Louis Cruises considers itself the expert in sailing around Greece and its islands. After all, the Eastern Mediterranean is home for the cruise line, which is based in Piraeus, the port for Athens, and the parent company was founded in Cyprus 78 years ago.
So for 2014, Louis is refining its itineraries and onboard experience to offer what it considers the quintessential Greek experience. “When Americans come over, what are their expectations?” asks Kyriakos Anastassiadis, Louis Cruises’ CEO. “They want to come to Greece to experience the culture, the Greek cuisine and wines, the entertainment, and the natural beauty and variety of the islands. We are going to provide a real Greek experience and an immersion into Greek life.”
For 2014, Louis is marketing two ships to North Americans — the 1,664-passenger Louis Olympia and the 1,200-passenger Louis Cristal. Both vessels were built in the early 1980s, the Olympia as the Song of America and the Cristal as a ferry named Viking Saga (it later operated as Leeward for Norwegian Cruise Line).
Those two ships might not be the main attraction for some — although they are an attractive size and might be considered classics now — but the itineraries and ambience offered onboard are worth a much closer look.
In 2014, the company is nearly doubling the number of ports it calls on to provide a mix of little-visited isles with such marquee destinations as Mykonos, Crete and Santorini. New destinations for 2014 are Samos, Milos, Syros, Kos, los, Symi and Chios in Greece, and Cesme and Bodrum in Turkey.
“For the last 30 years, the ports in most destinations have remained the same,” Anastassiadis says. “As an industry we struggle very hard to get people to come back on our vessels – repeaters. So why would they come back to Greece on a cruise if there are no new places to visit? By providing new destinations, we give passengers the opportunity to come back with us and see something different. Greece has 3,000 islands. About 140 are inhabited, yet only six or eight have been visited. That leaves another 132 waiting to be discovered.”
For those who want to explore Greek cuisine, Louis has revamped its menus to focus on the company’s Hellenic roots and the local Mediterranean diet, which is considered by many to be the healthiest in the world. Onboard menus now feature more fish, legumes, citrus, salads, vegetables, Greek olive oil and feta cheese. The food is seasoned with local herbs and spices, such as oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, as well as locally grown saffron from the small town of Krokos and mastic, which is often used in desserts.
“The menus are predominantly Greek cuisine and they will also change with the seasons,” Anastassiadis says.
Louis also is eager to work with more North American travel agents and has enhanced its online booking system. Agents earn 10 percent commission or more on the cruises, but also get 10 to 15 percent on shore excursions and pre-booked beverage packages.
“We are giving travel agents the opportunity to sell everything we have,” Anastassiadis says. “It just makes the whole experience that much better if the clients leave home and already have their beverage package and shore excursions sorted out. We have a whole raft of packages available so travel agents can provide a complete service to these passengers.”
In addition, gratuities will be included in the fares for 2014, equal to about $ 10 per day, per person. “It makes life easier for everyone and simplifies everything,” Anastassiadis says. “It’s included in the fare, but in the unlikely event someone doesn’t feel the service merits that gratuity, they have the choice to remove or reduce it. But in our experience most people are very happy.”