Luxury cruise to connect Gulf tourists with Sri Lanka’s natural beauty
A cruise on the Arabian Sea in a moonlit night is becoming a reality thanks to a joint venture between a leading German tour operator and Sri Lankan travel company, reports coming from Muscat said on Tuesday.
Diethelm Travel Sri Lanka, a subsidiary of Hemas Holdings PLC is joining hands with FTI group, one of Germany’s leading tour operators, to launch the first-ever cruise service between Muscat and Colombo with stops in Dubai, Mumbai, Goa and Kochi. The cruise liner will carry up to 400 tourists from all over the world with the entire journey taking up to 10 days.
In an interview with Times of Oman newspaper, Abbas Esufally, chairman of Diethelm Travel Sri Lanka, said this unique project will deliver a major boost to Sri Lankan tourism and showcase the island nation’s remarkable tourist destinations.
Apart from Gulf tourists, the cruise liner will also have travellers from Austria, Switzerland, Germany and other European nations over a four-month period starting from 2013 winter.
“Besides Sri Lanka, residents of Oman can also have a holiday at various destinations in India and Dubai where the ship will anchor,” Esufally said.
“The FTI Berlin will be the first-ever cruiseliner of its kind to sail Colombo Port on a regular basis and will call at and depart from Muscat from next winter,” he added.
“Given the profile of the mainly high-end clientele, a project of this magnitude is a vital shot in the arm for the Sri Lankan tourist industry,” the Sri Lankan tour operator stressed. The FTI Berlin, with its 206 cabins, was built in 1980 and between 1986 and 1998 it played the leading role in the popular German TV-series ‘Das Traumschiff‘ (The Ship of Dreams).
The vessel accommodates approximately 400 passengers and houses two restaurants, a bar, a lounge and a beer garden. It also includes an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, spa, sauna, solarium and a fitness centre.
Peace returned to the war-torn nation by the end of 2009 when the military defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in a massive military operation. Sri Lankan government aims to boost tourism and is seeking to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016.
According to Sri Lanka Tourism figures, tourist arrivals hit a record in 2011 and continue to grow after the government scrapped the visa-on-arrival system in January 2012. From January to March 2012, tourist arrivals climbed 21.1% to 260,525 over the same period a year earlier.
“From lush green tea plantations growing in misty mountains to miles of golden sandy beaches around the island, we have everything to offer guests so there is every reason for them to feel pampered and relaxed,” Esufally claimed in the interview. The approximately 400 passengers on each cruise will disembark in Colombo, while another 400 guests will start their cruise back to Muscat on the same route.
FTI’s Group CEO Dietmar Gunz in a statement said that Colombo remains a great destination for the FTI Berlin in the upcoming winter season. He hoped to be successful with the innovative cruise journey between Muscat and Colombo.
“Past experience has shown that when a project of this nature is successful, other cruise operators follow suit, with the strong possibility of a ‘snowball effect’ in the cruise liner business opening Sri Lanka for rapid growth in the cruise market,” he added.