When Indian architect Rahul Maini and his parents embarked on their first trip abroad in May, Singapore was their destination of choice. But the trio were not here for the hawker food or even the casinos - they were here to get on a ship.
Singapore has become a flourishing entry point for Indian cruise passengers, bolstering sales for operators, including Royal Caribbean Cruises and Genting Hong Kong. About 100,000 Indians sailed from Singapore last year, 29 per cent more than in 2015, making India the biggest market for cruises departing from Singapore, according to the Singapore Tourism Board.
"We chose to go on a cruise because we could visit three countries in one short trip," said Mr Maini, 26, whose four-day cruise on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas took in Penang and Phuket. The family spent about US$7,700 (S$10,500), which he said was "expensive, but worth it".
While the Middle East and France are the most popular overseas destinations for Indians, Singapore is expected to register a 59 per cent jump in arrivals from India from 2015 to 2020, according to Euromonitor.
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Among the city state's top 10 inbound passenger markets, India is the fastest-growing, according to Changi Airport Group.
The number of arrivals from India increased 15 per cent in the first five months of this year, compared with a year earlier - outperforming China by 3 percentage points. Many of the tourists are here mainly to join a cruise.
Increase in number of Indians who sailed from Singapore last year, up from 2015.
"Singapore is a regional hub and port which is near many attractive South-east Asian cruise destinations in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam," said Royal Caribbean's Asia-Pacific managing director Sean Treacy.
The number of Indian passengers on Royal Caribbean ships has jumped 149 per cent so far this year, compared with the same period last year.
The number of cruise passengers from India leaving via Singapore has been increasing by at least 10 per cent a year annually, said Mr Michael Goh, senior vice-president of international sales for Genting Cruise Lines.
Princess Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, also sees "positive growth from the Indian market", including honeymooners, said the company's South-east Asia director Farriek Tawfik.
There is also a tendency among Indian expatriates living in Singapore to invite relatives to join them on a cruise, he said.
Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas will go on 18 cruises during India's summer school holidays next year, 14 more than last year. The number of cruises for Mariner of the Seas will almost double to 56 during the upcoming winter-spring season, from 29 in 2014-2015, he said.
To better accommodate guests from India, the cruise operators offer vegetarian meals, local cuisine and culture, and special events that appeal to South Asian guests.
"More Bollywood music may be played at the pool or disco parties, and more jewellery gift sets, which are popular with Indians, may be procured for sailings that host a higher number of them on board," Royal Caribbean's Mr Treacy said.