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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (August 22, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---A luxury liner formerly known as the Renaissance 3 will call on Nouméa Harbor for the first time November 21 under its new name, Pacific Princess, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

The vessel and its sister ship, Renaissance 4, were stranded for many months in French Polynesia, after their owner, American Florida-based Renaissance Cruises, filed for bankruptcy, citing the adverse effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

French Polynesia's territorial authorities then seized both ships, calling it a "conservatory measure" against significant debts incurred with local companies.

In June, a deal was finally struck with cruise operator P&O Cruises, which agreed to take over and operate the two vessels for the next five years.

This marks a new life for the vessels, which will be based in French Polynesia and operated by a P&0 subsidiary, Princess Cruises.

The former Renaissance 4 will be operated out of Pape'ete "on a permanent basis," while Renaissance 3 (now the Pacific Princess) will cruise the French territory's famed islands (including Bora Bora) "two months each year" and the rest of the time in New Caledonia, typically on a Sydney-Nouméa route via Vanuatu (on which another cruise liner, the Pacific Sky, is already operating).

Another part of the deal was to grant exclusive air transportation rights to local flag carrier Air Tahiti Nui (ATN) between the anticipated core U.S. west coast market location and Tahiti.

"Nouméa is a very popular destination for P&O. This will be one of the highlights of the Pacific Princess cruise. That is why we will celebrate its first arrival at Nouméa Harbor," P&O Cruises Australia operations manager, Gavin Smith, said this week in a release.

The 30,000 ton Pacific Princess has a capacity of about 700 passengers, a swimming pool, a fitness track, two spas, a gym, a sauna, four restaurants and seven bars.

About a third of the apartments onboard are fitted with balconies and appeal to an up-market clientele.

Renaissance 3 and 4 were part of a family of eight sister ships, Renaissance 1 to 8.

They were built in France at the Saint Nazaire shipyards.

P&O, the world's third largest cruise lines operator, has also purchased the ex-Renaissance 8.

Renaissance 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 remain for sale.

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