Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises today began construction of the second of its new generation of ships with the official keel laying ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. The new vessel, a sister ship to the Royal Princess, will be named Regal Princess, and will debut in the spring of 2014.

“Just as Royal Princess was named after one of our iconic early vessels, Regal Princess also takes a name from our past that we think is well suited for this spectacular ship,” said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises, in a prepared statement. “Today’s keel laying is an exciting event, as it marks a key milestone in our new building program.”

Following a traditional blessing by a priest, the ship’s keel – which weighs approximately 500 tons – was moved into position by a huge crane onto the keel blocks. The 3,600-passenger ship will remain in the building dock until its float-out next summer.

Regal Princess will offer many of the same special features as Royal Princess, which debuts in June 2013. These include an expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; a dramatic over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel; private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; the new Princess Live! television studio, and Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light.

Darlene Ricker