This is the first luxury liner to come to Vizhinjam this season wherein tourist arrivals had seen a dip.

‘Le Soleal,’ a cruise ship which berthed off the Vizhinjam harbour for a 12-hour stopover on Tuesday, brought 152 tourists from France, the U.K. and some other nations, and cheer to the tourism and hospitality industry here.

This is the first luxury liner to come to Vizhinjam this tourist season wherein tourist arrivals had seen a dip.

As much as 90 per cent of the tourists were senior citizens coming down to ‘God’s Own Country’ for the first time. Big cruise liners cannot berth at the wharf here as it can accommodate only vessels up to a length of 80 metres.

The 142-metre-long vessel, registered in Wallis and Futuna, arrived from Maldives at 5.55 a.m. It could not enter the harbour and was forced to anchor one nautical mile off from the wharf.

After the emigration and other formalities were completed, the tourists boarded two small boats to get to the wharf. But, the transfer of the tourists to the wharf got delayed as some fishing nets got entwined in the propeller.

Delay

The local tours that were to begin at 8 a.m. got delayed and could commence only at 10 a.m. As many as 96 French tourists and 17 from the U.K. were taken in coaches for sightseeing.

The liner arrived here on the sixth day of the 17-night cruise which started from Colombo.

The ship has 132 ‘elegantly furnished’ ocean-view staterooms. It has two restaurants, three lounges, including an open-air poolside bar, a theatre, fitness centre, spa, and private space for rest and relaxation.

Some tourists who opted out of the city tour were seen anxiously waiting at the wharf to return to the vessel. Many cursed the lack of infrastructure at the wharf.

Antoine, a cadet in the liner, told The Hindu that the sweltering heat had not affected the tourists in any way and they were delighted to be here. “I am here for the first time. But, we are used to such climate in the voyage,” he said.

In the city, the tourists visited the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, Kuthira Malika, Napier Museum, and the Connemara market.

The shore excursions were managed by Le Passage-To India and GAC Shipping India was the shipping agent. The vessel left for Kochi at 6 p.m., en route Goa, Mumbai, and Muscat.

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