Sail Away

Photo credit: Wendy Woo

I’m a Navy Brat – my dad served in the Indian Navy before joining the Merchant Navy.

Essentially, I have sailed through my childhood (both literally and figuratively) and had developed sea legs before I could walk on dry land. My parents tell me the first time I went on board a ship was as a three-month-old in Port Blair (Andaman Islands). There were Family Days when we sailed out of Mumbai or Chennai and drank way too much cola in the Wardroom aka the officer’s mess on a ship. When Dad joined the Merchant Navy, vacations were spent sailing between obscure Indian ports (like Haldia in Odisha which was a tiny dusty industrial port-town in the late 90s) and Dundee (Scotland), Haifa (Israel) and Arendal (Norway).

This is when I fell in love with the sea. And, I fell hard.

I have sailed through fierce storms when huge waves smacked the ship repeatedly, making it swing like a pendulum, and even celebrated a birthday while crossing the Bay of Biscay with a bunch of very seasick people. The happy memories though, far outweigh the terror of the high seas. There were long sunny days of lounging on a hammock as a pod of dolphins swam alongside, and moonlit nights when the calm ocean looked like quicksilver.

The longest I have sailed for was three months from Mumbai to multiple ports in Europe and back. And, it’s my absolute favourite vacation ever. When I wasn’t reading, eating or staring into the sea, the whole family played board games obsessively. I remember every little detail of this vacation. Like the first time I listened to Whigfield’s Saturday Night and Sexy Eyes (all you 90s kids would remember) in Dundee; being super embarrassed about slipping on snow in the town-square in Arendal; buying one banana for 100 INR (conversion is a bitch!) in Hamburg; or sitting on the Monkey Deck, the highest deck on a ship, while crossing the Suez Canal.

This was eons ago. And, I’ve been itching to sail again, this year in particular.

Earlier this summer, director Zoya Akhtar set her dysfunctional family story Dil Dhadakne Do on a Pullmantur Cruise that sailed between Spain, Turkey and Italy. Then I read Kiran Manral’s latest, All Aboard (a super fun read), and it got me dreaming once again. I want the thrill of chasing cottonball-clouds riding a strong tradewind. I want to while away long days staring at seas mottled in 50 shades of blue.

I have never been on an actual cruise but my dad has retired and I have no plans of being a stowaway, leaving it as my only option if I want to be at sea once more. Sailing on a floating mall packed with thousands of people from one tourist trap to another is not my idea of fun. So, I’ve looked long and hard for cruises that are fun, intimate and promise adventures. Here are my picks:

The Gauguin in Bora Bora

Pacific Paradise

Paul Gauguin’s 12 night cruise Fiji, Tonga, Cook & Society Island

To me, this cruise sounds like it could be the ultimate get-away-from-it-all vacation. Fiji promises pristine palm fringed beaches with blue lagoons (Brooke Shield’s Blue Lagoon was shot here). The itinerary also includes Bora Bora that James Michener called ‘the most beautiful island in the world’, and sailing across the International Date Line. Also, V has inexplicably been obsessed with Tonga since he read a very random book about an Englishman who goes searching for a mushroom and ends up becoming the King of Tonga. So, this cruises ticks all the boxes for us.

The Queen Mary 2
The Queen Mary 2

Trans-Atlantic Celebration

Queen Mary 2

Itinerary: 1 Week from New York to Southampton, England.

This is the cruise of cruises. There’s something historically romantic about crossing the Atlantic in an ocean liner. Everything about the QM2 reminds me of steamer trunks, classic afternoon teas, sweeping ball gowns and silver trays loaded with decadent goodies. They even have a dress code for dinners, so women are dressed in elegant eveningwear while men wear suits-and-tie. Normally, I am deathly allergic to anything froufrou but I am ready to make an exception for QM 2.

Gorgeous Budapest at dusk
Gorgeous Budapest at dusk

The River’s Tale

Viking Legend

Itinerary: 8-day sail down River Danube

A cruise on the Danube’s 1777-mile sweep across Europe from the Black Forest to the Black Sea would be the new way to experience Europe. Imagine leisurely cruising down the river with stops in Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Church spires, castle turrets and abbey towers – you watch history unfold as you breeze along in absolute comfort.

Snow-covered peaks of Svalbard
Snow-covered peaks of Svalbard

Kingdom of the Polar Bears

National Geographic Explorer

Itinerary: 11-day trip from Oslo to the high Arctic and back

Midnight sun, breath-taking fjords, massive glaciers and, of course, the magnificent polar bears… the Arctic is all about adventure. This National Geographic Explorer sails all the way up to the heart of the high Arctic in Svalbard, an archipelago situated between Norway and the North Pole. *Brrrr* I will probably be cold and miserable but I am going to focus on how amazing it would be to kayak among sparkling icebergs or to explore fjords in Zodiacs to spot the Arctic big five – Polar bears, beluga whales, caribou, musk ox and walrus.

So, that’s my list. Do you have dream destinations you’d want to cruise to? Or, any cruising stories to share? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

 Also read: About the blog

Also read: A Weekend in Nasik

Also read: The Perfect Pint in Dublin

Also read: Postcard from London


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