My ship is for everyone – it’s my gift to Mumbai and India….. says Shripriya Dalmia Thirani, a young and dynamic businesswoman who has dared to dream big.
Mumbai will soon boast of two largest floating restaurants – Queensline Neverland and Queensline See YAH which will operate in Girgaum Chowpatty and the Gateway of India. The capital saw its first launch at the famous and iconic Bikaner House in the month of June and I had the privilege to attend it along with the who’s who of Delhi. The event not only thrived over the declaration of the path-breaking idea but a unique art show too.
“ALTARS OF YEARNING – HOW INDIA PRAYS” – a series of 55 iconic photographs were commissioned and curated by Shripriya Thirani. Each capture was strong and powerful. It picture touched upon our believe in muttering our prayers and the beautiful ways in which we bow down to the Lord. I was overwhelmed to see how it weaved us all together as Indians irrespective of the religion because at the end of the day we all pray to one powerful force who is behind the creation of the Universe.
At this event, I got a chance to hear from and interact with the inspiring lady, Shripriya. I am glad she agreed to the interview. The conversation below will give you a piece of her strong headed mind and what these floating restaurants will be about.
How did the idea of floating restaurants occur to you? What inspired you?
It was simple, really. What if I asked you today “I’m taking you out for dinner. Would you like to dine in a closed restaurant with people all around you? Or would you prefer sitting under the glistening stars, a constant flow of warm sea breeze teasing your hair, with the extravagant Mumbai skyline towering in front of you while you sample the best food and wine money can buy at the most affordable of costs? I’m sure you would choose the latter because most of the people I have asked this question to choose that option.
Till now, India’s connoisseurs travelled as far as Monte Carlo or Portugal or the Cote d’Azur for such a treat – watch the setting sun splash deep ocher all over a darkening sky as they savour the best champagne money can buy while sumptuous caviar melting in their mouth.
But now, my idea is that they don’t have to go that far. In fact, a short 20 minute drive from their home or office in Mumbai will take them to a deck where all of this and more will be available.
This is what inspired me – to be able to make the best from the culinary world available to the people of my country at their doorstep without having to make expensive travel plans.
In October, I will launch Mumbai’s largest gastronomic extravaganza on the sea – the first ever super luxury floating restaurants – two of them – each with a capacity of hosting 450 people at any given point of time at Mumbai’s most iconic spots – Gateway of India and Chowpatty.
The multi-level restaurants on board a large ship will not only have a range of restaurants that boast of the world’s best known chefs whipping up the most delicious cuisine and drink, but those on board will also for the first time be able to cruise on the sea and catch breath taking views of the city’s enviable sky line.
Mumbai is home to some of the world’s best restaurants – over 500 but none are on the Arabian sea. With my ship expected to hit the waters by October, millions of tourists who visit Mumbai both from inside India and abroad will for the first time be able to get a 360 degree view of the city’s sensational skyline while enjoying some of the world’s best cuisine while sailing.
The food will be fusion for sure – Indian and international creations merging to start a brand new narrative.
Passengers will be picked up from certain stipulated points across Mumbai’s coastline and taken on board the ship.
How difficult or easy was it to win the bid to have something which we have not had permissions for? Please give a little insight in the process.
Mumbai’s incredible seafront is a spectacle – always brimming with life, teeming with stories and emotions. And now, it will no more be any less than the French or the Italian Riviera.
This is the first time I am entering the restaurant business but frankly it isn’t for the restaurant as much it is about the sea. The sea is the DNA of Mumbai and everyone watches the sea from land. What I have always wanted was to be able to see Mumbai’s spectacular skyline from the sea which wasn’t ever possible. All of Manhattan’s iconic photos are from the sea. Why shouldn’t it be the same for Mumbai which is for me more spectacular and iconic that any of the world’s cities by the water. Now, when I roll out the vessel, people will be able to enjoy the magnificent views while having a sumptuous meal.
The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has been keen to turn the city’s eastern coastline into a recreation spot. The brilliant idea is believed to be that of minister of state for shipping and roads Nitin Gadkari. MbPT said in its tender document “The floating hotel may be operational for eight months a year. However, the floating restaurant-ship may be allowed to stay open for 24 hours all year round”. The license has been granted for a period of 15. It is a common misconception that getting into business with the government as a partner is scary and unpredictable. You will be surprised and I must admit that my perception born out of a collective thinking was wrong.
I was amazed at Mumbai Port Trust’s professional ethics, the state government’s transparency and the punctuality with which everything was done. Tenders were opened on the day it was supposed to and tenders were granted on the designated dates. No delays, no side deals. India is progressing fast and I feel proud to say that stories we hear about government’s apathy is not always true. The government in Maharashtra and the various ministries are working together to make Mumbai the number 1 global destination it ought to be. I think everyone involved with the eastern seafront project is immensely proud of the project and will in no way jeopardise the dream. Even if you read the tender, you will be amazed as to how far the government has thought to ensure that the product is legal, legitimate and world class. The tender is clear that people won’t be allowed to stay on board overnight and also does not give us permission to run a casino. The vessel will have state of the art safety features to ensure highest level of security for our diners and will also be pollution free.
As you say, you do not have a background in food industry, how did you plan for this? Did it need any kind of preparation? Is any specific brand coming on board?
Of course it needed me to get back to the classroom and the drawing board. I had to start the business from scratch. I had to know not just about the shipping industry but also about the food and entertainment business. I am unlearning and learning every day. I have been travelling the world drawing inspiration from Britain to Turkey.
I am learning how food is sourced to how food is delivered on the table. I am a big believer in sustainable farming and chemical free food. I will ensure the food is of the highest quality and the ships maintain perfect condition to be environment friendly and also has on board at all given times state of the art safety measures. We are still negotiating with partners and as soon as they come on board you will be the first to know.
I am told that both the ships have been brought down from Turkey. This sounds exotic already. Tell us what is the real vision. What do you want Queensline floating restaurants to be known as?
My ultimate plan is to turn Mumbai into the French or Italian Riviera. Where families can come and enjoy good food and a cruise at Chowpatty and Gateway of India.
The ships will docked a few miles into the sea. Diners will be taken on small boats giving them a real feel of sailing on the sea. Clients will be able to enjoy a delicious meal – local, fusion and international cuisine while getting a 360 degree view of Mumbai.
Data clearly shows that Cruise ship and water tourism globally is the fastest growing sector of the leisure travel industry – with ship size and numbers, passengers, ports, and profits all on the rise. At present there are over 30,000 cruises each year, and about 2,000 coastal cruise destinations in the world. Opportunities on land are getting monotonous.
Floating restaurants, tourism on the water is the future forward. I want to make my ships a one stop place for everything spectacularly creative – from food to art to culture. I want the deck to become a continent of people from far corners of the globe merging and mixing.
What is the market segment or travellers that you plan to target?
My ship is for everyone – it’s my gift to Mumbai and India. It will be both for Indians who can see Mumbai in a new light and also for foreigners coming into Mumbai annually who can enjoy a new way of seeing the city.
Mumbai attracts almost 6 million tourists per year, making it the 30th-most visited location worldwide. With a metro population of approximately 20 million, Mumbai is the largest city in India and the 10th largest city in the world.
Interestingly, 1 out of every foreign tourist that comes to India lands in Mumbai. And if you look closely to the list of the top countries to where Indians go for a holiday, you will see that nearly five of them use one thing very well to their advantage – water.
Spain has a Riviera. So does Italy, France, Thailand, Greece and Turkey.- India’s favourite holiday spots. Nice, France’s second most-visited city after Paris rakes in 1.5 billion euros annually from tourism just because of its water. This made we wonder – why is it that India which has so much of it covered by water does not have a Riviera, does not market its rivers and seas and opens it up for entertainment like almost every country in the West has so successfully done. This was the precise thought that gave birth to Neverland and See Yah – my two ships which will be Mumbai’s first ever large format floating restaurants.
When will the bookings open and what dining plans are available. How long can one be onboard?
The bookings open in September. The ship can be open 24×7. People can’t however sleep in overnight.
Tell us five amazing reasons why one should look forward to be on board Queensline!
The best food, the best drink, the best setting and views, the chance to be away from the din and bustle of the city for as long as you want and yet be right there and above all the chance to be with yourself, staring up into the open sky or staring in to the colourful horizon, enjoying the quiet, the only sound to bother you being the waves lapping against the side of the ships. So hop on board, lose yourself only to find yourself.
If you have more queries regarding the floating restaurants, put them below.
Happy Traveling and Eating!!