ECONOMY

Greek cruise companies do well despite adverse factors

Despite unfavorable forecasts, the economic downturn and the war in Iraq, the Greek cruise industry is happy with the way business has developed so far this year. It has been a particularly satisfactory season for Royal Olympic Cruises’ two high-speed vessels, the Olympia Explorer and Olympic Voyager. After a successful winter in the USA, where they carried about 12,000 passengers, they are now sailing to full capacity in the Mediterranean until the end of October. «It has been a very good year for our vessels in America and the Mediterranean. One of our two high-speeds, the only such cruise ships in the world, will be scheduled this winter on a 63-day cruise from Miami to South America, including the Amazon, and the other on 14-day cruises from Los Angeles to Easter Island, by tapping its main advantage, speed, at an average of 33 miles per hour,» says the company’s vice president and sales director, Gavriil Diakakis. He adds that six vessels of Royal Olympic Cruises (ROC) are sailing this summer in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Baltic and will carry about 120,000 passengers by the end of November. «Even though we are still going through a period of economic downturn, we launched a dynamic summer sales policy and filled the vacuum of Americans who did not come this year with European travelers. Our Greek sales are doing quite well, too. We have a long tradition with Greek passengers, who are among our favorites,» says Diakakis. ROC has already booked four of its vessels to accommodate members of a number of national Olympic committees during next summer’s Olympic Games and is in negotiations for three more. ROC President Andreas Potamianos believes the Greek cruise industry has a bright future if helped by the government. «We are in a mad race of competition with other European flags. Our expenses are difficult to bear and we are facing unfair competition, as Greece has not yet been fully harmonized. Of course, no one wishes to see Greek crews dwindle but we must find the right solution that will make the Greek flag more attractive and bring new vessels to the register,» he says. According to estimates, the operating costs of a Greek cruise ship of average age are about the same as those of a new luxury foreign-flagged vessel. Sources say that the Merchant Marine Ministry is looking into the matter again, while firms are favorably disposed toward expanding business in Greek waters if terms improve.