Interview with Dr. Pythagoras Nagos, and Nicholas Filippidis of Louis Hellenic Cruises
JAX FAX recently had the opportunity to meet Louis Cruises’ Dr. Pythagoras Nagos (right), Commercial Director, and Nicholas Filippidis (left), Director of Product Development, N. America, to discuss their results from 2011 and plans for the upcoming 2012 seasons.
2011 was a difficult year for many destinations, and Greece had its own unique challenges. Can you give our readers an idea of how Louis Cruises fared in 2011?
2011 was different year from any year in the past. Following the headlines, you see that Greece has been through very hard times. However, these political and economic changes haven’t affected the features that make Greece a very good vacation destination. The islands are still there. The ecological sites are there. The sunshine and beaches are there. The tourism infrastructure is much better since the Olympic games. For the tourism industry it wasn’t a bad year despite these side effects, which at times had a major impact. For instance, the taxi strike in Athens forced us to find on the spot solutions to get our passengers to/from the airport or hotels. Proactively, we scored quite well in spite of the negative environment. Bookings were strong for the beginning of the year and though they slowed as the season went on, we still achieved our target goals. Total passenger counts were very similar to 2010.
What impact did the geopolitical climate in the Middle East have on your itineraries for 2011?
We had a unique 7-day, 3 continents itinerary which included stops in Egypt and Israel that was launched in 2010. Advance bookings were excellent. However, due to the social unrest in Egypt, we were forced to cancel it and replace it with a modified Greece and Turkey 7 day cruise.
Post 9/11, most major cruise lines significantly reduced their presence in the Med and focused on increasing their US homeports. This trend has reversed in the past couple of the years and the Med has once again become a popular destination for these lines. What impact has that had on Louis Hellenic Cruises? Also, what makes Louis Hellenic Cruises different than other cruise product in the Med?
Our product is a unique product. With our 3, 4 and 7 day cruises, passengers have the chance to be on shore in at least 1-2 destinations each day. Our ships are smaller, “human sized”. Passengers expect a different level of Greek culture, service and Mediterranean cuisine. Since our ships are smaller, our crew gets to know the passengers on a more personal basis. The Cristal has 480 cabins with 960 lower beds and the Majesty has 732 cabins with 1,860 beds total. Because of their size, our ships are able to dock at most ports, as opposed to tendering, giving our passengers more time on shore. Also, our ships are like the United Nations with a multi-national and multi-lingual clientele. North Americans represent only about 30-35% of our guests on any given cruise. This means our cuisine and entertainment is different in order to satisfy all our customer’s expectations. Our strength is providing our guests with an authentic Eastern Mediterranean experience.
How has the Louis Cruise product evolved over time?
Our goal is to provide the best quality and value for money. We do not pretend to be a five star cruise line. We strive to give our guests the best in Mediterranean culture and Greek hospitality. We have launched this year, on both the Majesty and the Cristal, a special ala carte Greek restaurant, the Thalassa, owned and operated by Christoforos Peskias, a Greek Celebrity TV Chef & Restaurateur. This new restaurant features traditional Greek and Cypriot dishes. Passengers are invited to experience gourmet Greek cooking at the value price of $29. Launched in May of 2011, the response to this new dining option has exceeded all of our expectations. Reservations should be made well in advance.
On the Majesty we have changed the entertainment from a Las Vegas style to a more diverse offering including Latin, Greek, karaoke, disco and classical music. Our onboard activities are geared for all the nationalities represented on the sailings.
Can travel agents pre-book shore excursions for their clients?
Restaurant reservations, drink packages and shore excursions can be booked in advance and are commissionable to travel agents. Not only do agents make a commission, the consumer also gets a discount by booking in advance. We are trying our best to improve the bottom line for retail travel agents.
What are your itineraries for 2012?
Our 2012 cruising season runs from March through early November. The Louis Cristal will feature an 8-day/7-night, Greece & Turkey itinerary sailing from Piraeus (Athens) beginning on March 30. The Louis Majesty will offer several alternating itineraries throughout the year including: 4-day/3-night Aegean Legends, 4-day/3-night Istanbul and Izmir and 5-day/4 night Jewels of Aegean. Also in March the Istanbul/Izmir itinerary can be combined with the Jewels of the Aegean for an 8-day/7 night Treasures of the Aegean cruise.
For more information, visit www.louiscruises.com or call your preferred tour operator.