NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cypriot cruise and hotel operator Louis PLC has entered into an agreement to acquire two ships from Star Cruises for $380 million, it said yesterday. Louis, a dominant player in the east Mediterranean cruise market, said the deal was expected to boost the profitability of the group. The Norwegian Dream, costing $218 million, will be chartered back to Star Cruises until November 2008, while the Norwegian Majesty, costing $162 million, until December 2009, Louis said. The funding has been undertaken by DVB Bank, it said. «This important expansion in the company’s cruising operations is expected to lead to substantially higher profitability for 2009 onward,» Louis said. It said the agreement was in line with company objectives to renew and upgrade its fleet by adding new generation cruise vessels with higher capacity. The 51,000-ton Norwegian Dream can accommodate around 2,150 passengers and the 41,000-ton Norwegian Majesty 1,790 passengers. The Cypriot operator, which now has relatively small vessels, has four ships chartered to British operator Thomson, a unit of TUI. It has another seven sailing under its own brand. The company lost one of its vessels, the Sea Diamond, when it sank off the Greek island of Santorini last year after hitting a reef.