Star `Cruises` to Goa, Lakshadweep this year - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Come October and the worlds best and biggest cruise ships would sail into the Arabian Sea.

Star Cruises, Asia Pacifics leading cruise operator, plans to start its Mumbai-Lakshadweep-Goa service later this year.

The third largest cruise line in the world will be docked at Mumbai, from where cruises will start to Kadmat in Lakshadweep and Goa. It will operate in three different categories: One-night weekend getaway cruise, two nights Mumbai-Goa-Mumbai, and a four-night Mumbai-Lakshadweep-Goa-Mumbai.

All packages will include breakfast, two meals and Las Vegas-style dances at a cost of Rs 20,300 per person. Star Cruises would deploy the 216-meter long SuperStar Libra, with a capacity of 1,500 persons, for the cruise.

Star Cruises offers an impressive array of facilities, entertainment and recreational activities. It also offers internet surfing, shopping centres and many more exciting things on board.

The cruise-liner will operate two vessels a week on the Mumbai-Goa-Lakshawadeep and Mumbai-Goa-Mumbai routes.

Since its inception in 1993, Star Cruises has played the leading role in shaping the cruise industry in the Asia-Pacific by offering new and luxurious mega ships and exciting itineraries.

"The Indian governments decision to waive cabotage requirement would boost cruise tourism in the country as it is a cheaper alternative to land tourism," says Chee-Tut Chong, chief operating officer of Star Cruises on its website.

Star Cruises has many vessels under its fleet, including SuperStar Virgo, SuperStar Gemini, Star Pisces, MegaStar Aries and MegaStar Taurus. SuperStar Libra is one of the first six ships, which would be progressively transferred over to the Star Cruises Asia fleet.

Norwegian Sea of the NCL group, which operates in United States and Europe, is scheduled to join the Star Cruises fleet in September 2005 and has been renamed SuperStar Libra.

Norwegian Jewel is scheduled to be delivered in August 2005 whilst two new builds, yet unnamed, are due to be delivered by 2007, according to the Star Cruises website.

With this, Goas tourism industry is expected to reach a new milestone with growing inbound international cruise market in India.

"There are not many cruise companies that have been using Goa as a port of call. There were only eight cruise vessels that docked at Goa port in 2004. Recently, Star Cruises forged a tie-up with SOTC as a result of which Star Cruises will have its ships dock in Goa," said Elvis Gomes, former director of the Tourism Department.

Summing up Goa Tourisms commitment to the industry as well as local economy, he said: "The emphasis is on infrastructure development that benefits tourists and locals alike. From a mere four lakh budget two years ago, the state government has increased the budget for tourism to Rs 31.46 crore. Today, we dont have a season in Goa. It is a perennial destination."

The Goa-based Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) earns about $100 as landing charges for few hours morning to evening from a single cruise. "We have the port dues levied for the vessel, pilotage fees, shifting charges, berth hire charges and charges for supply of water to vessels and anchorage charges," says Venkatachalam, chairman of MPT.

On cruise tourism, he said that the tourism in Goa is increasing every year and the common mode of transport used by the tourist is by air.

"We also have to ensure that we gear-up to welcome tourists via cruise ships. I anticipate many changes in the years to come," asserts Venkatachalam.

"It is estimated that Star Cruises would make 100 trips a year on the Mumbai-Goa-Lakshawadeep-Goa Island and Mumbai-Goa-Mumbai route respectively."

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