Word is beginning to circulate about the imminent announcement of a new cruise line, formed for and aimed at tapping the potentially vast cruise market on the Indian sub-continent.
The company will be known as Royal Asian Cruise Line, and it eventually envisages deployment of up to five, second hand ships. Already said to have been acquired is the Gemini, a 19,900 ton ship that last sailed for the short lived Happy Cruises. She was originally a twin sister of Fred. Olsen’s Braemar, and has also sailed for Cunard, Commodore, and Star Cruises. Her last reported usage was in Tilbury, as a hotel ship for the 2012 London Olympics.
This is not the first time that a company has attempted to tap the market in India; both Louis Cruises and Star Cruises themselves have attempted to start up single ship operations from India. Issues with port infrastructures conspired to defeat both operations at the time- obstacles which the new company clearly believes can and will be addressed prior to any start up of services.
The new line intends to tailor its services, cuisine and on board facilities to meet the tastes and lifestyles of what it assumes will be it’s predominantly Indian passengers. It is hoping to launch with three ships in the first stage.
So, given that the line would be made up of second hand tonnage, what options are currently available to Royal Asian?
For starters, MSC Cruises have still not found a buyer for their laid up MSC Melody. I saw her last week in the harbour at Naples, looking quite smart. At around 32,000 tons and capable of carrying around 1200 passengers, she would be a solid choice for a no frills, start up line. She also has the advantage of being available immediately.
Another candidate could well be the 17,000 ton Ocean Countess, recently disposed of by Cruise and Maritime. With a capacity of around 800, she is roughly comparable with the Gemini in terms of size.
Another candidate could just possibly be the venerable Saga Ruby, due to finish her final season with Saga Cruises next year. Also back on the market is 28,000 ton Veronica, last used as a hotel ship in Oman. This ship, originally built as the Swedish American Line’s Kungsholm back in 1966, is also available now.
Cruising regions for the new line would include the Indian ocean area, including Sri Lanka.
The final pieces of the jigsaw are expected to be put in place in Barcelona next week, where investment bankers are currently said to be putting together money to finance the project.
As ever, I’ll be updating this as and when developments become clear. Stay tuned.