We are steadily pursuing our strategy to make the company more international,” said George Michaelides, general manager of marketing at Louis Cruise Lines (LCL). “Our goal is to have a closer relationship with tour operators,” Michaelides added. Thus, LCL is chartering two ships to Thomson Cruises, including its latest acquisition, the former Nieuw Amsterdam, which is on a long-term charter to the British tour operator as the Thomson Spirit. The company also charters the Emerald from LCL, which handles all ship operations, catering, and crewing.
In addition, LCL is expanding into new business areas and operates the dutyfree shops aboard Festival Cruises’ ships.
“Despite all the problems in the world, we are following our plan step by step,” Michaelides said.
“We are also upgrading our fleet; the purchase of the Nieuw Amsterdam is proof of our efforts.”
LCL acquired the 1983-built, 1,254- passenger ship in a 10-year bareboat/hire agreement valued at $65 million.
Meanwhile, in the short term LCL is missing Israel on its summer sailing program out of Cyprus. “People want to go to the Holy Land, and to see the pyramids,” Michaelides said. “Last year we had two ships sailing to Israel and Egypt. This summer we only have one ship sailing to Egypt.”
LCL has three ships altogether sailing out of Cyprus: the Princessa Marissa sails two- and three-day cruises to Egypt; while the Ausonia and the Calypso sail five- and seven-day cruises to the Greek islands along with two-day weekend cruises to Beirut and Rhodes.
Another ship, the Sapphire, sails two- and three-day cruises out of Malta.
“Our business tracks parallel with tourism travel to the islands,” said Michaelides, who explained that Cyprus was seeing a drop in arrivals from various European countries.
“The numbers are down from last year,” he said. “We are hoping for more late bookings.
“The British typically make their vacation plans for next year in the fall,” Michaelides said. “After 9/11, we know that at least one million Brits who usually go abroad decided to stay home. The same thing happened in Germany. The only ones seemingly not affected are the Russians.
“We see, however, that Greece, Spain and Turkey are experiencing similar drops in arrivals as we are,” Michaelides added.
The downturn is not just caused by the impact of 9/11 and the recent upheaval in the Middle East, according to Michaelides, who also thinks that economic factors are contributing. “When you drop prices dramatically, bookings go up,” he said.
Next year, LCL plans to offer a new program combining a seven-day cruise with a seven-day stay in Cyprus. The cruises will be offered aboard the Ausonia, which Michaelides said was in perfect condition, having recently been upgraded while chartered to First Choice.
According to Michaelides, LCL is also ready to do more outside of its region. “We have the expertise,” he said, referring to the company’s expansion, new business ventures, and experience as a cruise line and ship manager.