Foreign cruise liners line up ‘Made for Indians’ packages

International cruise liners like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, MSC and Costa Cruises are eyeing the growing number of Indians looking for affordable cruise holidays and are docking at major ports such as Mumbai, Goa and Kochi with new, India specific itineraries.

The flurry of India specific trips, designed to introduce more Indians to cruises, are economical and shorter in duration, starting for as little as Rs 26,800 onwards for three nights compared to the ultra luxurious liners that traverse the Mediterranean and Aegean, and expect patrons to spend months at sea. Customers can also opt to pay in instalments for some packages instead of a hefty upfront amount.

Miami headquartered Celebrity Cruises is introducing India specific sailings in December: 6-8 nights itineraries to the UAE from Mumbai and Kochi for its recently revamped ship Celebrity Constellation. The company said the cruise trips, designed for Christmas and new year celebrations, including the fireworks show in Dubai on New Year’s eve, have been especially designed keeping Indian guests in mind to give them an opportunity to embark on a luxury cruise from their own country and sail through various ports in the UAE and in India.

The cruise package comes with all inclusive meals with a special Indian menu and standard beverages are part of the offering, besides other on board activities starting at $731 per guest.

Ratna Chadha, chief executive of Tirun Travel Marketing, the representatives for Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, said she hopes the itineraries will attract more first time cruise guests to get on board.

“Sailings such as these are a natural progression to better capture this burgeoning customer base. With the option of sailing to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Goa, Dubai and Sir Bani Yas right from a port in their own country, Indian guests are more likely to embrace the idea of a cruise holiday this winter,” she said.

Italian cruise line Costa Cruises has been running Mumbai to Maldives sailings for the past three years, and encouraged by the response, is considering exploring more routes in future.

“Everybody is testing the waters in India. We have our ships coming in from December until March and we do our sailings from Mumbai to Maldives. Over the last two years, the people who have sailed with us are the middle class. Cruising is now becoming affordable for the common man of India. It is not the reserve of the rich and famous and this was an eye opener for us also,” said Nalini Gupta, head of Costa Cruises in India.

Costa’s packages, that also cater to Indian vegetarian and Jain tastebuds, have been a hit with travellers as they take off from a Mumbai port, said tour operators. A Mumbai to Male seven nights Costa package costs Rs 40,000 onwards while a Kochi-Male three nights package costs Rs 26,800 onwards.

The ships traverse routes like Mangalore, Cochin, and Maldives and return via Colombo and Goa. MSC Cruises operates Dubai to India cruises and its other ships dock in Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, and Kochi for their other global cruises. Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings, said the development of infrastructure will encourage more international cruise liners to include Indian ports in their itinerary.

In May, Royal Caribbean will bring the Spectrum of the Seas to India, cited as the largest ship to ever touch base on Indian ports. Through a six-night Cochin to Singapore cruise package, Spectrum will offer activities like iflyer skydiving simulator and North Star – a glass capsule that takes guests more than 300 feet above the ocean for panoramic views.

“The only way to get Indians to sail is to get ships to sail out of India,” said Varun Chadha, COO, Tirun.

Romil Pant, senior VP, leisure travel at Thomas Cook said companies are taking Indians more seriously as they increasingly opt for liners touching the Indian coasts.

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