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Cruise Guide: No-frills easyCruise gaining in popularity

By Mike Coleman

It was only a matter of time before a no-frills cruise line arrived on the global scene, but the staying power of upstart easyCruise has surprised even the most ardent skeptics.

Launched in 2005, easyCruise itineraries were designed to open the world’s chic, off-the-beaten-path destinations to the budget-conscious traveler. Discounted fares and unrivaled early morning departures have since become hallmarks of the easyCruise experience.

“Since easyCruise launched two years ago, we have offered an affordable way to see intriguing places that are difficult to reach, except by sea,” said Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, chairman of the Greek-based company. “It is clear that staying in port until the early morning hours has broad appeal, because many travelers also want to experience the local nightlife.”

A typical fare includes a cabin and port charges. Onboard meals, drinks, spa treatments, shore excursions and even housekeeping services are extra, as is the cost of getting to and from the ship.

The concept has worked so well, in fact, that the line will triple its capacity in 2008, with the addition of a 540-passenger vessel, easyCruise Life, in April.

The ship will offer a seven-night itinerary that visits Turkey, calling at Bodrum, one of the country’s most popular resorts. The line will also showcase six different Greek Islands: Syros, Samos, Kalymnos, Kos, Paros and Mykonos, a jet-set mecca. Passengers can choose to join the cruise in Piraeus (Athens) on Saturdays or in Bodrum on Mondays.

Seven-night cruise fares start from $143 per person, based on double occupancy. Cabins are equipped with a private bathroom and shower, fresh linens and towels upon arrival.

Look also for an onboard spa, innovative fusionOn6 (a combination restaurant/discotheque), broad teak sundecks, a large outdoor swimming pool and hot tub.

Guests can also choose from a range of accommodations, among them: 23 panoramic suites, 14 superior doubles, all of which feature picture windows; 76 oceanview standard twin cabins, 45 oceanview standard quad cabins and 112 interior standard twins.

The 12,711-ton easyCruise Life is three times the size of her yacht-like sister-ship, the 232-passenger easyCruise One (4,011 tons).

This fall and next spring look for easyCruise One to be deployed on a seven-night, classical Greek itinerary, showcasing Mycenae, Nemea, Olympia and Delphi. Passengers will be able to experience the Acropolis by night and witness a Sounion sunset.

Next summer, the ship will again offer long-weekend cruises to Poros, Mykonos, Paros and Sifnos. A new 10-night itinerary will transit the Corinth Canal to the islands of the Ionian Sea, including Ithaki, Paxos, Corfu, Kefallonia, Zakynothos, Itea (for Delphi), Corinth, Preveza and Agioi Saranta, Albania, which serves as a gateway to Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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