London-based Indian Ocean Cruises - a division of commercial shipping company Foresight, hopes to establish itself as "the premier, local Indian cruise line," its director of global sales and marketing Uwe Schwarze told Cruise Industry News.

The company is offering two-week cruises sailing from Goa to the Lakshandweep Islands, and ports on India's southwest coastline, through April 2007, on the 250-passenger Ocean Odyssey, (ex- Jason) The ship was built in 1965 and refurbished at the end of 2005. "It's more of an exploration-type ship now," Schwarze said. "She was technically overhauled; zodiacs were put onboard; it's like a different ship. 

"This program is unique simply because we are the only cruise line that has access to Lakshandweep," Schwarze continued, adding that this program, unlike a typical cruise, will incorporate more education with relaxation.

However, Schwarze explained that selling the program is indeed challenging, because "unlike Barbados, the islands of Lakshandweep are not very well known. Therefore, we have to push the destination in addition to our line."

The Odyssey departs Goa calling at various ports along the Malabar Coast, before heading to the Lakshadweep Islands, as well as visiting Cape Comorin - the southernmost point of India. The cruise includes an overnight stop in Sri Lanka, where passengers can visit Colombo.

Indian culture is also present onboard, with traditionally cooked Indian food using locally sourced produce (a European menu will also be available), as well as Indian themed evenings on deck.

Product and Sourcing

"Our product caters to the discerning traveler who is destination oriented," Schwarze said, adding that the majority of the line's passengers are from the U.K. (60 percent), with the remainder sourced from other European countries - and are 35 years and older. The atmosphere aboard the ship is informal and relaxed.

"We are sourcing mainly from the U.K. right now," Schwarze pointed out, adding that he plans on focusing on other countries - including the U.S. "We are also marketing in Asia and India."

The company's sales and marketing office is in London, with an office in Goa handling marine operations. Hotel operations are outsourced to Ligabue.

The passenger to staff ratio on the Odyssey is 2:1. And while the senior officers are Swedish, the rest of the crew is international, Schwarze said.

Further expansion is on Schwarze's radar screen, noting that in the near future he sees the line with "at least two other ships, the same size as the Odyssey."

"We also may look into the east coast of India for new cruise programs."