Uncertainty and a quiet capital on Louis Cruises trip to Greece
By Nadine Godwin
ABOARD THE LOUIS CRISTAL — Greece
experienced a hefty increase in international arrivals last year, despite news about rioting by Greeks angry over austerity measures
that were being forced upon the country to
deal with its economic crisis.
Given that the increase was counterin-tuitive, it seemed like a good idea to join a
press trip to Greece aboard Louis Cruises’
ship Louis Cristal, calling at Greek and
Kyriakos Anastassiadis, the line’s CEO,
said Greece saw record arrivals in 2011, up
about 11% over 2010, although the num-
bers for Athens, site of the majority of po-
litical unrest, were down “significantly.”
Late last year, the World Tourism Orga-
nization said Greek tourism was benefiting
from a shift away from the Middle East,
where the Arab Spring has left travelers
with the perception that the whole region
is rife with violence and unrest.
However, 2012 is a question mark for
Greece, too, because of fiery riots in Athens
and protests outside the capital, including on
some islands. Anastassiadis estimated the resulting drop in arrivals could be as much as
25%, with Athens again taking the worst hit.
I nevertheless arrived to find a quiet
Greek capital. A short pre-cruise visit provided time to see the impressive Acropolis
Museum, which opened in 2009.
Our group also had dinner in the Plaka
Above, outdoor cafes attract Greek and foreign customers, but Greeks are
less likely to be seen in the cafes during the country’s economic crisis.
Right, the Acropolis as seen from the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
district. Louis Cruises’ communications
chief, Michael Maratheftis, said he had
expected to see more people in the restau-
rants, but during this crisis, “Greeks are
staying home more.”
I asked our guide, Natasha Koliakou,
about the buildings that were burned in
February’s riots. She said they are “on the
other side, by the university.”
We saw none of that, but we did see a
curious low-key demonstration in Consti-
tution (Syntagma) Square. Demonstrators
want to prevent the sale of the city’s old El-
liniko Airport to developers.
In February, there was damage to the
marble in Constitution Square. I walked
over to look, but many buildings on the
square, including the Parliament Building,
looked so weary, I couldn’t identify new
damage. The three hotels that line one side
of the square looked just fine.
Sailing on the Cristal
Cruisers included a group of 80 Americans: two church groups led by their pastors
and accompanied by their mutual tour operator, Sara Chay, owner of Jerusalem Tours
International in Columbus, Ohio.
After the February riots, the groups
paused in their planning to gain assurances
that their tour program could operate safe-
ly. Chay told them that each news event is
“a moment in a specific place. … The local
operator assured us there were no issues,
and if issues [developed], we would avoid
the area, as we do in Israel.”
Istanbul was our first port, and most
cruisers toured the top sites under glorious
sunny skies. Five late-returning Greek pas-
sengers delayed our departure.