To cater to the desires of those who want to have a unique vacation in the form of a short cruise, Jalesh Cruises has launched MS Karnika, which had its maiden voyage in April with 2,000 passengers enjoying the best in entertainment, cuisine, shopping, and sightseeing. Maritime Matrix Today was an exclusive media entity on May 3 to provide a first-hand report.
On April 19, 2019, Jalesh Cruises, India’s first premium cruise service catering to the Indian domestic and international cruise business, christened ‘MS Karnika’ in an official naming ceremony in Mumbai. Shreyasi Goenka took on the mantle of the ‘godmother’ of the magnificent liner. A special postal stamp of INR 5 was also released on the occasion to commemorate the historic occasion on Indian waters.
Karnika has been named after a celestial nymph who, according to Indian mythology emerged when gods and demons churned the ocean for ‘amrit’, the elixir for life. Apsara Karnika, a celestial maiden, stood for exquisite beauty and alluring charm for carrying treasures and pleasures to reward and indulge those engaged in hard labour. The name also reflects a true Indian identity, drawing inspiration from the first Indian ‘ghat’ — Manikarnika in Varanasi, believed to be the oldest existing city in India.
The traditional cracking of a champagne bottle on the bow of the ship followed the blessing. The naming ceremony is a maritime practice and is considered a good luck charm for the captain, crew and passengers sailing the ship. Speaking on the occasion, Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO, Jalesh Cruises, said, “Jalesh Cruises is immensely proud to give India its first premium ship Karnika, which has been curated to indulge and entertain in true Indian style. She is a beautiful ship designed to enthral both domestic and international guests with the famed Indian hospitality. Our ship will make it possible for Indians to experience cruise vacations closer home with high level of customization that touches the sensibilities of people here.”
The Indian cruise business has been conceptualised by experienced cruise veteran Bailom, who has spent the past 12 months developing the onboard cruise product that includes unique entertainment formats, itineraries and shore excursion programmes. The naming ceremony was followed by bespoke entertainment performances. The 70,285-ton ship sailed on its maiden voyage from Mumbai to Goa on April 17 carrying 2,000 passengers.
Onboard, passengers will have a variety of cuisines, entertainment, adventure and relaxation to choose from. Additionally, the cruise offers land-based excursions at different ports for passengers. The ship has three fine dining restaurants, which includes Indian cuisine at Waterfront and Chef’s Table and Thai, Malay, Korean, Mongolian, Taiwanese and Japanese cuisines at Chopstix. The ship also hosts nine different buffet and food stations offering a variety of delicacies ranging from street food, barbeque, international grill to patisserie and frozen desserts. The ship also has dedicated cuisine for Jain passengers. There are nine bars on the ship to offer a full range of international premium spirits.
Karnika provides a host of onboard entertainment for children as well as adults. The ship will offer Broadway shows, burlesque performances, casino, music and dance nights, movie screenings and adventure activities, among others. The ship offers features that make it convenient and easy for senior citizens and differently-abled passengers to enjoy the cruise. It is also the first Indian ship to provide therapeutic relaxation facilities on the high seas. Theon Spa offers a host of aromatic and natural techniques for relaxation. A state-of-the-art fitness studio and multi-purpose salon facilities are also available to passengers. The ship has high-end retail therapy for guests to take home duty-free products from a host of prominent international brands. The ship is also equipped with the state-of-the-art venue, modern technology and 24×7 internet access.
Speaking at the naming ceremony, Dr Subhash Chandra, Chairman, Zee and Essel Group, said that just like Zee kick- started the satellite TV industry in India, Jalesh will create a cruise industry that could employ 5 million people. He also termed the launch of the cruise service a new chapter in the transportation and tourism sectors of India while reflecting on the way the entertainment preferences of Indians have evolved over the decades. “When our amusement theme park EsselWorld was launched, we realised that the Indian market does need entertainment but within their houses and thus Zee was born. After 26 years, people now also want entertainment away from home and that is what has led to the birth of Jalesh,” he said.
Bernhard Schulte Cruise Services (BSCS) has been awarded technical management of MS Karnika. Les Royle, BSCS President and Martin Springer, Managing Director worked closely with Jalesh Cruises on the new partnership. “We are very proud and excited to welcome this fine vessel into BSCS’ management, and being part of the first dedicated, domestic cruise operation on the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East” said Royle.
Built for Sitmar Cruises in 1989 by Fincantieri in Italy, Karnika started life as Crown Princess and was transferred to P&O Princess Cruises after the latter organisation acquired Sitmar. She was acquired in 2003 by Carnival Corporation, and sailed as the Pacific Jewel for a decade between 2009 and 2019, before being purchased by Zen Cruises.
Meanwhile, the christening ceremony also served as an occasion to celebrate the achievements of five Indians who have made the country proud in the global arena by being the first ones to achieve pinnacle in their fields. The personalities included Milkha Singh, first Indian athlete to win a Gold at Commonwealth Games (1958); Dr Subhash Chandra, the pioneer of private satellite television channel and entertainment park; actor Sushmita Sen, the first Indian Miss Universe (1994); Mahesh Bhupati, first Indian to win the Grand Slam Tournament (1997); and Mary Kom, the first Indian woman boxer to win Asian Games (2014).