EasyCruise has entered into a franchise agreement with Louis Cruises. The two companies will now jointly approach Neorion Holdings, the Greek shipyard group, to increase the number of ships covered by the previously announced letter of intent from two and two options to three and three options.

If all the building contracts and options are exercised, easyCruise will own four of the new ships and Louis, two.

The total fleet operating under the easyCruise brand, would reach eight vessels by 2011, including easvCruiseOne and easvCmiseTwo, a river vessel franchised to a Dutch river line.

"We hope to have the first ship operating in 2008 - by 2009 at the latest," said a Louis spokesperson. "But that will depend on how quick the shipyard is."

The new agreement (with Louis) will cover the Eastern Mediterranean area - "from Greece to the Middle East," he added. "We get exclusive rights to the easyCruise brand in that area."

Louis also has the option of converting an existing ship or developing a new ship with the easyCruise concept, according to the spokesperson.

Rapid Growth
EasyCruise CEO Gwyn Hughes said that the partnership with Louis will give his company the ability to grow the brand more rapidly than it could independently.

"To be partners with someone who is an expert in the Mediterranean region, complimenting the skills that we have, is a win-win situation," he said.

Louis will have financial responsibility for its ships, Hughes said, marketing and operating them under the easyCruise concept.

"They will be Louis ships run to specifications of the easyCruise brand," said the Louis spokesperson, adding that it is an excellent opportunity for Louis to reach out to a new clientele, which will include 20 and 30 somethings.

Hughes pointed out that while he sees future ships in the franchise having the same concept and style of previous easyCruise ships, "they will just be a bit bigger - accommodating over 500 passengers," he noted.