Time to cruise off

Tickets...check. Backpacks...check. “This is all is needed,” says Mala Raman, a travel enthusiast who took a cruise to Penang in Malaysia with her husband in May, 2015. Similarly, Shyam Uttamsingh, a retired naval officer has taken more than 15 cruise trips to various countries over the last 17 years.

From his first summer cruise in Alaska (1999) to his last year’s trip in New Zealand, he says cruise liners offer hassle-free travel. “The effort required to go on a land trip is much more. One has to take care of not just tickets but places to stay, visit, pack bags again and again and of course, last-minute delays. But cruising offers comfort, convenience, luxury, best of both worlds (land and sea) without having to worry about minute details,” the 73-year-old tells Metrolife.

New experiences, comfortable stay, amenities, convenience of arrangements including plentiful entertainment options, reasonable package deals and word of mouth publicity are some of the reasons, say experts, why Indians are opening up to cruising in a big way. “The Indian market has been exposed to cruising for about 20 years now and has gained tremendous popularity in the last couple of years in particular. Now that our ships are also deployed in Asia, primarily in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and China, the demand and popularity for cruise vacations is growing by leaps and bounds,” says Varun Chadha, chief operating
officer of TIRUN Travel Marketing which recently started sailings for Voyager
of the Seas cruise (sailing for three-four nights) from Singapore.

He feels that Indians are not limiting themselves to beaches and hill stations as vacations hauls anymore.

“Indian travellers are extremely modern and experimental. They are seeking experiences that are novel and exciting. A steady diet of television shows and Bollywood movies shot in exotic locales, corporate travel and the Internet has led to a drastic change in the way people travel today,” he says.

From ice skating to sunbathing or simply unwinding by overlooking the sea, cruising offers many entertainment options. “Besides offering a relaxing stay, there are so many activities one can look forward to. For instance, attend yoga sessions, go clubbing, or simply unwind by reading while overlooking the sea,” says Raman.

But is the rise in interest related to people’s rising standard of living? “The earlier perception that cruise holidays are expensive and meant for only a few is changing rapidly. Cruise holidays are finding more takers with a remarkable growth rate of 25-30 per cent annually,” says Sanchit Garg, co-founder and director, TravelTriangle, a marketplace for travel operators.

Agreeing, Chadha tells Metrolife, “There are cruise vacations to suit every budget. However, one must keep in mind that the cost of a cruise vacation covers cruise transportation, accommodation, most meals, activities and entertainment. Specific costs vary, depending on the destination, ship, duration and stateroom type you choose.”

According to Chadha, 50 per cent of holiday travel in India occurs in April, May and June each year. Garg further adds that the most popular routes among Indian cruise travellers, especially among first-time cruisers and travellers with lower budgets or limited time, still remains short haul destinations like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau. But, Mediterranean cruise lines are also fast gaining popularity because of the exotic countries they cover, he says.

Yet, Chadha says that as of now, only a small section of the community understands or are aware of cruising as a holiday concept. “As more and more vacationers experience cruise holidays, the itineraries garner greater popularity because of word of mouth, and that is only going to increase the cruisers,” he says.

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