Louis Cruise Lines, a Cyprus-based cruise company, is returning more strongly to its Greek heritage, with a change in product positioning. Kyriakos (Kerry) Anastassiadis, the line’s new CEO, traveled to Miami Beach for Cruise Shipping Miami last week and gave us the scoop.
“First and foremost, Louis Cruises is a Cypriot company which has much of its itineraries in the eastern Mediterranean," said Anastassiadis. “By nature, we’re of Greek origin and Greek culture, and it’s time to go back to our roots. We know our area, we know our region, and we know the ports and islands.”
Differentiation in the Eastern Mediterranean
While Louis Cruise Lines has 25 years of experience in cruising and 75 years of tourism experience with hotels and other services in the region, Anastassiadis also acknowledged that the line must continue to differentiate and innovate in what has become a more crowded eastern Mediterranean cruise region.
For example, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line have all introduced mass-market voyages in the past few years that cover the eastern Mediterranean. Others in the region include such big European lines as Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises; niche players like Windstar Cruises and Voyages to Antiquity; and most of the world's premium and luxury lines.
Interestingly, Anastassiadis said North Americans from the U.S. and Canada are the biggest clients for Louis. They’re followed in numbers by clients from Germany, the U.K., Italy, Korea, Spain and Turkey, as well as others.
Yes, they have Greeks onboard, he said, but “not in significantly large numbers.”
But wherever guests are from, Louis Cruises’ research shows those North American clients want an “authentic” Greek experience. So the line will take the following steps:
Change Menus to Reflect a More Greek Experience: Instead of dining room menus that field international cuisine, the line will update its cuisine to offer a more Greek experience.
Expect local Greek wines, Greek dishes and even a traditional Greek breakfast. Yes, clients will still be able to get select international dishes, but the focus will shift more heavily Greek, Anastassiadis said.
Change Itineraries for Unique Greek/Turkish Options: He stressed that Louis Cruises will better utilize its eclectic collection of small- to medium-sized ships - doing a better job of matching the right ship to the right itinerary.
While it will continue to operate ships in the same part of the world in which it’s typically sailed in the past, the itineraries will be changed to incorporate, where possible, more off-the-beaten path ports and stops at smaller islands. The goal is to give clients a more well-rounded Greek experience, not just entree to the big islands that everyone knows by name.
Anastassiadis said Greece has 140 inhabited islands, yet most lines call only at up to four of those - Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini. He asked: “What happens to the other 136?”
“In the cruise business, we grow by innovation and by providing differentiated experiences,” he said. “We’re going to focus and provide the opportunity for guests to really come and experience Greece beyond those four islands.”
So expect changed itineraries for 2013 and possibly even earlier, he said.
“We are fleshing out our new identity and very shortly introducing new itineraries that capture what I’m talking to you about in terms of the plethora of islands,” Anastassiadis said. “We’re re-looking at which vessels to operate those.”
Certainly, Louis Cruises’ itineraries will still have those iconic stops at Mykonos or Santorini sprinkled in here and there, but also expect to see such features as a transit of the Corinth Canal (for those on one of the line’s small ships) or a visit to other islands typically less visited by cruisers.
|Photo by Susan J. Young|
One example he cited is Samos. Samos is a Greek island that’s reputed by local residents to be the birthplace of Hera, the wife of Zeus in ancient mythology. Among other attractions, it boasts UNESCO World Heritage site ruins, an excellent small archaeological museum and a wine cooperative experience for tastings of locally grown wines.
“On the way to Samos we’ll have slide shows or visiting academics to talk about the destinations,” he said, adding that the voyages will become more well-rounded experiences that incorporate destination immersion into voyage activities.
Operational Changes Afoot: Currently, the line has split operations in both Cyprus and Greece. “We are relocating all operations into Piraeus,” said Anastassiadis. “That will become operational headquarters.”
The economy in Greece is the worst since World War II there, he stressed, noting that everyone is having to readjust to those new realities. “We’re having to become more efficient,” he said. “That’s why we as a company are becoming more focused and concentrating all our operations into Piraeus instead of two different places."
In addition, as previously announced, this year the line will switch out one of its ships with one it currently charters to Thomson Cruises, a U.K. market operator.
So Thomson Destiny will return to the Louis Cruises fleet and sail as Louis Olympia. Recently refurbished this year, she will operate on three-and four-day cruises to the Greek islands and Turkey.
In turn, Louis Majesty has been chartered to Thomson Cruises as the line said it's better suited for the charter operator's seven- and 14-night cruises.
As for the retail marketplace, while the digital world has changed the way people do business, “travel agents by far dominate the travel marketplace,” he stresses. “They’re the backbone of our business and will always have a big role. We, as a company being so far away, have no way of marketing ourselves in the U.S.“
In three to five years, Anastassiadis’ vision is as follows: “We would like to be known as the specialists for Greece and Turkey and the best three-star cruise line” for those destinations.
For more information, visit www.louiscruises.com.