Indians are hopping on to luxury cruise liners, leaving slowdown blues behind

Watching the setting sun against an amber sky, sipping on a glass of wine while the sea breeze ruffles your hair. This picturesque scene from the sun deck of a cruise liner describes the newest fancy of the aspirational Indian.

Even as the broader economic environment remains soft, passenger growth for cruises has grown about 50 percent over the past year, and is expected to grow at roughly the same clip next.

This has prompted several global cruise line operators to look at India as a high-growth market.

“Since we started business in India, the number of guests we have seen has doubled,” says Felix Chan, Vice President & General Manager, Norwegian Cruise Line, Asia.
NCL, which operates 17 cruise liners across the globe, has been in business for 52 years and came to India four years back.

There are several reasons why rich Indians have decided on cruises as the next destination on their travel bucket list.

“Cruise packages allow people to visit multiple destinations. There is a rise in cruise tourism as people want to experience the joys of different destinations in one holiday while enjoying the breath-taking views that only cruise voyages can offer,” says Daniel D’souza, President and Country Head, Leisure, SOTC Travel.

Besides, India has seen the advent of luxury liners that touch down on Indian ports. For instances, Jalesh Cruises offers a cruise service between Mumbai, Goa and Diu. The Mumbai-Goa sector also saw the launch of another cruise ship, Angriya, last year.

Experts say that cruise travel within India offers significant opportunity for growth.

“With a beautiful coastline, India provides an excellent opportunity for the cruise business. It is heartening that the government is taking steps to develop the same with both river-based and open sea-based cruises,” says Sabina Chopra, Co-Founder and COO, Corporate Travel & Head Industry Relations,

“Developing river and sea-based cruises in various parts of the country could drive both domestic travellers as well as inbound travelers from the Asia-Pacific region,” Chopra adds.

And it’s not just leisure travellers.

“The MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) space takes up a significant amount of business in India. Over the past four years we have seen corporates doing celebrations, award events, conferences on our ships,” says Chan from Norwegian Cruise Line.

Some cruise lines offer total wellness in the form of restorative spa experiences, onboard oxygen bars, healthy menu choices for a wide variety of diets, and the latest in fitness innovations, says D’Souza of SOTC Travel.

Others, such as NCL, have ships that double up to become what can only be described as a floating adventure resort, complete with an aqua park, go-karting and race-track options.

So where do Indians like to travel?

Chan points out that Europe is particularly popular with Indian guests. “Next is Alaska. The third popular destination is the Caribbean,” he says.

What’s best is that in many cases, cruise travel may not necessarily break the bank.

Itineraries starting from seven to 10 days to Alaska or Caribbean will cost you USD 100 (approximately Rs seven thousand) per guest per night for a small cabin and the highest cabin category costs USD 500 (approximately Rs 35,000) per night per guest.

Homegrown players like Jalesh offer package-style deals ranging from Rs 13,360 for two nights and three days and Rs 27,360 for four nights and five days.