"The cruise potential in India is huge," said Naresh Rawal, Star Cruises' marketing manager in India. He said the deployment of the Superstar Libra ( ex Norwegian Sea) out of Mumbai is a logical move that will be very profitable for the company in the long run.

He noted that while cruising in India is still new, demand is growing. The Superstar Virgo, for example, has been sailing with an average of 750 Indian passengers -nearly 40 percent of the vessel's capacity -per week.

Most Indians currently fly to Singapore to cruise, and with a vessel based in Mumbai, the inconvenience and cost of flying will be omitted, Rawal said. "Right now there is no ship homeporting in India; Star is the first," he added.

The program, which runs from October 2 to April 30, 2006, will consist of three cruises per week: one four-night, one two-night and one weekend one-night "getaway" cruise.

The four-night cruises will sail to Lakshadweep, which Rawal referred to as a remote, tropical island that "95 percent of Indians would never see due to the inconvenience of traveling there prior to this program." Both four- and two-night cruises will also call at Goa, which is seen as an interesting destination among Indians because it is often frequented by Europeans and Americans via charter flights, according to Rawal.

The Libra's target market will be "the entire upper middle class of Indian society," Rawal said, noting that pricing breaks down to $90 per person per night. While the onboard product has been designed to cater exclusively to India's upper middle class, Rawal noted that "ship information tours" and "team building exercises" may be implemented targeting a younger demographic.

The Libra will feature two Indian restaurants -" The Saffron" serving vegetarian fare and "Taj by the Bay," featuring more traditional cuisine as well as vegetarian food. The ship will also have a restaurant - "Four Seasons" - that will serve American and European dishes - as well as Indian.

The crew will be a mix of 40 percent Indians, and the rest Chinese and other nationalities, according to Rawal.

While 90 percent of the passengers will be Indian, Rawal explained that the source market will likely be expanded in the future to include Singapore and Malaysia as well. Looking ahead, Rawal said he would consider looking New Mexican Port.