Testing the waters with Jalesh Cruises’ maiden ship, Karnika

The summer sun is at its harshest, yet there is no dearth of passengers (mostly middle-aged men and children) wallowing in two miniature pools on the top deck of Jalesh Cruises’ maiden ship, Karnika. On its first sail from Mumbai to Goa, the vessel is docked at Mormugao Port for half a day of land excursion. But several passengers opt to stay on board. On a short three-day two-night cruise, where the travel is the destination, they would much rather hop from one decadence to another.

There’s ample on offer: a lavish two-floor spa, high-calorie Indian meals served all day, multi-level decks for selfies, two (miniature) pools, amphitheatre with repeat and late night shows, several (costly) bars, a casino, karaoke with Hindi song options, and Punjabi and Bollywood tunes blaring on the top deck till late night. When we arrive at the Karnika, Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO, Jalesh Cruises, informs us that their goal is to provide Indians, who don’t have a passport or are unable to travel abroad for a cruise, an international cruising experience. “But with Indian hospitality and entertainment,” he promptly adds. The vision is to sail to Alaska someday, but in an Indian way.

Indian style

With this motto in mind (and no network on your phone), a stroll around the ship can be a fascinating anthropological exercise, giving you a glimpse into what it would be like to sail with fellow countrymen in international waters. While everything on the ship is priced in American dollars, the culinary offerings are centred around the Indian palate. Caucasian staff members serve Jain food and greet you with a namaste. In the afternoon, an old lady croons to the tunes of Pakeezah at a karaoke in a sleek restro-bar, as her family cheers her on. In the next hour, the same space hosts a session of Housie, with tickets sold in dollars. At sunset, passengers jostle for the right selfie spot on the decks, and a couple of Indian television actors recreate the classic Titanic moment for an episode on a news channel. The day culminates in an open-air ticketed gig titled ‘Blow Out’, with a performance by Punjabi actor Jassie Gill. The sail appears to be much in alignment with Bailom’s vision of making Karnika an alluring option for ‘big Indian weddings’ and film shoots in time to come.

Testing the waters with Jalesh Cruises’ maiden ship, Karnika

Comfortable stay

Future sails
  • After completing 15 sailings in the Arabian sea, Karnika will undertake its first international sail from Mumbai to Dubai on May 24, to escape the Indian monsoons. The ship will port until mid-September 2019, before returning to Mumbai.
  • How much does it cost?
  • The cheapest option is the interior room, which costs ₹7,700 per person per day. Mid-range rooms include ocean view (₹8,540) and balcony (₹9,870). There are also mini suites available for ₹10,850 per person, per day.

Accommodation on board the 70,285-tonne ship, is comfortable. Sailing parallel to the Western coast, despite the sea getting fairly choppy on our return from Goa, the ship manages to stay steady and smooth. The balcony room, which I stayed in, is spacious and neatly designed, but also comes at a higher price. If cost is not a concern, then Serena Spa (costing between $50 to $150) is worthy of an indulgence. I opted for a detox signature massage — a warm ayurvedic treatment using a concoction of neem, tulsi and aloe vera — provided by the spa’s senior therapist, Shanmi Valui Awungshi. It’s an effective antidote to the summer heat, especially if you do venture on land on day two of the sail.

Testing the waters with Jalesh Cruises’ maiden ship, Karnika

Small joys

The only reason to step into Goa would be for some local food, as the ship oddly offers no Goan cuisine. The culinary experience as a whole leaves much to be desired, especially in the food court, where there is little innovation. The buffet roster feels repetitive, despite a fairly wide spread. If you don’t mind splurging, then there are speciality restaurants, of which Chopstix, an Asian offering, is worth a visit. A word of caution: whether it’s alcohol or food, be ready to spend more than the bare minimum to have a quality holiday on board Karnika.

The ship’s entertainment options are an exception, with Marquee Theatre hosting repeat shows of Broadway-style performances, acrobats and stand-up comedy, all for free. If you’re not into loud music playing in various parts of the ship at night, you can head to the reception for some mellow live performance by a couple of young musicians, whose tunes are consigned to oblivion at the check-in counters. One could also stroll along some quieter decks for a clear view of the night sky and some star gazing. It’s small joys like these that overshadow the glitzy offerings on board this domestic cruise.

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Printable version | Apr 27, 2021 6:15:20 PM |

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