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Friday, August 25, 2006

Cruise Liner for Tuticorin

A peaceful retreat to exotic Indian tourist destinations in a cruise vessel is becoming a popular way of “chilling out” for international and domestic travellers.

There has been an increase of over 48 per cent in international cruise vessels which call at Indian ports. And a hike of 28 per cent in cruise liners which operate only within Indian ports, catering mostly to domestic tourists.

Mumbai Port, the home port for cruise tourism, has seen a substantial increase in international cruise liners, up from 21 to 31 calls. There were 127 calls for domestic cruises this year compared to 99 last year.

The government has created a string of ports for cruise calls, including the ports of Mumbai, Kochi, Tuticorin, Goa and New Mangalore. The cruise season is between October to May.

Indian waters will see the entry of cruise major Costa Cruises, which has ordered eight cruise ships, of its renowned Costa Marina. This is apart from Star Cruise Liner’s vessel “Super Star Libra” which will also ply to various destinations, starting from October.

This cruise season, Indian shores will also be host to bigger cruise vessels like Queen Elizabeth-2 of Cunard Lines, Amsterdam of Holland-America and Oriana of P&O Cruises. Queen Elizabeth is of 70,327 gross registered tonne (GRT) while Oriana is 69,153 GRT.

Realising that India is becoming a popular international destination, most cruise majors are calling at the country’s ports. The list includes Costa Cruises, Silversea Lines, Noble Caledonia, Phoenix Reisen, Compagnie Cruises, Japan Cruise Lines, Crystal Cruises, Holiday Kreuzfahrten and Saga Shipping.

Oceania Cruises, Hapag Lloyd and Princess Cruises, which were there in India last year, will continue to be here.

Meher Bhandara, general manager of Travel Corporation of India, which handles over 10 cruise vessels, said: “The Caribbean region, which was the prime cruise tourism spot, has stagnated. With addition of cruise vessels and constant look out for new areas, India is emerging as a hot favourite with tourists.”

Mumbai Port Senior Assistant Docks Manager Gautam Dey said the port alone had handled 66,681 domestic tourists and 24,400 international tourists for cruise shipping.

“This year we expect domestic travellers will cross one lakh and international tourists, over 35,000,” he said.

Earlier, a high power steering group under the chairmanship of the minister for shipping, with the Union minister of tourism and culture as co-chairperson, had been set up to formulate a cruise shipping policy with the objective of making India a major cruise tourism destination.

Source: Business Standard

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