Abrupt end to cruise tourism in God's own country

Abrupt end to cruise tourism in God's own country

The cruise ship M V Aquamarine

The Greece-based Louis Cruise which owns the ship has ascribed the abrupt withdrawal to a number of reasons, including high port taxes, insufficient embarkation facilities and failure to promote Kochi as a cruise hub. The 38-year-old ship had been operating three weekly cruises, one each to Colombo and the Maldives as well as the popular day-night high seas tour on Saturdays. Modelled on European lifestyle, the ship was a complete destination into itself with restaurants, entertainment lounge, bars and disco, children’s club, casino, spa, beauty salon, fitness centre, basketball - volley courts and even a cricket pitch. The tariff was also reasonable with a family of four able to go on a 16-hour high seas voyage for a little over Rs 10,000 which included cost of food and accommodation.

According to Louis Cruises India managing director Oneil Khosa, the Colombo port levied berthing charges of only $4,000 a day whereas Kochi Port charged $25,000. The Cochin Port Trust clarified that it had been providing a discount of 33.33 percent on charges approved by Tariff Authority for Major Ports. “After providing these discounts, the maximum charges levied from the vessel is $ 12,700 only per voyage, out of which the largest component is based on actual expenditure,’’ said Jijo Thomas, a spokesman for the Cochin Port Trust.

 Industry watchers point out that the ship which had a carrying capacity of 1,250 passengers, who can be accommodated in 525 cabins, could not meet its target. The company announced the cruise in a huff hardly two months before it began cruising from Kochi and advertisements were scant. Yet, more than half of the 12,700 tourists who travelled in the Aquamarine in just over a month were tourists from other states.

 The Great India Tours Company, one of the two sales agents of Louis Cruise, said  the Kochi port which showed an initial enthusiasm for the new product handled the cruise as if it was a cargo ship. Jojo John Paramby, GM-operations of Louis Cruises India, said the product demand was big and there was a “huge market” in India waiting to be tapped. The company wanted to resume operations next season if things improved.

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