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The Good Life

Cruising To The Poles
Uber-luxury cruises to distant corners are catching on, but it will set you back by at least ₹900,000 per head

Himanshu Kakkar

A 1,890-sq ft suite, with a 600-sq ft private sit-out, opens into a sun deck with lounge, bar, pool and café. Sounds too good? Just wait. Before you even set foot on this cruise liner, a ‘Royal Genie’ (a staffer with the company, and not a magical creature) gets in touch with you. He notes what you like and what you don’t, what you eat and what you don’t. These instructions are taken very seriously on the ship. 

This kind of luxurious experience isn’t a stuff of dreams anymore. Several Indians have already experienced it. “The price of this particular suite on Celebrity Edge Cruiseliner goes up to $10,000 per night, with of course all the bells and whistles. We have had several travellers from India,” shares Varun Chadha, COO of TIRUN (an exclusive representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises in India).

Today, quite a few Indians are opting for uber luxury on cruise liners. “The demand for luxury travel is going up by a 40% each year” says Samit Ajgaonkar, CEO of cruise booking portal  Cruisemeout.com. Cruise liners too are sprucing up their offering too, knowing how demanding the clientele are becoming. They are even looking outside their industry for talent in aesthetic design.

The architect of Celebrity Edge ship is not a cruise-line designer but Tom Wright who designed the iconic Burj Khalifa Hotel in Dubai. The interiors are done by another famous designer Kelly Hoppens.

Beside luxury, offbeat exotic locations are also drawing adventurers. With rising incomes, a class of Indians is becoming more experimental and travelling more global. “A trend of going to exotic locations such as Antarctica and Iceland is picking up. Earlier, the Indian traveller was not very comfortable spending long weeks on a cruise. Now, they are willing to spend as many days as needed, if the location is unique enough,” says Ajgaonkar.

 “We are seeing Indians taking a cruise even to Galapagos Island and the Arctic Circle,” says Chadha.

Realising there is a growing market, Q Experiences of Mumbai started an Indians-only luxury cruise to Antarctica in 2017. A luxury yacht that can hold 200 has already docked at the Antarctic shores twice over the last two years.

On this ship called the Great Majestic Explorer, passengers can take their pick from 132 elegant staterooms and suites designed by French interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel. The on-board catering is taken care of by Alain Ducasse Entrepise, which holds 21 Michelin stars. The Indian and regional cuisine is handled by two-star Michelin chef Atul Kochhar.

A team of naturalists lead the expeditions to explore the White Continent. You catch a glimpse of a variety of penguins, seals, and whales in their natural habitat. You pass through volcanic and glacial areas. And themed buffets and live music wait on board when you have soaked in just enough of nature. The ticket starts at #960,000 per person on the Great Majestic Explorer and that doesn’t include air tickets to Ushuaia in Argentina. However, several other international cruise-liners offer an Antarctica cruise, and a luxury suite will set you back by $21,000. But a lifetime experience has no price tag, it’s invaluable.

“Those who have not been on cruise, have not seen earth, because 3/4ths of the earth is sea,” concludes Chadha. That is indeed true. Time to pack your bags. 

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