Kochi, Dec.1 (ANI): Indian travellers will soon be able to enjoy the joys of international class cruising on the Indian Ocean onboard MV Aquamarine, the first international cruise ship to homeport in the country.
The luxury liner was officially launched at a ceremony to celebrate its inaugural sailing by Union Minister for Tourism Kumari Selja in Kochi on Tuesday.
MV Aquamarine is the first cruise liner to offer cruises targeted at the Indian tourism market.
Speaking at this occasion, Minister for Tourism Kumari Selja said that there was tremendous scope for cruise tourism in the country, given India's strong domestic tourism sector and growing middle class and of course, the country's 7,517 kilometre long coastline.
Also present on this occasion was Director of Kerala Tourism, M Sivasankar, who said that exotic voyages from Kochi, is a unique product for the Indian market, which is craving for new and exciting experiences.
Sivasankar added that the new development would further boost Kochi's position as a cruise hub and destination in the area.
MV Aquamarine has a capacity to carry 1,200 passengers and will offer itineraries on the Kochi-Maldives-Kochi and the Kochi-Colombo-Kochi routes, in addition to a one-night high sea-sailing itinerary.
Oneil Khosa, Managing Director of Louis Cruises India, while speaking at the ceremony underlined the fact that the 2 night and 3days itineraries to Maldives and Sri Lanka are considered to be ideal as Indian, are not inclined towards long sailing. Packages start from Rs 5,000 per person per day for a three-night tour package.
Addressing the officials and travel executives on this occasion, Louis Loizou, Louis Group Executive Director and Deputy CEO of Louis Cruises, expressed the company's satisfaction for adding Kochi to the list of homeports-the first non-European base for Louis' twelve-strong fleet.
He thanked the Indian authorities for their warm welcome and noted the endless potential of the Indian tourism market and the Group's strong belief that cruising will be embraced by Indians and visitors alike.
MV Aquamarine will homeport in Kochi from 2nd December 2009 to 25th April 2010 and will operate cruise itineraries 3 times a week from Kochi.
Around 60,000 Indian tourists are expected to cruise on MV Aquamarine this season. The vessel will make her debut voyage tomorrow, from Kochi to the Maldives.
Kerala Tourism has tied up with the company to market and promote cruise tourism from Kochi.
Besides 525 spacious state rooms and suites, which are all above sea level, passengers will also get to enjoy her world class facilities including several restaurants, a swimming pool, fitness center, massage/sauna facilities, a casino and duty free shopping.
The vessel has also been modified to include a cricket pitch - giving Indian travellers a new experience of playing cricket on the high seas. Food and entertainment on board will also take in Indian taste and has been modified to include both Indian and European themes.
The 7 deck ship spans 531 ft in length, 83 ft in breadth and has 4 elevators. With a gross tonnage of 25,611, it will cruise the Indian Ocean at 17 knots.
MV Aquamarine is owned by Louis Cruises India, a subsidiary of Louis Cruises - the 5th largest cruise operator in the world. (ANI)