Three years after starting international cruise operations, Costa Cruises, is all set to flex its maritime muscle.
Headquartered in Italy, Costa Cruises operates the 48,200 tonne neoRiviera cruise ship from the Mumbai international cruise terminal to Cochin and Male.
Following growing demand from the domestic market, Costa will be replacing the neoRiviera with an even bigger ship - Costa Victoria - in the upcoming season, which will kick off in November.
Speaking to Moneycontrol, Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations, said: “We had 13,000 guests in 2018 and this season the number shall be even higher considering we are getting a ship that has 50 percent more capacity."
While the neoClassica has a capacity of 1,500 guests the Victoria has a guest capacity of 2,300. The average room occupancy for the ship during 2018 shot up to 85-90 percent from 60-65 percent in 2017.
"When we started in 2016, about 80-85 percent of our guests were non-Indians, mostly from Europe. Costa is a big name in Europe, where it is also the biggest cruise company. Today, 35-40 percent of guests are Indians. There is a growing number of Indian middle class who are willing to pay to enjoy the cruise experience," added Gupta.
Costa charges Rs 47,000 (one-way) per person on a seven night trip from Mumbai to Male with stopovers at Mangalore (now Mangaluru) and Cochin. A four nights trip to Cochin from Mumbai will cost Rs 25,000.
The costs include accommodation, dining at select restaurants, entry into the theatre, casino and discothèque to name a few. Indian nationals don’t need a visa to travel to Maldives as there is the facility of visa-on-arrival.
Mumbai Port Trust has earmarked Rs 300 crore for developing a new international cruise terminal in the financial capital. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had laid the foundation stone in January last year.
Effort are under way by the central government to expand the capacity of the terminal to 5000 passengers and the vessel handling capacity to 160. The expansion work will be complete by end of 2019. During 2018, a Mumbai-Goa cruise liner 'Angriya' was flagged off from Mumbai, making it the only ship to connect the two states via the waterway.
Already two cruise companies that connected Mumbai have shut down in the last 3-5 years as per Gupta. But the tide is turning.
Though Mumbai gets its share of cruise ships which connects it with international destinations such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malayasia and the Middle East, the traffic of cruise ship in the coming sailing seasons is expected to grow multi-fold.
As data shared by the Mumbai Port Trust during September 2018 and May 2019, around 61 cruise ships are expected to berth at Mumbai. In the next season, which kicks off in September 1 and will last till May 31, 2019, 161 ships are expected to berth in the city.There are also plans to expand operations to the east coast as well but there is nothing concrete as of now. "We have received interest for the east coast from guests. Till now there was a ban on foreigners going to the Andamans because it is a naval site," said Gupta.