Mumbai: Costa Cruises, the first and only international cruise company to offer regular cruises directly from Mumbai to Kochi, Kochi to Maldives and Maldives to Mumbai, confirmed its strong interest in developing the Indian cruise market, by just completing their third successful India season. In April, Costa Luminosa – known as the ship of lights fitted with 120 Murano glass chandeliers – accommodating approximately 3000 guests and 1130 cabins (with approximately 70 per cent cabins having a balcony), docked in Mumbai port as part of a 109-night world cruise itinerary. After completing the world cruise itinerary, Costa Luminosa will be deployed in Venice on an East Mediterranean itinerary covering the Greek Isles from April until almost November.
While Costa Luminosa had done a one-off stopover at Mumbai Port in April, Costa neoRiviera was home-ported in Mumbai from December 2018 to March 2019. “We are the first cruise operator who has come back after 10 years,” says Vasundhara Gupta, Business Development & Marketing Manager, Lotus Destinations (GSA: Costa Cruises India). “We will come back to India in November 2019 and this year will see increased capacity and longer duration of sailings.”
The India season for Costa witnessed a diverse range of Indian travellers, from weddings on-board, corporate incentive groups, individual travellers and large families
Costa neoRiviera hosted more than 10,000 Indian guests for a four-night Mumbai to Kochi and seven-night Maldives to Mumbai itinerary, showcasing the strong demand for cruises within India. The India season for Costa witnessed a diverse range of Indian travellers, from weddings on-board, corporate incentive groups, individual travellers and large families. “India is not ready for year-round deployment. We want to take small steps as we work with all stakeholders – agents, government and OTAs to build the market,” she said.
In order to satisfy the increased demand for cruise holidays from Mumbai, from winter 2019 Costa neoRiviera is being replaced by a larger vessel, Costa Victoria, which will have Mumbai as home port till February 2020. Costa Victoria, which can host 2400 guests, is a ship of extraordinary beauty, ready to amaze travellers with a whole new look and makeover. This elegant cruise ship has 14 decks (12 for guest use), three swimming pools, four jacuzzis, 10 bars, five restaurants, fully-equipped casino, theatre, disco and a ballroom. Costa Victoria aims at providing plenty of entertainment involving magic shows, operas and dancers that will captivate even the well-travelled folks with spectacular performances.
“We are the first cruise operator who has come back after 10 years,” says Vasundhara Gupta, Business Development & Marketing Manager, Lotus Destinations (GSA: Costa Cruises India).
On November 8, 2019, Costa Victoria will make its inaugural call in Mumbai for sailing of four nights from Mumbai to Kochi and seven nights from Maldives to Mumbai. To encourage families to travel together, Costa is the only cruise liner to offer kids below 18 years free cruise on a sharing cabin, whereby kids have to pay only port taxes and minimal gratuities. As the Mumbai Port is in the process of setting up a state-of-the-art cruise terminal, which is scheduled to be inaugurated in November/December 2019, Costa is planning to bring its bigger vessels to India.
The Costa Cruises fleet has a total of 15 ships in service. Two new ships, Costa Smeralda and her sister-ship, will be delivered in October 2019 and in 2021 respectively. Each year Costa’s ships offer tourists the chance to visit over 250 destinations. Since starting their India sailings in December 2016, Costa has seen more than 100 per cent growth YoY. The intent is to sustain this momentum for the next five years by enhancing their deployments in India. Over the years, cruising has become more accessible to Indian travelers and cruise plus land holidays have become big-time favourites. In domestic cruising, Costa’s Mumbai to Kochi itinerary is popular especially with corporate and wedding groups. The Kochi to Maldives cruise sees lot of families and ad-hoc groups and serves demand from tier II and III cities in south India.
“A typical Indian customer wants a 3-4 nights itinerary,’’ says Vasundhara. “We have a seven-night Mumbai to Maldives and Maldives to Mumbai itinerary. We broke this into two: Mumbai to Kochi and Kochi to Maldives itineraries for Indian travelers and the response has been great. India has different segments of customers: MICE, ad-hoc family groups and FITs like short itineraries; Lot of honeymooners and senior citizens enjoy seven nights.”
In its India deployments, Costa sees equal distribution of Indian and European travelers. Mumbai to Maldives cruise hosts 50 per cent Indians whereas Maldives to Mumbai leg sees 75 per cent Europeans. Most MICE groups do a fly-plus cruise. For Costa, about 40 per cent guests from India belong to MICE category. Big Indian weddings happen all the time on ships and Bollywood is a favourite theme.
OTAs like TBO have recently started offering cruise inventory and Costa Cruises India is working to be on their platform. “Today, the online contribution is small,” admits Vasundhara. “But online is where in the next 3-5 years we will see many customers buying cruises. As customer awareness about cruise product increases, short-haul cruises will increasingly get bought online.” About 1,70,000 Indian passengers go on a cruise every year. It is hardly one per cent of the total outbound travel market from India. Cruising as a holiday concept is growing popular. The idea of having unlimited entertainment and dining options is increasingly appealing to Indian travellers.