‘Greece will always be a place cruise passengers will want to visit, but if its true economic potential is to be achieved investment has to be made in the surrounding infrastructure,’ Kyriakos (Kerry) Anastassiadis, ceo of Celestyal Cruises, commented at a media briefing in Athens.
Anastassiadis said: ‘Cruise companies are willing to invest in ports under the helm of the government through concessions, but it has to be worthwhile.’
He said Celestyal Cruises is interested in developing Greek ports, but not Piraeus. ‘We will not be bidding for Piraeus, when container line Cosco and ferries are given preference over cruise ships,’ said Anastassiadis.
Piraeus is currently out of the question for homeporting, according to the ceo. Tthe city is in chaos, the traffic incredible it has to be solved. Getting through Piraeus on a bus, after leaving the ship is not something a cruise passenger wants.’
He stressed: ‘Piraeus port is not the problem it's the city infrastructure and if Piraeus is to develop its whole concept of cruising has to change.’
However, Anastassiadis, says Laviron can be developed into an ideal homeport for Celestyal, the only cruise company using Greece to any extent for homeporting. ‘We have been trying for eight years to use Lavrion, but have encountered Greek bureaucracy. The port can accept ships of 220mtr long, which suits Celestyal, it has open spaces and is close to the airport, and its a very nice drive from the airport or to Athens.’
He said the company wants to invest in Lavrion, noting the existing passenger terminal has never been used, and ‘of course the investment not only boosts the region but remains there.’
Celestyal used the recent Posidonia Sea Tourism event to meet and discuss the sector with Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism minister, George Stathakis, Alternate Shipping minister, Thedoris Dritsas, and alternate Tourism minister, Elena Kountoura.
‘We are hoping for more discussions in the come month,’ said Anastassiadis, an executive member of CLIA Europe.
Not so long ago the Greek flag flew from the stern of the company's ships, but not any more. Still the four ships operating in the Eastern Mediterranean employ 260 Greek seafarers, some 25% of total crew, which, as George Koumpenas, operations manager pointed out, ‘is equivalent to 52 bulk carriers.’
Once again he blamed Greek bureaucracy for this. ‘Bureaucracy has to be steam-lined, for example where Greece requires separate documentation for services like, food, entertainment, casino, crew, health etc, competing flags, like Malta, want just one.’
Koumpenas also raised the issue of berthing, pointing out Greek island ports are not only unable to accept large ships, they have problems accepting large numbers of visitors.
Celestyal has taken it upon itself to help the islands by donating much need hardware and promoting island products onboard its ships.
'Enjoy the Greek experience' is a theme running through the 3-, 4- and 7-day cruises operated by Celestyal's four vessels on these itineraries.
Marketing manager, Salomi Pnevmatikou said there are 80 theme cruises during the year, but the focus is on the destinations, not the ship.
In 2014 the company conducted some 10,000 shore excursions.
The company is also looking to introduce a winter programme, which sales manager, Pythagoras Nagos said would take in Crete, Cyprus and the lower Mediterranean.