Greek Suppliers Invest & Profit
The Mediterranean season is already in full-swing and we are pleased to report that bookings are strong”, said George Stathopoulos, CEO of Louis Hellenic Cruises, a subsidiary of Louis Cruise Lines, "and demand for cruising in this region is at an all time high. We have extended our sailings into November and are looking forward to a bumper year."
Similarly, business is strong at Crown Peters Travel, but executives are remaining cautiously optimistic. "Today, success is not just about keeping up with the competition, it is about delivering the best service for the best price," said Debbie Gregory, Tour Departmant Manager. Bolstering that claim, Crown's staffers inspect most of the listed properties in their brochures, the balance are inspected by a trusted ground operations staff with whom the company has been working for many years. "Product knowledge is essential to delivering good service," said Gregory.
Crown Peters, which has been in business for the past 38 years stands as a symbol of security for many agents. While its array of products are just as varied as any tour operator that specializes in Greece, its ability to remain steadfast is at the top of its appeal. Staffed by a knowledgeable group of individuals and based in its headquarters in Astoria, still counting the second largest Greek population outside of Athens, Crown Peters' name is synonymous with fair trade, solid programs, courteous service.
This year agents report to Crown that sales are steady. Big spenders are continuing to travel with the same aplomb as in the past while those watching their budgets are being cautious, but no one wants to stay home.
"We are seeing honeymooners who may be on modest budgets but given the occasion are willing to splurge a bit," she added.
Additionally, Crown Peters' operations in Greece are strengthened by a strong ground operator .Crown Peter's product line covers the Mediterranean as far west as Italy, which is beginning to shine as their next star in a constellation that has gone well beyond the Eastern Med, its initial specialty. Visit www.crownpeters.com
"In line with cruise market growth and our fleet renewal program, Louis Cruise Lines is expanding with the recent acquisitions of two more new generation vessels, the Norwegian Dream and the Norwegian Majesty following last year’s purchase of m/v Cristal. With these new additions to our fleet, Louis Cruise Lines emerges with a stronger position in the international cruise market and enhanced services," continued Stathopoulos. Louis entered into an agreement with Star Cruises to purchase the "Norwegian Dream" and the "Norwegian Majesty" for $380 million. The purchase price for the first ship was $218 million and $162 million for the second one. The purchase represents one of the most developments for Louis Cruise Lines in 22 years. The 51,000 ton-Norwegian Dream was built in France in 1992. It is a new generation cruise ship that can accommodate 2,156 passengers in 875 cabins and suites, 695 of which are outside and 48 with private balconies. The cruise ship features 10 decks, six restaurants, 11 lifts, two swimming pools, Spa & Fitness facilities, a two-tiered show lounge, casino, library and an array of bars and other public areas.
By contrast, the 41,000-ton Norwegian Majesty was built in Finland in 1992. The vessel underwent a $53.3 million rebuilding, lengthening and refurbishment in 1999. It is a new generation cruise ship that accommodates 1,790 passengers in 731 cabins and suites, 481 of which are outside. The cruise ship features nine decks, five restaurants, six lifts, three swimming pools, Spa & Fitness facilities, an amphitheatrical show lounge, casino, library as well as a large number of other public areas.
To assist travel agents, the company issues a "downloadable brochure" from its website to view the most updated 3-D versions of both the English corporate & Spanish 16-page mini brochures (i.e. both editions feature the Orient Queen’s new 12-Day Egypt & Ancient Med Civilizations cruise).
Louis Cruise Lines is introducing a DVD featuring exclusive new footage throughout Greece and the Greek Islands that details the benefits of traveling with Louis Cruise Lines as told by travelers. The disc, now available to agents, is designed to serve as an effective sales and marketing tool.
Call 877-568-4787; E-mail LCLUSA@louiscruises.com; www.louiscruises.com
Cloud’s Cruise Tours
Cloud Tours has created a series of air-inclusive programs that combine cruising the Greek islands with plenty of on-land arrangements to deliver both city sights and languorous island stays on Mykonos and Santorini. Among the tours well suited for clients who want to see as much as possible, but would also like to stay put on the islands for a few days, Zorba’s Envy is a 13-day tour that departs on Tuesdays and returns on Sundays.
Rates start at $2,069 per person double (including fuel surcharge/excluding port dues and air taxes). Itinerary includes international and Greek domestic airfare, two nights in Athens with a city tour, a four-day Greek Island Cruise, three nights each in Mykonos and in Santorini, breakfast daily, all meals on board the cruise, hotel services fees and taxes and all transfers. The four-day cruise visits the ports of Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete and Santorini and the Turkish port of Kusadasi to visit Ephesus.
For shorter stays, Cloud’s 10-day Santorini Escapade and the 11-day Mykonos Escapade combine a four-day cruise with a stay at one of these stunning white and blue isles. Rates for the Santorini Escapade begin at $1,839 per person double with international and Greek domestic air fare (including fuel surcharge), two nights in Athens with a city tour, a four-day Greek island cruise, three nights in Santorini, breakfast daily, all meals on board the cruise, hotel services fees and taxes and all transfers. Rates for the Mykonos Escapade begin at $1,799 per person double with international and Greek domestic airfares (includes fuel surcharge), two nights in Athens with a city tour, a four-day Greek island cruise, three nights in Mykonos, breakfast daily, all meals on board the cruise, hotel service fees and taxes and all transfers.
Couples celebrating their anniversary may be interested in purchasing a "Renewal of their Vows" package available for $330. What can be more romantic than renewing their vows with the fabulous Greek Islands as the background. The ceremony is performed by the Master or Senior officer on the Bridge and includes other amenities too. Call 800-223-7880; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.cloudtours.com
Music in the Med
Travel Dynamics has matched up the best of the Med with some of the world‘s finest classical music talent and dovetailed them into a superb voyage: their Mediterranean Music Festival. The 114-passenger all-suite yacht, the Corinthian II, sails from Athens to Venice featuring classical music performances at marvelous historic sites en route - September 6 to 17, 2008.
Visit Santorini, Kefallonia, Albania, Montenegro and Croatia on the way to Venice and savor the sounds of tenor Robert White, sopranos Mela Sarajane Dailey and Martina Arroyo, and pianist William Hobbs. The Corinthian II is the ship everyone wants to sail on – small and spacious with elegant suites. Call 800-257- 5767; www.traveldynamicsinternational.com
The Aegean Med and Beyond
Due to a high repeat clientele, Aegean Tours, Inc., which has specialized in tours to Greece and Turkey has added programs to Italy, Spain, China, Philippines, Vietnam, and Iceland. Among its most affordable programs is the eight-day Aegean Discovery Tour that includes a four-day cruise with departures scheduled through Nov. 7, 2008. The land price includes four nights' accommodations, all transfers, one-half day Athens city tour, entrance fees to sites and museums, a Cape Sounion tour, and two all-day tours to Delphi and Argolis (with lunch). Land tour rates start at $970 staying at the three-star Jason Inn; an upgrade to the four-star Stanley Hotel is available. Cruise rates are additional and start at $460 per person for an “F” category cabin during the remaining portion of the economy season, Oct. 31-Nov. 2008. Call 301-937-8673 Fax 301-937-1958; E-mail email@example.com; www.aegeantours.com
For information cal the Greek National Tourist Organization at 212-421-5777; Fax: 212-826-6940; or E-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.greektourism.com
Louis Cruise Lines’
New Flagship, a Winner
By Clif Cooke
Wow! What a vacation! These words accurately describe a seven- day visit to Greece and Turkey featuring a four-day Jewels of the Aegean cruise on the Cristal, the new flagship of Louis Cruise Lines, a 70-year old family travel company specializing in cruises in the Mediterranean.
Aboard the Cristal on this particular sailing was George Stathopoulos, CEO of Louis Cruise Lines. Before joining Louis, George had built his career in executive positions with several major cruise lines serving the U.S. market.
Stathopoulos said, “Our continuing goal is to be responsive to those features and services Americans want when they cruise the Mediterranean. Our 14 ships range from small to midsize; we are not in the mega cruiseship business! With about 900 passengers, the Cristal is an ideal ship for this market since we are able to enter all ports and moor alongside the pier in most cases. The megaships with 2,000-3,000 passengers usually anchor in the harbor and ferry their passengers ashore in tenders.”
The Cristal spent its recent years under the Royal Caribbean flag but joined the Louis fleet in August, 2007 after a $10 million dollar refurbishing. It’s an ideal ship for Aegean and Eastern Med cruising since its size (25,000 tons) and passenger capacity (about 1,000) allows it to enter and dock alongside virtually all of the popular Greek islands, except Santorini, which has no cruise ship dock.
All the Cristal’s staterooms and public spaces were totally upgraded, including the two large dining rooms and two buffets, all bars and lounges. The ship also features stabilizers and bow/stern thrusters to provide smooth sailing at sea and efficient maneuvering in the harbors and at the docks.
One Day to See the Classics
During our one-day stopover in Athens we stayed at the Metropolitan Hotel, a modern full service property conveniently located between downtown Athens and the port of Piraeus from which all cruise ships depart and return.
Our Athens stopover, arranged by Louis, included a half-day tour of the highlights of this classic city as well as a climb to the top of the Acropolis, which is a must for all able bodied travelers to Greece.
The Cristal’s itinerary called at six ports — the five Greek islands of Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete and Santorini plus Kusadasi in Turkey, from which we made a half day excursion to the ancient city of Ephesus, another must on a cruise in the Aegean.
We found that each one of the five Greek islands has its own characteristics, making each memorable for visitors interested in the cultural, historic and scenic points of view. Efficient disembarking and organization of tour buses permitted enough time at our ports of call to visit the major attractions plus wander through the shops and bazaars or just take a break at sidewalk cafes.
Security is a priority at Louis Cruise Lines. When first boarding, each passenger was photographed and issued a personal ID card with bar codes linked to a computer. This also helped expedite going ashore or returning to the Cristal at all ports. This system plus the comfortable size of the ship lessened any congestion departing the ship for shore excursions, an important factor when visiting six ports in four days. This card is also used as a charge card aboard ship.
On Tap for 2008
Next season, 2008, the Cristal is scheduled for a seven-day package which includes a four day Greek island voyage plus three days visiting Turkey. This package includes an overnight in Istanbul, one of Louis Cruises most popular destinations.
Louis Cruise Lines also operates Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruise itineraries ranging from five to 10 days from Genoa, Venice, Nice and Cyprus. Louis does not sell directly to the American consumer but markets all of their cruise itineraries through some 20 U.S. tour wholesalers, making it convenient for all American retail travel agents to work with their preferred wholesale tour operator.
One of the highlights of our large stateroom (with a bedroom and sitting room) was a balcony. The Cristal is the only non mega-ship cruising the Aegean with balcony accommodations, a definite plus.
Louis is upgrading its fleet to provide the highest standards of any cruiseline serving all areas of the Mediterranean. They are extending their seasons in several areas to operate from mid-March to early December. There is an increasing demand for at sea conferences, company meetings and specialized travel groups as well as family group travel. Louis is catering to all of those markets.
I must also salute Louis for the quality and variety of their comprehensive land programs. We went ashore in every port and urge all agents to book the shore excursions in order to fully appreciate the history and cultural diversity of the islands. Local guides were knowledgeable and carefully selected for their ability to relate to and entertain Americans.
The ship’s food and entertainment rated high. The large tastefully decorated dining rooms offered two seatings each evening. The staff, representing a variety of nationalities, have been well trained and seem genuinely eager to please. Continental food is featured. In addition there are enough bars, lounges and nightclubs, (including a disco) to satisfy the preferences of all passengers.
The Cristal also features a small but complete casino for those who seek that diversion. Louis operates their cruises from early April to late November, depending on the area. We can recommend the fall as daytime temperatures in late October were still in the mid-seventies and the summer crowds were long gone.
Now is the time to book for all seasons of 2008. Be sure to ask your tour wholesaler for a Louis Cruise Lines itinerary wherever your clients may be traveling in the Mediterranean. And, do yourself a favor and book a Louis cruise for your favorite travel agent — you!
For a list of U.S.-based tour operators selling Louis Cruise Lines programs and/or to order the 36 page brochure: Phone 877-568-4787, email: email@example.com www.louiscruises.com
August 2007 Feature
Greece’s Romantic Island Trio
By Jad Davenport
With more than 100 inhabited islands speckled across three seas – the Mediterranean, Aegean and Ionian – the Greek Islands are as varied as, well, the pantheon of Greek gods. The challenge as a travel agent is to understand their nuances, sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle, to not only exceed your clients’ expectations, but also offer them a tempting incentive to return.
Three of the most popular islands – Corfu, Crete and Santorini – have their own distinctive charms that can either by enjoyed as solo destinations, or as part of a broader island-hopping tour.
While a strong Euro makes planning important, island hopping in Greece has become much easier since the infusion of cash used to revamp airports and update ferry ports for the Summer 2004 28th Olympiad. Olympic Airlines (800-223-1226; www.olympicairlines.com) has frequent connections to each island, while the ferry network, particularly Hellenic Seaways (www.hellenicseaways.gr), is one of several excellent options for shorter inter-island hops.
Mountainous, forested Corfu is the garden island of Greece. The Venetians spent nearly four centuries here, a legacy easily appreciated in the imposing architecture of the grand Esplanade in old Corfu Town. Arriving later, and staying for a mere decade, the French added the Liston, a wonderful pedestrian area and nearby cafes and tavernas.
Beyond Corfu town a rental car (most agencies start at $100 a day without insurance) or private driver can open up the wilderness of the northern half for stops at Kassiopi, a fishing town with open-air tavernas and a view of nearby Albania, and Palaiokastritsa, three scalloped coves with pretty beaches.
The Grecotel Eva Palace, (011-30-2810-300-330; www.ellada.net/grecotel/evapalace) is a five-star hotel only seven miles from Corfu Town (a $30 taxi ride); doubles start at $160. Although it is one of the largest properties on the island, it has an intimate feel cloistered away on a private peninsula. There are a wide range of accommodations from suites to deluxe villas with private pools; there’s even a small beach.
Most locals haven’t seen all of Crete, at 155-miles long the largest and southernmost of the Greek Islands. It’s a rugged dry island, one of the sunniest. It is also the birthplace of Europe’s most advanced civilization: the ancient Minoans built their palaces and ruled the island from 2800 to 1450 BC. No surprise then, that a quarter of all travelers to Greece make Crete a part of their itineraries, particularly a half-day tour of the ruins at Knossos, lair of the fabled Minotaur (entrance fee $8, guide recommended).
Flying is the quickest way to reach Crete from Athens. Elounda, a quiet resort area on the north coast has the most exclusive boutique hotels and villas, all overlooking lovely Mirabella Bay. The hour-long taxi ride from the airport or ferry at Irakleio costs $95.
The Elounda Beach Hotel (212-515-5697; www.eloundabeach.gr) a member of Leading Hotels of the World, has suites along both a popular beach and a more private stone jetty with sea ladders for swimming access. The most luxurious accommodations are the Hideaway Villas with their private, heated pools. Spa treatments – including acupressure and hot stone massages – are available in the purpose-built spa. Rates start at $348 per night.
Even though they have the Elixir Spa Gallery, your clients won’t need it at the nearby Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites (011-30-2810-227132; www.eloundavillas.com) where villas start at $775. This member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World has 18 stunning villas with private pools along with 10 more-affordable luxury suites. The villas come equipped with their own weight rooms, Finnish saunas, Turkish steam rooms, Jacuzzi whirlpools and outdoor infinity pools, and all have spectacular views of the sea.
Santorini is the classic island of your first-time Greek clients’ dreams, and Oia ($28 taxi ride from the airport or port), the northernmost city, is where it comes to life. When they point their cameras in this romantic pedestrian town of white-washed Cycladic houses clinging to impossibly steep cliffs, and narrow cobbled streets shaded by windmills, they’ll feel like National Geographic photographers.
Voted Small Luxury Hotel of the Year in 2005, the Katikies Hotel (011-30-22860-71401; www.katikies. com) includes champagne breakfasts and free beach transfers, doubles start at $465 per night. While rooms aren’t palatial – most accommodations here are traditionally built one on top of another, and burrowed into the cliffs – but the views and setting are unbeatable. With an open-air gourmet restaurant (wine tasting at sunset) and two pools (including a cave-like grotto pool), this boutique property is the perfect base for exploring Santorini. Advise your clients to head out to the Venetian castle ruins an hour before sunset to find a seat beside the hundreds of visitors who gather every evening to enjoy Apollo’s dip into the sea.
Closer to the capital, Fira (only a 20-minute walk), the Astra Apartments and Suites (www.astra-apartments.com, apartments at $275 and suites at $475) command amazing views of the entire caldera from a lofty perch at Imerovigli. Astra has 16 apartments and six luxury suites, some with cold plunge pools and heated Jacuzzis; opened only April 1 to October 31.
For more information, call the Greek National Tourism Organization at 212-421-5777 or visit www.gnto.gr
For consolidator airfares and tour packages to Greece see page L17-L19 of the Listings Section.