The lone cruise liner to call at Vizhinjam this tourist season, in fact, came after the season closed. And no other tourist liner is scheduled to visit this small port for the rest of the year, port officials said. Le Soleal, one of the bigger French tourist liners, dropped anchor off this old port of the Ay kings on Tuesday.
The passengers, numbering 153 including 125 French tourists, were allowed to land at Vizhinjam after being cleared by the Coast Guard and port authorities. They were taken on a tour of the city and visited the Kuthiramalika and the Connemara Market. Majority of the other tourists on Le Soleal were from Luxembourg, Germany, Canada, the US and Switzerland. Le Soleal also had a crew of 130. The 142-metre-long ship, which was on its way from Maldives to Kochi, left in the evening.
Vizhinjam is not a major port-of-call for tourist liners, but a brief stop-over on the Kochi-Colombo-Maldives circuit. Besides, the small port at Vizhinjam is scarcely adequate for even small liners to dock, as the old wharf has a depth of only 4.5 metres and the newer one, 6.5 metres. There are plans to extend both and increase the depth, but they remain on paper at the moment. Also, the government has ambitious plans to have a cruise terminal on the much bigger seaport coming up south of the existing Vizhinjam port and fisheries harbour.
But on Tuesday, the tourists had to be transferred to the land on two small boats as the ship had to drop anchor some way out at sea. Every year, four to five ships call at this port, but this year none had scheduled visits right from October, when the annual tourism season opens. And going by the present schedule, no more ships will be visiting this year.