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Go on a cruise

Once you’ve cruised you never want to stop!” Americans, Europeans and the Japanese swear by it. Closer home, a small but growing band of Indian tourists have turned believers as sea cruises are catching up fast. Upwardly mobile Indians have begun to discover newer routes to exotic holidays.

"There has been a sharp increase in cruising as a holiday option among Indians,” says Frederick Divecha, senior vice-president, SOTC, affiliated to Kuoni India, a leading travel agency.

"When cruises first came to India, the Indian market was not aware of such a product, though there was a niche well-heeled traveller who had travelled on the QE-2”.

In 1999, when Star Cruises entered India, they had 10,800 customers in the first year, which rose to 20,000 in 2000-01. After 9/11, tourist traffic tumbled but has since started rising again. The cruise business is targeting 25,000 tourists this fiscal.

Divecha says the figures indicate that Indians have come to recognise value for money in cruises. They also enjoy the convenience and comfort that such a travel variation offers.

The number of Indian customers opting for cruises therefore is increasing not only for the 2 nights/3 days itineraries but also for the 5 night/6 days trips. Cruises arrange for non-stop entertainment with theatres showing the latest movies, plays and theme restaurants, shopping plazas, sauna, spas and game shows.

Estimates suggest that in three years, 30,000 passengers from India will go on a cruise every year. “India is likely to become the second largest market for cruises after Australia,” predicts Divecha. Earlier elderly couples went for holiday cruises, but a new tribe of tourists, including honeymooners, have emerged.

Indians normally prefer cruises from the Far East, but Star Cruises also has cruises from North American ports to Hawaii, Caribbean islands and even to ice-laden Alaska. Cruises cover practically all parts of the world — Australia, Far East, USA.

General trends: Depending on the main hub, long duration (6 months — 1 year) cruises cover various ports of call and thus cover various continents, short duration cruises travel the high seas within the country. One can visit destinations while on tour.

Age group: Long duration cruises attract couples and senior individuals while short duration cruises appeal to families.

Duration: Two nights to six months /one year

Discounts: Depending on the season (peak travelling season of summer and winter), cruise companies offer discounts.

Facilities: World class entertainment and hospitality.

Mode of payment: US dollars accepted. However, Star Cruises in India has begun accepting Indian rupees.

Contact numbers: Norwegian Cruise Liner: www.ncl.com (022) 22815591-2/22826503; Festival Cruises: (022) 22050426 (022) 22085601; Princess: 3738927-8; Cunard: (011) 26511287 [email protected]; Carnival:www.carnival.com; Royal Caribbean Cruises: www.rccl.com www.rccl.com

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