Costa Cruise to sail from Mumbai to Maldives & Colombo

Costa neoClassica in seas
Costa neoClassica in seas

Another cruise comes India’s way and one has to keep the fingers crossed. Europe’s number 1 cruising company, Costa Cruises, has announced the highly-anticipated launch of Costa neoClassica in India at a press conference in the Mumbai on Monday. Costa neoClassica will begin homeport cruises from Mumbai from December 2016. The ship will perform a series of weekly sailings from 16th Dec 2016 – 18th March 2017. Among the destinations will be few desi hotspots like Goa and Cochin and popular ones like Maldives and Colombo.

Costa neoClassica open deck
Costa neoClassica open deck

India seems to have a love-hate relationship with cruise operators. Its not the first time that a top cruise line is entering the Indian market. This is not even first for the Mumbai. Star Cruise had few sailings to Lakshadweep islands and Goa from Mumbai way back in 2007. Then in 2009 Louis Cruise made Cochin as their homeport and started cruising to Maldives. But none of them lasted longer. No clear cut cruise policy by Indian government and lack of infrastructure for cruise terminals was a major reason for that. Hope that Coasta Cruise will be able to overcome these hurdles. Will this be third time lucky for a major cruise operator to make India as homeport? Fingers crossed. Well, Cruise Tourism has been termed as one of the most potential and sustainable segments and now with the launch of cruising between Mumbai and the Maldives, Costa Cruises has confirmed its strong interest in India.

Costa neoClassica cabin
Costa neoClassica cabin

Costa neoClassica will be the very first large cruise ship that cruises between Mumbai and the Maldives. This classic cruise ship has a total of 654 cabins (with a capacity for 1700 passengers), including sea view cabins and suites with private balconies. Fully-equipped with a Casino, Theatre, Disco, Ballroom, Grand Bar, it aims to provide plenty in entertainment. The wellness centre is spread across 1,300 sq. m with a gym, treatment rooms, sauna and steam room. It also has an outdoor jogging track, 4 Jacuzzis and 2 swimming pools. For those who would like to go shopping, the cruise ship has a huge duty free shopping centre, and also offers a wide selection of books in the library for those who love to unwind with a book.

Costa neoClassica bar
Costa neoClassica bar

Speaking about the launch, Mr. Buhdy Bok, President of Costa Group Asia said, “we are delighted to bring cruising to Indians at their doorstep. For many travellers, the holiday often starts after some sort of a long journey. Now like never before, Indians will have the opportunity to start holidaying — right from their door-step – from India’s largest metropolis, Mumbai”.

Commenting on the home porting of Costa neoClassica in Mumbai Port, Mr. Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman of Mumbai Port said, “it is a proud moment for us to have Costa neoClassica to be homeported at India’s premier Mumbai Port. The Mumbai Port has long been the principal gateway to India, playing a crucial role in sea trade and the development of the national economy, trade & commerce and the prosperity of Mumbai city in particular.”

Costa neoClassica Disco
Costa neoClassica Disco

Enhancing the cruising experience further is the gastronomy: the food & wine offer is based on Italian regional menus with a choice of dishes representing different regions of Italy and proudly reflecting the country’s rich and unrivalled culinary heritage. In addition to this vast range, guests can also take advantage of tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes. On board Costa neoClassica, guests will also have the chance to taste the real original Neapolitan pizza at Pizzeria “Pummid’oro”: thanks to an agreement with the Università delle Scienze Gastronomiche di Pollenzo, Costa Cruises offers pizza prepared using only sourdough and selected ingredients such as San Marzano DOP tomato. In addition, cruisers will be able to enjoy a variety of Indian cuisine and the restaurants on board are fully equipped to cater to special diet requirements of Indians, which includes Jain food.

Ms. Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations (GSA of Costa Cruises India) feels the modern Indian traveller is now seeking a different kind of thrill and cruise holidays are now featuring on the Indian traveler’s ‘must-experience’ list. She further adds, “the fact that Indians can now embark directly from Mumbai, not only makes the process hassle-free and visa-free, but also saves the traveler costs and time.”

Alfresco Bar, open deck
Alfresco Bar, open deck

Costa Cruises is an Italian Cruising Company part of the Carnival Corporation & plc, the largest cruise company in the world. For 68 years, the ships of Costa fleet have plied the seas of the world. Currently the Costa fleet, the largest in Europe, has a total of 15 ships in service, all flying the Italian flag. Moreover two next-generation cruise ships will be delivered in 2019 and 2021: they will feature a revolutionary “green design” and will be powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel, representing a major environmental breakthrough.

Other 2 new ships will be delivered in 2019 and 2020 to be deployed in Asia. Costa embodies the Italian excellence surprising its Guests everyday with unique holidays, experiences and unforgettable memories thanks to 19,000 Costa’s associates worldwide who are passionately working everyday to offer “Italy’s finest” cruise vacations through 137 different itineraries, 261 destinations and 60 embarkation ports.

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Colours of Rajasthan

‘रंगीलो म्हारो राजस्थान’ (My colourful Rajasthan), that’s what we say here. It is truly one of the most colourful, vibrant and tourist friendly states in India. It is distinctly known for its culture, history, forts, food, hospitality and lot more. Despite being a Rajasthani, I always found it very fascinating to travel to interiors of the state. Every time you will find something new and interesting. Here are some captures from one such visit-

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All images here are from a trip to Shekhawati region, precisely from Churu & Sikar districts. Bangles women here wear normally are made of lac or lakh (लाख). Lac bangles are although a big sector in the state, but a lot of work is also done in the household set-ups like this one. Very interesting to watch, and what a precision these hands require!

Villages economies are still very much labour-intensive, and people of all ages enjoy their share of labour in the household. Besides there are many family occupations, which are finding it tough to change hands and pass the baton to the next generation!

Patriarchy will take time to leave, more so from the villages, which still follow the age-old social traditions, like these veils (घूंघट). When in public, some rules are the must for the women folk (sic).

A community gathering
A community gathering
What to hide!
What to hide!

See the difference- two addresses by the two community leaders in public-

And a same community leader in and out (in the centre, in second image), who is in-charge of a tourist guesthouse facility to promote rural tourism-

Villagers still have their beliefs and mechanisms (यंत्र) to call the rain, like this one (would you believe that?)-

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Studs like this are popular but for the ones on the higher social strata-

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Most colourful are the nights when the traditional dance and music flows, a Kalbeliya (कालबेलिया) dance and a melancholy sound of this Ravanhatha (रावणहत्था) are so charming-