(7:45 p.m. EST) -- The future of easyCruise, the one-ship budget cruise line that ferried passengers around the Greek Isles in Spartan style, appears to be in serious limbo.
The line has canceled its 2010 itineraries and, according to members of the Cruise Critic message boards, refunds are being issued. Cruise Critic reader Paul Strasser recently received the following letter from easyCruise customer service: "We would like to inform you that we cannot confirm any availability at the moment since our 2010 operation is on hold from the Top Management of our mother company (HSW) [Hellenic Seaways]."
Still, we've yet to receive confirmation of refunds or the status of easyCruise beyond 2010 from company representatives -- and here's where things get complicated. In August, the license to use the easyCruise brand was sold by serial entrepreneur Stelios, owner of the multi-faceted easyGroup (easyJet, easyPizza, etc.), to Hellenic Seaways, a major player in the Greek ferry and shipping industry. Stelios confirmed that licensor and licensee agreed that it was best to take the ship off the market for a year, but offered no further details. Representatives from Hellenic Seaways could not be reached for comment.
In its short life, easyCruise has struggled to find an identity that's both unique and financially viable. It was first introduced in 2005 as a backpacker-approved "floating hostel" in the Southern Caribbean. A short-lived, hostel-like river cruise operation was launched in 2006 but was canceled mid-season the following year. In the past few years, the line has moved away from its founding ethos -- port stays into the wee hours of the morning, no included onboard meals or housekeeping -- and has evolved into a more mainstream product by raising fares and folding food and housekeeping into the price. In late 2009, easyCruise redefined itself once again, offering stops in multiple Greek Isles per day as part of three- and four-night cruises.
Along the way, diehard fans of the "first" easyCruise have bemoaned the changes to the brand. Strasser tells us via e-mail, "I was a huge fan of the original easyCruise concept, and two of the best vacations our family ever had were on the original easyCruise ship in the Caribbean. I truly want(ed) them to succeed, so take zero satisfaction or enjoyment in their likely demise." For a taste of what else the small but passionate contingent has to say, see the thread easyCruise … R.I.P. on the Cruise Critic message boards.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor
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Is easyCruise on Life Support?
February 19, 2010