Only a few companies have tried their hand at running cruise liners successfully in India. Angria, India's first domestic cruise launched a few months ago, has been running full capacity, giving those on boards the thrills of cruising. However, the vessel sails only on the Mumbai – Goa– Mumbai route, so only those desirous of travelling to Goa have been making the most of it.
In order to encourage other Indians, too, to get a taste of the new way of travel, Zen Cruises is bringing a brand-new product to the country—Jalesh Cruises. (Jalesh means Lord of the Water). “Jalesh Cruises, as a brand, is a lone-standing company and has the support from its chairman, Subhash Chandra, as a family promotion, which is a small stake, but everything else is from international and national investors,” says Jurgen Bailom, president and CEO, Zen Cruises Private Limited.
Mumbai Port Trust has big plans to turn the city into a water transport and sea tourism hub. “A proper roadmap for the same was laid out and we worked for six-seven months on this cruise company,” said Sanjay Bhatia, Secretary, Government of India and Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust. Since they see it as a very big opportunity, they are planning to also develop two to three places in Maharashtra, so that guests can explore the locations of the pretty Konkan coast. They plan to start with Goa, Kochi and Visakhapatnam, but have plans to go to international locations such as Colombo, Dubai and Muscat, among others, later.
Bailom says, the vessel [Karnika] which will be baptized and will start operations from Mumbai in April, is a beautiful and well maintained big ship. “It is 248 metre long, 32 metre wide and has 14 decks, with 170 cabins, beautiful outside cabins, (and a) lot of internal cabins,” he says. The ship also boasts of nine different food outlets, a beautiful theatre, (where they plan to have several show launches), kid’s activities, adult activities, a massive pool deck, a water deck and even rock climbing. “You name it, and it is there! In reality, you will have to stay for seven days to experience everything,” says Bailom.
Indian guests are the youngest in the cruising industry with the average age being 36, and they have a very good spending power. Bailom says that their guests are going to be from all over India. “Obviously, Mumbai is a big hub... (but) we are not limited to any specific region. I am very confident that I am going to attract guests from the entire country to enjoy vacations aboard our ship,” he says.
An important aspect of Jalesh Cruises would be its relatively affordable cost. Bailom says he doesn’t believe that sailing aboard such beautiful cruise liners is only for those with deep pockets. “Cruising is very affordable today. The myth that cruising is only for rich people is no more there. Leading prices are INR 10,000. It can be fully financed if you like; all activities on board including Broadway shows are covered under this. Also you won't require a car to go anywhere, you wake up every day in a different place, you can eat as much as you like at all the different food outlets. I think that’s a very good value proposition. I think that’s new and it is the best value for money vacation you can enjoy in India,” he says.
It is because of these reasons that Bailom thinks Indians are going to love it. It's a “home away from home,” he says. The fact that “one doesn’t need to fly far away to experience a cruise, [and that] you can experience it in your own country in the comfort of doing it the way you used to” adds to the appeal, he further says. The idea is to enjoy your favourite soap opera or your favourite sport while having an international experience with the crew, the cuisines and the shows in your own country, explains Bailom.