In 1935, the first travelagency at the Mediterranean island of Cyprus was started up at Limassol under the name Louis plc. At first, the company, that had been started up by a man named Louis Louizou, concentrated on bringing the international travelmarkets to the Eastern Mediterranean, of course Cyprus being the main focus. From the 1970's onwards, Louis started to charter ferries for short cruises out of Cyprus and this became that successfull that the company bought their first ship in 1987. This time, it again was a former ferry from the Finnish Birka Line, that had sailed under the name Prinsessan. Originally, the ship had been built for Finnlines in 1964 as their Finnhansa. The ship was rebuilt and renamed, but still with a link to her former name. She now became Princesa Marissa and started cruises from Cyprus to Israel, the Greek islands and Egypt. For her, Louis opened up a seperate brand within the company under the name Louis Cruise Lines, homeported in Limassol. The ship measured a little less then 10.000 tons and had room aboard for 875 passengers.
In 1988, Louis bought their second ship Princesa Cypria, originally the Prinsesse Margrete from DFDS, built in 1968. In the early 1990's the fleet expanded with several more vintage cruiseliners. The Princesa names ended with Princesa Oceanica in 1995, that was renamed one year later to Sapphire when she was chartered out to Thomson Holidays and broke the early tradition. Originally, she had been Sunsarda's Italia, built in 1967. One year later, Louis also chartered the newly aquired The Emerald to Thomson Holidays, leading to a partnership that lasts untill now.
Especially at the end of the 1990's, Louis Cruise Lines had become a large company, owning at least eight ships. In 1999, they also bought a stake in Royal Olympic Cruises, the company that originated from the well-known Greek firms Epirotiki Lines and Sun Line after their merger in 1996. Louis did sell their part in this line before it collapsed in 2004.
In the beginning of the new millennium, Louis started to modernize their aging fleet, also with the new SOLAS regulations of 2010 in their minds. They aquired several more modern ships, including two from the remains of Royal Olympia (the new name for Royal Olympic). Also, two ships from Holland America Line, Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam from the mid 1980's were chartered out to Thomson Cruises for updating their fleet. Several vintage ships were sold to the breakers. The former Royal Olympia ships were used to start up a new brand, Louis Hellenic Cruises, especially for Greek islands cruises. Within this, a gap was left after the end of Royal Olympia, that had been the largest provider of Greek cruises before. Under the banner of Louis Hellenic, that was based in Greece instead of Greek Cyprus, it was possible to also call at Turkish ports. Of course the Cypriotic based ships were unable to call here because of the problems that still divide the Greeks and Turks about Cyprus.
The double-winged funnel was an early Norwegian Caribbean Lines trademark and as such, it is still a recognizable feauture of the Louis Aura.
In 2006, Louis aquired Orient Queen and Sea Diamond, the latter being named their flagship. She was the largest ship in the fleet of Louis and also one of the most modern. She had been built as Birka Princess in 1984 for the Finnish Birka Line as a cruise ferry. Orient Queen had been the former Starward from Norwegian Cruise Lines, the first true cruiseliner sailing cruises in the Caribbean from the end of the 1960's onwards. In the same year, Louis started a franchise agreement with EasyCruise, to operate the ship of this line in the Eastern Mediterranean and to try and have a class of eight ships built for this budget cruiseline. From this agreement finally came nothing.
On the 5th of april 2007, Louis' new aquired flagship Sea Diamond hit a well documented reef at the caldera of Santorini and listed heavily. Her 1195 passengers were firstly reported to be all safe, but sadly this had to be adjusted when it was found that two French passengers, a father and his sixteen year old daughter, were still missing. They were never found and the ship sank within the caldera one day later due to the amount of water she had taken in. It was a devastating blow for Louis, losing their flagship and two passengers.
Louis ended their Louis Hellenic brand in 2008 and started again to modernize their fleet. In just a few years time, Princessa Marisa, The Emerald, Sapphire, The Calypso and Coral had been scrapped. Meanwhile, Thomson Spirit, one of the former Holland America Liners had been bought as well as Thomson Destiny, the former Song Of America of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line that had been under charter to Thomson Cruises for a few years. In 2009, the company restyled itself as Louis Cruises and was reduced to a five ship fleet in 2010. Two years later, the Louis Majesty, also formerly of Norwegian Cruise Line, swapped places with Thomson Destiny, the last one being placed in the Louis Cruises fleet as Louis Olympia.
In 2014, the fleet of Louis Cruises was three ships. Next to the Louis Olympia there is the Louis Crystal, originally built in 1980 as Viking Saga and the Louis Aura, the former Starward. Next to those, Thomson Spirit, Thomson Celebration and Thomson Majesty are chartered to Thomson Cruises. The first two being the former Holland America liners. A new livery has been applied to the Louis Cruises ships since 2014. In october of this same year, Louis announced the opening of a new brand, Celestyal Cruises, aiming for the Greek market. Within this new company, Louis Crystal and Louis Olympia were placed and re-named Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia. Thus, they left Louis Aura alone under their own name and because of the age of this ship, 46 years, it seemed that the Louis Cruises name was going to dissappear. Within Celestyal Cruises, in november 2014 it was announced that a former Royal Olympia Cruises ship, the Explorer, was joining the company for service from 2015 onwards. On a three-year charter basis, this ship was be re-named Celestyal Odyssey. Just one year later, the ship was sold to Bohai Ferry Company as their second ship, next to her former sister for service in Asian waters. As a replacement, Celestyal Cruises aquired the Gemini, renaming her Celestyal Nefeli for service from 2016 onwards. Meanwhile, the Louis Cruises name was indeed abandonned, as Louis Aura was chartered out to other parties.
Ships that have sailed for Louis Cruise Lines or one of its connected companies that are placed elsewhere on the site are listed below
The Emerald (1997-2012) is placed under Thomson Cruises, used for both companies
Coral (2004-2013) is placed under Cunard Line as Triton
Aquamarine (2005-2006 en 2008-2010) is placed under Royal Caribbean as Arielle
Oceanic II (2007-charter) is placed as Mona Lisa under Princess Cruises
Ruby (2007-charter) is placed as Ocean Countess under Cunard Line
The Calypso (2007-2012) is placed under Thomson Cruises
Thomson Holidays ships:
Thomson Celebration (2001-now) is placed under Thomson Cruises
Thomson Spirit (2003-now) is placed under Thomson Cruises
For booking information, visit the website of Celestyal Cruises