This marks a new era of cruise tourism and maritime trade in the country

MV Empress, India's first international cruise vessel, was flagged off from Chennai on Tuesday (June 2, 2023) by Union Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal. The cruise service will sail to three Sri Lankan ports - Hambantota, Trincomalee, and Kankesanturai - before returning to Chennai.

“This marks the beginning of the international cruise tourism terminal at Chennai, built at a cost of ₹17.21 crores, heralding a new age of cruise tourism & maritime trade in the country,” the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways said.

"Today, as we launch the maiden cruise service between Chennai and Sri Lanka, it has ushered in a new chapter in the cruise tourism sector in the country. As affordability and access to world-class cruise services become a reality, people can enjoy and relish luxurious amenities, entertainment, and breathtaking views," Sonowal said at the flagging-off ceremony.


The Union Minister announced that three new international cruise terminals are likely to be completed and become operational by 2024. “We expect that the volume of cruise ships will increase from 208 in 2023 to 500 in 2030 and up to 1100 by 2047. Consequently, the number of passengers availing cruise services is also likely to increase from 9.5 lakhs in 2030 to 45 lakhs in 2047,” he noted.

In order to boost demand for cruise services on the western, southern and eastern coasts of India, the government is working on Gujarat Pilgrimage tours, Cultural and Scenic Tours, Ayurveda Wellness Tours & Heritage Tourism. Plans are afoot to develop new cruise tourism terminals in Andamans, Puducherry and Lakshadweep circuits. “We are also studying the feasibility of developing ferry circuits across India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar,” he added.

According to official data, services for the domestic circuit through 37 vessels have seen an overwhelming response with nearly 85,000 passengers boarding the cruises. It is expected that the opening up of the international circuit will further amp up the business of cruise tourism in the region.

Passengers on the MV Empress have a choice of journey packages lasting 2 nights, 3 nights, 4 nights, or 5 nights.

This cruise service is the outcome of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Chennai Port and M/S Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt. Ltd. during the first Incredible India International Cruise Conference in 2022. The state-of-the-art cruise terminal at Chennai Port spans an impressive 2,880 square meters and can accommodate up to 3,000 passengers at a time.