February 11, 2008
easyCruiseOne, the ship that launched serial entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou's low-cost easyCruise venture, is up for sale. The cruise line has also confirmed its new-build programme for up to seven new ships has been "shelved."
Sales and marketing director Paul Ellerby said easyCruiseOne was always just a pilot -- to see if the concept of a low-cost cruise would work. The plan now is to buy a ship similar in size to easyCruise Life, a second ship which easyCruise bought in September 2007 and which launches in Piraeus, Greece, on April 19.
easyCruise Life will be sailing seven-night cruises around the Greek islands and to Turkey.
Ellerby said: "easyCruiseone does not have enough space onboard for us to do what we want, and it makes the line more financially viable if we can get two ships the same size. The new-build programme is shelved. We are looking for short-term solutions and that isn't one."
easyCruise Life was built in 1981 as a ferry and sailed under the names Natasha, Palmira, Jasmin and Farah before being bought by Stelios. It has 250 cabins and room for a maximum 600 passengers, while easyCruiseOne has 108 cabins, with space for 232 people.
easyCruiseOne will complete its summer programme in the Greek islands, but is expected to leave the fleet by October. "This is a luxury ship, and there is a lot happening in the luxury market. There has been a lot of interest," Ellerby confirmed.
In a major shift in policy, easyCruise is also setting its sights on the family market by axing age restrictions. When the line started, the age limit was 18 and then fell to 14.
Ellerby said: "We have a lot of four-bed cabins on easyCruise Life, and we have seen what is happening in the mainstream cruising market, so we are opening up the brand to all ages. We're not going down the road of kids' clubs. This is for families who want to spend time together."
A four-bed cabin costs from £168 ($330 approx) for seven nights at the end of April.
The U-turn on kids is one of many since easyCruise started. Most recently, pre-payable optional extras were introduced allowing passengers to buy a half-board meal package (easyCruise prices are for accommodation only), daily housekeeping (the cruise price pays for housekeeping at the start and end of the cruise, with ad-hoc cleaning charged at 20 euros [$28 approx] per cabin per day) and five excursions.
Ellerby said: "These options have sold phenomenally well, especially with first-timers. About 30 percent of passengers take half-board." There is one a la carte restaurant, fusionon6, on the new ship with open seating and no dress codes.
--by Jane Archer, Cruise Critic contributor