Handsome men, tantalizing cocktails, exciting events, delicious food, gorgeous pools is what you think of when the word “luxury cruise” is dropped at you. If that’s what you are expecting, exit right away! Cause we had none of that.
My friend Vanita was invited to be a part of a new luxury cruise liner’s maiden voyage. She suggested my name too and in I was. I was in Bangalore for a workshop and i decided to fly in directly to Goa for this. The cruise was just between Goa and Mumbai on the high seas. I had had a really rough 5 months and this seemed the perfect break. We had no expectations. We are Indian girls and we knew what kind of people to expect on a cruise starting from India. We had decided to make the best of it and knew we would have a gala time just cracking jokes on all the others around us. (We are evil women!)
We had a few hours in Goa and so we booked a room at Caravela cafe and bistro in Panaji to relax and get respite from the heat before we head to the port in the evening. I landed early morning and checked in. I was exhausted and sleep deprived. In other words, hung over. This was an old house converted into a home stay. Tried to take a nap, but like always, failed. Vanita was coming by bus and there was still time before she reached. I started ironing all my clothes and packing them up for the cruise (my therapy, smh) while watching the craziest movie on the only channel available. Govinda fighting a serial rapist who had a mind controlled monster for a henchman. I was gobsmacked!
I had a breakfast of Spaghetti aglio olio while chatting away to the very nice and helpful proprietor of the establishment. He told me that he used to be a sailor and shared some interesting stories. Vanita finally made it around lunch time and we headed straight away to Kokni canteen.
I have gone to Goa a gazillion times, but like most people I would be at the north or south Goan beaches. Never came to central city area where it’s all about the locals and not the tourists. Kokni canteen is the most popular joint for the Goan thali. It was hot as hell, but after a 10 minute walk we were there at 12:30 as suggested by our host. We ordered a beer each and the standard thali. The place was super cute with miniature kitchen dishes and old school tools around. The thali was superb with a huge, the softest and oil free fish fry, fish curry, veg curry, kokkum soup, pipi fry, rice and salad. Vanita being the picky eater that she is, gave most of her stuff to me! Yay!
Our server recommended Serradura, a Portuguese dessert made of crumbled Marie biscuits and whipped cream. Party in my mouth! We packed one more for later and headed back to the room. On the way, we came across the Panaji Church and the mandatory picture had to be taken. We watched Aitraaz on TV, while packing, chit chatting and battling the heat.
Time to head to the port. After a lot of wrong locations we finally made it. Step in and I see a face I know. There goes the complete privacy to act like idiots. The crowd was exactly what we had expected, absolutely uninteresting, full of loud aunties and weird uncles. At the baggage check in we had to give up our wine bottles as you could not carry your own alcohol on board. Money making tricks. As I was standing at the baggage check in, one of my followers recognized me and came up to me! That felt just so incredible!
Long crazy queue and the standard green backdrop photoshoot. As we entered the lobby of the Jalesh cruise, we were welcomed with the typical Indian style of tilak, garland and unfortunately were served a really crappy welcome drink. I sniffed and put it aside. We were given our access card and we topped it up with some money to pay for the expenses on the ship. Everything was on the house except for the alcohol, casino and a few restaurants. We found our room nice and spacious. The tiny little bathroom was also quite sufficient. Enough wardrobe and dressing space. Now it did feel like a luxury cruise liner.
We relaxed, unpacked, showered and dressed to head out for the evening. We had an itinerary in our room. First thing was a glimpse of all the shows by the cruise director. We took a walk on the deck and headed to the theater. We couldn’t get over the other guests. It felt like we were in a theater playing Mithun Chakraborthy movies from the late 90s. Yes, those desperate times of Gundaa , Ganga ki kasam and Hatyaara. The show was extremely boring too with the most overrated magic show. Time to walk out and look at the food spread. And there came the biggest heartbreak for both of us. The food wasn’t even mediocre. Really sad fare. We ate a bit, nibbled on some chaat and decided to call it a night.
I woke up early and headed up to the gym. Had a great workout and was feeling pumped. This other gentleman working out with 2 kg dumbbells on the other end kept staring at me while I was on my squat and press. I asked him if he needed something and he needed the 6kg dumbbells I was using. I passed it on to him when my set was done and then I saw his knees buckling, arms shaking and veins popping while I tried doing what I was. I went to his assistance and asked him to shift to lower weights but, there came the misplaced big fat male pride and he refused to switch. Well, be my guest and tear a muscle.
Went back to the room, Vanita was up by then and we decided to go by the pool and have a few drinks, but of course after breakfast. Vanita turned into my mother and forbade me from wearing my red bikini. I thought of defying her and then remembered all the wide eyed creepy men we had encountered till now on the ship. I picked up my other bikini set and off we went for breakfast. On the way, we passed by the pool which was filled with pot bellied men, most of them in their underwear and not even swimming trunks! Not a single woman in sight! An old grandpa passing by us, looks at me says, “You are the only one dressed perfectly.” We wondered if he was going to go and inspire his wife/daughter/daughter in law/ grand daughter to don one too. Likely not.
It was exactly what I had expected and announced to Vanita the night before. Eggs, sausages, bread, some Indian dishes and a big bucket of blah. Ate for the sake of it and then we went one deck lower to the beach beds. After taking atleast 100 pictures of each other, we settled on the bed, got deep fried in the hot sun and decided to go to one of the bars and get a drink. Going to the pool side bar would mean hobnobbing with a lot of hairy bulging bellies so, nah. We went down into one of the bars and took a beer each which costed close to the price of my kidney and found a secluded space outside. Beautiful breeze, but no sun beating don on you. No hairy uncles ogling. Heaven! After a few more rounds of photos we settled down to sip that precious beer and talk all that good friends do. Watching the water go by was so therapeutic and we just didn’t want to move.
We took a break and decided from not selling our other kidney and went back to the room to shower and change. We went into one of the restaurants on the ship instead of the food court for lunch. Your standard buffet of veg, non veg curry, roti, n blah. You get the picture. We ordered the cheapest glass of wine on the menu (our practice from here on the ship) and ate that average meal. The place wasn’t crowded at all and we decided to come back there for dinner.
Off to another bar. Vanita tried to chat up the bartender hoping he will give us an extra helping of the wine. The staff was so incredibly well behaved, polite and wonderfully trained. I would give them a score of 15 out of 10. There was a game of housie being played and Vanita wanted to join it. I had not played it before but I knew of the concept. The prize money was pretty good and we really hoped we would win atleast one round. We didn’t. 😦 I satisfied myself by cursing the ones that did. One guy won 2 rounds! Some $200! Damn you! Why do you need that money?! Vanita and I deserved to drink and not think of selling our organs!
Next stop casino where Vanita told me the rules of some games and we just walked around looking.
Time for change of clothes, another round of pictures and the sunset. Dinner time was back at the restaurant where we had to select one dish each of appetizer, mains and dessert from the menu and that would be pre plated. The only annoying experience we had with a staff was here. This guy claimed to be working in luxury cruise liners for the last 15 years. Vanita asked him the same question that she was asking other staff on the ship. “How were the liking the experience?” This guy was actually quite racist, talking about how Indian crowd is crappy and he has always worked in International waters. Ok, I will be honest. I got what he was saying. We were complaining about the same. But you know how it is? You can bitch about your parents, but you can’t take anyone else saying one word against them! This was something like that and he was using a very condescending tone with us too. I lost it, snapped at him and was quite rude myself. We ate the below mediocre meal, told the table next to us what to avoid and walked back to the bar to get the cheapest wine.
There was going to be an adult show in the theater and we were waiting for the doors to open. We went for a walk around and saw atlease 50 men with weird grins plastered on their face staring at the door. About turn and to “The Gentlemen’s club”, another bar where an artist was singing in the most beautiful voice. We sat there listening to her and looking up at this guy who had been giving me the looks through the day. We christened him “the mallu boy”. Sorry! He looked like he was from the beautiful state of Kerala and hence the name. He was extremely well dressed and that is always so attractive!
It was time for the show to begin and we rushed to the theater. Everywhere we sat, we saw creepy uncles around us. The staff put us up at a place close to the stage with a clear view too. But the people around us were making us uncomfortable and we decided to go up the balcony. We found pretty good seats but I had this weird man sitting next to me. Well, the whole place felt like it was filled with weird creepy men. Well again, this was India, a country where we never talk about sex and we were sitting in a Burlesque show! The show was out of the world! The dancing, the super fit bodies, the great singing, the production. All of it incredible! During one of the performances they pulled women from the audience. The really six pack men were gonna give them a lap dance. We cursed leaving our original spot from near the stage! Darn!
No photos or videography was allowed during it so I have none to share with you. But, picture this. A 6 foot tall, fairly muscular, very handsome guy clothed just in a pair of jeans is sitting in a bath tub with real water, splashes around in it and then jumps up and hangs upside down on a bar. Sigh! I noticed this really nightmarish grin right next to the stage. This guy looked liked he was actually drooling. I brought it to Vanita’s notice and she cursed me for making her see that! That image is burnt in our heads. The whole place was dark, but you could see those set of teeth staring at the dancers on the stage.
Once that was done, we went down to one of the bars where a band was playing. They were playing some Bollywood and International hits. The singer was very good at engaging the crowd and a whole bunch of people were up on their feet dancing around. Then he starts singing “I can’t help falling in love” by Elvis, and looks up at me. I am singing along and next thing I know, he has walked up to me and asked me for a dance! OMG! I haven’t gotten this much attention in the last 20 years! I was ecstatic! I told Vanita I could live on this little happiness for another 10 years!
High with the attention we moved to the Casino. I don’t even know the name of the game we were playing. You bet some money and hope your card was larger than the dealer’s. I freaked out each time we were losing. My reactions and expressions amused Vanita and she is going to be cracking jokes about it for a long time! We made money, lost money and walked out. We cleared our bill so we could quickly check out the next morning.
We were up for the worst shock yet. We couldn’t check out. Now, they said we still had more dues to pay. Some of our drink bills weren’t added the night before. We checked the new bill and I saw some incorrect details. We were charged for drinks we never had. I realised that a lot of people were going through the same trouble. While I was getting this sorted, Vanita noticed Mr.Joginder one of the staff there. People, he was a greek god. The way he looked, how he dressed and spoke. Sigh! We had noticed him in the last two days and now we were finally a little up close and personal. Sadly, that’s where this love story begins and ends. The crew was so overwhelmed by the number of complaints that they just waived off and cancelled our dues and we were finally out.
We took a taxi and ended up at Bagmalo beach. We had a few hours to kill before we headed back to the airport and these were the most fun hours of our whole trip. A lot of alcohol, super fun conversation and some below mediocre food later we two drunk asses cruised our derrieres home.