Southampton cruise ship operator, Princess Cruises, has revealed the name of the second of its new generation of vessels designed for the 21st century.

As the keel was laid for the new ship, Princess Cruises announced she will be called, Regal Princess, and will be the class as Royal Princess, which will be officially named in Southampton next year.

Regal Princess will debut in Spring, 2014, exactly one year after her sister ship will be inaugurated in a spectacular dockside ceremony in the city’s mdocks.

Princess Cruises and officials at the Italian shipyard, where both vessels are being constructed, started the countdown to Regal Princess’s launch as the keel was lowered into position on the floor of the building dry dock.

Following a traditional blessing by a local priest, the ship’s keel, weighing about 500 tons, was moved by a huge crane onto the keel blocks.

The computer-guided manoeuvre took only minutes, but Regal Princess will take a total of two million man hours to complete.

The 141,000 ton ships , with enough accommodation for up to 3,600 passengers, will remain in the dry dock until she is “floated out’’ to a nearby fitting out berth next summer.

Alan Buckelew, presidnet and chief executive of Princess Cruises, said: “Just as Royal Princess was named after one of our iconic early vessels, Regal Princess also takes the name from our past that, we think, is well suited for this spectacular ship.

“The keel laying marks a ket milestone in our new building programme.’’