Kochi: Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja launched a cruise liner, MV Aquamarine which is targeted at Indian tourists, here Tuesday.
The vessel is owned by the Cyprus-headquartered Louis Cruises, the fifth largest cruise operator in the world that started its Indian operations earlier this year with Kochi as its home port.
Maintaining that cruise tourism had a vast scope in the country, Selja said: 'The country's strong domestic tourism sector and growing middle class and of course, the 7,517-km long coastline are the advantages.'
MV Aquamarine has a capacity to carry 1,200 passengers and will offer itineraries on the Kochi-Maldives-Kochi and the Kochi-Colombo-Kochi routes, in addition to a one-night high sea sailing itinerary.
Louis Cruises India managing director Oneil Khosa said the two-night, three-day itineraries to Maldives and Sri Lanka are ideal for Indians as they are not inclined towards long sailing.
Packages start from Rs.5,000 per person
per day for a three-night tour package.
Kerala Tourism has tied up with the company to market and promote cruise tourism from Kochi.
Kerala Tourism director M. Sivasankar said the venture would be a unique product for the Indian market, which is craving for new experiences.
'This new development will make Kochi as a cruise hub and destination,' said Sivasankar.
Kochi will be MV Aquamarine's home port from Dec 2 to April 25, 2010. The vessel will make the debut voyage Wednesday from Kochi to the Maldives.
Around 60,000 Indian tourists are expected to cruise on MV Aquamarine this season.
Besides 525 state rooms and suites, passengers will also get to enjoy world class facilities including restaurants, a swimming pool, fitness centre, massage and sauna facilities, a casino and duty free shopping.
The vessel has also been modified to include a cricket pitch -- giving Indian travellers the experience of playing the game on the high seas.