THINK of holidays to India and most people’s minds will turn to the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ and a visit to the Taj Mahal.

But in a country so vast that it houses nearly 18 per cent of the world’s population, there is so much more to see of enchanting India.

So it was that my wife and I embarked on an exciting exploration of the western and southern regions of this hugely contrasting country which, in recent years, has captured the imagination of western film-makers with the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

And what better way to cover so much territory, given the vast coastline that India has, than on a cruise that, all told, covered an incredible 2,244 nautical miles in just two weeks.

We chose the appropriately titled ‘Authentic India’ cruise courtesy of Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines, which contrasted the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and the Portugese influences of Goa with the scenic and cultural delights of Kerala and bustling Mumbai, which houses some 21 million of India’s total population of 1.35 billion people.

But, as an added bonus, the Fred.Olsen ship Boudicca actually began its voyage in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, followed by neighbouring Dubai, before concluding the cruise with an overnight stop in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The smaller scale cruise ship that is the Boudicca enables easy access to ports while still providing plenty of quiet spots on board alongside a range of facilities including restaurants, bars, lounges, shops, swimming pools, a fitness centre, and spa, and even a library and card room.

With so many ports of call, the ‘Authentic India’ cruise offers passengers a myriad of sights and sounds, colours and smells, to satisfy everyone’s first experience of India.

After experiencing the luxury of modern Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where shore excursions range from the fabulous Grand Mosque to the world’s tallest structure – the Burj Khalifa – at 828 metres, our arrival in India proved something of a contrast.

Porbandar has to be a must as Gandhi’s birthplace, but the poverty is sadly evident at the start of our coach tour from the port to the city, where we experience the first of many splendid Hindu temples and Catholic churches, as well as Gandhi’s birthplace museum.

Porbandar also provided our first Tuk Tuk experience, and the amazing sight of watching cows - which are sacred in India - casually strolling or lying down in the road.

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, combines legacies of former British rule and heritage with nearby Bollywood and locations of Hollywood film Slumdog Millionaire, while Murmugao, within India’s smallest state of Goa, is an enticing mix of popular beaches, spices and the Portugese legacy that only ended in 1961 – 14 years after Indian independence.

Kochi, also known as Cochin, where we enjoyed a further two-day stay, is rightly renowned for its Keralan cuisine, amazing Chinese fishing nets, and the scenic backwaters which offered an insight into traditional village life. And another Tuk Tuk, or auto rickshaw ride!

Our final port of call in India was the pretty fishing harbour of Vizhinjam, just 50 miles from the country’s southern tip, but sadly the swell was too high for us to disembark by tender.

And then, there was just a final day at sea - one of only three all cruise - before our final destination of Colombo.

Any pre-concerns about heat, humidity, and signs of poverty are largely unfounded, but be aware of the red tape. Ensure you get your passport stamped with an India visa and obtain a physical ETA for Sri Lanka – nothing else will do!

By Tony Collins


A similar cruise with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines will be a 14-night ‘Authentic India’ fly-cruise (D2003) on board Boudicca, sailing between Colombo and Dubai, which departs on 6th February 2020.

Prices currently start from £1,749 per person, based on an interior twin-bedded room, subject to availability, and includes all food and entertainment on board, return flights from the UK, port and airport taxes and transfers.

Further information on the cruise can be found by visiting:

For further information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, visit the website at, or call Reservations on 0800 0355 242.