SPECTACULAR – YES, THIS IS THE ONLY WORD THAT SUITS WHEN ONE WISHES TO DESCRIBE ANGRIYA – THE FIRST INDIAN CRUISE SHIP.
Angriya has been able to promote change in the Indian Maritime sector with its thrust in the marine tourism sector by bringing into limelight the demand for cruise tourism. This includes a major thrust on enthusing more travelers to travel and holiday on Indian seas and also use sea routes for water transport as well as corporate and social events. Angriya has also helped rekindle interest in state monuments like the Light house at Vengurla, etc. that are viewed whilst sailing on the Mumbai-Goa route. Empowering local and coastal youth and creating employment in this freshly emerging sector has been Angriya’s strength.
Angriya, operational since October 2018, is India’s first domestic cruise ship, dedicated to the memory of Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre, the first Admiral of the Maratha Navy. Reviving the Mumbai – Goa sea route after a gap of three decades and providing an alternative mode of fun and experiential travel, the ship has completed 200 plus voyages which is equivalent to three complete cycles around the globe, giving a fantastic sea faring experience to over 75,000 passengers from India and abroad. They have had a first person experience of the grandeur of the Arabian Sea, tasted exemplary cuisine and the choice of a brand new party destination onboard.
Angriya sails every alternate day from Mumbai to Goa and back on a 14-hour voyage. With themed restaurants, lounge bars, coffee shop, a pool that overlooks the sea, Angriya is acknowledged as the white grandeur on the Konkan horizon. A perfect location for theme based private functions, both for sailing high seas and at anchorage, Angriya has played host to a number of anniversaries, weddings and get togethers. It offers a palate of things to do on board at night: rest in one of the cabins or party through the night along with live band performances on open decks.
Face to Face
“We aim to revitalize small but important ports of the Konkan coast of Maharashtra and Lakshadweep group of islands”
Mrs Leena Kamat Prabhu, the iron lady behind the massive Luxury Cruise-liner, leads from the front. She is blessed to have a strong support system – her maternal uncle Kiran Thakur and cousin Capt. Nitin Dhond. They have been the constant influencers in her life. She belongs to two respected families, paternal as well as maternal, who had been at the forefront during the freedom struggle. So compassion and humility are by default a part of her characteristic.
She says: “Angriya encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone and achieve the impossible.” She believes in empowering her team so they can take her dream forward and make it their own dream. In a free-wheeling chat Mrs Leena Prabhu Kamat speaks to Indian Economy & Market about that dream, her future plans and also goes down memory lane to narrate how it all happened.
You have been involved with this project right from its inception. How difficult it was before the maiden voyage on October 20, 2018 – getting everything in order?
Before starting out this venture I only had hands on experience with setting up of Resorts Wildernest & Swapnagandha in Chorla Ghats. So I was like Alice in wonderland, having no idea about shipping, except for the stories that my brother Captain Nitin Dhond shared with me once in a while. It was December 2016, when Angriya Sea Eagle Pvt. Ltd., purchased this Cruise ship. As I started to understand the marine requirements I realised that I was in a Man’s World but I liked the feeling of being one. The biggest challenge was the vessel that we chose to convert as the Cruise Liner was very specific to Japan. It had to be converted to suit the Indian traveler, more identifiable with the West Coast of India.
We stayed in Goa and did all the required re-designing. I was looking after all the day to day activities and also executing the interior decoration, and designing and theme development for the ship with the Interior décor of the vessel to showcase the robustness of the vessel, blending with luxuriousness and the aesthetics.
The idea of turning an old vessel into a commercial cruise ship seems to be a very well-calculated move. Can you briefly discuss the thought process that went into it?
We named the ship to commemorate the memory of the brave warrior, the legendary Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre, who was the 1st Admiral of the Maratha’s, and credited to set up the Maritime Fleet. The Fleet kept a strong hold on the West Coast of India, fought against the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Mughals and never lost a Battle. The Mumbai – Goa – Mumbai has been a nostalgic passage for many who may have travelled by the then Passenger Ships – Kokan Shakti, Kokan Sevak, Sarita & Rohini owned by one of the pioneer shipping entrepreneurs – The Chougules. These ships were pulled out of service for the larger cause as Troop Carriers to Sri Lanka for the Peace Keeping Forces.
Please let us know the journey as being a lady it must have been very difficult.
I feel you are right. To me this was an entirely different world – first, completely male dominant, secondly, safety was of ultimate importance and third, the Human Factor. It was very challenging to understand the mindsets of people, who were associated, specially the Team which was living onboard.
My entry into the Mumbai Port was memorable, as till that time no women were allowed to remain inside Port after sundown and here I was fighting my way since I was staying on board. Finally, after some convincing I was accepted and things eased out for women’s access. This changed the perspective of the Security System to Post Women Security Personnel to facilitate women friendly security processes at Port. We had around 200 workers and staff on Board, but I never ever felt out of place or uncomfortable for the fact that I was the only lady on board. Yes, on a lighter note I must admit that I was asked to walk out of the Conference cum Recreation cum War room many a times when men wanted to share a Raw Sailor’s Joke. But jokes apart, I was generally not treated different from them.
As you travel far and wide
Across oceans and high tides
As you come across new people
Who will make your journey special
As you find new things to do
Undertaking experiences that are new
Cherish every moment of your journey
And enjoy every moment to the tee
What drove you to the Cruise business?
I believe that one has to have a very high level of passion for this occupation. Our mission statement makes our vision very clear. We wish to develop and bring about appreciation for India’s marine waterways and coasts, her ports and people, and their ecological and maritime richness through eco-conscious tourism initiatives in the country. All our initiatives revolve around this.
When the ship came to Mumbai last year in June before the onset of monsoons, I decided to stay onboard the ship to get the work expedited and to form the “Team ANGRIYA”. There were lot of challenges in terms of Interiors and setting up a Team especially Hospitality since we wanted boys and girls from local communities without any prior experience.
India has a 5000 km coastline that is bedazzled with unique seascapes, cultural diversity and an array of marine biodiversity that needed to be showcased to Indian as well as global travelers. The maritime history of India is thousands of years old and serves as an inspiration to the global maritime sea farer and sea lover community. Yet, there was not a single domestic Indian cruise liner with an Indian flag in recent times. Our endeavour at Angriya was to change that with inspiration from the history of the Maratha Navy, and support from the Indian maritime and tourism fraternity. The aim was also to pave way for others to surge ahead and open this sector of marine tourism on the Indian coast.
Can you brief about the services provided and the process of booking for our readers?
Booking is a very simple process and anyone can visit our website and do the bookings seamlessly like any other travel booking they do. But some areas of passenger amenities I would love to share.
Petara: From model ships to wonderfully handmade crochet miniatures, from cakes and cookies to interesting books, from t-shirts and mugs to whistles and pirate hats, Petara boasts of an exclusive collection of mementoes to take home to treasure or to gift.
Knots and Crosses: This is a comfort space for leisure time reading at sea! The ambience of the reading room is beautiful and designed to host art works as a gallery. Quiet conversations and meeting old pals for long chats are recommended here. A selection of a hundred plus books on the Maratha Navy, the high seas and on Goa and Maharashtra are part of the library here.
Dry Dock Spa: A dry dock is a narrow basin, usually made of earthen or stone blocks and concrete, closed by gates into which a ship is floated and water pumped out. She is then rested and cleaned, ridding her of barnacles and rust, and re-painting of ships’ hulls. When floated again the ship sails fresh and rejuvenated and ready to take on the high seas once again. Our spa “DRY DOCK” is powered and managed by Soham Wellness.
Infinity Pool: What better way to relax than immersing yourself in an infinity pool on a moving cruise ship in the middle of the Arabian Sea? With a depth of 5 feet this plunge pool is one of the few of its kind on a cruise vessel and has an exclusivity value of the highest kind. We recommend having a dip here at dusk just before the Sun sets on the horizon in the sea.
Heli Deck: Coated with a special layer that’s used for air craft carrier vessels and positioned with a 360 view of the Arabian Sea at all times, this outdoor space is unparalleled in raw experiential magnificence. Stand by in the day to converse with the waves or enjoy the company of a zillion stars at night, the Helli deck is one place you should spend time at. The Gaaz bar is a stone’s throw away to quench your thirst too.
Sea Breeze: A Sea breeze, whether in a scorching summer, a forgotten monsoon or a saddened smile, all brings back sweet life just like our bar with the same name. It is here that new friendships are forged and old bonds renewed afresh.
How many voyages and how many passengers so far have enjoyed the Cruise services?
So far till date, we have completed 290 voyages and serviced over 80,000 passengers.
On a luxurious cruise, to hop aboard
Is a luxury that only a few can afford
To such faraway lands, to make a journey
Is not everybody’s cup of tea
You are one of the lucky few
To have such a beautiful holiday due
Enjoy it to the very last bit
Think of us as being there in spirit
Does the ship abide by International maritime law and the security?
Angirya has an onboard security system and plan in place that meets international maritime and hospitality standards and DG shipping requirements. I must tell you that Angriya is green ship and leads by example. While exhaust gas is reused for steam production that heats food and powers hot water for passenger use, waterless vacuum toilets ensure that fresh water consumption is at a minimum. Marine researchers are on board as part of the team and document marine life, sharing it with passengers on board as well as the academic community.
India has a gigantic coastline and a huge potential. How do you see the future for cruise liners in India? Do you think more will follow?
Being India’s first flag bearer cruise, Angriya has generated huge feel good response and positive awareness of cruising in India which will pave way to more domestic cruises and potential of passengers. We are recognized as India’s first high end ‘Floating Sea Venues’ for product and service launches, corporate events and off site venture openings. There has been an array of prestigious launches and conferences in both our sailing seasons.
Do you also intent to cover any other circuit in future?
There are tremendous potential for ports like Porbunder in Gujrat, Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and Mangalore in Karnataka to be rejuvenated into new destination ports for the tourism and travel circuit. We’re considering acquiring smaller cruise ships to support and revitalize small but important ports of the Konkan coast of Maharashtra and Lakshadweep group of islands. These vessels will be smaller with a capacity of less than 300 passengers to ensure the fragile marine ecosystems in and around these ports is conserved.