As of May 4 next year, Piraeus hosts a new cruise program by Classic International Cruises. The Lisbon-based company, Arcolia Shipping, will run seven-day cruises from here with stops at Ismir, Istanbul, Samothraki, Thessaloniki, Volos, Meteora, Santorini and Mykonos.
One of the Greek travel agents present at the recent presentation of the program, Irini Psaltis of Taxidia-Group Incentive Specialists, said she was very enthused with the unique program and will most definitely push the program to clients, both incoming and domestic ones.
The ship, Arion, built in the later part of the 1960s, was purchased by Arcolia Shipping in 1999 and went straight to the shipyards where it was gutted and rebuilt. The refit took 14 months and cost some $15 million. Besides complete refurbishing, the company increased the number of cabins from 100 to 170, of which 92% are exterior cabins.
“The ship is a great size for cruises to the Greek islands,” says Constantinos Catsambas, director of the cruise operator’s offices here in Greece, ” and is fast so that our passengers have lots of time to spend on tours at each destination.”
The Arion, under Portuguese flag, is one of three owned by Greek interests. The other two are chartered out, as was the Arion last year. Mr. Catsambas says the will market the cruise as a unique product out of Greece with a unique program, one not done by any other line. He added that the cruise has the support of four and perhaps soon five major tour operators abroad.
The number of cruise passengers has been growing almost twice as fast as the world international tourism arrivals in the last decade, according to a new World Tourism Organization report on the cruise industry. Since 1990, the number of cruise passengers increased by 7.7 per cent, reaching 8.7 million in 1999. Although it represents only 1.3 per cent of international arrivals, the importance of the cruise industry has to do with the amount of revenues generated and its potential for growth.
A direct competitor to sun & sand holidays, the cruise industry has an enormous momentum and it is believed that North American and European demand will surpass 12 million passengers by the end of 2010. The North American outbound market still offers medium term growth but all analysts agree that Europe represents the largest potential growth rates in the short term.