MSC Cruises will add Mumbai and Kochi to its itineraries from 1Q2015 on MSC Orchestra's maiden voyage from Dubai.
The vessel will sail 33 nights from February 21 via India and through the southern hemisphere to Fremantle in western Australia.
The company’s executive director – emerging markets, Antonio Paradiso, said at a recent road show in New Delhi: “India will regularly feature in our itineraries when we add four new vessels to our current fleet of 12 by 2018."
Country head for India, Amit Mathur, noted that India is an emerging market for the cruise segment. “We see a huge demand for cruise tours to Europe from the Indian market, having recorded 30 per cent year-on-year growth in 2013.
“We are now focusing on packages to Dubai-Abu Dhabi-Oman, and three- or four-night cruise packages to South Africa.”
New Delhi-based Carnation Travel Services managing director, Rajesh Sethi, said: “Indians are increasingly opting for cruises and any world-class vessel dropping anchor in Indian ports is going to boost this segment by at least 20 per cent immediately.
“Indians (usually) travel to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Alaska and Singapore for cruises, so the ease of boarding the vessel from the home country will be an encouraging factor.”
Kolkata-based Gainwell Travel & Leisure general manager, Seema Ahmed, suggested: “More cruise vessels will come to Indian ports if we build some international-standard cruise terminals. With our large coastline, it should be a cakewalk.
“Inviting more cruise companies to call on Indian ports will increase international tourist arrivals by 25-30 per cent over the short term.”