Cypriot cruise and hotel company Louis Plc yesterday announced it has signed a franchise agreement with easyCruise, owned by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, which will see several Louis cruisers in the Eastern Mediterranean using the easyCruise brand name. This also entails more orders with listed firm Neorion shipyards. «With easyCruise and Louis joining forces and given the leading position of Louis in the cruise market of the Eastern Mediterranean, easyCruise is set for rapid growth, with a larger number of vessels, and covering a bigger area than the one originally planned,» Haji-Ioannou said. EasyCruise plans to change its order to Neorion shipyards, according to the company’s letter of intent, from two ships, with an option for another two, to three with an option for three more. The additional vessels will be ordered by Louis. Negotiations with Neorion are under way, focusing on the construction of 500-passenger cruisers for the Greek islands. Haji-Ioannou told Kathimerini he was optimistic that this «important deal» will be signed by the end of the year. If all cruisers are ordered, then the total number of ships operating under the easyCruise name will move up to eight by 2010 or 2011, according to Haji-Ioannou. He added that the product he intends to supply in Greece «is more based on destinations than the cruisers» and noted that the first easyCruise vessel, which is already operating, may make its way to the Greek islands next year. Louis will be able to use new cruisers constructed according to easyCruise specifications, or older ones that will meet those standards through makeovers. EasyCruise Ltd will be able to operate in the region only up to the start of the first cruise operated by Louis under the easyCruise label. This is the second such franchise agreement easyCruise has reached for its international expansion. Besides the exclusive use of the easyCruise brand name in the region, Louis will be able to use the ticket sale site (www.easyCruise.com) for the low-cost cruises on offer. «We now have the ability to expand our activities to a new type of cruises, mainly aimed at younger generations and offering a different product that complements the existing activities of Louis Cruise Lines,» Louis Group Executive Chairman Costakis Loizou said. Loizou particularly stressed the importance of a strategic alliance with Haji-Ioannou, an entrepreneur of global stature with success in a wide range of activities.