Royal Olympic Cruises (ROC) is sailing quietly along awaiting the details to be worked out that will allow it to announce a two-ship newbuilding order.

But while keeping a relatively low profile in the North American market, ROC is a "powerhouse" in Europe, according to its recently appointed president, Al Wallack.

"ROC carries as many passengers in the Mediterranean as Costa," Wallack said, adding that contrary to Costa, the majority of ROC's passengers are Americans.

"This summer we had 3,000 benhs in the Mediterranean and 75 percent to 80 percent of our passengers came from the United States," Wallack noted.

He explained that the bulk of tour programs to Greece included cruises on the company's vessels.

Of the six-ship fleet, four get laid up during the winter months, while two redeploy to South America and the Caribbean.

"I also believe we carry more Americans in South America than anybody else," Wallack added.

White and Blue

ROC, which is a result of a merger between Epirotiki Lines and Sun Line Cruises in 1995, divided their ships into white and blue ships, respectively. The white ships are for tour programs that emphasize a more casual type of travelling, Wallack explained, and the blue ships offer more formality.

"The difference is more about attitude than economics," Wallack said.

"And the same mindset that takes them to the Mediterranean in the summer, can take them to South America in the winter. These are not novice travellers; these are experienced travellers with intellectual curiosity," Wallack added.

He also noted that the scale of the vessels is important. "These passengers are not bingo players nor are they attracted by Las Vegas-type shows," Wallack said. "They prefer a more intimate environment and cultural entertamment."

While Wallack conflrmed that the company is looking to build two new ships, he also said that they did not intend to build a large fleet. "Our intention is to cruise the way we are used to and like to do," he said. Meanwhile, ROC is also searching for second-hand tonnage - "one ship, a little larger than our existing vessels."

"Our passengers are willing to spend money on 'doing things'," Wallack said, "rather than on status.

"People are willing to pay a little more to cruise a thousand miles up to Amazon, for example, to visit the opera house in Manaus, and to be with other interesting people."

Wallack said that a cruise on a mega-ship compared to a cruise with ROC, was like going to a cocktail party with 2,000 people, compared to going to a party at someone's house. In the first instance, chances are that you will only remember the meatballs, in the second instance, you will remember the people you met, according to Wallack.