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Updated: November 27, 2012 10:47 IST

Kochi turning into cruise hub as more vessels drop anchor at port

John L. Paul
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The numerous advantages of Kochi have enabled it to become the sole turnaround port for cruise ships in India.

The port city is much sought after by cruise liners which stay put for more than a day. “Much bigger and busier ports are at best excursion ports, where these massive vessels berth for a few hours from morning to evening,” sources associated with hosting the vessels said.

The previous week saw around 2,800 tourists and 1,250 crew members arrive here on board Celebrity Solstice, a mega cruise liner. It left the next day. On Sunday Aida Diva – a cruise liner, called at Kochi. It will sail off from here on Wednesday.

This is the seventh time that the German ship is using the port for its turnaround operations. The 1,462 German tourists who boarded it from Dubai alighted here and left for their home country from Kochi on board chartered flights on Monday. On these flights came 1,516 high-spending tourists from Germany, who checked into Aida Diva. The vessel has 617 crew members, apart from a few hundred other passengers who did not opt for turnaround.

Elaborating on Kochi’s numerous advantages, the port’s Traffic Manager C. Unnikrishnan Nair said that cruise ship companies look for ports which have a good international airport in the vicinity. “They also look for efficient Customs and Immigration clearance systems and the availability of good supplies – food and other commodities, at turnaround ports. Another crucial factor is the availability of prominent tourist locales in the hinterland. Kochi has them aplenty - Fort Kochi and Mattancherry being the noteworthy ones,” he said.

Cruise passengers and the captains of ships generally give a good feedback about Kochi. The advantage of turnaround vessels is that they bring in double the number of passengers who can be accommodated in them – those disembarking it and others who embark it afresh. This in turn provides an added fillip to stakeholders in the tourism and travel trade of the region.

Sunday and Monday saw hundreds of guests from the Aida Diva check out Alappuzha. “A few went on a village tour of Vaikom and Kumbalanghi, India’s first model tourism village. Many went on a city tour and a backwater cruise,” said Jackson Thomas, general manager of Intersight Tours and Travels, the ship’s ground-handling and excursion agency.

Apart from regular flights, four chartered ones brought tourists from Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. All of them are Germans.

Intersight arranged 120 coaches and 40 baggage trucks to ferry them. This is apart from 40 coaches that were arranged for shore excursions. The tourists also use the pre-paid auto and taxi services that were arranged by the port to prevent fleecing.

The vessel, the only one that is currently doing turnaround operations in Kochi, will arrive here again in March, during its Asian voyage lasting eight to 10 days. Passengers can opt to extend their number of days on board, Mr Thomas said.

The port expects a total of 50 cruise ships to call at Kochi this tourist season.

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