As I leaned on the ship’s rail looking out to sea with a beautiful sunset beginning to form there was a pleasant feeling of anticipation and delight at the prospect of fulfilling a long held dream of visiting the hitherto relatively unknown Lakshadweep Islands on a fortnight’s cruise.
MS Ocean Odyssey would be taking us to two of the Lakshadweep Islands but also showing us the delights of places like Cochin in Kerala and Colombo capital of Sri Lanka and inland Sri Lanka. Goa too, has its many attractions and we planned to stay on in Goa for four days at our favourite hotel the Majorda Beach Resort in the south of Goa when the ship returned us at the end of the voyage.
The cruise proved to be very enjoyable and for those who had not had the pleasure of visiting India before I am sure they had some wonderful experiences. For Graham, my husband, and me however the Lakshadweep Islands of Suheli and Cheriyam proved the greatest attractions of the whole holiday. The ship is well appointed and comfortable and the crew and ‘hotel staff’ were friendly and welcoming and the food was excellent and plentiful. The crew is truly international and we liked that. The Captain was very approachable and friendly with an enthusiasm which rubbed off on his passengers; moreover he operated an ‘open bridge’ policy and from time to time it was pleasant to go up and talk to him throughout the journey. A small ship like Ocean Odyssey has the advantage of being able to go into small ports and approach really close to coral islands. The Captain was always vigilant for something special like a pod of whales which he would circle round for his passengers to fully appreciate – he likes to think of it as ‘adventure cruising’.
The band played in the lounge at both tea time and before dinner daily and was both talented and eager to please; their choice of music was appreciated by most of the passengers with wonderful old standards and classic pieces plus a few really good raunchy modern tunes that are familiar to most of us. I particularly like being up on the mizzen deck early in the morning with a good cup of tea looking at the ocean, watching for sea life and enjoying the sun’s rays before they became too fierce. The Jacuzzis are well positioned on the mizzen deck close to the pool and there is also the opportunity to have an Ayurvedic massage or beauty treatments. I noticed that we had quite a few amateur water colourists on our voyage and they would position themselves under shade on the middle deck and were totally absorbed in their art. The ship has an attractive well-stocked shop from all over India and it also sells the prosaic items like sun screen and toothpaste.
Uniquely this ship carried an astrologer. Hesitantly I succumbed to his gentle invitation. I was very tight lipped about my past and any personal details but he proceeded to use my exact time and date and place of birth and plot a chart on his computer which he interpreted extremely accurately – it was amazing. I am yet to find out if one of his important predictions takes place!
Relaxing and excursions
The Lakshadweep Archipelago is really an extension of the same one we know as The Maldives, but two hundred miles further north. I just loved the pristine white coral sand and the turquoise blue warm water and the total peace of the place. Everyone has their own priorities but for me just floating in the azure clean coral lagoon with the blue sky above and the sun overhead was divine.
The ship’s chefs and Maitre D accompany the guests to each island and proceed to provide a very good barbeque and there are plenty of chilled soft drinks available throughout one’s stay. On departure from the islands everywhere is left clean and tidy without any human detritus. We were the very last people to leave the second island as the sun was setting – it had been such a lovely experience that I left with extreme reluctance and a hope that someday I will return.
Excursions are laid on for those who feel energetic and want to explore. Cochin has so much to offer the visitor and is aptly named the Venice of the East and is famed for its iconic Chinese fishing nets. Local hotels provide a welcome haven to which to gravitate and spend an enjoyable afternoon swimming in the hotel pool and enjoying a taste of India should one prefer, but from Cochin the ship lays on a tour of the famous Kerala Backwaters which should not be missed.
Sri Lanka too is a most beautiful island and the ship is now going to extend its inland tour to fully appreciate the historic and scenic sights around Kandy. Colombo also has elegant hotels nearby if one seeks a change of scene; I particularly love the John Keells Group Hotels like Bentota Beach where we spent a most enjoyable night this time; their hotels have a very good ethos of service and friendliness; I loved their hotel at Habarana now called Cinnamon Lodge – truly a birdwatchers’ paradise in exquisite surroundings. There is so much to see in Sri Lanka where we have holidayed so happily before and it is so pretty that one thinks of it as one huge garden.
Graham and I had been guests of the Indian Government at the Republic Day ceremonials in Delhi and then flew down to Goa by Spice Jet to embark on the ship; Ocean Odyssey was India’s first cruise ship.
Ocean Odyssey update
It is with sadness that I learned that this old cruise ship has now been broken up. We had a lovely adventure cruising on her and our memories of our visits to the Lakshadweep Islands is very precious to us…..uninhabited and in the middle of an ocean, but such fun to be there!