85,850 square feet of open deck space.
As the Project America team celebrates the first milestone in the construction of the first ship, a worldwide effort is underway developing the detail design and preparing for construction. To aid in the efficient construction of the cruise ships, Ingalls is engaged in a $130 million construction project at the shipyard. In addition to covering some 300,000 square feet of assembly space, the shipyard will add a mammoth crane capable of 600-ton lifts. The crane, which will hover over the shipyard, will be 411 feet wide and 329 feet high.