Cruise holidays are accompanied by pristine waters, clear skies and sunny ports of call. Both globally and in India, cruise tourism continues to be a major segment of growth. This booming segment of travel is mushrooming in the Indian subcontinent; the country has risen as the crucial market for several cruise companies overtime and is entering an era of proliferation. India although possesses enormous potential for cruising but much of it remains untapped. The cruising season is just around the corner and TravelScapes test the waters by conversing with the representatives of leading cruise companies to cognise their latest offerings and brand new vessels. In addition to the measures being undertaken by them to amplify the on-board facilities, we also collate the strategies employed by these cruise lines for an eco-friendly voyage. The environmental impacts of cruise tourism are manifold and for sustainable tourism on the sea, several socio-economic, cultural and environmental considerations should be analysed, addressed and monitored continuously. Momentous measures have been taken in this regard but there’s a long way to a smoother sail.
Basking in rising demand from India and Middle East
Jurgen Bailom President & CEO, Jalesh Cruises
Jalesh Cruises is India’s first multi-destination cruise line from India that has the best of entertainment shows, adventure activities and exotic authentic cuisines packed with international hospitality on the high seas. We, as a company, always try to enhance our product offerings and this year we are adding new destinations such as Ganpatipule and Diu. Jalesh Cruises is always reinventing its onboard cuisine options, entertainment and activities. Some of the recent offerings include themed cruises, Bollywood cruises and special events onboard our maiden ship Karnika.
There is a specific period a ship undertakes before onboard any physical facilities are enhanced or added. Typically a ship goes for a dry dock after every two and a half years. Six months ago, we invested USD 20 million to overhaul Karnika, so the next refurbishment will take place when the ship goes out of service as we have guests seven days a week on-board. However, we regularly conduct maintenance programme for the upkeep of the ship and the facilities before she goes for her mandatory dry-docking again. Meanwhile, for our guests, we continue to experiment with food offerings, curated and special Broadway shows and entertainment.
Karnika has seen various segments of passengers and we are still at a nascent stage to be able to identify the largest segment from the 20,000 guests that we are expecting to welcome in a year. However, from the young to the old and from the rich to the famous, everyone who has experienced Karnika love her. We witnessed an increased interest in the Middle East especially from Indians who live there and back home in Mumbai, we have seen great demand from the local population.
The environmental programme of Jalesh Cruises ‘CleanWaves’ is based on the idea of recycling the waste generated on-board. However, we go above and beyond it and follow an environmental policy to be more mindful towards marine life. Jalesh Cruises is committed to being a part of the growing industry consciousness to reduce the levels of sulphur in fuel to safeguard our marine ecology. This year is very significant for us as we will begin transitioning to a low sulphur fuel method, which is 0.5 per cent very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) that everyone in the cruising industry is moving towards from January 2020 onwards.
Dream Cruises upgrading facilities to let guests indulge in luxury
Naresh Rawal VP Sales- India, South Asia, Russia, ME and South Africa, Genting Cruise Lines
With the onset of the festive season, Dream Cruises is continuously upgrading their current offerings and introducing newer enhanced experiences for our travellers. From themed cruising itineraries to the introduction of newer itineraries to untapped picturesque locations, our management is well-prepared for it. Dream Cruises would also be sailing to exotic destinations such as Christmas Island in Australia and Palawan Island in the Philippines. Besides this, for the first time our newly launched ship – Explorer Dream would be sailing across the coast of Australia and New Zealand visiting ports including Sydney Dunedin Wellington Gisborne and Auckland, thus giving our guests newer and more fulfilling experiences.
Enhancement of on-board facilities is an on-going process at Dream Cruises. All the enhancements on our on-going facilities consider a very important metric before any changes are made – customer feedback. We have also recently upgraded our Palace facilities to ensure that guests are treated to an even more luxurious setting. Through this enhancement of the Palace, an expanded menu of all-inclusive privileges will provide our guests with even more opportunities for pampering and indulgence with luxury culinary and gastronomic delights and a new range of activities as part of Genting Dream’s exciting enrichment programme, The Connoisseurs Circle.
We believe that the next big thing in the travel segment is the rise of DINKs (Double Income No Kids) patronising our services. With their new age exploratory personality, they are open to trying many more facilities onboard our ships. Apart from these, large family groups have also played a very important part in the growth of our brand over the years.
At Dream Cruises, we take environmental sustainability very seriously. From the inception of our brand, this aspect has played a central role in our day to day operations and functioning. Apart from strictly following all the environmental guidelines set by the various governing bodies we also make it a point that all our staff onboard our vessels are aligned with the aspects of sustainable and environment-friendly cruising.
Redefining personalisation with Ocean Medallion Vacations
Nishith Saxena Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals
2019 has been an exciting year for us so far and like most of the travel businesses we have had to deal with many interesting situations such as elections at the onset of vacation season, further tightening of the travel forex transactions, evolved buying behaviour of consumers and high degree of product personalisation requirements to name a few. Specifically for our business, the last quarter continues to bring more excitement as Princess Cruises is launching her new ship, Sky Princess, in the third week of October with several seven-day voyages in Europe on offer. Sky Princess would boast of the largest balcony at sea. There is nothing which can beat this experience and we already have plenty of HNI’s booking for the Sky-Suite experiences.
Princess Cruises has surpassed the highest level of service and personalisation which could be achieved on a large scale on her luxury cruise ships with the introduction of Ocean Medallion Vacations. From on-demand F&B, interactive gaming, custom entertainment and smart navigation, Medallion makes cruising simpler, more personal and enjoyable than ever for the guests and they can better utilise their vacation time. It can also be used for payments, unlocking stateroom door and speeding up embarkation, Medallion also lets the crew see the information they can use to better serve the passengers. This is the kind of personalisation Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion offers as this small high-tech gadget replaces keys, wallets and tickets at sea. With Ocean Medallion the guests can make the most of their vacation experience. One of the key elements responsible for the continuous growth of cruise business is the versatility it provides to itinerary planners which means that based on the deployment, the same ship could easily offer a mass, premium or a luxury offering w.r.t the port content and onboard offerings. Therefore, each large cruise liner including Princess Cruises, have multiple vessels that could cater to the needs of various segments of the market. In terms of growth figures, the passenger numbers have been growing between 10 to 15 per cent each year.
Cruise companies such as Princess Cruises have always been in the favour of sustainable cruising and have led by example. Princess Cruises meets environmental requirements and, in many cases, go beyond what is required by law while continuously working to identify ways which can raise the level of its environmental performance. Planet Princess was launched to encourage and inspire her crew members and guests to be good stewards of the environment and the oceans. There has been reduction in single-use packaging, plastics and service items onboard. We are also taking steps to eliminate other items that are difficult to recycle or separate from food waste. Our aim behind these changes is to be better environmental stewards and not to cut costs. By the end of this year, Princess Cruises aims to eliminate or replace with a recycle-friendly alternative of most of the F&B necessities. All single-use plastics will continue to be reviewed across the Princess Cruises fleet to reduce or eliminate them in both guest and crew operations areas.
Providing an Indian touch to an international cruising experience
Nalini Udai Gupta Head of Costa Cruise India
This is our fourth season and with every season, we have had bigger, better and technologically-adcanced ships. Last year with Costa neoRiviera which is a boutique ship and this year we have got an even bigger ship which has 40 per cent more passenger capacity, Costa Victoria used to be in Singapore earlier and will be arriving in India by early November and be there till early March sailing across Mumbai via Mangalore and Kochi to the Maldives. Based on the customer feedback we have altered the menu and entertainment. Mumbai port is undergoing refurbishments and it will lead to further infrastructural improvements and a smoother experience.
With a bigger ship, the number of restaurants and bars also increase as well as customised entertainment and various other lounging facilities also get grander. From headquarter perspective, India is a significant market and they make sure that the Indian crew is on board along with foreigners. We provide them with an international experience with Indians looking after them. All of this makes for a unique experience in my opinion as a ship is like a moving hotel.
With Costa Cruise, there’s also convenience as the travellers would be sailing from India. There’s ease of documentation as they don’t need to worry about visa. Maldives is a visa-free country and India is a very last-minute market so it becomes convenient for everyone. Even travel agents find it easy to sell a sailing from India. Middle-class enjoy this sailing thoroughly and they are our most viable segment commercially speaking. The Middle-class travellers come from across the country not only from tier I but tier II and III cities as well which works great for us as we are able to provide them with an extraordinary experience at affordable rates.
All our new ships, Costa Smeralda and others, are equipped with LNG fuel as we know that we have to protect the ocean as it is our workplace and the need of the hour is to sail in an eco-friendly way. Costa Cruise takes care of food wastage through various international tie-ups. We try our best and leave no stone unturned to be environmentally conscious as the industry won’t be able to flourish if we mess up the ocean.
Offering guests flexible and fun ‘Freestyle Cruise Experience’
Manoj Singh Country Head, India, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
At Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), we offer freedom and flexibility to our guests, aiming to provide them with an enriching and memorable cruise experience. In addition to the other F&B offerings, Norwegian Encore will debut its new elevated Italian dining experience, Onda by Scarpetta. Onboard entertainment has also gone a notch higher. The newly launched Encore features the musical, Kinky Boots, with returning guest favourites. NCL is the innovator in premium, contemporary cruising, offering its guests a flexible and fun cruising experience. We take great care in ensuring that guests of every age and interests are considered when planning major attractions, restaurants and onboard activities and keep enhancing our onboard facilities frequently through world-class entertainment shows and dining experiences. Travellers seeking a private-luxury onboard experience can opt for The Haven by Norwegian, a luxury enclave with suites, a private pool and dining, concierge service and personal butlers. In 2020, Norwegian Spirit will undergo the most extensive refurbishment carried out by NCL till date and our Asian guests will be among the first to experience it as she launches her premier season with itineraries in Asia. In the past few years, we have witnessed a swift growth among Indian travellers opting for cruise holidays. Indian travellers generally tend to travel in groups and more and more Indian families opt for Norwegian Cruise Line owing of its unique ‘Freestyle Cruise Experience’, where each guest can design and plan their cruise vacation without any restriction. An increasing number of MICE organisers are also choosing to host their events on Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet of ships due to our tailor-made packages and attractive onboard facilities. Four additional ships have also been commissioned, that will give the MICE organisers even more options to choose from and also increase cruise options for our guests.
We have innovative waste management, environmental sustainability and fuel efficiency programmes in place as part of our comprehensive ‘Sail & Sustain’ programme. We intend to increase water production on board with sophisticated plants that use seawater as the source, which reduces the need for the bunkering of freshwater. To treat wastewater on board, all our ships are equipped with Advanced Wastewater Purification systems (AWPs). Another successful programme that we implemented is Waste Heat Recovery (WHR) to utilise freshwater as a free energy source. We have eliminated the use of single-use plastic straws across our fleet of ships. We also recycle used oil at shoreside installations as bio-fuel and also recycle over 95 per cent of the cooking oil that is landed ashore. As of April 2019, majority of our ships have been equipped with the Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS). Every Norwegian Cruise Line ship sails with an Environmental Officer (EO) whose job includes the implementation, training, oversight and verification of shipboard environmental compliance, in addition to providing shoreside assistance for developing environmental policies and procedures.
Making cruise travel more accessible to Indian travellers with ‘FLY Cruise’
Varun Chadha CEO, TIRUN Travel Marketing
Royal Caribbean has deployed a quantum-class ship, namely Quantum of the Seas, for the very first time in Singapore. It is the largest and most technologically advanced ship sailing from Singapore. The smart ship currently offers the ‘North Star’, an observation capsule that rises 92 metres over the ocean; ‘Two70’, a hi-tech entertainment venue; ‘Bionic Bar’, where cocktails are served by robots; skydiving and surfing experiences and ‘SeaPlex’, the largest indoor activity space at sea.
On the other hand, cruise packages are also available onboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas from Dubai which will sail across UAE and Oman. Then, there are also sailings from Beijing and Shanghai to Japan onboard Spectrum of the Seas. Dining venue, cuisine and entertainment among others will add to the experience.
We have tied up with Singapore Airlines for the ‘FLY Cruise’ package for our guests which enable them to access combined flight ticket and cruise prices at unmatched rates. This makes cruise travel more accessible to Indian travellers. Further, we have recently tied up with Celebrity Chef, Ranveer Brar to enhance the onboard culinary offerings on the Singapore sailings. This move aims at further attracting Indian guests by catering to their palate with the finest of Indian fare.
Every successive class of ships is further driving fresh improvements and innovations for a sustainable cruising experience. At Royal Caribbean, our vision is to decrease energy consumption as well as greenhouse gas emission alongside other air pollutants. This vision is a critical part of our environmental stewardship strategy. This approach includes both marine and hotel operations based initiatives. Innovative programs such as advanced emissions purification systems are proving themselves to be successful in removing 98 per cent of sulfur dioxide emissions, air lubrication systems, and soon will expand to liquid natural gas. Hotel energy reduction initiatives such as energy-efficient equipment in galleys as well as the replacement of incandescent bulbs with LED, and the adoption of fuel cells. Following our partnership with World Wildlife Fund, Royal Caribbean has also committed to a 35 per cent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020.
Working upon an exclusive marine reserve and private island destination for our guests
Rashmi Ahuja Commercial Coordinator, MSC Cruises
Our brand new ship MSC Grandiosa will be launched in November 2019. She will become MSC Cruises’ new flagship and the largest ship in the fleet, offering the richest array of facilities and services. Besides this, MSC Cruises is transforming a former industrial sand extraction site into a flourishing marine reserve and private island destination exclusively for MSC Cruises guests called Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve project. It will exist in harmony with the local ecosystem. Ocean Cay is a man-made island south of Bimini in the Bahamas. This will be on our itinerary performing Caribbean route from November 2019.
ZOE, the world’s first virtual voice-enabled personal cruise assistant, is poised to take MSC Cruises’ guest services to a new level with guest-centric technology that will further enrich their cruise holiday. ZOE is found in our every cabin that can speak seven languages and can provide information about onboard services, guidance and suggestions or help to book a service. ZOE is another example of how MSC Cruises continues to lead the way by employing technology to enhance the guest experience. It was launched on MSC Bellissima in March 2019 and will be available on each new ship following this. Any holidayer travelling internationally is potential for our business; this can be a group which includes MICE, social, spiritual or even wedding groups. We have been experiencing 30 to 35 per cent growth in movements alike on MSC cruises from India market year-on-year. Successful events depend not just on a successful cruise but on the emphasis that is given to the relationship between your company and its public. Our dedication and knowledge in marketing, branding, planning and logistics will ensure every aspect of any event and/or incentive a resounding success, delighting the guests, expressing brand values and supporting strategic objectives.