Several luxury liners are set to herald the tourism season this time in Kerala. According to the latest indications, more than 25 luxury ships will call at Kochi from November to March. Sources at the port confirmed the visit of Star Flyer, a major luxury liner, on November 7.
The highlight of this season will be the first-ever visit of 'Queen Mary II', the largest luxury vessel, to Kochi. The vessel will come to Kochi in March with more than 1,500 passengers on board. Queen Elizabeth II, Legend of the Seas, Seabourn Spirit, Nautica and Peace Boat were some of the major liners called at Kochi last years.
The port authorities are gearing up for a hectic season as Kochi is one of the major destinations in South-East Asia for most of the luxury liners.
The city has been on the route map of major global luxury liners for last 7-8 years. The most number of ships, ie 32, had visited Kochi in 2002-03, followed by 18 the following year. During the 2004-05 season, 19 ships called here while the last season, the number had gone up to 21 despite Kochi lagging behind in basic facilities.
The port had planned to construct a separate cruise terminal to handle luxury liners way back in 2000. But the proposal has been confined to cold storage due to several reasons.
N Ramachandran, chairman of the port trust, said recently that an expert company would be engaged soon to prepare a detailed report in this regard.
The report is expected within six months as the need for separate terminal is strongly felt. The state tourism department is also keenly awaiting a separate cruise terminal as such a facility would enhance the spending time of passengers in Kerala.
All the vessels visit Kochi for one day as they reach the port early morning and leave by next day. Passengers utilising their short stay rush to see the nearby places like Fort Kochi, Kumarakam and Thekkady.
The tourism department is eager to have a separate terminal so that the passengers can spend more time in the state enhancing benefits for it. Most of the ships leave for Singapore or Phuket or Colombo from Kochi.
According to Ramachandran, some domestic sea liners also have expressed their wish to include Kochi in their route map. One of them, Oceanic Cruises, a Goa-based liner, will commence operations this season connecting Kochi, Goa and Lakshadweep.