(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – India’s Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Ayush, Sarbananda Sonowal flagged off the India’s first international cruise vessel MV Empress from Chennai to Sri Lanka in Chennai Monday.
“This marks the beginning of the international cruise tourism terminal at Chennai, built at a cost of ₹17.21 crores, heralding a new age of cruise tourism & maritime trade in the country,” an Indian government press release said.
The cruise service will sail to three Sri Lankan ports; viz. Hambanthota, Trincomalee, and Kankesanthurai. The tour packages on board MV Empress will be offered for 2 nights, 3 nights, 4 nights and 5 nights.
During its run at the sea, MV Empress will be touching Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on Wednesday, Trincomalee on northeastern coast and Kankesanthurai in Jaffna district, before heading back to Chennai
Speaking on the occasion, the Union Minister Sonowal said, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways have been taking multiple steps to develop the avenues of cruise tourism in the country and bolster opportunities of maritime trade of India.
“With our rich heritage & culture around our coastal region, the potential of cruise tourism in India is immense. Today, as we launch the maiden cruise service between Chennai and Sri Lanka, it has ushered a new chapter in the cruise tourism sector in the country. As the affordability & access to world class cruise services becomes a reality, the people can enjoy & relish luxurious amenities, entertainment, and breathtaking views,” Union Minister said.
The cruise service is the result of an MoU signed during the first Incredible India International Cruise Conference in 2022 between Chennai Port and M/S Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt Ltd to start domestic and international cruise service.
With an overwhelming response by 85,000 passengers availing the cruise service through 37 vessels for the domestic circuit, it is expected that the opening up of international circuit will further amp up the business of cruise tourism in the region. The modern cruise terminal developed at Chennai Port is spread over an area of 2,880 square meters with an ability to host 3,000 passengers at a time.