ABOARD THE LOUIS CRISTAL - My first day on the Louis Cristal and who should I meet? The charming executive chairman of the cruise company himself.
When I sat down for a cocktail and some hors d'oeuvres in the ship’s Horizons Bar, Costakis Loizou was there. He is the son of the man who in 1935 started the company that became Louis Group – Louis Loizou, known as the “Father of Cypress Tourism.” When Louis died in 1971, Costakis took over the business along with his brother Vakis. Today, Louis Group owns and operates 19 four-and-five-star hotels and five cruise ships.
“This is where cruising started,” he said. “We hope every year we will be adding new islands.”
With the smaller Louis cruise ships, he added, “We can go where the huge boats cannot go.”
The company prides itself on providing an authentic Greek cruise. As part of that goal, Louis Group is cruising to islands this year that it has never visited before. In response to passengers’ request, the Cristal also is serving Greek cuisine on the Greek cruises instead of the customary international cuisine. I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve already tasted some of the ship’s delicious food and know it is far superior to the Greek restaurants I have tried in the states.
“It is a different experience,” Loizou said of our cruise. “It is a combination of modern Greece and the traditional old Greece.”
Although Greece has been having difficult economic problems, Loizou said the country is recovering. “We would like to show the world that we have been through a very difficult time but we will be fine,” he said. “I think we have everything that somebody should wish to have … We will be back. We are already coming back.”
Then Loizou said the very words that describe exactly why I think this cruise will be a most memorable one for me. “The things you have heard about and read about, you are going to see.”
TOURING THE SHIP
With that, I am ready to take you on a short tour of the Louis Cristal. With 10 decks, the ship is easy to maneuver. I’ve already figured out that I don’t have to allow more than five minutes to get from my cabin on Deck 7 to the meeting point for shore excursions or for dining. The ship does have speedy elevators that are seldom crowded but I don’t think they will be necessary for me. I need to use the stairs to help burn off all that delicious Greek food I plan to enjoy.
The ship décor is simple and elegant. It is not flashy at all, more like a sleek yacht that has been tastefully decorated by a wealthy friend. The pool is small compared to big cruise ships but it is not crowded, nor is the hot tub. The spa has a sauna and steam room which can be used without charge, as can the exercise room.
The Sana Health Spa offers all the usual facial treatments, massages, body therapies, hand and foot care and beauty treatments. Don’t know when I’ll have time but I could use the Anti-Jetlag Facial. To board the Cristal in Athens, I flew for one hour and 16 minutes from Indianapolis to Detroit; then seven hours and 35 minutes from Detroit to Amsterdam; then three hours and 15 minutes from Amsterdam to Athens. Plenty of jetlag after all that.
The Balinese Massage also sounds intriguing. It uses a combination of gentle stretches, acupressure and aromatherapy oils to stimulate the flow of blood, oxygen and energies through the body. It costs 55 Euros for a 30-minute treatment and 96 Euros for an hour session.
Euros are the currency onboard the ship. However American dollars and credit cards also are accepted. The gaming currency in the Fiesta Casino is also in Euros but other than stepping in to see what it looks like, I know that I won’t be spending any time or money in the casino.
My cabin is roomy and comfortable and it is not even the top of the line. Unlike larger cruise ships, the Cristal has only a few balcony rooms. Mine is not one of them but mine does have a big window on the sea. And I’ve already learned that the point of a Cristal cruise is not to stay on the ship but to enjoy each destination. Heck, some days we are even visiting two islands in one day.
The daily program that appears on my pillow every night spotlights the day’s events. On our first day, for example, we can join in Lunch Time Melodies in the Helios Bar; make paper roses in an arts and crafts workshop; play the Price is Right; learn some Greek words; take a Greek dance lesson; try a Greek Mythology Quiz; play Name That Tune or Pictionary; try our luck at bingo; take a salsa dance lesson; play the Aperitif game; hear the Do Mezzo Chordettes sing “The Beautiful Songs of Celine Dion,” share our voices in karaoke; watch the big “Let’s Rock the Night” evening presentation in the theater or join in a late-night disco party.
Whew! All of that is in addition to visiting Mykonos when we arrive at 6 p.m. What a first day!
Stay tuned. I can already see that this is going to be an action-packed cruise and I will have much information to share. Hope you come along for the ride.
For more information: Contact Louis Cruises at www.louiscruises.com