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EasyCruise sets sail

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March issue, Budget Travel magazine - This spring marks the first voyage of EasyCruise, the new cruise line by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the “serial entrepreneur” who started European low-fare airline EasyJet (and 14 other EasyCompanies, including EasyPizza and EasyCinema). Simply put, Stelios—the industry knows him by his first name—wants to reinvent the cruise business.

Originally built for the defunct Renaissance cruise line, the ship will be hop-on/hop-off, with its 86 cabins booked in two-night blocks, not for particular voyages. The atmosphere is very bare bones, with none of the razzle-dazzle that has become the norm. The cabins have the same feel as at the upcoming EasyHotel in London—they’re an efficient 90 square feet, with a double bed, shower area, sink, and lavatory. There’s housekeeping service, but only if you’re willing to pay a surcharge. Conspicuously missing are the extras found on traditional ships—casinos, rock-climbing walls, floor shows—although there will be a pay-by-the-meal café, sports bar, and tapas bar.

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Instead of emphasizing the shipboard experience, Stelios is making the ports the main attraction. It’s part of his strategy to attract a younger demographic—commitmentphobes in their 20s and 30s who might be leery of a weeklong cruise. Sailing will happen in the early morning for six hours or less, so that the passengers can go on land, have a night of fun, then sleep it off in their cabins.

Over lunch recently, I told Stelios it sounded like a party boat, and that I hoped the walls were thick. If not, maybe EasyCruise should give earplugs as a turndown service instead of mints. He laughed. “They could be orange!” he said. (As the photos show, orange is the trademark EasyColor.)

Nightly rates begin at $55 per person; the earlier you book, the lower the rate. The ship is on its way to the Mediterranean from Singapore, where it was refitted, and will arrive in late April to spend the summer bopping around such chic destinations as Nice, Saint-Tropez, and Monte Carlo. For info, see easycruise.com.

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I have to really think about EasyCruises. The purpose of my taking cruises is so I don't have to worry about finding someplace to eat, having my cabin cleaned and made up everyday, free chocolates on the pillow, waiter service, entertainment, options for wonderful land itineraries, 24 hour room service, lounges, gambling, 24 hour pizza and icecream, and the option to relax and have the whole ship to myself on shore days. I like having all of that for one fare and not having to travel ashore to search for it.

I guess the concept is great for some folks, but I'm having difficulty understanding the attraction.

Help me understand.

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Gee, it sounds, to me, like another "cheap cruise" you can take. The one I'm talking about is a short cruise that leaves from New York's Battery Park on a regular schedule.

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It seems to offer the same amenities as EasyCruise, but it's even less expensive. In fact, it's FREE!

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