Bringing cheer to tourism stakeholders, foreign cruise ships carrying high-end tourists are all set to call at Kochi from November 29, after the pandemic-induced break.
A total of 16 cruise ships have confirmed their trips to Kochi till March 31. The first such vessel will be Europa-2, which is expected to berth at Sagarika, the first and only full-fledged cruise terminal in the country that was inaugurated in February 2021. That would make it the first foreign cruise ship to berth at the terminal, said official sources. The ship will begin its journey from Europe, call at the Middle East and Mormugao in Goa, and then arrive at Kochi. It will leave from here for Colombo.
An average of 50 cruise ships used to call at the port city each year before the pandemic, bringing in about one lakh high-spending tourists and crew members. This in turn sustained a whole lot of players who sold antiques and handicrafts, taxi car and autorickshaw operators, and hotels.
Sources in the Cochin Port Authority said berthing charges that had been rationalised in the wake of the pandemic would continue to stay in the current season. “All help, including for availing pre-paid taxi cars, will be extended to the guests,” they said.
Kochi is a preferred destination for cruise ships for, among other reasons, its location that is a stone’s throw away from world-renowned heritage-tourism locales such as Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, while a return trip to Kerala’s backwater tourism hubs Alappuzha and Kumarakom is possible by evening.
Cruise ships that were less than 260 metres long used to call at Samudrika cruise facilitation centre next to the port’s BTP Berth, while bigger ones used to call at the Ernakulam Wharf, adjacent to which Sagarika was readied in 2021. Both the terminals are differently abled friendly and are fully air-conditioned.