Luxe

Ferry tale

Joanna Lobo | Updated on November 30, 2018 Published on November 29, 2018

Preserved in time: Angriya is modern but has history. Its name is a tribute to the Maratha navy admiral Kanhoji Angre

India’s first luxury domestic cruise offers a unique travelling experience on a well-traversed route

Once upon a time, a Japanese ship, Ogasawara Maru, would ply the waters of the Pacific transporting people between Tokyo and Ogasawara Island (south of Japan). It was built to withstand all weather conditions and a high level of rolling. As I stood on the deck of what is now its reincarnated version, Angriya, I couldn’t help wonder if India’s first domestic luxury cruise could withstand the rowdy Indian tourist as it set sail last month. The risky-selfie-taking, party-loving and destructive kind, similar to the ones that lay waste to the luxury Tejas Express, also plying between Goa and Mumbai on the Arabian Sea. However, it’s early days and the biggest threat so far has been a delayed exit. It’s taken the owners, Angriya Sea Eagle Pvt Ltd, two years to get the ship ready so what’s a couple of hours of delay?

I was on Angriya’s maiden voyage, one of its first 300 passengers. “Bet that’s what the Titanic’s passengers also felt,” a guest said. This ship doesn’t match the Titanic in scale but it does offer a semblance of luxury. There’s a spa, an infinity pool on deck, two restaurants, four bars and one lounge. Think of it as a mix of a hotel and an airplane. Earlier in the afternoon, I get a pass that lets me board the ship, moored off the harbour at Princess Docks in Mumbai. Check in is smooth. My room has life jackets, a PA system, and swaps a window for a porthole.

Before the journey begins, I take a walk around to get my bearings: this is after all, home for the next 14-16 hours. Everything is designed for comfort and to fit their tagline -- Journey of wow. There are seven decks, accessed through high stairs. The capacity is 400 people, including staff. Rooms range from luxury — suites and double bedrooms with attached baths, to budget — dormitories and pods. While dorms are available for ₹4,300, a couple room for ₹7,650, meals excluded.

A cabin of one’s own: Rooms range from luxury — suites and double bedrooms with attached baths, to budget — dormitories and pods.

 

Angriya is new and modern but it does enjoy its history. Its name is a tribute to the 18th century Maratha navy admiral Kanhoji Angre, which I learn from a mural at the entrance. On the walls are old maps and photos of the Konkan regions. Even the Japanese origins are visible through a few signboards and the high-tech bathroom and toilet fittings.

A delayed exit means we guests have to entertain ourselves. It has no WiFi or screens, though there’s a projection in Coral Reef restaurant playing an ad of the ship on loop. There’s a reading room with a few books and magazines on wildlife and history. Not surprisingly, it’s the only unoccupied room on the ship.

Cruising along: There are seven decks in Angriya, which can accommodate 400 people.

 

I decided to relax with the scenery. A drink in hand, I settle near the pool and get ready to watch the sun set over Mumbai’s foggy skyline. This infinity pool is a popular spot and provides much unintentional entertainment, especially from the arms-outstretched-looking-into-the-distance Titanic posers. Except here, instead of Celine Dion crooning ‘Every night…’ there’s a DJ playing English chartbusters.

As the sky gets darker, Angriya sheds its stately white uniform and gets ready to party. Stalls offering portraits and beaded jewellery appear suddenly. Guests hang about drinking sweet cocktails and scarfing down grilled paneer skewers. I head to the deck below for the promised ‘cultural’ performance by the Sufi band Malang, which turns out to be a Bollywood hits party.

I find some quiet at the forward deck of the ship, which is mercifully in darkness. The air is muggy with heat and there’s a weak moon in sight. The ship breaking through water is a gentle and soothing lullaby. The next morning finds me back on the same deck. It’s 6.30 am and a few sleepy folks are about. We are there for the best (no) sound-and-light show, watching the sun rise. Its lengthening reflections in the water prove useful in helping us spot flying fish, porpoises and baby turtles.

Angriya, I’m told, will soon feature guided nature walks in the morning. Beyond trying to promote marine life, the ship is also doing its bit for the environment. Nirmal Kulkarni, director of ecology, tells me the ship is fuel-efficient, segregates waste, uses a marine friendly paint, and suction toilets cut the use of water. It recycles the steam released from the ship to heat water in the kitchen.

I spend the rest of the morning in the central AC-cooled indoors. I stumble on to the spa, a very basic looking space run by Sohum Spa, deep in the ship’s bowels. Here, I treat myself to a back massage. It’s a weird experience — the rolling of the ship is more pronounced and I’m terrified the woman on my back will fall off. I survive the spa and my maiden cruise experience unscathed.

Angriya has a few limitations. The ship’s high stairs will be difficult for those with injuries or older folk; there’s hardly any entertainment for kids; and the meals are disappointing. Having said that, Angriya offers a unique travelling experience. There’s the possibility of seeing dolphins in the morning, visiting the engine room and the chance to watch Captain Nitin Dhond solemnise a wedding. Anything can happen on Angriya.

For more information, log on to www.angriyacruises.com.

Joanna Lobo is a freelance writer based in Mumbai

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Published on November 29, 2018
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