The founder of easyJet wants to apply the pay-as-you-go concept of
his no-frills airline to cruising.
Stelios Haji-Ioannou, a Cypriot shipping and discount retail
entrepreneur, is laying the groundwork for easyCruise, a hop-on,
hop-off operation with nightly rates as low as £29 pounds (about
As easyJet charges about £1.50 for a cup of tea or 50 pence for
a bag of crisps, easyCruise would charge extra for everything from
clean sheets to a chicken sandwich to a bar of soap.
The goal is to offer a travel product as cheaply as
“This is the unbundling of the package of the cruise industry,”
said James Rothnie, director of corporate affairs for London-based
easyGroup, which owns the easyJet and easyCruise brands.
On a typical cruise, “Every whim is catered to, so cruising
tends to be the domain of wealthier and older clientele with time
on their hands. By unbundling, we hope to expand that market, using
price as the incentive,” he said.
On easyCruise, passengers would sleep on a “Japanese-style
mattress” on the floor of a 90-square-foot, fiberglass cubicle, he
said. There would be a private shower and toilet, but no couch or
“The sitting area will be on the mattress,” Rothnie said.
Passengers will have to pay for the comforts normally taken for
granted on cruise ships.
“We do intend to sell sheets and toiletries to people, as they
board, as commodity items,” Rothnie said. “If they want us to come
in and remove the sheets and clean up, there’ll be an extra
As you might expect for such a cut-rate operation, bookings will
be taken almost exclusively through the Internet direct from
“Absolutely, the Internet distribution is the cornerstone of
easyGroup. This is a low-cost company; we can’t afford to be paying
middlemen,” Rothnie said. “This is another nail in the coffin of
Under the tentative plans, easyCruise would start operations as
early as summer 2004, offering a regular itinerary in the Western
Mediterranean. While some reports said that an easyCruise ship
would stop at eight ports in Spain, France and Italy, Rothnie said
no itinerary had been set yet.
Passengers would be allowed to hop on and off at whichever ports
they choose, depending on berth availability.
EasyCruise plans to lease a ship in the beginning, Rothnie said,
but hasn’t found one yet.
“We want to move away from a floating city image with thousands
of passengers,” Rothnie said. “We want something with hundreds of
passengers, rather than thousands.”
The staff-to-passenger ratio will be reduced from the typical
2-to-1 to something like eight crew members per passenger.
The target market sounds like backpackers doing the
post-college-summer Grand European Tour on a budget, with a
Eurailpass in hand.
“That is part of it, but also young families who spend a lot of
time in the Med,” Rothnie said. “They typically stay in hotels, but
now they might go on a cruise a couple of nights, as well as stay
in a hotel. There are a lot of people who want to go on a cruise
and only eat one meal a day. Not everyone wants to wear ball gowns
or tuxes every night. Some just want to go on a nice, gentle boat
Haji-Ioannou is also applying his low-budget concept to hotels,
and is planning to open easyDorm in central London, early next
year. The nightly rate: £5, or about $8 and change.