The service is scheduled to begin from Mumbai on September 14, in keeping with the onset of the tourist season in the country.

Even as most international cruise vessels have preferred to skip Indian ports for the second year in succession, due to uncertainty of the pandemic situation in the country, domestic players in the sector are banking hopes on a weekly cruise service planned in the Mumbai-Lakshadweep corridor, through the high seas with a halt in Kochi.

A prominent loser due to cruise ships skipping Indian ports since mid-2020 was the port of Kochi—where over 50 such vessels brought in over 1 lakh high-end tourists annually and whose brand-new international cruise terminal commissioned earlier this year remained under-utilised.

“The recent announcement by Mumbai-based Corderlia Cruises of an itinerary being readied for a weekly cruise service in the corridor has brought in cheer among stakeholders. This is expected to cater to travel-hungry people who were confined to their houses and cities following the pandemic,” sources in Kerala Tourism said.

The eager stakeholders include Cochin Port Trust, which has been wooing cruise liners for the past few years with rock-bottom berthing charges, apart from other players like autorickshaw and taxi drivers, handicraft/antique sellers and those in tourism hubs like Mattancherry, Fort Kochi, Alappuzha, Munnar and Thekkady.

The Chairperson of Cochin Port Trust, M. Beena said the new cruise terminal is ready to host any vessel that is keen to call at Kochi. “A new Covid protocol for the cruise-tourism sector, readied by a committee headed by the Chairman of Mumbai Port, is awaiting approval of the Union Shipping Ministry. It details aspects like vaccination and related aspects. State-specific guidelines can be readied on the basis of this,” she said.

The impending weekly cruise service of the vessel, having over 800 rooms and capacity of up to 1800 tourists, is scheduled to begin from Mumbai on September 14, in keeping with the onset of the tourist season in the country. After a sojourn through the high seas and halts at Daman, Diu and Goa, the vessel would arrive in Kochi on September 22. The weekly itinerary up to March has been announced, said Riyas U C, MD of Spiceland Holidays, general sales agent of the cruise.

There is sound response from North Indian travellers, while that from within Kerala is picking up. The all-inclusive base tariff is in the range of ₹15,000 per head for a three-days, two-nights package, to ₹24,000 for a four-days, three-nights tour connecting Lakshadweep (wherein the guests would be able to have a day tour of Kadmat Island). Travel for children will be free of cost. Other tour modules are available too, Mr. Riyas said.

The pandemic precautions include frequently sanitising the entire vessel, regular inspection of air filters and cooling coils, daily temperature checks and an on board medical centre.

“The vessel which belonged to Royal Caribbean Cruises, has Mumbai as her home port. There is every probability that a second vessel that Cordelia intends to roll out could chose Kochi has her home port, if assured of patronage. Unlike the first vessel that would sail directly to Mumbai from Lakshadweep, the second vessel could thus return to Kochi where it would be berthed,” added Mr. Riyas.

Source : The Hindu