Mumbai: Sea lovers, Mumbaikars and tourists now have an avenue to go offshore to take in the sights of the city's iconic skyline, while gently bobbing on the Arabian Sea waves from the comforts of a deluxe ship.

The Indian-built 66-metre-long, 15-metre-wide passenger ship, "Mumbai Maiden", has been deployed by SSR Marine Services (SSRMS), Thane, in collaboration with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).

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The triple-deck ship with a capacity of 285, plus a 15-member crew, sails at a maximum speed of 10 knots -- to afford a leisurely cruising experience without making it tough on the head or the tummy of landlubbers.

At Rs 1,600 per head, it takes people for a 90-minute sea-cruise experience providing a view of the city's skyline from various angles as the ship sails out from the Bandra Jetty. The evening cruise's bonus is an uninterrupted view of the sunset over the horizon, with a splash of reflecting hues like yellow, orange and red.

SSRMS Director Sanjeev K. Agarwal said that initially the five-year old ship, with all safety features, will sail off Mumbai on different routes, starting and ending the journey at Bandra Jetty. "It offers hitherto unseen glimpses of Mumbai landscapes," Agarwal told IANS on a demo-cruise.

From Bandra Jetty a 10-seater motorboat takes passengers to the ship, even as bright orange-white life-vests are handed out. Thoughts of "Titanic" -- the 1997 disaster-blockbuster -- float up to your consciousness, and you anxiously ask the young boatmen: "Is the balance right? Why is the speedboat wobbling so much? Is everything fine?"

Returning the life-vest, you enter the reception area of Mumbai Maiden. The ship's Captain R. Ananthkumar welcomes you with a smile, and other crew members guide you to the large fine-dine restaurant adjacent. High tea follows. There is a promise of other hard beverages and fine-dining. "For now, we are strictly abiding by the laws of the land -- and water," Agarwal laughs.

Outside, on a small open deck with a paraphernalia of big and small pipes, one can see 16 tiny cabin windows (for future overnight stay on long coastal cruises). There is also a large conference hall and bar, for various events -- weddings, receptions or corporate meetings.

The third and uppermost deck has comfortable sofas and low tables strewn around. Soon, the ship moves out towards the open sea, passing under the sea link. Everyone is furiously clicking pictures seeing the underbelly of the bridge connecting Bandra and Worli, thrown open in 2009.

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From the upper deck, one can identify various prominent buildings, towers, five-star hotels, promenades, ancient forts and their remnants, the quaint fishing villages of Mahim and Worli, Shivaji Park beach, the rocky Worli seaface and other landmarks. The sun has mellowed. Soon, it will set.

Amidst all the thrills, almost imperceptibly, the ship has smoothly taken a U-turn and has headed back to the Bandra Jetty. It halts briefly for a view of the night skyline of Mumbai with millions of colourful lights presenting an ethereal evening experience. The brief voyage is likely to become one of those must-do things for Mumbaikars and visitors. (IANS)