The "bigger is better" credo of the 1980s isn't dead yet, at least not for Spirit Cruises Inc. The newest member of the company's fleet, the second Spirit of Washington cruise ship, is now afloat on the Potomac.

It replaces the old Spirit of Washington, which the Norfolk company will sell after less than four years on the water.


It seems the old Spirit of Washington, which seated 350 passengers for dinner-dance cruises on the Potomac, was no longer large enough or opulent enough to satisfy the region's requests, recession or no recession.

So the new ship is longer by 60 feet, wider by eight feet and able to carry 600 seated passengers at a time. Estimated worth: $3 million. That's about a third more than the older ship, according to Spirit Cruises Vice President Chris Hendricks.

"It's really rather opulent in look ... including a large atrium," Hendricks said.

Hendricks said the company, which operates cruise ships in eight cities, decided a couple of years ago that the Washington ship should be replaced with a grander version.

And he said the firm found no reason to change that last year.

"We experienced a little bit of a downturn in the last quarter" of 1990, he said, "but presently our bookings are ahead of the same time last year."