Celestyal Cruises (formerly Louis Cruises and Louis Cruise Lines) is a Cyprus-based cruise line that operates cruises from Cyprus, France, Italy, India and Greece (the operations from Greece were previously marketed under the name Louis Hellenic Cruise Lines, but as of 2008 there is no mention of the brand on Louis' website). The company also charters several ships to Thomson Cruises. Although Celestial started operating short cruises out of Cyprus in the early 70s, Celestyal Cruises was officially established in 1986 as Louis Cruises when MV Princesa Marissa, its first owned cruise ship, was purchased. Celestyal Cruises is a subsidiary of Louis plc and member of Louis Group, the leading tourism group in the Eastern Mediterranean, founded in 1935 by the late Louis Loizou, acknowledged as the "father of Cyprus tourism".
Louis plc is a public listed company whose shares are quoted in the Cyprus Stock Exchange.
The Celestyal Cruises fleet consist mainly of older second- or third-hand ships. One of its past vessels, the The Emerald, was the last ocean liner built in the US to be in service. She was laid up in 2012 due to not being compatible with SOLAS 2010.
Louis Cruises is a subsidiary of the Cyprus-based travel and tourism group Louis plc, that was founded in 1935 as the first travel agency in Cyprus. During the 1970s the company began chartering ferries for short cruises Cyprus, which eventually led to the purchase of the cruiseferry MV Prinsessan from the Finland-based Birka Line for $4 million in 1987. Renamed MV Princesa Marissa, the ship started making cruises from Limassol to the Greek Isles, Egypt and Israel under the then newly established Louis Cruise Lines band. By 1994 the company had acquired three more ships, all of which were used in the short cruise market from Cyprus.
In the mid-1990s Louis Cruise Lines entered the business of chartering ships to other companies, chartering MV Princesa Oceanica (renamed Sapphire) to the UK-based Thomson Cruises in 1996. The following year the newly acquired The Emerald was also chartered to Thomson. In 1999 Louis chartered the 1998-acquired SS Ausonia to First Choice Holidays, one of Thomson's competitors in the UK market. By this time the Louis fleet consisted of a total of eight ships. In 1999 Louis also acquired a stake in the Greece-based Royal Olympic Cruises. Royal Olympic was already in difficulties by the time Louis became involved with the company, and the 11 September 2001 attacks dealt a further blow, finally leading to the collapse of Royal Olympic in 2004.
During the early 2000s Louis further modernised their fleet by acquiring Calypso in 2000, and chartering MV Nieuw Amsterdam from Holland America Line in 2003, immediately sub-chartering her to Thomson as MV Thomson Spirit. In 2004 Louis acquired MV Aquamarine from the fleet of the UK-based Sun Cruises (which had gone out of business). Another former Sun Cruises ship, MV Thomson Destiny, was chartered from a Norway-based investment company and sub-chartered to Thomson Cruises. The new acquisitions also made possible the sale of three of Louis' older vessels. Also in 2004, following the collapse of Royal Olympic Cruises, Louis Cruise Lines purchased two of their former ships at bargain prices and established their own Louis Hellenic Cruises brand for the Greek cruise market.
Further expansion came in 2006 with the purchase of MV Orient Queen and MV Sea Diamond, another former Baltic Sea cruise ferry purchased from Birka Line, while Calypso was chartered to Thomson and Aquamarine (renamed Arielle) to Transocean Tours. Additionally Louis entered a franchise agreement with easyCruise to operate ships in the Eastern Mediterranean on behalf of easyCruise in the future. Disaster struck in April 2007 when the Sea Diamond sunk off Santorini, Greece. All but two of the ship's passengers were safely evacuated, but the sinking resulted in a flurry of negative publicity for Louis. MV Oceanic II and MV Ruby were chartered as temporary replacements for the Sea Diamond, until MV Cristal – former Silja Line cruise ship MV Silja Opera – entered service in July 2007. In 2008 the Arielle was returned from her charter to Transocean Tours, reverted to her earlier name Aquamarine and entered service under the Louis Hellenic Cruises brand. By early 2008 the Louis Hellenic Cruises brand appeared to have been abandoned.
In April 2008 Louis Cruise Lines agreed to purchase MV Norwegian Dream and MV Norwegian Majesty from Star Cruises. The agreement at the time was to charter the ships back to Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Line until November 2008 and December 2009, respectively. However, in September 2008 Louis cancelled the purchase of the Norwegian Dream due to "technical issues relating to the vessel". In May 2008 Louis Cruise Lines purchased Thomson Destiny and Thomson Spirit that had previously been operated under charter. At the same time Princesa Marissa and Serenade were sold for scrap.
In 2009 the company changed its name to Louis Cruises.
In 2010 Louis Cruises became a five ship fleet due to having laying up the SS The Emerald & MS Sapphire due to the SOLAS 2010 and the selling of the MV Aquamarine in order to renew the fleet.
In 2012 the company signed a new charter agreement with Thomson Cruises and the MS Louis Majesty will switch over and be on charter until 2017. In return, the Thomson Destiny will return to the Louis fleet and will be renamed Louis Olympia. She will then be deployed on 3/4-day sailings out of Piraeus and Kusadasi to the Greek Islands and Turkey.
The MS Sapphire was sold for scrap in May 2012, and the SS The Emerald was sold for scrap in August 2012, along with "The Calypso" late 2012, all three ships were laid up for two years due to SOLAS 2010.
The "Coral" was scrapped in late 2013, and the "Louis Cristal" was charted to Cuba Cruises, but still operating under the Louis brand.
In early 2014, Louis Cruises announced a new livery. All Louis ships will receive a Louis Cruises logo on their white hall, along with a red and blue stripe next to it. The "Louis Olympia" was the first ship to receive the new livery in early February 2014.
In September 2014, Louis Cruises rebranded itself as Celestyal Cruises.In December 2010 Lloyds List named Louis Cruises the "Greek Passenger Line of the Year" at their annual Greek Shipping Awards Ceremony.