"Our cruise business focuses on two areas: chartering and managing ships, and operating ships under our own brand name," Stelios Kiliaris, CEO of Louis Cruise Lines, told Cruise Industry News.

Part of the Cyprus-based Louis Group, Louis Cruise Lines owns 12 vessels, including the 22,412-ton 1,537-passenger Birka Princess, which was recently acquired for $35 million.

The Cyprus-based company is presently chartering three ships - the Emerald, the Thomson Spirit and the Thomson Destiny - to Thomson Cruises of the U.K. and one ship - the Arielle (Aquamarine) - to Germany's Tran Tours for a five-year term. In addition, Louis is pursuing ship management contracts for other operators and is an adviser to EasyCruise, as that start-up venture contemplates expansion.

Louis also operates its own ships under the brand names of Louis Cruise Lines and Louis Hellenic Cruises, with offices in Athens, Paris and Genoa (since 2005).

Broader Market

Previously, offering mostly short cruises out of Cyprus to the Eastern Mediterranean, Louis has recently branched out and sails ships from Genoa and Marseilles to the Western Mediterranean and out of Piraeus to the Greek Islands and Turkey. This year, Louis will also have a ship sailing from the U.K. "We have very good knowledge of the Eastern Mediterranean and have medium-sized ships that would be ideal to deploy in this region as we expand," Kiliaris said.

Louis is presently not offering winter cruises in the Mediterranean, but used to do so, according to Kiliaris, until demand softened because of issues in the Middle East. However, Louis intends to go back to winter cruises, he said, and is looking at the Western Mediterranean as well. There are also other regions in the world that Louis may go to, according to Kiliaris, who would not say anymore.

Business Model

Kiliaris attributed Louis' ability to earn money with older and smaller ships to economies of scale as the cruise operation is part of a larger tourism organization and benefits from synergies with hotel purchasing, and he described Louis as a low-cost operator - with low overhead, managing without expensive offices and high salaries.

The hotel side of the group includes 25 hotel properties in Greece and Cyprus as well as two Hilton hotels in Cyprus. The group as a whole has about 7,000 employees on land and at sea and accommodates more than 500,000 guests in its hotels and on its ships.